Always & Forever My Baby You Will Be

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Last night I was lying in bed with my youngest reading him a bed time story and saying our prayers.  My oldest used to come in the room and listen to the stories and say prayers with us but about two months ago he stopped.  He now brushes his teeth, calls out good night, and goes in his room and shuts the door.  I follow him in to grab a quick hug before he shuts off the light, but the hug is more for me than for him.  He doesn’t need a hug and a kiss from his mommy anymore to go to sleep.

But Casey is still young and refuses to go to bed without his night time ritual followed to perfection, and I am happy for that.  Last night after we were done he kneeled on his bed, gave me a bug hug and said, “I love you mommy.  I’m giving you an extra hug because I know you like hugs.”  My heart just melted.  I do love hugs, and kisses, and cuddles, the feel of holding my little boy close, the unconditional love of a mother and child.

I stared at his little face, his blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and a thought hit me so strong.  In two weeks my baby is turning six-years old.  In a week he will start 1st grade.  My baby hasn’t been a baby for a very long time, but he is still small, and sweet and cuddly, but time refuses to stand still.  He is growing, and soon he will choose friends over me.  Soon, kisses in public will be embarrassing.  Soon he will tell me he doesn’t need to hold my hand in a store.

“Casey, promise me you will stop growing,” I asked.  “I want you to stay this size forever.”

“Okay, mommy,” he replied sweetly.  Then he thought for a moment about what I had asked him to do and he said, “But I don’t know how to stop growing.”

“I know.  Mommy is just being silly.  I am so glad you are my little boy.” I said.

“Me too,” he replied and gave me another kiss good night.

“Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.

“All the way to the moon and back,” he answered immediately, “and I love you all the way to Pluto.”

Then he rolled over, tucked his tiger under his chin, and grabbed a handful of his wobi before closing his eyes.  I turned off the light and shut the door.

I can’t freeze time, but I can take a minute to write down these brief but wonderful moments before they slip through my fingers.  Children will grow, become independent, and leave us one day, but the memories we make we will carry for a lifetime.

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Just for Today I Will be Mad at the Universe

universe mad Corect

I’m not a Doctor, but I play one on TV.  Remember those commercials, back when soap opera actors would go on TV and tell you that Advil worked better than Tylenol?

Well, I have a confession to make.  I am not a snarky, fuck you, in your face, wine guzzling bitch.  I just play one on Facebook.  Am I a mom?  Oh yes.  Do I work?  Yep!  Am I tired?  All the freaking time.  Do I drink wine?  Certainly, just not every single night.  I’d be a raging alcoholic too drunk to type if that were the case.

The only part of me that is a bit of a charade is the bitch part.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am actually nice, generous, loving, and trusting to a fault.  If you are my friend you will be my friend through thick and thin and I will give you unending trust.  Yes, I have been burned from this philosophy several times, but I can’t seemed to learn my lesson because at the end of the day I want to believe people are good and aren’t out to get me.

I must admit though, there is a part of me that likes being a snarky bitch, so maybe that is why it is so easy to play one on Facebook and my Blog! 😉

But today I don’t feel snarky, or bitchy.  Today is a day for feeling angry.  Not angry at one particular person, but just angry at the world…the universe…the unfairness that is life as we know it.

In a perfect world only evil, rotten, sons-of-bitches would get chronic, debilitating or deadly diseases.  All pedophiles would get testicular cancer and their junk would fall off.  All murderers would contract the most vicious and painful of diseases that resulted in them dying a slow and grisly death.

At the very least Wall Street bankers who swindle senior citizens out of their entire life savings would get uncontrollable herpes or something.  Isn’t Karma supposed to be the ultimate bitch?  Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of cosmic justice in the universe?

But what is the phrase we hear over and over about the people we know who are cruel, mean, and down right evil?  “He/She is just too ornery to die.”  It’s true.  Most of the really cruel people I have known in my life have lived into their 80’s or 90’s and kept on being mean shits right till the very end.  There is a relative on my husband’s side of the family who I swear will live to be a hundred and when she finally goes her own children will dance on her grave!

But Karma sometimes falls asleep and forgets to do her job.  And illness and disease just don’t care who they pick on.  I was 20 years old when I got the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I was in terrible pain at the time and scared to death.  I was told I either had RA or Lupus, since when you test positive for one you also test positive for the other.  It took six months of tracking my symptoms to finally rule one way or the other.

Exactly what had I done by the age of 20 that was so bad I had earned a chronic disease to deal with for the rest of my life?  Heck, at 20 I was still a virgin (seriously), had never tried drugs, had yet to even smoke a damn cigarette.  I was a straight A college student just getting ready to take on the world.  But the world decided to kick me in the ass.

For 22 years I have lived with pain.  Most days I can ignore the pain and stop it from interfering with my day to day activities, but there are days when my body just shuts down on me and I have to accept the fact that I can’t just go, go, go.  Every month I miss a day of work so I can sit in a chair and get my IV of Remicade.   Every night I pop a handful of pills to keep the disease from progressing.  But at the end of the day RA is not curable, just treatable.

There was a brief period of whining. “Why me, God?”  But then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and proceeded to live my life, get married, have babies, and be happy.  I was not going to let my diagnosis ruin my life.  I was going to live like it didn’t matter.  Sure, there are a few things I can’t do, but so what.  Maybe I didn’t want to do those things anyway.  I chose happiness over anger.  I chose love over regret.  I have no desire to live like I’m dying.

So why then, am I angry at the universe today, you may ask?  Today I learned that someone very sweet, very kind, a good friend and a good mother is sick.  But she is strong and she will fight her battle and she will win I know.  I believe this to be so.  Still, it’s that damn Karma thing!  Why do good people get sick?  Why do innocents suffer?  Why can any crack head or drug addict get pregnant yet people who would make wonderful parents struggle with infertility?  Why is the world so unfair at times?

These are big questions that have been asked by people a hell of a lot wiser and older than me, yet I would really like a freaking answer. But since the universe refuses to tell me what I want to know, just for today I will pout.  Just for today, I will have a pity party for one.  Just for today I will be mad at the universe.

But tomorrow I will pick myself up and dust myself off, because life really is too short for living in anger.  There are hugs that need to be given and kisses that need to be shared, and dreams that need to be fulfilled before our time here runs out and it is too late.

Simple Ways to be Ready for Emergencies

Simple Ways to be Ready for Emergencies

On July 2, 1997 a tornado decided to pass through my town.  Only one person died, and that was because he had a heart attack while trying to remove a tree from his lawn.  I remember huddling in the basement with my two cats and my dog.  I just about jumped out of my skin when the neighbor’s chimney blew off and smacked the side of my house.  Christ that was loud, and scary.  But what was worse was what happened after the storm.

My house was intact except for some ripped off siding thanks to being hit buy a chimney.  However, I had no electricity, hardly any food, no batteries for the two flashlights we had, no batteries for the small radio we had, and no candles.  I was up the creek with no paddle.

I will never be caught without batteries or candles again.  I have lots a flashlight including cheap basic ones for the boys to use.

I will never be caught without batteries or candles again. I have lots a flashlight including cheap basic ones for the boys to use.

I grabbed my keys and got in my car.  After I pulled out of the driveway I realized the street was blocked by fallen trees.  I literally drove over people’s lawns to try to get to the drug store!  Once I got to Rite Aid I went in, grabbed the items I thought I would need only to get to the register and have the cashier tell me that the power was down so they couldn’t ring up my stuff.  I showed them what I had and handed over $30, above the amount it cost but whatever, I needed the batteries and food.  I was glad I had gotten there so quickly because suddenly it seemed like everyone in town was making a run on Rite Aid for the exact same stuff I had just grabbed.

Back home I parked the car and heard a lovely hissing sound coming from my car.  I watched as my tire quickly went flat as a pancake!  I had picked up a nail.  We were without power for four miserable, unbelievably hot, sticky days!

The next time I was unprepared came when AJ was just a toddler.  It was the Great Blackout of August, 2003.  Being a mom had made me more cautious, as did the events of September 11th.   So I was good on important stuff like food, batteries, diapers, wipes, etc., but then came the big “GOTCHA” moment.  No water!  No power to the pumping stations meant no water to the houses.

Once I learned on my radio that we were not under attack by terrorists I once again headed to the store, with a toddler in tow, to buy lots and lots of bottled water.  At least this time there were no trees or four inch nails.  Three days later when the power returned we rejoiced, but I was wiser.  I had been caught short twice, and I hated it.

So now I have a stockpile.  I buy in bulk at Costco and also when I have some awesome coupons.  I have had relatives laugh at me and call me a hoarder, but a two  and a half ago I spent 4 months in a wheelchair because of multiple foot surgeries all at once.  My stockpile saw my family through that predicament.  My husband only had to run to the store on his way home from work to pick up fresh dairy, meats and produce.

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I am sure there are doomsday preppers out there who would look at my stockpile and laugh, but I am NOT preparing for the end of the world as we know it.  I am preparing for the next blackout, the next Hurricane Sandy, or the next Swine Flu virus.  I want to know that in the event of a real honest to god emergency my family is covered for a couple of weeks if not even a little longer.

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I am not going to list everything I have on hand.  You can get all the lists you want from a quick Google search.  A great starting point is here http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.    Plus, you need to have what your family actually needs.  We don’t need diapers anymore, but I do have a month supply of all my RA medications put to the side.  Each time my drugs are refilled I use the old bottle and put the new bottle in storage so the ones in storage are always fresh.

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If you haven’t put together a small stockpile or a plan for emergencies you might want to start thinking about it.  Also, I didn’t acquire all this over night.  My stockpile took months to put together using a lot of coupons. Each week at the market try to buy three items for your stockpile.  It will grow faster than you think. DSC_2358

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PS- The best place to buy bottled water is Costco if you didn’t already know.  You get twice the bottles for the same price of every where else.  In fact I need to pick up a couple more cases now that I am looking at this picture!

~Tina

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How I Got Rid of my Migraines

How I Got Rid of my Migraines

For years I have had to avoid perfumes because they triggered debilitating migraines.  I have had to actually send home students who came to school after playing in their parents perfume or even worse, after shave cologne.

I clearly remember my mother scrubbing and cleaning every square inch of the house when I was a kid.  She loved Spic & Span for cleaning the floors and Formula 409 for washing the walls.  Next would come out the Pledge furniture polish and she would make every wood finish in the house shine so that you could see your reflection on the surface.

Next came several loads of towels and linens all washed with bleach and then hung outside to dry.  By the end of her spring or fall cleaning she would sit back and breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy her sanitized home.  I, on the other hand, would be in my bed in a pitch black room in agony from a headache so strong it would make me nauseous.

As I got older this reaction to strong smells never went away.  All those lovely smelling soaps and beauty products, I can’t use them.  The only scented candle I can tolerate is Macintosh Apple from the Yankee Candle Store.  Everything else will make me horribly sick.

When my youngest was born he often broke out in rashes.  I learned to use only Free & Clear Type detergents on his soft skin, but even then he would still break out, just to lesser degrees.

Then, a few months ago my oldest son started to have migraines too!  That really was the last straw for me.  I started to do a lot of research on fragrances, chemicals, and what the heck was really in the cleaning products, toothpaste, laundry detergent and shampoo we were all using.

What I found out scared the hell out of me, and if you knew everything it would scare you too!  Suddenly I understood why 1 out of every 6 couples is experiencing infertility issues.  Suddenly I understood why ADHD seems to affect half of my class room every year.  Suddenly I understood why every single adult I know takes a medication for some condition or illness.

I have since made a lot of changes in our house.  All kinds of new products showed up, some from Costco, some from the drug store, and some from The Honest Company.  (I know there is a major dispute between The Honest Toddler and The Honest Company.  For the record I support the Honest Toddler in her copyright claim.  However, I can not deny my happiness with The Honest Company products that I have brought into my home.  I sincerely hope both sides can come to a happy conclusion.)

Below are the new products that we have been using for several months now and they are all performing very well.

In the Laundry Room

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I love ECOS laundry detergent.  It is free of all toxic ingredients and scented only with essential oils (think aroma therapy).  It really does get our clothes clean with a tiny little amount.  I love that this item is sold in bulk size at Costco.  If you have read my previous posts you know we are Costco lovers here.  So I can do 210 loads of clothes for $12.99.  That is a great price.

If I am doing an extremely dirty load (grass stains and car oil) then I will toss in an Honest Oxy Boost.  Bye-bye stains.  I also buy the Honest Laundry 4 in 1 pods, but I mostly use those for going up north.  I toss a few pods in a sandwich bag and we are good to go.  I don’t have to worry about spills in the trunk.

In the Kitchen

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I love the Honest Dish Soap.  It cleans the dishes and the Grapefruit Oil does not cause a migraine.  Apparently my brain can handle real smells, just not chemically concocted ones.  I have the Honest Hand Soap as well.  This one takes some getting used to.  I was using Method Foaming Hand Soap from Target and will probably switched back.  This is a low suds soap and even though I don’t mind it the kids and my husband are not a fan.

In the Bathroom

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It will probably surprise you to learn that I use the exact same products my kids use for the most part.  (Casey uses Tom’s of Maine Strawberry Toothpaste, I use Peppermint)

When it comes to oral care I love Tom’s of Maine.  The toothpastes are flavored with real mint extract and nothing else.  No dyes or artificial chemicals.  The same is true for the mouth wash which is minty but with no burn.

The sunscreen I apply every day is Babyganics SPF50.  Yes, I use baby sunscreen and it works perfectly on my pasty white easily burning skin.  The stick version goes on nice and even on top of my makeup without wiping my makeup off.

I use Honest Shampoo & Body Wash and Honest Conditioner on my hair.  They do the job just fine and because they are so gentle they don’t strip my hair color away.  After a shower I add a few drops of Honest Body Oil to a little bit of Honest Face and Body Lotion and rub it all in.  It leaves your skin feeling soft and dewy but not slimy or sticky.

I used to use Olay Daily Facial Clothes but have since switched to Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleaning Clothes.  I can’t tell a difference.  I am make-up free when I am done.

Did you know women eat about 7 pounds of lipstick over the course of a lifetime?  Since I can’t give up lipstick I switched to Burt’s Bees 100% natural Lip Shimmers.  Great color and totally non-toxic.  Top it off with a little gloss and you are date night ready.

When it comes to Antiperspirant I had to make a compromise.  I tried Tom’s of Maine Aluminum Free version and after two hours I stunk.  I can’t walk around being smelly, it just isn’t going to happen.  So I switched to Tom’s of Maine Naturally Dry Unscented.  It is free of all toxins EXCEPT aluminum.  No more pit sweat and no more stinky.

I hope this review of these products motivates you to try some of them and remove a bunch of chemicals from your home and life.

Also, since we made the switch there has been no rashes on Casey and AJ has had only one migraine.

If you have discovered great products please share below.  I am really interested in what cosmetic brands you have found to be chemical free or organic yet actually work.
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Make the Most of Summer’s End

Summer's End

The Sunday paper is filled with inserts shouting “Back to School”.  Your new issues of Parenting and Parents are all about getting ready for school.  By now you have probably bought all your school supplies and loads of new clothes for your kids getting ready for the day after Labor Day.  Hopefully you have already begun implementing earlier bedtimes and morning routines.

But there is still a few weeks of summer left and there is still time to make some awesome memories before returning to the school year routine.  It is time to plan some inexpensive activities to get you and your little ones out and enjoy this precious time.

A Day at the Beach 

Peaceful.

Peaceful.

I have to admit, I have yet to go to the beach this year.  And I live in the Lakes Area!  So, one day this week I will be packing a cooler with some PB&J sandwiches, fresh fruit, and water bottles, grab the sand toys, and head off to the beach with my boys.  Yes, we will be sticky with sun block, smell like lake water, and get sand in our cracks, but that’s what summer is all about.

I love these adorable individual picnic baskets from Sophistimom.

I love these adorable individual picnic baskets from Sophistimom.

A Picnic at the Park

Okay, we have been to the park this year, but there is still time to squeeze in a couple more trips.  Make it extra special by bringing a blanket and a simple picnic.  I have learned the trick to this one is to bring a friend or two for the boys to play with.  This way I can actually sit and read a book for a little while and keep an eye on them at the same time.  To get even more time to read, bring some Nerf guns (no darts) and let them run around the jungle gyms and pretend to be at war.

Have a Water Fight

These are the best for having a water fight.

These are the best for having a water fight.

Fill up the kiddie pool full of water for reloading.  Everyone grab a water gun or an aqua zooka and let the battle begin.  Kids love doing this by themselves, but if you really want to make some summer memories get out there with them.

 

 

The Farmington Civic second run movie theater.

The Farmington Civic second run movie theater.

See a Summer Blockbuster Matinee

Going to the movies with kids can add up fast.  Tickets and snacks can cost a small fortune these days.  So hit the 10:00 am Matinee for $5 tickets.  Eat a hearty pancake breakfast before you go, then when the movie is over go home for lunch.  Even better, check out your local Second Run Movie Theaters.  As long as you see a movie you never saw before, who cares that it came out four or five months ago.  It is still new to you!

 

Spicer Orchard in Hartland, MI

Spicer Orchard in Hartland, MI

Visit a Farm

Take the kids to a U-Pick farm and enjoy the fruits of summer.  Raspberries are in season right now in Michigan.  Or visit a farmer’s market and let the kids pick out something new to try.  The kids get to enjoy a family activity and the local organic community gets some support.  It’s a win-win!  Fresh, local, and organic will always taste better than fruit and veggies trucked in from hundreds of miles away and picked long before ripeness and left to finish ripening in a packing crate!

One Last Family BBQ

Time to get all the cousins together to play in the yard and have one last family get together before everyone gets real busy again.  Keep it simple!  Hot dogs on the grill, maybe a few brats, and a giant watermelon sliced up along with Trip Berry Trifle for dessert.

Cheap but yummy!

Cheap but yummy!

Triple Berry Trifle

A Sara Lee pound cake, some pudding and cool whip with a mix of berries makes for a refreshing summer treat.

A Sara Lee pound cake, some pudding and cool whip with a mix of berries makes for a refreshing summer treat.

1 large Sara Lee Pound Cake

1 box Instant Vanilla Jello Pudding

1 tub Cool Whip

1 container strawberries

1 container raspberries

1 container blueberries

  1. Let the Sara Lee Pound Cake thaw.
  2. Wash fruit and cut strawberries in quarters.
  3. Prepare Instant Pudding according to directions.
  4. Cut pound cake into 1 inch cubes.
  5. Layer pound cake, pudding, and fruit in large bowl. (cake, pudding, fruit, cake, pudding, fruit)
  6. Top with Cool Whip and use a few berries to decorate the top.
Our friend licking the Triple Berry Trifle bowl clean.

Our friend licking the Triple Berry Trifle bowl clean.

This dessert goes together super fast and super easy and I am not exaggerating when I say people go crazy for it.  The last time I served this one of our friends actually licked the bowl clean!

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I Will Not Raise a Self Entitled Spoiled Kid

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My oldest is a really good kid.  Yes, he has days when he drives me crazy and I threaten to mail him to Abu Dhabi, but he is also very loving.  He likes to give hugs, still likes bedtime stories, and cries easily over sad movies.

In the past year I had noticed that as those teen hormones and mood shifts started to kick in, though, he was becoming self centered.  Everything was me, me, me, and on several occasions I listened as he whined about how tough he had it.

Oh the poor put upon little lad.  As payment for three meals a day, a private bedroom, and laundry service he was expected to change the litter box, cut the grass, and load the dirty dinner dishes.  Quick, someone call the child abuse hotline!  I had sentenced my son to a life of white slavery and needed to be arrested and taken away in hand cuffs.

I have worked with children long enough to know that my son was not unique and that all kids go though this.  Yet, I also work with enough kids to know that I also wanted to limit how far I let my son wallow in the “oh poor me” mentality.

The last thing in the world I want to do is raise an entitled and spoiled young man.  It was important to me that he stayed the sweet and kind hearted kid that he usually was.

So the day after school finished for the summer we went to Hospitality House and I signed him up to volunteer once a week for four hours.  Hospitality House is our local food pantry and helps many wonderful families get the food they need.

My son was not happy with me.  It was his summer vacation.  He didn’t want to work especially when he wouldn’t even get paid for it!  I stood my ground.  He would be volunteering there, the end.

Once a week he stocks the food pantry shelves, bags raw chicken into six pound portions, unloads trucks, and helps people who genuinely have it tough.  He sees moms come in with their hungry kids and watches how grateful they are to receive food so they can take care of their children.

For the first three weeks he went because I told him to get in the car and I drove him there, but by week four I saw my little boy start to grow up.  Now he enjoys going even though it is hard work in a building void of air conditioning.  The adults who operate the food pantry absolutely love him and their praise has helped my son realize that sometimes the best thing in life is giving instead of getting, even if all you have to give is your time.

teach them An unexpected bonus I have seen is a new respect for money, and the realization that resources are limited.

Before, if we went to the stores to run a few errands he would have asked for this and that and been upset when I told him no, or not today.  Now when we are out and he see something he wants we talk about ways he can earn the money and how it may take him a month before he has enough to get it.  In a world filled with instant gratification, I love that he can now wait weeks to obtain something he wants.

As parents we work so hard to cultivate our children’s growing minds, but this summer I learn it is just as important to cultivate my sons growing heart.  Even with school starting soon my son will still volunteer and I hope the volunteer spirit will stay with him always.

 

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The Joys of Raising Boys

Joys of Boys

It is true, raising boys is not for the faint of heart.  It is true, boys are often dirty.  It is true, boys will eat you out of house and home.  But it is also true raising boys is filled with a lot of joys.

Here is a list of why raising boys is awesome!

  •  They will always be Mommy’s little boy.  They may wrestle with daddy, but let either one of my boys get a booboo, want some attention, or just need a cuddle and they come running to me.

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  • Toys are everywhere.  Here is a rock, no it’s a dinosaur egg.  Here is a stick, no it’s a laser cannonMy boys can play with dirt for two hours and be totally engrossed.

best toy ever

  • Everything is funny.  There is nothing more wonderful than the sound of little kids laughing hysterically.  Since boys think everything is funny, and live to be comedians, our house is always full of laughter.
  • No fuss clothes.  For the day to day stuff its just jeans, t-shirts, underwear.  Boys destroy their clothes anyway so there is no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on cutesy stuff.  If we are dressing up it is a pair of khakis and a polo.
  • Hair-Dos not needed.  Honestly, my two roll out of bed, brush their teeth, and that is the extent of their getting “ready” for the day.  Once in a while there might be a funny cowlick that requires a wet comb, but for the most part, nope, not really.
  • They are fearless.  For boys there is no tree too high that can’t be climbed, no hill to high that a wagon can’t roll down, and no flight of stairs too tall to be jumped off of.  It blows my mind, and sometimes stops my heart, to watch their daring stunts.  I naively tried to stop them in the past from doing dangerous stuff, but the truth is the moment you turn your back they are going to do it anyway.  So accept it and keep a well supplied first aid kit.

gonna get you

  • There is only one Princess in the house…ME.  I am a girly girl in a house full of “guys.”  All girly stuff is mine.  I don’t have to share.  My husband tells my boys to hold the door open for me, to carry things for me, etc.  Sometimes there is something to be said for being the only girl.
  • Daddy takes them fishing, boating, to shooting practice, and archery lessons…and I get to stay home and do a facial and paint my toes!

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  • Finally, because I just can’t imagine my life without them. They are my world and I am theirs.

Please share below all the reasons you love your little boy(s)!

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How to Pack Healthy & EASY School Lunches

Easy Lunches

Very cute, but would totally unappreciated by my boys.

Very cute, but would totally unappreciated by my boys.

I love to look at all those adorable pictures of the world’s cutest school lunches on Pinterest. I mean, they are absolute works of art! It is almost a shame to eat them.

lunch

Honestly, I just don’t have time to this.

Then I go into my kitchen and get real. Hello, I am a tired working mommy here. As much as I would love to send my kids to school with one of those precious Benito lunches the truth is I don’t have time for that. Not to mention I have boys. Boys don’t eat their food. They shovel it into their mouths in five bites or less and then race out the door to go to recess.

I need quick. I need easy. I prefer organic when I can get it. So what is a tired mom to do? Well it starts with a trip to Costco! The greatest big box store in the world has made it so easy to buy healthy ,and even organic, foods in bulk that I can just toss into a lunch box and forget about it.DSC_2308

Organic milk boxes, nitrate free deli turkey and sliced chicken, Brownberry multigrain bread, organic strawberry jam, low fat high protein Greek yogart, and even small treats.  Costco has it all.  We also love to buy their bananas, big containers of blue berries, raspberries, and grapes.  One exception to the organic rule is my Jif peanut butter.  I love peanut butter, but I can’t stand the “natural” or organic peanut butters because they are practically drowning in the separated oil.

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The containers all snap together, even the ice pack.

I also fell in love with these BPA free containers from Rubbermaid.  The sizes are perfect, the sandwich container is big enough to accommodate the larger sized Brownberry bread, and the built in ice pack totally rocks.

There were $2 coupons for them in this past Sunday’s newspaper, plus Target has them on sale this week for $3 off.  Even if you don’t have the Sunday coupons there are $1 peelies attached to the packaging.

Rubbermaid LunchBlox review

There are high value coupons inside which makes these containers almost free when you budget in the savings, the sale price at Target, and use a coupon.

As you can see I stocked up on them so I’ll have plenty for the new school year!

So once you have your containers and you made your run to Costco, what goes in the lunch box?

I try to cover the four food groups and make sure their is plenty of protein, complex carbs, and nutrition for growing minds.

DSC_2314I am very blessed that both of my boys are allergy free.  So I have an organic milk box.  The picture shows Horizon, but my boys also love the Kirkland Organic Chocolate Milk Boxes from Costco.  I only buy organic and hormone free milk.  I truly believe all the hormones in dairy products are the reason children are entering puberty earlier and earlier.

If your child is allergic to milk then use juice boxes or soy or almond milk.

Because this is a lunch for a first grader, there is half a sandwich which has turkey, sharp cheddar, and spinach leaves.  My boys are not big veggie fans so I compensate with a double fruit serving, fresh blueberries and an Apple Go Go Squeeze.  Finally, a little crunch comes from a Cheeze-It 100 Calorie pack.

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The lunch bag is from Pottery Barn Kids. I love their backpacks and lunch boxes. I especially love that the lunch boxes clip onto the back packs!

The only part of this yummy lunch I actually had to make myself was the sandwich, which is the way I like it!  To keep everything cool I slide the ice pack into the zippered netting on the lid and close it up!  Done, done and done.  I pack 15 school lunches a week, ten for my boys and five for me.  I’m not going to apologize for cutting corners by using prepackaged healthy options!

I also have a small thermos for each of us so I can let the boys take hot soup, chili, stew, spaghetti or whatever leftovers we have from the previous nights dinner.  I cook in double batches frequently.  I have to use a thermos because my children do not have access to a microwave at school.  I don’t know of any schools around here that allow the kids to use microwaves but I have seen lots of articles in Parenting and Parents lately to say to do just that.

Here is a list of really great products from Costco:

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My little guy with his big boy backpack and his matching lunch box.

Brownberry Oatnut Bread
Jif Peanut Butter
Kirkland Organic Strawberry Spread
Nutri-Grain Bars
Kirkland Almonds
Kirkland Organic Milk Boxes
GoGo Squeeze Applesauce
Pepperidge Goldfish Crackers
Honey Maid Graham Crackers
Ritz Crackers & Cheese
Annie’s Fruit Snacks
Yoplait Go-Gurt
Fruyo Greek Yogart
Nature Valley Granola Bars
Kraft String Cheese
Nature Valley Sweet & Salty
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
100 Calories Snack Packs
Kirkland Organic Tortilla Chips
Tree Top Fruit Snacks
Stretch Island Fruit Strips
Snyder’s Pretzels

I hope this list is helpful.  So often we feel under pressure to do everything bigger and better until it is ridiculously over the top!  At the end of the day kids need to eat nutricious food, appropriate sized portions, and it needs to be a little bit fun.  So don’t feel guilty if your child’s lunch box isn’t Pinterest picture worthy.  If you have more suggestions please add them in the Comments below!

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