Elle's First Day of Kindergarten

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My Elle, my Daughter; 

You are  just one month shy of your 6th birthday, and today you had your first day of kindergarten. You couldn’t wait to FaceTime to tell me all about your day, and, just like I knew you would, you had a blast. 😊️ But this morning, wow, this morning...More than the smiles of a great day or the pride from a school award, I saw it. I got a glimpse of your glory - who you were made to be and becoming.

You had tears in your eyes this morning. “Mommy, I’m scared,” you said. “What are you scared of?” I asked. “I’m scared because I don’t know anyone and I don’t know where to go and I don’t know what we are doing,” you cried. You were scared of the unknown. You held my hand so tight as you stood in the line waiting to go inside with your class. “You’re going to be ok,” I said. “It’s time to say your good-byes!” the teacher shouted. You gave me one big squeeze, and then you let go. You walked single file following the teacher. You looked back at us with watery eyes, but the tears were gone. We waved, and then I saw it. Right before you took your first step inside the school your back straightened & you raised your head higher & then you stepped into the fear & walked through the doors.

There have been many times when you have had to face fear and let go of me: your first steps, learning to swim and this year as you switched back and forth to houses confused and scared about what was going on and what was going to happen. I forget the fear that you have had to face too, and so I forget the bravery you have had to show just as much as I have. God was not mistaken when He told me He made you like me. Today, you showed me how God sees me. And today, you showed me how brave and strong you are. You are radiant! It took my breath away. And maybe one day you will read this and roll your eyes, but maybe one day you will read this on a scared day & remember the truth of who you are. Let go because you are brave & you will be ok.

Love, Mom.


Back to school is just around the corner, and I'm finding myself brainstorming new ways to make lunch fun and exciting for my picky eaters. Sandwiches get boring day after day, and it can be a struggle to keep coming up with ways to make fruits and veggies look appealing to a five year old. As per usual, I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration and found some amazing kid-friendly lunch recipes that I'm just dying to try.

What kid wouldn't be excited to bust out these awesome turkey and cheese "sushi" rolls from Weary Chef?! With carrots in the middle and a spinach tortilla, they won't even know they're being healthy while they're eating it. 

These apple and cheese rollups from Weelicious are a unique alternative to any sandwich. They encompass three different food groups and pair perfectly with any side of grain, like pita chips or some classic Goldfish crackers!

Every good lunch comes with a little treat, right? Instead of something completely sugary with zero nutritional value, try out these chocolate peanut butter granola apple bites from The Comfort of Cooking. The hardest part is restraining yourself from eating them all before they make it into the lunchbox... 

While all of these recipes are creative and delicious, there are bound to be days when you're crunched for time and a PB&J will have to do. You can still make fun by stocking up on some parent and kid approved lunchtime accessories. Click on the links below to shop my favorites! Also, if you live in the Phoenix Metro area, I'll be visiting Fox 10 studios to talk more about school lunches and Pinterest. Tune in on Sunday, July 24th at 7am on their morning show.




Every month I have a real conversation about different aspects of motherhood along with some other mamas in the blog-o-sphere as part of "The Real Mom Series." This month we're talking about education, and since we're in all different phases of motherhood you'll get to hear from many perspectives. Be sure to visit the other blogs to read more:

The Refined Woman, Design for Mankind, The Effortless Chic, Cloistered Away, Sarah Sherman Samuel

This topic of education is timely because Elle just finished her first year of preschool, and we are reassessing where she should attend next year. It's times like these where I wish I majored in family studies, psychology or education so that I know what is the "best" and "right" way to educate children. I wouldn't say we made a mistake this past year, but I would say we didn't really make the best choice for Elle and here's why...

I chose our past preschool based on recommendations from moms and educators in the area. You would think that's a surefire way to know if a school is good, but you know what I have found to be a better way to choose a school for your child? Your maternal instincts. Something told me that she just wasn't enjoying herself and she always came home tired and quiet. I thought it was because she just wasn't used to four hours of a classroom environment. 

In my gut I was 100% sold on her preschool, but I just kept telling myself, "But, it's the best in the area. Everyone says so." Well, this summer she has been attending a summer preschool program at a different school, and she has been coming home so rejuvenated and happy. It's an even longer day that her other school and she goes daily. I was preparing myself for a super tired three year old, but I was wrong. So, that got me to thinking, maybe her other preschool isn't really the best even though everyone says so. But, that really begs the question, how do I know what is best? Here's my two cents from a mom that is still figuring it out.

Well, I think the first step is to assess your child's personality.

Elle is an extroverted leader, and I think some teachers would classify her as a strong willed child because she argues everything to death (just like her mama). I love that about her, but it makes things challenging for a teacher. If  Elle can't see the personal benefit of something she simply won't do it. In fact, if you start any sentence with a command she will just rebel against it to try and assert power. It's just who she is and how she was made. All that to say, how schools handle behavioral issues is a very important aspect to how we need to pick a school. I felt like her past preschool constantly was telling her "no" and "don't" and "timeout." I also didn't feel that they embraced that part of her personality and tried to channel it in a positive way. So, we need to find a place that approaches correction with positive affirmation of good behavior. For example, "Good choice, Mary. Thank you for sitting on your square. Good choice, Ben..." and so on until the person not making a good choice realizes that they can receive the positive affirmation they are looking for by sitting down. Because Elle is extroverted, more time to play with friends is also a factor. Here past school only offered three hour mornings three days a week for her age, but there are other schools that offer daily school with longer days. 

The next step would be to tour the school and see if you have a good feeling about it.

Sometimes you just need to trust your intuition. You can read about a school on paper and it sounds fabulous, but until you tour it and talk with the teachers you won't know if it's a good fit or not. I've toured about five different preschools, and I definitely had better feelings about some schools than others. I would look at whether the school was clean, if it was safe, if it was organized, if the student/teacher ratio was good, etc. We also have a serious nut allergy in our home, so how they handle food at school is a bit of a factor. I also would ask about the teacher/student ratio. Children learn better in smaller class sizes because they can have more time with the teacher. It's just the truth, so if you can find a place that has a good student/teacher ratio then you're on the right track for success.

The next would be to see if the communication between the school and the parents is frequent and friendly. 

Anytime a teacher seems bothered to talk to a parent there should be a red flag. Parents and teachers have to work together to make learning enjoyable. Sometimes when Elle's teacher would ask me to work on something with her I felt at a loss as to how to do that. I really wish they could have given me some examples of how to work on fine motor skills. Instead, I just went to Pinterest to look up idea in hopes that those ideas would work. I also wanted to know more about what they were going to learn in the coming months so that I could reinforce those ideas at home.

There's no surefire way to find the right school. Sometimes you just have to try it and see. I thought I would screw Elle up by taking her out of school and putting her into a different one. I also thought I was a bad mom for making her go to school in the summer for longer days. You know what? Your kids may surprise you, and trusting your gut works better than you think! 

Back to Prep School

blazerI never went to a private school, but sometimes I wish I had because preppy, plaid skirts, polos and blazers are mandatory. It's almost back to school time for most people, so I made my preppy wish list. Sadly, prep school isn't in the future for me, so maybe I should think about moving to New England where this look is a bit more accepted and people won't think I'm dressing up like Hermoine Granger from Harry Potter.

Handmade Goodies

I'm so blessed to be connected with so many creative people in this world! I know several people that have side businesses creating handmade items that are SO adorable I wanted to share them with you.Katelyn Block - Domestic Charm She bakes some of the most beautiful and creative cakes out of her home. If you're having a birthday party, bridal or baby shower or wedding, definitely give her a ring! Plus, she has a great blog that you should subscribe to get yummy recipes!

Tarrah Ritchie - Laila's Lovelies She makes fun, eclectic bags that can brighten up any outfit. She just had a beautiful baby boy named Patrick, so she has taken a break for a bit from sewing, but she's back in the swing of things. She has even started a blog sharing her designs loves. Tarrah's also a very accomplished artist, so I'm really excited to see what else comes out of Laila's Lovelies.

Emily Hall - Emilee Rose Designs I went to high school and was in youth group with Emily. She is an amazing artist that has pursued her talents and recently started her own stationary business. She also has a blog that shares her new products and life updates. Make sure to check her out next time you're in the market for stationary or invites!

Danielle Axtell - Baby Mae Couture My dear friend Danielle has started her own baby line that just got picked up by some local boutiques. If you want to buy a unique gift for an infant or toddler, check Baby Mae out! I just had a dress and bib made for my niece's first birthday. Picture will be coming, but until then check out her stuff! She also has a great blog that shares her life and fun finds.

Amber Crudele -Crochet Addict I've never gotten to meet Amber, but she is a dear friend of my sister-in-law, Nicky, and she crochets some of the cutest things. From teddy bears to coffee cozies, check Amber's Etsy page for unique, handmade gifts.

Alexis Lundberg - That's Sew Lexi Lexi is very talented with a sewing machine and started a business sewing aprons that are the perfect a wedding shower gift. Not only do you get to pick your own colors, but she personalizes each one with a message or verse of your choice to be kept in the pocket of the apron. I had one of these made for a best friend of mine, and it felt so good to give her something more personal than a picture frame.