Back on Track for Fall! and a $25 Amazon GC Giveaway.

For most of our kids, school has either started or will start in about a week. I’ve had a rocking summer with the kids, but it’s time to get settled back into a routine for the family. I am a huge proponent of routines for kids. Having one for our family has really helped calm and allay fears of the unknown, which is huge for kids with ASD.

Not that everything has to be exactly the same every day, but knowing what will happen within a time frame gives kids (and some adults too) a certain sense of calm.

I posted at the beginning of the summer about our schedule, and it really helped. Our school year schedule is a little different, but most of our appointments are the about the same time each week.

A few other things that help us keep on track during the school year:

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 8.41.01 AM.pngHaving grab and go lunch items at hand. In the pantry, there is a basket filled with all kinds of lunch/snack items. Crackers, cookies, squeezy pouches, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, cups of PB/other nut/seed butters, pretzels, juice boxes, etc. On the counter we’ve got a trifle bowl (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made trifle in the past 11 years-but… it makes a great fruit bowl), that we will with lunchbox sized fruit: apples, tangerines, and occasionally pears. I keep the bananas separate on a little hook/stand.

I also keep a stash of frozen tubes of yogurt in the freezer, and a grip of cheese sticks either pre-packaged or home-made, depending on which is cheaper, in the fridge. What’ a home made cheese stick? Buy a big block of cheese, grab a large, sharp knife and cut the cheese into hunks resembling commercially made cheese sticks. I wrap them in saran wrap and keep them in a large zip top bag in the dairy drawer.

It takes about 15 minutes to organize the lunch stuff once a week, and it saves me a lot of time each morning.

A Pretty Solid Meal Plan. I’ve posted about meal planning so many times, and honestly, it really does help. I get a lot of magazines in the mail (free of course), and most of them are cooking magazines. I try to add a new recipe into the mix weekly.

Exercise. I know this sounds weird, but, for me, exercise is my me time. We go to our local YMCA, and the kids go to child care for up to two hours. I do an hour of cardio (and catch up on email, Facebook, or bring along a book), then do weights for about 20-40 minutes. It’s a chance to focus on my body and health. Sometimes I grab my travel bag, and toss it into my gym bag with a couple towels and go take a shower after my cardio. Taking a shower without little people interrupting you is one of life’s small luxuries. Whatever makes you happy and allows you to escape a little each day, I encourage you to explore it. 

Coffee. I’m one of those people that has to have coffee every day. It’s part of my daily ritual. I drink at least 30 ounces of coffee a day: hot, cold, heck even room temp., I don’t care. It can even be decaf. I set up to coffee maker before bed, and when we get up in the morning, there is a hot, fresh pot of coffee. And we don’t have a fancy coffee maker either… This is the coffee maker we have.

Giveaway: Let’s celebrate back to school! I’d love to hear about how you get back to it after school starts. Leave me a comment below and enter to win a $25 Amazon GC* here (This link may not be mobile friendly)! I’ll choose a winner on September 4th, 2018. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Winner subject to verification of entry tasks. Winner must reside in the USA. $25 Amazon GC will be rewarded as a digital Gift Code, emailed to the winner.

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6 Tips for Getting Ready for Back to School!

back-to-school.jpgIt’s coming… For some of us, back to school is NEXT WEEK! For others it’s later in August, and some lucky folks, have until Labor Day in September. Regardless of when your kids go back, it’s nice to be prepared and save money.

 

Here are a few ideas to help you prepare and stay on budget!

Packing an Awesome School Lunch.

Shop Online to Save Big-  I love shopping online, especially at JCPenney and Kohls. Lots of great deals to be had, coupons, and ship to store to save even more!

There is a backpack and school supply giveaway in Santee on August 19th. More info here.  If you need school supplies sooner, Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber is sponsoring a Back to School Kick off and Community Health Fair on 8/11/18.

If you are worried about being able to provide a nutritious, healthy lunch for your kiddos, The San Diego Food Bank sponsors Neighborhood Distributions throughout the month all over the county. You can go and get free, fresh produce- usually between 10-30 lbs. per family.  No proof of need- Just grab your reusable shopping bags and go!

a72904da152a0795ba05aaecba3a28bc.jpgAdjusting back to the school-year schedule can be a little tough- That’s why we start to get the kids back to bed at their regular time starting the beginning of August. For our kiddos, keeping them busy and active all day, really helps. Trips to the playground, beach, zoo, and pool really help.

We’ll be hitting up the night time zoo this week!

And one last back to school tip: Let your kids play and hang out with friends as much as possible before they go back, especially if they aren’t able to see some of their friends at school. We’re hosting a K’Nex Play Time Party with Tryazon this Wednesday at Shadow Hill Park in Santee! If you and your gang will be in the area, please stop by! There will bea chance to win prizes, yummy snacks, and cool toys!

 

Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

So, I know it’s Tuesday, but we were at Legoland yesterday for the opening of the Deep Sea Adventure. I need to get back to meal planning for the week because without it, I’m getting lazy!

Breakfasts are usually the same for us: Protein shakes for grown ups, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. We have plenty of protein shake fixins’- I buy the over ripe bananas, peel and slice them pop them into ziploc bags, and freeze them for smoothies and protein shakes. I also keep sandwich ziploc bags of  other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or a protein shake for me and the Mister, and The Big kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently). Bitty Bird eats whatever I’ll feed her.

For dinner, when we’ve got buy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. This week, I plan on making a couple pizza crusts, and put them in the freezer in individual bags so we can have pizza whenever we want without having to call Dominos. I also plan on doing some meal prep this coming weekend for the coming week.

Monday: we had Jack in the Box on the way home from Legoland. We left later and got home even later.

Tuesday: The kids asked for Pancakes, so I whipped up a batch. For them, I just made regular pancakes, for Mister and myself, I made pancakes, but put a slice of bacon in batter after it’s poured onto the griddle. Yum.

Wednesday: BBQ at my parents house. It’s a potluck, and we’re bringing corn to grill, and a tasty green salad. There will be fried chicken, salads of all types, baked beans, and a brownie sundae bar!

Thursday: Pulled Pork. Onions, yellow bell peppers, carrots, celery, garlic, shallots, bay leaves, and about a cup of La Victoria Salsa Verde Pineapple Salsa, All cooked with a pork tenderloin roast. I’ll be starting it Wednesday night.  In the morning I’ll shred the roast with two forks, and vent the lid to cook off the excess moisture.  By 5 PM, the meat will melt in our mouths. I’ll be serving it with tortillas, rice, bans, and a green salad.

Friday: Leftovers, I’m guessing, or maybe quesadillas. Friday is usually date night, but it’s tech week for Mister’s play, and he opens Friday Night.

Saturday: Home Made Pizza- I’ll probably bust out a few extra crusts at the same time to freeze.

Sunday: Lemon Garlic Spaghetti Squash casserole– I’ve got 4 small spaghetti squash that need to be baked! I’m going to try cooking them in the crockpot- I saw a post on Facebook about it a few weeks ago and I saved the video.

What are you having this week for dinner?

 

Kids, Schedules, and Summertime!

file000981824153.jpgWe keep to a schedule at our house, even in the summer. I know summer is a time for lazy days, playing it by ear, and fun adventures, but when you have a kiddo on the autism spectrum you need a little structure in your life at all times.

Here is a copy of part of our daily summer schedule, I’ve cut off the afternoons as it contains our therapy schedule, as well as lessons/classes. Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 9.00.47 PM.png

Ok, so first of all, I know you are thinking, “Who the hell gets up at 7:30 during the summer?!?!”, well, us. My kids are usually up by 7:30am in the summer, and that’s sleeping in (ugh, 6:30am, you come too early during the school year).

I’ve included the analog clock  because the big guy is learning to tell time and it helps him visualize on the clocks in the house.

Despite the structure, there is room for creativity and flux. We have freedom in choosing breakfast, what to wear, and there is a 2-hour window of play time, where the kids can do whatever they want: free play, crafts, read a story, watch cartoons.

When my buddy was younger, we frequently went without a schedule, and honestly, I was nuts. Just wandering all day without a plan, I frequently had a headache at the end of the day, and would be dreading the next.  Now we have a loose overview of what to expect each day, and we fill in our time with free or low cost events. Check out your local library branch- they frequently have fun classes or events.

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The menu for El Cajon, CA free lunch locations. Pizza and salad twice a week!

And for some reason, kids are bottomless pits in the summer, we try to check out some of the free lunches for kids a few times a week. It helps keep our grocery budget in check, but most importantly, it exposes the kids to trying new foods, and new experiences.  I try and find out the menus ahead of time and expose the kids to 1-2 new foods per week in an environment where there are peers who already like to eat the “new food”.  When kids see peers eating something that’s new to them, often times they try it, even if they may give mom or dad some resistance. I’m not saying that peer pressure is always a bad thing.

In addition to free lunches, I try to keep our family snack bag well stocked. I tend to visit Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only for most of our snack needs. $25/week is my budget for lunches and snacks for the summer.

I try not to set our schedules in stone- We get invites to hang out with friends, go to events, or maybe some relatives will come out for a surprise visit (who knows). We want the kids to have fun over the summer, and I do my best to make sure they get a balance of fun times, learning, and relaxation.

I’d love to hear about what you do in the summer: Do you wing it, or have a schedule?

 

More Free Summer Meals for Kids!

freelunches.jpg

This is an update to this post, which has sites all over San Diego County listed.

I just received this in my inbox this morning!  Here is a great list of East County resources for free lunches for kids- And many sites also serve breakfast too!  We’ll be checking them out in the coming days, and I’ll post pictures (probably on Instagram), so make sure to follow me! Dates vary by location.

I am really excited about Hilton Head Park being on the list- That is a great park with a splash pad (only $3 to use for the whole day), shaded picnic tables, and a fun, sandy playground!

If you aren’t in the San Diego, CA area and are looking for more information on free lunches for kids, check the USDA website here. THe USDA plans to serve over 200 million meals to kids 18 and under this summer!

Free Meals this Summer for Kids!

file0001360139839.jpgI’m still pulling together resources and lists, so I’ll be posting more resources as they become available.

School will be out within a month for most kids in San Diego, and that means there are some parents (and kids) who usually rely on free or subsidized school lunches may find themselves wondering what to do.

Thankfully, a lot of great organizations have stepped up and partnered with local area schools, libraries, rec centers, and civic organizations to provide free breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for al kids 18 and under this summer.

You can search here for a list of California Department of Education sites that offer free meals (some sites offer breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks).

Some Library sites offer lunch too! Here is a complete list of areas that offer free lunches or snacks.

Some County of San Diego Library Locations offer lunch or snacks. Here is a filtered list for the month of June. Most libraries have a print calendar each month available that can be picked up with more info. The El Cajon Library on East Douglas has a really great lunch program in the summer with a fun activity/craft afterwards.

San Diego Unified School District has partnered with some awesome sponsors to host the Sumer Fun Cafe 2018 all over San Diego County! Lunch will be served at over 30 locations all summer for kids 18 and under! The kick off Summer BBQ (with free lunch for adults too) at Skyline Hills Park 6/20/17 10:30am-2:00pm! There are all kinds of activities too!

What I love about this program is that there are tons of rec centers hosting these lunches and they are usually adjacent to a playground, which means after a long morning of playing, the kids don’t have long to wait to get a yummy lunch!

Looking for a few ideas of summer fun with a nearby lunch?

If you know of more summer lunch programs for kids in San Diego County, I’d love to hear about them! Please leave a comment!

Keepin’ Track of your stuff with Mabel’s Labels!

IMG_8445.jpgI received a free packet of labels, however all opinions of Mabel’s Labels are my own. If you click on the links in the post and make a purchase, I may be compensated- and that facilitates giveaways and the running of the blog!

While I was at Influential Summit over the weekend, I met with the nice folks at Mabel’s Labels. They gave each attendee a packet of their new Glitter Labels. LOVE IT! Fingers crossed, this will keep everyone’s mitts off my water bottle!

Henry has had Mabel’s Labels for his stuff for a few years. I really like them. I’m not a big fan of putting kids name on personal stuff where strangers can see it (I grew up in the days of after-school specials and heightened awareness of strangers), but I do recognize the need for labeling the stuff kids take to school.  I use Mabel’s Labels inside Henry’s backpack, and right under the loop on the outside. That way it is identifiable , but when he has it on, no one can see the labeling. I also use them on his lunch box, pencil case, and inside his shoes.  Mabel’s does make special shoe labels too!

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 6.51.57 PM.pngWe opt for labels in his clothes too when we are out in crowded public places (like Disneyland, the zoo, county fair). Even though Henry is 6, he is autistic and has problems remembering my phone number, and he can get distracted in crowds, or fixated on one thing and want to go back to it and wander off.

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Yeah I am!

If pastels and glitter aren’t your thing, check this out- You can select other motifs and themes, and they have different fonts to suit your personality.

Right now, you can shop the new Glitter Labels – $26 for 45 Labels.

Mabel’s is always offering specials and deals, so if glitter labels aren’t your thing, check out their site and subscribe to their email blasts.