Archive for the ‘August Is – Back To School’ Category

Okay, okay I know I’ve been horrible about posting but seriously it’s been crazy busy.  I know, I know there are a lot of other bloggers out there who are crazy busy too, but I guess I’m just a slacker, haha:-)

A lot has happened since last I posted, A LOT, and it’s left me wondering about Life Exquisite and its future and where its going to go.  Not to mention, my own future and that of my families…but before I get to far ahead of myself lets start from here…

Summer has ended and the kids started back up with school on September 3rd…

Gabrielle and Miranda are still in public school…

…but as I mentioned at the end of the school year last year Pierce has decided to homeschool and Elizabeth is starting preschool from home!

Even though homeschooling keeps me busier and my house a bit more messy then I’d like I’m loving having my boy at home with me.  I wish the girls were here every day too, though I think I may go crazy teaching them all, haha.  But, maybe someday, they do seem to be a bit jealous of all the fun things we do:-)

Even though I haven’t been posting I have managed to get pictures of some of my outfits.  And since you saw what my kids wore on their first day of school I’ll show you what I wore too…










I start with my hair down each day but by mid day when I’m doing craft/art time with my kids or running around outside for our “recess” I end up tossing my hair up in a messy bun.  Luckily my hubby is commuting now and doesn’t have to see me in my messy bun on a daily basis.

Say what?  My husbands commuting?!

Yep, that’s the change in the wind I mentioned in the title.  My husband has taken a new job in Minnesota and it wont be too much longer before the kids and I, still wearing our cheeseheads of course, head to The Land Of A Thousand Lakes to join him.  Our goal is the beginning of November before Mother Nature sends her beautiful blanket of snow to make driving and moving conditions less than enjoyable.

So it is not just homeschooling and keeping house that has kept me from posting but also I’ve begun to clear out stuff we don’t want to bring with us and pack things away we don’t need for now.  It’s all kept me very busy thus keeping me away.  It’s also left me wondering just what I’ll do with Life Exquisite in the future.  My hopes are to keep it going but it has gotten very busy, moving/packing aside, and I keep thinking with all this newness my family may need as much of me as possible and distractions, even a small one like a blog, may be too much for now.

I have thought of turning it into more of a personal blog for my family and friends to keep up with the goings on of our new life in MN but they can easily do that through FB also.

I’m really not sue yet, so stay tuned.  Who knows what will happen.  For now I’m excited to share with you our fun things we did for homeschool today on this beautiful fall day which also happens to be…

Johnny Appleseed Day!!!

We kicked off our school morning with an apple hunt!  I don’t have any apple trees so I hid some apples in and around our willow tree for my youngers to find!

Then we headed inside to make apple butter from out harvest!  They helped with the whole process from cutting the apples (with butter knives), to adding the sugars and spices and then stirring it all together in the crockpot!  It was my sons idea to wear pots on their heads like Johnny Appleseed did:-)

All this morning our curriculum was Johnny Appleseed themed with ideas I got from Pinterest like

this and this.  I also got a couple apple themed curriculums from teacherspayteachers.com like this and this.

Here’s how our Johnny Appleseed Craft turned out (We combined this with this, because I liked them having their names on the pot.)…

I even made them an apple themed lunch!  I was planning to just serve them apple slices and apple juice with sandwiches but when my daughter requested pancakes for lunch I couldn’t resist making these!

And before nap and rest time we concluded our Johnny Appleseed unit watching a movie my teachers showed me every year in elementary school and I loved watching it every year!

(Click image to bring you to youtube video.)

So much is happening, the kids miss their dad, I miss my hubby, but luckily we get to see him on the weekends still!  All in it’s been busy but fun.  And today, Johnny Appleseed Day, was super fun!!!


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As my final “Back To School Post” I decided to post a few outfits my kids will be wearing to school this year…

Waiting For The Bus

Outfits from left to right in bottom picture: M – Blazer & Boots – Target,  Pants – Old Navy, Tie – JcPenny’s, Tee – The Children’s Place; P – Plaid Shirt, Monster Tee & Jeans – The Children’s Place, Tennies – Gift; G – Top – Kohl’s, Skinnies & Zebra Scarf – The Children’s Place, Shoes – Gift; E – Dress & Tights – LLBean, Boots – Target

All of their backpacks are from LLBean because they have a lifetime warranty.  We get our children them at the beginning of Elementary, Middle and High School so Miranda’s is no longer featured since it’s her 3rd year using it but here is Pierce’s and Gabrielle’s.  We also get them the matching lunchbag.

Playing Preppy

From left to right in bottom picture: P – Plaid Shirt – Kohl’s, Vest, Skinnies & Boots – The Children’s Place, E – Skirt, Shirt & Tights – The Children’s Place, Boots – Target, Hair Accessory – Homemade, G – Shirt – Justice Girls, Skirt – The Children’s Place, Shoes – Gift, M – ShirtSkirt & Shoes – The Children’s Place

Schoolhouse Rock

From left to right in middle picture: G – Shirt and Scarf – Charming Charlie (Sorry they currently don’t sell things on-line), Pants & Boots – Old Navy, P – Gorilla Tee – Old Navy, Pants & Shoes – The Children’s Place, Costume Hoody – Kohl’s, E – They are all items from when my older girls were young, so sorry but can’t find them, M – Pants & Tee – The Children’s Place, Skirt – Kohl’s, Boots – Target (I apologize that all of the items for her outfit seem to be sold out so couldn’t get any links.)

My kids helped pick out all of their outfits and we had so much fun, playing around and laughing while getting taking these pictures!  I’ll try to download a slide show to LE’s FB page later on that shows you more of the fun photos I took.  We laughed so hard when looking back at them.  Though it may be one of those things that’s funnier for us than you!  

For now it’s time to say good-bye to the “Back To School” posts.  We leave tomorrow to go camping over labor day weekend and when we come back it will be a busy schedule with school starting September 4th and extra curricular activities quickly getting underway, but we are looking forward to them all.  (The kids a little more than my husband and I, ha, ha.)

Wishing you all an EXQUISITE school year!

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I said that title like the Capital One vikings while typing that out and I bet you will now too!

Today’s “Back To School” topic is, you guessed it, lunches!  If you have picky eaters like I do, you will rarely be able to take advantage of the lunches your school has to offer so you will have to pack about 90% (or maybe even 100%) of your kids 180 lunches they will have at school this year.  The problem I often would run into with packing lunches for my kids is that they get bored having the same old thing every day.  Over the last 5 years I’ve had to come up with ways to fight off lunch time boredom but before I share those with you I thought I’d share a few rules we have about packing lunches.

Lunch Packing Rules:

1)  They have to help pack their lunches.  First of all this teaches them responsibility and helps them to learn how to make their own lunch so that you aren’t still doing it when they are seniors.  Second of all it avoids the “I didn’t want that for lunch” complaint.  If they are helping you, then you know that they will be happy with what’s in their lunch.

2)  Their lunch has to include a protein.  Wether its peanut butter on their sandwich or turkey bites in a baggy, there has to be some protein in their lunches.

3)  Their lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable.  I don’t care if they have both a fruit or vegetable, but it has to be at least one or the other.  I also don’t care if it’s fresh, dried or canned, as long as they are getting a serving from the fruit and vegetable group, I’m happy.

4)  If they are going to want soup or left overs that need to be heated they need to leave a note on the counter the night before school so that I can heat it up right away the next morning, put it in their thermos and pack it in their lunch boxes.

And now onto how I’ve learned to help…

Fight Off Lunch Time Boredom

Wrap It Up – Keep burrito shells on hand so that your kids can choose between a sandwich or a wrap.  My kids enjoy both and  like that they have the choice between the two.  Keep deli meats, lettuce, tomatoes, whatever it is your kids like on their wraps/sandwiches on hand and let them help build it the night before school.


Lunchable Style – My kids love Lunchables but I very rarely get them for them (Maybe 2 times a year, maybe.) because they are so expensive.  But they are always thrilled when we have summer sausage on hand and I let them exchange a sandwich or wrap for some crackers with cheese and meat!  It feels a little like a Lunchable and gives them another switch up on the sandwich.

Some Like It Hot –  On cool fall and winter days my kids occasionally like to bring warm soup to sip at lunch the next day or we might have had their favorite hot dish for dinner and they want to bring left overs.  It’s super easy to throw these things in the microwave in the morning, pour it in their thermos and place in their lunch boxes in the morning.  And it’s another way to fight off sandwich boredom!  Just remember to pack crackers if they are bringing soup.

Cut It Out – My kids love it when I cut their sandwich out with a cookie cutter.  LOVE IT!  When I saw the picture on the right on Pinterest I knew right away what their first day of school sandwich would be…isn’t that the cutest cut out sandwich ever?!   I know my kids will love the sprinkles!

Surprise Them – I love it when I pick my kids up from school and they say, “Thank you so much, Mom, for putting a cookie in my lunch today!”  Who wouldn’t like to open their lunch box and find a brownie, candy, chips or some other treat inside?  Yes, I know they aren’t the healthiest things to put in your child’s lunch but it’s okay to satisfy a sweet tooth now and then.  I think my kids favorite thing that I surprise them with is when they open their thermos expecting juice and it has hot chocolate instead!  Another surprise my kids love is when I leave a little note in their lunch box for them.  This little “Love You To Pieces” jar is such a cute little note and treat in one idea, though for at school it would probably be best in a baggy.

Make A Date – My kids love it when my husband or I join them at school to have lunch with them and their friends or take them out for lunch.  We only have lunch with one child at a time so that it’s special for them.  I prefer to take them out to eat but my kids love it when we stay at the school because they like to introduce me to their friends.  Either way it’s a fun little date!

I hope you gain some useful tips that you and your child will enjoy.  If you have any other ideas to spice up lunches that I haven’t shared feel free to share below in the comments section.  I always enjoy hearing from all of you!

* All pictures are courtesy of Google imaging and other sites.  Most of the images link to other great lunch time ideas like what to pack, healthy lunches, etc. and are worth checking out.

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School mornings can be hectic, hurried and completely insane but we’ve learned a few things along the way to help keep our mornings as chaos free as possible…

Be Prepared

Pick out your clothes the night before.  This means everything, pants, shirts, socks, etc.  If they will be wearing it the next day have it out and ready for them.  I actually pick out my kid’s clothes, with their help, for the entire week, on Sunday’s.  I iron and hang them in their closets and then the night before school my children pick out what outfit they’d like for the next day and we lay it out nicely with everything they’ll be wearing the next morning.  Pack backpacks and lunches (if your child brings a cold lunch) the night before, also.  Making sure that phy-ed clothes/shoes, homework, show and tell items, whatever it is they need for the next day of school is in their bag will avoid the rush of searching for these items in the morning.  The only thing you wont be able to put in their back pack the night before is their lunch (if things need to be kept cool) and maybe a book they are reading.  I set my kids lunches in their backpacks while they are getting ready in the morning and remind them to put their books in their bags when they come down for breakfast.  You should also have a designated spot for their backpacks, coats, shoes and anything else they’ll need before leaving the house in the morning.  We have hooks where our kids coats and bags hang and their shoes sit right below these items on the floor.  That way they can easily grab their things right before heading out the door.

Know Your Childs Schedule

One of the keys to being able to make sure their backpack is packed with everything they’ll need for school is to know your child’s school schedule.  Know which day’s they have phy-ed, show and tell, library, etc. so that all the proper items are packed.  At the beginning of the school year I make out a spreadsheet for my children with their names along the side and the days of the school week on top and fill in each day’s agenda so I don’t have to try to remember what days are what for each child.  With two kids in school, this year it will be three, I can sometimes forget who has library or phy ed on what day so I just refer to my spreadsheet hanging in my pantry (I hang it near our wall calendar so that I can check for special things like field trips, concerts, etc also.) and know how to plan for each of my children.  I also include the times of their lunches and recesses so that I know when to schedule appointments for them and when to schedule a lunch date with them.  By knowing their schedule and packing what they need the night before school we’ve saved ourselves a little hassle.

Ready by…

Create a “ready by” time.  A time that your kids have to have done whatever they want to get done that morning by a certain time.  Our “ready by” time is 7:00, when we eat breakfast.  If they have something they want to do or a last minute thing they want in their backpacks it needs to be done by this time or it’s not going to get done.  They will sometimes hurry through breakfast and ask if they can look for something at this time, but the trick is to remain firm and stick to your rules so that they learn to be prepared.  If I allowed them to go look for the item then the bus would be waiting and honking at the end of the driveway.  Having this rule teaches them respect for others (the time of the bus driver and students on the bus) and cause and effect (you didn’t get ready fast enough so I couldn’t braid your hair like you wanted).

How To Wake A Sleeper

My middle daughter wakes up right away in the morning, sometimes before the alarm even goes off.  A lot of this is because she’s a natural early bird but most of it is because she knows the earlier she’s out of bed the more time she has to snuggle on the couch and chat with me before she has to get ready.  This snuggle time is very important to both of us.  My oldest daughter, however, is a sleeper and it’s so, so hard to rouse her on a school morning.  We’ve now started the 10 for 5 rule.  She knows that she doesn’t have to get up when her alarm goes off, she has a sort of snooze button.  That snooze button is 10 minutes after her alarm has gone off when I’ve finished snuggling Miranda and come tell her it’s time to get up.  She will try to continue to sleep even after this so I have to come and try to wake her ever 5 minutes.  Ever time I have to do this, in other words, every 5 minutes she sleeps longer she has to go to bed 10 minutes earlier than her normal bed time.  This has helped a ton though to be honest there are still mornings where I’ve had to tell her 3-4 times to wake up but going to bed early that night is insentive to wake up on time the next morning.

Dealing With The Doddler

While my middle daughter is great at waking up in the morning she also tends to doddle when she’s supposed to be getting dressed and making her bed which would result in her coming down to breakfast late and having to hurriedly engulf a bowl of cereal.  It was with great pain that I implemented the rule of losing morning snuggle time.  I hated doing it because I enjoy this time with her just as much as she does but it was the only thing that would get her dressed and her bed made on time.  I explained to her that if she was going to take so long to get dressed that she probably needed that snuggle time as extra getting dressed time.  So the rule goes that if she takes too long to get dressed and make her bed  then snuggle time is lost for the next morning.  Luckily for both of us I’ve only had to implement this a few times.  Some of you may not have a snuggle time that you can take away but perhaps their is something else they enjoy doing in the morning or telling them that if they are going to take so long getting ready then they’ll have to wake up earlier the next morning would work.

Stagger Bathroom Times

I wish my kids could be in the bathroom brushing their teeth and hair at the same time, but they can’t, not without fighting anyway.  So I have them take turns brushing their teeth and they bring their hair brushes to their bedrooms to brush their hair.  I’ve found the more they can avoid each other in the morning the better.  They really get along great most of the time, but my oldest, the sleepy head can be really grumpy in the morning.  Staggered bathroom time helps avoid fights.

Create A Routine

This goes for both morning and night.  Make sure your kids always go to bed at the same time.  Yes, there will be some busy nights where you are out later than normal, but keeping a regular bedtime is very important to make sure you don’t have to deal with grumpy kids in the morning.  Be sure that whatever time you are putting them to bed allows them to get the sleep they need before they have to wake in the morning.  Most kids need between 8 – 12 hours of sleep.  Establish a morning routine for your child. First they brush their teeth, then hair, next they get dressed and then eat breakfast before getting their things on to leave for school.  Obviously the routine doesn’t have to be that exactly.  You need to have a routine that best works for you and your child.  Perhaps making a chart for you child would help with his or her morning routine.  Establishing a regular routine will keep them from standing around doing nothing but wondering what they should do next.

Breakfast Time

Before the reality of what school mornings would actually be like, I pictured myself always making a big breakfast of pancakes or eggs with some fresh fruit or yogurt and a glass of juice or milk ready for them. Once I realized that school mornings in our home are too busy for a big meal, cereal was the best way to go for this family.  And there are some mornings, actually a lot of mornings, where they told me the night before they wanted to sleep in, so they opted for school breakfast.  Wether it’s big hearty breakfasts, cereal, an apple on the go or school breakfast do whatever works for your family’s morning.  Don’t feel like you have to be super mom.

Be Ready Too

I’ve found that our mornings go much smoother if I’ve been up for an hour or so before them and have myself all dressed and ready for the day before it’s time for them to be awake.  I notice on the days that I allow myself to hit the snooze too many times myself I’m more easily irritable.  On the days I’m up and ready I’m more awake, which means I’m more cheerful and able to deal with their morning mayhem.  Being ready also helps me set a good example to my children of how their mornings should go.  If I’m standing around ordering them to brush their teeth and hair and get dressed while I’m in my pajamas, with morning breath and bed head I’m being a bit hypocritical.  Set an example and be ready and fully awake for them.

These things have helped us out a ton.  No, our mornings, aren’t always smooth sailing.  There are still the occasional fights between the girls, tears are shed because they didn’t get something in their backpack before breakfast or some other dilema will arise.  But all in all our mornings are much smoother.

What tricks and tips do you have to share that might help out me and others to smooth sailing school mornings?

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After last weeks post, “August Is – Back To School” I felt I should clarify that while I love The Children’s Place, Old Navy, & GAP (among other children’s stores) I never spend a ton of money on my kids clothes.  Let’s face it, school is expensive!  For families like us who are a one-income household, having to buy both the supplies and clothes your children will need for the year could quite possibly break the bank.

So how do I buy my kids name brand clothes without spending all our hard-earned cash?

I may have said this before but in case I haven’t, we are huge budgeters.  We have a pretty tight system that helps us make sure we can have what we need and want as long as we shop wisely.  We are also excel nerds.  Yes, I have an inner nerd.  We have our yearly budget all worked out nicely on a beautiful little spread sheet, that rarely needs some minor tweaking due to price changes (we usually only tweak it at the end of the year when figuring out the new years budget).  So here’s how school budgeting works for us…

The Budget

We’ll start with my nerdy-ness or, as I prefer, savvy organizer.  My spreadsheet is very basic (I wish I could download it here for you so you could see it but I couldn’t get it to work.  I guess my inner nerd doesn’t run deep enough.).  It is divided by the kids names (along the top) and the clothing items they’ll need; pants, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, socks, everything (along the left side).  I then figure out how many of each item they’ll need and what I know is the lowest price I can get it for and figure out a total for that item.  For instance I know that denim goes on sale at Old Navy and The Children’s Place for $10 in the fall.  So if my oldest daughter needs 5 pair of jeans I’ll take 5 x $10 and know that I wont need to spend more than $50 on jeans for her for the school year.  $10 is a great price for jeans!  Take a look here to see that you can’t even get that price at Walmart.  So by paying attention to annual sales I’m able to keep school clothing costs down low.

Last Years – This Year!

Take advantage of end of season sales.  It’s a HUGE money saver and as long as you leave the tags on, store them in a nice place (I have a Rubbermaid container in my basement) and wait to pull them out until the new school year (or whenever you need them, since I do this for summer also) your kids will be thrilled with the “new” items.  Some people don’t like to do this because they think the styles will change over the next year, but honestly how much do styles change in one year?  Especially kids.  Graphic tees have been basically the same for as long as I can remember.  Plus I usually get name brand clothes, even GAP and Gymboree for $2.99 or less by taking advantage of the end of season sales!  You can’t get still tagged items that cheap at a garage sale or second-hand store.  My kids wear last year’s sale items a lot and LOVE opening up that Rubbermaid to see what surprises await them.


We do a lot of what I call pre-shopping or, one might call it, on-line browsing.  We go to our favorite stores, fill our shopping carts full of what clothes the kids want and then we wait, and wait, and wait until those items come down to the price we’ve allotted for those them.  I check in every other day, if not daily, to watch the sale prices and catch deals while they are there.  I’ve learned to buy some things on-line because other people are watching those sales also and items go fast.  (If you buy on-line be sure you have a “free shipping” coupon or you may not end up saving money.)

Pre-shopping is not only handy for keeping an eye on deals, but it also comes in handy when out shopping.  By pre-shopping my kids have narrowed down what they want and time at the mall or stores doesn’t take as long.  Before we go for the big day of school shopping I’ll print off our shopping carts and we go to the stores with their favorite items, and where the best deals are, and grab the items we need.  It saves us a lot of times standing around the stores trying to decide what they want.

What If It Doesn’t Go On Sale?

My oldest daughter has asked me this a few times over the last couple of years, as I’m sure her siblings will also when they start to care more about what they are wearing.  My answer, “Then it wasn’t meant to be.”  We have a limit as to what we’re willing to spend and if the items they want don’t fall into that price range then we don’t get it.  Yes, this can be a bummer.  I too have had to pass up something I want because it’s not cheap enough or the item is gone in my size by the time it goes on sale.  Admittedly I get very disappointed by this but such is life.  In the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”

We do, however, allow our kids to go over the budgeted price for a certain item if we’ve hit an awesome sale and are way under budget for that or another category.  For instance my son really wanted a t-shirt that was more than I would have normally paid for it but all of his other tee’s were $3 so I let him get that one because with it we were still under budget.

The Goal

The main goal of budgeting, for us anyway, is to get what we want and need at a price that we can afford.  Or better yet, less than we can afford.  It’s difficult to do but once we’ve hit our projected expenditures we don’t spend anymore, no matter how irresistible that cute sweater may be.  The best feeling is when we’ve gotten everything we need and we’re under budget!  Love having a dresser and closet full of new clothes with money to spare!

Other Tips

Don’t be afraid to hit garage sales and second-hand stores.  You’ll find still tagged items, or clothes that look brand new, at really great prices.  But be careful.  Know what you can get for it on sale, brand new, never been worn from the store.  I’ve found those end of year sales are cheaper than second-hand stores and garage sales but if you weren’t able to get everything you needed at that time, these are great places to shop too.

And one last tip…

Old Navy has $10 denim going on right now…

…As well as The Children’s Place, plus they have $7 long sleeve graphic tees!

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Back To School

I know it’s a sad little fact that I don’t want to acknowledge either, but it’s true, school is just around the corner.  So I thought it would be fun to have a month dedicated to going back to school!  I’ll share kids fashion, my kid’s and my favorite school products, my kid’s cold lunch favorites, our first day of school activities, and more!

 To start off “August Is – Back To School” I thought I’d share with you my favorite stores to shop at for my kids clothing and a few things I have thought of getting them for this coming school year.  (I chose 2 girl outfits and 2 boy outfits from each place, one more casual the other a bit dressier.)

The Children’s Place


Old Navy

Most of my kids clothes come from these three stores with probably 80% of them being The Children’s Place (LOVE that store!).  I’ll also make them a of couple things (skirts for the girls) and browse at other stores such as: CartersP.S. from aeropostale77kidsLL BeanTarget and whatever children’s store window catches my eye.

What’s your favorite children’s store?

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