Soothe Back-to-school Anxiety

Whether your child is off to kindergarten or college, the first day of school is often fraught with emotion. Moms and kids alike are flooded with excitement, anxiety, fear and anticipation. So it’s no wonder there are plenty of tears -- and often a few meltdowns – when drop-off time comes. But there are strategies, like knowing what to expect and how to handle the feelings in advance, that can help ease the anxiety of the transition.

For kids, the classroom can mean pressure to make friends and excel. And with the unknowns of a new teacher and classmates, they can express their emotions through tears, clinginess and resistance on the first day. To help your kids adapt to all of these changes and reduce back-to-school anxiety, get a head start with these moves:

1.     Talk about how both of you are feeling. A few days before the big day, discuss your emotions with your child, and ask if they feel the same way. Say, “I wonder if you’re feeling a little scared/nervous/excited too.”

2.    Incorporate a special tradition. You can make the first day of school something the whole family looks forward to. Sit down with your kids and decide how you want to celebrate -- whether it’s making a special breakfast or going to a favorite restaurant for dinner.

3.    Be optimistic. Kids absorb their parents’ emotions. If you’re anxious, fearful or apprehensive, your child will start to believe that the first day of school is something she should dread. By staying positive (“first grade is so much fun!”), she’ll understand this is a natural part of growing up.

4.    Practice new experiences. Much of children’s fear is rooted in not knowing what’s going to happen next. Prepare your kids by discussing what they should expect, such as who their teacher is and how their day will go. Also practice classroom protocol, such as raising hands and asking permission to use the restroom. The more experience they have, the more comfortable they’ll feel.

It goes without saying that you’ll be experiencing a few tissue-worthy emotions too. Acknowledging that your child is growing up can make you long for days past. It’s perfectly normal to shed a tear or two in the days leading up to the first day of school. To mentally prepare yourself, keep a journal of your thoughts and speak to your spouse or friends about their own experiences and feelings. And save your tears for after your children are asleep -- kids work to protect their parents’ feelings, and seeing you cry may make them feel guilty about starting school.

Armed with these tips, you and your kids will be well-prepared. But on the morning itself, remember that every kid is unique and displays emotions and anxiety differently. Here’s a few tips to help ease the transition:

· Fight the urge to compare your child to others, such as classmates or siblings. If your child isn’t showing signs of apprehension, don’t ask yourself why.

· Don’t drag out the goodbye if your child is upset. Instead, make it clear you will see her at the end of the day, and leave with a quick hug and kiss.

· Remember the tissues. Stash a few tissues in your purse and your child’s backpack to have on hand, for your kids or yourself after they’ve said goodbye.

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Fast-track Your Morning Routine

Need a little extra shut-eye in the morning? (Don’t we all!) If you tend to hit the snooze button a few more times than you should, rest assured that you can still simplify your morning routine to get out the door in 10 minutes flat, looking and feeling your best. Michelle LaRowe, author of Working Mom’s 411: How to Manage Kids, Career & Home and A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists, offers these practical tips:

1. Start the night before. Avoid the morning rush by doing everything you possibly can to prep for the next day the night before. Shower at night. Iron your clothes and lay them out where they’ll be easily accessible. If you really want to treat yourself, opt for a laundry or dry cleaning service that presses your clothes for you and delivers them right to your door.

Never waste time searching for your car keys or favorite necklace! Place your deodorant, earrings, watch, belt and any other accessories right next to your clothes. Keep everything else you need ready and waiting by the front door: your purse, keys, cell phone, shoes, briefcase, umbrella, coat, etc.

Program and prep the coffeemaker to have your morning cup o’ joe ready and waiting. Keep a to-go cup next to the coffeemaker, and have a grab-and-go breakfast handy (see below).

Feel like you simply must take a shower in the morning to get up and running, and a splash of cold water on the face doesn’t cut it? Use a quality shampoo that can stand a two-day test so you’ll only have to wet and wash your hair every other day.

2. Perfect the low ponytail. Practice easy, straightforward hairstyles that look sleek and sophisticated -- yet take less than a minute to put in place. If you have long hair, a low ponytail looks professional and polished. Since you showered the night before, all you’ll need to do is run a brush through your hair and cinch it with an elastic band.

Don’t have long hair? Go for a short cut that you can style just by running a little styling cream through it. Got bed-head? Try a fun scarf, a headband or other hair accessory to cover problem spots. Haven’t had time to wash your hair? Sprinkle a little baby powder in your hands and rub it into the roots of your hair to absorb any excess oil.

3. Minimize your makeup routine. Experiment with your makeup to figure out which basics you absolutely need to feel good, and eliminate the rest from your morning routine. You might auto-pilot on eye shadow and eyeliner every morning, but maybe you can get by with a brush of powder, a sweep of lip gloss and a quick application of mascara to save precious minutes. Keep those items handy in a cup on your bathroom sink, and stash the rest in your makeup bag for a Friday night out. Keep a separate makeup bag in your desk at work for those days when you really feel like you could use a bit more of a touch-up, and bring it with you when you take a bathroom break.

4. Delegate and duplicate. Keep spares of anything you might need in your car or in your office: a spare shirt, a spare suit, underwear, deodorant, basic makeup, a toothbrush -- then if you spill coffee on your shirt or realize that you forgot to put on deodorant until after you’re out the door, you can finish getting ready at the office.

Delegate any morning tasks that could keep you from getting out the door fast to others. For instance, hire a dog walker or ask your husband to take out the trash -- and save any nonessentials until after you get home from work.

5. Grab breakfast to go. As you simplify your morning routine, make sure to set one rule in stone: Never skip breakfast to save time! You’ll be more productive throughout the day (and be less tempted to snack or overeat later) if you eat in the morning. 

Instead, make your breakfast a moveable feast. There are plenty of healthy grab-and-go options that you can have ready and waiting to walk out the door. Keep your fridge stocked with portable options like hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese sticks, smoothies and fruit. Bake muffins over the weekend to grab during the week. Stash a banana and a cereal bar in your purse the night before. And if you can keep a box of cereal and milk at the office, be extra-efficient with your morning by eating breakfast while you go through last night’s email; you’ll find that having a healthy breakfast will soon become an afterthought.

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10 Family-Friendly Summer Activities

Now that the novelty of summer vacation has worn off, moms everywhere are scrambling for new ideas to keep their families entertained. Instead of resorting to putting on another DVD, consider the following ideas. Not only will you get your family moving outside, but you’re guaranteed to create memories for a lifetime.

1. Go on a hike.
Spend some quality time outdoors while burning calories (about 438 calories per hour for adults!). Seek out a nature path near your or search for a path on the National Park Service’s park finder tool.

2. Check out the minors.
Nothing says summer like eating peanuts and watching baseball. If you can’t swing the majors, consider cheering on your local minor league team. Tickets average around $7 for adults and $6 for kids.

3. Host an outdoor art party.
A genius idea for kids of all ages is to throw a painting party, suggests Mariah Leeson, a Dallas-based event stylist and founder of Giggles Galore. She suggests hanging up an old white sheet in the backyard and giving your kids spray bottles filled with a little tempera paint and water -- and letting them whip up a Jackson Pollock-like masterpiece. “We’ve done this every summer for the past five years, and it’s always a hit,” says Leeson. “What kid doesn’t love outdoor messy fun?”

4. Try geocaching.
Treasure hunts meet an outdoor exploration with this practice, where you use a GPS (or your GPS-enabled smartphone) to find treasures or logbooks that other participants have hidden. To get started, visit

5. Go swimming.
Whether it’s in a pool or lake, now’s the perfect time to take a refreshing dip. For a change of pace, look up a swimming hole near you.

6. Hold a bike parade.
Invite over friends and neighbors to decorate their bikes and take a loop around the neighborhood with their decked-out cycles.

7. Create a “naturally fun” bucket.
To encourage your little ones to explore the great outdoors, Leeson suggests putting together a bucket full of supplies, such as glue, paint brushes, pie tins, spray bottles and more. “I also include card suggesting activites, like mud pies and rock art, as well as a nature scavenger hunt,” says Leeson. Get a printable sheet of supplies here.

8. Plant a garden.
It’s a win-win scenario: You can put the kids to work, burn off their energy and score fresh veggies in the fall. Summer’s the time to seed basil, cilantro, cabbage and collard greens. Here’s how:

9. Throw a field day.
Whether it’s family versus family or girls against boys, a little friendly competition makes for a whole lot of fun. Have classic games, such as egg-on-spoon, wheelbarrow and a three-legged race, as part of an all-day affair, followed by a barbecue awards ceremony.

10. Go fly a kite. Follow in Benjamin Franklin’s footsteps and fashion your own kite from a wooden stick, paper and string, then let it fly on a summer breeze.

No matter which activity you choose, be sure to bring a camera along to document this one-of-a-kind experience with your family. And don’t forget to tuck a pack of Puffs facial tissues in your purse -- they’re bound to come in handy during those special moments of bonding and laughing till you cry.

5 Innovative Ways to Create a Memory Book

It’s no secret that life moves fast. One day, you’re sending your little one off to his first day of kindergarten, and then, suddenly, he’s leaving for college. To preserve those precious memories, consider putting together a memory book. To find the right kind for your family, match these types to your personality:

1. If you … like to DIY

Try … a classic scrapbook
If you love crafting, go the traditional route with a handmade scrapbook. Pick up a kit from your local craft store, search Pinterest for ideas and start assembling pictures and mementos. Just be sure to keep a box of Puffs facial tissues on hand for when you finish -- it’s impossible to page through those memories without tearing up.

2. If you … always have your smartphone on hand

Try … taking a picture a day
All too often, we have a camera on hand for the big milestones, like graduations and birthdays. But what about the precious little moments, like that soccer game goal or huge smile? Consider a Project Life challenge, where you post an Instagram photo every day of the year. After you’re through, you can publish those candid shots into a book through a company like, or

3. If you … are short on time

Try … a one-line journal
Many of us start with grand scrapbooking ambitions only to wind up with an empty book and shoebox full of pictures. Sound familiar? Try simplifying your idea: Pick up an empty journal and divvy it up into 12 sections, one for each month. Each month, post one line and a picture, then repeat the following year. Over time, you’ll be able to take an instant walk down memory lane.

4. If you … want to save their schoolwork

Try … an artwork album
Turn a memory book into your children’s personal project: Have them punch holes in construction paper or sized-down poster board. Then string them together into a book with ribbon or yarn and decorate the front. Then paste your child’s creations, whether it’s artwork or stories, within.

5. If you … love taking photos

Try … putting together a hardcover book
Take those quick snapshots into a beautifully bound book. Companies like Pinhole Press and Shutterfly will transform that hodgepodge into a thoughtfully curated album you can treasure forever.

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Host the Best Summer Party of the Year

Summertime’s the season for backyard barbecues and parties. It’s all family fun in the sun, but the planning process can also get stressful. You can still pull off a fabulous event without sacrificing your sanity (or budget!). Here’s how.

1. Think of an unusual theme.
People often head out of town on July 4 and Memorial Day, which can drag down attendance. Instead, consider a lesser-known occasion, such as summer solstice (June 21) or the annual Perseids meteor shower (August 12, but the skies should be active on August 10 and 11 too), suggests Melissa Daly, author of 87 Ways to Throw a Killer Party. “Long-lasting twilight and shooting stars do the decorating for you.”

2. Dress up your drinks.
Jazz up pitchers of water with fresh lemon slices and lots of mint. For a fun twist on the classic beer, whip up beer cocktails. “For a great summery drink, start with any light-colored beer and add vodka and pink lemonade,” suggests Daly. Bonus: You’ll save, because you don’t need to buy a number of different mixers.

3. Decorate with color. 
You don’t have to shell out big bucks for festive party décor. Seri Kertzner and Michelle Bachman of Little Miss Party Planner recommend using colorful paper lanterns, which cost $2 to $4 a pop. “String them up, or weigh them down with a rock inside,” suggests Kertzner. She also advises placing fresh basil in jars on your food table. Not only will it look pretty, but the fragrant smell will help to repel bugs.

4. Set out supplies. 
Keep your guests entertained and happy at your soiree by having a few games, like Bocce ball or corn hole, available to play. Also keep buckets of must-haves, like bug spray, sunscreen, napkins and Puffs tissues for makeup touchups.

5. Have your food ready to go. 
All too often, the hostess (you!) winds up in the kitchen all evening long. To enjoy your own festivities, make sure that all of your eats are prepped by the start of the party. “If you’re having a barbecue, have all of your sides set and food grilled and ready to eat when your guests arrive,” suggests Kertzner. (If it’s a hot day, remember to move it inside so that it doesn’t sit out for more than an hour.) Or whip up some gourmet sandwiches (think: grilled veggie sandwiches or smoked mozzarella with chicken on focaccia) to have as a picnic.

You may also want to consider divvying up the responsibilities. Progressive parties -- where guests move from home to home for cocktails, dinner and dessert -- are becoming increasingly popular, says Daly.

6. Do a run-through.
A few days before the actual event, jot down a list of everything that’s needed for the party and how it will run throughout the evening. That way, you’ll have time to compile a music playlist or pick up extra toilet paper in advance. “Being organized will make sure everything goes smoothly,” says Kertzner. “And that you, and all of your guests, will have a wonderful time.”