5 Ways to Have a Great First Day Back to School

For many of my friends I’m the designated ‘teacher friend’ and with a new school year approaching, many of them have been asking me for back-to-school advice (it’s solicited, I promise!).  Things that come as second nature to me were things they had no idea about .  “Do I really need to bring in Ziploc bags?”, “What should I work on at home?”, “How much do they have to read at night?”.  This prompted me to ask some of my trusted teacher pals the TOP tips they would give to parents to ensure a successful start of the school year for their child.

You’ve read other lists, but here’s the REAL advice from ACTUAL teachers on how to prepare yourself and your child for a new school year:    

  1. Encourage a work/play balance. Most parents don’t know that teachers actually want our students to have a comfortable work/play balance at home; meaning, we don’t want your child’s entire night devoted solely to reading and homework.  GASP!  No, it’s the TRUTH.  Run outside, join a club, play sports, try a new board game, help cook in the kitchen, make a craft, design, build, create – these activities actually help facilitate learning so leave time for them….PLEASE!
  2. How is your child going home?  We will (frantically) ask your child 720283465 times during the 1st day of school, ‘how are you getting home?’ This is by far the most challenging part of the first day; making sure each brand new face gets to their designated place (I’m officially coining that phrase).  After care, bus (including number or color and destination), bus after care, walker, car, or bike rider?  Know your plan and keep it consistent for week 1. Make sure your child feels confident that they know exactly how they’re getting home, whose getting them there, whose going with them (siblings or friends), and what will change if we’re involved in a rainy day dismissal situation.
  3. Start a NEW back-to-school tradition.  Make the first day of school more than memorable for your family.  Go out for ice cream, have a picnic at your favorite park, take a walk on the beach, or enjoy dinner out.  THIS is the beginning of a new year – set goals, make plans, and enjoy the newness of the fresh new year!
  4. Ask TARGETED questions.  Instead of “How was your day?” try these questions that are more likely to solicit better conversation about your child’s school day.  “What skill did you learn in math?”  “What books did you read/listen to?”  “What did you work on in fine arts?”  “Who did you play with at recess?”  Please I beg of you…never, EVER, under any circumstances, email, text, or utter the following words to your child’s teacher….”he said that you guys did nothing today”.
  5. Set technology boundaries.  Implement a time limit (1-2 hours a day) and encourage breaks (every 30 minutes).  Establish rules for who your child can message or chat with and encourage the use of the golden rule while using social media or chatting sites.  You can delete, but you never fully erase the words you type to someone.  Secure your child’s access by blocking inappropriate sites and using Google’s safe search.  Your school district’s website will have teacher approved websites that are designed to reinforce skills taught in the classroom.

Last thoughts

  • Some supplies WILL end up as community supplies.  I know, hot button alert.  I recently saw a post that went viral on Facebook, showing a teacher on the side of the road asking for school supply donations for her classroom.  So please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say, because teachers appreciate any and all supplies.  With that said, no one, I repeat, NO ONE loves school supplies as much as I do.  Nothing makes me happier than a new pack of bold Crayola markers, highlighter crayons, and a 36-pack of freshly sharpened colored pencils.  So why would someone with such adoration towards specialized school supplies turn it into community property?  Here’s why.  Like it or not, community supplies saves time, something teachers don’t have enough of as it is.  It creates an opportunity for more INSTRUCTIONAL time.  I would rather read another chapter or answer questions for an extra 10 minutes than spend that time locating and opening 18 individual boxes of crayons.  HOWEVER, I do feel your pain on not getting to use YOUR prized school supplies.  So here’s the deal: If you want your child to use a certain pack of crayons, leave those in his/her backpack or use them at home.  Write your child’s name on the themed folder if its special to them.  But beyond that – just know, the Elmer’s glue with your cuties name on it is definitely going into a ‘glue’ labeled bin with the other 40 glues.
  • Teamwork will in fact make the DREAM WORK!  You, your child, and your child’s teacher are all part of spectacular team that is responsible for child’s school success.  If you need help or have concerns – talk to YOUR child’s teacher.  Occasionally, friends will ask me for advice and the first thing I ALWAYS say is, “did you talk to the teacher?”.  Even if you don’t always agree, remember, you’re still on the same team and you share the same goals.  And lastly, my BEST tidbit of advice, it’s never too early for your child to take responsibility for his/her educational success.  Being accountable for turning in homework assignments, completing classwork, and asking for help are all skills that will ensure long term success in school.

4 Ways I Survived the “Three-nager” Days

If you’ve ever sobbed over quartered grapes that took you 15 min to precisely cut because your child DEMANDED grapes only to be disgusted by them when actually served…then you may know the term THREE-NAGER.

What’s a three-nager?  

It’s a two and a half to four year old child who acts similar to how you behaved when you were a teenager – rollercoaster emotions, hating your parents, debating everything, testing boundaries, not taking no for an answer, asserting your authority, and crying, so.much.crying.

When everything changed…

It was at my son’s 3rd birthday party that I truly realized he had gone from a quiet, mild mannered little angel to a tantrum-throwing, emotionally unstable, unpredictable pre-schooler.  A once cheery boy  wouldn’t greet any of his friends.  Typically even tempered he cried – hysterically – when I wouldn’t allow him to rip off the glued-down decorative construction truck on Playmobil’s dining table.  The boy who ate blueberries, quinoa, and zucchini refused pizza.  He wouldn’t even crack a smile when we sang “Happy Birthday”.  I half-jokingly told all of our friends to enjoy this party because it would surely be his LAST. Then at some point during the party, in between tantrums and screeches, I scooped up my 3 year old, carried him into the bathroom, and started to sob.  I didn’t know who he was anymore, or worse yet, how to help him.

My husband trying to tell my son he can’t keep that truck. You can’t make this stuff up!

Send help…

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Our Hip Dysplasia Journey {Part 3 – After the Cast}


Our Hip Dysplasia Journey - Part 3

If you missed any previous parts of our hip dysplasia journey, Part 1 documenting our diagnosis can be found here and Part 2, detailing adjusting to life with a Spica cast can be found here


“I don’t know how you do it.” A phrase I heard a lot. And the truth is, it wasn’t easy, but my response was, and is, you do it because you have to do it. You do whatever is necessary for your children and their comfort. You do whatever it takes to better their lives.


My daughter wanted to be held, allllll the time, and you couldn’t sit down while holding her. And she was heavy in that cast. But I would see her getting so frustrated being stuck just sitting there, trying so desperately to move, so I held her. Maybe some would consider it spoiling, but to me, I just wanted her as comfortable as possible, in an uncomfortable situation.


I am very fortunate that I’m a stay-at-home mom. I can’t fathom what this experience would have been like if I was also working; if my little girl was in daycare. The utter exhaustion one would experience between the stress of working, the stress of having a young baby and the stress of dealing with the hip dysplasia diagnosis and Spica cast needs would be overwhelming. I’m sure plenty of parents out there do it (props to you), but I am thankful, I was able to be home and cater to her needs. more “Our Hip Dysplasia Journey {Part 3 – After the Cast}”

Build Your Own PVC Fort

Flashlights in FortFor 2 young boys, what’s more awesome than a massive fort?! Maybe eating gooey s’mores in that massive fort??? A quick trip to Home Depot and my building plans in hand, you too can make your kids’ night with an indoor camping adventure in their very own PVC fort.


This past week I’ve been lucky enough to have my nephew visit; he and my son are very close. Even though we live about 4 hours apart, they see each other quite a bit but it’s usually over a jam packed, non-stop, event filled weekend. This time we had the whole week together. I gave them plenty of time to just play but I also wanted to make it special, filled with excitement and adventures. more “Build Your Own PVC Fort”

Our Hip Dysplasia Journey {Part 2 – Adjusting to Daily Life in a Spica Cast}

Spica Cast - Title Image

If you missed part 1 of our journey, it can be found here. Otherwise, let’s pick up where we left off…


After an utterly exhausting, emotional day and a half from diagnosis to surgery, we’re ready to get home. I love Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete! Over the years, we’ve had a few visits and the staff is always top notch, kind and caring.


My biggest issue is, we we’re given ANY information on how to handle baby girl in this new Spica cast. Yes, we were given general cast care guidelines but no specifics. How do you change her diaper? Are there any dos and don’ts when picking her up? How the heck do I nurse?! And it wasn’t until we got home that we realized how unprepared we were.


I’m not sure if the hospital or my orthopedic specialist should have given me more guidance, but I feel like someone really dropped the ball. So, if anyone out there is dealing with a Spica cast, hopefully some of the following tricks that worked for me, may also help you. more “Our Hip Dysplasia Journey {Part 2 – Adjusting to Daily Life in a Spica Cast}”

6 Types of Friends Every Mom Needs

It’s hard not to love that new Ed Sheeran song, Castle on a Hill.  The anchoring, driving beat, the nostalgic feel, the narrative vibe.  But there’s this line in the song that sent my eyes into full waterworks mode- “but these people raised me.”  I started thinking about the friends in my life, the ones who’ve raised me.  The ones that shaped me into the mother I am today.

As a mom it’s common to hear the phrase, ‘it takes a village’.  But I’ve always felt that the phrase applied more to raising me than my children.  I’m fortunate that I have all kinds of friends, in different stages of life, who have played significant roles in easing my transition into motherhood.  They support me, encourage me, lift me, laugh with me, and love my children unconditionally.

I pinpointed 6 types of friends in my squad-tribe-crew-what have you.  Women that I truly could not survive motherhood without.  If you have women like these in your life – thank them, hug them, and never let them go.

1)  The “auntie” friend – These friends tend to feel more like family than simply friends, and guess what, they don’t even have to be moms!

Why you need them:  They come over to play and help with the kids, and they do it willingly.  They don’t mind washing a dish, folding the laundry, or watching the kiddos so you can catch some zzzz.  They adore your children, but YOU and your sanity are their top priority.  Like I said, family.

2) The “been there, done that” friend – Ok, do not confuse this with a know it all mom (ain’t nobody got time for that!).  This is a friend whose kids are older than yours and so they can teach you a thing (or two).

Why you need them: These friends not only paved the way, but they also normalize the stressful seasons that you think are ONLY happening to you, i.e.…potty-training, three-nager antics, and tantrums.  To hear someone say, “yea, mine used to do that too,” is the equivalent of a soft, warm hug to my heart.  Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I love learning.  And I hope these friends never stop teaching me their ways.

3)  The “encourager” friend  When your baby is born, so are you!  You’re born into the world of motherhood.  You can read every book, blog, or article that’s in the universe, but nothing can prepare you for what lies ahead.  It’s new territory and it’s easy to feel like you’re lost at times.

Why you need them:  Please tell me what’s better than a friend who reassures you; “you’re doing great, you look amazing, you’re doing the best you can, don’t worry about that, you’re a fantastic mom”.  It’s my personal belief that in a time of mom guilt and mom shaming, we could use more “encourager” friends in the world today.   

4)  The “social director” friend – This is a friend who knows all the exciting events and places in your community.  They’ve done the ground work and they know the best parks, parades, local events, story times, play centers – you name it!

Why you need them:  It’s easy to get stuck in a ‘mom’ rut, doing the same routine day in and day out. This friend keeps your mom life from getting too mundane and bo-ring.

5)  The “come over we’ll have wine while the kids play” friend – You’re having a tough day, your husband is working late (or on shift as in my case), and/or you’re just desperate for some conversation that is NOT revolving around the newest characters on Disney Junior.

Why you need them: Texting and phone calls are great, but nothing makes you feel better than ACTUAL human interaction.  (I feel confident that some study out there will back me up on this!)  The benefit is that your kids get some much needed play time and YOU get a much needed gab sesh with a fellow mama.  Pour me another!

6)  The “confidant” friend – You feel down in the dumps about your son’s wild behavior, you had a disagreement with a parent, and if your husband drops his clothes in FRONT of the hamper one more time your head might EXPLODE.  Oh, is that just me?  Every now and then you need to vent, get it all out, in order to start fresh again.

Why you need them:  Whether we want to admit it or not, moms are judddggggeeeey.  ‘She fed her kid what?  He goes to bed at what time?  She goes to what school?’  AND my favorite – ‘do you think she’ll like…lose the weight?’  It’s enough to make my skin crawl.  But the “confidant” mom, she’s just there to listen.  She doesn’t judge.  She sees two sides to every story.  She’s on your side, but gives you unbiased advice.  I mean she’s basically a saint, an angel on Earth, there’s no other explanation.

To all the mamas out there who are one (or more) of these for me….I thank you, I love you, and I’m NEVER letting you go.  Seriously, you’re my hostage now.  Kisses!

How I Use My Everyday Shopping to Help Save for Christmas

It’s only May, why am I already thinking about Christmas? Because I’m here to share with you how I use a little strategy and a few trusty apps the whole year to help alleviate the financial burden of Christmas.


In the past Christmas has snuck up on me, and then slapped me in the face when it came time to buy presents. (I have a biiiiiig family!) Because I didn’t plan, I became reliant on my good friends, Visa, Chase, and Mastercard. No one wants that (except for maybe the credit card companies)! In addition to a little planning and budgeting I’m able to use the rewards from the below programs towards my holiday purchases. more “How I Use My Everyday Shopping to Help Save for Christmas”

Our Hip Dysplasia Journey


Hip dysplasia??? Until 4 months ago, I had never heard of it either. In the most basic of explanations it’s a misalignment or deformation of the hip socket. While I am not a doctor and am certainly not an expert on this subject, I thought sharing my experience may help another mama (or dad) dealing with their child’s diagnosis and in knowing they’re not alone. more “Our Hip Dysplasia Journey”

Road Tripping With Littles; the good, the bad, and the bonding


On paper the idea seemed nothing short of crazy.  7 days, 4 hotels, 3 cities, 2 small children, (and a partridge in a pear tree).  We turned an out of town wedding invite into a 4 day Disney vacation PLUS a 3 day site seeing tour of the south, ambitious I know.  We could have very easily flown in for the wedding only.  Just the two of us.  A weekend WITHOUT the littles.  Instead we chose to embark on an epic road trip adventure.

DISCLAIMER:  This trip was NOT void of disappointment, crying, miscommunication or moodiness.  We had setbacks; rental car contract mishap, missed reservations, and unexpected weather.  BUT – despite all the chaos – this trip bonded our family.  It brought us back together in a way I didn’t even know that we needed.

Here’s what I learned:

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Half Polished – An Ode to NOT Being Perfect

I had an important baby shower coming up.  The first time the girls were going to see me – out, in public, since having my 2nd child.  I wanted to put my best foot forward, and I wanted to have said foot be freshly polished.  HOWEVER, I hadn’t found an opportunity to get my nails done, (you know the drill – 2 kids, married to a fireman, work part-time, dishes, laundry, cooking, more laundry, more cooking, laundry again, how are they STILL hungry??).  Well, my nails are pretty decent so I thought I’d treat myself to some pampering time after I put the kids to bed.  The truth is I wanted to look my best to show everyone, and maybe even prove to myself, that even though I have TWO kids now, I can still pull it together.  Cue the snickering.

Well after nursing and teeth brushing, diaper changes and showers, prayers (for them, but mostly for me), followed by reading 80652457 stories; It. Was. TIME.  Time for MY pampering moment, my at home spa treatment, my me time.  I made some spa-licous fruit water (OK, it was frozen berries dumped into la croix) and turned on some ravishing reality TV .  I had my whole set up ready, it was GLORIOUS. I actually thought to myself, Melissa, you totally have this two kid thing down, good for YOU!  Cue the gut wrenching laughter.

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