Monday, August 31, 2015

august monthly must haves: back to school

school is officially in session. can i get a high five from moms everywhere? as the school year has begun, i have found items that i use again and again. i truly cannot live without them. with five kids to get out the door each morning, i’ll take all the help i can get!

august monthly must-haves: back to school

smartypants gummy vitamins

i have a personal addiction to these gummies. they are so good i eat them like candy. they are non-gmo, clean eating, delicious and they help to keep my kiddos healthy. it’s a win all around. with five kids in our house as well as a host of neighborhood friends, cousins and other people popping by, my house can feel like a petri dish for viruses all school year long. it is work to keep my kids healthy during their school days and i truly do not want them to miss even one day of school. they hate having to make up the work and i hate seeing them sick (i also hate giving up my alone time...#reallife). these vitamins have made a difference for my family. they have been sick fewer days, have felt better all around, and i like knowing they are getting the nutrition help they need from the vitamins when i'm throwing them yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich while we are running around like crazy people during the school year. smartypants also has travel packages of their vitamins to grab and go on those mornings (or, let's be real, afternoons) when i don't quite have myself together. they are a life saver.

beyond just being fantastic for the health of my kids and convenient, smartypants vitamins gives back. with each purchase of their vitamins, they donate a bottle of vitamins to vitamin angels. if you haven't heard of this company, look for it! it provides vitamins to children in need around the world, improving their health in ways that would be impossible in their impoverished situations. they really do live up to their angelic name. i love that i can take care of my family and know that i'm also making a difference in the lives of someone in need. that's a great way to start off the school year!

zazzle lunch box

my kids both bring and buy their lunches depending on the day (and how motivated i am to pack a lunch in the morning.) when they do take their lunches to school, they have these adorable lunch boxes to tote. i love that my daughter has one that has her name on the front (no lost lunches here!) and that she was able to pick out a style and color that she will love the entire year through. these lunch boxes come with three plastic washable and reusable containers inside for packing as well as an ice pack that fits perfectly inside. it has been a fantastic addition to our weekly lunch packing and my daughter loves it so much she has even started packing it on her own (score!). there are dozens of designs to choose from for each child in your life and they are sturdy enough they will last for a really long time. 

case-it binders

photo credit:

i am going to be really honest with you and tell you this was the last purchase in the world i felt like making. these suckers are expensive when compared with the countless other three ring binders out there. i didn't want to drop $20+ on something for the classroom but my middle school son, who rarely asks for special things, asked specifically for this binder...and i'm so glad i purchased it for him. starting in middle school the kids have various classes to head to with a barrage of information and papers to organize. in elementary school, my son used a regular three ring binder and it never lasted an entire year. in middle school with even more papers going in and out, i knew the normal three ring binders would never work. these are the solution. they zip up completely and store all writing utensils, notebooks, dividers, etc. that a teacher can throw your child's way. they are more expensive but they last the entire year through. it is worth every penny.

zazzle water bottle

my kids all bring water bottles to school. august is still hot in the south and they are playing games during p.e., running outside at recess, and generally working hard enough that they are extremely thirsty throughout the day. each of their teachers allows them to bring in water bottles to keep by their desks. this water bottle is my favorite by far. i have it for my youngest but i want to order one for myself! it is insulated and has a piece in the lid that allows you to put fruit, tea, or anything else you want infused into the liquid. i love that! it is also extremely easy to clean and allows you to personalize it for your kiddos so there are no lost water bottles on school grounds. my little guy loves the dog that he sees on one of his favorite apps, peekaboo barn, so we just had to add that to his personal bottle. it is truly adorable and sturdy enough to last him a very long time.


photo credit:

i don't know what other moms call these little life savers, but in my house, they are shorties. my daughter loves to wear dresses and skirts. she loves to twirl. she also loves to do cartwheels and handstands. those two things do not go well together and i've had to tell her before, "no one needs to see all of that." we are working on trying to sit like a lady when she is wearing a skirt or a dress and she is getting better but she still wants to play and have a great time. shorties are the answer. she wears shorties (bike shorts, short leggings) under every dress or skirt. without question. in my opinion, no little girl should wear a dress or skirt without them. it protects my daughter from showing anyone parts of her anatomy (or even her underwear) that she should not be showing. you can find them many places but i've had great luck at target, gymboree, and children's place.

reusable snack bags

photo credit:

i have five kids needing lunches during the week. that's a lot of plastic bags. in an attempt to be more eco-friendly, we are trying these out this year. wish me luck!

mabel’s labels

photo credit:

i have a kindergartener this year. that kid would lose his head if it wasn't attached to him. my only hope for getting things home after they leave the house is to label everything. i totally understand the pleas of the kindergarten teachers when they beg for a name on every child's item. i can only imagine the work they have to do to sift through all the forgotten things in the classroom. mabel's labels are my absolute favorite. they are easy to use and so mom-friendly it's ridiculous.

dohm sound machine

photo credit:

i have a middle schooler, three kids in elementary school, and a pre-schooler. they are all going to bed at similar times but wake up in shifts and not one of them is good at staying quiet for their siblings. we have used sound machines since our children were babies and they all have used them since then. they sleep more soundly and they don't wake up at each and every sound in our busy house. i don't know what we would do without them. this one is my absolute favorite. you can find yours at

alarm clock

photo credit: amazon

my middle school son is finally at the place where he can wake himself up, dress himself, feed himself and get himself to the bus in the morning (can i get a "hallelujah!"?) it's about freaking time. he now has his own alarm clock in his room that wakes him and gets him moving each morning. when i hear him getting up on his own each morning, all i can think is, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mom-kind."

school lunch clipboard

my kids are responsible for their lunches each day. ain't nobody got time to be making five lunches each day. they have to clean out their lunch boxes after school each day, look to see if they would like to bring or buy the next day, and, if needed, pack up their lunch for the following day. the key to all this organization has been our school lunch clipboard. we have the menu for the month printed out and each child has to initial what they want to buy or if they want to bring. they check the clipboard each afternoon and we prepare for the next day. it's an afternoon changer and has revolutionized our stressful mornings.

what about you? what are your back to school must-haves? share them with us, please. we definitely need all the help we can get!

we do occasionally receive promotional items for these posts. as always, the opinions are all our own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

back to school: 5 must haves to battle the back-to-school germs

we have received promotional consideration from kinsa, inc. as always, the opinions are our own. 

summer is almost officially over and kids are starting back to school across the country. (i can almost hear the collective cheers of our fellow mamas and dads).

one thing i always struggle with when the kids start back-to-school is them inevitably getting sick. it always seems to happen, right?! i send off healthy kids and within a couple weeks (maybe a month, tops)....i get sick kiddos.

over the years, and with 7 kids between us, genelle and i have figured out the best products to help us battle the sick. these are our products that we can't live without and keep us sane during the sick. stock up!

keep the sickness at bay

kill, kill, kill the germs! disinfecting wipes are a must have, especially in homes of boys. from bathroom cleaning to food spills, these wipes save me year after year.....

hand sanitizer is a must to beat the sick season. both of my boys have these in their backpacks. they are also the perfect size to keep one in mama's purse or in the car.

once the sickness hits

i really don't know what i did before this genius product. the kinsa smart thermometer is not only reasonably priced (ships to you for only $29.99), it's easy to use (armpit, oral and rectal with 10 second read time) but it also tracks temps for every member of your family, as well as symptoms conviently on your phone all while keeping the kiddos happy with an awesome bubble popping game to play.

have you ever had to take middle of the night temps and then try to remember them when you go into the pediatrician the next morning? it's next to impossible, right?! as a mama of one sweet boy who has suffered from high fevers which have resulted in 2 sets of ear tubes, having to have his adnoids removed and also many febrile seizures, i am no stranger to fevers. this thermometer and app are truly brilliant. not only do my boys look forward to having their temp taken and playing the bubble game, but i have an accurate record for the entire family.

traveling with a thermometer is usually quite miserable--- it takes up too much room and you may not even need it! the kinsa thermometer is so small and portable and works with your smartphone. it is easy to bring anywhere!
the kinsa smart thermometer is truly a must-have to battle the new school year sickness. if you don't already own one, you need one. truly. you can thank us later. 

disposable probe covers are perfect for covering up the kinsa smart thermometer, take up no space and are easy to change in the middle of the night temp taking.

if a fever strikes, our kiddos all love boo boo buddies. they store easily in the freezer without taking up a ton of space, and come in all of our kiddos favorite characters from minions to princesses.

what are your essentials? do tell!

Monday, August 10, 2015

5 ways to get ready for back to school

we have received promotional consideration from minute clinic and johnson and johnson consumer, inc. 
as always, the opinions are our own.

ahhh….school. it starts in one week from today and i am both looking forward to it and dreading it. i love my kids and have enjoyed having them home for a bit this summer. i’m also ready for routine and a few moments to myself during the week. i’m very aware, though, that with the start of school comes all of the crazy scheduling of the fall. with five kids, the sports and activities calendars are already full until christmas. that’s just our own version of #reallife. still, i love that my kids are busy and that they have sports to keep their minds and bodies busy during the school year. 

to get ready for back to school and all the sports that are involved, here are a few tips to ensure your kids have a safe and fun back-to-school experience.

5 ways to get ready for back to school

1. get your sports physicals and back to school check-ups done early.

we love heading over to the cvs minute clinic for sports physicals for our kids. not only can they fill out all the necessary paperwork for my children for sports but they can also check to make sure immunizations are up to date for my peeps. my sons’s middle school required an extra booster this school year (he was thrilled) and minute clinic was able to fill out all the state immunization forms as well. there was no wait and we were in and out in minutes. anything that saves me time is a win in my book.

2. start your kids back with some conditioning exercises or conditioning programs for their sports. 

my daughter is a gymnast so she has no summer break but my boys have had a relaxing summer. reentry into the world of sports requires some conditioning. to get ready, they can start with some running each day to gradually build up strength and endurance. don’t let them jump in too quickly as it can result in injury. increase intensity, distance and duration by about 10% a week to allow the body to rest, rebuild, recover and avoid injury (seriously, who has time for injuries?)

3. if you have kids involved in athletics, increase their intake of healthy foods like quinoa, chia seeds, kale and peanut butter. 

i know this is a tall order but i’ve managed to hide some of these gems in our meals and the kids don’t know the difference. they feel better and work harder when their bodies have the fuel they need. these are great foods for all the kids, even those not involved in sports. 

4. make sure your kids are up-to-date on their vaccinations before they head back to school. 

a new vaccine was required for middle schoolers in our state this year and new requirements are happening all the time. each state has specific requirements for meningitis and pertussis as well as other necessary vaccinations. you can find the state requirements for meningitis here: and for pertusis here: both vaccines can be given at our local cvs minute clinic in two seconds if you are not up to date. more information on vaccines and immunizations can be found here: do your research early and get your child ready to go before the first day of school.

5. depending on when your kids are heading back to school, start a healthy sleep schedule for your children about a week before school starts. 

the first week of school is brutal on all students and parents as they adjust again to a morning routine and a full day of classes. a good night's sleep can make all the difference in student performance and the happiness of an entire household during the first week of school and beyond. 

most of all, enjoy another school year. it's so easy to get lost in the business of it all and the details involved in running a household. time moves extremely fast. savor the moments. be the parent that takes too many pictures on the first day of school. these days will be gone before we know it. i'm trying not to blink so i won't miss anything. i'm trying to enjoy the ride.

follow minute clinic on facebook and twitter:


for all your back to school needs, cvs is there to help. if you are getting a sport’s physical for your kiddos before september 7, 2015, you can get $10.00 off and a free johnson and johnson coupon book with $29.00 worth of savings! you can find the closest MinuteClinic to you here:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

the white flag of surrender...

it happens every summer. i hit a wall, a breaking point, and i know that something has to give. it usually results in tears streaming down my face while i’m curled up in a ball somewhere. that’s when i know it’s time to escape.

i’m a people person by nature. still, i have learned over the years that the only way for me to recharge, to feel like i can tackle my five kids, plus any number of neighborhood kids that come my way, is to spend time completely alone. i crave solitude and silence. truly, that’s the only way i can feel replenished. i get how ridiculous it is. having five kids when i need “alone” time may not have been the logical life path for me but i love my babies more than my sanity sometimes so i’ve learned to adjust. still, the day comes each summer when i know i have reached my limit.

my husband can see the signs too. he usually sees the signs when i am telling him. “i have had it,” and “i need a break,” while i’m rocking back and forth and crying in the fetal position. he’s requires that kind of clear information. still, once he hears the words, he knows how to spring into action. (yes, i know he is one of the good ones. i’ll keep him.) each summer for the past four years, for one night, my husband has reserved a hotel room in charlotte for me to escape. we use our hotel points or a little extra cash and with that my husband gets me a night away. he takes a day off work and for 24 hours, i have hours completely to myself.

it is amazing. for those hours, i look around and say, “what would genelle like to do today? i think she'd like to go walk around the mall." (these precious days require speaking in third person.) and just like that, i go. when i get hungry, i go out to eat. i pick the place, sit alone, and eat the entire meal... while. it. is. still. hot. when i go to the movie theater, i get whatever candy i want, a huge container of popcorn and a drink and i don’t have to share. i don’t have to take anyone to the bathroom or remind anyone to be quiet. i don’t even have to ask how someone else liked the movie at the end. i just get to decide if i liked it or not. i binge eat my popcorn and sour patch kids and get to completely relax. i get to turn off my phone. i get to completely unplug from the details of my children’s schedules. i don’t have to break up fights, do laundry, prepare meals, or carpool the masses. i sleep an entire night, uninterrupted. i sleep i'm a college student on the weekend type of sleeping in. i get to just be me and not be my “mommy” me. it’s as wonderful as it sounds and it does more healing than any sessions with a therapist ever would. 

i come back a better person. i’m a better mom and a better wife. i’m more patient and less frazzled. my brain gets reset and i stop dropping information that i need to keep organized. i come back more me and i always wonder what in the world took my so long. why have i only done this for the last four years? why haven’t i done this every year i’ve been a mom? why did i take so long to make myself a priority? we do that as moms though, don’t we? we sacrifice ourselves over and over again. we are often afraid to say “i can’t take it,” because to say we need help makes us feel like we are somehow less than good mothers. let me just say, figuring out what my limits are and finding workable solutions to invest in myself have made me a far better mother than i could ever be otherwise. sometimes waving the white flag of surrender is just what we need to ultimately come out victorious. 

what about you? how do you recharge? what do you need to do to take a moment to invest in yourself? maybe you are thriving today. maybe you are close to the crying, fetal position mother i was. if you’ve reached your limit, raise that white flag with pride, sister. you deserve a moment of surrender.