Oriental Trading Make Teacher Gifts, Classroom Projects, and Craft Days Easier for Moms

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

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I have to admit that I am addicted to shopping with Oriental Trading. I am constantly ordering from there even when I am not doing a review. There are so many wonderful things that you can create with your children when you are shopping at Oriental Trading.

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This winter I have been working on a few crafts. Sadly, I am posting this review way later than I had planned because of illness and a near hospital stay for myself, I ended up crafting with my kiddos last minute and finishing these up tonight.

Snowman Jar Craft

One of the best winter crafts that I was able to come up with were these adorable snowman jars. The greatest thing about them is that these were done by my four year old! I am actually using this as the classroom craft for the two classrooms that I am volunteering and making crafts for.

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I also used it as a teacher gift by filling it with candy and gift certificates to a few local places (coffee and a candy store/lunch place).

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This was really easy to create and you only need a few things. Now I will admit that I had high hopes for these Ceramic Mini Flower Pots ($14.50/dozen). I wanted to paint them white and then create the snowmen out of them. Instead they were left plain because after my illness I just did not have the time to do what I wanted to. The great thing is that they are still adorable and this made the craft so much easier.

Basically all that you need is acrylic paints in black, orange, white, and red (price varies) and q-tips. Yes, simple q-tips help the kids to get the circles right and make it possible for them to do everything else. Plus, if you are like me and don’t want to clean paint brushes after a class is done, then you can just toss them.

Adorable Hand Made Books

Another thing that I love is these cute handmade books that we were able to create for the kids’ teachers. We made them into “10 Things I Like About Mrs ____” but there is really so much more that you could personally do with them. We are thinking about making them for grandparents and other family members if we have the time.

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All you need for these are crayons or markers, an ink pen, and the DIY Board Books ($7.50/3 pieces). Here are a few of my favorite pages from the books that my littles were able to create.

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As you can tell, Oriental Trading can really make your life easier when you are trying to do it all and be a great mom. There is so much that you can offer and so much that you can do when you are trying to create the perfect personalized gift! Plus Oriental Trading offers the best prices that I have seen on these types of items

Having the Perfect Halloween with Costume Express

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

So we all know how difficult that it can be to find the perfect Halloween costumes for your kids.  If you are like me finding family costumes is even harder.  One of the things that I love so much about Costume Express is that they offer the best high quality costumes that you have been looking for.  They are known for having all of the most popular costumes that your little ones might be seeking out.

5 Tips to Find the Perfect Popular Halloween Costumes for the Whole Family

Tip 1 — Think About Themes

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One of the best things that you can do with Halloween is consider shopping in themes.  This year my daughter and I are dressing in theme together.  I have always wanted a Snow White and she would only oblige if I was willing to dress up too.  So I am going to be the Evil Queen.  I can’t figure out if my children love me in costume or love being able to call me “evil queen” without getting into trouble more!!

Tip 2 — Think About What is Popular

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While none of my family is dressing up as any of the characters from the Descendants, this is one of the most popular costume choices this year.  Thankfully Costume Express has you covered with tons of options from this popular and fun television show.

Tip 3 — Let Your Kids Pick What They Want to Be

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One of the things that I do is that I always try to let my kids pick out what they want to be for Halloween.  This year Huxley had his heart set on being the black version of Spiderman.  This was all that he asked for and guess what?!? That’s right, Costume Express had this one too.

Tip 4 — Think of Your Kids’ Personalities

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Adeline had her little heart set on being a My Little Pony.  She is a very glittery girly girl though so it was a challenge to find the right costume.  While we did not get Adeline’s costume from Costume Express, they did have one that she would have fallen in love with just as much.

Tip 5 — Don’t Forget Your Favorite Pet

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Finally when you have a favorite family pet, you have to make sure that you do not forget to pick up a costume for him.  For our favorite dog, Dexter we had to pick up the Star Wars Bantha Costume.  This one is just hilarious and makes me smile so much.  I can’t wait to see him running around with it on!

So when you want to find the perfect Halloween costumes for your whole family, you’ve got to shop at Costume Express.

5 Tips to Teach Children How to Think Smart and Have Fun with ThinkFun

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

I have to admit that I am a bit obsessed with finding great high quality games and toys for my children that encourage them to learn.  I love that ThinkFun offers those types of toys that you play with your family and they can enjoy growing and learning.  There are many different toys from ThinkFun that you might want to check out.  I am going to share with you some tips for thinking smart when you are playing with your children for fun.  I would highly encourage you to check out the full line of think fun toys because we have a lot of them and we enjoy playing with them all of the time.

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Tips to Think Smart When Playing with Your Children

Tip 1 — Find Something They Are Interested In

I have four children and each one of them seems to be interested in something different.  One of the things that I have noticed is that when I choose a toy that matches their interests I am going to see them playing with it more often.  My oldest is twelve and in that hard to shop for age.  He is too young for many of the things that he “wants” and yet too big for many of the things that are available.

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I love the Compose Yourself Cards ($15) and I think that these are going to be a great gift for him to have fun with.  Not only can he match the cards to create his own compositions but he can also play them on his clarinet.  If he doesn’t want to play them he can use the app and listen to them being played.  It is a unique way for him to learn something new and have a great time while expanding his music skills.

Tip 2 — Find Something to Help Promote Learning

I know that there are so many toys on the market that finding one can be a challenge.  When you want something that is going to help your child learn it can be even more challenging.  The fact is that if you buy something great for learning that they do not want to play with then it is going to get tossed aside and quickly forgotten.  The trick is to find something that promotes learning when they do not realize it.

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I was really excited to check out Laser Maze Jr ($30).  I think that this game looks like a ton of fun and is going to be something that I enjoy as much as the kids.  This is one of those games that I am certain is going to be a ton of fun.

Tip 3 — Look for Something Fun to Teach Hard to Master Concepts

When children are in school, they all have hard to learn concepts that they should know.  If your child struggles with something a great way that you can help them to learn is by offering them a fun game to play that teaches that skill.  I actually first found ThinkFun last year when my husband expressed his desire to teach our 7 and soon t0 be 6 year olds (then 6 and 5) to code.  He is an engineer and be believes very strongly that coding is a skill that the kids all need to have.

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ThinkFun actually has a game to help you teach your child how to code.  My husband loves this one and loves that he gets to share coding with our kids.  Our kids love that Robot Turtles ($25) is daddy’s special game to play with them.  This not only gives them some special one on one time with their dad but also gives them a great game to play and a way that they can learn valuable skills that they are going to use later in life.

Tip 4 — Find a Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Strategy

Strategy is something that your kids are going to use in a wide variety of subjects.  In fact I can not really think of a subject where your child will not use strategy as they get older and go through school.  One of the things that is so challenging about teaching your child strategy is that it is not something that usually comes easy to kids.  In fact it is usually something that kids struggle to learn.  My suggestion is that you teach your kids strategy through a game.

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One of the great new games that ThinkFun has right now is the strategy teaching Rush Hour Shift ($25).  This game is part of the exciting Rush Hour series in which there are games for different ages and different levels of strategy knowledge.  I personally have owned Rush Hour Jr as well and think that this game is a lot of fun with kids.

Tip 5 — Work With Your Child on Their Level

Let’s be honest, we all want to have that genius child who is the best at everything and the smartest.  We want to be the one to have the kid who knows how to use all of their skill sets at the youngest age.  Sadly this is just not possible.  You have to remember where your child is at and work with them there.  Mastering the basics is necessary for them to successfully move on to the more complex theories and practices.

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One of the things that I love most about ThinkFun is that they have fun learning games and activities for children of all ages.  Even young toddlers can enjoy their first game which can help them learn to follow directions and match colors with Roll & Play ($20).

While Compose Yourself Cards, Laser Maze Jr, and Rush Hour Shift are some of the newest toys from ThinkFun, I would encourage you to check out their full line of products to find what is really going to work best for your children to have their own fun learning play.  Plus you will get to enjoy some fun family game time with their children while you “trick” them into learning at the same time.

Create Your Own “I Can Dress Myself Drawer” for Your Toddler Boy with Zutano

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

I will never forget how hard it was to watch my sons try to dress themselves.  When they were toddlers they were so independent and they wanted nothing to do with me.  In fact they refused help and when I would try to offer a suggestion it was the last thing that they would wear.  There were many times that I chose not to leave the house or run errands that I needed to in order to allow them to wear whatever it was that they had picked out for that day.

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I was lucky enough to have discovered Zutano by the time that my second son was a toddler.  Sadly I did not have this luck with my first son so he was mismatched a lot of the time when he was determined to pick out things on his own.  My second son never looked mismatched because he has his “I can dress myself  drawer” that was filled with mix and match pieces that paired perfectly from Zutano.  If you are trying to create your own “I can dress myself drawer.”

How to Create Your Own “I Can Dress Myself Drawer”

Step 1 — Pick The Right Drawer

You need to pick out a drawer that your toddler can easily reach.  He needs to be able to open this drawer on his own.  For us the bottom drawer has always worked best to house our “I Can Dress Myself” collection of Zutano clothing.

Step 2 — Get Started with the Tops

When picking out tops you need to make sure that they all have the same basic color scheme.  This is going to ensure that you get pants that are easily going to match all of the tops.

Here are my current favorites from Zutano:


Ride Your Bike Toddler Long Sleeve Screen Tee $22


Tailslide Toddler Long Sleeve Screen Tee $22


A to Z Toddler Short Sleeve Screen Tee $22


Navy & White Stripe Toddler Short Sleeve Shirt $22


Beep Toddler Polo Shirt $29

Step 3 — Pick Out Bottoms to Match

Depending on the season you can pick shorts or pants.  I am choosing pants now since it is fall and will soon be going into winter.  If it were spring or summer I would choose some shorts too.


Charcoal Waffle Cozie Toddler Pant $28


Navy Terry Toddler Pants $29


Tan Toddler Woven Pants $36


Navy Toddler Matchstick Jeans $36


Mandarin Terry Toddler Pants $29

Being able to mix and match these 10 pieces is going to give your little boy 25 outfits to choose from.  This means that he is not going to get bored with the clothes that he has to pick from.  Plus you can add additional pieces when Zutano brings out new lines.

Step 4 — Add Some Pieces for Layering

My son has always loved to layer.  I do not know if it is because he gets cold easily or if it has to do with him actually enjoying the idea of layering.  One of the things that I love about Zutano is that they offer a wide range of choices for layering as well.  Here are a few that you can add to his special drawer.  One great thing is that this addition will up his number of outfits to mix and match to over 100!


Charcoal Waffle Cozie Toddler Reversible Vest $33


Charcoal Waffle Cozie Toddler Wrap Hoodie $46.50


Navy and Apple Stripe Toddler Reversible Hoodie $48.50


Navy Cozy Toddler Contrast Hoodie $48


Navy Toddler French Terry Zipper Jacket $40

Step 5 — Step Back and Let Your Son Do It on His Own

With these 15 pieces it will be easy for your toddler aged son to get dressed on his own.  You can step back or even walk away and whatever he picks out is going to look great together.  Thanks to Zutano your job as a parent just got a little bit easier and isn’t that what we all really want?

Perfect Toddler Girl Finds from Zutano — So Easy to Mix and Match that She Can Dress Herself

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

My toddler is growing up and is now going to preschool two half days each week.  At three years old she is very independent.  She wants to pick out her clothes and get dressed herself.  I am so thankful that I have been a Zutano supporter and fan for years.  This has lead to a nice little collection of Zutano clothing.  This clothing is all put away neatly in a bottom drawer that Adeline can reach.

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Tops — For Those I  Can Do It Moments


Primrose L/S Toddler Flora Top $28


Violetta Toddler Cap Sleeve Screen Tee $20


Giardini Toddler Cap Sleeve Screen Tee $20


Hot Pink Multi Stripe Toddler Flora Top $26


Dessert Screen L/S Toddler Swing Tee $23

Bottoms — When You Want Their I Can Do It Moments to Match

The only trick to making sure that their bottoms and their tops match is to choose items that all compliment each other.  This is something that might be hard with other companies but with Zutano it is simple and they are never going to leave your house not matching again.


Hot Pink Toddler Matchstick Jeans $36


Orchid Toddler Skinny Leggings $19


Hot Pink Multi Stripe Toddler Skinny Leggings $21


Hot Pink Candy Stripe Toddler Skinny Leggings $21


Hot Pink Toddler Skinny Leggings $19

5 Pairs of Pants and 5 Shirts, Won’t Their Wardrobe Be Boring?

The great thing about these pieces from Zutano is that they all mix and match really well.  With these 10 pieces there are an incredible 25 looks that your toddler can put together herself.  This allows her to choose which pair of pants and which top she actually wants to wear each day.

Dresses for More Mix and Matching Fun


Primrose L/S Toddler Button Dress $32


Primrose L/S Toddler Pretty Pleats Dress $34


Violetta Toddler Tie Waste Dress $33


Giardini Toddler Tessa Tie Dress $29


Toddler Fairy Skirt $22

How Many Looks Can 5 Extra Pieces Create?

Well the answer to this is quite shocking when you are talking about these 5 pieces.  In fact these 4 dresses can add an additional 25 looks and the skirt alone can add 20 looks so you are up to 70 looks with just 15 pieces of clothing….but that is not all!  Thanks to adorable layering options you are going to see how to keep your toddler warm and how to increase the number of outfits that she can create really quickly.

Layering Options for Those Incredibly Cold Days

I love letting Adeline layer her clothing.  It is so much fun to see what she creates and to watch her get excited when she has a “match.”  That being said, there are a ton of options available for you to pick from with Zutano.  These layering pieces do not just look great with the Zutano clothes but they look awesome when paired with other items that your daughter already has.


Hot Pink Waffle Cozy Toddler Reversible Vest $33


Violetta Reversible Zip Hoodie $48.50


Hot Pink Terry Toddler Bodice Jacket $40


Orchid Cozie Toddler Contrast Hoodie $48


Hot Pink Multi Strip Toddler Ruffle Cardigan $29

To be honest there are now so many combinations that I am going to say that your daughter’s outfit choices will be endless.  I tried counting this but gave up when I hit 200 and was still going!  So you can really come up with a TON of creations.

Of course the best thing about Zutano clothing is the quality.  It is clothing that is going to last forever and it will keep looking new.  This makes it a great choice for hand me downs.  It is also easy for your child to mix and match the various pieces which means that you get a ton of different outfits and looks for not a lot of money.  Clothing that is a good value is something that most parents are looking for and with Zutano it is something that they can find.

Lead Poisoning — The Real Danger

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

The idea of my child becoming ill really scares me. Recently I was made aware of just how dangerous lead poisoning is. To be honest I thought that this was something that was just a problem from the past and not something that my family could still be effected by today. I was wrong.

There is not a lot of information about lead poisoning available which is one of the reasons that this completely avoidable issue is still something that is happening. In light of learning more about lead poisoning from Lead Safe America, I thought that I would bring you this post with information that I think is important for you to know.

Lead Poison Happens Every Day!

The first thing that you should be aware of is that lead poisoning is happening. In fact, each year in the US alone there are more than 310,000 children who are diagnosed with lead poisoning. While lead is toxic in everyone, young children are the group of people who suffer the most from exposure. The reason that younger children are most at risk is that their bodies are still growing, and they can potentially absorb and retain the lead in their systems longer.

Where is This Lead Coming From?

There are many places where you child might be exposed to lead. Lead is often found in older homes in paint. It is also found in the paint that is used on toys that are not manufactured here in the US.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

There are many different symptoms that can appear from lead poisoning. When lead reaches an unsafe level in the body these symptoms present themselves. Headaches, stomachaches, behavioral issues, and anemia can all be traced back to lead poisoning. If a child is very young, lead can affect their brain as well.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

If you suspect that you might have lead in your home, the best thing to do is have your paint tested. You should also talk to your doctor about suspected levels of lead in your home or other areas where your child is at. If there is reason to believe that your child has been exposed, you can have a simple blood test to learn the answer.

More to Come…

I plan on bringing you a series of pieces about lead exposure where I take an in depth look at the things that lead can do to your body and explain more about what you can do to prevent this from happening to your family. I look forward to going on this journey with you.

Back to School Organization Tips

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Let’s face it, going back to school is stressful.  Getting ready for back to school time can be quite a challenge.  There are so many things that we have to remember as parents and so many challenges that present themselves on a daily basis.  Well one of the biggest challenges for my family is keeping organized.  So we have a back to school organization plan that we follow to help keep things in order.

Back to School Organization Tips

1.  Lay Out Things the Night Before

Each night I go through everything that is in my kids’ bookbags. I make sure that papers are signed and that everyone has everything that they need.  I check homework, make sure that it is put back in their bags, and make sure that they have money and everything else that they need.  Doing this really helps us to plan for our exciting mornings and keep things well organized.

2.  Keep Cars Organized

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I will admit that I STRUGGLE when it comes to keeping my car organized.  One thing is for certain,  I am willing to check out any products that are going to make this easier for me.  This is where Bubble Bum‘s new and exciting product, Junkie, comes into play.  Junkie is the single best organizer that I have ever found.

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This organizer has it all…a garbage bag, trays that fold out for kids to eat and write on, an iPad (or other tablet holder), cup holders, and a toy box.  That’s right, it has all of the things that you need to keep your car picked up and organized.  Plus it is made out of a high quality plastic that is not going to easily be torn up when kids are abusing it in the car.

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3.  Let Kids Be Kids

I used to fret over everything…what my kids were eating, what they were packing in their lunch, and what they were wearing.  I finally gave up and let them be kids.  If they pick out an outfit that does not match, I might suggest that they consider something else but I am not going to fight with them.  Instead I just smile and go on with my day.  Doing this allows for them to be read for school and me to have my sanity.

Getting back in the school routine is hard.  Being able to find the things that you need to help you stay on track is easy and something that is possible even for an unorganized mess of a person like myself.

Top 10 Tips For A Seamless Back To School Transition | #FallBackToScool

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure


It has finally arrived. My little girl is off to kindergarten. No more dropping her off and then picking her up a couple hours later as we get our feet wet for school by enjoying pre-school. Now, she has to get on the bus like a big girl every day at the same time. And she is gone all day. This means our mornings are no longer the leisurely wake up whenever we feel like it, wander around, take our time free for all that pre-school was. So as we are now a couple weeks into our first year of real school I wanted to share some tips on how to survive transition with ease. Some we’ve figured out, some we’ve picked up from others, and some we are still working on. It’s time for #FallBackToSchool

Top 10 Tips For A Seamless Back To School Transition

1) Pack lunch the night before. Chips, snacks, veggies, cookies, whatever can be bagged up and ready to go is in her lunchbox the night before. We still make sandwiches in the morning so the bread doesn’t get mushy or hard but we are cutting out 80% of the work in the evening. If you have any way to get around the mushy or dry bread, I’d love to hear it!

2) Plan outfits ahead of time. I don’t know about you but I find it a lot easier to plan outfits for the week on Sunday instead of running around, looking for an article of clothing, ten minutes before the bus arrives. We pick out all five outfits for the week and set them aside, assigned by day. A lot of stores carry plastic drawer systems; a lot of them come with five drawers. That means your outfits for the week are ready, in a designated drawer, and just waiting to be opened by your little one.

3) Homework. We take a short break as soon as my daughter arrives home from school for a snack and some R&R. However, we have a designated time when homework begins and we work on it until it is complete. As soon as homework is done it goes right back into the backpack. Otherwise, it goes missing and then mommy and daddy receive a note home from the teacher. I don’t know about you but I prefer smiley face stickers, not notes from the teacher.

4) Command hooks. Huh? Unfortunately our home is more of a beginners home, I like to refer to it as tiny or essentials only. What this means is we do not have a designated mudroom and we don’t have an entry nook. Since we like our daughter’s backpack and lunchbox to be in central area we “installed” a couple command hooks by the garage door. This gives her a place to hang her backpack and jacket/coat, as needed, so we always know where they are and they are easy for her to grab as we head out the door to meet the bus.

5) Enthusiasm. For our little one, going off to school for the first time was a little scary. New beginnings can be overwhelming and a bit scary for everyone, including adults. We want to make sure she is ready for her day at school so she sees nothing but happy smiles and encouragement every day. Some morning are still a little rough but it is important to be your little one’s biggest fan and that is exactly who we are.

6) Dress Rehearsal. About a week before school we made a point of showing our little one where she would be catching the bus every morning, dropped off after school, and where her school and classroom were. Not every school offers an open house prior to the start of the school year but we were lucky enough to have a meet and greet with our teacher a couple days before. This gave your little one the chance to see a new face while surrounded by those that she knows well. This also gave her the opportunity to see where she would be sitting in class and meet her class buddy.

7) Night time is bath time. Mornings are not the time for showers and baths. There is too much else going on. Plus, who wants a dirty stinky kid getting their sheets dirty? By doing bath time at night we can give her extra time to play in the tub, enjoy a bubble bath on occasion, and just relax. That’s what bath time is about, right?

8) Have breakfast ready. This doesn’t mean pancakes or waffles every morning. Yogurt and a banana is an easy workable breakfast that they can carry around while getting dressed. Part of our weekly grocery trip involves picking up “on the go” type breakfast items that will get her energized for the day but give her variety to choose from. The makings of a great day start with breakfast!


9) Join a local team. A lot of team sports start in August which means the season is in full swing by the time school starts. This is a great way to not only introduce another level of fun and exercise into your little one’s life but for them to make new friends before the start of the school year. This has also been a great way for our daughter to learn how to take direction from someone other than mommy and daddy. This activity alone has been a positive on so many levels.

10) Plan a play date! At the beginning of the school year we are all new in some way, shape, or form. For a kindergartener this is the case on so many levels. One of the easiest ways to break the ice and have your little one become better acquainted with new friends is to plan a play date at the park a couple of weeks after school starts. Most parents aren’t comfortable with having their little one go to a stranger’s house for a play date so this is a neutral territory where everyone can meet. Don’t have a park in your area; pick a location of your choice! Simply send invites with your little one to school and have the teacher pass them out to the entire class. Think about it, this is a great way to have a party without a host.

The beginning of a new year is just that, a new beginning. There are bound to be bumps in the road from time to time but we all want the transition for our kids to be as easy and seamless as possible. By following the tips above hopefully the transition will be just that for you and your little one(s). Remember, we are all in this together and the success of the school year starts at home.

Welcome back to school! Let’s make it a great year!

Looking for more back to school resources? Check out Follett’s website by simply clicking here.  While you are there, be sure to share your back-to-school tips!

Have a not so little one that is preparing to enter college? Here are the Top 10 Must-Have Items for college freshmen courtesy of Follet:


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written in conjunction with Follett and a campaign with Sverve. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own.

A Letter to My Children on Their First Day of School

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Dear Children,

There are few things in life that I hope for you as much as I hope that you have a wonderful time when you go to school.  I hope that you make new friends and are able to enjoy your old ones.  I also hope that you are successful and that things at school make you happy.

I realize that things can be rough and this year I wanted to give you a few pointers to help you out.  I wanted to share with you a few things that you need to be armed with as you walk inside those doors each day.

First, I want for you to find it in your heart to be kind.  You might not like someone and someone might appear to be mean to you, but there is probably a reason that they are acting like that.  Do I think that it is good that they are mean to you?  No, but I do think that it is good to attempt to be the better person.  You do not know what is happening in that child’s home.  You do not know what they live through and chances are there is someone who is being mean to them.

Second, choose your friends wisely.  Even if you are nice to everyone, everyone does not have to be your friend.  Choose your friends that are like you and that you enjoy being around.  Make friends with people who are really your friends and forget about those who are not.  By the way, I do not think that this is easy but I do believe that it is something that can really help you in life. (Yes, even I, still struggle with this one.)

Third, try to stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves.  Kids everywhere are going to be picked on.  Do not fall into the temptation of picking on them too.  Try and say something nice for them or to at least get others to stop.  No one likes to be picked on even if they are a good sport about it and laughing along.

Fourth, remember to always try your hardest.  Perfection is not important as long as you are giving it your all.  Try your hardest in all areas of school, even those that you do not like, because you never know where that might lead you.

And now a little bit of my hopes and dreams for each of you:

Andrew, I hope that 7th grade rocks for you.  I hope that you are able to make some new friends and enjoy more fun times with your old friends.  I hope that you have a year that is exciting and challenging and that you find new interests along the way.  I hope that you can find happiness and continue to have that strong sense of self that you show.  Above all I want you to know that I love you and that you can come to me if there is a problem.  I know that jr high can be tough but remember that what doesn’t break you can only make you stronger.  Know that I am praying for you each day and that I am hopeful that you are going to have the best year yet.

Althea, keep that sweet side that makes you as gorgeous inside as you are on the outside.  Remember to continue to be kind and generous with your amazing little spirit that I know you have.  I hope that 2nd grade brings you lots of new joy and that you are not too upset about being put in a new school.  Going to a new school can be really tough but I have no doubt at all that you are going to be successful this year.  You are an amazing little girl who people can not help but fall in love with.

Huxley, on your first day of kindergarten remember that I am always with you and thinking about you.  I hope that the year brings new friends and allows you to have a great time with old ones.  I want you to be successful in school and to learn all of the things that you need to know to be successful in life.  I also hope that you are not too disappointed when you learn that there is more to school than recess and PE.

Adeline, while today is not your first day of preschool that day will be happening all too soon.  Where has my baby girl gone?  You are growing up into the most amazing little girl and while I am sad to see that time as a baby end, I know that you are going to love preschool and making new friends.  I hope that you really enjoy your days and that you are never sad when mommy is leaving.  Remember always that I will be back to get you and that I am never very far away.

For all four of you, I want you to have the best years ever so that you can continue to smile and have joy.  I want you to have friendships that last a lifetime and knowledge that you get to share with your own children when you are an adult.

Love Always


PS Remember when you see mommy cry that I am not always sad, sometimes I am filled with so much love, admiration, and joy at who you are that I can not hold back all of the emotions that are welling up inside.

Summer Solutions…Keeping Your Child Engaged in Learning All Summer Long

Simply Shawn N Jenn Disclosure

Summer Solutions offers you an amazing chance to keep your child engaged in their learning all summer long.  They offer you workbooks that you use with your child for a few minutes each day that will help them retain their learning.  I was able to check out quite a few of their books and I wanted to share with you my thoughts on each one of them and the experiences that my children and I have had this summer.

I am excited for the new school year to see if they really retained more this summer than in previous years.  I have one child who has always retained even without summer work and one child who has struggled.

For Huxley Who Just Finished PreK


Huxley just finished up with 2 years at PreK.  I was actually quite surprised by how much he knew and all of the things that he could do within the Summer Solutions workbook.  He enjoyed the lessons and practiced learning many things including how to write which was helpful.  The lessons were definitely age appropriate and are something that I feel would make great worksheets throughout the beginning of the school year if extra work is needed as well.

For Althea Who Just Finished 1st Grade

With Althea some things were different.  In fact we picked out a few different workbooks so that we could work on different skills with her.

SS 1.1

Level 1 Common Core Mathematics was something that she really excelled with.  I will admit that I was pretty surprised as I know that math is not her strongest subject.  She actually uses Simple Solutions (a classroom tool that is very similar to Summer Solutions) in her classroom so I think that this is what allowed her to do such a great job with the common core math problems.  I will admit that a parents guide would have been helpful with common core since it is something that I honestly do not know that much about.

SS 1.2

The Level 1 Common Core English Grammar is something else that I have appreciated being able to use.  It has been nice to be able to see where my daughter struggles.  Most of the things that I have worked with her are that she needs to slow down and follow directions.  This is something that is going to be helpful overall in her ability to do work in school and bee successful throughout her education.  I am thankful that I chose Summer Solutions to help me this summer with all of our goals.

SS 1.3

Since Althea really needs extra practice with math I love that I have had the Level 1 Mathematics workbook to work on with her as well.  We switch around between the different books so that she is never bored.  I did offer a reward for each workbook that the kids finish so I am sure that this is inspiring all of their additional summer work.

SS 1.4

The Level 1 English Grammar and Writing Mechanics book was the one that I decided was not quite right for what she had learned.  We have used some of the lessons but since she was so confused on others, I took it as meaning that she was not being taught things the way that they were in this book.  We talked about things but I did not want to confuse her or cause more harm than good so I went ahead and allowed her to take time off from this one.

SS 1.5

I have to admit that the Level 1 Reading Comprehension has been one of my favorite workbooks to use with Althea this summer.  It really has been able to help me pinpoint where she is not comprehending things and to be able to work with her on those skills.  This has allowed me to offer her unique guidance that she would not have had otherwise.  I am excited that she has also taken up letter writing and has a few pen pals that she has enjoyed sending letters and fun gifts to this summer.

The Level 1 workbooks all seem to have fallen in line with the things that Althea has been learning and she seemed up to speed on them all.

For Andrew Who Just Finished 6th Grade

When it comes to Andrew I have to admit that he was not very interested in summer learning.  He is very smart but there are definitely things that he could improve upon like his study skills.  So I decided to use this as a way to offer him an incentive to do well at something.  So I told him the other day that he had until the end of September and that I would offer a monetary reward for each of the workbooks that he had completed based upon the effort that I saw him put forward.  There were a few times before this offer was made that I saw a lot of quickly paced work that he did not seem that interested in completing.

SS 6.1

Level 6 Common Core Mathematics caused me to have a lot of concern for the children in our school district until I realized that part of the issue was Andrew.  Andrew has not been taught things completely in common core so this was not the way that he was taught for all problems.  Before I realized this I was a little panicked about our schools since he is in all advanced placement classes and seemed to be getting a lot of answers wrong.  After working through the problems that he missed together it seemed like he really picked up and started doing better.

SS 6.2

Since Andrew is really smart, he has never really had to study.  That’s right he is a lucky kid who has managed to make it through most of his schooling without putting in those extra hours of effort.  That being said,  I know how important studying is going to be as he gets older so I encouraged him to complete the Level 6 Study Skills workbook.  He is learning how to study with this one and that is something that makes me really happy.  I know that he is learning skills that he is going to need in high school and college.

SS 6.3

Another area where I have seen Andrew struggle is with his grammar.  He writes really well and is super creative but he makes a ton of grammar mistakes when he is writing.  I really like this workbook for these issues and it seems that he is really picking up things from using it.  I hope that this helps him to improve his writing for his 7th grade year.

SS 6.4

The Level 6 Problem Solving book is another one that seemed to be really great for Andrew.  This book allowed him to work on problems that he was used to solving and he really seemed to enjoy it.  In fact I think that this might have been his personal favorite this summer.  It seemed to be the one that he reached for when he was allowed to choose the workbooks that he was going to do by himself.

SS 6.5

Level 6 Common Core English Grammar is the final workbook that Andrew had this summer.  This one was nice because it covered all of the additional English grammar stuff that was not covered in the other one.  I appreciate that is really learning how to do things better, including how to follow directions and read things thoroughly.

I will admit that there has been a bit of concern for the overall state of the education system where we live after watching Andrew not know some of the things in these workbooks while being in advanced classes.  This was a huge concern for me but is not something that I am overly worried about because I feel like the workbooks allowed him to catch up over the summer.

Final Thoughts — Summer Solutions Can Help You Bridge the Gap Between Your Child’s Learning Over the Summer

I believe with my whole heart that everyone should check out Summer Solutions for their children.  These workbooks are amazing and a great way to maintain that your children do not end up losing what they learned over the summer.  The whole purpose of these workbooks is to help your child maintain the things that they have learned.