Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Everything You Need for Packing School Lunches

We've got back to school on the brain since Olive starts first grade next week!  We're gathering her list of school supplies, updating her closet and making sure we are ready to start packing lunches.  I'm going to take a little blog break for the last few days of Summer.  I just want to enjoy our days together without worrying about any blog jobs.  I'll be back next week with lots of fun content for August :)

I really love packing lunches.  We've talked about this before, but I figured it couldn't hurt to revisit the subject this time of year.  I think of lunches as a HUG FROM HOME in the middle of the day.  I love packing Olive's favorite foods, taking the time to plan ahead and grocery shop to ensure her lunch will bring a smile to her face and to go the extra mile to make sure she has a healthy meal in the middle of her school day.

It just takes me a few minutes every night to pack her lunch and make it special now that I've gathered all the supplies.  You can do whatever works best for you, but this is the lunch box set up that works best for us.

I keep almost all of these things in a drawer in my kitchen island.  It helps keep me organized and helps me pack lunches quickly.  I either pack lunches right after I clean up dishes from dinner or pack them before I go to bed.  Mornings are such a busy time that I only leave one lunch making job for mornings: Filling up the water bottle.

I'm excited to tell you about our favorite lunch box supplies.  I'll link anything I can from Amazon at the bottom of this post.

Thermos Funtainer Water bottles.
They're 12oz and are AMAZING.  They're so durable, keep ice frozen for the entire school day, hold up well for 18+ months and you can buy replacement straws if they crack or break.  Ours have been dropped, well loved and used daily for 18 months and are still going strong.  We have four of them.  They are our very favorite water bottles for kids.  They also make great Thermos containers for food.

Yumbox Originals
We have used Yumboxes for 2 years and they've held up so well.  The initial cost is a little pricey for a lunch box, but knowing that they'll last you for YEARS makes it all worth it.  I hand wash ours to take extra good care of them.  The little compartments are so easy to fill, they are perfect for kids and they save you tons of $$$ since you won't be buying ziploc bags.  The Yumbox Original is our favorite style, but they also have a style called Yumbox Panino that holds a whole sandwich, a smaller Yumbox snack size and a Yumbox Tapas that is more for older kids/adults. 

Cookie cutters are a fun way to make sandwiches interesting.

Cat & Jack food picks are our favorite.  They're under $2 for each of these sets.

Glitter silverware.  Walmart has this set in stock right now and we save it for lunches.

Fun napkins.  These napkin notes came from Meijer.

Mini rainbow forks.  I found these at Hobby Lobby.

We bought a couple sets of these food picks last year.  They're great quality and work perfectly with the yumboxes.  Olive uses them as little forks to pick up her food.  She brings them home every day in her yumbox.  I wash them and we reuse them again and again.

Here's our lunch box set up.  I love the Pottery Barn Kids lunch boxes.  I picked this one up on a super sale for under $10 last Summer.  They run big sales at off times so keep an eye out for them.  I love these flat ice packs, lunch boxes that are insulated with a water bottle pouch on the outside and we always attach a hand sanitizer bottle to the lunch box.

What are your must have lunch box supplies??

Here are some affiliate links to all our favorite products:

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Back to School Bracelets

This time last year we were feeling all the emotions of Olive starting elementary school.

We were nervous, anxious, excited and there were lots of unknowns.

This year feels different. 

The back to school routine suddenly feels familiar and routine.

We know what to expect with her school, her new routines and many of the expectations of elementary school.  We are so excited to get to know and to see all the things she will learn this year.  Olive is about 95% excited about first grade.  I think she'll be 100% excited after the back to school open house.  We've had a wonderful summer together, but it's always a tiny bit sad to go from being together full time to her being away for the day.  We'll all adjust fine, I'm sure.  Then we'll be busy into our back to school routines in no time.

I thought I'd share our BACK TO SCHOOL BRACELETS with you today.

The idea behind Back to School Bracelets are that we each end up with a stack of bracelets to wear at the start of school to help us feel extra loved, comforted and remembered during the school year.  I tell Olive that I'll pray for her and her school year when I look at my stack of bracelets.  She says she'll feel hugs and kisses from home when she's feeling nervous about all the new things at school.  It's comforting to both of us.

We started this tradition last year and it was so fun!  We all love to craft and this tradition seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to craft.  You just needs beads, string and some time to DIY together.  There are no special tools are skills involved.  I promise!

3 or 4 bags of beads - we like shapes, pretty colors, animals and letters.
1 pkg of  1.2mm elastic cord
*All of our supplies came from Hobby Lobby

We made a mix of 16 kid and adult bracelets and still had some leftover supplies.

This elastic cord is wonderful!  It doesn't fray, the knots are really secure and our bracelets from last year are still in really good shape.

Open all your packages on a large serving platter with an edge on it.  Head to an area with carpet or a rug to keep the beads from bouncing away and start making bracelets.  Measure wrists leaving room to tie knots.  For the kid's bracelets I tie the knot around a bead.  It just seems like it's easier for them to lace more beads on with a bigger knot around a bead.  I just tie 2-3 regular knots for my own bracelets.

We always do kid bracelets and a set for me.  We talk ahead of time about what we'd like to spell out on our bracelets.  Unfortunately, the letter beads pictured below had holes that were too small for our string.  I swapped them out for other ones a few minutes into the project.  So pay attention to the bead hole openings when you're selecting your beads.

Fletcher isn't going to school this year, but he was pumped to make bracelets with us.

We really like this Tree House Studio bead brand.  The beads are under $3 a bag full price andn they are really great quality.  We were thrilled to find unicorn beads this time.

I opted to do my kid's monograms, JOY and a fun rainbow heart bracelet.

Olive picked out words or initials for everyone in our family.  She came up with her own patterns and designs for her bracelets.

 I like really uniform, patterned bracelets and Olive prefers for every bracelet to be unique.

 Here's my set from 2018.  They're still in great shape.

Would anyone in your family heading off to school appreciate making back to school bracelets?? 

I have a feeling we'll be continuing this tradition for years to come. 

Maybe we'll even make off to college bracelets one day - ha!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Sunflower Maze

Happy Monday!  Hope you had a great weekend.  We had some sickness, some fun and lots of sunshine this weekend.  Hoping for a happy, healthy last full week of Summer this week.

This was our third year visiting L&A Family Farms in Paris, IL for their sunflower maze.  It's the most beautiful thing to see fields FULL of sunflowers.  They're so tall and so much fun to see in person.  Olive, Kevin and I look forward to this outing every Summer.  Up until this year, Fletcher has always had a hard time enjoying it.  He doesn't love the heat, he gets car sick on the curvy country roads and it's not been a highlight of his Summer... until this year.

He really enjoyed himself!  He was laughing, smiling and running his way through the maze.  What  a fun turn of events!  He also napped on the road trip there (slept through the curvy roads) and the family farm sold snow cones this year.  It was the perfect motivator and way to cool us all off.

It was definitely our best maze visit yet!  It didn't hurt that it was in the 80s in late July. 

A few sunflower maze tips:
Bring hats, sunnies and wear sunscreen. 
Sign any waivers ahead of time on-line to shorten the length of time you're waiting in line. 
Bring cash.
Bring water bottles and snacks for everyone in your group.
Check out the forecast and pick the coolest day of the week.
Buy the snow cones :)

Now on to an overload of sunny sunflower pictures.  If you can believe it, the maze is even more gorgeous in person!  We loved the tractor ride, the maze and the abundance of butterflies!  They're everywhere so look closely for them!

Wagon ride down to the sunflower maze.  Spontaneous hand holding!

"Look, Mom!  A Fletcher sized sunflower!"

Olive asked to hold hands with her sunflower :)  She also insisted on wearing her butterfly dress to show butterflies that she was friendly.  Ha!

I wasn't kidding about the RUNNING!

So many smiles this time!  I only had to carry Fletcher on the last stretch (which is much better than the entire maze last year!)

Sunflower hugger!

Our fearless leader!

We were getting HOT as we finished up the maze.

An Olive sized sunflower.

We made it all the way through!!

Saying goodbye to this beautiful view while we waiting for the tractor to come back and pick us up.

Yes!!!  Snow cones to cool us all off.  We didn't buy any sunflowers to take home with us this year, but we'd highly recommend it if you can.  My anniversary roses were still looking gorgeous so we opted out of sunflowers.  They're just $1.50 each for giant sunflowers on the farm.  That's so much cheaper than the grocery stores.  I will say that they are HUGE.  You've got to get at least 3-4 to balance out a very large vase.

Have you ever been to a sunflower maze??  You should check to see if there's on in your area.  Here's the link to L&A Family Farms where we go in Illinois.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Best Parts: Loads of Family Fun

It's the final weeks of Summer and we're busy doing a mix of relaxing, enjoying our time off together and getting out to do fun things!  It is really fun to be able to stay up late and play outside.  Kevin's still working/teaching/counseling/researching all summer long, but his schedule is a little less busy.  We enjoy the extra time with him and went out of our way this week to celebrate our family's birthday (our anniversary) with the whole family.

The best parts of our week were:

I booked one of our favorite babysitters for a surprise date night on our anniversary.  I also booked reservations at one of the nicest restaurants in town as another surprise.  Kevin loved both  And speaking of things I LOVE... let's talk about this shirt dress.  It's from Time and Tru from WAL-MART!!  It was under $20 and I get so many compliments on it.  And it has POCKETS.  I can't wait to check out the Fall Time and Tru line.

Kevin surprised me with roses.  Lots of roses.  He came home on Tuesday with 2 dozen hot pink roses from the grocery store.  They were gorgeous and so affordable.  Yay!  Then he came home on Wednesday with 2 dozen light pink roses.  I mixed the bouquets to recreate our wedding flowers and put them in our fanciest wedding gift vases.  They're just gorgeous!!

We went to a local arcade for some half price fun on Tuesdays.

We had several cool days to go on family walks after dinner.

Olive and I have been working hard on photographing, researching, reading, writing and learning all about butterflies this week.  There are so many hanging out in our yard this time of year.  It's been such a fun project to do with her.  Stay tuned for more details on our butterfly unit.

We went to Stables Steakhouse for dinner.  Everything is horse themed and it was so fun!  The food was amazing.  The booths (in horse stalls) were so cozy.  I think it's our new favorite spot.

I love living near a college campus!  We really enjoy walking through ISU's campus.  It's so pretty!

We've been checking out new parks around town.  The kids like to say they're training to be American Gladiators.

These are Fletcher's favorite shoes.  I stopped in Family Dollar to pick up crayons that were on sale.  They were all sold out so we started exploring the store.  These cute sandals were regular priced $5 and marked down to $3.50.  We bought them and loved them so much that I went back to buy a back up pair for this Summer and the next size up for next summer.  He can put them on himself, they're great for wide feet, they're so cute and comfy.  They come in white, blue and pink. 

We had some really warm weather earlier in the week which kept us looking for all the indoor fun.  Our children's museum has a really fun space exhibit.  The kids got to talk to people from NASA and hold a meteor rock. 

Of course Astronaut Olive would have a bow on her helmet :)

We used a gift card to try a new ice cream place.  Everyone loved it.

Our power went off for several hours on one of the hottest days.  We loaded up and headed to the pool.  Seemed like the best option to stay cool.

My parents came up for a quick visit.  We worked on projects, ate cookies and enjoyed the day together. 

My kids love these tricycles that can tote someone around. 

Whew!!  No wonder I'm worn out from a busy week.  We packed in a lot of fun.

It's time to link up with my favorite blogging buddies for High Five for Friday.  Join us with a few different blog posts and be sure to look around to find some new blog friends

Becky @  By BMG Blog
Della @ Della Devoted
Tif @ Bright on a Budget
Whitney P @ Come Home for Comfort