Our Top Three Back to School Tips for Stepping out of Summer and Into the Classroom

A family making dinner together in their kitchen.

As Summer is making its way out the door, it means that the school year is just around the corner, so let’s take stock of our perceptions about what back to school could mean for your family. Do you remember in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when the students are all sitting in their High School classroom, eyes glazed over, mouths open in boredom, everyone clearly not wanting to be there? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your kids will be just like that! The start of the school year doesn’t have to be a chore or a dread. It can be a transition full of ease, flow, and even excitement. If you’re a little skeptical of this concept, let us help you see the possibility more clearly by offering our top three back to school tips for how to help smooth over this sometimes rocky annual transition. 

Start the school routine early

One key component of the back to school transition is the actual change in routine. Many kids have a fairly free schedule during the summer, or a shortened, more flexible schedule, at least. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that it can be a pretty jarring switch to all of a sudden have to wake up early and spend all day in a classroom. Furthermore, if your child has any additional needs, or if you’re a dual home family and your parenting plan is changing at the start of the school year, it can become an even higher stress situation for them. One way to limit this stress for the kiddos is to start their school schedule early! Begin the school year wake-up and bedtime routine a week or two before school begins, to get them back into the habit and to make it less of a big deal on the first day of school. 

Table Talk 

With a significant transition like going back to school, our mental health can be affected, and understandably so. However, we can reduce the negative impact it has on us by processing the transition ahead of time and mentally preparing for it. You can lend a hand in this, just by sparking some good conversation. Remember us encouraging “table talk” topics for your family meals? You can use that ritual as an opportunity to talk with your family about the upcoming school year. Some ideas for table talk questions: what was your favorite part about your experience at school last year? What’s one thing you’re really excited about for this school year? Questions like those will get them thinking about the upcoming school year in a positive light, and might also bring up some of their concerns, which can be good to discuss as well. 

Meal planning

Let us help you! Make dinner time something that doesn’t stress you out this time of the year. Plan ahead to have Dream Dinners and/or other quick and easy meal options for your family in the week leading up to the beginning of school, as well as during the first week of classes. Schedule time a couple of weeks before the school year to do some meal planning and buy any groceries you’ll need, then put the meal list of what you have planned up in your house so your family can see what’s coming and when. Plan some of your family’s favorites too, to help everyone have some comfort foods to look forward to during this potentially chaotic time of year. 

 

One common thread with all three tips? The three P’s: Prepare, Plan, and Prepare some more! Be intentional about your back to school transition. A little planning can go a long way to keeping your whole family happy, amidst the change of pace and schedule. The bottom line is, you got this! 

Dream Dinners 2019 Mother’s Day Contest Winners

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We’re excited to announce that we have six amazing women who are the lucky winners of our recent Mother’s Day contest! The moms who were nominated win, as well as the people who were sweet enough to nominate them. Thank you to everyone who entered. You warmed our hearts and inspired us with stories of some truly incredible moms. We’d like to share the winning stories to celebrate these super moms. Their entries are below, although fair warning: you might want to keep a box of tissues close by!

Kori S. – Beth

KoriMy sweet friend Beth is a working mom of three littles, all under the age of 4 including a set of twin 2 year olds. Her husband Mason is a police officer and in the Army Reserves. Several times throughout the year, he is gone for drill weekends and then for extended times during the summer. A couple of years ago Mason was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer and Beth was by his side, through his treatments. In the past few months, they have experienced three deaths in their family, within just a matter of weeks. Through it all, Beth has persevered with a smile on her face. She is the first one to come to the side of anyone who needs help, even if just a shoulder to cry on, but NEVER asks for help for herself. One of her coworker’s sons was diagnosed with cancer. Beth along with her coworkers have organized fundraiser after fundraiser to help alleviate the costs of the little boy’s treatments. Beth is just a genuine person who is a great friend! She deserves a break from having to prep meals. 🙂

Mickey G. – Maxine

MickeyAfter my daughter passed away we had to leave the Ronald McDonald house. I had separated from my husband during Miranda’s Leukemia and faced the harsh reality of being homeless. Our little van and the belongings within are all we had. My husband had stopped giving me money and locked us out of our house. It was so hard to face the loss of my daughter and feel my whole life come apart. As I drove feeling desperate and alone there was only one person to call – my mom. Her love and compassion were a lighthouse to our family. She took us in even though she lived in a tiny apartment with no extra rooms or beds. We camped out in her front room for nearly two months. It was me and my three kids taking over her only living space outside of her bedroom. She fed us and helped us through the most difficult days we had ever faced. Just weeks after Miranda passed away I was served divorce papers. My mom saw my estranged husband’s desire to have full custody and she took action. She had little money herself and few resources but she went and took out a loan and got money from a close friend. She told me I had to have an attorney. It was a tough divorce but because of her actions we were blessed and I was able to keep my children and I received alimony that I never would have received without an attorney. She protected us and changed the outcome of my trial by sacrificing with love. We moved out of her apartment and we paid her back the money she had borrowed on our behalf. But we can’t repay her for the love she gave us it is ours to keep eternally. For me there will never be enough expressions of gratitude for what she offered us during those months. I am grateful for who she is and how she loves.

Shanna S. – Julie

ShannaI would like to nominate Julie, a woman I admire. As a young, single mom of two children (Josh – a baby, and Brandi – a toddler), living in a one-bedroom apartment, Julie did not hesitate to take in her toddler nephew, Austin, who had a lot of medical issues and was in a full-body cast due to the poor choices of his own mother. Julie obtained custody of Austin and raised him as her own, treating him exactly the same as her own children. Eventually, Julie was pursued by Danny, but a relationship was not on her list of priorities when she had three little ones to care for. Danny was persistent and, in time, won Julie’s heart. Together, they built a life for the children, and brought a 4th one, Madelyn, into the world. Although money was tight and their 3 bedroom home was small, the children were always well taken care of and never went without necessities, and the home was filled with love. All of those children are now wonderful young adults beginning their own families, except Madelyn who is a teenager. In addition to raising such amazing young men and women, Julie was a second mom to many of her children’s friends, and kids in the neighborhood. Her home has always been open to anybody needing a good meal, a shoulder to cry on, or a helping hand. She is known as Mama Jules because she treats them all like they are her own children and has even taken in one or two kids when their home lives were terrible. No matter how rough or overwhelming things get for Julie, she always has a smile and a positive attitude and will never turn her back on somebody in need. She has such a huge heart and great compassion and love for people that is rarely seen in this world and I think she deserves to be recognized for her selfless, giving nature.

Congratulations to all of these amazing winners! These moms, and their love and compassion, are an inspiration. We applaud them for their kindness and courage.

Springtime Family Fun: 4 Ways to Make the Most of the Season

A young girl and her little brother hike down a rocky trail looking over Tucson, Arizona.

Spring is in full bloom! With some creativity and a little planning, these ideas for Springtime family fun will help your family really savor the season.

Plant an herb and/or vegetable garden

Spring is a great time to plant a variety of veggies and herbs. The Urban Farmer Seeds and Plants website is a great resource in terms of how to go about planting everything, what to expect, when to start, etc. Your kids will love getting their hands dirty (without getting in trouble!) and the whole family will get to enjoy the tasty benefits of having fresh herbs and vegetables once your seeds have grown. Another bonus: your harvest could be added to some of your Dream Dinners meals!

Paint rocks together

This creative craft project starts with getting your family outside. The next time you go on a walk together, have your kids collect small rocks to bring back home to paint. Then let the artistic energy flow! If you’re in need of some ideas, this Color Made Happy page has a ton of inspiration, from silly faces to unicorns and minions.

Check out a new park & take a picnic!

If your family has gotten into a routine of visiting the same neighborhood park all the time, challenge yourself to visit someplace new. Make it an occasion, by taking a picnic along. Many of our Spring menu items would make ideal picnic meals – check your local store to see the full menu and find the most picnic-friendly meals available. If you’re stumped in terms of which parks to try out, here’s a few links for some of our regions. If you don’t see your city below, try visiting your local Parks and Recreation website for a list of parks in your area.

Make Spring cleaning fun

Last month we talked about self care Spring cleaning and there are plenty of ways to make Spring house cleaning fun and less of a chore for you and your family too.

  • Have your kids help you gather any and all papers that you no longer need into a bin: old newspapers, magazines, mail, etc. Then use what you’ve gathered to make a campfire that night! Find a neighborhood park with a fire pit you can use, and bring s’mores for added incentive.
  • Set up some friendly competition between your kids – who can clean their room the fastest, who can gather the most books/toys, who can find the most change in the couch cushions!
  • Turn it into a dance party clean-up! Play some fun, upbeat music and dance with that broom (and your kids!) between sweeping, dusting, or whichever cleaning tasks you’re tackling.

We hope these ideas spark some Springtime fun in (and outside) your home. Once you try an activity, don’t be shy – share your pics and stories with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Love to love February in 2019

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Parenting & Kids | February 1, 2019 | By

This February, how about taking care of that special person in your life by celebrating the loving heart you share? It’s simply a great time to remind you to actually schedule those date nights at least once each month.

Ask someone to watch the kids and start planning. And planning a date can be shared or flip-flopped; one date night is yours and the next is his. Dream Dinners makes dinner easy, but sometimes you just need to head out to mix up dinner plans.

We’ve been scouring websites for date night ideas that are sure to be fun, interesting and sometimes over-the-top exciting.

Here are a few ideas we love:

  • Plan to learn something. The Escape Adulthood website encourages taking a class together. It can be anything from painting to photography to glass blowing, just make sure it’s a skill that’s new to the both of you.
  • Pretend it’s your first date and relearn things about your partner. Even reinvent your story. The Date Night Wingman website says to stay curious with someone you’re familiar with. By going out on first dates over and over, you get that first kiss again and again.
  • Mini Road Trip to escape the norm. Your road trip shouldn’t be far, just far enough that you go someplace new or exciting. Lifehacks.io website that you can stay somewhat close to home and enjoy a small town or antiques market, or travel a little farther and enjoy the journey along the way.
  • Staying home? Try sparking a little bit of competition either by playing board games, a few rounds of indoor golf using cups or cardboard boxes or video games. If you want to up the ante, have a water balloon battle or Nerf gun fight. Check out therealisticmama.com website for more ideas.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Stylecaster.com offers up a fun date by presenting your loved one with date clues in a sealed envelope. Give subtle hints and directions if you’re the ultimate destination. If you’re going along for the ride, each stop along the way can get bigger and bigger in terms of intrigue or simple size if it’s food or beverages.

Whatever you choose to do, keep date nights fun and keep them on a regular basis.

Getting Your Kids in the Kitchen is a Great Way to Instill Healthy Eating Habits

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By Sherry Jennings, Dream Dinners

Not everyone has the opportunity to be raised with parents who love to cook, who know their way around the kitchen and enjoy sharing that passion with their families. Some of us had that opportunity and we’d be brought into the meal making process at various times to stir, chop, taste, or simply salivate during the wait. 

I was raised in such a family. My mom was Italian and spent long Sunday afternoons stirring pots of sauce even in the summer. My dad, an Englishman, enjoyed cooking just as much, although he cooked things he truly had a passion for. His family baked daily so the muffins and breads were on a seemingly endless cycle. He also loved hot sauces and would grow his own peppers and spend hours canning his well-known and sought-after “hot source.”

From fish to pasta, vegetable bakes to anything grilled, my parents kept me involved and I grew up loving home cooked meals shared with my family and friends.

Sure, today’s family schedules are jammed packed and events are endless. That’s why Dream Dinners is the perfect partner to keep families connecting, sharing and bonding through the power of the dinner table. I’m pretty sure my mom would have appreciated the effortlessness dinners Dream Dinners could have provided when we spent our summers at the lake house in Pennsylvania.

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Hitting the Road with the Kids, with Dream Dinners in Tow

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It’s that time of year when we begin thinking of trips over Spring Break, Memorial Day and throughout the summer. The calendar fills up quickly, and so do mom anxieties when trying to make sure every detail is in place and the trips ahead are memory-worthy, not in the Griswold family sort of way.

The Dream Dinners team is always looking for ways to simplify planning, and road tripping is no different. Most of us have raised our kids and some are still juggling high school and middle school schedules, while a few are still changing their kids’ diapers. We are always talking trip hacks to make everything so much easier on the entire family. Adventures should focus on the journeys and destinations, and that’s possible when a few tried-and-true planning steps are handled right from the get-go.

One way to get the kids psyched about the trip, not just the days out of school, is to bring them in on the planning right from the dream stage. When they are excited, the anticipation well outweighs a last-minute food stop.

There are ways to get the kids involved. Start with a list of destinations, break out the maps and research at the library, or online, all the details about where you hope to land. If you use a paper map, which is so much more fun to mark up Ken Jennings-style, take time to point out some fun spots along the way. Are there scenic vistas? Giant trees? Historic markers? Hikes? Places to play?

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Back to School Dinner Solutions

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Parenting & Kids | August 27, 2015 | By

For many of us September signifies the start to a new school year and combined with extracurricular activities your quality family time dwindles. Don’t let additional responsibilities discourage you from getting a great meal on the table – instead continue to enjoy homemade family dinners with the help of Dream Dinners.

These dinners are great in the crockpot.

  • NEW! Slow Cooked Lasagna Soup with Parmesan Breadsticks
  • Honey Chipotle Pork Roast With Almond Green Beans

These dinners cook in under 30 minutes plus they travel well for a quick dinner on-the-go.

  • Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches on French Roll
  • Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed French Bread
  • Carne Asade Steak Tacos

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Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

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Did you know that kids learn about food and eating at a very young age? That getting your kids involved in the kitchen can help shape their eating habits for the rest of their lives. Positive experiences about food early on in a child’s life may help them develop healthy eating habits in the future. A recent study found that children who are exposed to cooking through culinary classes or aiding a parent or family member in preparing their meals in their home will be more likely to choose healthier foods not only in your own home, but when they are outside of your home, too. Researchers also found that the children who were involved in meal preparation had a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber and an increased willingness to try new foods.

Need some fun ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Try these tips for all ages:

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Meeting Non-Talkative Teenagers Where They Are

As they hit the high school years, moms of teens know our once chatty kids can become aloof or too busy to connect. They have irregular work hours, a challenging class load, and are busy with friends and dates.

There are moments though, to capture.

Make a point to greet your teen when they get home, even if it’s an odd time.  My son’s curfew was 11:30PM, so I always stayed up to say, “hello” when he arrived. If he got home from work at 8:30PM and was ravaging through the refrigerator for something to eat, I would sit down with him while he ate.

When my teen did homework, I’d offer to help. Sometimes we’d do

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Fill up your Summer Season with Fruits and Vegetables

Summer is the perfect time to focus on eating plenty of delicious, ripe seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with disease defying vitamins, minerals and fiber.  An adequate intake is good for your skin, immune system, digestion, and will help ward off high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Often our lifestyle goals focus on what not to eat; what if we tried the opposite? How about increasing our produce intake?

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