How To Find Beauty When Your Kids Are Back In School

We are days into September and before we know it, the month will be half over. At times I find it hard to believe that I am the mom of a second grader! Oh, to be early school-aged again. I have always loved learning and growing up, this season was one of my favorites. The excitement of back to school, back to routine, back to “normal” - I appreciated it all. I know that it is not the same for everyone, and for many this is a season of stress and anxiety, but for me, I loved it. And as a mom, I try to continue this magic for my boys.

When most kids wanted to look at toys, I would always wander “the paper aisle” - even when it was not back to school season. The color pens, blank notebooks, folders and binders, the tools for organization - all of it made my heart sing. I loved the newness and the opportunity to create anything my imagination could come up with.

As we prepared to go back to school, I remember going shopping with my mom to pick out a few new outfits. I would daydream about wearing my favorite one and walking into school feeling good. At least a week before the first day of school, we would practice going to be “on time” as we got back into routine. While summer break was coming to an end, we would both mentally and physically prepare for the changes to come. 

A new school year, like the blank notebook, like tomorrow’s sunrise, is a chance for a new beginning.

Now, we are heading into our 3rd year of school and I am feeling confident with the routine of drop off and pick up. I remember what time we need to leave the house to make it to school on time. I am ready for the magic of the back to school season. As much as I am ready, I will not lie, my mama heart is a bit tender right now. My first born is becoming even more of a big kid. This summer, and life in general, have flow by faster than I care to admit. I blinked. I blinked and life happened.

With a tender heart, I want to share with you 7 practical ways I have been able to find beauty as my child heads back to school:

  1. It starts with your mind. Have a positive mindset.

I am not saying that you can’t be a little sad because your kids are growing up. But I am encouraging you to find things to be happy and excited about as you watch your little love grow. The first step to finding beauty as your child goes back to school is to have and encourage positive thinking. I am no professional, but I did find this article from The Center for Parenting Education, which is a simple read and gives some insight into the supporting positive self-talk.

I know first hand for my children, both what I say and how I act have a direct impact on their attitudes and actions. If I want my children to be excited about school, I have to demonstrate excitement for myself.
It is not just the beginning of the school year; I continue positive thoughts throughout the entire school year, and I use lunchtime as another opportunity to encourage kind thinking. Every day that Brady brings lunch to school, I put an affirmation in his lunch box. Little notes to remind Brady just how wonderful he is - in both the big and small things that he does. 

You will find what works best for you and your family, but no matter what, I hope that you do your best to start each day with a positive thought.

2. Establish a Routine

Routines tend to be a bit more relaxed during the summer. Nights are for staying up late, and mornings are a bit slower. For our family, summer has meant the boys sleep on the floor in mommy and daddy’s room. We do not have central air, and the room the boys share gets pretty hot, even at night. But as the cooler air begins to find its way to Michigan, the boys will again sleep in their own beds and our bedtime routine will commence.

A  big part of our bedtime routine is reading a book and relaxing together in Brady’s bed. For as long as I can remember, I have had to lay down with Brady as he turns off his mind and drifts off to dream-land. I cannot simply put Brady in his bed, turn off the lights, and tell him to go to sleep - it just doesn’t work like that. So I have to get myself back into routine and understand about 15 - 20 minutes of my evening will be spent helping Brady fall asleep. 

What does bedtime look like for your family? Are you ready?

Another note on routines, it is not just bedtime that needs a routine. It is also the mornings. Breakfast and play time are a necessity for Brady to set himself up for a successful day. If there are days where I think he is better off sleeping in a little bit, nine times out of ten I am wrong because the change in routine throws him off. 

Routines are powerful because they provide a sense of comfort. With routines we know what to expect. And if you are someone like Brady or myself, routine helps keep our anxiety at a low level

3. Write it Down

Either with paper and pen or digitally, whatever is your preference, I encourage you to write things down. Write the important dates and any reminders. About a week before school starts we receive a letter from the principal and a copy of the school calendar. This gets placed on our fridge, but also put in my phone and written down in my planner. (Hey, better safe than sorry). Throughout the school year our school office and the teachers send emails with key dates to remember (due dates, field trips, school events, etc) - you guessed it, I do my best to immediately put these in my personal calendars.

Mama, I know mom-brain and a real thing. As a mom of two, one of which is a toddler who is always on the go and particulary dependent, I can easily forget things that I really should remember. Research has shown us that writing things down helps us remember them. And this is a good habit to teach our children. I think it is in 3rd grade that our school district provides a planner to the students, and I am excited for Brady to get one.

Are you a paper and pen kind of gal, or do you prefer a digital calendar? 

4. Pre-plan

Another way to make life a little easier when going back to school is to pre-plan. It is the little things like this that make finding the beauty also easier. One thing to pre-plan: lunch. Whether you are going to pack a lunch or utilize the hot lunch at school - you will want to plan ahead. You can make lunch the night before or make sure that money is in the lunch account Sunday evenings. With children in school, another helpful thing to pre-plan is the outfit to wear the next day.


5. Allow for After-School Day Grace

I believe it is a good idea to have a plan for after-school. I know that life happens, and after being away from home for hours, the time spent together as a family is both limited and incredibly valuable. For the first two years of Brady’s school-life, he did not have homework, but we created time for reading and other school related activities. I won’t know for a few more days if we will be adding homework to our routine or not, but if we are, I know that it is helpful to have a plan.

With all of that being said, I also believe that we need to give grace to ourselves, our childdren, and our families. Some days will be smooth sailing and others may be more difficult. We have to understand that some things are more important than others. To allow for after school grace, create a priority list of what needs to get done each evening and allow for understanding if not everything is checked off the “to-do” list. Time blocking, even from a young age, is a helpful tool because it allows for a visualization of the time given for both WORK and FUN.

6. Keep It Sweet and Simple (K.I.S.S.)

This is one that I personally need to work on. Keep things sweet and simple. We live in a time where Pinterest has taken over a lot of aspects of our every-day life. Back to school signs, coordinated and designed treats, and I just saw a post about “creative” first day of school gifts to give your teacher. All of those things are enough to give moms a headache. Growing up, our first day of school was a picture of all of us sitting on the porch with our backpacks on. Sometimes I miss that. Sweet and Simple.

Now, I say this with caution because I do have an interest in modern calligraphy and word art, and in years past I have created back to school signs, and I am not at all knocking down the parents who do any of the fun and creative things. What I am saying is - don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, can’t, or won’t. What matters most is that your child goes to school knowing that they are loved, supported, encouraged, and celebrated each day. 

7. Get to Bed and Wake Up Early

So, this is a two-for-one, and I’m not sure how you are going to like it. But to help you find some beauty in going back to school, I want to encourage you to get to bed and wake up early. I’m not going to go into details about the research science shows about getting a “good night’s rest” or “how many hours of sleep per night is best” (you can google that if you don’t already know). What I do want to talk about is that when you go to bed at a decent time you can wake up early. You can wake up before the kids so that if there are any last minute things that need to be done, you can do them before rushing out of the house. Or you can use a little bit of time in the morning to give yourself a little love, some “me” time. 

Before you go rolling your eyes at me, please know that I am not a person who functions well when I am tired. But I function even worse when I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off - and that is the feeling I get when I don’t wake up early.

Waking up early can be as simple as 15 - 30 minutes. Just enough time to brew some coffee, do some light stretching, and maybe read a few pages of your favorite book - honestly, whatever works for you!


Back to school is a special time of year. We are reminded, yet again, just how big our children are getting. It is a season of newness, excitement, and also some anxiety I am sure. For parents and children alike, back to school means getting back into a routine and back to normal. Not everyone loves school and I understand that. But taking a few notes from above, you have a few ways in which you can find beauty as your children go back to school. 





Raising Good Humans | BLOG By Mary Kraby

Be Kind.

We are half way through August, and although we still have a few weeks left before school begins, I can't believe summer is almost over. A time of seemingly endless vacation, adventures, rest, and relaxation are soon to be replaced by alarm clocks, schedules, homework, practices, games, and obligations. Although we had a wonderful summer filled with family and friends, I am looking forward to fall.

But with the end of summer comes the beginning of something new. It brings new classrooms, new teachers, new friends, new responsibilities, new teams, new interests, and new opportunities. The start of school provides everyone with a clean slate, a chance to make changes, and a chance to be themselves. For some, the doors will open, big smiles will appear, and hugs will be exchanged as they run in to join their class and never look back. For others, the first few days, weeks, or months may be filled with anxiety, fears, belly aches, melt downs, and tears. Whether starting daycare, preschool, elementary school, high school, college, or a new job, transitions and change can be hard. The teachers they knew and loved from last year and greeted them with a jovial "GOOOOOD MORNINGGGG!" are no longer there to greet them. Their friend that sat in the next desk is now in a different class. The girl they played soccer with at recess moved to a different town. They hurt their knee over the summer and are unable to play volleyball this fall, and now no longer feel part of the team. They've changed majors this semester and feel behind, lost, and alone in the lecture hall. It's their first day on the job, and they are sitting alone at lunch.

Whatever the change may be, whether expected or unexpected, their reaction to this change is what is important. Life is not always how we want it to be. They may not love their teacher, get to sit with their friends at lunch, or may not make a team or club, but the same holds true in life. We may not love our boss, work with our friends, or even get the job we wanted. We have to teach our children how to cope appropriately to change, and connect with people outside of their comfort zone. We have to teach them how to look up, say "hello", and make conversation with new people. We have to teach them how to find the kid in the room who may be lost, who may be new, or who may need help, because someday that may be them.

We have to teach our children that it doesn't matter who has the newest IPhone, who's wearing the most expensive shoes, who has a bigger house and nicer car, or who went on better vacations. We have to stop placing such emphasis on empirical numbers, test scores, and grade letters, and start recognizing those who use manners, who help others, who are friendly and kind, who are hard working, patient, and honest. We have to stop categorizing kids into the "smart kids", the "cool kids", the "athletic kids", the "band kids", the "weird kids", the "good kids" and the "bad kids". Categorizing people into groups creates barriers between people and judgements to be made without every getting to know the person. You can be an athlete, and a musician. You can be a cool, weird, smart kid. Some of the most influential people in my life weren't in my "group" at all, but circumstances of change brought us together, and for that I am forever grateful.

So, "Let your child be the weird kid. Let them be the funny kid, the quiet kid, the smart kid, the athletic kid, the theater kid, the numbers kid, the teacher's pet, the chatter box, the valedictorian ,the middle of the pack, the "barely made it" kid. Just don't them them be the mean kid." -@mommywinetime

As we get ready for this school year, scramble to finish the summer reading, and find the right school supplies, remember what's important as they find their way, settle in, and establish their new normal. If you teach them nothing else, teach them to be kind.

You can find more about Mary by visiting her blog.

When that little voice in your head is telling you "Mama, you need a break"...

Hey  mamas! I know the inner voice struggle - it goes something like this, right?

What do you mean “take time for myself? What on earth? How would that even be possible? My husband barely knows how to keep the kids alive and he wants to relax on the weekend after a hard week at work. There’s no way I’d be able to get away for a few days to have time for me. That’s selfish and honestly, I signed up for this gig - this parenting thing. I’m a mom and it’s my job. It doesn’t matter if I’m exhausted all the time and I only think in terms of “what do I  need from the store?, “how many hours of sleep will I  get tonight?” and “does anyone else thinks all these crazy thoughts in their heads?” all the time?!

Kelsy here and I thought this same thing, too - that I  would never be able to stop the hamster wheel that is my life because I ’d feel too guilty, I  didn’t deserve it and my family NEEDED me. And trying to find childcare or someone to cover me at work?? Gaaahhh, that’s just too much, right??

Then I  joined Thirty-one Gifts. Now, truly, this is NOT an ad for the company - I’m just telling you how I  came to see why time away for ME is so important. My kids were 3, 9 and 11, attending 3 different schools, in multiple sports and I  was OVER IT. I  knew I  was in need of a break for a long time but If we’re being honest here, I’d taken a couple weekends off when the kids were littler and had always felt so guilty before, during and after that I  finally decided it wasn’t worth the stress. I  also knew heading to Vegas with the girls wasn’t my style anymore - those party weekends were great when I  was single and had no responsibility but after being a happily married mom, I  was looking for MORE. I  hadn’t found the right fit for me - the right getaway that spoke to my heart and made me gleeful and HOPEFUL just thinking about it!

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After being invited to a Thirty-one conference where I  was promised a wonderful time in the form of a girl’s weekend, away from my routine, plus I’d be offered motivation AND free goodies, I  was IN! I KNEW I  needed that break and that it would fill me up and I  decided to put myself first, for once. I  told my husband how badly I wanted (needed) to go and I  asked my mother in law, my mom and a few friends to help out with play dates and carpool for our 3 kids and then I  booked my flight and hotel room, all the way across the country! 

Was it hard to ask for those things - the money for the trip, the childcare coverage, the time away? Absolutely! 

Was it worth the stress leading up to it  - making the decision to go and putting myself first, asking for the help, getting on the plane heading to a city I’d never been to where I  had no idea what to expect?

YES, YES, YES!

Being part of a group took some of the stress off of leaving and the guilt seemed lighter when shared with the other ladies going with me. Hence the term “girl’s weekend”- having your girls with you makes the stress-load lighter, promise! With 4 women sharing one hotel room to keep the cost down, it’s a built-in slumber party and was just the icing on the cake. 

I’ve since attended 4 of those conferences in 3 different cities - none I’d ever been to. I  roomed with women I  barely knew and some I’d known for years. I’ve ridden in pedicabs, on rental bikes, eaten at a food truck and had drinks at a fancy restaurant, dressed up, slept in, learned to find my confidence (thanks to all the motivational speakers) and held my head high when I  returned home because my CUP WAS FILLED.

I  can’t even begin to tell you how good you’ll feel if you give yourself the chance to get away from your routine so that you can just BE, be the YOU you were before you were changing diapers, doing dishes, homework and deadlines, racking up wrinkles and laundry…let that girl you were BEFORE life got so busy that you put her on hold - let her have a lighthearted, carefree weekend to herself….

I  can tell you that putting yourself first, to just breathe, to honor your hopes, to REST and to spend time with friends, relaxing and trying new things is one of the best gifts you can give yourself as a woman.

But don’t take my word for it - find out for yourself! Carve out your own time away by scheduling something NOW, ahead of time! Don’t wait until you’re so overwhelmed that you’ve lost sight of yourself - book a weekend away now with a friend or two so you all have something to look forward to and anticipate with excitement! And for goodness sake, when you come back - let your family know how much fun you had, how much you enjoyed yourself and show your children that it’s okay to take a break sometimes and not feel guilty about it….your kids will see this and learn from it and your partner will appreciate how refreshed you are when you come back home from an unforgettable time with your friends!


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Need ideas for some great getaways? My favorite is obviously our Start Loving You girls’ getaway/women’s conference. It’s our own version of those first conferences I  went to but it’s for ANY woman…there is no multi-level marketing, political party or religion you have to be a part of. You’ll get all the inspiration, celebration and booty-kickin’ motivation you can use to go back home with a spark in your step! Navigating a new city, eating at trendy restaurants, dressing in something other than your Lulus and making new memories with your #girlsquad will be a gift to yourself that you’ll treasure forever. 

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There are also many other ways to enjoy time for you…find a friend who has a winter cabin or summer place and make a weekend of it with her! Or - one of the easiest is a staycation in your own city - I  just did this with friends to celebrate our winter birthdays and it was a blast! Ten of us split 3 hotel rooms at the nicest hotel in town and shopped, ate out, took pictures with Santa and stayed up until way too late in matching Old Navy PJs and giggling! It doesn’t matter how or what you do to give yourself time away from your normal routine - it just matters that you care enough about yourself to do so! 

Happy Trails, girlfriends! XO Kelsy 





Easy, thoughtful Valentine's Day gifts to give....

Whether it’s for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or another special occasion - finding just the right gift for your loved ones can be overwhelming!

We’re here to give you some EASY but excellent ideas to make sure the gift you give will be one they’ll treasure forever!



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  • PHOTO CHARMS for the women/girls in your life

Why she’ll love it: 
Tell her story with this round, silver-tone zinc charm personalized with a photo of her kids, parents, wedding day, new grand baby, (can also be a wonderful reminder of a loved one who has passed). Creating beautiful, custom photo jewelry has never been so easy!
These darling charms are only $22 each and can be added to a simple bracelet, chain or an already established charm bracelet. This small ( 0.75" diameter) but meaningful gift will definitely have a big impact! Shop here, delivery usually 1-2 weeks.


  • PHOTO BOOK in a day!

Yes, you read that right! You really can get a photo book ordered and picked-up in just 1 day! If you’re in need of a last minute gift that still offers that thoughtfulness behind it - head to the Walgreens App and choose PHOTO. Starting at just $6.99 for a 4x6 that will hold up to 25 spiral bound prints, you can upload your favorite pics for your GIFTEE and have the order ready for pick up in as soon as 2 hours. We’ve used this App more times than we can count for a quick way to share memories and celebrate - it’s sure to be a gift they’’ll love.


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  • COLLAGE BLANKET

One of the most-loved and easiest gifts I’ve ever given is a photo blanket! This literally took me about 10 minutes per blanket to place the order but the look of surprise and excitement on our mom’s faces Christmas morning was priceless! Head to Collage.com and find the blanket options. I chose the multi-photo option and used my phone to start the order and download the photos (I tend to have more photos on my phone than computer)….a tip to make it really special:: go to the Facebook page of the person you’re giving the blanket to and download some of their favorite photos! Once I had saved the photos and downloaded them to my order, I saved it and then used my laptop to make sure it looked exactly how I wanted. You can even add custom names (i.e. Nana) to make this gift even more special! Delivery took less than 2 weeks and the quality is great. You can’t go wrong with a warm, thoughtful gift like this that someone can literally wrap themselves in! - Kelsy


Tiny Tags as seen on mom and actress,  Tiffani Thiessen

Tiny Tags as seen on mom and actress, Tiffani Thiessen

  • PERSONALIZED NECKLACE for her

A mother’s most precious gift is her child. Gift the women in your life with a custom necklace that will adorn her neck or wrist for years to come. We love the timeless quality of Tiny Tags and their mission to “celebrate our most precious gift and the journey of motherhood”. Whether the person you’re gifting this beautiful piece to has one child or 4 or has a baby in her heart and Heaven, you’ll find the perfect Tiny Tag necklace or bracelet to give! Sign up for their email and receive 10% off your 1st order.


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  • DAY OUT TOGETHER

There’s nothing more special than spending quality time with a loved one, whether it’s a family member or a beloved friend! Plan a fun afternoon out by choosing some of your GIFTEE’s favorite things to do or places to go. The amount of money spent can be none (free admission) or a bigger gift of time like a weekend together. Here are some examples :

A day out with your BFF might look like a a long walk to a local coffeeshop in the morning (no dogs, no kids) where you can enjoy each other’s company and the fresh air! To gift this, include a gift card to the cofffeeshop in your card that says you’d love to spend time with them! This would obviously work well for a lunch date or happy hour, too. Then, it’s your job as the gift-giver to make sure and follow through - pick the date together and put it in your schedules!

A day out with your partner might mean spending a Saturday afternoon together. Wrap up a pair of movie passes, add some boxed candy from the Dollar Store and make it a matinee date! Choose something that is THEIR favorite genre to watch. Not a movie fan? Pick an activity to do that would be their choice (i.e. skiing at the local resort or spending a couple of hours at Cabela’s or ?? - making them the center of attention is what will make this gift of time with you even more meaningful.

A day out with your kids gives you so many options! For winter gift-giving, pick up a new pair of cozy gloves for each of them and inside, tuck a packet of hot chocolate, handwarmers and a sweet note that says it’s good for a snow-day with you. Make it fun and have a mini snowman-making contest. Use mini carrots for noses, m&ms for the eyes and pretzel sticks for the arms! Don’t forget to take photos! You can’t NOT have fun with this kind of gift! In warmer weather, choose something you know they have fun doing like making a big production out of a lemonade stand! To present the gift - wrap up a posterboard, markers, can of lemonade mix and a sleeve of quarters and tell them you’re ready to be their assistant! Another inexpensive but joy-filled day would be to have a picnic at their favorite park with some of their favorite friends. Wrap up some undecorated white lunch bags, markers, bottles of bubbles (yes, boys like bubbles, too so bring ‘em!) and sidewalk chalk. Once the gift is given, let your child choose the friends (mom, coordinate with the other moms) and have them decorate the lunch bag for each one. Pack a lunch or snack for each kid, throw in the bubbles and chalk and head out for a day in the sunshine. Looking for more of a one-on-one time with your kiddo? Take the picnic for just the two of you! Another sweet idea that is sure to be a recipe for fun - buy and wrap a children’s cookbook or print out some kid-friendly recipes and let them choose one to make with you!


  • WOOD PHOTO PANEL in a day!

Print your photos on colorful, glossy wood panels. These are great for displaying on walls or tabletops. Same day pick up is available and you can find these simple but beautiful blocks at Walgreens.


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  • CANDY COLLAGE

This gift is sooo sweet to give, like seriously sweet! LOL I’ve made this for my husband, my son, several friends and even a co-worker with a sweet tooth! Here are the basics: head to the store and pick up one white pasteboard, a pack of crayons or markers and packages of candy that you can use to make a fun saying about the person you’re gifting this to! i.e.. for my husband my kids picked out a MilkyWay, Reese’s Pieces, Extra gum, Sno-caps, a !00 Grand bar and 3 Musketeers (from his 3 kids). Lay the candy out and come up with a sentence or two to wish the person you’re making the candy collage for a special day! More sweet ideas like this can be found on Pinterest.

Just a little bit of thought, effort and time will make even the smallest gift more meaningful! Happy Gifting!

































Time to fill back up that bucket!

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Is your cup feeling 1/2 empty right now, rather than 1/2 full?

Here is why we ask….

January is that strange month where women tend to exhale heavily and think, “Whew - I survived another holiday season!” What it also means is that many of us are depleted, both mentally , physically and even creatively. We’ve spent so much time worrying about the things that need to happen to make the holidays run smoothly (and if you’re counting Thanksgiving thru New Year’s, that’s WEEKS of worry on top of what we already worry about!) that we just keep going like the little engine that could, trying to fill up everyone else’s buckets and meeting all of their expectations.

It’s exhausting - the Elf on the Shelf, the deep-cleaning for houseguests, the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, the obligatory cocktail party, cookie exchange, perfect Turkey dressing and oh my, the Christmas cards! Don’t even go there!

So what happens to us in January? Well, for many people - our cups are empty, our hearts a little heavy (especially when family heads back out of town and kids go back to school) and our self-love is not in the right place because we put ourselves on hold. And we gave. And gave. And gave some more. We may have given so much that we gave away more than we got back. No - we’re not speaking of gifts and material things, we’re talking about mental, physical and spiritual health - these are easy to overlook when you’re busy.

How do I fix this, you wonder? Will you ask for someone to help fill your bucket back up with love, kind words, uplifting messages and encouragement to get you back to that place you need to be to be the BEST you? No - most of us won’t do that, but… we’re here to remind you that YOU CAN DO IT FOR YOURSELF!

How do we do this, how do we get back the confidence, the excitement for the new year, the desire to feel better than the rundown shell we’re feeling as everyone else posts their new fitness routine, shake recipe or 2019 resolutions….IT’S ALL UP TO YOU!

It’s time to SHAKE IT OFF now — no one but you will know exactly what you need to fill that bucket back up but you can easily make a plan to make it happen! If you need a little encouragement or inspiration on ways to love yourself and fill your cup back up right now, we have a FREE self-care bucket list download for you HERE! Share with a friend who might be needing this same type of support - we’re #bettertogether!