Back to School: Been Here Before but It’s All New

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

Well, it has been a while since I’ve found any time to think let alone write. I spent the summer having fun with the kids, and for some reason (probably their ages) I found that it took up almost all my time. That’s not a complaint, just how it turned out.

Now school has begun. My daughter is in third grade, which means transition from earning satisfactories to earning real grades. That makes me nervous. As a parent I believe it is my responsibility to support what she learns in school, and to encourage her to follow rules, follow directions, and strive to meet expectations. I’d like it if she would exceed expectations, but I want her to have fun and stay interested too. Delicate balance, that.

She’s been in school now for nearly a month. She started homework on the second day of school, and the battles have been consistent with what they were last year; however, the stakes are higher. It’s her homework, but I feel the pressure. I’m the one who has to ask if she has homework, knowing every day that she does. I’m the one who has to direct her to sit down to work on it. I’m the one who has to check over it and call her to task if she makes a mistake. Basically I’m the mean mommy overlord.

Then there’s my son who is beginning preschool. He doesn’t start until after Labor Day, but there’s a mountain of paperwork to fill out, a home visit to set up, a staggered entry day for him to attend, then his special services to schedule to address his autism. That doesn’t embarrass me or scare me for my son, but it does mean a lot more to keep up with making me his advocate.

My daughter has already noticed the different level of involvement I put in. She doesn’t fully understand the why, and points out the lack of fairness. I struggle to help her understand her new level of responsibility as a third grader and older sister, and to understand the differing needs of her brother as he’s entering preschool.

My mommy guilt level feels a bit high right now, no matter how much I try to stay focused on what needs doing for each of my children and loving them. I’ve already caught myself a few times stressing out, and baking more cookies than is wise. My husband has been doing his part, but even he looks at me with that pre-stress meltdown expression that has me scrambling to make sure things don’t crash around our ears.

Fortunately, things really are well in hand thanks to my organizational skills. It just feels like a lot to deal with. This is that time when things are changing, shifting, and we are trying to find our new normal. I know this. It happens every year, really. Back to school means back to routine and order, but first we must reestablish the routine and order.

And for me, this year’s routine and order is going to involve more.

Here’s hoping the adjustment goes well for us all.


Back to School – Detangling Solutions that Work

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

This year, Anika has to leave for school an hour earlier than she did in primary school…and her hair is three times as long as it was when she started school last year. I need a quick and easy solution to help her get her hair brushed every day – without tangle tears.

Do you have detangling solutions that work for you? Let us know!

New School, New Chart and New Attitude

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

When we had first looked into schools for my daughter before her beginning kindergarten my husband and I had many concerns and differing opinions.  He had been an Army brat and, for reasons that he could never really explain clearly, he believed that the schools he had attended on the various bases his family had been would be his first choice for our daughter.  However, since neither of us was enlisted–him having served his eight years prior to our having kids–private school seemed his second ideal choice for our daughter.  That too was not a viable option for us, and neither was homeschooling, so we went to the local magnet school fair.

The options seemed wonderful, with everything from a school focusing on science and technology and Spanish immersion, to Montessori, as well as other schools offering some exciting specializations.  We picked our top three choices with our daughter being allowed to pick the order she liked them in and filled out an application for the lottery.  As with any lottery we have ever played, we did not win, leaving us with the local public school.

Neither of us were really fans of the public school system in general, but as I had survived my entire public school education from K-12 and managed to get into college and graduate with a bachelors, I knew it wasn’t going to be the worst thing for our daughter.  Her public school was highly structured.  At first I didn’t think much about it one way or the other.  Our daughter was making friends and she seemed to be doing well with all the target goals.  Talking to my parent-friends at other schools they seemed very impressed with her curriculum.  Even in kindergarten she had reading homework and spelling words to learn, with a spelling bee!

However, towards the end of the year our daughter had a mixed feelings about the prospect of first grade.  We applied to the magnet school lottery again, but as before we were left with allowing her to continue on with her public school education.  Behavior issues began to crop up.  Her desire to socialize with peers was at times interfering with class activities, and she began to struggle with the structure of things.  The reports were never horrible, but I got the distinct impression that we needed to do more at home.  That’s when I started instituting the behavior/chore chart that was similar to the one they used in her class.  It helped, but I could see the strain it put on her and us to be consistent.

Once again we applied to the magnet school lottery and lo and behold we won!  So now she is in her second week of second grade at a Montessori school.  I know it’s still too early to really tell anything, but we’re all excited.  She liked her teacher so much that after her first two days she came home and began writing a story she wanted to share in class.  Chapter one has three pages.  She only ever wanted to draw pictures for her other teachers, and would refuse to write a message on the picture when encouraged.  She is going to have homework, but we haven’t seen any yet, so I’m hoping it will not garner the tantrums of the previous years–I realize that hope may be in vain, but I’m hoping anyway.

In honor of her new school with its differing teaching philosophy I’ve developed a new kind of chore chart at home.  Instead of the grid with columns for each day of the week and rows of chores to be done I’m getting more creative.  She still needs to be fulfilling her responsibilities and participating in the daily maintenance of living, but I’m trying to be more flexible.  I found this Complete the Picture book with 12 different designs and I’m using it to make the charts.  This week’s chart–I use that term loosely– is a gold fish jumping out of its fishbowl.  Inside the fishbowl I listed all the various chores from daily teeth brushing to the as needed toy pick up.  Every time she completes something she puts a sticker in the bowl.  The number of stickers at the end of the week will determine our family activity on Saturday, which could be a trip to the zoo, museum, park, or something around the house.

We are going forward with a new attitude, or at least a more hopeful one.  My daughter is hoping to have more fun and learn lots of cool things.  My husband is hopeful that with our daughter enrolled at the Montessori school that enrolling our son will be easier when his time comes.  I’m hopeful for all of the above.

Your Kids Will Love Going on This Reading Adventure!

“They Mystery of the Silver Statue”, written by Raymond C. Perkins Jr., is an inspirational story of two best friends. B.T. Stevens and Jimmy Martin are young sleuths whose unique differences bond them together. As the story unfolds we not only discover a piece of Vermont history, but we realize that everyone has different strengths that lie inside us.

B.T. is no ordinary child. At the age of five he underwent radiation to remove a cancerous brain tumor, and the procedure had lasting effects on his appearance and his self esteem. While he has many doubts about his abilities, there is no denying his analytic brain that lends itself to expertly figuring out brain teasers and most importantly mysteries. Jimmy is tall for his age and is known for his athletic success, and when it comes to solving mysteries he is the brawn of the operation.

Together B.T. and Jimmy run a neighborhood security business called J&B Securities, which is exactly how they got into the mess of a dangerous mystery. It was easy for them to spot unusual happenings within their neighborhood, and together they knew the surrounding land better than any criminal could. The peril and suspense that exist in this story make this an exciting read.

The author brilliantly addresses the bravery that B.T. draws upon not only to face the dangers of criminals, but the courage it takes to face the doubts within oneself. This story is based on Vermont history and real-life issues that individuals face every day, making it an indispensable read for students. In his story, Perkins cleverly demonstrates that strength lies in differences. It is clear that B.T. and Jimmy are both strong in their own ways, but they are even more successful when they join forces. This enchanting story is a must read for children discovering their own strengths and self worth.

The author  provided me with a copy of this book so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.

Get Organized and Stay that way with a Student File System

Middle school and high school are busy times for students. Between classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and duties at home, staying organized is a daunting task. No student wants to accidentally neglect an assignment, and as a high school student, missing an important college application deadline can be stressful. Luckily, Eileen Roth, national speaker and author of Organizing for Dummies, has discovered a method of organization that is essential to students: The Take Action File and Student File System.

Eileen Roth knows that as humans, we forget even the most important of information. That is why she invented the Take Action File as a tickler system. A tickler system is made to trigger your memory and remind you that you have something to do. To aid students, the filing system includes labels for file folders and labels for tabs to attain maximum organization. The guide walks students through the best way to store information to ensure that papers are easily accessible when they are needed at a later date, as well as a list of the proper filing tools needed for success.

The Take Action File should be utilized as soon as possible after a student has received an important document. Roth also suggests that the same organization and storing methods should be used with email accounts as well. Within this filling system, information can be further broken down into whatever suits your needs best such as a To Do list, or a section for bills that need paid. Categories such as “To Call,” “To Discuss,” and “To Write” are only a few of the many subsections that are wise to implement.

After the Take Action File has been properly set up, it is time for a student to create the much more specific Student File System. Roth expertly points out that by color-coding files such as courses it becomes easier to organize. The information within the Student File System should include everything from school information, to personal information, to financial information. This system of organization will be extremely useful for when information is needed, and it can be retrieved at a moment’s notice.

Through Eileen Roth’s Take Action File and Student File System students can ensure that they are ready for school. Through this innovative guide Roth makes organizing information easy to understand and easy to do. This back-to-school essential can ensure that your middle or high school student is completely prepared, no matter how busy their schedule may get.

Eileen Roth  provided me with her Take Action File & Student File System so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.

Jo Franz Helps People SOAR Through Life

“SOAR Through Anything Life May Bring” is an incredibly inspirational guide to life written by Jo Franz. Jo Franz is an award winning author and speaker who has been living with multiple sclerosis since 1977. Rather than let her health stop her, she uses her experiences to motivate others. Her book consists of 50 tips that will empower students and help them SOAR through all aspects of life.

“S.O.A.R.” is an acronym that is the basis of Franz’s teachings. Throughout this entire book these four main points are addressed and incorporated into living life to its fullest. She discusses denial, forgiveness, self worth, dreams, and so much more. Franz takes the reader on a journey to discover the strengths and weaknesses and motivates self improvement.

Often we give up on a dream before we have even tried due to the fear of failure. We let past experiences hold us back and let the world tell us that we can’t. Franz proficiently transforms this attitude into one in which the reader believes that they can accomplish anything. The author stresses the importance of knowing your limitations, while at the same time not limiting yourself due to what you see in others or the media. No one is perfect; everyone experiences fear at some point in time. Franz believes that life is full of unexpected setbacks and helps students learn to take what life throws in stride. Because life can change in an instant, Franz believes it is important to focus on the current moment.

Many high school and college students find Franz’s work incredibly helpful, using S.O.A.R. to  make better decisions about life choices concerning their future. Her proven strategies are simple, yet powerful, and can change the way the reader looks at life – regardless of age or situation.

Jo Franz inspires every life she touches. Every day is an adventure, and with these life tools, any student can learn to overcome the obstacles in their way as they pursue a successful and happy life.

Jo Franz  provided me with a copy of her book, SOAR,  so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.

Back to School and Back to Health with Vitamin Friends

Vitamin Friends are a fun, delicious, and nutritious way to not only implement healthy daily habits into your children, as well as teach them the benefits of a healthy life style. Vitamin Friends have friendly characters for each type of vitamin that display an encouraging image that makes children want to make these supplements a part of their daily diet.

Other vitamins, while they might be fruity and colorful, often have unnatural ingredients and preservatives that take away from the nutritional experience. Vitamin Friends leave behind all those unnatural manufactured goods and create a product that is natural and yummy for your children. These vitamins are gluten free, nut free, and trans fat free with no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, and no artificial colors or flavors.

Vitamin Friends are flavorful without all the unnecessary additives, and some are even sugar-free. Others are made with real chocolate and come in pleasing bear shapes that will make your youngster willing to take them without any struggle. These 100% all natural vitamins are easy to incorporate into your child’s day.

There are different vitamins that fit the specific needs of your child. Some vitamins enhance what the body already produces, and others provide essential nutrients that the body needs but can only be obtained through diet. CalciYo is a vitamin that provides both calcium and Vitamin D, crucial to the development of strong teeth and bones. IronBear is a tasty way to achieve more iron in the system and avoid iron deficiencies that can strike during growth spurts. Yomega is unique in that it provides children with the Omega nutrients that they typically will not find in their diet; many children are not a fan of fish.

Other Vitamin Friends focus on the broader needs of children. Multivitamins, such as YoMulti and GuMulti, each come with different essentials that are designed to provide help to your child’s system where it is needed the most. DiYo is a Vitamin D supplement. Multivitamins are proven to enhance concentration and focus as well as help your child’s immune system and Vitamin Friends are there to provide your children with the best health possible. Vitamin Friends cater to every family and child by providing sugar-free and vegetarian options.

Vitamin Friends are great way to make sure your kids are getting the nutrients they need!

Vitamin Friends  provided me with vitamin samples so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.

Engage Young Children in Health, Environment, and Culture

Melvia F. Miller has written two educational workbooks that are not only full of enlightening information but they are fun for younger children as well. “Alphabet Soup For Health” and “Do and Learn Eco-Fun-Book” are two great ways in which children can learn and become aware of the environment that they live in. Through games, activities, and exercises children can become healthy, knowledgeable, and eco-friendly.

“Alphabet Soup For Health” enlists letters of the alphabet to teach children about appreciating nature and about living a healthy life style, including eating foods that are good for you, exercising regularly, and getting regular physical health checkups. The main causes of sickness are listed to deter unhealthy behavior, and ways to prevent such unfortunate occurrences are provided. This workbook also discusses the plant cycle and our important our ecosystem is to our own survival. It urges children to realize that what we do to our planet we also do to ourselves.

The “Do and Learn Eco-Fun-Book” is also a great supplement to a child’s education. Similar to “Alphabet Soup For Health” this Eco-Fun-Book discusses the importance of being healthy and respecting our planet. What makes this workbook unique is the section educating children on different cultures throughout the world as well as a section focused on Black History Month. It teaches respect for other cultures and provides activities dedicated to help children understand that differences are what make our world a wonderful place.

Children do more than just read this information; they are encouraged to actively engage in the workbook. Both books have activities such as connect-the-dots, fill-in-the-blanks, and coloring pages. Children using these workbooks also have the opportunity to draw their own pictures and create their own stories based on what they learn. These workbooks are full of exciting activities that every child will enjoy.

Not only Miller’s workbooks encourage caring for the planet, but she also teaches children that our actions have consequences and we are all connected. These must-have workbooks are excellent for grade school children.

Marina Miller  provided me with the two activity books so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.

Add Some Zing to Your Back to School Ring from SkinIt.Com

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

I used to think that kids with cell phones were a bad idea, until I realized how nice it was for my 11-year old son to have the freedom to ride his bike a little further than one block without me going crazy worrying about him (while his seizure disorder is cause for concern, it’s my active imagination that is the real issue). So, the cell phone is here to stay, and while I probably won’t be sending it to school with Parker when he starts 7th grade in the fall, it’s something that is now on the radar for the future.

So the kids have a cell phone now, and just last year, I finally entered the world of 3G. I love my BlackBerry, since it gave me 3G fun without having to jump right in and deal with touch screen technology. I even found a phone (the Curve) that was almost purple (my favorite color). Cell phones aren’t going anywhere, and digital technology is going to become the way we do just about everything. While functionality of the phone is crucial, I sure like it when I can also make it suit my personality?

Cell phones can have customized ring tones and wallpaper. Now, there’s a marvelous way to express individuality with your digital products with skins. Skins are customizable peel & stick covers for your phone and other digital devices. is a company that specializes in providing unique, personality-driven designs for personalizing cell phones and laptops. They offer a satisfaction guarantee and at the time of this posting, free shipping on orders over $40.

At, you can sort through a variety of designs, colors, and special themes and choose skins for your phones, mp3 players, laptops, handheld video games, and e-book readers. The skins are high quality, simple to apply, and affordable (even for someone like me, who is on the relatively non-functional side of digital technology).

One of the things I love most about my skin is that it gives my phone a little extra grip – and since I have an annoying habit of dropping my phone at the most inopportune times (even with insurance, Verizon does not replace cell phones dropped in bath tubs or toilets, I know).

Digital technology is here for the duration, so we might as well make it personal and fun – and does a great job from start to finish.  provided me with a skin for my BlackBerry so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.

Virtual Nerd Makes a Difference In Student Success

Virtual Nerd is a highly interactive and educational website dedicated to helping students succeed. With the latest technology Virtual Nerd provides real math and science help that can be accessed in your own home. It is similar to a private tutor, but much more affordable and adaptive. Thousands of online tutorials are at your student’s fingertips.

Virtual Nerd provides math and science help relatable to various different courses such as algebra, calculus, physics, chemistry, and SAT and ACT math. These tools are indispensable for not just success in high school, but the groundwork for success in college as well. Virtual Nerd is a great supplement to classes. Through this website they can reinforce everything they have learned to achieve the greatest amount of understanding as possible. Virtual Nerd does not supply the answers; it strengthens concepts and enables the student to apply what they have learned.

This educational tool is affordable to everyone and can meet individual needs. There are subscriptions that last from one day to three months; the longer you subscribe for the more you save. Your school might also have a discount code available to earn even greater savings. Virtual Nerd is much less expensive than the average private tutor and the knowledge that exists in the databases greatly exceeds that of one person. Another great thing about Virtual Nerd is that it is accessible 24/7. Your student can access help whenever they need it.

Virtual Nerd is incredibly easy to use and does not need any advanced computer software or technology. As long as you can effectively load videos such as those on YouTube there is no reason that Virtual Nerd should not work just as well.

As this incredibly helpful tool develops Virtual Nerd will expand the already large amount of resources available. Soon students will be able to take practice quizzes and exams, and track their progress so they can easily identify where they need help the most. Parents can rest assured that their child will be receiving all the help they need exactly when a problem arises.

Virtual Nerd is a back-to-school necessity. Parents will no longer need to worry about the success of the children in school, and students will never have to fret over a subject that they did not quite grasp in class. Virtual Nerd is an easy to use tool that every student can benefit from.

Virtual Nerd  provided me access to their online tutoring so that I could provide my honest review. No monetary compensation was provided.