Pizza Style Zucchini Roll Ups

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PickedAtPeak #CollectiveBias

Skip the pizza... these delicious zucchini roll ups are topped with all of your favorite pizza toppings, then bake and serve over your favorite pasta, or skip the pasta and go low-carb! If you like zucchini, you'll love this family-friendly meal with Prego Farmer's Market sauce and fresh produce from Walmart. #PickedAtPeak [ad]

I don’t know who started the whole swap-zucchini-for-pasta trend, but I kind of want to hug them. See, in the fall, I love to add squash to my favorite recipes, and making this yummy zucchini roll up is a perfect way to swap out lasagna noodles for squash in one of my favorite family recipes. There’s just something about a hearty meal that the whole family will love (probably because it tastes just like pizza) that’s still a little bit friendlier at working in fresh produce. Making the most of seasonal produce is a pretty important thing– why not use produce that’s at its peak? That’s why when I saw Prego Farmers’ Market® on the shelves at my local Walmart store, I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to make using the fresh produce and that sauce.

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Holly Berry Candy (and How To Have the BEST Cookie Decorating Party– easily!)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareTheHoliday #CollectiveBias

I love sharing Christmas candy with neighbors and friends, and this is one of my all time favorites-- Holly Berry Candy! It's so easy to make, and everyone loves it. Plus, it's just delightfully festive-- it's the perfect Christmas candy recipe to save for yourself and to share with friends, too! #ShareTheHoliday [ad]

I love Christmas candy. I grew up making a few favorites with my mom, and have so many fond memories of sitting on the counter each December making a variety of cookies and candies to share with neighbors, family, and everyone we love. It’s a tradition I love carrying on with my son even now. But the shining example of a perfect Christmas candy that’s so easy to make and delicious to enjoy and share is Holly Berry Candy.

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Barbecue Chicken Skewers with Creamy Ranch Dip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BackYourSnack #CollectiveBias

This snack hack is perfect for party entertaining or for upgrading your afterschool snack for your teen. These easy barbecue chicken skewers with a creamy ranch dip take only minutes to make and have so much flavor-- your teens will love it! It's the perfect back-to-school snack. Plus, the creamy ranch is so versatile that you can use it for tons of different treats! #BackYourSnack #Ad

I cannot believe Jeffrey is starting high school this year. While he’s still homeschooled, many of his friends, and our exchange student, are in public school, which means when school lets out around 3:00, our house becomes the social hub as all of his friends come over. It means we need snacks, LOTS of snacks, to satisfy the insatiable study group we have around our house these days. Luckily, I’ve come up with a foolproof snack that everyone loves. And, if you’ve got a Snack Hack using FarmRich and Walmart Fresh items, you could actually win $10,000, so keep reading and share YOUR back-to-school Snack Hack. Mine snack hack? Delicious barbecue chicken skewers with creamy ranch dip. With only 4 ingredients plus some herbs and spices you probably have on hand, it’s the perfect recipe for snack time.

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5 Back-to-School Must-Haves Your Exchange Student NEEDS!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #JustACallAway #CollectiveBias

Exchange students have unique back-to-school needs that you might not think of. Here are 5 things exchange students must have before they go to school. #JustACallAway #Ad

I didn’t realize how prevalent hosting exchange students was until my family started hosting about a decade ago. Through the years, I’ve met a lot of host families, and I’ve gathered some tips of the must-haves that exchange students need to go back to school. In some ways, it’s just like back-to-school shopping for your own kids, but in some ways, it’s just a little bit different, and I’m so excited to share the 5 things your exchange student really needs before they go to school in America.

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How to Get Your Car (And Family!) Road Trip Ready!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#FueltheLove #CollectiveBias

Are you road trip ready? It's more than just packing a few snacks-- it's total car re-organization! Don't miss these must-have checklist items to be sure your car AND your family have everything they need for a safe and fun road trip, whether you're traveling 3 hours or 18 hours!    | travel | traveling with kids | #FuelTheLove | #Ad

Every year, we take several summer trips– some are close (an hour to the Kansas City), and some are far (18 hours to our favorite island destination). All of these require a little bit of planning to make sure our car, and the kids, will get there without breaking down or totally losing it on each other. After a few summers, I think we’ve got this down to an art, so I wanted to share my best road trip tips with you so you will be totally ready for your summer vacation!

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Why Moms are Basically Superheroes

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #V8EnergyBoost #CollectiveBias

Come on, moms, we do it all-- quick changes after baby spit up, mind control through redirection techniques, and the power of sonic hearing! Moms are essentially superheroes, with a whole list of incredible superpowers! What's your super power? #V8EnergyBoost #Ad

My son has gotten really into superheroes lately. Every time I ask what he wants to watch before bed, it’s always, always superheroes. And the other night when I was watching, I realized with all of the quick changes, invisibility, and super speed, Super Powers really aren’t that far removed from what being a mom is like. Moms, we’re basically superheroes, and I’m pretty sure our families don’t know our secret identity, but if you aren’t convinced, here are a few ways that moms are pretty much superheroes…

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Managing Car Care (When Your Toddler Won’t Cooperate) with Pennzoil

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DropShopandOil #CollectiveBias

You want your car to be safe when you have kids, but when do you have time for the maintenance like oil changes? It's surprisingly easy, you just have to #DropShopandOil. #ad

Having a toddler is not at all what I expected. While I do truly savor every minute of it, I also cannot figure out how to squeeze in things like breakfast, or shaving my legs, or, y’know, oil changes, on a regular basis. At the same time, as a mom, I’m not satisfied with my car maintenance not being taken care of when it should– an unsafe car is NOT an option when you have a child riding along. Short of hiring a sitter so I could get an oil change, I was really clueless about what to do…

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A&W Root Beer Float Cookie Bars

I was walking through Walmart not too long ago and saw a product that made me stop dead in my tracks. As a member of a Root Beer loving family, I knew I had to make something awesome with the mix I saw on the shelf. Betty Crocker actually released a Walmart-Exclusive Root Beer Float cookie mix. The first thing I thought? “This is either going to be absolutely amazing, or really off the mark…” I mean, you can’t make a root beer cookie… can you? Well, Betty Crocker succeeded, and I decided to tweak their cookie to make the perfect party treat. The best part? It’s really simple.

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9 CopyCat Lunchable Recipes to Help You Save, Plus the Good, Better, and Best of Convenient Kid’s Lunch Ideas!

Growing up, Lunchables meant one thing: Field Trips. All of the cool kids got Lunchables, myself included– I had a cool mom. Being a stay at home mom with a stay at home kid now, I have a LOT of lunches to plan, and between blogging full time, spending time playing with the kiddo, and trying to keep it all organized, of course I turned to Lunchables to try to save a few minutes of time. After all, they’re convenient and they come in these handy little packages with little clean-up and are quick to grab from the fridge.

But then I started realizing how much I was spending buying Lunchables, and further, I started realizing that they weren’t that great and balanced, either. So, I started deciding to set aside a little extra time each week to pre-plan my son and I’s meals and snacks, Lunchables style, with all of the convenience and fun, but less of the price tag. And the best part? I could work hard to make them a little more balanced, too.

Today, I’m sharing 9 great Lunchables swaps that will save money, as well as some ideas on how to improve your Lunchable swaps to make them a healthier, more balanced choice for your kiddos! For the original swap, I kept it as close to the original Lunchable as possible and listed the brand I used so you can see how those savings add up!

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The Educational Importance of Planting with Kids

Kids learn so many things without realizing it. Or really, without us realizing it. Every word spoken, every activity done together, every book read, it all adds up to experiences, educational opportunities, and memories for a child. But when you take time to be intentional about what you’re teaching and really focus on the educational benefits, you’ll be amazed at how much the “little stuff” is really BIG stuff when it comes to teaching children, regardless of their age.

Growing plants together is a big educational opportunity that is very carefully disguised as fun. I can guarantee that if you’re planting with your child, they’ll have no clue that they’re learning, but they’ll be gaining valuable skills, whether they’re 3 or 13 or somewhere in between. And the best part is that now, anyone can grow things. Even if you don’t have a big garden, there are many kits and container gardening options that allow you to grow your own plants, indoors or out, and they’re generally available at a pretty affordable price. We picked up this grow kit for our big kid, featuring sweet basil and parsley, from Buzzy Seeds.

But you can think even smaller with these mini greenhouses that are perfect vegetable starters, available from the Miracle Grow kids product line. Both options are perfect for getting kids (and teens!) involved in the gardening process.

One of the big benefits that is present in gardening, especially with kits, is the thought of following directions. An older student can read the directions themselves and test their reading comprehension as they measure the right amount of water in the right temperature and do the steps in the proper order. A younger child can test their listening skills by listening to when to pour the dirt, when to pour water, when to stir, and how to plant seeds.

Fine motor skills are really worked to their limit when it comes to smaller children and planting. From accurately pouring from one container to another, to pressing the seeds in gently, there’s a lot of fine motor work going on during the gardening process. It is a great opportunity to get those fingers flexing and allow those smaller muscles to get a workout.

Observation plays a huge role throughout the gardening process. When you consider soil factors (young kids can watch the soil pellets in a kit expand, older kids can consider the aspects of the soil that make it viable for plants, and how it undergoes the change from pellet to soil), how light and weather impact plant growth, and the finished plant product as it sprouts, grows, and possibly gets transplanted, there is a lot to be observed. Even during the planting process, it’s a great time to whip out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at the things going on, from the seeds to the soil, and see how all of these parts play a vital role in the plant’s life.

Volume is a lesson that young kids learn but don’t realize they are learning. Anytime a small child pours water from one container to another, scoops rice from a bowl to a cup, or fills a cup with the contents of another cup until it overflows, kids are learning about volume and how it works. This is no different. In the same way that kids should have plenty of time to explore and experience the kitchen, it’s also good to give kids a chance to focus on gardening and how liquid plays a part in the gardening process. If nothing else, the small children are getting the hang of pouring.

Planting is also great for math and logic skills. A younger child can count seeds and consider where to place them. An older student can use spatial reasoning– how far apart is an inch? Can I imagine where to place the next one without getting a ruler, or use knowledge I already have on what an inch looks like to figure out where to place my next seed? How can I use those determinations and measurements to determine how deep to plant my seed?

Planting is an amazing sensory experience for younger children and older students alike. Sometimes, it’s important just to take a step back and really dig into the soil and dirt, feel the texture of it, enjoy the scent of it, and really get your hands dirty. Sensory experiences like that can’t be measured, but they’re infinitely important to a child’s growth and development. By introducing kids to different textures, you’re allowing them to better understand the world around them.

Plus, planting is about long-term responsibility as well as long-term results. By making sure to water and tend to the plants, you’ll reap great rewards of food, flowers, or other plant life in the process. When you make sure you’re watering the plant and caring for it regularly, giving it the long-term maintenance it needs, it’s a great way to learn about how living things take care, whether you’re applying it to how a pet also needs constant care and attention, or helping a child understand that they, as a living thing, need their own care and attention, such as inspiring grooming habits. It’s a really great way to explain that living things need that extra loving care. The best part is the benefit you’ll reap from long-term plant care. When growing food especially, it’s a great opportunity to then include it in a meal. For example, sweet basil is a great ingredient for a pizza or pasta! The hard effort that goes into growing the ingredients instills a sense of pride, and that pride makes the food taste even better.

Finally, planting is a great way to start other discussions. Whether you’re taking it as a good start to jump into books about planting, using it as inspiration to start a compost bin or other green activities, or even launching into a discussion about God’s creation, you’re able to use planting and gardening as a great starting point to many different conversations to come, which makes it an activity you just can’t pass up.

Whether you’re using a grow kit like we did, or you’re getting dirty outside, you’re going to find that planting together is a fantastic way to spend time together, a great way to relax, and just a fun experience all-around that will stick with kids in lifelong ways.

Happy spring… now get planting!

 

Do you tend a garden at home? And do your kids ever join you in the planting? Let me know in the comments below!