#FanDayFriday: Mom Advice for the school year

Time for another #fandayfriday post!  We are on week 5 this week!  If you haven’t seen my posts before, this is a series where I’m collaborating with some other bloggers to share a few of my favorite things on Fridays. Each week I’ll tell you some favorites of mine and then share a link to another blogger who will share a favorite of theirs.

If you missed the other entries you can read them: SafetyDog Products You’ll LoveBack To School and Crafting Week, and Saving Money.

I know that I’ve been following a pattern with my #FanDayFriday posts so far but I have to get off topic today due to a fender bender car accident I had this morning.

The school parking lot is the new Thunderdome. Let me paint a picture of the ordeal that I am working with!

FullSizeRenderSee that opening at the top of the picture?  That one opening is the only opening for the staff and visitor parking lot and the school drop off and pick up line.

The actual school is in the bottom right hand side of the picture.

The parking spots on the most left row is visitor parking.  Handicap Parking is in the top right hand corner of the lot.

In theory you enter from the entrance, go to the left down passed the visitor spots all the way to the sidewalk, curve around and head towards the school then back out on the outside of the parking lot.  You’re supposed to pull into 1 of drop off spots before letting your kids out…think of a roller coaster coming to a stop, everyone gets in and it moves on…then the next set of cars come and everyone gets in!

My #FanDayFriday was posted this morning by one of the aids at school when the discussion of parking lot issues came up…

It’s a bit hard to read so I’m going to type it out, but I take no credit for the stuff written here.

parking lot suggestions10 easy ways to know you don’t belong in the school pick up or drop off line!

  1. You have to get out of the car.  If you need to park and open your door for any reason, go park.
  2. Your snowflake needs help with… seat belt, jacket, backpack, shoes, or your goodbye ritual includes multiple hugs, kisses, tears and a secret handshake? Go park.
  3. Your tiny prince must get out directly in front of the school doors. If you don’t pull up as far as you can , and totally disrupt the entire flow making the line run 100 times slower because princess cannot bear to walk 10 extra steps to the entrance.  Go. Park.
  4. My four kids can unload and load faster than your one. You aren’t doing it right!
  5. You have to sit in your car and watch until your little darling gets all the way in the doors. Seriously.  There are teachers and staff there for a reason.  If they can’t be trusted to make sure your child make it the 10 or 20 feet to the school safely, how will they survive recess?
  6. School projects in the trunk? Nope.  Go Park.
  7. Need to visit with the teacher helping with drop offs? Shoot the breeze with the other PTA Moms?  PAAAAARRRRKKKK!
  8. Do you impede the flow of the line? More than briefly?  More than once a week?
  9. Need to put your car in park? Read that sentence again, and then again, and if necessary, and then go park.
  10. You find yourself super angry and offended by this list? Ask a teacher for some directions to the parking lot!

My own personal advice?

Avoid the parking lot unless you need to be there!

Going to the office or escorting your kid to class?

Park far away from traffic and walk!


Remember when I said that I was going to share a link to another blogger?  Go Appreciate Life’s Everyday Moments  and check out  Amanda & Brian’s Lifestyle Blog at


Tell them that iamzoewatson.com sent ya!


In The Classroom – Week 2

It’s that time again and it turns out I’m a little late in getting this online due to a long weekend of activity that actually included more volunteer work in another school district helping a relative who is a lunch lady prepare the meal cards for a school of about seven hundred kids!  Cutting, pasting and laminating were only a few of the tasks we had to handle!

I’m an expert project organizer.

This week the kindergarten kids worked on Pete The Cat projects during their Art Center time. Last week for week one it was coloring.

Pete the Cat is the star of the bestselling Pete the Cat book series by James Dean.  This series also includes songs, animated videos and downloadable Pete the Cat activities.

So when I came in there were a pile of art supplies set out on the art table and I knew from last year that I had to cut out a lot of them so I immediately tried to decide if I should cut them all or not.

A question to Ms. C and I was off cutting out the more intricate “arm” pieces and soon was joined by another volunteer who I’d worked with over the summer.  We didn’t rush it, but had enough time to cut out the harder pieces while the kids watched a Pete The Cat video.

The whole project was to cut out a blue head and a yellow body to go with the “arms” I worked on.  They all were going to go on a background sheet that they could decorate further with foam shapes that were available to glue on.

I introduced the kids to the glue sponges which they were intrigued by!

Clearly this was not only a scissors skill challenge but also following directions.  I’m a big copier in my own life, so I brought the example over to the kids and had them look at the original making sure that they knew what we were going for before stressing that once the head, body and “arms” were on that they could decorate them the way they wanted to. I talked to them about how great art is and that you can make something the same or different, but it’s all still beautiful artwork.

I was surprised at how many kids wanted to copy it exactly!

When we were done with the project they went up into a drying rack and if the kids cleaned up their area I told them to go get a penny for their work keeping the classroom clean.  There were a few that were lacking, but for the most part the penny motivation project really is working well even just two weeks into school!

Where’d he go?  Where’d who go??

The heading is a line from my favorite all time movie Top Gun, talking about a dog fight in some fighter jets, but at one point in the morning we temporarily lost track of one of the kids.  This cute quiet little guy came to my table at least two other times than he was supposed to.  I guess he wanted to just do art all day.

On the third time he jumped into a line with another set of kids and all three of us volunteers, teahcer, and the aid didn’t see him!  In my defense he was standing in front of me, but he’s about 3 feet tall and I’m almost 6 feet tall so my eyes scanned the group of kids in front of me and I missed him standing there!

I guess that I shouldn’t admit that we “lost him” for a moment, but a quiet kid in a class of 30 who looks to be doing what he’s supposed to be doing really doesn’t draw that much attention.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Random thought of the moment in regards to the kids that need that extra looking after in the classroom.  I’m sure I’ll piss someone off by asking this question, but please know I only ask it so that a discussion can take place, not to offend anyone…

When kids who need a little more looking after than other kids are mainstreamed, are we catering more to the minority than the majority?

What I mean to say…if a child who clearly warrants more attention than the average student is taking up a teacher’s time due to an IEP or any other different learning plan, who is standing up for the average student?

I’m sure I’m butchering the way I’m phrasing it, but at a certain point when we cater to the needs of the few we take away from the needs of the many.  I always thought that a teacher’s goal was to teach to as many students as they can reach while trying their hardest to catch the kids on the fringe (whether higher or lower level) than the masses.  It seems like lately all I hear about is teachers having to work on too many individualized programs for the kids in their classes instead of helping those kids in need learn how to learn from the general education plan set forth to the masses.

Make sense?

Part of me wants to known are we forgetting that a child must learn how to learn or adapt their way of learning to “catch what they can” from the lesson being presented in class?

If we individualize things too much are we setting them up for failure outside of the classroom?

Maybe I need to do more research, but I mean how many people do you know who have IEPs in the workplace?  As far as I know other than the American’s With Disability Act, there isn’t any other system that forces the every day company to adapt to the learning needs of the few.  More, its a matter of a person who has to adapt to the way that their company is run unless it clearly is physically impossible for them to do so.

Back to the classroom… How is a teacher expected to teach to the individual needs of 30 students?  It’s literally impossible, which goes back to my thought from before about catching as many kids as you can when you’re presenting to the class:  Are we spending too much time protecting the few and missing out now on the average kids in class?

Looking Forward to Next week

I can’t wait to be in the classroom this next week.  I get to go to a first grade classroom on Tuesday and work with the Kindergartners again on Thursday for weeks 3 and 4!  Seeing some old faces from last year and working with a new teacher should be exciting!

Building A Blog in 5 Easy Steps

question-423604_6401) What are you going to blog about?

Seems simply right, but you kind of have to know what you’re going to blog about before you start. I’m a mommy blogger so most of my blog entries are mommy or kid related or even just family related, but they all are related. It doesn’t matter what you pick, but find a broad enough niche where you can write for a long time without running out of subject matter.

2) Find a blog name.

shield-492988_640This one is important and you’ll probably have to do a little research. There is nothing worse than finding a great name in your head only to find that the name has already been taken. When in doubt, type it into google with quotation marks like this: “name”.

The search will come back with any spots on the internet that have your blog name. If it comes up or if something similar comes up I’d definitely change the name.

I’d check godaddy.com to see if the name you want is available.

Personally I named my website after my pseudo name (middle name and dog’s name). I probably could have picked a better, more descriptive name, but at least iamzoewatson.com wasn’t taken and it leaves me to be able to switch blog topics later if I decide I want to change directions in the future.

3) Set up an email address for all your blog “business”.

If you’re starting a blog i recommend getting the blog it’s own email address. People might think this isn’t necessary, but really it’s important to separate your personal email from your” business email. That way you can post up your blog email all over the place without the chance of spam getting sent to your personal email address. One of the best places to do this is google. There are a whole bunch of features that you use with your google account that might come in handy later as your blog grows.

I recommend at first making it the title of your blog @ gmail.com

4) Sign up for a blog host

While there are a lot of free ways to sign up with a blog host, I recommend spending the extra money to get a .com name for your site and signing up for a real blog host.  I think with a $35.00 investment I have a blog host and a .com name for the first year.  (Don’t worry.  We will work on finding ways to pay yourself back for this investment later this week.)

Bluehost.com is a great host.   While you might not recognize their name, the company powers 2 million websites! The bonus is that they made the process of starting my blog so easy that I don’t know why anyone would go anywhere else.

5) Download WordPress to use as your blogging platform.

Pound for pound, WordPress.org is the best blogging platform I’ve ever used.

The one major difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is who’s actually hosting your website. With WordPress.org, YOU host your own blog or website. WordPress.org is where you’ll find the free WordPress software that you can download and install on your own web server.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org | WordPress 101 Tutorials :: iThemes

There are a ton of widgets (think of these like apps you use inside the wordpress platform) and other programs that help you make your blog look professional and well organized and it’s so popular that if you have questions about what to do, you’ll easily find another person online who can help!
I hope this list of Building A Blog in 5 Easy Steps has helped you start you on your blogging journey.  Please feel free to comment with any questions you might have and stay tuned for more posts this week about blogging.

A look back on 153 days of writing

Hello Again

It’s been a while since I’ve done an update.  I last updated around day 90, but we are already almost at 160…so where have I been?  BUSY!!!

New Post Series:

I’m still writing, adding new features and spreading the word about it all, but with the beginning of school for my kids last week I’ve really been in the middle of adjusting to it all.  Once we get back into a regular schedule I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it all, but for now it’s pretty hectic with Karate and two different schools and housework and an extra house guest living with us!

I need to post more on social media and get my pages listed on all the sites that I did when I first started, but as long as the material is there I can eventually catch up to it all, right?

Keep hanging in there with me.  I promise there are some good things coming!

Top Posts:

The Birthday Gift GuideOrganize Your Cleaning with Flylady.net
Looking back on 60 days writing: 6 things I've learned/Top 6 Posts3 Irresistible Benefits Of Owning A Kindle Fire


Its been a few weeks, I skipped a few updates but thank you again for reading this blog.  I’m committed to writing as long as you’re reading!

Feel free to contact me on any of the major social media apps listed above.  If you’re on one not listed, I’m usually listed as @iamzoewatson.  If you need anything else, run on over to my Contact page.

Patty Gordon
Blogger | iamzoewatson.com

Life Skills

I was lucky enough to take advantage of the Home Economics clases in junior high and high school, but more importantly I got to witness both my mother and grandmother in the kitchen and working around the house.

Sadly my daughter’s experience probably won’t be as rich due to cutbacks in our local schools.

These days, there is a real lack of practical training in schools and even in some homes. With so much focus on and resources for “pure” academics, and downloading the latest app, sometimes basic life skills fall behind. Here are 5 areas outside of academic focus that build the foundation for a happy, confident child:

  • Cleaning & Organization
  • Cooking
  • Money Management
  • Physical Health & Safety Preparedness
  • Social Skills (aka Manners!)

I’ve rounded up some great tools in these area to help foster these important life skills.

Cleaning & Organizing

Zone Cleaning for Kids

Zone Cleaning

Zone Cleaning for Kids is really not just for kids. It has a reusable chart, how-tos, and a framework of understanding how to go about cleaning a whole house without getting overwhelmed. Kids from X to 100 feel empowered when they focus on one area at a time, check items off their lists, and see real results. It’s been said that a clean home makes for a clear mind – a crucial building block for a happy, successful life.

Price: $19.99 (Down from $24.95)


How to Cook

Your Kids: Cooking


Microwaves and McDonald’s may be convenient but they are not the healthiest or most cost-effective options for meal time. Give your kids the tools to be confident and independent in the kitchen. When a child learns how to cook, they are developing math and fine-motor skills, learning about applied chemistry. Plus, it gives them the tools to carry on family and community traditions.

Your Kids: Cooking is a multimedia kit that teaches kids ages 8 and up the gamut of basic cooking skills using step-by-step video demonstrations and kid -friendly written recipes. Kids do all the cooking themselves – parents just sit back and relax. Now that’s a treat!

Price: $27.95 (down from $39.95)


Money Management

Key to the Front Door

money management board game

Whether your child is earning allowance, saving birthday money, or planning to make a million dollars after starting their own company, money management is an important topic for children to learn at an early age. You may be modeling strong practices, but how can you actively teach strong money – related habits?

Key to the Front Door is a board game that helps you do just that. In the game, players race to be the first to “master” their money. Use real-world scenarios to develop financial literacy. In the context of a game, you can avoid lectures while starting larger conversations.

Once you’ve played the game, you can apply what is learned in real life: Say your child wants to have a toy now, but they have a longer-term goal of building a tree-house. You can recall the game to usher them toward stronger financial choices on their own.

Price: $29.95

Physical Health & Safety Preparedness

Permachart Reference Guides

nutrition and first aid reference guides

Learning and establishing good eating and nutritional habits ideally starts at a young age, and the same applies to emergency preparedness.

Provide your child with an understanding of the building blocks of nutrition, such as the carbohydrates, lipids / fats, and proteins. Each are described in this guide, along with essential vitamins and minerals, and the principles of digestion.

The comprehensive guide also walks readers through treating common injuries and how to respond when someone is choking, making it an essential series for older siblings, babysitters, and family members who care for children!

Price: $22.99 (down from $26.85)

Social Skills (aka Manners!)

Q’s Race to the Top


Emotional Intelligence, also known at EQ, is something that many parents teach their children unknowingly, sometimes with a little help from our prim pal Emily Post. Some argue that it’s equally, if not more important than IQ. I argue it’s all important!

Go a step beyond telling children to “mind their manners” with a game that helps them not only develop social-emotional intelligence, but and understanding of how important it is to a fulfilled life. Q’s Race to the Top does just that.

Structured similarly to Candyland, with card drawing and game piece progressions. Cards questions like “What does it mean to be brave?” or “Name something that’s boring. How can you make it fun?” You may be surprised by the discussions prompted by this game as well as the wisdom and clarity coming from young minds.

Price: $29.99

#FanDayFriday: Saving Money

Time for another #fandayfriday post!  We are on week 5 this week!  If you haven’t seen my posts before, this is a series where I’m collaborating with some other bloggers to share a few of my favorite things on Fridays. Each week I’ll tell you some favorites of mine and then share a link to another blogger who will share a favorite of theirs.

If you missed the other three entries you can read them: SafetyDog Products You’ll LoveBack To School and Crafting Week.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

The best advice I have for anyone on how to save money is to pay attention.  The best way to do this is to automate everything when it comes to your money.  From keeping regular grocery lists to tracking where your money is going, guess what?  There is an app for that!

Here is a short list of apps I use to keep my expenses down and guess what?  The apps are free!

Mint.com Personal Finance, from Intuit, is both a great online program and an app that helps you to track your spending.  Without too much work you can set up a budget and stick to it.  This program and app connect directly to bank accounts and credit cards and give you real time numbers.  Automation in this app make it extremely easy to use and easy to read the results of your spending and saving.  No doubt that this app will help you keep on track!

There are both a paid version and a version of Grocery Gadget FREE.  This app also has online access so you can set up grocery shopping lists.

The best part of these lists are that you can enter:

  • the amount of the item you need
  • the price you paid the last time you bought it
  • the store you bought it at the last time

These two tracking points can save you money. For instance, I know that when I bought lunchables last time I got them at WinCo for under a dollar so when I walk into the Raley’s next to my house and find them on my list, I know that I should wait to buy them somewhere else.  It sounds crazy to skip since I’m already at the store, but they come out to being almost two dollars at Raley’s and I buy them ten at a time.  I can save myself over a ten dollars by just buying them at another store!

The other great perk of using this app is that when you are shopping and you click off the amount of each item you are buying, your app will tell you how much money you’re going to be spending when you check out.  This is great for being able to keep on a budget amount.  Often times I’ll buy extras of something because I think I have room on my budget then get to the end and realize that I still need to buy something but I’ve used up my money for the week!


Remember when I said that I was going to share a link to another blogger?  Click on over and check out Becky’s site:


She’s the one who set up the whole #fandayfriday loop and has been great in making sure everyone is spreading the love.


The Birthday Gift Guide

If you’re a parent or relative to young children, then you’ve got birthdays to attend. For me, it’s almost every weekend these days! Finding the appropriate gift can be time-consuming, and a bit stressful- whether it’s coming directly from you or from your child to their pal.

I’m the worst at getting birthday gifts, not because I’m cheap or I want to get out of it, but I just always feel like I’m not going to get the person what they really want, even when they flat out tell me what it is that they want me to purchase!!!

Never fear! I created a gift guide so you can focus on enjoying time with loved ones (and getting on with your day!) rather than hemming and hawing at all of the options. And while Summer birthdays have been top of my mind, the gift guide is appropriate for any time of year so you can bookmark this page as your gift that keeps on giving.

The gifts are organized by age group from toddler to teen, and all of them are under $40. Happy gifting!

For giftees ages 3 to 5

Geometric Building Set


Tegu Blocks combine fun colors, geometric shapes, and a magnetic snap to create a playtime experience that’s fitting for the living room or the classroom. Parents (and littles!) love this toy because its production has positive environmental and social impact.



Make a Match Game


This game helps children grow memory skills with adorable dinosaur chips! The beautiful design is a treat for parents and kids alike. Perfect for picnics, play dates, and rainy games, this game is small enough to carry in your pocket and hip enough for the coolest of pre-k birthday parties.



For giftees ages 6 to 8

Animal Charades Game


Get kids on their feet and brimming with ideas! This high-quality wooden game is a perfect gift for outgoing children and to create an atmosphere of fun and creativity.



Pirate Adventure Board Game


This board game is cleverly disguised. Kids will be having so much fun that they won’t even know that they were learning math from an award-winning program.



Squishy Science Experiment


The Slimy Squishy Polymer Bucket is the perfect gift for budding scientists who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the name of…scientific learning! But they’ll too be busy having fun to realize they’re learning the basics of chemistry.



Garden Flowers Coloring Book

One great idea for a gift is coloring books. These garden flower coloring books are perfect for child and parent, and can make a great group activity.


For giftees 9 to 10

Food Fighter 2-Player Game


Food Fighter is a board game that has two children face off in a kitchen-themed battle. Children will have fun while developing higher-order thinking skills, mathematics, literacy, and executive functioning skills.



Dream Catcher Kit


Building dreamcatchers is a classic crafting activity – this colorful kit has everything kids need to make something unique and beautiful!



Just Add Milk Experiments


I love these experiments – little parental oversight is required, and they’re so easy to do right at home! Girls and boys, readers and scientists, alike will love this colorful kit. Not to mention parents!


Gifts for Ages 11 to 13

Pairs in Pears


Whether or not they love this pun as much as some of us, this game gets kids flexing vocabulary muscles while having fun with a little challenge and competition. Players build pairs of connecting words in matching patterns, like Scrabble 2.0. Best of all it’s portable – a perfect gift and activity to bring along on sleepovers or for parties. For a little more “pearity,” pair with two more pears!



Rainforest Biome


Budding scientists and tweens who like hands-on fun will love this all-in-one Rainforest Biome – they get to start a whole ecosystem right at home! The biome includes cacao beans (a favorite), clay, an apple snail shell, and more to create a full-on biofeedback loop. Super cool!



Math & Science Mystery Books


Who doesn’t love to solve a mystery?! The One Minute Mystery series takes a simple concept and turns it into an awesome book. Kids will read mysteries, then use their powers of deduction and knowledge of math and science to find the solution. Each is as satisfying as the next!


In The Classroom – Week 1

Finally the day has come!

Welcome to Week 1 of my “In The Classroom” series of posts.  Last week I wrote about the back to school night for the kindergartners.  I titled it Week 0 since this was just a meet and greet evening with the kids instead of real classroom work.  This week I have about two hours and fifteen minutes in the AM kindergarten classroom to talk about.

This morning, after dropping Boogie off at school without incident, I arrived to class after a quick stop to chat with the ladies in the office and a quick conversation with the principal.

On a side note: I love how when I’m working at the school I don’t feel that same nervousness that I felt at my old jobs.  I can walk up to any teacher and talk to them without feeling completely out of place.

Once inside the classroom, I was surprised to see that almost every spot on the shape carpet (similar to the Seating Shapes Carpet – 6′ x 12′ Semi-Circle pictured) were filled.

Knowing that Mrs. C has a chart on the wall, I check to find that there were indeed 30 kids.  15 girls and 15 boys.  Its a nice even mix but Ms. C started out with 20 kids on her list this summer!

Luckily when I came in there was a teacher’s aid Mrs. R, another mom, and me as well as Ms. C.  Having me there made it a good “teacher to student” ratio.

What activities I worked Today

The teacher’s aid Mrs. R. and Ms. C. worked on testing the kids knowledge of their letters and their color names.  I worked on prep work.  Putting together reading/writing workbooks for the kids is kind of boring but it’s important in it’s own way.

Hole punching pages and putting brads on them seems like busy work and it was, but really I’m glad to do it.  By doing the boring prep work, Ms. C and Mrs R. have time to do the curriculum coverage that needs to get done.  This time of year has a lot of prep work that needs to be done since we are setting up things in the classroom for the rest of the year.

Part of the time I was putting the books together was reading time.  Ms. C. sat the kids on the shape carpet and pulled out the book Welcome to Kindergarten.  It’s a sweet story about preschool aged kids visiting a kindergarten class and what you find at school.

Part of the curriculum that is covered is the parts of a book:

  • cover
  • spine
  • title
  • author

The kids seemed to know most of them already.  They repeated what they were back to Ms. C as she showed them each part.

She read through the story then went back through and discussed each thing the main character came across and compared it to her own classroom.  Some were different and some were the same.  It was a great way to get kids these concepts without really forcing them to think about it too much.

Today I got assigned to the coloring station for the day.   Because this is only day four, the stations seemed to be easy ones today compared to the ones I worked on last year.  We had puzzles, coloring, tea party, and floor time, all of which seemed more “educational fun” rather than “educational”.  I think until the initial testing period is over it’s hard to really do much academic group work, but I’m sure by next week it’ll be different.

The classroom is Peanuts themed so the kids worked on the following coloring worksheet:

Any personality/behavior events of the day

Having 30 kids in the class instead of the 25-26 we had last year is a BIG difference.  There don’t seem to be many trouble maker type kids.  The same personalities are there when you look at the kids, but without the familiar faces to go with them at this point its a bit overwhelming.  There is one little girl who is VERY loud, one little boy who seemed VERY lost in between centers but overall there was the average mix of talkers and non talkers.  They seem for lack of a better word: normal kindergartners.

Last year we had a few “antsy” kids, but this year most of them look like they are able to sit through a center or a session on the carpet.  It’s something that with a class size that big helps keep the whole class on task.

The fourth group of kids I only got to work with for a few minutes because I had to leave earlier than class got out but they were very well behaved considering that it was a big group.  They all wanted to know if I was coming back after I picked up Boogie at school and I had to tell them no but that I’d be back the next week, which they seemed to like the idea of.

Successes and failures of the day

Today was all about successes.

I finished putting together the workbooks which was an awesome feeling.  As a mom it seems like nothing is ever “done”, so I like projects like that where I can start and finish them.

Mrs. R. said that the kids were all high achievers when it came to knowing their letters.  From what I overheard from the next table, most of the kids sounded like they knew all their colors. The only discipline issues I heard were that there were a few kids that needed a bit of reminding about the volume of their voices.

I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next week!