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Mom to Mom: Back to School Kickoff

Mary Parra, Mom to Mom Mary Parra, mother of four    

If you’re like me, you might find it hard to send the kids back to school at the end of summer. I enjoy our summers full of free time and leisure – and the time seems to pass so quickly! We usually travel to see their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, and our summers are filled with great memories. Plus, I know the hubbub of activity that awaits me once school gets underway.

This year, to celebrate the beginning of the school year, our neighborhood is having a “kick-off” party the Saturday before school starts. Families are meeting in one person’s driveway where we will have a potluck dinner and the kids will play late into the night – most likely their last late night for quite a while.

Granted, some kids in our neighborhood attend year-round schools, some are homeschooled, and some attend other private or public schools. But we all start in the general time frame, so it will be a nice way to get our schedules in sync.

This is the first year I will have all four kids in school and I know it will be crazy from morning till night. One thing I do to make our schedules flow a bit more smoothly is to spend a weekend making freezer meals with a neighbor. We make enough breakfast foods, snacks, and dinners for six weeks at a time. I make a calendar of what we will eat each night for dinner. This way, I don’t have to spend time making a weekly menu or trying to figure out dinner at the last minute. I take dinner out of the freezer the night before – and I don’t have to think about a thing! It also makes packing lunches easier, as I make mini muffins and other snacks. I place them in the kids’ lunchboxes in the morning and they are the perfect temperature by lunchtime.

Having four kids in school at once also means school shopping times four! This is no easy feat. Fortunately, my kids attend a school that requires uniforms. I like that because then I don’t have to stress too much about buying the perfect outfit, and I really do think it costs less than buying a whole new wardrobe. 

For school supply shopping, I take the list of each grade’s requirements and I make a master list. This way, when I head out to the stores, I know exactly how much of each item I need. I also enjoy scanning the ads to find the cheapest items. There are some great deals out there this time of year! I take the opportunity to stock our craft bins and I try to think ahead and buy essentials for science projects and book reports.

This year, I plan to take each child shopping individually to pick out their lunchboxes and backpacks. Not only will this cut down on the chaos, but I’m hoping it will help get each child excited about starting the new school year.

Several of my friends make special breakfasts the first day of school. I always aim for this, but usually don’t have time. I also have a friend who takes pictures every year on the first day of school. I wish I was this organized – but I forget to bring along my camera as we rush out the door. It sure is hard to get back into the swing of things!

The beginning of a new school year can be exciting for some kids and scary for others – and it will be here before we know it.  I hope you all have a wonderful school year.

This recipe will allow you to make one batch to eat right away, and another to save for later.

Burrito Pie

2 lbs. ground meat
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15 oz. each) Ranch Style beans (pinto beans in seasoned tomato sauce)
1 bottle (16 oz.) taco sauce
1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained (like Rotel)
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
1 can (3.8 oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained
12 flour tortillas (8 in.), halved
4 cups (16 oz.) shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

In a large skillet, cook the meat, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the beans, taco sauce, tomatoes, chilies and olives. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Spread 1 cup meat mixture in each of two greased 11x7-in baking dishes. Layer with 4 tortilla halves, 1 cup meat mixture and 2/3 cup cheese. Repeat twice.

Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the remaining casserole at 350 for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

 Mom to Mom is a column written by Mary Parra, an Ahwatukee mother of four and a local journalist.

Cardon Children's Medical Center
1400 S. Dobson Road
Mesa, AZ 85202
(480) 412-KIDS (5437)
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