4 products I never knew I was missing until school started

Parenthood is mostly trial and error. You buy trendy diapers for your first newborn, and by the time you get to your third child they’re lucky if they are wearing anything at all. You learn how to be a better parent by failing miserably, and you learn even more after stumbling on the right answer.

All. The. Velcro.


I’d heard that a solid back-to-school routine is something few parents can execute flawlessly–at least without help. I took that challenge seriously, and hit the Internet for tips. My notes read: “Go to bed earlier–kids will wake easier and more alert.” “Pack lunches the night before.” “Lay out clothes the night before.” “Shower the night before.” They may have seemed obvious, but again, one can never be too prepared.

What surprised me the most after the first week of school was how those small bits of advice I stumbled upon came up big time in the clutch. In the spirit of sharing more helpful tips, here are four of my favorite products that also got me through the first week of school. Plus, I found them all in my community from local small businesses!

Universal camera lens clip for smartphones

We invest in chalkboards with fancy script and colorful printouts that tell the world of the new milestones our children are reaching. But when I forget my good camera, what am I supposed to do? Leave it up to chance to snap a potential framer on my camera phone? I walked into a local camera store after my kids saw toys in the window. What I left with was the perfect addition to my mommy arsenal–a portable universal lens kit for my iPhone. The photos turned out noticeably better and I can’t believe I didn’t buy this sooner. I got mine from Holiday Camera in Oak Park for under $25.

Quick-change shoes for the kids

I had never put much thought into my kids’ shoes until one small detail came along: hook and loop fasteners. I don’t know how, or why, I ever managed without it. To be honest, those mornings are still a little hazy, as I was always late. When we went to get back to school shoes, my kids–by divine intervention–were meticulously fitted in shoelace-less shoes. I estimate it saves 5-10 minutes each morning, and is worth every dollar of a shoe overhaul. My boys’ found their shoes at Lively Athletics in Oak Park.

A safe method to transport caffeine

This is more important than it sounds. I’ve had a million different mugs and thermoses, but they’ve all spilled due to rough stroller terrain. There’s nothing worse than small talk before caffeine. Sure, a mug can keep a beverage hot in below zero temperatures, but can it withstand a mom pushing a double stroller over garden hoses, toy trucks and grassy knolls while showing a little school spirit? Mine can. I found this one at Fitzgerald’s Stationery in Oak Park for less than $50, and they also customize.

A little something extra

Back-to-school shopping was successful and my kids looked like a million bucks on their first day. My outfit, however, came together by me sprinting to the basement after pouring the kids’ cereal (which buys me about seven minutes to myself), opening the dryer and hoping for the best. Mom life.

I did manage to pick up a necklace a few days before, which made me smile the minute I saw it. I knew I was going to wear it on the first day of school and remember the significance of the purchase. Turns out, my splurge perfectly dressed up my momiform of a cotton tee and jeans, making it look like I had planned my outfit for weeks. Bonus points: Back-to-School retail therapy was cheaper than actual therapy in this case, and shopping is cardio. I found my favorite “You did it, Mom!” gift to myself at Chicago Skyline Bar Necklace from Team Blonde in Forest Park for less than $40.

Like to be social? Find me @ChicagoMomGoesSuburban.

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