Just Precious

Exciting news! Just Precious is moving

Posted in Uncategorized by Julie Meyers Pron on November 29, 2009

We’re growing up and moving on… to our own site. Please change your bookmarks to our new site: www.just-precious.com.

We’ve sent all of our fantastic articles on education, parenting, shopping and cooking from our wordpress site over to Just Precious. And there you’ll find newer posts in the same topics. We’re exciting about whats to come for Just Precious. And to celebrate, we’re planning a few great giveaways just in time for the holidays.

So, please, bookmark our new site and stop by very often. Let us know what you think. We’re always looking to grow.

5 Things… I’m Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Posted in Uncategorized by Julie Meyers Pron on November 23, 2009
  1. easyish labor and a not-so-steamy pregnant summer
  2. 3 kids who finally understand how to stay in bed (bite my tongue!)
  3. Trader Joes
  4. Keurig Coffee Machine and www.Coffeeforless.com who ships very quickly
  5. A husband who loves me enough to put up with my late nights planning our trip to Disney. I’m surprised he doesn’t think I’m having an affair with Tour Guide Mike!

5 Things… to bring to Thanksgiving dinner with the kids

Posted in 5 Things... by Julie Meyers Pron on November 16, 2009

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  1. Change of clothing for each child. Make that two changes of clothing. And a change for the husband. Something’s going to spill.
  2. Washable crayons.
  3. Applesauce travel packs.
  4. Breastfeeding cover .
  5. Homemade centerpieces to offer to Grandma.

Image from Family Fun Magazine. We love this idea!

Oooooh Staples! I’m doing a little Black Friday dance

Posted in Staples Holiday Blogger by Julie Meyers Pron on November 12, 2009

Since being selected a Staples Holiday Blogger I’ve been, admittedly, a bit Staples-happy. I don’t just browse the store, I stalk it. I get a friendly smile, but it reads “what-the-f&#^-is-she-doing-here-again?” each time I enter. Probably because they’ve never had a lurker quite like me. I’m walking through with my handy tiny notepad (purchased, of course, on a recent trip to Staples. I’m not playing though. I’m taking notes. Trying to make my perfect $200 purchase.

So I was super excited when Staples started releasing some hints as to their Black Friday ad on twitter (twitter handle: @staplestweets) and on their Facebook Fan Page. It totally changes my plans. Now I can figure how to spend the $200 gift card (can’t go over or under by more than $1: my rule) with discounts and sales. Sweet!

So, straight from Twitter, the Staples Black Friday super deals that I know of so far:

  • Gobble up this offer before it’s gone! Get an HP laptop w/ Win 7 for only $299.98 after easy rebate. Valid Fri 11/27 from 6-10am.US only ^LN
  • What holds 1000 photos,makes a sweet stocking stuffer & is only $12.99? A can’t-miss 8GB flash drive! 11/27.6-10am.US only. #BlackFriday ^LN
  • A deal hotter than grandma’s burnt Thanksgiving rolls:Save $90 on eMachines 21.5″ monitor-only $89.98! 11/27.6-10am.US only #BlackFriday ^LN
  • Make Staples your destination on the biggest shopping day of the year! Get $100 OFF Garmin nüvi 255W GPS! 11/27. 6-10am.US only #BlackFriday

More than anything, the Garmin Nuvi deal is catching my eye. It sells for $219.99, so at $100 off I could get the Garmin that I so badly need to get me from playdate to playdate, and have money left over for some software.

Of course I’m following @staplestweets because I’m not going to miss any of the announcements. Looks like I will be hitting Staples first thing the day after Thanksgiving.

I’m a Staples Holiday Blogger, so I’ll be receiving a $200 gift card to use at Staples and blog about it.

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Always in support of the IEP

Posted in education, parenting by Julie Meyers Pron on November 11, 2009

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A recent friend’s facebook status read:  

…is PISSED at his kindergarten teacher!… now they are trying to get him labeled IEP, more money for the public school, … already had him tested over summer and educationally speaking he is fine, I have the documentation! He is SO smart he shocks us!!He has other issueses from [an injury] but NONE having to due with intelligence
I’m paraphrasing. As an educator, this status frustrated me. Reading it made me want to reach through the computer, grab her and shake her. “Do you know how wonderful a kindergarten IEP is?! Do you know how far ahead of the game you’ll be with a little Individualized Education Plan in place?!”
 
 
Once one has an IEP, it can never, ever be taken away. It will always be in the child’s file, even if you move to a different system, even if the child “graduates” from the IEP. An IEP allows for a group of adults and, at times, the child, to discuss and analyze the child to determine the best method for that child to learn.  Special services may be determined necessary. And, really, why not?! Why not get everything there is from the public educational system? Why not bring a little attention to your child, in a positive, forward thinking manner? Why not accept smaller classes and a lower student:teacher ratio? Why not, possibly, offer a child special testing conditions, special learning conditions, and special consideration and attention to help the child succeed?
 
 
Having your child pin-pointed as a child in need (any need) isn’t a bad thing; its a good thing. With overcrowded classrooms and under-assisted teachers, getting your child out of the middle (where students needs are often overlooked) and into a specialized plan should be considered a goal. Its a way to help your child to succeed.
 
 
Its also important to know that a teacher can’t just send a note home and write an IEP. Screenings take months of discussion, meetings and assessments. The process begins with a referral to assess. What follows is a stream of events that call for approvals, signatures, discussions and observations. This timeline gives an example of the timeline in California. Its a great example, though it may change from state to state.
An IEP opens doors for students. It defines their learning styles, needs and offers suggestions (usually practices) that helps the student to succeed.

 

More IEP Resources*:
IEP Process
Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (M-Team or MDE)
IEP Guidelines
Teacher resources and key terms and definitions
*Just Precious does not guarantee the information in the resources to be correct. We recommend them only as articles for further reading. Image created by Dominik Gwarek.

Staples: This isn’t easy

Posted in Staples Holiday Blogger by Julie Meyers Pron on November 10, 2009

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Imagine the scenario: someone hands you a wad of cash. You count $200. You’re told you have 2 rules to use the money:

  1. you have to spend the money between November 15 and November 30
  2. you have to spend the money on something at Staples

Then you add your own rule:

      3.  you have to spend all the money, and can’t go over or under by more than $1. (not including tax).

That’s what really happened. I was selected as one of Staples Holiday Bloggers and they’re sending me a $200 gift card to spend as I’d like at their store. I’m excited. Really excited. I’m not a big spender and overthink every purchase (it took me over a year to buy my new computer and my downstairs doesn’t have curtains because I’m afraid of that kind of a committment.) So this is huge. $200 that I have to spend without too much time to research. I’m trying hard not to get overwhelmed by the idea.

There’s no way I’m going into this alone. I’m asking advice. My kids think I should get computer software. They also think a box of crayons seems to be a good way to spend $200. That’s a lot of crayons. One of the boys suggested I add a Sharpie to the list, because that’s what they see at check out when we’re there. My husband is keeping quiet. I’m sure he’s curious. But he can’t possibly think I’ll spend the money on him, right? Hmmm… or should I?

That opens a whole new can of worms. Do I spend the money on someone else’s gift? Do I keep it and get something for me as a reward? (Is that selfish?  Do I care?) Of course, I could be totally full of heart and fill school bags with fun items to gift to a needy family or a school.  But I do give of my time as a volunteer and we do give a lot otherwise so perhaps this once I could actually get a special gift for me.

Then the question: do I get someting practical that I could use around the home or office or do I buy something fun?

And do I buy it on November 15 and start using it or give it right away? Or do I buy it and save it, wrapping it to place it under the tree? or open it during one of the eight nights of Chanukkah? And should I wait for Black Friday? (Anyone have any hints about their ad? Its not posted yet…)

Of course, I can think and dream and dream and think. I have until Sunday to even attempt to make my decision.

 

Thanks to Staples who gave me the $200 gift card as part of the Staples Holiday Bloggers program.

 

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5 Things… Teachers love to receive for holiday gifts

Posted in 5 Things..., education, Uncategorized by Julie Meyers Pron on November 9, 2009

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Last week, we posted things that collect dust when gifted to a teacher for the holidays. This week, we’re featuring the good gifts. Want that teacher to really appreciate your thought? Go with one of these:

  1. Gift Card. Really, this is hands-down the best gift. What kind of gift card, though? We’re big fans of Barnes & Noble or Borders, local  movie theater, Sephora (for a female teacher) or a local spa. Amazon is great, too.
  2. Magazine Subscription. Giving a magazine subscription requires a little bit of work. You have to really know the teacher and her interests. Then, once you’ve identified a magazine that she’ll enjoy, call the subscription center. They’ll tell you if she already has a subscription. You’ll also need her address, which isn’t always easy to get. An alternative to all the work? Give a Giftscriptions Magazine Gift Certificate: 50 Choice Magazine Collectionwhere the teacher will get to select the magazine. 
  3. Does she drink coffee? Then a travel mug like this personalized one (not a teacher-y one) is always useful. Slipping a Starbucks gift card inside is an extra bonus–even a $5 card will treat her to a coffee)! And if the school has a Keurig coffee maker for the teachers, find out her favorite flavor and gift her a box of k-cups with a big bow.
  4. Have a teacher new to teaching? Find your local parent teacher store. She’ll love a certificate to use here. Teaching, unfortunately, costs a lot.
  5. Slippers! After a long day on her feet, a teacher loves to come home and get comfortable. Plush slippers (or warm, soft socks) are always a welcome gift. You can usually find great ones that aren’t too costly at Sears or JCPenney. Or spoil her feet with slippers by N*A*P.

The gift that’s most important won’t cost a lot of money, its just the promise to stay on the teacher’s side and to work together to help the children. As a teacher, my favorite gift each year was from a family who sent me their holiday card with the kids’ picture. On the back were quotes from the kids from the past year. I still have those in a box of memories. The teacher mugs, scented candles and lotions were given to charity… usually about a week or two into January.

Easy Chicken Roast

Posted in Just Precious is Cookin' by Julie Meyers Pron on November 8, 2009

The plan was to have Whitney and kids over for dinner a few nights ago. But with Big sick 2 days before, it was forgotten. Still, on my menu plan was a chicken roast with enough to feed 8. So I now have lots of leftovers.

Ingredients:

Chicken pieces (enough for full group)
2 lbs carrots, cut into bite size pieces (or a bag of baby carrots)
3 stalks of celery, cut into small moons
1/2 cup Kalamatta pitted olives (more if you have lots of olive fans)
1/2  – 1 white onion, diced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 lemon,  cut into wedges
1/2-3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-2 teaspoons paprika

Get Cookin’

1. Precut and combine all ingredients (except the chicken and paprika) in advance. (I did this in the morning while Little was sleeping).
2. Set oven for 425.
3. Place chicken pieces in a baking or roasting pan. Top with carrots and other ingredients. Sprinkle paprika on top (especially on top of chicken).
4. Roast for about 45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Star Power Rating: I love easy dinners like this. It could have been prepared in the morning in the crockpot, but its just as easy to stick it in the oven if you aren’t going to be out the hour before dinner. The roast was decent but would have been better with more flavor had infused the chicken more.Rating: NUMBER 2.5 of 5 stars. A good, easy meal but not much flavor.

Notes for next time:  I’m thinking if I had cooked it in a little orange juice it would have added more flavor to the chicken. The olives were a really nice touch. Whitney’s DS2 LOVES olives. I am SO making this again when Whitney and family are here, but figuring out a way to add the flavor. By-the-way, the dinner was much better as leftovers.

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A Successful Preschool BINGO Night

Posted in education by Julie Meyers Pron on November 5, 2009

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This week our preschool hosted its first BINGO night. It won’t be the last. We had a fabulous turnout and the excitement was electric. Kudos go to BINGO chairperson, Stephanie, and her committee. They were so together that when Stephanie couldn’t attend at the last minute due to a family emergency, the committee ran the event nearly flawlessly.

BINGO Night was run as both a family/community event and a fundraiser. Usually, we classify events into actvities or fundraisers. BINGO qualified as both, which makes budgetting more difficult. We listed it as a fundraiser in our books. 

Announcements went out over a month in advance and we started taking reservations right then so that we could plan our purchases. Usually RSVPs and checks are hard to come-by so far ahead, so we offered an incentive: Families who registered 1 month in advance were entered into a  raffle: the winning family was given 4 tickets to see Disney on Ice, courtesy of Feld Entertainment and Just Precious. We drew in 21 registrants in less than 5 days. People who RSVPed within 2 weeks were offered extra raffle tickets to our raffle prizes that were being awarded during BINGO night. (Over 2/3 of our RSVPs were received within 2 weeks.)

The decor was bright, colorful and preschool-friendly. The circle tables were lined in plastic tablecloths that were red, blue and yellow and balloons of the same colors served as centerpieces. We love using balloons for several reasons: they’re bright, decorate with height, serve as great party favors and they’re raised above the tables so that kids can see across. Also in the centers of the tables were cups of Froot Loops and small pretzels to serve as BINGO markers. A few people commented that the kids would rather eat them the markers than play with them, but regular marker chips are choking hazards, candy is worse to eat than cereal and using an ink stamp would be a cause for the need of many copies of the boards (which is costly and eco-unfriendly.)

Our committee selected a BINGO game with pictures of common preschool words like “bed”, “dog” and “pencils.” There were only 9 spaces on each card which allowed faster games. We purchased several game boxes that will be used again in the future. When the number of children out-numbered our game boards, we made a few photocopies.  We also didn’t clear boards for each winner, there were about 10 winners (at least) before it was announced to clear the cards. Upon winning, the kids yelled our “BINGO” and walked to the prize basket to claim a prize. Prizes were an assortment of toy novelties from Oriental Trading Company.

Following about 1/2 hour of playtime, the raffle prizes were drawn. We raffled 2 $50 gift cards to GAP, a $25 grocery gift card to Shop Rite and a set of DVDs by Scholastic Storybook Treasures. The grand prize was  the 50/50 drawing where the winner won $87.50. (Raffle tickets were sold to families as they checked in. Ticket cost was $1 per ticket, 6 tickets for $5 or 18 tickets for $10.)

Finally, the families celebrated the evening with an ice cream party. Our committee pre-scooped vanilla ice cream into plastic cups and provided sprinkles and syrups.

The event lasted about an hour and raised around $300 for the school. Perhaps more importantly, the families enjoyed a night of fun while getting to know other families at the school.

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Pre-Kindergarten? Kindergarten? What’s the right decision?

Posted in education by Julie Meyers Pron on November 4, 2009

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True, its only November, but the scurry to find the perfect placement for next year is a hot topic, as usual, at our preschool this fall.  This year, I’m a voice of experience. Not only am I the former teacher, but I’m a parent who’s made the decision and experienced the result.

We opted to hold our son back and enroll him in a year of pre-K, affectionately called “The Fives” at our preschool. Not for academics, but to allow him to “grow up”, to mature and to be socially fit for a school child’s real world. Big has an end-of-August birthday and our school district has an August 31 cut-off.

It was, definitely, the right decision. In fact, I have yet to meet parents who would disagree. Many parents who push their children to Kindergarten express that they wish they had held their child back.  2 or 6 years later, I know parents who are struggling to help their child to keep up with their peers or that they would love to have their child repeat, but short of a transfer to a private education, its barely possible.  But I have never found a parent who regrets an extra year of preschool, or a year of Pre-Kindergarten.

In our case, we’d rather Big, and next, Middle, and, likely, Little, be the oldest than the youngest. Our decision didn’t consider academics (lucky thing, because during Big’s year in the Fives he didn’t learn much academically. His pre-Kindergarten curriculum didn’t focus on academics that matched his needs –nor, in my opinion, should they have — but far more on the maturational needs of him and his classmates). We wanted an opportunity for our son to grow. Most important, to take an extra year to still be a child before the pressures of Kindergarten and elementary school began.

After a year in Pre-Kindergarten, we opted to keep Big in the same private school and enroll him in the full day Kindergarten program. Just as I did the November before, I visited Kindergarten programs in our area, trying to find the right fit. There are two things I learned in my search:

  1. whatever decision we made will be fine. It will be the right one for many reasons, and the wrong one for many reasons. No placement is perfect. But with the joint support of the family and school, a child will be happy and excited and learn something in Kindergarten.
  2. Kindergarten, just like Pre-Kindergarten, is only for one school year. And after (or, if need be, during) the school year a change can be made for the following year. Its only one year. And there’s no way that 13, or 14, years of education will all be stellar.

Recognizing these two parts of educational choice have made me  more relaxed and confident in our educational decisions for our children. And while we have a lot to decide before next year (where will Big go to first grade?!), I know this is not a decision worth losing sleep over. I’ll do my research, visit any schools I have yet to visit, and talk to his teacher often, because I value her opinion and trust that she sees a different Big in the classroom than I do at our home.

Just as we did in the past, we’ll follow our gut, which I presume is based on the knowledge we are learning about our kids and their opportunities. And I’ll always remember that, whatever the decision we make, we’re doing it with the best of intentions.

To read more about our decision, click here.

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