Liza Schwab

Liza Schwab grew up in the Twin Cities and believes there is no place like home, except for Colorado and Sanibel. Schwab blogs locally on The Outspoken Mom blog. She is a stay-at-home mom to four incredible children, three of which are at three different schools. Read more about Liza Schwab.

Creating Traditions (and Memories) for Back to School

Posted by: Liza Schwab under Education and literacy Updated: August 26, 2010 - 11:18 AM

As I sit here stressing about how much work I have to do to get my 3 school aged children ready for school.  I thought of something, I am completely missing the point of the last week or two of summer and am I making going back to school stressful for my children?

As the mother, I have a ton of stuff I need to do to get them ready, shop for school supplies, get them registered for sports/activities, fill out bus forms, go to open houses, make sure they have their physicals, etc.  That is my job as a parent, however it shouldn't affect how they get to spend the rest of their summer vacation.  So, I was thinking, I can't possibly be the only parent who goes through this each year.  I want my children to look forward to starting school, to think of going back to school as an exciting event and looking back on a summer that was filled with fun and laughter.

So, I grabbed a book that has been collecting dust on a shelf above my desk for a while now and thumbed through it looking for ideas.  There weren't a lot of traditions relating to back to school, but there were some.  One of the ones was making the last day of summer special.   Some ideas? 

1: Go out to breakfast, look back over the summer, maybe bring a photo album of the fun things you did this summer.  Talk about the good (and bad) things that happened over the summer. 

2:Take one last swim in the lake or pool. 

3:Bake a cake and decorate it like a tombstone (not sure how I feel about that one) put RIP Summer of XX on it. 

4: Have your children make a card for his/her teachers for the first day of school.

5: Pick out the first day of school outfit.

I think there are so many things you could do to make the end of the summer special and fun.  Our favorite traditions are going to the State Fair each year (who doesn't do that in Minnesota!), we do have a lot of fun picking out our outfits for the first day, we pack up the backpacks, I make them a really special lunch for the first day of school and we try to let the children each pick out something they want to do one last time before going back to school.

For us, attending our schools open houses are so important to our children.  It gets them excited by meeting their new teachers, seeing their desks, being able to drop off their 100's of school supply items, and they get to see friends they haven't seen all summer.  What is also good about going to their open houses is you still have time to turn disappointment about the 'wrong teacher' or certain friends not being in their classes into a positive (always find a way somehow to make it a positive) before school starts so they don't start school with a bad attitude.

We also try and make each one of our children a special meal before school, or head to their favorite restaurant before school starts.  For us the past couple of years, our children have started at different times which has made it a much easier transition back to school.  Our 3rd child has started a week earlier than the other 2 for the past couple of years and it makes it fun for her to be with her friends and the other 2 feel like they still have a bit more summer left.

Our biggest family traditions that I think mean the most to the children (at least at their ages) are the first day photos by mom, Daddy sticking around in the morning and making whatever they want for breakfast, and for the older 2, the whole family walking them to the bus stop and meeting all the children and parents there.  Then, Daddy follows the bus to their schools and walks one child in then goes next door to the others school and walks them in.  They love that extra 'Daddy' time and he loves it too. 

For our 3rd school age child, since she starts a week earlier than everyone else, we all drive her to school and walk her into her class.  The older children love it, so does the baby and it gives us all time together as a family one last time before officially starting school. 

Your traditions don't have to be fancy, you don't need to take time off of work, but I think they are so important to our children to feel like it is special to be going back to school.  What are some of your traditions? 

School Supply Sticker Shock.

Posted by: Liza Schwab under Education and literacy Updated: August 11, 2010 - 10:39 AM

As some of you might know, I have 4 children, 3 of which are school age and all 3 go to different schools, which is a whole different blog.  I am starting to realize as they get older and we have more experience with more schools than most, getting ready for school is a completely different experience for each student (depending on grade), each school, district and whether private or public.  There is no 'uniform' way for children to get ready for school anymore.  Long gone are the days of Trapper Keepers, kitten and puppy folders, everyone having Crayola markers and crayons, (and to that, the jealous days of the 'lucky' or in my case, I always thought, 'the rich kid' who got the 64 pack of Crayola crayons with the cool built in sharpener.) and a little cardboard pencil box with super cute designs. 

Now everyone has to pool their school supplies, no one can put their name on their folders, the teacher does that for them, you can only buy a certain kind of pencil, everyone must have the same sized and colored crayons and markers, only solid colored folders and absolutely NO Trapper Keepers!  (Yes, this was actually written on one supply list.)  I could take this blog again down the road of, no individuality in our students, all must be little robots with the same stuff, the same look, the same behavior, however that is not the road I am taking today.  Today I am wondering, why are the lists so different, why are they so long, and what do my taxes pay for again? 

What started all of this?  Well, last night my mother took 2 of my 3 school aged children school supply shopping.  It is something she likes to do with them each year, it is an easy excuse to spend time with each child and they all look forward to it each year.  So, she called me last night almost in shock to tell me how much she had spent just buying their supplies, almost $250 for just TWO children!  Are you kidding me? 
First of all, so glad it was her and not me and second of all, how can families afford this?    I thought at first this is what everyone must be going through, then I found out how different it is depending on school, district, location, state.  Crazy, so everything has to be uniform, except schools and districts.    Is it really budget cuts to education that are doing this or is it the actual schools/districts that are doing it?  Is it teachers demanding these things and who decides which pencils brand the entire district is going to go with and what color dry erase markers the children need to buy?  When did the students need to start suppling the 'teacher' supplies?

I quickly learned through many friends, every school/district/state is all over the map and it can vary even from one neighborhood school to another.  I found out in Apple Valley the PTO sells school readiness packs for under $25 with all the supplies the children need to start school.  I discovered there isn't much difference anymore between public and private school supply lists either.  I even discovered one mom who spent just around $10 for ALL of her children's school supplies by shopping all the different stores and their back to school sales and having coupons. 

I actually did some research online and looked at school supply lists, Edina's was really long, and they were one that specifically said, NO Trapper Keepers, however they also had a great idea,  you could order pre-packaged bundles of the school supplies for the students and many other items were available for purchase at the school.  I like that and think it is good for working parents or parents with small children!  Minneapolis had the easiest and least restrictive one I saw anywhere, it was just a checklist of supplies each child would need, but had no brand names, colors or quantities listed, nor were they specific on style of folders, pencil boxes, or backpacks.  Richfield is all over the board depending on the school and grade.  One thing that has puzzled me about Richfield is their rule on 'NO backpacks with wheels', aren't there all these articles each year of how weighted down backpacks are for children and how back they are for their backs?  After having 2 children in the Richfield district and being at 3 of their schools, I now know why, many of their schools have stairs. 

As a parent, taxpayer, and just someone who is curious and wants to know, I wonder what our schools are spending their money on?  I know education seems to be getting cut more and more each year however, in Minneapolis, where they have been cut a lot their list seems surprisingly small and non-descriptive.  I thought if I looked at the poorer districts, the ones with the most cuts, I would find differences, but not really.  Although, I do have to wonder why a 2nd grader in the Anoka-Hennepin district needs 60 sharpened pencils and 3 packages of post it notes?  That seemed a bit excessive on pencils and a bit odd on the post it note deal.    On a side note, I also noticed how many of the 'poorer' communities offered FREE (apparently this is a big selling point) all day Kindergarten and yet a district like Edina only offers 1/2 day Kindergarten for free and if you want full day Kindergarten you need to pay about $350 a month for it!  Again, not seeing that any of this spending, supply lists, private/public....none of it really seems to add up and make sense to this mom.

Anyone else notice this?  I seem to only get more questions than answers when it comes to the cost of just preparing my children for the first day of school.   I would love to hear about your school supply lists, any crazy school supply items and how many pencils does a student really need in a year and why do they have to all be sharpened?!  :-)


Your Voices by Definition

Posted by: Liza Schwab Updated: July 30, 2010 - 3:47 PM

So, I am writing, finally, in response to all of you who have been jabbing and digging at me personally with almost every blog I write.  I can take the digs, but when you bash me for writing a review on something in our community, I feel that is just a bit too far.

When I first started writing for the Star Tribune, I knew I wouldn't be liked very much by some of you.  I am a conservative Christian and stay at home mom.  I don't fit in with most of the Star Tribune readers and writers, and that is the very reason the Star Tribune and I came together.  I felt they needed another viewpoint on things and they did too.  They realized oftentimes they only had one viewpoint of things and a Conservative/Christian, stay at home mom was not their typical reader. 

If you read what the Star Tribune themselves write about the Your Voices blogs, it says, "Unique perspectives from members of your community"  it also says, you will 'find commentary on current events, public issues, and day to day life in Minnesota'.  It also says that if you would like to join Your Voices you can contact the Star Tribune.   

I like healthy debates, I welcome them freely.  However, it is not right nor fair when I am writing something about our community in hopes of helping others to learn more about our community and I get slammed personally.  If you have an issue with me personally, then you should voice it to me personally via my Outspoken Mom blog or wait for me to write something personal, not community orientated. 

After reading one of my fellow Your Voices blogs posts on Cowardness in our city, it became aware to me that some  of you my harshest critics fall into that category with me.  I am out here writing, showing my real name, my real photo and writing about things that are real in my life and many others.  I am writing about real people, real places, and real events in our community.    I don't even hide myself in my comments on other peoples blog postings.  I keep it real and obvious with my log in name of osmomof4 which stands for 'outspokenmom of 4'.   

We all have differences in opinions, that is what makes blog writing and reading so great and what makes our local and nationwide newspapers good too.  But while many columnists and writiers use 'writing names' or alias names, most bloggers use their real names in voicing their opinions and thoughts. 

I welcome all those who read my blog posts no matter where they are, and I love hearing comments.  I have learned many new things and gained new perspectives from my readers and their comments.  I put myself out there and I am OK with dealing with the feedback both negative and positive.  I just ask, maybe if you dislike me so much as to rip on something I write no matter what it is, maybe you should own it. 

Our Twin Cities area is filled with lots of different people all living different lives, if you look around and actually read all of the other Your Voices bloggers too, you would see how different we all are and we all write differently ways, about different things, and none of us fit one typically stereotype.  I wonder how many of you actually have spent some time getting to know all of the Your Voices bloggers and their posts?.  I challenge you to look through the Your Voices columns and find something or someone you can agree with sometimes and if you don't find anyone that seems to have 'YOUR voice', I encourage you to contact the Star Tribune and apply to be a blogger for them just like I did.

Blessings to you all.

-Liza The Outspoken Mom (of 4)

A Fish Tale Like No Other.

Posted by: Liza Schwab Updated: July 27, 2010 - 11:50 AM

So, I am about to tell you all how old I am by writing this blog post and that might be the only negative I have for you all here today. 

This past weekend was my 20th High School Class Reunion.  Yes, I graduated from high school when I was a mere 10 years old, haha.    As one of the planners, I was responsible for helping to find a venue for our reunion night.  I had heard many good things about Stella's Fish Cafe in Uptown, however I had never been there before when I started planning our event.  I was almost instantly sold on the venue when I read their website and they wrote about 'if you are thinking of a VFW come check us out'.  Well, done!  I knew I was looking for a nice place at VFW prices so, I checked them out. 

The moment I saw the place, their event spaces, and met their event coordinator, Erin Mackley I knew we had a winner.  From the moment we started planning the reunion Erin made everything smooth and stress-free.  She welcomed all my questions and answered all of my phone calls and emails quickly, and there were a lot of them!  She even helped me surprise my husband, my much older husband, on his 40th Birthday with personalized menus wishing him a happy 40th birthday.    That night was the first time I got to first hand experience their serving staff and their menu.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was, how great the prices were and how friendly yet professional the staff was.

The Thursday before the reunion was my first experience with Stella's Rooftop Deck.  Wow, the views are incredible and only add to the fantastic food and service you get there.  Once again Erin was there, greeted me and my friends and welcomed us.    On Saturday was the main event, the reunion, and once again I was greeted with great service when I got there.   We had a private room with our own private bar and bartenders and service staff for our reunion.  While I was setting up, both of our bartenders came over and introduced themselves to us and welcomed us as did our servers.  All with smiles and firm handshakes and asked if there was anything they could help us with. 

I was even more impressed that evening when we had 75 people who RSVP'd bulge into 112 people and we quickly were sent scrambling for more food.  Once again Erin and her event staff handled themselves professionally and quickly ordered us more food and got it out there in less than 20 minutes looking and tasting just as good as the rest and I don't think any of the guests had a clue. 

We had some bumps along the road of planning and in each time, the issues were handled quickly and after everything, I have to say, I would highly recommend Stella's Fish Cafe to anyone having a party, reunion, or whatever.  My husband and I have been talking for years that we had lost all of our favorite eating spots from when we were dating and didn't have a good 'date' restaurant anymore.  I do believe we have been sold on Stella's and we will continue to visit that restaurant hopefully for years to come.  I can't wait to try out their Crab Lovers and Lobster Lovers nights with the children.

So, this is my very public, "Thank You" to Stella's Fish Cafe, Erin Mackley and all their staff for making this reunion by far the best one yet.   My only regret is that I don't have anymore events to plan you with all right now!  

For those of you who don't know where Stella's is, they are located in Uptown right on Lake Street across from Calhoun Square.  They have valet parking or you can park in the parking lot across the street or street parking, just don't forget your quarters, we got a ticket Saturday night, haha.
They take reservations or you can just walk in, each time you will be greeted at the door and most times, there was an employee who opened and held the door for me, once again class all the way there.  They have 2 private rooms, a semi-private area inside and you can reserve an area on their rooftop deck too for your event.  
Their food selection is amazing, I love that they post where their seafood comes from and you can pick out your own lobster out of the tank. 
Which, reminds me of another great thing about the place, when I went in there to sign contracts, I had my children with and Erin took the time to show them the Lobsters and even showed them the difference between a boy lobster and a girl lobster.  They have been asking to go back ever since.

Have fun, go enjoy the outdoors and the views of downtown Minneapolis and try something new.




Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters