Chicago Tribune
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

Few words cause more dread in the hearts of so many. The lazy days of summer give way, with some resistance, to early morning alarms, homework, carpools and bagged lunches. These days, getting back in the school groove is less difficult. A slew of apps, websites, and companies are dedicated to making our lives a little easier and helping the school year run smoother. Here are some we like.

Wise Apple

For the parent who hates making school lunches, there is Wise Apple, an at-home delivery service that provides fresh, ready-to-serve lunches for kids to take to school. Wise Apple lunches are tasty, nutritious and can be customized for your child's preferences and needs. There are gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free options available. For more information and to order see www.getwiseapple.com.

Essay Dog

For high school seniors, "back to school," means the start of college applications including the writing the dreaded personal essay. Essay Dog is devoted to helping students escape from the stress and anxiety of "Blank Page Syndrome."

The $49 program guides students through the writing process with quick and easy online video lessons. Developed by two Hollywood screenwriters, Essay Dog breaks down the storytelling process into simple, manageable steps that enable writers to tell their story in a compelling and concise way. For more information, see www.essaydog.com.

RetailMeNot

Back to school shopping isn't just stressful, it's expensive! According to the National Retail Federation, parents will spend on average $775 dollars per child this year on back to school accessories, clothing and electronics.

RetailMeNot helps families save money by aggregating deals and promotions from top stores and brands and it's entirely free. In addition, subscribers have access to extra gift cards and cash back options, which offers even more savings. For more information on back-to-school savings, see www.retailmenot.com.

Teacher Peach

Upgrade the annual "apple for the teacher" gift with teacher accessories and classroom products from Teacher Peach. The company sells a variety of teacher-centric products such as motivational note cards, water bottles, cute tote bags and desk supplies.

Teacher Peach also pays it forward by donating a percentage of each sale to its nonprofit fund, teacherpeachseeds.org that funds programs designed to raise confident and creative kids. Complete information at teacherpeach.com.

Calm

Carpool line causing you stress? Try using Calm. The free app will guide you through a simple breathing exercise while you listen to calming sounds such as "rain on leaves" or "mystic fountain." Calm also offers a sleep component, which includes "sleep stories" and "sleep music," dedicated to helping you sleep better.

For a monthly fee you can upgrade the app, which gives you to access "guided meditations," focusing on specific topics such as managing stress and improving concentration. Calm also provides free access to the guided meditations for teachers who want to use the programs in school with their students. For details, see www.calm.com.