We have two weeks until school starts, which happens to land on the same day as my brother’s rehearsal dinner kicking off his wedding weekend at the shore. To say I’m excited is an understatement. The plan is for my kids to go to their first day of school, we’ll have the rehearsal dinner in the city and then we’ll drive to the beach for an extra long weekend. Between the wedding details (we are all in it), having to pack for an extended weekend in a rental home, managing our remodel, work and getting ready for school, my head is spinning with all the extra details. The good news is, I’m pretty on top of this back to school thing by now.
This article originally posted last September. I’ve made some updates and edits since I did a few more things this year. The trick is to anticipate what you might need ahead of time. Think of all of your frantic, manic mornings and moments and try to find ways to avoid them. Sure, we’ll discover some new things to mess up, but this at least helps us learn our lessons along the way.
Homework Station (above)
The first update we made to our house after we moved in was turning our unfinished basement into a bright and cheerful hangout room for the kids, and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out. Since they do their homework independently, I set up this homework station for them on a wall in the room. It gives them a space to work with everything they need at their fingertips and saves us the time it takes to set up and clear off the kitchen table and find supplies. Plus, if they are working on a project, it doesn’t have to be interrupted when we get ready for dinner.
If you don’t have the a designated space, consider setting up a basket, box or cart that you can keep all of their essentials in. Clear a spot in a closet to store what they might need so they can pack and unpack easily with taking over the whole house.
I found the idea for this cart from Ikea on Pinterest. It’s filled with all of their art supplies, construction paper, stickers and stamps. They can quickly roll it between them while they work. Our supplies stay in good condition, and it’s easier for them to clean up. Plus, it looks cute.
A Command Center
I finally figured out how to fit a proper mudroom in our new addition. Since we’re about to become a family of five, we need all the extra space we can get. For the last four years we’ve used a dead corner of our house as a makeshift mudroom and it turned out to be a practical solution until our remodel. You can turn any little corner, or wall behind a door into an organized space for the kids stuff.
Hooks on the walls keep school bags and anything else that needs to go to school in one place and off the floor, and a dry-erase calendar gets updated every month to let us know what is going on each day. Meanwhile, a pin board makes it easy to organize reminders, birthday invites, etc.
On the other wall is an old desk where we drop our keys and daily essentials. It also doubles as a charging station. What you can’t see (and I’m super impressed with) is that we drilled a hole through the back of one of the drawers and put a 6-port USB charger inside. Now all our tablets and phones can charge without cords everywhere. Hanging files on the walls stores school paperwork I need regular access to like communication slips and the family directory.
Sync Your Calendars
Bri and I sat down with our planners, phones and the school calendar and got on the same page. Between work travel, after school activities and random days off, our big area of improvement last year was preplanning for conflicts. I can’t tell you how many times I would say, “Wait, they have off tomorrow?” This year, we’re ready for days we’re both on the road, the random noon dismissal and of course, the Christmas concert, which I mix up the dates for every, single, year.
As much as I rely on technology I like a paper planner. I bough Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner this time last year and used it every day. It sits on my desk and works as a dumping ground for all of our moving parts. People go crazy over her products so if you want one for 2019 check her website for when she launches that collection.
This year our school did something AMAZING and let us order all of the kids supplies from a company that would have them sitting on their desks when they arrive the first day.
And I thought Amazon was a life saver!
Knowing how things go, I did order extras of everything, so I have replacements during the school year. This way when they come home with a pencil-case full of broken crayons, I can replace it without having to run out to Target at the last-minute. I keep everything stored in the drawers between their desks in their homework station.
Ok. This is a GAME CHANGER. I mentioned this last year and couldn’t believe how many emails I received weeks later telling me how it made a morning less frantic.
My kids go to Catholic school, so sending money in for fundraisers, classroom parties or other random events happens on a weekly basis. At Christmas I look like a bookie because of the constant flow of envelopes with cash in them for various activities going to different classroom moms. The problem is that I never have cash on me, so I end up stealing from my kid’s allowance jars. This year, I hit the bank for $100 in $1s, so I always have a dollar or two when I need it. Sounds so simple, but when it’s 6 a.m., and the kids tell me they need $1 for a tag day, I don’t go into a panic.
Organize Kid Lunches
I pack lunches everyday mostly because I hate the options our school offers. Turns out, being a Type A creative, I actually enjoy putting interesting combinations together. Maddie recently told me how much better her day is when she has a fun lunch to look forward to and that sealed the deal for me. Even though they are kids, they do have long days and work really hard. I like the idea of them happily opening their lunch boxes seeing something homemade. ( Ugh. How annoying do I sound?)
I recently ordered Weelicious Lunches, a super creative cookbook filled with easy, wholesome kid-friendly recipes. I had the girls go through and pick a few that sounded good and they enthusiastically marked at least a dozen ideas. Listen, I’m not cutting strawberries in the shape of stars, but something other than PBJ, I can handle. It’s really true that it’s the little things they remember.
Family Meal Planning
I’m a really good cook, but meal planning? I am the worst at meal planning. Over the summer, I realized that our schedule is not only busy but often unpredictable. There are about three to four nights a week where I can cook a meal for the four of us, but then the weekend comes along. I can’t even count how many nights all the neighborhood kids are in our front yard, so we order a few pizzas. Or we go on a date because a neighbor is feeding the kids, or we all head to a friend’s house to hang out at the last-minute, or someone (me) has had a long day and is in no mood to turn on the stove.
I’ve tried everything from subscription meal kits, to make ahead freezer meals. What works best for us is just planning three days at a time. I only shop for three days out. Yes, I end up running to the market frequently, but with a well-stocked pantry, you can pick up some fresh meats and veggies and pull a quick meal together. This works out the best because we don’t waste any food. I’d rather be inconvenienced and have to run to the store on my way home than throw food out we never eat.
I’d love to know how you manage meal prep. It’s so annoying having to feed them every single day. : )
To all you mamas wrangling up your troops for a new school year – congratulations! You probably gave your kiddos and your whole family some incredible summer memories. Now, we have few weeks to breathe before we have to make some holiday magic happen. 😉 I for one can’t wait to get back in the office full-time, get back to a regular routine and welcome boot weather!
Happy Almost Fall!