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Back to it

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We still have almost a month before our kids go back to school here in New York, but already vacations are giving way to back-to-school shopping. Classroom assignments are about to arrive in the mail, sending all of the moms in my small town into a collective tizzy. Talk has turned from beaches and barbecues to things like signing up for Brownies and determining when flag football practices will be.

For me, the summer is not so different, routine-wise, from the school year. At least not on the surface. I work full-time and my older kids are in daycamps. There is a morning rush out the door, lunches to pack, after-work dinners to create, workouts to squeeze in. BUT. Getting out of the house by 9 instead of 8 doesn’t really compare. Summer weeknights are devoid of homework and extracurricular activities. On the weekends we’re not rushing to religious school and sports. Even birthday parties happen with less frequency. And all of that is soon coming to an end.

Knowing that the daily grind is about to get grindier is a bit unsettling. So, I’ve been handling that stress in my typical way – formulating checklists, making sure I have supplies, making plans, developing a strategy. I’m not in panic mode by any means, but I’ve pinned a silly number of “Easy Weeknight Crockpot Dinners”, let’s just say that.

I tend to organize the things that are under my control (staying on top of our calendars, the clutter in my kitchen, etc.) so that it’s easier to manage when things come up that are out of my control (babysitter calls in sick, late night at work, etc.). And, while I’d say I’m a pretty effective household manager, there’s always room for improvement, especially as the school year ramps up. My new-school-year resolutions are below. Most are food-focused, unsurprisingly – it’s in my dietitian DNA to obsess over how I’m feeding the fam. Time-management improvements are also topping the list this year:

  • I will resurrect my routine chart – Last year I made a chart to hang in the kitchen to keep us on track in the morning and before bed. I started with a great free printable from one of my favorite blogs, IHeart Organizing. We haven’t even looked at that thing in months. Time to dust it off.
  • I will be disciplined about night-before tasks – I will pack lunches the night before, and I will lay out A’s clothes and hair things, too. This is not rocket science, but for some reason I have never embraced this way of life. I guess I really enjoy spending my mornings yelling at my kids that they’re late as I scramble to throw lunch into a bag and shove it at them (lovingly, of course) as they trip out the door. Yes, that must be it.
  • I will enforce weekday policies – Confession: We have been lame about video games. Our 8yo N can’t play for hours on end, but we have few limits. This has not served us well. Last year, he and I often argued about getting his homework done, because as a human child he preferred to play his favorite game rather than sit at the table and do work. Go figure. Now that third grade is here, and I’m told the homework actually requires concentration, on school days there will be a no video games policy and we will have a set homework time each afternoon/evening. Everyone will benefit. (Cue whining.)
  • I will stock my freezer – Recently, we fulfilled a dream and bought a chest freezer. (I know, dream big.) Now I need to get in make-and-freeze mode. I resolve to store up basic daily items like breakfast foods (pancakes, breakfast quesadillas), homemade snacks and treats (chocolate chip cookies, granola), meal builders (shredded chicken for tacos and soups), and full-on meals (chili, chicken sautés, soups, etc). Weekday meal scramble be gone.
  • I will plan more than just dinner – Each weekend JR and I plan our dinners for the week and then I place a grocery order to be delivered by FreshDirect at 6:30am on Monday. We have that routine down pat. But I struggle so much with lunch. Instead of just buying a bunch of lunch-type items and figuring it out on the fly (which never seems to work) I resolve to plan out the lunches for each child at the start of the week. I’ve tried this in the past (in fact, I wrote about it once here) but honestly, I didn’t stick with it. Well, I’m trying again! Heck, maybe if I get good at it, I’ll plan some breakfasts too!

How are you getting organized for the school year? Any great tips or recipes? Do share. And, happy back-to-school everyone!

A secret weapon

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Last month on vacation in lovely Kennebunk, Maine, we ate once again at a fun little place called The Ramp in Cape Porpoise. (I highly recommend it for their lobster roll and blueberry cobbler.) We had planned to get there early to preempt a long wait and hunger-induced freak-outs. But, despite our best intentions, there we were getting seated at 6:30 and the kids were on the verge, particularly little JB, who had eaten the last of my diaper bag Cheerios hours ago at the beach. We were able to occupy the older two with menu decisions and the decor – the room is packed with old sports and politics paraphernalia. And right in front of the hungry and cranky toddler was his recently-discoverd piece de resistance: ketchup. Within moments there was a whine rising in his throat, his arms outstretched, eyes hopeful. So, I did it. I squeezed ketchup into his bowl and presented him with an appetizer. The big kids thought it was hilarious that I was letting him eat a bowl of ketchup. Everyone was suddenly happy, the mood lighthearted and conspiratorial. JR and I virtually high-fived ourselves. After a few refills (yes, I allowed him not one, but 3 “servings”), our salads and entrees arrived, and he moved on. At the end of the meal, two women in their 70’s stopped by our table to commend us on how well behaved our children were. One of them asked, “What’s your secret?”.  Only after they left the room did I answer honestly: ketchup.

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