Getting back into a school routine can be kind of painful. I know lots of people (myself included) just love the easy-breezy feel of summer. The going outside anytime you want, eating popsicles for breakfast, sleeping late, watching movies on a random Wednesday. But when it’s time for school, I think the transition is smoothest if we can have conversations about our expectations with our kids and our spouses so that no one is confused or surprised when day #1 actually comes.
Okay, I know you might be thinking, you can’t possibly know what you’re talking about, your oldest kid literally JUST went to school. But, listen, what I’m about to tell you has come from mamas in all walks of life, from parents of students I taught, from blogs and books about health and parenting. I’ve simplified all that, and what I’ll share here is simply what’s working for us. These tips aren’t age-specific. They are great for my four-year-old, but I taught ten-year-olds in school and know they would definitely benefit from them as well.
So here’s what we did (and are continuing to do):
- Get organized. For us, one of my favorite new things we are doing is a family calendar. Once a month, we sit down together, give the baby a snack so he’s happy, and color code our month. We add doctor’s appointments and dance classes, trips to the dentist and family member’s birthdays. I add in my biweekly women’s group and friends’ birthday parties. We talk about who’s taking which kid where and who needs to be at which appointment when. And then the calendar lives in the kitchen, right where everyone can see it. It may not be the prettiest decor, but it is right in our line of sight and helps us remember to do the important things.
- Another organizational thing we’ve done that has helped A TON is making lunches before bedtime. She gets to pick out what goes in her lunch (within reason of course), has ownership over packing it (so there’s minimal complaining about what’s in there), and then it’s super easy to take out of the fridge and put in the lunchbox with an icepack in the morning.
- One more little time-saving tip is picking out clothes before bed. In my house, this one is HUGE. Our daughter is very opinionated about what she wants to wear and nine times out of ten if I choose something, she will put it back to get something different. Ugh. So now, I just make her pick it the night before and so far, she has stuck with her outfit the next day (no matter how mismatched or how much I cringe, I figure she’s at least dressed so we can go).
- Stick to those bedtime routines. If you read this post, then you know how much we value sleep. How much and how well we sleep determines our moods and affects physical health, so in this house, sleep is a priority. Three things we do to help bedtime go smoothly are:
- No screens 1-2 hours before bed. We have completely taken away the tablet during the school week (this was much less painful than I thought) and at most, the kids watch one or two little 25 minute shows while we are working on dinner. Cutting down on screen time in general has been helpful, but especially before bed.
- Have a calm-down period. I don’t know how it is in your house, but when Dad gets home over here, it’s totally nuts. One minute we are reading or coloring or doing a nice puzzle and the next, there is running and screaming and piggy back rides and hide-and-seek and bubbles on the back porch. This is such a special time my kiddos have with their daddy, and I love it. We just make sure that the hour(ish) before bed is full of calmer, quieter activities. This is a great time to get in that read-aloud time. My daughter loves to sculpt with play-doh while I read a chapter (“big girl”) book aloud, and it helps to calm her mind and body (right now it’s Beezus and Ramona and my inner child is squealing).
- Be consistent. Our bedtime pretty much looks the same every single night: bath, some calming activity, read books, and then lights out. There is no confusion and no room for “but can I…?” questions because the expectations are set. We even practiced this specific “school time” bedtime routine a couple weeks before school ever started.
- Grace, grace, and more grace. Going to school is HARD on a little body. There is so much thinking and learning going on that their brains are literally exhausted. And a tired kid brain can lead to all kinds of wacky emotional meltdowns and strange behavior that can drive anyone a little crazy. I try my hardest (and fail sometimes) to resist the urge to get frustrated and instead lean in to them. Build something, snuggle, read, leave them totally alone for a few minutes if they are introverted and need to recharge, let them help cook dinner, play outside. Remind them that home is safe and home is where they are loved.
I’m not writing this post because I’m an expert or because I have it all figured out. I know that realistically most days, these things will help everything go smoothly. But I also know that there will be days where everyone is a hot mess, myself included. Sometimes we’ll argue about which shoes to wear or how she wants her hair done. Sometimes I’ll forget to pack the lunch and be rushing around in the morning. Those days happen and they are okay. But these few minor adjustments to our normal routine have already made a huge difference in our house.
Reading People by Anne Bogel. This is a fascinating book because Anne has basically put together a summary of the most popular personality typing systems out there and she talks about how discovering the truth about herself through the lens of personality has helped her navigate conflict in both her personal and professional relationships.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson and Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. These middle-grade novels are so beautiful it only took me one day each to read them. I’ll write more about these in a different post someday, but I thought both of them dealt with hard cultural issues in ways that children can understand.
Currently Making: My mom’s Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas. This is my favorite thing ever to serve to guests and take when people have babies (if they can handle the heat) or for whatever other reason. They are super easy but taste just like home.
- shredded, cooked chicken, about 3-4 boneless, skinless breasts, however you want to cook it
- 1 jar green chile sauce (I like to use 505 Flame Roasted Green Chile, but any enchilada sauce will work)
- 1 jar salsa (lately I’ve been loving Mateo’s Hatch Green Chile salsa)
- 1-2 cups chicken broth
- 1 can or box of cream of chicken (or mushroom) soup
- about 4 cups of shredded Mexican cheese
- 18 corn tortillas (I like the thin ones)
- Make the sauce: mix soup, salsa, green chile, and however much broth you want. I like to add a little broth at a time until I get it to the consistency I want. Whisk together until it’s creamy.
- Put one little ladle-full of sauce in the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.
- Dip 6 tortillas in the sauce and cover the bottom of the pan with them. Then, add half the chicken, about 1/3 of the sauce, and lots of cheese.
- Repeat step 3.
- The last layer will be just tortillas, the rest of the sauce, and cheese.
- Put in a 350° oven until the sauce bubbles.
- We usually use warm flour tortillas to make little mini-tacos (aka use a tortilla as a vehicle to get it in your mouth). Enjoy!!
Thank you for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.