Back to School Reboot


Well hey it’s back to school and I don’t know about you, but our first week lasted approximately 87 days. Or so it seems.

Every year the optimist in me approaches the new school year with enthusiasm, and by the first Friday I want to stab my eyes out with the kids’ freshly sharpened pencils. Transitions are fun like that.

That said, in my years of parenting school-age kids I have learned a few things about coping with the first weeks of school.

1. Don’t volunteer for anything at Parent Night. After hearing the presentations by the principal and teachers, you will be drunk with enthusiasm. Don’t volunteer while under the influence! Give yourself a grace period. Trust me, the teachers and PTA will still want your help after the first week.

2. Make more routines and fewer rules. Instead of hard-and-fast rules, such as no screen time during the school week, we try to focus on fluid, helpful routines. Every day when you get home, hang up your backpack, empty your lunchbox and wash your hands...pretty much exactly what you do when you walk in your classroom. Screens are a maybe...only after homework and only on non-activity days. Bedtime routines are fixed but times shift depending on the after school activities, with ultimate veto power held by parents.

3. Decline all but critical invitations. My kids have had so much unstructured time during the summer that school schedules completely drain them. We don’t add anything extra into the family mix at first. Sorry, early September birthdays...but we are probably going to pass. (Especially if it’s a party that ends in Cheeze. Who am I kidding? This is great year-round advice.)

4. Make lunches before dinner. I can’t actually vouch for this tip, but it’s one of our goals this year. The post-dinner cleaning and lunch-making is such a buzzkill in our house that it can turn a perfectly nice evening into a major grouchfest. The chore might still be a drag, but at least it won’t be a drag at the very end of the night.

5. Schedule the date nights immediately. Five days into our school year and suddenly 90 percent of our spousal conversations are centered around calendars and carpools. If I’m not careful, Thanksgiving will be here before we remember to enjoy each other.

6. Plan a weekday pizza night. This is a year-round thing for us. Once a week we order pizza and (this part is critical) always make sure there is enough for the next day’s school lunches. A win-win!

What helps you get through the back-to-school transition?



Last Day

2013.05.Caution-1318-2In the weeks leading up to today...I sketched out a summer mix of spontaneity and structure, forked over hundreds of dollars for camps, panicked that the schedule was too much, then panicked that it was not enough. Then panicked that I was panicking.

I blocked off vacation days, secured lodging, cashed in airline miles, and made plans for puppy camp. I rspv’d to four weddings, bought china, and found a perfect pair of dress shoes for my pickiest child. I purchased new swimsuits and fresh flip flops. Loaded up on sunscreen, hats and water guns.

I attended school parties, spelling bees and poetry readings. I navigated end-of-year nostalgia and tears...both theirs and mine. I hugged one child through a “I’m growing up too fast” breakdown and managed not to fall apart until I had left the room.

I made countless lists, crossed them off, then made even longer ones.

And tonight... We unloaded the mountains of artwork, pencils, notebooks and report cards. We stashed the lunchboxes and hung the backpacks. Over french fries and salad, we toasted the day, then made a Summer of Fun list on scratch paper. On a whim, we climbed to the highest point in town and watched the sun fall on another school year.

I am mostly ready for this new season.

Yes, my "make it happen" list is still long. The closets are an unbearable mess. The artwork litters the house. The family photo albums remain unfinished. Several work projects linger.

I have no idea how or if my list will shrink during a season notorious for stealing my alone time. But I can't argue with the calendar. The kids are ready for lazy days, late nights, fewer rules and more ice cream.

Summer is definitely here. And there is nothing left to do but dive in and play along.

Unscientific Method

2013.01.ScienceFair-1Problem:Is it possible for parents to help their child with her first Science Fair project without having a nervous breakdown?

Hypothesis: No. Considering the combined parental baggage of perfectionism, overly optimistic time management skills, three kids, two jobs, and various other non-optional duties such as grocery shopping and showering.


  • Start early!
  • Make a plan!
  • Buy adorable radish seeds and potting soil!
  • Pat yourself on the back about how relaxed you both have been and how your child is doing this TOTALLY ON HER OWN, just like she’s supposed to!
  • Realize the night before the project is due that your child types at a speed of approximately two words per minute and even though she OWNS THIS PROJECT, she must please for the love of God let me type something, anything, just tell me what to type to get this freaking show on the road.
  • Walk away and let her type.
  • Pour some tea.
  • Wait for reinforcements, who in this case is your Knight in a Shining Elvis T-shirt.
  • Cook dinner.
  • Wash dishes.
  • Make lunches.
  • Tuck siblings into bed.
  • Cross fingers.

Results: Return to find a dining table covered in poster board, paper clippings, double-sided tape, photos, markers and charts...right alongside a beaming child.

Conclusion: This scientist was wrong. It can absolutely be done, just not without the patience of a saint and the spirit of the King.

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