Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to Survive Back to School Madness

In the area of the country where we live, school will be starting in three weeks. As in a split second. Time has flown and I want no part of schedules, bedtimes, homework, projects and the like. I want to grab my boys and run like crazy to the Land of Fun but, alas, it is coming so I might as well just get ready.  Here's what I've done so far and also what's remaining on the To Do list.

**I Started at Home** I looked through all my supplies before making the first purchase. There's no point buying what I don't need. I did the same thing with the clothes, sorting as I went. Stained items became rags and the ones that didn't fit were boxed up for the next trip to Goodwill. The exception was anything Big Brother could pass down to Little Brother. I only save classic items I truly feel will be used in the future. Trendy things go to Goodwill so they can be used while they're still in style.

**I Started Early** The school district sent supply lists with report cards as well as posted them on their websites. Little by little, I purchased the majority of what was required. Let me add that I didn't make any special trips to the store; just an item here and there everytime I happened to be out. I also didn't wait for any sales. Sure, I could wait until the week before school starts to get everything for mere pennies, and money is important, but I just don't want to spend the last week of summer rushing around in the heat and crowds, stressing over a free-with-purchase box of crayons. Now, having said that, if (and it's a big if) the sales are good enough I might go out and buy extras, but at least it will be an option not a requirement.

**I Bought Extras** I also picked up things that weren't on the list but I know will come in handy. These included poster board, sticky notes, printer paper, ink cartridges and basic items for elementary school projects (craft sticks, construction paper, pompons, googly eyes, etc.)

**Few Clothes Are Purchased** I know a lot of parents who are dropping a few Benjamins on each child's wardrobe. It just isn't practical or financially wise to buy an entire wardrobe when it isn't needed. I have been purchasing warm weather gear for pennies on the dollar thanks to clearance sales, online coupon codes, free shipping, etc. I will get a couple of items for cooler weather 'just in case' simply because I like to be prepared.

**The Meals Get Prepped Early Too** I've got about two or three grocery visits before school starts and that means I can get a few extras during each trip. Everything from juice boxes, sandwich bags, snacks (anything nonperishable) will get set aside in the closet hidden away from little eyes. I'll also be on the lookout for items that will make a few quick meals for those first hectic days. This might include new/old favorite recipes for crock pot meals, frozen meals I've prepared (it's as easy to make spaghetti sauce for two meals as it is for one).

**I Start Getting Back Up Plans In Order** Somebody always forgets something and then it's Mama who has to hear about it and go home to retrieve the missing item. My coping mechanism is simple and based on the age of the poor victim. The younger they are, the more lenient I am but having said that, I still have limits. I'll go back and get the lunch box a few times but after that they will just have to eat the school lunch (there's always at least one thing on the menu they can tolerate). I just make sure there is always lunch money on their school accounts. Extra pens and pencils are in the car's console and I even have a pair of drumsticks under the car seat for the middle schooler who forgets them on a regular basis. Anything I can do to plan ahead and keep myself sane also keeps my family sane.

**'The Schedules Start Falling Into Place** The days will gradually become more routine as we get closer to the schools' start date. I'll transition them toward earlier bedtimes with movies instead of video games. The baths will happen a little earlier and I'll wake them up a few minutes earlier than the day before. Once I waited until the last day of summer to get them to bed on time. Epic fail. Won't make that mistake again.

**Know Your Child's Weak Spot** Big Brother hates shoe shopping. He would rather chew off his arm than buy shoes. That is why his get purchased now. If we look and can't find his size, he won't get frustrated because I can calmly say "We still have time, don't worry." It takes the edge off  his anxiety and mine as well. Little Brother has to participate in the changes in order to accept them. We make an effort to let him feel like he's part of the decision making. Simple options like choosing bathtime before or after the movie, the red backpack or the blue one and what to wear tomorrow gives him the feeling of control and he's more willing to accept the change.

I rely on these steps to keep these last days peaceful for all our sakes. Summer is such a great time for a family; there's no reason it can't end as pleasantly as it began.

These easy steps help me get ahead (and stay ahead) and make these last few days of summer vacation so much for fun and enjoyable.

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