Backpacks and Pumpkins

Back to school we go…

For many of my friends this phrase strikes fear in their hearts.  Yes, we are all relieved to have the kids back in school of course, but along with this transition comes a lot more demands on our time together.  As my kids get older and the level of expectation for them in school increases, being organized and thinking ahead becomes a necessity.

As a single working mom, I have little to no margin for error when it comes to getting my boys set up for success at school.  As I have written about many times before, I believe wholeheartedly in designing my day ahead of time.  I really double down on this practice at this time of year, because it allows me to sleep better at night knowing that I have thought through all the stressors ahead tomorrow and created a strategy or at least set my intentions before shutting my light at bedtime.

Each night, I write a forward looking design for my coming day.  I keep my calendar open as I go, and write with the idea that everything unfolds just as I hope it will.  I write in the past tense, as if it has already happened.  I also start with a quote that sets the tone for my day, and I actually relish choosing one.  The real magic happens the next night, when I copy and paste my design for the day that just happened and then audit my performance.  I try to be brutally honest with myself and hold myself accountable for the wins and the misses.  Then I write looking ahead to the following day.  

Sounds like a lot?  In the beginning it is.  But I challenge you to commit to this practice for one week and see what it gets you.  I learned this technique from The Handel Group, and it is an absolute game changer.  It has become my number one tool for managing anxiety and overwhelm, which at least for me these days are sadly my constant companions.  So I choose acceptance and I work through things on a micro level, controlling what I can and accepting what I didn’t do so well.

Beyond my daily design practice, there are some go to tools that I recommend for starting off as you mean to continue the school year.  Here are my top tips:

  • Revisit your chore list and give your kids some accountability for their own routines.  Executive functioning is learned to a large extent, so I model the habits I wish them to emulate as much as possible.  I use an incredible app called Greenlight to manage my kids’ allowances, and I tie them to chore lists.  I adore this app, as it teaches financial fluency (something I also struggle with), encourages saving and also teaches the basics of investing and budgeting to your little ones.  If your children are old enough to have their own phones, it will save you so much yelling I can’t describe it.  They know what they are expected to do each day, and don’t earn their allowances if they don’t keep up with those jobs.  Incredible!
  • Meal prep is essential not just for me but for my kids too.  Each Sunday I plan out the dinners for the week, shop for what I can and get it delivered ( I love Thrive Market) to save time.  Then I chop veggies and wash and dry fruit, putting it all in grab and go containers so snacks are healthy and quick.  I talk to the boys Sunday evenings about what lunches they would like that week, and get them thinking about nutrition and planning ahead.  Lucca has Celiac disease which means I really have to help him plan ahead.  He has become adept at what works for him and what doesn’t, and I am proud to say I have a baker in the house!  He bakes a gluten-free treat every two-three days so he has something he knows won’t make him sick and that he loves.  Yes!
  • Walk them through the upcoming week and their activities.  Oscar has anxiety disorder, and what my youngest needs to feel calm heading into school is to know that after school he has X amount of time at home before practice, that so and so is carpooling with him, and that yes we will have salmon for dinner tomorrow.  Every little thing I can front load for him helps ease his burden of worry.  When I tuck him in at night I go through the next day with him and each of my boys journal at least one sentence every night before bed.  I like to get them designing too, and this way I teach proactivity instead of reactivity.  I always say you have control over the story you tell yourself, so tell yourself that tomorrow is going to be awesome.  It works!
  • Have them lay out their clothes the night before.  I even make sure the breakfast table is set and their vitamins are laid out.  If I’m really on my game I will fill and refrigerate their water bottles.  Ok that doesn’t happen too often but there is no such thing as too prepared!  We talk about the weather, check the forecast and choose accordingly.  Anxious kids are often hyper focused on the weather, and Oscar is no exception.  He has an Alexa in his room so he can ask her for the forecast and know what’s coming.  Teach them that they can find the answers and that thinking ahead is helpful in planning.
  • Early to bed, early to rise!  Bedtimes and routines become critical at this time of year.  That’s even harder with tweens and teens but teach them early about the importance of rest and recovery.  There is no quicker way to ruin a day than by waking up exhausted. 

Hope one or two of these inspire excitement for this next season of life…

As always, thank you for joining me in the pursuit of a life well lived.

Photo by cottonbro on

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