The following is a sponsored conversation with CLIF Kid Zbar Filled. As always, all opinions and weird routines are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Heather’s Handmade Life.
*my teacher friends cry*
Yes, its going to be awesome to get our little darlings back in class. I know a lot of parents are dreading the end of summer, though — having to wake their kids up early for school, and get back into the chaotic routine of getting everybody up and fed and dressed and out the door with everything they need. And then there’s the after-school hoopla of getting them to activities and making dinner and getting everything finished in time for them to get the kids to bed at a reasonable time.
I’m over here, like, OH YES I GOT THISSSSS!
It’s not that I have it all figured out. Far from it. It’s just I’m a nerd about being on time for things, being prepared, being “ready” in general. I get an odd sense of pride when we’re all standing in the front hall, shoes on, coats on, umbrellas ready, backpacks filled, etc. and we are still precisely two and a half minutes from the time we need to leave for the school bus. It’s like my own Nerdy Parent Olympics.
I may not dress fashionably or be able to carry on conversations about popular TV shows (I’m currently working my way through every season of Who’s The Boss) but you know what I CAN do? Make our weeks to run pretty darn smoothly.
In the words of Taylor Swift, are you ready for this?
I lay out our kids’ clothes in advance — usually a full week at a time — on the clothing trees I built. This means the kids can get themselves fully dressed without me having to pick out their clothes (or make them change) when I’m trying to get myself ready. And, truthfully, they wake up earlier than my alarm anyway.
Once they’re dressed for school, they know they have to brush their teeth before they can go downstairs. (Hair comes later — keep reading.) The first stop is the kitchen to turn on my tea kettle, and then our eldest’s job is to fill the dog’s food and water bowl. They also know they’re not allowed on screens until they’ve eaten breakfast, OR they’re eating it WHILE they watch something. Which brings me to …
I made a huge batch of pancakes from scratch every Saturday morning. But during the week? UM, NO, I am not making pancakes. Or eggs. Or bacon. Well, I might be making bacon but not until your little butts are off to school. That’s more of a 10 a.m. thing.
If I’m in the kitchen and there’s plenty of time before the bus, sure, I’ll offer to toast them a bagel or something. But most of the time? They handle their breakfast.
Our eight-year-old is a morning person and will make toast or pour a bowl of cereal. Our six-year-old is a night owl (although school certainly tires her out, so this isn’t as bad as it used to be). She’s also just … not a morning person, so she’s often sleepy and/or grumpy in the morning before school. She prefers something she can grab with zero effort, like a baggie of dry cereal.
I learned this trick from the “Happiness with Gretchen Rubin” podcast. Think about some little annoyance that’s getting in the way of a smoother routine, and figure out if adding or changing something can make it better.
For us, it was hair. Our daughter is pokey in the morning, so she’d finally get herself downstairs when I was already assembling the lunches or bustling around making tea — something that meant I did NOT want to go back upstairs to do her hair. (We have a drawer in our top-floor bathroom packed with all of her hair accessories.)
So now we keep one of her “magic” (wet/dry) hairbrushes in the powder room at all times, along with a small cup of basic hair elastics. This makes it easier for me to do her hair quickly before we head out the door. If she’s wearing an outfit I’ve sewn that comes with its own custom bow, she knows to grab it from the upstairs bathroom counter when she’s brushing her teeth and bring it down for me.
I’m THAT person who asks Siri to do everything for me, and I love her for that. I also set up tons of different recurring alarms (with emojis for FUNSIES) so the kids and I know what’s happening when.
There’s a specific alarm tone that we all know — even the dog — means it’s time to leave for the bus. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs — they hear that alarm and immediately turn off the TV and move towards the foyer to put on their shoes. (And if they’re *really* into whatever they’re watching, I just walk towards them, holding the phone out in front of me until they get the hint.)
I found myself in the bad habit of working RIGHT up until it was time to pick them up at the bus. Sometimes I hadn’t even eaten lunch because I’d gotten so caught up in work. My iPhone alarm would go off, I’d frantically shoot out a few more emails or a few more paragraphs of copy, and then I’d throw on some shoes (and sunglasses, naturally) and sprint down to the bus stop.
Um, this did not go well.
In the few minutes of standing around, waiting for that big yellow bus, I’d realize I was starving and likely also dehydrated. The kids would get off the bus and start begging for playdates or asking what was for snack or complaining/crying about something that had happened at school, and I’d feel unreasonably annoyed by my offspring.
I started remedying this back in the spring by bringing my water bottle and a snack to the bus with me. I chug my water and eat something — like a CLIF Bar — and then I’m a lot better prepared to handle the post-school crankies (theirs and mine). I love the Crunchy Peanut Butter ones.
When I sign our son and daughter up for activities, it’s almost EXCLUSIVELY based around a buddy system where I’ll be sharing drives with another parent. It makes a HUGE difference in my sanity — and kids always love having a friend in their class with them, right?
Our daughter’s going into her fourth year of dance and we’ve always made sure she takes the class with her best friend (who goes to another school). This means they’re guaranteed to spend time together at least one day a week, AND my friend and I split the drives. One week, I’ll drive the girls and she’ll keep our sons (who are also besties) and the next week, we switch. This year, we’ll also do the same thing with taekwondo and gymnastics.
When it’s not my turn to drive to dance, I make sure my daughter is ready with her dance bag and in her shoes/coat, standing at the front door waiting for her ride. It’s during these waiting-around moments that she decides she’s famished, so I tell her I’ll pack what’s become known as “a dance snack” for her and her friend.
Two CLIF Kid Zbar Filled = the perfect way to keep two little dancers happy on their ride to class, and give them energy to use when they get there, since the bars offer a nutritious blend of carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat. They’re an all-new energy snack from CLIF Bar made just for kids. They’re organic and made right here in Canada. Run a quick wet-wipe over their hands when they arrive, and they’re good to go.
On days when we have certain activities falling RIGHT at the time we’d normally eat dinner — 5 p.m. sharp like any good Maritimer — we have to eat two dinners, sort of. We eat an early, small dinner before leaving, since we are NOT the family that can easily chill until 6:30/7 p.m. and eat then. We rush off to whatever activity. Then when it’s over, the kids are inevitably still starving.
After one too many evenings like this when they barely touched their 4 p.m. dinner but were pounding peanut butter sandwiches at 6:30 p.m. after taekwondo, I started making a point of using the slowcooker. Dinner’s warm when we want to eat a small serving early, and then it’s still warm when we need to eat another small serving after we’re back at home.
We don’t sign up for activities that would keep us out of the house late into the evenings. I’m too much of a sleep zealot. During the school year, we try to enforce lights-out as close to 6:30 p.m. as humanly possible, since they’re waking up at 6 or 6:30 a.m. Over the summer, it creeps up to 7:30 and even 8 p.m., but soon enough it will be back down to where I like it.
Kids need sleep! Parents need sleep! Everybody’s happier when they’re rested! Oh, and parents need to spend time together, and often the 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. window is all I get with my husband in the run of a day — before I head off to bed, too.
I know, I know, sometimes you just can’t drag yourself off the couch and into the kitchen to make lunch the night before. BUT whenever I do, it’s like waking up a small but thoughtful present.
I stumble into the kitchen, make my first cup of tea — the thing that needs to happen before ANYTHING ELSE, EVER — and remember I’d thrown most of their lunch together before I went to bed. It’s like Past Heather was really looking out for Future Heather, you know?
And now Present Heather is super grateful!
What tips did I miss? What are some of your tricks for making your weeks run more smoothly? Let me know in the comments, or over on Facebook.
This post has been a sponsored conversation with CLIF Kid Zbar Filled. For more info on their products, please visit CLIFBar.ca. As always, all opinions and weird routines were my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Heather’s Handmade Life.