10 Steps for Getting Organized and Back to School

Posted on January 3, 2009. Filed under: Family Life, Stop the Drama | Tags: , , |

Today is about Stopping the Drama

Photo by sergis blog


I have not written in months, but it’s time to start blogging again. My last entry was about a great pizza place I visited on a warm spring day in May. One day led to another, then I was deep into summer, and then it was back to school. Now that the weather is cold, and it is the New Year, I feel like getting back to Parent Jazz.

Today’s entry is about 10 steps for getting organized for back to school. With three school aged children, my house is in a constant state of near-chaos. However, there are some tips I’ve learned over the years and would like to share that help keep things less crazed.

  1. Pack up the kids’ school bags the night before. Cleaning out and packing up the school bag, collecting all of the papers, homework and permission slips the night before makes the morning process much less crazy. I also find that the younger are your children, the earlier in the day you should go though their school bags. I have stayed up late too many nights because I didn’t find the note from my kids’ teachers reminding me to send in brownies or some other treat the next morning until late at night. Even with older kids, this is a good exercise to help them think through and plan for the next day.
  2. Create a launching pad to get out of the door in the morning. Once the school bags are packed, put them in a place where everything is collected to go out the next morning. In addition to the school bag, this place can be where projects, sports equipment, special clothes and other necessary items are all kept. This helps avoid the last minute running around in the morning looking for shoes, glasses, gloves, or whatever other items tend to be forgotten until your kids are walking out the door.
  3. Have a space set up to work and study. I had to remind my kids, this does not include the space in front of the TV.  The study space should be away from distractions, well lit, and have school supplies nearby so your kids don’t have to go wandering around looking for things. With younger kids, a centrally located spot like the kitchen table is fine so an adult can supervise, help keep them on track and be available to answer any questions. Older kids don’t need as much supervision, but should not try to work in front of the television. 
  4. Make studying a habit. Establish homework and studying time as part of their routine. After coming home and having a snack, kids can then sit down to do their homework. Even when my youngest has no homework, we give 15-20 minutes of some extra reading or other type of work to do at home just to establish the habit. As kids get older and get into other activities such as sports, it becomes increasingly important to establish the habit of sitting down at a specifc time to do their work.
  5. Create a school folder for each child. This is the place where all the reminders, permission slips, teacher notes, and notices are kept. Every child will bring home loads of paper notices, and you need to have single place to keep all of that information. In addition, to having a place to keep it, you also have to have a set time to deal with it. For us, it’s during dinner. So when my kids come home and say “I need you to sign this”, I have them put it in their school folder and we can go through it during dinner. This also gives me a chance to coordinate all of the kids schedules and make sure we don’t commit to attending a concert for one kid, when there is another conflicting event for another kid. This leads me to the next tip….
  6. Put up a family calendar. List everyone’s commitments and events, where they will occur, what time, and what is needed for those events. We use it for both school and social commitments such as birthday parties, as well as doctor’s appointments. Again, with more than one kid and working parents, having that visual reminder of who needs to be where, and when helps keep us organized. It also is the place where things can “land”, meaning when a notice or appointment comes in, I can put it on the family calendar and not have to worry about losing it.
  7. Meet other parents and exchange phone numbers. Despite having systems to keep track of notices, there will be times when you need another source of information about what’s going on in school. This is when other parents can be helpful. In addition to sharing information, it simply helps to build relationships with other adults with children. Your child will develop friendships with other kids in class and the kids will want to spend time at each other’s house. Knowing the parents helps to make sure your child is safe, and you are comfortable having her spend time in someone else’s home.  
  8. Buy things in bulk so they are on hand whenever you need them. For me this starts with school supplies, so we have lots of paper, pencils, and other supplies on hand for most of the year. However, I also use this strategy for things like brownie mix, which I buy from Cotsco so we always have some available for school events, bake sales, pot lucks and other brownie emergencies. In addition, at the beginning of the school year I will buy several gender neutral, age appropriate toys and have them wrapped. So over the course of the year, as my kids get invited to birthday parties, we have a wrapped present on hand and have one less errand to run on the weekends.
  9. Plan for breakfast. Studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better in school. So make sure your child doesn’t leave the house without having something to eat. The best breakfast does not have a lot of sugar, and consists of complex carbohydrates and some protein. While this could involve cooking an egg with toast, or oatmeal with milk, you can create “grab-n-go” breakfast like a bagel with peanut butter, or yogurt with granola. The point is to not have to think about it in the morning, but to set up standard breakfast options so it’s one less decision to be made on busy mornings. 
  10. Get everyone to bed on time (especially the parents!). I’ve written about the importance of sleep before. In this case, it applies to both the parents and the children. I have teenagers, and it is harder to get them to bed on time than when they were younger. When they stay up late, it is hard to get them up in the morning, they usually oversleep, and it makes the whole morning routine rushed and chaotic due to lack of time and focus.  On the other hand, my youngest is in bed on time, getting her up is a breeze, and her mornings run very smoothly with no grumpiness and very little drama. So get everyone to bed on time.

Over the years, I have used each of these tips and find they work and are really helpful. Unfortunately, I have not been able to implement all of them at the same time. Hopefully, you will be better able to put these tips into practice to make the school year run smoothly for your family.


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How to Get Rid of a Cold, Naturally

Posted on January 15, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , |

Tuesday is about Taking Care of Yourself

Photo by Crystl
ginger.jpgUgh. I have a cold and had to leave work today to come home and get into bed. I am one of those people who is guilty of presenteeism and I go into work where I won’t be productive, won’t give myself a chance to get better, and could infect my coworkers with the germ du jour that I am sneezing and coughing up.

However, as part of my commitment to taking better care of myself, I am pledging to not work through colds and allow myself the space and time to be sick. While work is important, we need to get a handle on what is truly an emergency or critically important. The truth is no one is laying on a table with their guts hanging out waiting for me to put it all together. And if they were, they wouldn’t want me coughing and sneezing all over their innards. Otherwise, most things at work can wait a day or two, or be delegated to someone else.

How to get better? Well being a geek, I have looked up a bunch of research for what does and doesn’t work. Being a mother of three, I have also had a lot of practical experience treating colds. So based on those sources of information, here is my 10 step plan for getting rid of a cold:

  1. Nip it in the bud. Start to take special care of yourself as soon as you feel that first tickle in your throat or sniffle in your nose. Don’t wait until you need to crawl into bed before you need some rest.
  2. Take zinc. More specifically, take zinc gluconate. This is a homeopathic remedy that is backed up by studies which show that taking zinc as soon as you start to feel symptoms of a cold will shorten the time you are sick. Studies have looked at both nasal gels and lozenges, and found both are effective.
  3. Drink. Lots. Most experts recommend drinking lots of fluids when you are sick, but don’t say why it’s good for you. There are lots of benefits to drinking water in general, which I have talked about before. When you are sick, you need to be well hydrated because your body is producing lots of excess mucus, snot and phlegm (they are really all the same thing) as a way to get rid of the viruses that are attacking your body. When that stuff is thin and liquid, it is easier to cough or sneeze it out. When you are not hydrated, it is thicker and more viscous and harder to get out. It’s just that simple. It’s also why a humidifier helps. It loosens the mucus.
  4. Rest. Sleep. Snooze. Do whatever it takes to give your body a chance to heal. The restorative powers of sleep are magical, and I always feel substantially better after I’ve slept. If there is only one thing you can do for yourself when you are sick, sleep would be the most effective.
  5. Blow your nose. Other people may be better at this than I am, but I actually hate to blow my nose. So I will sit all day and sniffle. But the mucus your body is producing is how it is getting rid of the viruses. So blow your nose, and get it out.
  6. Use a neti pot. I have a handheld shower and once accidentally shot some water up my nose when I was sick (not one of my more coordinated moments). After coughing, gagging and blowing the water out of my nose, I realized that my clogged sinuses were completely clear. This is when I learned about the ancient yogic practice of nasal washing, and the use of the neti pot for delivering a saltwater solution into the nasal cavities for cleansing. There was a recent article in the NY Times about the growing popularity of this practice for colds, allergies, and chronic sinusitis. I can say from personal experience that the practice definitely does help.
  7. Drink ginger tea. I haven’t been able to find any research supporting the use of ginger for treating colds, but I do know it tastes great and I always feel better after I have had some. I take some ginger root, slice it up and simmer it in water. Then I add honey. Speaking of which…..
  8. Take a teaspoon of honey. Tea with honey has been touted as a cold remedy for years. However, a recent study found that honey is an effective cough suppressant for children and worked as well as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in cough medicine.
  9. Drink some tea, or coffee. Actually, drink anything that contains caffeine. Some people get a dry hacking cough that doesn’t produce much mucus, but causes coughing spasms. I get this and it is worse when I talk or laugh. Studies show that caffeine is similar to medicines used to treat asthma, and is an effective bronchodilator that makes breathing easier, and can relieve this type of cough. Obviously, if you have asthma, or are wheezing, you will need something stronger than a cup of coffee. Also, caffeine is a natural diuretic so drink extra fluid to stay hydrated.
  10. Say no to drugs. Most cold medicines are suppressing the symptoms and not really fighting the cold. Those symptoms–excess mucus and nasal congestion, and cough–are how your body is fighting the cold. So suppressing your body’s response is just prolonging your agony. Fever is an important part of the body’s immune response for fighting a cold, and should not be treated if it’s low grade (less than 102 degrees). However, if it goes higher, or you feel particularly miserable, fever is easily treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

So that’s my 10 point plan. I have a cup of ginger tea waiting for me, and am ready to get some sleep. I hope to be better by tomorrow.


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    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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