Posts Tagged ‘Back to School’

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year

For the past several weeks my mantra has been, “I can’t wait until school starts.” As my family and I have struggled with a perfect storm of change, uncertainty and chaos, the beginning of the school year has become something of a Holy Grail to me. I’ve told myself (and my husband and everyone who will listen) that when school starts…

…I’ll be more organized.
…I’ll start eating – and feeding them – more healthy foods.
…I’ll put them to bed earlier (and go to bed earlier).
…I’ll plan meals and make a grocery list.
…I’ll move the laundry from the washer to dryer before it mildews.
…I’ll stop ordering pizza once a week.
…I’ll get more work done.
…I’ll miss fewer deadlines.

It’s a long list of things I think I’m going to accomplish when the school year begins and I reclaim some of my precious order and organization. But though I’m tempted to just stare at the circled date on my calendar (the one that has hearts and smiley faces and blinking lights around it…at least in my mind), the one that says, “FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL,” and daydream about chore charts and folded laundry and deadlines met and boxes checked, I know better.

I know that with the commencement of the school year also comes the PTA, the school activities, the lessons and practices, the homework and tests. I know that the cleaning schedule and the snack shelf and the color-coordinated to-do list will all fall apart — and probably before we hit Labor Day. It’s just the nature of this busy season of life, and turning a new page on the calendar isn’t what makes it less chaotic and more manageable.

No, rather than dream of a chaos-free life (SERIOUSLY. Can you even imagine? We’d just get bored, right? … RIGHT???), I know from past changing of the seasons or school years that it’s better to deal with the chaos than to pretend it doesn’t exist. So, here’s my plan:

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year

1. Make Meals Easier. Last year I wrote about three challenges and solutions to meal planning that my family has struggled with. I’m going to be honest: not a whole lot has changed since then. Getting food on the table for THESE PEOPLE who want to eat three times a day, every day of their lives, while also dictating how many sweets and how few vegetables they desire IS HARD WORK. But it’s work that has to be done — and that makes a world of difference.

I don’t anticipate turning into a different person between now and the start of the school year. So I’m not going to pin a whole bunch of casserole recipes for a day-long cooking session that will fill up my freezer. (I actually have about a dozen freezer meals in my freezer right now that I FORGOT I EVEN HAD until just recently. Oops.)

Instead, I’m going to take an hour to chop onions and peppers, grill and slice chicken, and brown hamburger. Then I’m going to take another hour to make baked oatmeal and banana muffins. And then? (After I stick all that food in the freezer?) If I’m still feeling industrious, I’ll prep all our lunch and snack food for the first few weeks. (And if not, I’ll recruit my third-grader to do it. After all, she’s the one who will be eating those individual servings of crackers and pepperoni and grapes!)

2. Pick Out Clothes. Now that we’ve moved, our washer and dryer no longer live in our garage. I have an actual laundry room, and it’s on the same level as our bedrooms. But while this is the ideal layout according to moms everywhere, I’m still struggling to implement a system — a system that doesn’t result in mountains of dirty laundry outside the laundry room door and mountains of clean laundry on top of the dryer.

It may still take a while for me to figure out our new laundry system, but my first step to mastering this mess is to pick out my kids’ clothes a week at a time. I was just lamenting the lack of school uniforms at my daughter’s public school, because OH THE GNASHING OF TEETH about what she’s going to wear. Every. Single. Day of my life. I’m hopeful that if she and I take a little bit of time each Sunday afternoon to pick out five outfits, a lot of those fights will be eliminated. We’ll see…

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos

3. Set My Alarm. My oldest daughter’s new school starts earlier than her old one, plus I’m changing my work schedule (read: adding more work, plus leaving the house to get it done). That means our leisurely mornings spent lounging while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (them), scrolling through Facebook (me), and inhaling granola bars at the last minute (um, all of us) ARE OVER.

There’s no getting around it. We have to get up earlier. And that means, if I am serious about calming the chaos, I need to get up even earlier than my kids. Since I wrote all about the struggles night owls like me face when trying to create better mornings for their families, I know the steps I need to take. It’s just a matter of doing it. And it starts with setting my alarm.

4. Buy a New Calendar. When we moved, I tossed our old white-board calendar that hung on the side of our refrigerator. It had seen better days (the middle few squares were completely gray), but the reason I threw it away was because our fridge in the new house is between two cabinets. And the doors are too narrow for the calendar. So it didn’t work anymore.

But you know what else doesn’t work? NOT HAVING A FAMILY CALENDAR! Yikes. This summer has been full of chaos and irregular schedules, and in hindsight I realize getting a new calendar right away might have prevented some of that. So before we dive into the school year, with its activities and schedules and meetings and appointments, I’m buying a new calendar for the kitchen wall and putting it to use! (I also use a calendar app that my husband and I share, because sometimes I am away from home when I need to schedule something and that’s what works for us.)

5. Just Say No. You guys? I really hate missing out on stuff. I do. And I hate it when my kids miss out on stuff, too. And you know what? Even in our new, small town, we have SO MANY FUN OPPORTUNITIES. Teams and lessons and shows and festivals and movie nights and play dates — and then there’s homework and read-to-self and screen time and free play and GO OUTSIDE ALREADY and church and school (oh yeah, that!) and meetings and orthodontist appointments and Bible study and book club and…

If I let it, the world and all of its many amazing, fun, educational, interesting, entertaining, just great in general opportunities will take over my life. And it will drive me crazy. I know, because I’ve done it before (many times).

Last fall my daughter played on a basketball team and took piano lessons. And just that amount of activity, in that season, was TOO MUCH for my family. The stress of two activities, two nights in a row, every week just about did us in. I know! So many families do so much more! And that’s okay. We will someday (maybe even this fall, I don’t know yet) be able to do more. Each family has to figure out their own balance, avoid their own tipping point, and say no to what is too much for them.

So, there it is: my master plan for calming the chaos this school year. I could list another dozen ideas for organization, another handful of tips for running a household well, another bunch of suggestions for turning my crew into a well-oiled machine. But a) I figure we’ll be doing good if we can manage these five, and b) I think any family will be on their way to more peace if they can work on any one of these things!

How will you calm the chaos in your house this school year?


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Back-To-School Pinterest Party

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Back to School Party on Pinterest! Get great DIY ideas and a chance to win fun prizes.

It’s school time and I’m excited to be hosting a Back to School Pinterest Party with 12 other talented DIY bloggers this Sunday and YOU’RE INVITED!


What is a Pinterest Party?

It’s a fun night of doing one of our favorite things… pinning!! Each party host will be pinning their BEST Back to School Ideas on the DIY Creative Ideas board so you can get great ideas all in one place! There will be crafts, teacher gift ideas, fashion, hair styles, recipes, organization tips, parenting tips, free printables, photography tips, party ideas and more!

You’ll want to be there to repin and save your favorite ideas. The BEST part is, we’ll be giving away some awesome party prizes throughout the night. You won’t want to miss the fun!!!

  • When: Sunday, August 17, 2014
  • Time: 6-7 pm PST, 7-8 pm MST, 8-9 pm CST, 9-10 pm EST (Make sure to show up in the correct time zone!)
  • Prizes: There will be 4 awesome party prizes!

You must follow the directions on the giveaway widget below to RSVP and be entered to win the giveaway prizes.

Back to School Party on Pinterest! Get great DIY ideas and a chance to win fun prizes.

IMPORTANT: You MUST be present to win. We will be announcing winners LIVE on Pinterest.

Joining the Party is Simple…

  1. Click here –> to Follow the DIY Creative Ideas Pinterest Board.
  2. Follow the party hosts on the widget below to RSVP and be entered to win the party prizes.
  3. Show up online at the DIY Creative Ideas Pinterest Board, Sunday, August 17th at the correct time for your time zone.
  4. Repin your favorite DIY ideas, leave comments and have fun!
  5. Be present and watch to see if your name is announced as a winner!
  6. If you win a prize – you must claim your prize in a comment under the announcement pin so we know you are at the party. We’ll give the winners 5 minutes and if nobody claims it, we’ll assume you are not there and will choose another winner.

Looking forward to seeing you at the party! Be sure to invite a friend:-)

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21 Back To School Organizing Ideas

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Can you believe that school has started for many already, and will be starting for everyone else within the next couple of weeks? It’s crazy how fast the summer goes, yet I always look forward to a brand new school year and that great fresh feeling of fall!  Dealing with all the busy schedules, paperwork, homework, and meals during the school week is part of the fun, but also can lead to feeling overwhelmed if not tackled in the beginning.

Now that my kids are a bit older, I’ve found that if I start out on the right track with simple, doable organizing strategies, then the rest of the year goes much better than when I put off setting up simple systems or decide to just wing it.

21 School Organizing Ideas

With this in mind, I’ve put together 21 Back To School Organizing ideas to inspire you and help you get the year off to a good start for you and your kids. I’ve picked some classic tried-and-true Mom Advice systems that work for us and gathered a few other amazing ideas in three main categories:

  • Making School Memories/Showing Love
  • Life Organization Tips for The School Year
  • Organizing Dinners, Lunches, and Snacks

Teacher School Supplies Cake ::

Making School Memories/Showing Love


Teacher’s School Supplies Cake (use the sales!)

Creating Back to School Traditions

First Day of School Pin/Barrette

19 Teacher Appreciation Ideas

Mason Jar With Chalkboard Printable Tags @ The Crafted Sparrow

First Day of School Journal @ Happy Clippings

School Year Time Capsule @ Family Volley

DIY Command Center ::

Life Organization Tips for The School Year


DIY Command Center

DIY Homework Station

The Top 7 Apps to Organize Your Life

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Organizing School Papers @ One Creative Housewife

Simplifying the Morning Routine @ Homey Home Design

After School Routine with Free Printable @ Living Locurto

Clothing Organization @ The Idea Room

DIY Lunchbox Creation Station ::

Organizing Dinners, Lunches, and Snacks


DIY Lunchbox Creation Station

Dorm Mini-Fridge Healthy Makeover

Free Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

15 Back to School Treats @ Rainbows & Honeysuckle

Quick Tips for Packing Lunches @ House of Hepworths

Pantry Organization for Easy Weeknight Meals @ BHG

I hope this helps you all get off to a successful school year start. And I hope you share with us some of your favorite back-to-school organizing tips!


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Lunchbox Fun for Back-To-School

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Back-to-school means it’s time to start thinking about packing your kids lunchbox. Every day. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to get in a rut of sandwich-fruit-chip/pretzels, but with a little bit of planning and thinking – dare I say it? – outside the box, we can get out of the rut and create a bit of lunchbox fun!

Fun Lunchbox

With that in mind, I’ve searched the Mom Advice archives for some of my kids favorite lunchbox foods, visited our lunchbox Pinterest Board (lots more ideas there, by the way!) for ideas, and then searched for even more creative and healthy ways to bring a little lunchbox fun to the school year!

16 Fun Ideas for Changing up the Lunchbox Routine


From Mom Advice:
Fruit Infused Water ::

Fruit-Infused Water {in place of juice boxes!}

Lunchbox Asian Noodles ::

Asian Lunchbox Noodles

Granola Bars on

Easy Homemade Granola Bars

Chocolate chip cookie bars from

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

More fun ideas from others {please be sure to pin from the original source – thanks!}:

Mini blt wraps

Mini BLT Wraps @ The Girl Who Ate Everything

ham & cheese pinwheels

Ham & Cheese Pinwheels @ Jamie Cooks It Up

Mac-n-cheese muffins

Mac & Cheese ‘Muffins’ @ The Daily Meal

Grilled cheese Lunchbox

Grilled Cheese & Vegetable Lunchbox @ Biting The Hand That Feeds You


Salads in a Jar @ Simple Bites

PB&J Dippers

Peanut Butter & Jelly Dippers @ Momables

30 days of lunches

30 Days of No-Repeat Lunches @ Peanut Blossom

pizza pockets

Homemade Pizza Pockets @ Another Lunch

Healthy Gummy Bears

Healthy Fruit Gummy Bears @ Undressed Skeleton

Soft Whole Grain PB Cookie

Soft & Chewy Whole Grain Peanut Butter Cookie @ An Oregon Cottage

And here’s a couple ideas that are sure to gain a smile:

Lunchbox jokes printables

180 Lunchbox Jokes Printable @ 320 Sycamore

Lunch sack printables

Lunch Sack Printable @ Kensie Kate

What are some ways you like to create lunchbox fun? And don’t forget to check out our Lunchbox Love Pinterest Board if you need even more ideas!


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Creating Your Own Back to School Traditions

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I may have mentioned (or spammed you) last week with all of the pictures of my kiddos off for their first day of school. Now that the kids are back to school, I am reminded of all of the wonderful traditions we do in our family to celebrate the back to school season.

This month I am over at the Goodwill Tips blog sharing some fun, easy, and wallet-friendly back to school traditions you can create with your kids, using items you have around your house or found at your local Goodwill store.

If you are a local reader, I also wanted to share the Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration Lunches that are happening in just a couple of short weeks in our area..

Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration

Thursday, September 13th – Windsor Park Conference Center / Mishawaka

Friday, September 14th – Strongbow Inn / Valparaiso

We invite you to join us! Our guest speaker will be,  Lorie Marrero, a Certified Professional Organizer and author of: The Clutter Diet. When you attend one of the celebration lunches, you’ll receive a FREE re-useable Goodwill Loves Moms Donation Bag and Lorie’s book: The Clutter Diet!

Visit Goodwill Loves Moms to learn more about purchasing tickets and more about the event!















Glad Mom Made

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

These last few weeks of summer and the beginning of the school year can be a true challenge for moms. This month  I am excited to be partnering with Glad to showcase some great strategies for moms to help keep kids entertained and get your school year off to a great start.

If you read magazines like Taste of Home or Family Circle, you may have spotted a familiar face tucked within the pages of your magazine. I had the opportunity to work with Glad on a fresh initiative arming moms with ideas to keep the kids entertained during the summer months, lunchbox inspiration to breathe life into tired lunches,  and great printables to help you get organized for the back-to-school season.

If you would like to see some of my fun ideas including my favorite bubble recipe, homemade play dough, homemade sidewalk chalk, easy lunchbox noodles, and snag some great free printables to add a little sparkle to your child’s lunchbox, be sure to join Glad’s Facebook Community and click on Glad’s Mom Made tab for tips and tricks to manage the back-to-school madness.  That is just the tip of the iceberg though! Head over to Glad to get the full scoop on all of these fantastic ideas to get your school year started out right.

It thrills me to no end to get to share my ideas with Glad and I can’t wait for you to see what I was hard at work on this summer! Hurry over today for monthly inspiration created by some really fabulous mom bloggers.


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