Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back-to-school: The storm before the calm

Impact! Ten zillion things that MUST get done, before the first day of school, ricochet off the inside of your skull at the speed of 120 mph break-neck winds. Blood pressure rises. Hives errupt. Breathing gets...hey, wait...stop holding your breath. None of it will get done if you pass out. Who will finish that manuscript if you keel over?

How are we supposed to stay unfrazzled during the back-to-school frenzy? My heart goes out to writers who have Aug/Sept deadlines (I'm eating chocolate on their behalf as I type this).

Seriously. I rely on lists for stress reduction. Plain, old, hand-written lists. I think there's something therapeutic in the glide of the pen-on-paper as I transfer the umpteen to-do's from my thoughts to solid surface. Writing things down eliminates the fear of forgetting. But the key to keeping your sanity while preserving writing time during the storm is in how you check off the list. Depending on the size of the project, try picking one to three 'musts' to accomplish in a day. Little by little the list you will whittle. That should leave you with several hours a day to write. Doing too much at once may leave you burned out by evening. Not much writing can get done if you're lying flat-faced on your bed with school supplies circling over your head like tweeting birds.

So let's get that list started. Mine includes:
  • Print and shop for school supplies. Do this before the only backpacks left for your teenage son to choose from are various shades of pink with Barbie on the front.
  • Dig out hand-me-down clothes and the winter clothes stashes. Have every child try things on for size and make a list (by child's name) of needed items, from socks to sweaters. Take advantage of sales.
  • Collect all outgrown clothes that are still in good shape and set aside for donation. As for all those blue jeans with worn out knees, consider donating them to Habitat for Humanity for use as home insulation. Interested? Find out more, including collection sites, at
  • Hover over kids like a drill sergeant as they clean their rooms and their desks. Move over Lego, here come the books! No distractions allowed once the studying begins.
  • Schedule eye exams, doctor appointments, and haircuts (I cut their hair at home, so one less car trip). Remember that doctors often need time to fill out school paperwork, and some opticals can take several weeks to get glasses in, so plan ahead.
  • Set aside an hour or two a day for kids to brush up on brain work. It's amazing how much they can forget in a few months. My kids read all summer, but I'm talking about basics like multiplication review. It doesn't take much to get their brains fired up.
  • Oh and, all those school papers that I never sorted through at the beginning of summer? Yeh, now would be a good time.
  • Make sure my at home project stashes are well supplied (ie. tape, sissors, pencils, colored paper etc...) so that I can avoid last minute homework assignment shopping trips. sure you post that list where everyone can see the big red lines through all your accomplishments. You worked hard, flaunt it! Be appreciated (maybe). Besides, that book you're working on could take months and months before it's ever recognized, so you might as well get some credit for pulling the family through the back-to-school storm. Hang in there. Pretty soon the house will be silent, except for the tapping of your computer keys.

What's your strategy? Anything critical I'm missing from my list?


  1. Oh, I know where you are coming from. And I have all boys so they are just like "I don't need to try it on, I know it'll fit" (which it NEVER EVER does, grrr).
    I also just want to go on record as saying I LOVE lists, and I LOVE crossing things off them. I am known to put things on my list I have already done, just so I can make myself feel good about what I have accomplished! ;op

  2. LOL, Christine! I've done that too! And yes, boys never want to try things on. I think it's some sort of precursor to not asking for driving directions ;)

  3. I just made the dr appt. Need to do the old clothes thing and clean out the closets. All school supplies and clothes are shopped for though.

  4. Hey Jennifer! You're ahead of me on school supplies. I'm hoping to get that done this weekend. I made the boys go through and throw out all the dried up markers and pens today :)

  5. Gosh! I've given myself exactly 4 days ay home after vacation until school starts. I did uniform checks already, but need to get new backpacks as well as a million other things. Hyperventilate much? LOL

  6. LOL, Kaily. Has anyone coined the phrase 'mental hyperventilation' yet? I swear that writing to do lists is my brain equivalent of breathing into a paper bag :O
    I got one child's eye exam done and glasses ordered today, in addition to buying a few school supplies. The list is far from done!

    Four days? Got caffeine? :)