You know what time it is. The days are getting shorter; there is a crispness in the wind; and you can hear the cries of school-aged children everywhere. Brace yourselves. September is coming.
If you're a parent of school-aged children, you're probably stoked. You're laughing out loud with the back-to-school commercials, practically shrieking with delight.
Not quite that excited? Weird. My parents always were.
If you're not feeling overjoyed at the prospect of an institution's detaining your kids for eight hours every day (and really, what parent wouldn't be?), it could be that your mind is busy making big long lists of all the preparations you'll need to make before the first day. Think of all the lunches you'll need to plan! All the homework you'll need to help with! All the ideas you'll need to gather for quick dinners you can gulp down before zooming off to practice! In the summer, you've been able to fly by the seat of your pants, making it up as you've gone along (well, almost). But when the kiddos are on a schedule, you'll need a schedule, too.
Luckily, the Internet is full of sites that can help make planning for the back-to-school daze not only easy but also creative and fun. I've aggregated some of my favorite ideas from various sites to make it even easier for you.
--Munchables. From the time I was in elementary school to my high-school years, my mother packed me the same type of lunch: one bottle of water, one sandwich made on some kind of 57-grain bread, one piece of fruit and one bag of chips, crackers or something of the like. I never complained; my mom is a gem in the kitchen. But looking back, I realize how boring that must have gotten for her. The tremendously helpful website $5 Dinners has a list of 31 lunchbox ideas, ranging from whole-wheat pancakes with cheese crackers and mandarin oranges to PB&J sushi with pretzels and peaches. My personal favorite is tiny tacos with chunky guacamole and orange wedges. Yum!
--Homework inspiration. You'd be hard-pressed to find a kid who loves doing homework. Your daily challenge as a parent is to get your son or daughter to put down the cellphone or tablet and pick up the pencil or book. Jill Fritz is "the crafty mastermind" behind Create Craft Love. On her website, you will find tons of ideas for how to make the homework station inspirational. From cute and neat homework chair sacks -- where schoolchildren can store all their supplies -- to a magnet board that holds everything from a hole punch to a calculator, Jill has complied this ingenious list from her favorite Internet-famed crafters. Here, you're sure to find a winning way to make homework time more fun for your loved ones.
--Love notes. Let's be honest; no matter how excited you may be to take a break from constantly entertaining them, you're going to be at least a little sad when you drop your kiddies off at school or send them off to the bus stop. You're going to miss that one-on-one time in the midst of the hustle and bustle of long-term assignments and parent-teacher conferences. A nice way to get some of those moments back is to prepare little lunchbox notes. Some companies, such as SayPlease, make lunchbox cards that have printed notes on them already. But if you're more of the sentimental type, you can make your own. Make a big batch before the first day. This way, you can pop one into the lunch sack at random so it's always a surprise. Regardless of how you make them, telling your children how much you love them, how you can't wait to hang out after school or even a silly joke will surely brighten their day.
--Shopping smartly. Maybe it's the hot summer sun or the lazy summer nights, but something about those three months of freedom seems to make kids sprout up. Before you set out to buy a whole new wardrobe, make sure you know the school dress code, and then go to the mall with a plan and a budget. Buying separates and basics will help make some other articles of clothing that do still fit last another year. Check out the blog LoveSpunk for more tips on how to prep for back-to-school shopping.
Now, take a few deep breaths, and then get your lists ready and start checking off tasks! With these helpful ideas, by the time that first day rolls around, you'll be perfectly prepared to make sure the new school year is a blast.