Posts Tagged ‘Back to School Ideas’

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 GET IT TOGETHER.
…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.
…I’ll GET IT TOGETHER.

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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DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils

I hate to say it, but it’s back-to-school time! It’s always bittersweet for me. I enjoy summers with my kids so much and love the lazy days, but I also look forward to fresh starts and routines.  In honor of the season,  I created these cute DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils for the first day of school to remind your kiddos just how much they mean to you.

I always try to do one special thing for my kids on their first day of school to remind them how much they are loved. When my daughter started Kindergarten, I made hair bows that had a heart center, reminding her that my heart was with her on her big first day. For my son, it was always lots of jokes and comics tucked away in his lunchbox to share with his friends.

diy-personalized-stamped-pencils

This craft was inspired by one of my favorite books, “The Help,” if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, you really must. In one particular scene, the sweet character Aibileen gives the little girl she cares for a self-esteem boost each day saying, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” These encouraging words are what help shape this little girl and help her grow and thrive.

I wanted to create personalized pencils for my own little girl for her first day of school that would capture why she is so special to me and capture a little of that self-esteem magic that I found so endearing in the film.

I jotted down a list of words that I think of when I think of my little girl. Kind, smart, funny, sassy, and joyful are just a few examples of what I think makes her so special. I wanted to create a project around these words and thought a pencil could remind her daily of why her mom thinks she is so darn wonderful.

How to Make Stamped Pencils

How to Make DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils from MomAdvice.com.

Supplies Needed

(affiliate links included, if you use them, thank you -they help support the site!)

Directions

1. Jot down a list of words about what makes your child so special that you can use to stamp on your pencils.

2. Begin by sorting out your metal stamps into alphabetical order. I wrote a letter on the side of the stamp so it would be easy to find the stamp I needed while creating these. For me, the sorting was the most consuming part, but once you have this done it will make this project a lot faster.

3. Stamp your letter stamp into your black ink pad several times, until the letter is completely covered in the ink.

4. Then align your stamp, checking to make sure it’s about centered on one of the pencils’ flat sides, and also that it’s right-side up. You will want to give the end of your stamp a tap or two with the hammer. Keep in mind that wood is soft so you don’t want to pound it too hard, just hard enough to make that impression. Keep repeating this until you have spelled out your word.

5. Finish by dabbing your paper towel with rubbing alcohol and rubbing swiftly across the top of it to remove any excess ink that may have carried over from the stamping pad.

6. Wrap these in ribbon and give them to your child for their first day of school!

How to Make DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils from MomAdvice.com.

I hope this project inspires you to create a little bouquet of pencils for your child’s first day of school. Older children might enjoy assisting with this project or love stamping their own name. Not only is this a great activity for mastering spelling, but it is also a great way to use their imagination to create words of their own.

 

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Great Teacher Gifts on Small Budgets

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Great Teacher Gifts on Small Budgets from MomAdvice.com

I am a firm believer that it’s a great idea to start your year off right with a little treat for your teachers.
When my kids were small and I was tired, the gestures were small like a shiny apple on the first day and a handwritten note of thanks.
Through the years, I try to do grander gestures like knitted cozies and cakes made from school materials.
When talking to teachers about what gifts they love though, I am told that the act of thankfulness can be a rarity in this harried world and that is why even something as small as a note to say thanks can mean so much.
Today I want to talk about small gestures that don’t cost a lot, but could mean a lot to a teacher.
These are budget-minded projects created with a few items you can find at your local thrift store!

Craft Bookmarks From Jewelry & Buttons

Oh, I do love a good book craft and these button bookmarks are absolutely precious from peanut & olive.
The great thing about this craft is that it would be so fun to hunt for unique materials you could use whether it was from a sweater, a pretty button on a coat, a bag of odds & ends jewelry, or a pair of pretty earrings.
Pair it with a beautiful vintage school book or a stack of classic reads for the classroom for a thoughtful and inexpensive gift.

Create a Teacher Emergency Kit

If there is one thing you can always find at Goodwill it is jars for crafting. How adorable would this back-to-school emergency kit be for the first day of school.
Paint the jar lid in your favorite color, attach the free printable from Crafts Unleashed, and then fill it with a variety of emergency supplies (headache medicine, lint roller, mints, hand cream, chocolates, etc…) to get your year started off on the right foot with your child’s teacher.

Frame a Book Page

How simple and beautiful would it be to find a classic book and simply blow it up and frame it for a teacher.
As a book lover myself, I’d love a book page with the vintage illustrations like Little House in the Big Woods or Charlotte’s Web framed.
Julie Blanner shows you how she created this simple gift of a framed book page.
Placed in a simple black frame (spray painted or purchased that way), this would make a thoughtful thrifty gift.

 

Craft Some Pretty Pencils

I am a big fan of Modge Podge projects and this one is adorable.
Who knew you could wrap pencils in simple scrapbook paper to achieve such beautiful results?
Crafting Chicks shares this cute Write On printable that you could attach to a jar and fill with beautifully patterned pencils for a special teacher.
Add a stack of pretty notebooks (bought from those back-to-school specials) to pair with this pretty jar for a gift that your teacher can use and share with students in need.

Make Some Book Page Posies

Over the years, one of my favorite gifts to create and share are my book page flowers.
These look complex, but are so simple to make and they couldn’t be more inexpensive to create either.
With a book from Goodwill, you have all the materials you need to craft a beautiful bouquet of posies; or you can pair one flower with a shiny apple for a great first day for your teacher.
You can download the free printable petals over here on my site!
I hope these budget-friendly ideas have you dreaming of a fun way to start your year out right with your teachers.
If all else fails, a thank you note periodically throughout the year or time spent volunteering is always a beautiful thing for your teachers! 
 
The smallest things really do mean SO MUCH! 

What is your favorite budget-friendly teacher gift to give?

Share in the comments below!

We would love to hear about it!

This post contains affiliate links

Check out these other crafts on MomAdvice:

 

DIY Teacher Survival Kit

 

School Supplies Cake

 

Felt Flower Dry Erase Markers

 

Apple Wreath Tutorial

 

homemade-chai-tea-latte via Live Simply

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

 

 

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