As the end of the summer holidays approaches (too fast, too fast ... this break hasn't felt nearly long enough), I'm starting to try to work out the logistics of the first half of the year for us. I say "try to" advisedly, as nothing ever goes fully to plan, things change, people get sick, unexpected hiccups and opportunities arise, and plans have to be ditched or at least radically altered. All the same, illusory as it might be, I like to try to get a handle on how our termtime weeks are going to roll, if only because I find chaos exhausting if it goes on too long. (Yes, I might have control issues too :-)
There are five key things that I have done in these two weeks leading up to school over the past three years, that seem to have made things easier. Each day this week I'm going to post about one of them, starting with the most obvious and probably dull, but oh-so-necessary one.
1. Get all the school supplies, uniforms, books et al 100% prepared
This might sound self-evident, especially with all the Back to School advertising bombarding the airwaves; but I have found that I, at least, have a distressing tendency to overlook things, or amble along comfortably certain that all is done only to discover, 10 minutes before we have to leave on day 1, that something rather critical has been forgotten.
What I do now is to make a list of EVERYTHING that's needed for school, then literally lay it out on the lounge room floor in full daylight so I can see what's missing, what's stained or torn, what's broken, what's too small or too short to fit. My list for each child goes roughly like this -
4 x polo tops
2 x dresses
2 x shorts
4 x trackpants
1 x winter dress
2 x jumpers
1 x jacket
1 x leather school shoes
1 x sneakers
10 x school socks (white)
3 x hats
1 x lunchbox
1 x water bottle
1 x book and stationery pack (thankfully, purchased from the school as a self-contained set for a reasonable price!)
1 x tissue box
1 x set of headphones
1 x USB stick
1 x schoolbag
1 x library bag
Once I've checked all that and filled any gaps / fixed any problems, I then make a list of lunchbox foods that I'm going to rely on in term 1. This might sound incredibly dull but it has saved my bacon on numerous occasions. I only do a term list for this as kids' tastes change, but most of the term 1 lunchboxes will be filled from these options, and the components go automatically on my shopping list.
I am brutally honest on this list - I only include foods I know the kids will eat and enjoy. My children, for example, don't eat salad other than pasta or potato salad, and won't eat raw vegetables. Rather than rail against this, I figure it's their tastes, and I work with it as much as I can. I tend to offer them new taste experiences at home or in restaurants rather than in their school lunches, because, frankly, they have enough to manage in a full school day without eating unpalatable food or going hungry. Each kid gets one thing from each category per day. This term 1, the list goes like this:
Sandwich - Cheese & Vegemite, Salmon, Honey, Ham, Avocado, Jam, Tomato & Cheese.
Sushi rolls (California, salmon & avocado)
Bacon & egg pies
Cold chicken legs
Tub of pasta or potato salad
Cold roasted veggies
Banana, apple, strawberries, watermelon, rockmelon, pear, tubs of fruit puree.
Crackers, pretzels, savoury muffins, Le Snacks, muesli bars, wedges of cheese, parboiled carrots
Brownie, cupcake, slice, muffin, hot cross bun, cookies
It all helps me get prepared for the term and feel like things are a bit more manageable.