We just closed the book on another Spring Break in our little corner of the world. Our girls just headed back to school for the final 9-week grading period of the school year. While we are all excited to finish up 4th grade and 7th grade--the last 2 1/2 months of school have a way of striking fear in the hearts and souls of even the most organized moms. Why is the end of the school year always so busy and chaotic? Or--are parents and kids just too exhausted to process anything more after April 1st? I'm not sure why it happens--but, parents (and kids and even teachers) seem to get a little crazy during the last couple of months of school! Instead of our usual Monday Motivation post, I thought I would share some tips for staying sane and organized during the end of the school year chaos.
Get Enough Sleep. I know that I am tired. Really. Really. Tired. And it's only April 4th. When I am tired; I lose focus. Concentrating (and organizing and managing my to-do lists) becomes much more difficult with a "foggy", sleepy brain! Maintaining a sleep schedule is probably the toughest thing to do in a house with kids during the spring in Ohio. We suffer through the winter cold and dark, blah days and we get SO excited when the days are "longer", brighter and warmer. We want to be outside until it's too chilly or too dark to stay out any longer! In our house, 8/9 o'clock bedtimes also get pushed back by soccer practices or track meets. The kids roll into bed around 11 (parents even later) and are all bears at 5, 6 or 7 am!
Try really hard to keep a little structure in your bedtime routines/ morning alarm schedule on any day possible--even if it's the weekend. Darken the bedrooms and ban the electronics from the sleep spaces to help everyone fall asleep. Resist the urge to hit the snooze buttons in the morning! Running late will not help you keep it all together when the end-of-the-school-year rush hits in full force!
Eat Right. When we find ourselves really busy with sport practices, award ceremonies, final projects, spring yard work, and warm weather fun--we tend to fall off the healthy, food, home-cooked meal "wagon". Fast food lunches, pizza and Chinese takeout dinners, and deli/bakery convenience foods take the place of energizing, healthy food choices when the schedule gets crazy!
I just spent the weekend chopping veggies and fruit for the week's meals, planning a menu and semi-prepping meals that are doable for my hours-in-the-car-practice-and-activity-chauffering schedule! I didn't buy many convenience foods at the grocery store this weekend. If we don't have cookies, chips, cereal bars, etc.--the kids will grab carrots, yogurt or melon cubes!
Plan a menu--and put up a menu board for the kids. Let them choose some healthier, homemade options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When they choose their own meals--they are more likely to actually eat those meals than if you pack healthy meals without their input! One of my daughters has such a hectic schedule that she takes 3-4 dinners each week in the car. She still eats warm food (grilled chicken, homemade soup, pasta dishes, etc)--but, it takes some planning and prep-work to avoid hitting the drive-thru as we rush from track practice to Irish dance practice during her evening meal hours!
Just say no. You can't avoid all of the madness of the end of the school year rush--but, you can limit some of it. We will be completing every project and attending every award ceremony, most sport team practices and meets, and will participate in most of the "extras"--like dances, parties, "spirit days", and special activities. We won't be doing everything on the school newsletters. We won't be signing up for any new spring activities. And that is okay.
We may not participate in everything that happens in the girls' social circles over the next 9 weeks. And that is okay.
My daughters will attend parties, sleepovers and gatherings hosted by their best friends--but, they may need to pass on some of the other invitations. We may not be hosting anything at our house until June. And that is okay.
I may not be volunteering for as many activities over the next few weeks. I don't have time--and I need to accept that I cannot do everything for everyone every day. And that is okay.
It is okay to set your priorities, let your limits--and just say no sometimes.
Write it all down. If your children are really young--you may receive a lot more communication from their teachers than if your kids are older. Older children (especially in the Spring) come home with verbal, "I need XYZ next Tuesday." Or. By Tomorrow. If many of your conversations are happening in the car--take advantage of a smartphone app--or start packing along a little notebook to write it all down. Your brain will be swimming with activities, to-do's and lists....write down everything possible or you will forget it. You will. I have even been known to tell the kids to "text that to me" if I am not able to immediately make a note!
You simply will not remember that child 1 needs to take carrot sticks to school on Monday, cupcakes on Thursday, egg cartons for a project tomorrow when child 2 needs popsicle sticks tomorrow, to wear purple or gold on Wednesday, and $1 for a school donation to wear a hat on Friday.
Or that you ran out of black pepper or used the last of the dog food.
Write it all down. It really does take a load off your mind when you aren't trying to juggle everything by memory!
Use the calendar for everything. Everything that I write down above--I put into my Google Calendar every evening. I use tasks and calendar entries to log everything from practices and school orchestra concerts to random, household things like treating the cats and the dog for fleas! If I write it down--it puts my mind a little at ease so I'm not constantly tracking every detail of the hosuehold and I'm simply less likely to forget it!
Expect mistakes. You will forget things. The kids will forget to tell you things. Mistakes will happen. You will survive. The kids will survive. Someone may miss a bookfair. Someone may be the most uniquely dressed Neil Armstrong for "inventor day". The school orchestra award night may be 12 cookies short on the dessert table. You will kick yourself. The world will go on.
I just realized that I have totally forgotten that my middle daughter needs distance running shoes for track meets. Tuesday. Yes. As in "tomorrow Tuesday". She had running shoes for practices--but, not racing shoes. I don't even know anything about track racing shoes for distance runners. I just added that little item to my list and to my calendar. For today.
Do the best you can--but accept that all you can do is the best you can do! If you keep yourself well-fed, semi-rested, and as organized as time permits--you will stay fairly sane during the end of the school year chaos! It will still be exhausting. It will still be chaotic and overwhelming at times--but, you will manage. Your kids will manage. Before you know it, you will be trying to manage the chaos of summer break.....followed by the chaos of back to school!
Enjoy the chaos of the end of the school year madness! Some day--you will be a "bored", empty-nester!
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