Monday, August 13, 2007

On Scheduling

(Or How I am Going to Survive this School Year)

I am feeling a lot less anxious about this fall. Matt and I have spent some time trouble-shooting so that we are better prepared to handle the sudden lurch into school, homework, and activities that will begin after Labor Day.

Thus far, these are our survival strategies:

For the Adults - More Scheduling!

1. Set up an actual schedule for our evenings, so we know that on Mondays I will go to the gym, on Tuesdays Matt will have choir rehearsals, and on Thursdays one of us will go to the grocery store. That type of thing. This will alleviate the "Oh my God! We're out of food and can't figure out when we'll be able to get to the store - and I haven't been the gym all week!!" crisis that we face most weeks. It will also help with planning - when Matt puts a business trip on the calendar or we have a school function to attend, we can look ahead and say, "Oh, so I'd better go to the grocery store on Monday night that week instead of the gym." Looky there: crisis averted.

2. Create a meal schedule. We're not just talking about a plan for the week (not that we've ever managed to do that, either), but a Total Simplification Plan! Monday = roast chicken, Tuesday = burgers, etc. Make, eat, repeat. I think this will drive me somewhat crazy after a while because, really, do I want to eat burgers every Tuesday night? On the other hand, do I want to continue our over-reliance on convenience foods? Do I want to open the fridge after work and find no actual meal in sight with two kids in full hunger meltdown mode? If we know exactly what we're eating that week, grocery shopping also becomes much easier. And I'm sure that after a few weeks we'd change things up...but even if we didn't, I have to agree that it's better than the current system.

For the Kids - Less Scheduling and More Breakfast Cereal!

1. Lyle will be busy enough, starting nursery school in September. No classes for him. He and the nanny can do whatever the heck they want on their days together, including hanging out in his pajamas all day. I don't care. Being 3 is about having time to play. If it seems like we can add something without stress later in the fall, I'll think about taking him to a swimming class one day a week because he's been crying to learn. But we're not starting with that. No siree. So cry all you want, little one, no swimmin' for you.

2. Baxter will spend his days in second grade. He is signed up for AYSO soccer, which meets twice a week (one practice on a week day, one weekend "game"). At the moment, we are determined that this is all he'll do in terms of classes. Last year, he loved all the after school clubs (chess, movement, science), and the boy we carpool with was doing the same ones, so it worked out. But if he doesn't get home until 4 or 4:30 and then has to do homework, eat dinner, and take a bath, there's no time left over for unstructured play. And you know what? Being 6 is also about having time to play.

3. If you could see the unbelievably complex breakfast routine around here on a day when three of us are going to work or school/camp, you would shudder. One wants raisin bread (not toasted!) with creamy peanut butter and the other wants a mini bagel with cream cheese. Cream cheese on all of it!! All over it! You didn't spread it here! Oh, sorry, I got off track for a moment there. And then they want to "help". Which is all well and good if it didn't mean trying to share the same step stool and being RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE COFFEE MAKER.

Which is probably the worst part, actually. The coffee maker part.

So, damn it to hell, these kids are going to learn to like cereal. I already started with it today. Cereal is for school mornings, that other crap is for weekends and holidays. I'm not even kidding. It's frigging breakfast boot camp around here. Yes, there were tears. No, not from me.

Because I could reach the coffee maker.

If anyone out there has other suggestions for me, please share them! We need all the help we can get to enjoy this school year rather than being stressed out by it.


kristen said...

I love this. My mother-in-law is a devoted monday is vegetable night, tuesday is pasta night, wednesday is chicken night...type of cook. She NEVER deviates and rarely adds a new dish or a new recipe. Okay, maybe something new once every 10 or 15 years. My husband swears that's the reason he moved out when he was 20. That said, she spends about $15 a week on groceries. Okay, exaggerating again, but really, her food bills are miniscule because she never buys anything extra or on a whim.

We have also opted for a scaled back organized activity calendar for our son, but the thing that worries me is that there won't be anyone for him to play with "spontaneously" because all the kids we know are overbooked.

I hate school.

Jordan said...

Oh my God, now I'm scared! I'll deviate, I swear I will!!

I agree, you can't guarantee that there will be another kid within 50 miles who isn't over-scheduled, but Baxter doesn't actually mind hanging out with Lyle and the babysitter, and I think a few of his friends have some afternoons "off". We're in a pretty low-stress parenting neighborhood so things are a little bit more mellow. I hope your son finds some available friends,too, Kristin!

Anonymous said...

Jordan - I love the cooking idea - I always think of what I can/should cook a little too late as dinner is needed and I'm staring into a fridge that has only yogurt, bread, and some old spaghetti sauce. Don't forget an order out, thai,'s great to know that one night you can relax and not worry about cooking...and luckily all those types of food won't break the bank. And, if you ever need unstructured play time, Armando will be free!

Christopher Tassava said...

AWESOME post. As someone who could eat two or three different foods every night of the week for months, I think the boys are pretty lucky. And I think you and M. are on the right track with the unstructured time angle: the more the better!

Shan said...

Oh my god, I am laughing so hard about the breakfast part....I can totally relate! It sounds like you are describing Julia's approach to breakfast (the pre-boot camp breakfast, I mean). What a novel idea: no choices! Just cereal! There! Eat it! Also a novel idea, the scheduling of evenings---that's a good one. We do pretty well without doing that, but that's probably b/c we don't have kids in (real) school yet. But even so, we definitely have those weeks when we realize we have no food and no one has time to go to the grocery store. So this is a good idea. As is the dinner plan---talk about simplifying! To know what you're having every night/week--I can hardly imagine it. I bet it works out great. Keep us posted.

Cara said...

Sheesh, what IS it about little ones and the cream cheese ALL OVER the bread/bagel?? D and N are like that as well, and it just about drives me nutty. Seriously, it is just getting CHEWED UP in your MOUTH. With TEETH.

Can you tell you hit a nerve? :-)

Sounds like a great plan for the year. I may steal your meal planning/food shopping night idea. After I sit down with the D-man and make a list of all the foods he WILL eat so we don't fight about what he will NOT eat.

Speaking of school year hell items, what about packing lunches?? Any bight ideas for that nightmare we have avoided all year but are about to start having again? Argh. August.

Jordan said...

Mmmm, lunches, another cog in the wheel! For a while last year we tried what my parents used to do: make a whole slew of pb&j sandwiches on a Sunday night and pluck one out of the freezer before school every day! Which is a great system if you remember to actually make them on Sunday. Ahem.

But seriously, B had pb&j almost every day last year, altho he did learn to like turkey and cheese, finally. I liked it when we had some leftover pizza to throw in there instead (and so did he), but your best bet is to get as much ready the night before as you can. Hell, they only give 'em 10 minutes to eat lunch anyway, so it's not like you need to pack much. (ARGH!!)