Back To School

I love September, I feel like back to school signals a reset not only in the kids, but in my mind, body and soul too. You’ve spent the summer reflecting on everyone’s achievements, and also trying to figure out where things went wrong and how you managed to pick yourself up and carry on without a single child in the house noticing that you were having a tough time. You get inspired to tackle something new, and I've a good few new projects lined up. There's lots coming up with the blog and I'm starting a forensic psychology course. As random as that may sound, I've always fancied myself as a bit of a detective!

This is also the time of year the new family planner comes out, as do the jumpers (maybe not this year though after all our freaky warm weather), and I sign up to a fitness overhaul after over-indulging during the summer holidays.

The family dinners always seem to be a bit easier in the autumn. I have an obsession with my slow cooker.  If something can be be slow cooked (and by that I mean chucked in and left to cook itself all day!) then I’m cooking it. Everything always tastes so homely done in the slow cooker too. Of course the kids don't share my same passion for the slow cooker, and when they see me get it out in the morning there's a distinct 'not another stew' look of disappointment and a roll of their eyes!

Getting back into some kind of routine just always feels good and makes me feel grounded too.

As much as no child relishes going back to school after the summer holidays, there's definitely a positive energy flying round our house, and this year a few new beginnings too.  Ella will be starting preschool.  It is part of the school her brother Alfie goes to, so no more split drop-off in the morning, the kids will both be in the same place.  Not only that, Ella gets to wear her very first uniform. Although it's not compulsory, its great for her and shows her she's getting bigger;  that her time in school, although still lots of learning through play, will be more about progressing and getting ready for big school.  But most importantly, we don’t have to have the half hour of 3 different outfit changes every morning that drives me completely insane!  A uniform will make the morning dressing a whole lot easier, plus we won’t be having to buy as many ‘play’ clothes that get wrecked and lose their shape after a few washes.

Alfie hits Year 4, and his school has just undergone massive renovations so he kinda gets a new school. Harry’s first two years of freedom are over, and the real knuckling down will now commence as he starts Year 9; and Josh will start his two years of 6th Form.

Ella has her set days in pre-school, Wednesday to Friday, so I’ll be able to sign her up to a few classes at the beginning of the week when we have our free time together. She would like to do swimming and ballet so I’ll be looking to take her to those, and it will be our special time together before she starts full time in the new year. We did baby ballet when she was younger and she loved it so she is excited to get back to it, and whilst on holiday she learned to swim with the help of floating aid, the next step for her is to learn how to swim unaided.

The after school clubs kick in which can be a juggling nightmare at times, and so finding people who can car share or split journeys is absolutely essential - especially if you have 2 after school clubs on at the same time but in completely opposite directions!  This seems to happen a lot in my house!  Apart from having to clone myself to get everything done, it’s the time of year where I realise just how important being organised is.

Firstly, setting alarms - this might sound like your idea of hell, but there are evenings when I am so busy doing house work, or catching up on all the stuff I never got round to doing in the day, or trying to be Delia and failing, that the bedtime routine can sometimes slip.  So I start setting my alarms for 4 or 5pm depending on clubs for homework time. Then I have one for
7pm for the bath time routine for the younger two. Just having these 2 alarms keep things running smoothly, if I didn't have them I'd end up having manic bedtimes, which no one needs!  But I love bedtimes, its the part of the day when I get my one-to-one with Ella and Alfie, and we read our books and chat about the day or what’s happening in their little world.

The other saviour that keeps me on track with things, is using the school website and writing down all the important dates like school trips, dressing up days, exams, payment instalments for school trips, and so on.  I have a wall planner that I write everything on too because you can see things coming up in advance.  There's no point just whacking dates in your phone diary and then the morning of ‘World Book Day’ pops up, and you’ve forgotten!  Believe me I’ve been there, and my kids are never too keen with mums DIY-bed-sheet super hero cape!  I often tell them how lucky they are, and that on Halloween all I got to wear was a bin bag so to be thankful for whatever it is they have!

On Sunday evening I do the food shop planning - I plan my meals, and then order a home food delivery from Sainsbury’s on Sunday, to be delivered on Monday morning nice and early.  I will plan Monday to Wednesday religiously, and then the end of the week often tends to be a bit more ad-hoc depending if it’s my weekend with the kids or not.  Not having to worry about what I’m cooking for tea on these three days really does ease a lot of stress, especially when there's the different after school clubs on and tea needs to be made super fast.  I know some mums or dads will cook big batches of things like curry, or spaghetti bol, or stews, and then have them every week for a few weeks. This is a great idea for families who are really tight on time.

I'm not a fan of ironing so the less I have to iron the better!  I've also learned that in the long run, it's just better to be organised.  Sunday nights I iron every bit of school clothing we have - ironing always feels so much of a chore when you have to take out the ironing board every day!  I now stack up on cheap but durable shorts or trousers from the supermarkets and school tops too.  You just know the kids will come home on Monday afternoon covered in pen, gravy, mud, or sometimes all three and more; and then the same again Tuesday!

Now school's back, I've put a ban on iPhones, tablets and computers.  Now I don’t want to be a party-pooper, but it would be so easy for my boys to get lost in their own world of technology and for a full day to go past without a conversation with them if I left them to it on their devices.  I don't allow phones or gadgets near the dinner table, and I've put a ban on them after 9pm.  That gives them an hour to wind down and chill before bed so they get a good night's sleep.

While I'm talking of organising myself, the other thing I've introduced is hallway boxes.  If like my lot, the kids come home and dump everything by the front door, and the hall becomes a hazard and annoyingly messy.  Investing in these boxes keeps things tidy & safe.  Each of the kids have their own box to store their shoes, bags, and PE kits.  As well as keeping things tidy, it saves having to drag everything out of from the cupboard under stairs every morning because someone can’t find a shoe.  After homework is done, put it all in the box ready to take to school the next day - job's a good ‘un!

These days I'm all about making things as easy as possible on myself.  Having kids can be chaotic at the best of times!  I've realised that there's no point putting things on the back burner, I use far less energy in the long run if I just crack on with things and get organised!  So here's to lists and wall planners and alarms... 'rock and f**king roll'!

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