11 September 2014

Organizing tweaks now that "back to school" has become "in school"

It happens every year. I associate my kids' first week back at school with a return to routine and a predictable span of hours to work and think. Much as I'm sad to see summer fade, I think: it's easier during the school year.

But it isn't.

At least it isn't right away.

I forget that each year brings new routines. This year, my kids started middle- and high school, so the supplies, transportation and expectations are all different.

The back in "back to school" is also misleading, because the last time my kids went back to school, they were a year younger. They've grown in sophistication and competence, so our routines need change to reflect that.

Off to high school.
Off to high school.

Back to school has gone beautifully in my house. Both kids have taken up the challenge of new schools and bigger responsibilities with gusto. It hasn't always been this way, so it feels like a small miracle.

I'm also hard at work on a new book so I need the kids to take more responsibility for handling the daily details.

At Amazon: EasyLunchboxes 3-compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers (Set of 4) (affiliate link)
I've cleared space in my own mind by streamlining our family routines and organizing the kitchen and homework areas. Nothing too complicated:

  • I've planned 7-8 dinners that are easy to prepare, and we're going to eat those meals on rotation till the manuscript gets turned in. I did this while writing Minimalist Parenting, too.
  • I've given my kids more household chores, printed up (and laminated) charts for them to check, and set daily reminders to myself to follow up each evening. Honestly, I've been the weak link in past attempts to set and enforce chores...I find it hard to consistently do my own chores.
  • I'm collaborating with two new families on a carpool to my daughter's new school, My son walks to and from himself.
  • I had the kids write up lists of school lunch ideas so I didn't have to wrack my brain every morning. I also bought new easy-wash lunch containers that make lunch packing a snap.
  • I restocked our school supply drawer so no one's asking where the pencils, tape and rulers are.
  • My husband and I shuffled responsibilities to give me more time and mental space to work. I am lucky to have such a supportive, flexible partner.

There are tons more ideas floating around the Internet right now. One of my recent favorites is this collection of back to school organization projects at Modern Parents Messy Kids.

But finding, tracking and implementing new ideas comes with its own special version of overload. So try not to feel obligated to overhaul or perfect every aspect of your back to school routine. All my family needed were tweaks to what we were already doing, and I expect it will evolve as the year goes on.

How's your September going? Have you come up with any back-to-school hacks you think might help someone else?

Share in the comments so we can give you a high five.

"A new book?" you ask? Yes! I'm hard at work compiling the best of Parent Hacks (and much more) into a book for Workman Publishing, due out in 2016. Want to keep me company? And get insider access to the book writing process, plus special event invitations once the book is available? Sign up for VIP updates here.

02 September 2014

Turn baby food jars into LEGO storage

I'm deep in the research phase of my forthcoming Parent Hacks book.  I'm considering including illustrated lists of uses for exceptionally "hackable" items already lying around the house. Things like Ziploc bags, binder clips and...baby food jars.

My oldest kid just started high school (and I mean just started today) and I still have baby food jars scattered throughout my house holding small parts and treasures.

But this use was too clever not to share. Victoria of ObSEUSSed noticed that baby food jars resemble LEGO minifig heads, so she decided to do something about it.

Yellow spray paint and a Sharpie are all it takes to turn baby food jars into clever storage for mini LEGO. #parenthacks Photo credit (used with permission): Victoria of ObSEUSSED.com
Yellow spray paint and a Sharpie are all it takes to turn baby food jars into clever storage for mini LEGO. Photo credit (used with permission): Victoria of ObSEUSSED.com

I'm not one for fussy birthday parties, but I admit these would make pretty cute LEGO-themed party favors. Get the full how-to at ObSEUSSed.

Keep me company as I write the Parent Hacks book! Sign up for VIP Updates here.

28 August 2014

Last chance to unlock vaccine donations: #Blogust ends August 31

#Blogust8/30/14 update: We did it! A huge upswell of comments and shares on Friday rocketed us over the finish line! Thanks to you, Shot@Life partner Walgreens will donate 60,000 vaccines to children in need. What an amazing way to finish the month.

If you missed any of the Blogust posts, I hope you'll go back and read them. The stories of "firsts" are all over the map -- some are inspiring, others poignant. All are heartfelt and remind us that we're in this together. -- Asha

As you know (especially if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook), I'm a participant in this year's Shot@Life #Blogust campaign to donate 60,000 vaccines to children in need.

I set a goal of 500 vaccine donations for my Blogust post, What I Learned By Sending My Kids to Summer Camp. With your help, we not only hit that goal, we surpassed it.

Thank you. Thank you so much. Reading your comments was so powerful. Special thanks to those of you who tweeted the link and encouraged friends to comment as well (Adrienne/@babytoolkit and Homa/@woodrumlaw, you come to mind right away).

All that warmth and generosity didn't just feel good, it directly affected the lives of over 500 kids.

We can do more.

Blogust ends August 31, 2014 and there are still over 10K unclaimed vaccines campaign-wide. Will you help unlock every single vaccine donation?

If the answer is YES, here's what to do right now (choose one or all):

1. Leave a comment on any Blogust post.

Single-word comments, multiple comments...they all count. Here are links to every Blogust post.

2. Leave a(nother) comment on my original Blogust post. 

(Not the post you're reading right now; my original #Blogust post here.) Every comment on that post unlocks a vaccine.

3. Click the "Tweet" or "Like" button at the bottom of my original Blogust post. 

(Not the post you're reading right now; my original #Blogust post here.) Every social share using those buttons unlocks a vaccine.

4. Tweet using the #Blogust hashtag.

Every original tweet containing #Blogust unlocks a vaccine.

5. "Like" and comment on Instagram posts containing the #Blogust hashtag. 

So easy to fire up the Instagram app, search for #Blogust, and then double-tap each photo you see. I just "liked" 50 photos in a minute or two. 50 vaccines: donated.

We can change the lives of 60,000 children right now.

Let's do it. Thank you, friends. You're the best.


20 August 2014

19 August 2014

Book review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things is an incredible read for parents, but not because it’s about parenthood.

Read more

15 August 2014

Free screening passes: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar [Portland]

I've got a download code for free advance screening tickets for ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR, playing 8/16/14 in IMAX 3D, at 11am at Regal Bridgeport Village!

Read more

14 August 2014

Teaching our kids the difference between video game combat and real war

On the ONE Campaign blog, I share my thoughts on a father's choice to teach his sons about videogame violence by taking them to Israel and Syria. While I respect his choice, it wouldn't be mine.

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06 August 2014

For #Blogust '14: What I Learned By Sending My Kids to Summer Camp

This post is my contribution to Blogust 2014—Shot@Life’s month-long campaign to provide vaccinations for kids in need around the world. My goal for this post is to unlock 500 vaccine donations: you can help by leaving a comment or clicking “Tweet” or “Like” below. (Details at the end of the post.)

Read more

05 August 2014

This family air travel tip simplifies packing while saving $ on checked baggage fees

This simple trick will dramatically simplify packing for a family trip, save you money in checked baggage fees, and get your family through airport security in record time.

Read more

04 August 2014

ALL hacks in September 2014 →

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Asha's Book

  • At Amazon: Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less

    Find out why doing less is the key to resourceful, thriving kids, and a calmer, happier YOU.

    Minimalist Parenting is an encouraging roadmap for decluttering your schedule, your home, and your vision for family life. Reviewers call it "a much welcome alternative to the usual parenting advice."

    Learn More at Amazon

    Also available at Barnes & Noble or your favorite local bookstore.

Start Amazon shopping here