10 Ways to Cure the Back-To-School Routine Blues

So we are two weeks into the school year and getting back to the routine has not been easy. To be honest, it never is nor has it ever been.

I look forward to the last day of school as much as my daughter does. It's not just because of the warm weather and the long days of sunshine. Summer break means staying up later for fun, less hectic mornings (oh, to not pack lunches for 3 months while trying to get ready for work! BLISS!) and less scheduling and obligations.

Well, that's all over.

Getting back to the grueling school routine can be less awful with my top 10 tips I have learned through the years of sleepy-eyed, stress-scheduled agony. It does get slightly better as the kids get older and take on more responsibility, but only slightly.

So here is my run down, one parent to another. We're in it together! And hey, winter break is not too far away! It goes by fast, so let's make the most of it.

1: Sleep-schedule woes-
Melatonin helps as well as "night time tea"

I am not a doctor, so before you put your kid(s) or yourself on a melatonin supplement, talk to your physician.

The worst part of getting back to routine is the sleep schedule. These poor teachers have to deal with sleep-cranky kids for a while. I am a mom of a newly minted teen, and once hormones kick in, melatonin is in short supply at night time. I have read quite a few studies around this. Basically there is so much puberty stuff going on in their bodies that they can't release melatonin (the sleep hormone) until LATE at night. I saw this change in my daughter once puberty started, so I found her 5 mg. melatonin lozenges. I give it to her 30 minutes before I want her sleeping. It does help her get to sleep. Melatonin also regulates biorhythms so as you are changing sleep schedules, this supplement can ease that transition-for you as well as for them!

I have found teas infused with 5 mg. of melatonin too. These teas include other nice calming ingredients like chamomile and verbena. To that end, I also use a couple of different "night teas" with calming herbs and florals that were helpful when my daughter was younger. You may need these around your house too, during this transition.

2: Night time staging=less morning raging

Don't wait until the morning to gather signed paperwork, collect things to be brought in, pack back packs and decide what outfits to wear. I pre-set out papers I needed to sign and things I need for work near the door, and force my daughter to get together everything needed the night before so we are not running around the next morning. It's hard enough to get everyone out the door fed, dressed properly with their homework packed. Don't add more to your morning, you're just asking for trouble (and yelling). Whatever you can do the night before, do it. It can be as simple as just cleaning out the coffee pot so it's ready to go in the morning! This will give you back 5 minutes-and that's a lot. (Coffee is super important to survival in this wild, back-to-school jungle-but more on that later.)

3: Starbucks #PSL coffee keeps you happy (and awake)

Well mom and dads, how else do you think you can keep up with sleep deprived kids who are asking for science fair help after dinner, when you are equally just as sleep deprived? COFFEE. And to make your routine a little more special, enjoy Starbucks fall coffees. Their Fall blend has been a MUST every early morning this month. And the VIA Pumpkin Spice Latte is a great late night treat that goes nicely with laundry, math homework crying and filling out school medical forms for the 5th time. In fact, just tonight I had to open a bunch of paperwork from school, including my monkey's eligibility to Chicago high schools. This was a big deal. I had to sit down, say a prayer and sip a VIA Pumpkin Spice Latte while I opened the much anticipated envelope.

Not sure if it was the magic of pumpkin and spice (because it is, indeed, magical) or my daughter's hard work, but there was good news all over that letter! I breathed a sigh of relief and sipped my VIA #PSL in absolute enjoyment. Not only do VIA #PSLs give you an easy way to enjoy a punch of fall flavor and caffeinated energy, but it also gets you into the fall spirit. It simply puts you in a good mood. It makes routines less drudgery and forces you to enjoy the special moments that happen within the routines.

How else do you think I got through the maddening back-to-school shopping at Target? Did I have a Venti PSL in my hand the whole time? Yes. Yes. I. Did.


4: Sunday meal plans mean smoother weeks

The running theme of this post is pre-planning. Yes, it takes precious time, but it will save you time in the long run. Sunday morning meal planning has become an enjoyable ritual my husband and I enjoy over a nice hot cup of Starbucks Fall Blend. Sitting down for 30 minutes on a Sunday morning to put together a meal schedule for the week allows you to grocery shop efficiently,  get ahead of certain meals and work around your kid's extra curricular activities. Family having dinner late one night after a game? Plan a crock pot chili that cooks itself. Prep the liner the night before so you can put it in and get it going that morning. Then plan to make tacos or a Tex-Mex casserole with left over chili the next night. Planning like this will allow less stress, less waste and happy tummies all around.

5: The freezer is a lunchbox buddy

Your freezer can really help in lunch box planning for the morning. I freeze juice pouches so I don't need to pack (and continuously freeze) ice packs. The juice naturally defrosts by lunchtime and keeps other things cold in the lunch box. You can also prep PBandJs, too. They will naturally defrost during the morning. I also use frozen chicken tenders and throw them in the toaster oven in the morning for my daughter's lunch. Once they are cooled I wrap them in foil and toss them in her lunch sack. Think about how you can use your freezer to help assist prepping some of your kids' favorites.

6: Google calendar keeps planes moving

I get so tired of managing different calendars, but I am air traffic control for our family. That means I need to verbally tell my husband events and appointments (repeat about 5 times, and twice the day of event...men*), keep a family calendar up to date in the kitchen, track my own calendar that merges with my work calendar. It's enough to lose your mind. I started using Google calendar and inviting my daughter and husband to it. When I put an event on it for either one of them I can invite them to it and they will get an alert. It will also alert them 15 minutes before something is going to start and it merges with my outlook calendar at work. It is a big help with scheduling. For more about Google calendar, check out my post from a few years ago.

7: Pre-bake and freeze class treats

I can't tell you how often my daughter remembers at 8 p.m. that she needed to bring a class treat in for one occasion or another the next day. Now I love baking, but not at 8 p.m. on a night I was planning on catching up on some Game of Thrones. If you are not into baking at all hours, take some time on a Sunday and prebake some cakes and freeze them to either frost or crumble up to make cake pops when you need that last minute treat. If you have a lot of freezer space, you can try freezing cupcakes. I also freeze cookies and they hold up for 6-8 months really well. Having something on hand quickly will make your school year a lot easier. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.

8: Keep a running grocery list on the fridge

The minute you are low on something or used the last of something, write it on a list somewhere that's in your face all the time, screaming at you. We keep ours on the fridge, front and center. Next time we're at the store, we merge this list with the mothership list. It's so hard to keep track of stuff and the last thing you need is to be out of toothpaste at bedtime and you need to run to Walgreen's. When you're low on anything, put it on the list. Get ahead of things.

9: Pharmacy stock up gives you a leg up on illness

It never fails. It's bedtime and you hear the complaints of a sore throat or a stuffy nose. Kids announce their illnesses at the most inconvenient times. Don't be caught without medicine. Your mamma bear instincts want to get them comfy and feeling better as soon as possible. Your sleep-deprived self doesn't want to run more errands late at night (I mean, you just got your pajamas on, right?). During the back-to-school shopping I stock up the medicine cabinet with band aids, antibiotic cream, fever and pain reducers, day and night cold medicine, tummy ache meds, Orajel and Benadryl. If you use my list as a guide, it should get you setup for any minor health hiccups throughout the year.

10: Keep extra school supplies in the closet

I know school supplies are expensive, so sometimes it's hard to buy extra stuff during that first big shopping spree. But if you see good deals on packs of pencils, pens, paper, erasers and sharpeners, you should buy some extras. I keep extra supplies in a cabinet in my home office, and we dip into that stash at least 5 times a year. (What is it with kids losing pencil sharpeners and erasers constantly?) I'm just trying to prevent you from running to the convenience store in the dead of winter late at night to buy a pencil sharpener. One, it will be overpriced. Two, you'll end up buying that double fudge turtle ice cream in the freezer case. Three, you may still be in your pajamas thinking, "who am I going to run into at the convenience store this late?" Then you see your neighbor. Never fails.

Please note: Starbucks coffees were provided by Starbucks. All thoughts, opinions and obsessions about Starbucks coffee are completely my own. Thanks! #starbucks @starbucks #VIA #PSL #coffeepassion



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