12 Months of Navigating the Maze of My Mental Agenda
During the abyss that is the week between Christmas and New Years, when I was unclear as to what day it was, I cleared the family’s white board calendar of all the red and green events of December. I purposefully kept January empty, soaking in the nothingness that would only exist for a few more days.
This color-coded monthly calendar is meant to keep our schedules straight, so I can remember when crazy hair day occurs and when to bring a contribution to school, be it food, money or other, but it’s a mere, 30ish day snapshot of what’s really swirling around in my brain. And while I love a good paper planner, I have yet to find one that will properly remind me (and in a timely fashion) of all the “extra” items that live rent-free in my head, so I sat down and drafted up all the to-dos and reminders that I’m trying to actively not forget during the course of a year.
And perhaps it’s just me and I’m crazy (likely) but let me know if I’m not alone in trying to keep track of all the things.
Spend the first two weeks readjusting to the schedule of actually having to be somewhere at a set time. Use copious amounts of pancakes with whipped cream and sprinkles as negotiating leverage to get your oldest out of bed so he will be on time for school. Employ same pancake bargaining to keep your daughter in bed until 6am so at least one cup of coffee can be consumed in the quiet. Attempt to maintain a gym schedule that sees you done and home when their alarms go off and figure out how to continue said schedule when your husband travels for work.
Also actively try to book you summer vacation. You’ve been eyeballing flights since they opened up bookings at the end of last summer and it’s time to nail down the details in earnest so you do not wind up paying double for peak season. This will likely be the time a major appliance breaks, so plan accordingly. Also try to think of what you want to do to celebrate your birthday but truly not care so long as it involves cake and not having to fight bath time that night. Vaguely begin thinking about Valentine’s Day…
Consult with your fellow room mom about the class party in two weeks and divvy up the duties while making sure you didn’t miss the preschool party signup. Ask the kids what type of Valentine’s they want to create for their classmates because you still have visions of cute homemade Valentine’s that they will independently make without protest. In reality, they will likely lose interest after the first four and you will spend the next week wondering why you didn’t go to Target and get premade Valentines like a sane person.
Business is likely picking up at this point so make sure to plan your office hours around the various life events that are coming down the pipe. Feel slightly guilty that your work calendar is pretty blocked off already, despite having taken three weeks “off” at the end of the year, but also know that you need time to round up items for the 100 Days of School project. Consult Pinterest for ready-made ideas that are not 100 pennies, cotton balls or googly eyes.
Meanwhile, baseball and t-ball season is starting so make sure to track down the cleats that fit and carve out places in the back of the car where the gear bags will live for the next three months. Add spare sweatshirts to the pile in the backseat. The ominous feeling of the long work trip for the husband that has loomed for months gets heavier the closer it approaches, until finally it’s the end of the month and you’re staring down the barrel of 2+ weeks of solo parenting. Oy.
Spring Break is at the end of the month and while most years find you debating the value of camp vs his-and-hers time off from work, be grateful for this year’s family trip that sees all the cousins together in what everyone hopes will be a warm climate. Bonus points that all you have to do is show up, but you still have to first make it to Spring Break. The days leading up to that include a balancing act of alllll the activities (t-ball! Legos! Baseball! Tumbling! Parent Club and Little League meetings!) due to the aforementioned husband work trip. Rely heavily on the grandparents to help with school pickups and practice drop offs and make sure Easter has been otherwise sorted, because the trip runs right up to it. Think frequently of the scene from a Christmas Story where the Bumpus dogs attacked the Christmas turkey and feel like it might be a metaphor for the first two weeks while the husband is gone and completely understand when Ralphie’s dad moves beyond the chaos and calmly tells the family they are going OUT to dinner…
End the month strong with family time and vow to go head down at work in an attempt to convince yourself that you are finding the work-life balance. Ha.
Set your alarm early for summer camp registration; the main game in town books out quick (within minutes) and it’s critical you get those last three weeks of July covered. The first week in August is not important because you will take time off in an attempt to make summer memories of swimming, popsicles and lazy afternoons so they won’t look back on their childhood as one where they were just dropped at camp every summer day. While working to keep the guilt away, you start thinking of things Fun Summer Mom will do with the kids that week and save them to a Pinterest board.
Make no plans because you know the month will be busy with end-of-insert-activity-here events (recitals! end of season parties! Back to School Night!). This is also the time when some sort of plague will sweep through, so just attempt to keep up with the basics while making sure that actual work is getting done. Begin rounding up surprises for their plane backpacks so they will have something to occupy them during the long flight across the pond. Feel success at the Dollar Tree finds you know they will love.
Float the idea of soccer with the kids and see if they bite. You missed the signup deadline the last two years and feel twinges of guilt when the other kids have games on Saturdays in the fall and your kid isn’t in an activity. Temper twinges with realization that the oldest does not in fact care that he isn’t playing but realize Saturdays are going to be full because the youngest wants to play on her BFF’s team, in addition to tumbling.
Throughout the month, aim to wrap up all work projects so you can attempt to relax on the upcoming vacation, but know there will always been last-minute requests. Make a mental note to work on enforcing boundaries, which you find difficult because you genuinely want to help solve the problem.
Look forward to completely checking out. Literally on an Italian island, in a house with no internet. Prioritize midday naps, that reading list you’ve been meaning to get to and let the kids order the extra scoop of ice cream and stay up a little later. Do remind them about the summer reading program for school and strategically place new Dog Man and Frozen books that you remembered to order in their respective sight lines. Hope they will look back on these trips with fond memories and maybe pick up a little more of the language, fingers crossed.
Secretly breathe a sigh of relief that your youngest has a summer birthday and doesn’t yet care about the big friend party. Consider if she is old enough for a sleepover with her two best friends. If yes, wonder if there will be enough coffee on the planet for you the next day.
Begin the summer camp swing and swallow the guilt of making the kids get up at their normal time during the hot days of summer so they can do arts and crafts and field trip to the community pool. Internally wrestle with the guilt some more because you know they have fun and actually do better with a set schedule, but also feel awful you can’t be Fun Summer Mom every week. Make mental note to make up for it next month before school starts and sneak in a few evening activities like the Town & Country Fair.
Begin prep for back to school, because the kids go back in mid-August. Pick up supplies for a few entertaining crafts like tie-dye shirts or painting with sparkle paint and let them select a new lunch box to get ready for the year. Feel somewhat relieved they think getting to do these things is cool.
With school under way, revel in the joy that is two kids at the same place. Wait for Back to School Night to see who signs up for Room Mom in their respective classrooms, mentally preparing to volunteer up if no one else steps up. Hope someone else steps up, then dive headfirst into Jog-a-Thon planning because everyone agreed last year that doing it in October was not the best idea. Try to sneak in a few more swimming days with the kids after school while finishing client work under a patio umbrella. Feel grateful for a laptop and strong internet connection.
Begin not-so-slying feeling the kids out for their Halloween costumes so you don’t have to double-down on two Dorothy costumes like last year when you were convinced the first wouldn’t arrive in time. Start listening for costume ideas that aren’t changing every other day and make plans accordingly while daydreaming about how you could create an absolutely amazing homemade Disney Princess costume. Swallow a heavy dose of reality when you know there just won’t be time and consult Amazon. Consider reactivating your Prime membership as you enter the busy shipping season but decide to wait it out until next month.
Prepare for the school fundraiser by adding all the spirit days to the monthly family calendar and realize you really need to write smaller to accommodate everything from Colorful Sock Day to Crazy Hair Day. Brainstorm ways to motivate the kids to ask for jog-a-thon pledges because they, like you, hate asking for money. Make sure to send them to school with all their paperwork so they get raffle tickets for their efforts.
Harvest will have begun in earnest if it has not already, so the dinners will be simple(r) than usual due to more solo parenting. Husband will make every effort to get home to eat as a family but admittedly has no bandwidth for remembering anything other than dinnertime. Picture day, field trip permission slips, pumpkin patch money and everything in between will fall squarely on your shoulders, so meal plans that allow for last-minute audibles when you just can’t are a must. Take advantage of all the Dine and Donate evenings possible. Even those benefitting other schools. It’s for the children.
Plan your older child’s birthday and furiously check the weather in the days leading up to November. Pray there is a cool movie for 8-year olds coming out so that you are covered, both literally and figuratively. Break out the Halloween pumpkin buckets for trick-or-treating and realize you will likely stare at these as they sit atop the refrigerator for the next four months. Don’t forget to put up an Out of Office message for the week leading up to the birthday, which aligns with the school Halloween parade. One kid is into it, one is not, so you stand at the ready for whatever parade day has in store. Review the class Halloween party needs and make sure the right items get delivered to the right class.
Kick off the month with some sort of celebration; a delicate balance of what he wants to do for his birthday and your budget. Think it’s sweet that he wants to invite nearly the whole third grade but get an eye twitch at the thought of entertaining 40ish kids that otherwise take 2+ teachers on a daily basis. Let him pick the meal for his special day and give in with fake hesitation when he slyly grins that his choice is McDonalds. Is he sure he doesn’t want Super-Duper Burger??
Prepare for the entire week off of school that is Thanksgiving Break. Recall bitterly that you had a half day on Wednesday and only Thursday and Friday off while growing up. Realize that the kids are seemingly never in school anymore and become convinced current school schedules have become your “walk five miles in the snow uphill, both ways” point of contention.
So begins the gauntlet that is the end of the year. Quietly curse yourself for not adding items the kids mentioned throughout the year to a hidden Amazon list for ready-made holiday gifts. Vow to remember to do it next year and promptly forget again. Feel confident after comparing gift ideas with you husband that there is at least one item each kid will love and some others that they will probably think are pretty cool. Plan a cookie baking day, Christmas light drive and holiday movie night in the weeks leading up to the Big Day. Try to relish the magic of the season because last year it went by too fast. Eat copious amounts of sweets. Get nostalgic, stay in cozy sweats longer than what is normally socially acceptable. Curl up on the couch, still basking in post-Christmas glow. Feel grateful for the memories made.
Then get ready to do it all over again.