It’s been an eventful five(!) months since my last post. Most notably, I had a baby. She’s beautiful, magical, sweet, everything a baby should be, really. For those of you who have difficulty keeping track, I now have four kids.
I get a couple of different reactions to my large family. Generally, religious people (of any faith) say something along the lines of, “what a blessing!” or, “isn’t that wonderful!” while the non-religious seem to favour, “you really have your hands full.” It’s a fascinating dichotomy which I’m sure reveals some deeper societal tendencies, but I’m too sleep-deprived to think any more deeply about it right now. If you can draw conclusions and articulate them, please share with the rest of us by leaving it in the comments.
But I digress.
I’ll let you in on the secret to having four kids and not going completely insane: organize, ritualize, and build infrastructure. And having some help, either paid or grandparents, doesn’t hurt either. But I can’t tell you how to make that happen, so I’ll elaborate on the first three.
Every person in our family, adult or child, has a binder which contains all of their official documents, all of their health information, school reports (for the kids), extracurricular information, tax information, and – for those who need it – sections for speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc. Everything gets filed in these binders so that everyone knows where to look for the important stuff.
Each child (well, not the new baby) has a “look at me binder.” It’s just a plain binder with plastic page protectors inside. Whenever they bring home work that they are especially proud of, it goes into a page protector in that binder. If there’s a whole pile of artwork or school work, I ask the kids to choose a few favourites to keep. Those go into the binder, and everything else goes into the recycle bin. The binder doesn’t require any annotation, creativity, or time, and yet it creates an archive of work that’s very easy to flip through and enjoy.
We write everything down. Corollary: if it’s not in writing, it didn’t (or won’t) happen. I have a chalkboard in the kitchen where I write down the menu for tomorrow’s breakfast (usually a smoothie and something else) as well as any important notes, like “remember to bring gym clothes for trampoline class” or “no lunches – today is pizza day.” Not only does it remind us of what needs to happen, it seems to reduce tantrums, too. Recently K suggested, “Eema, you should write down what’s for dinner on the blackboard, too. That way I won’t have to feel disappointed.”
Speaking of dinner, I finally got smart and typed out a 3-week meal plan along with recipes for every dinner on the plan. The recipes are written simply (so that one day the kids will be able to cook from them) and include serving suggestions and side dish recommendations. It’s all in one binder (yes, I love binders) in the kitchen, which eliminates the frantic scramble for dinner ideas and then for recipes. Of course, we often don’t feel like what’s on the plan, so we improvise, and then there’s a scramble anyway… but on days when I can’t think or decide, the dinner binder is a lifesaver.
And lastly, the smartphone. Yes, I caved and bought the smartphone I was so afraid of. Everything is on it – calendar, “to do” lists, random notes – and it’s like walking around with an extra brain outside my body, which is a good thing since the brain inside my body seems to have lost its sharpness for now.
That’s about it for being organized. In fact, that’s it for this post. Tune in next time, when I expound on creating rituals.
What organizational tricks can I learn from you, readers? Please comment and let me know.