With five boys, we are constantly on the go. Each night we have one or more practices and/or games. Currently our boys are involved in golf, soccer, baseball, wrestling, football, piano and scouts. Our house serves as a pit stop. By Friday afternoon, the stairs are cluttered with forgotten items, the laundry baskets are overflowing, the refrigerator is bare, and we are all exhausted. We have figured out some things that help us stay a little more organized and help reduce the stress that comes along with kids' activities.
Get a calendar.
All of the boys’ activities and teams use a different form of technology to communicate with the players and parents. These are awesome resources and I love how all the information from practice times to field directions is all in one spot. However, with five boys and what feels like 987 events a week, I need a central location to keep all the information. I have scoured Pinterest for “Family Command Centers'' and while these are beautiful and I admire anyone who can maintain one, I can not. I have tried several different versions that included white boards and cork boards, chore charts, letter boards, weekly menus and cute quotes about family. They would look great for a week and then they would stay the same like an artifact for whatever day I initially set them up.
Family Command Center from Pinterest
In our kitchen, we have a large desk blotter calendar like this one hanging on the pantry door. Everyone's practices, games, recitals, and appointments are on it for the month. On Sundays, I check it to make sure it is still accurate. I am 99% sure I am the only one who looks at it but it makes me feel organized. I also keep the same information in my personal planner which is paper which helps me make sure I am keeping my work and family obligations.
Now, before anyone says it, yes I know that you can subscribe to most calendars and have them connect to your Outlook or Google. This works for me and I think part of the reason is because it is in a central location that allows me to talk with my family about what is coming up.
Nothing is more important to my week than meal prep. The last thing anyone wants to think about as they are preparing to shuffle kids to practices that are on opposite sides of the city, is dinner and fast food is not a healthy or economical choice. Every Sunday I start my morning with coffee and a notebook. I write down all the meals, including breakfast and lunches, that we will have for the week. Then I shop for what we need and start my prep, which is honestly fun to me. My goal is to make four complete dinners, we usually have a night for leftovers and pizza. For lunch, I pre-make all the sandwiches, prepack veggies and fruits, and organize the snack bin. Breakfast is a variety of pancakes (I usually make an entire box and freeze them), egg cups, and breakfast burritos.
I write our menu on the refrigerator with a dry erase marker. The boys are responsible to heat up their breakfast and pack their own lunches. During that insanely busy part of the fall and spring when everyone is in full blown practice and game schedule, I have dinner out on the counter by 4:15pm. And my kitchen turns into a self serve cafeteria. Family dinners are important and I cherish them but they are near impossible when one kid is getting home from school at 4:45 and another is leaving for practice at 5:00. So dinner lasts from 4:15 until the last crew arrives home from practice.
Our refrigerator and weekly meal plan.
Before a new season starts, I prepare my Mom Bag. It was an old book bag but last year I upgraded to this bag and love it. This bag stays in my car all season, I clean it out, reload and put it right back in the car. This bag is essential to our family because it helps make sporting events enjoyable for all the kids, especially the younger ones who spend a lot of time on the sidelines.
Here is what is packed in our Mom Bag:
Old toys that we are okay with losing or sharing with new friends
Sweatshirts for colder weather
Rain gear, umbrella, jackets, trash bags to cover equipment bags
Blankets to sit on or for cold weather
First aid kit (plastic bag with Band-Aids, wipes, triple antibiotic ointment)
Sunscreen and Chapstick
Snacks! Snacks! And Snacks!
Plan for downtime.
This is so important and a lesson I wish I had learned earlier in my career as a mom. My kids are going to multiple practices a week, games on the weekends, not to mention school. They need time to just relax and reset. As a young mom, I would feel guilty if I didn’t plan every minute of our weekend to include activities and outings. This often led to cranky, overtired kids and stressed out parents. We now plan for and enjoy downtime. The boys do not miss every minute being filled and we get to have time together.
Parenting is not easy. I hope my tips for balancing kids and their activities help make your experience a little easier!