how to make off-to-school mornings a little easier (for Mom)

This blog has never been heavy on the how-tos. I like to think of it more as a how-not-to guide, a cautionary tale against sweating the small stuff.

But our school mornings have gotten a lot easier this fall, and the fix was so simple– so very much easier than all the haranguing from me that school mornings usually require– that I felt it would be selfish not to share.

I made a list and put it on the refrigerator.

morning checklist

I am not sure why I did not do this sooner. I think it seemed like overthinking. It also seemed like something anyone older than a toddler would hate. “Mom, I’m not a BABY,” I could hear my exasperated son saying, “I’m not an IDIOT, MOM,” in that tone of voice that would suggest that perhaps his mother, in fact, was one.

But that’s not how it went down. I asked my ten-year-old, aka Forgetful Jones, to dictate this list to me. (Yes, okay, I typed it up, which is a bit Type-A.** But if I was going to look at it on my refrigerator every day, it needed to look acceptably tidy.) Ever since then, every morning, he happily consults his list to see what he should do next. If he gets off track, I say, “Check the list,” instead of “Oh my FREAKING GOD how is it possible you STILL do not have socks on?”

Guess which cue provides more effective time-management, both for my child and for myself?

sensoryI got this so-simple-it’s-genius solution from The Sensory Child Gets Organized: Proven Systems for Rigid, Anxious, or Distracted Kids by Carolyn Dalgiesh. If you have a sensory kid, you already know it. If you’re not sure what it means, but you have a child for whom scratchy clothing tags are an abomination, or who (on the flip side) really, really LIKES rolling in the sand at the beach, then… well, guess what.

But the “sensory child” label is less important than the parenting strategies Dalgiesh’s book and blog offer– which really, really work for any parent and child. If there’s something you are constantly nagging your children about, find a concrete solution. It took my kids fifteen minutes on a school morning to go upstairs, brush their teeth, and come back downstairs. (Forgetful Jones would take twenty minutes, and stroll back downstairs with teeth still unbrushed.). The effective solution to this problem, shockingly, was not more yelling; it was setting up an extra set of toothbrushes and toothpaste in the downstairs bathroom. That cut my morning diatribes in half RIGHT THERE.

Putting “systems” in place for your children and yourself sounds like more work, but that’s only up front. Sure, some fine-tuning may be required. After three mornings in a row during which the following conversation took place:

FORGETFUL JONES: Mom, I’m all ready!

ME: … well, almost. But your shoes aren’t tied.

FORGETFUL JONES: (slow burn down to untied shoes, laces akimbo) Oh. (stands there)

I amended our morning checklist thusly:

morning checklist (redux)

Lesson learned: Be unafraid of stating the obvious.

Further tinkering was required in this case. After two more days of stopping on the walk to school to retie said shoes a few extra times, I sought another hack, and found these stretchy elastic shoelaces which never come untied and never HAVE to become untied. They make any tie shoe a slip-on. Is there a better way for a mother to spend five dollars? I think not.

In the long run, seeking workarounds for the sources of tension between me and my children is the far more laissez-fair way to parent. Or at least the less yell-y, which for me, was the real goal. That’s why I’m going to write my own book called The Yelling Mom Gets Organized: Proven Systems for Stressed-Out, Anxious, and Hoarse Parents. Because that’s a goal we can all agree upon.

Do you have a mom-hack that makes your mornings simpler?


This is not a sponsored post. Just love the book (and the shoelaces). 

**If I were a Muppet, I’d be Type-A Jones.

remembering Ben Wheeler on his 8th birthday

Below, I’m reposting something I wrote a year ago today.

Ben_Wheeler_Sept_2012September 12, 2014 is what should have been Ben Wheeler‘s birthday. His life was cut short by the tragic events in Newtown, CT, two years ago this December.

Benny’s parents are old friends of mine, and they amaze me day after day with their strength. I hope the support we can offer them on September 12th might be of some comfort.

So in honor of Benny’s 8th birthday, I hope you’ll join me and others everywhere who will be putting a lit candle in their windows in honor of this beautiful child, his beautiful spirit, and his well-known love of lighthouses.

If you do so, please consider posting a picture on the “Light a Candle for Ben Wheeler’s Birthday” Facebook page. Thanks.


remembering Benjamin Wheeler

Yesterday was another September 11th, and another chance to feel sad at how a lot of America seems to have moved on from remembering. Or, at least, wanting to remember. The victims would want us to move forward and live our lives, we’re told, and maybe that’s true. But I think their families probably appreciated any compassion we showed as a nation for their sorrow twelve years to the day after their loved ones were taken away. I hope they didn’t feel forgotten.

Today is another day, and another chance to remember something too horrible for any of us ever to forget.

My friend Francine lost her son, Benjamin Wheeler, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. Today, September 12th, is Ben’s birthday. He would have been seven years old.

screenshotBen was an absolutely adorable little boy who was fascinated by lighthouses. And so today, as a gesture of hope and love, Ben’s family and friends will be placing a single window candle or other light in their front windows, for the day and night, making their homes lighthouses to guide us to a better, safer, more sane world.

I’d love for you to join me in this wish for a more peaceful world for all children– and to show Francine that her son has not and will not be forgotten.




when summer is STILL not over

My kids are still not back to school. Based on my Facebook feed, and on the six responses I got when I inquired about this the last time, yup. It’s just us.

This became eerily apparent yesterday afternoon, when I dragged my three squabblers to the beach on what turned to be one of the hottest days of the summer (if “summer” is what you can call anything post-Labor Day).

We got there, and in the immortal words of Don Henley: nobody on the road. NOBODY on the beach.

To me, of course, this was great. Chair, The Goldfinch, waves, I could have stayed there until either it got dark or I got too thirsty. However:


Kids need other kids around, or they are immediately, infuriatingly bored. At least that’s true for the three kids I know best. And I mean, they can’t play with EACH OTHER, don’t be ridiculous. So while we are getting more summer than everyone else, I am twitchy with to-dos, and my kids are out of stuff to do, and there’s something really wrong and post-apocalyptic about being the only ones left standing, and I had this weird unsettled feeling that I was forgetting something.

At three a.m., I suddenly realized what it was.


knee socks

As a first-time mother of a uniform-wearing girl, I tossed and turned for the rest of the night, wondering where the hell I was going to find them.

The cavernous aisles of K-Mart, turns out. They have knee socks. They also have rows and rows of shovels, pails, and beach chairs, lonely and untouched. But as I moved to the checkout, cart spilling over with back-to-school bounty, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck: those distant, quarreling, high-pitched voices HAD to be my children. Because my kids were the only ones in the store.