I am such a big fan of September and the back-to-school season in general. It feels more like the real New Year to me – time for resolutions and fresh starts – and all the bright & clean feelings that go with it.
In the first library that I worked at after graduation I had the good fortune of working with a woman who still bought new school supplies (every year her pencil cases were fabulous!) for herself even though she was 15 years beyond her school career just for the pleasure of participating in the annual ritual. This memory pops into my head each year as I do the shopping with my kids and I love it. It’s not just the shopping that I enjoy; I relish in the return to routine and the chance to bring something new to that pattern and this is exactly where the library’s resources comes in handy. Every August I turn to the WPL catalogue for inspiration and it never fails me.
One favourite thing I love to do in late August – especially just before we hit the stores for new clothing, pencils and binders – is a whole bedroom and desk overhaul. This is never an easy process for anyone at our house and it helps to have expert advice for getting it right. I have found that many books on organizing or purging your house have either too much information or plans that are too ambitious and this can be overwhelming. I don’t want to redecorate the house while I am reorganizing before back-to-school and I don’t want to sort our photographs into magical scrapbooks that will last a lifetime, I just want things to be tidy so I know what we need to buy and who needs new shoes for gym class.
“Keep This, Toss That” and “Declutter Anything” are two of the best books I have used lately on this topic. Both provide practical tips on donating gently used items, throwing away things that can’t be re-used, and being ruthless about what not to keep. Jamie Novak was gloriously cold-hearted in limiting how many individual things any family should have but she offset that by providing great tips on things like stocking your bathroom and pantry for safety and first aid while you purge.
Another thing I try to organize a little better each August is meal planning and lunch packing. Like every adult I would like to have healthier meals and a better plan for packing lunches. I would like less wasted food and get it all done a little quicker in the morning. Hooray! So, back to the WPL catalogue for a little bit of finesse and flair? Or at least a little spark that will give me a spring in my step as I walk to the pantry and fridge.
An easy thing to zero in on is lunches. Our two kids have less and less time to eat at school with the activities they do during their break time so I really need to zero in on things that are quick to eat and nutrient dense. I brought home a couple of books I loved and my kids found more that one thing in there that they liked, that didn’t include ingredients that I have to drive all over town to find, and that don’t involve me buying specialized equipment to create. Also, neither book involved me making anything complicated like using chives to make faces on a hard-boiled egg. That type of book is beautiful and I admire the parents that make that kind of lunch but my kids cram so much into their knapsacks every day that it looks like they are heading off to Everest and those pretty lunches would not survive.
I try to get my kids involved in the lunch planning because every expert (including the ones who wrote all of these books) suggest this will help kids enjoy meals more and inform them about shopping, meal preparation and nutrition. It has helped a little bit and while we talked about lunch foods it naturally led to talking about improving our dinner menus and the things they might possibly eat for that meal.
For support I turned to the WPL catalogue. Why buy expensive cookbooks when I can enjoy the variety we have on the shelves here in the library? I am not heroic in the kitchen and tend to stick with books that are created to help someone who needs encouragement in cooking for a family. Experienced cookbook authors and bloggers suggest ways that you can plan ahead to make nutritious meals that kids will eat and use up leftovers in lunches or quick evenings where everyone has to be in a different place by 6:00. They also suggest that you balance your life and still prepare spectacular meals on nights when you feel inspired (maybe on a long weekend or day off) with nights when you are in a hurry using the skills/recipes they suggest in their books. It’s nice to read that published experts feel overwhelmed by cooking and that they also have a child who just last week said that they loved tilapia and this week can’t stand the sight of it on a plate. How is this possible?
Menu planning, cleaning out bedrooms and desks, changing routines, going to new new schools, finding out if any of the sports equipment fits, learning if music lessons and other events sort back into the complex puzzle of the week? Phew, it’s all part of the back-to-school routine that I love to return to every year. Really, it’s easy to love when you have all of these gorgeous books for inspiration, and a spiffy new pencil case.
– – Penny M.