Planning

The start of a new school year always brings with it a certain amount of chaos, and no matter how much planning I do, we always seem to fall victim to those random moments of throw-your-hands-in-the-air because no one seems to know exactly what we are supposed to be doing next.

I am, by nature, a planner. While I can fly by the seat of my pants when I need to, I really don’t like doing it. I like plans. I like routines. I like orderly days and peaceful dinner hours. And I have learned, over the years, that I need to have my plans written down somewhere, preferably on a calendar. I am forever telling the kids “If it isn’t written down on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.”

Over the years, I have developed certain strategies that help us enormously with the day-to-day routine of living well. One of the best things for our kids when they were little was the Accountable Kids system, and it served us very well for quite a number of years. This year, The Man We Call Dad finally took our Accountable Kids boards off the wall. The kids have outgrown it, you see, and it was time to move to a more mature system. And, for the first time ever, the kids are on different systems.

K bought himself an iPod touch this summer, with money carefully saved for months on end, and he has installed a number of fabulous apps to help keep himself organized. Cozi calendar, for one. Home Routines, for another. They are apps that B and I use too (she uses them on my phone), and we love them. We do. But I still need to see my calendar, the whole month at once, to have an idea of what’s ahead, so I keep a paper calendar on the big bulletin board in my office.

But.

There are some things missing from my calendar this year.

Like homework assignments. Project due dates. And our weekly menu.

I like having a freezer full of meals that simply need a little defrosting and a few hours in the crockpot. I like having a pantry full of staples for making bread and muffins and cookies. I like making so much of our food from scratch, or from the garden. And I hate that moment when you are tired from a long day, frustrated with homework, and staring at the fridge realizing belatedly that you failed to take anything out of the freezer the night before and you have no idea what to make for dinner.

Enter the weekly menu.

Every week, I pull out things from the big freezer in the basement and move them to the tiny upstairs freezer half of our fridge, and then I write them in on the calendar, assigning them at random to the various days of the week. In previous years, when we limited ourselves to one single sports activity or lesson per kid per week, that system worked just fine. Last year, with a couple of activities per kid, it worked fine.

This year? Not so much.

This year, we have kids who are older. Opinionated. Curious. Eager to try new things. And we have, contrary to all good sense, signed them up for more than two extracurriculars. Which means that our lovely little calendar that keeps this Mama organized… is full to bursting. And don’t even talk to me about Thursdays.

The worst part of our newly crazy schedule is that some days of the week, there isn’t any room for my meal planning. I can fit things in most days – provided I can describe dinner in one or two words, three at the most (if I write small), but some days of the week, there isn’t room for anything else. Which means that on the busiest days of my week, I have no idea what we are having for dinner!

So, smart Mama that I am, I dove into Pinterest to see what I could find.

I found cupboard doors painted with chalkboard paint. I found picture frames turned into whiteboards. I found recipes galore (and was duly sidetracked for a while). And I found a few, a very few, printable meal planners. I love Pinterest. But I didn’t like the meal planners I found.

They were bright. They were busy. They included shopping lists. They included spaces for nutritional values. They required cutting out zillions of little slips of paper with meal names to glue onto clothespins to peg to the side of a clipboard decoupaged with the days of the week to make them work.

In other words, they were either not at all my style, or they were far too complicated, or they required an entire afternoon and evening of crafting to get them done.

So I made one of my own. And I printed it out. And I laminated it. And I’m sharing it with you.

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