Back to School: 7 Ideas for Busy Moms

It’s the kids’ first day back at school, and it’s so weird not having them around.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t race right into work today. That I would allow myself, after a busy summer, to stretch and dawdle and enjoy an unscheduled, very quiet day – which hasn’t been part of my reality for three or so months.

So far this morning, I’ve had coffee with friends, cleaned the house, scrubbed my carpets, taken my dog on a long walk while listening to the most amazing audiobook from audible .(It’s called The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, so if you belong to audible, look for it.) I’ve also done some yoga, paid the bills, caught up with friends on facebook and read a magazine.

It’s funny how you get used to doing things in short little bursts when the kids are around – and when you have a whole day to fill, you suddenly have a whole new concept of time.

So in this little window where I all of a sudden feel like I have more time than I really do, I’m going to try to do a few things to make my life easier for the year ahead.

Here are 8 ideas:

1. . Make some “School Year Resolutions.” You’ll have a little more time on your hands over the next nine months or so. Energize yourself with some new goals. Is this the right time to start a new business? Research a new job? Write a novel? Take a class? Start a new fitness routine?

2. Make reservations for your next Date Night.
Book the restaurant and the babysitter.

3. Start planning your next vacation. Sit down with your calendar and write in the kids’ winter, holiday and spring breaks from school. Start making plans now for your next vacation or family adventure.

4. Organize your summer snapshots. Here are the latest coupons for my favorite photo processing sites: Snapfish Coupons and Shutterfly Coupons.

5. Do the paperwork you’ve been putting off. Just do it. You’ll feel soooo much better.

6.  Take a really close look at your schedule for the upcoming season/school year. Are you scheduled to do things that you really don’t want to do? Why are you doing them? See what you can pare down in the weeks and months ahead to make room for what you really love to do.

7.  Order takeout tonight.

Which decade of life is the happiest? The answer might surprise you

Having just celebrated another birthday,  I was more pleased than usual to read this little bit of information on the Internet today:

The happiest men are those in their 60s.

The least happy are in their 20s.

That’s according to a Pew Research Center study, which you can read more about here.

According to this article, except for people with some form of dementia, mental health actually tends to get better as we get older.

Apparently older people have fewer negative “emotional experiences” and “greater emotional control” than younger people.

So why do we get happier as we got older? Well the researchers think that we get better at avoiding negative experiences and limiting our exposure to stress.  And when we are confronted with negative experiences, we are better able to focus on the positives. Older people are better able, for example, to “let an argument slide rather than dwell on it.”

I think about the relationships in my extended family and I really think that’s true. My grandparents and my parents and my in-laws let a lot of things roll right off their backs…not in a passive-aggressive kind of way, but in a healthy and wise way.

It’s kind of inspiring, I think. My husband and I are really starting to do that, too. We don’t take as many things personally as we used to. We give each other the benefit of the doubt more often.

Here’s a blog post by Victoria Moran on Beliefnet that is kind of related and which I think is pretty inspiring, too.

Our Trippy Vacation

View from the Ferris Wheel, Newport Beach

View from the Ferris Wheel, Newport Beach

So we just got back from our summer vacation. Not an everyday vacation adventure , but a real do-it-every-couple-of-years-and-spend-a-lot-of-money kind of vacation.

In my neighborhood, the mommies have a question that we ask each other when we get back from a trip. We huddle together in someone’s yard and we pour wine and we ask, “Sooooo, was it a vacation or just a trip?”

When my kids were younger, it was always a trip. It was work. It was work to pack, to load the kids in the car, to clean their messes out of the car, to pack snacks in the stroller, to keep the kids quiet in restaurants, to keep them entertained during long, hot car rides (which always smelled of moist feet and onion potato chips), to cajole them into politeness when we stop off to meet long lost friends or relatives who don’t have kids or toys or backyards.

But the last few times, because life with little kids does eventually get easier, we’ve enjoyed a vacation. An actual vacation. Because the kids read and crochet and watch DVDs in the car. They laugh and make us laugh and help us with their sunscreen and seatbelts and even help to lighten us up when we’re feeling snarly, which everyone feels sometimes on a vacation.

But we just returned from a vacation and I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation – and that usually happens only with trips.

To begin with, it was a long trip, by which I mean 7 days. And we went someplace far away, by which I mean about 1000 miles. Oh, and we drove. And we went to a big city.

I think maybe I don’t like to go places that are too far away. I feel energized when places are familiar enough to be somewhat comforting but new enough to be fresh and exciting. Also, they must be far enough away that I don’t have to go home and cook.

As a rule, we aren’t much for tourist destinations. My kids like to lie on the beach and chase seagulls and search for shiny shards of shells under the surf. But this time we went all-out tourist for a couple of days.

I’m not sure why we did it. We knew better. But I guess we did it because that’s what you’re supposed to do when your kids are 6, 8, and 10.

At one of these touristy places, we spent $175 on a meal that featured old meat and waxy cheese. At another, we spent $340 to wait in long lines and feel the sweat drip down our backs.

But the highlight of our vacation/trip cost us about 75 cents. Because that’s what we spent on a certain wayward sausage.

This one:

We were sitting in a little open air café eating breakfast about a block from the beach, where my kids were finally feeling relaxed and happy. At one point, my daughter tried to put her sausage on my plate for some reason (I don’t eat tubular meat very often) and I was talking with my hands, and my hand accidentally batted this little piggie, and it went soaring out of the window.

So for the next 30 minutes, the kids crouched by the window, trying to hold back hysterics, to watch the plight of the sausage. Would it get eaten by a dog? Squished by a bike? Swept away by the restaurant manager?

All of this allowed my husband and I to enjoy another cup of coffee together and a bit more conversation.

This little piece of breakfast meat somehow brought them together and lifted the pressure of packing too many things into our vacation.

So we lay on the beach all the rest of that balmy summer day.

We swam in the ocean and we chased seagulls and we searched for shells and we laughed and we wondered whatever became of that sausage.