Our Back to School Musts... {Life}

I'm about to get really dorky. The truth is, I get too excited about being organized, finding quality items, and having good systems. That's what this is all about.. how we're telling the school year who's boss, not the other way around. I have one school year with kids under my belt (I know, so experienced right?) but that one year taught me a lot and I hope I'm a little wiser this time around. (Obligatory summer shot.. because this is all I have on my camera these days.) 

This year we have two little ones in school. Our son is headed off to junior kindergarten (we're still in shock) while our daughter with her grown up laced shoes heads off to grade one. So it's about to get even crazier since everything will be doubled up.. lunches, homework, field trips, special events. It's easy to miss a pizza day cash deadline (been there) and it's scandalous when the kids realize they are not getting pizza on pizza day.

So here's a few ways we'll be keeping it together, literally. This is what works for us and won't necessarily work for everyone.

Starting off with good quality backpacks.

We didn't spend much time looking at backpacks featuring movie or show characters. We find they're low quality (you seem to pay more for the flashy images and glitter than the backpack itself). Last school year, the zipper on our daughter's flashy back pack didn't make it to the end of the year. To us, it would be ideal if a backpack could last for more than one year, and we're willing to pay for quality. Plus, the backpacks we picked up have more than one compartment so they can divide their workbooks from their lunch/drink (water bottle holders on the side is a must). Pictured here is our JK's backpack which he loves. We like the bright color so he pops out to drivers as he walks to and from school with us. We picked up the backpacks at Staples but you can get decent quality packs at many locations.

A single tiered, spacious lunch pail was ideal for our kiddies.

This way they can see everything at first glance and just pull our what they need (ie. yogurt, thermos) without having to remove everything to find what their looking for.. and then potentially misplace a container in the process. The blue lunch pail (also from Staples) is for our son, while the Dora one was a gift to our daughter. Again, quality was ideal.. and I'm crossing my fingers that these lunch pail will survive several rigorous years.

I'm crazy about this sistema lunch box.

We now have three of them. I love that they fit a substantial sandwich (or main course) and two snacks all without having to deal with several containers. This is great for small kids. Fewer containers keeps it simple and reduces the chance of losing some along the way. I usually add another snack that is already packaged (ie. a small yogurt or granola bar) and a fruit (ie. apple) and/or another small container in addition to the sistema. Full disclosure: the handyman does not like cleaning these but I think it's a breeze (not dealing with several containers/lids). There is a trick to opening this container without having everything spill out. I gave our youngest a quick tutorial and he's successfully used it several times. We just need to add labels and we're good to go. I picked up our sistemas at Solutions but I've seen them at several other stores.

By the way, I'm looking forward to using these thermos' that were given to us as a gift. Who wouldn't enjoy something warm on a cold winter day.

I liked the idea of these luggage tags for backpacks and lunch pails.

Just in case a backpack or lunch pail is abandoned and left to it's own devices. Plus, some kids arrive with the same lunch pail or backpack and the luggage tag helps to quickly identify which is theirs. Our youngest is prone to leaving something behind (he gets caught up in the moment) so the more I can help him and his teachers out, the better. I picked up the pink tags at Dollarama which was a great deal, but unfortunately they didn't have boyish luggage tags and so I headed back to Staples and slightly overpaid for the red and blue tags which I think are super cool ($4 each). But again, I hope it's an item we can use for several years.

We got an awesome deal on good quality indoor shoes.

We hit up the clearance section at The Shoe Company and found these two pairs of shoes. Plus, SC was having a promotion - buy 1 get 1 25% off. So with all the markdowns the cost was just over $50.. instead of $120 + tax. I bought our son's pair of running shoes from SC at the beginning of the summer and they are still going strong. Also, I find the staff super helpful.. they measure our children's feet and are candid about the quality of each shoe. I'm not in any partnership with Shoe Company or other company, I just want to share good shopping experiences. 

I'm digging this big mama calendar.

Okay, so it's really a calendar for the whole family, but I think I'm the most dorky for it. It's called 'Mom's Ultimate Calendar' and I picked it up at Walmart for $10. Currently, I keep myself organized through my Google calendar but I don't always have it open on busy school mornings (and the family doesn't check it) so I resort to sticky notes on the kitchen cabinets to remind us of pizza day (so that I don't make lunches). I like that this calendar will be front and center every morning as we grab the milk or lunch meat.  It leaves a spot for notes and there's these little stickers which just makes organization more fun. It's not the most stylish thing to look at.. I don't expect a 'pin'.. but I love that's we'll be able to see what everyone is up to at a quick glance.

Coming together at the end of the day is so important to a good year.

Dinner is a family event. We all sit around the table and talk about our day.. the ups and the downs. And then we try to end with a family devotion and small prayer. It provides our family with perspective. What's really important in our day? Currently, we're reading, "One Year of Dinner Table Devotions," by Nancy Guthrie. I flip through and try and find a devotion that my little ones will understand (they are 4 and 5 years old) and may paraphrase some parts. I love the questions at the end and the conversation that it sparks. As we head in the school year I look forward to using examples from school in our conversations.

Your turn... what school year tips do you have? Is there a family devotion book that you would recommend (I'm always looking for book ideas)? Are you obsessed with a certain sandwich container, like me? Or am I the only one? 

Check out this blog I wrote earlier this year for more tips on life with kids.