How to Battle Back-to-School Busy

For my family, the long, lazy days of summer are anything but boring. We stay busy during these warm months, camping and traveling and working on yard projects to say the least.

But compared to the controlled chaos of the school year, summer can seem downright chill. At least, as a family, we’re all on the same page in June, July, and August. Or in the same car. Or even in the same room. That’s not how it is goes once school starts up again. Come September, we all scatter off in different directions from morning until night, and it requires some major tactical planning for us all to stay connected and on track with each other.

File_000 (10)Let me tell you about the recent horrible, no good, very bad semester when I nearly lost my mind and learned a valuable lesson about maintaining my family’s busy schedules. It was early spring, when you just naturally want to be more active after a winter’s hibernation, and neither of my teens were driving yet. My son was dual enrolled at the local community college, with an odd mix of early morning and late night classes. He was also taking a driver’s ed course, volunteering at the food bank AND the library, working on his Eagle Scout project, and tutoring part-time. Meanwhile, my daughter was appearing in two separate theater productions, crewing for a third, involved with three afterschool clubs, volunteering at the library, taking voice and dance lessons, selling Girl Scout cookies, and had recently begun a regular workout schedule at the gym. On top of all that, believe it or not, my wife and I actually had our own work and leisure activities. The hectic and erratic nature of our four schedules was not new, but the sheer number of people, places, and things I had to keep track of was at an unprecedented level for me. It came as a surprise, but luckily I had habits and resources in place to help me settle in, even if it did scare me for a few weeks.

Surviving the busy work and school schedules of your family members takes some simple strategizing. I’ve found that a mixture of old and new technologies can bring everyone together so that nobody feels left out or lost.

Whiteboard
A centrally-located dry erase whiteboard is a must. If you don’t have one of these, of any size, on the wall of your kitchen, you’re missing out on an extremely effective means of family communication. We’ve been through several, some featuring a weekly or monthly calendar, some with attached bulletin board and magnets. In the end, a simple large blank white board with 2 or 3 different colored ink pens does the job perfectly, whether it’s for daily reminders or ongoing shopping lists. The board gives every member of your family pause to read or write a message that is important for all to see.

Calendar
A family calendar is also a must-have item for the wall of your house, if only to serve as a reminder that the days and weeks ahead are going to be busy ones. We use Google Calendar on our phones far more often to plan and coordinate events, but the old-fashioned paper calendar is an important back-up. Also, you get monthly pictures of kittens or Disney princesses.

Going Digital
The old-fashioned techniques still work well, but you absolutely have to bring your entire family into the digital age in order to stay connected these days. And that means everybody gets a smartphone. Sorry, there’s no debate about this. If you have a school-aged child involved in multiple extracurricular activities, and you want to remain sane, get them a phone for voice, messaging, and a synced calendar.

My family has a simple set-up. We each have our own Google account for email, calendar, and online storage. Each of our calendars is synced to the others and color-coordinated, so it only takes a glance to see where everyone is and what they should be doing. We also agreed to use one messaging service, iMessage, for family communication. My teens use other services, like Snapchat, to talk with their friends. Last, we use a locator app, Find My Friends, to find each other on a map. This comes in handy when my daughter is wondering how close I am to picking her up, but I can’t text while I’m driving to let her know.

Smartphones
For several years now, practically everything involving the management of the family schedule has gone through our phones. It’s one aspect of the omnipresent screen that I heartily welcome. Of course, one thing that isn’t so welcome is the huge wireless bill when you have a family of four constantly texting, emailing, locating, and communicating with each other all day long.

If a family-sized wireless bill is stopping you from getting everyone’s schedules sorted, there’s good news from Straight Talk Wireless. They offer easy, inexpensive, family-friendly phone plans. Just in time for school, Straight Talk has added more high-speed data to its unlimited $45 and $55 plans. Now you can get unlimited talk, text and the first 8GB of high-speed data then 2G* for $45 or bump it up to 12GB of high-speed data then 2G* for $55. There’s a reason that Straight Talk Wireless is the nation’s leading no-contract wireless carrier. They simply offer the best phones on the best networks for less. There are no contracts, no credit checks, and no mystery fees.

ST_WIRELESS_LOGOWalk into any Walmart store, or visit StraightTalk.com, for more information and ways to save on your family phone plan. You can set your family up with the latest smartphones if you want, including the Samsung Galaxy S8. Maybe start your younger kids out with something simpler, but don’t leave them out of the family connectivity. Get them used to communicating their activities now, and it will pay dividends later, especially during the teen years when kids seem to have trouble sharing much of anything.

As a parent, it’s extremely satisfying to watch your children pursue their interests, even if it seems like they’re going in a dozen different directions at once. An important part of childhood is trying things out, learning what works and what doesn’t, and developing confidence in favored pursuits. And an important part of parenthood is keeping track of it all. With a few simple techniques, you can save yourself a lot of stress and confusion in dealing with your family’s comings and goings. Most importantly, keep your family members connected with a reliable phone plan, like the ones offered by Straight Talk Wireless. There is no better way to stay in touch and on schedule.

IMG_0010

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Straight Talk Wireless for this post.

*At 2G speeds, the functionality of some data applications, such as streaming audio or video may be affected. Please refer always to the latest Terms and Conditions of Service at StraightTalk.com.

Why Am I So Tired?

File_000

“Why am I so tired?”

That’s a question I hear a lot. From friends, family, strangers. But mostly from myself.

It’s a rhetorical question, of course, because I know why I’m tired.

It’s called being a parent.

I remember a time when I never thought about sleep. When I could stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning, then get up at 6am and head to work with a focused mind and enough energy to get me through my day.

Then came children. And worries. Lots of them. And they only multiply over the years (the worries, but sometimes the kids too).

Now that my kids are teens, one of my biggest worries is whether they get enough sleep, as sleep deprivation is a huge danger to the developing brain of a teenager. Each morning I ask them if they slept well, and each night I remind them to go to bed early, turn off phones, and give their brains a chance to recharge.

I’m like the airline passenger who ignores the flight attendant’s instructions to “put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.”

I keep forgetting to worry about my own sleep. And yet, that question persists.

“Why am I so tired?”

You can imagine how happy I was when Beautyrest sent me their Sleeptracker monitor to help me collect data about my sleeping habits, so that I can make some positive changes to my daily routine in the hopes of improving my role as a parent.

It’s really difficult to be good at anything when you’re sleep deprived. Even though my teens don’t need as much of my attention as when they were younger, one of them still relies on me for driving her to the myriad of activities she’s involved with seemingly every single day of the week.

Driving while tired is a recipe for disaster, so I was quick to set up the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor on my bed. The installation was simple. You place the sensor between your mattress and box frame and it magically monitors your movements, breathing, and heart rate through the night. The product actually comes with two sensors, one for each side of the bed if you share it with a partner. The sensors connect to a small processor that can sit on the floor, and then each night’s data is streamed to a smartphone app that you can download for free.

That’s not magic. Just amazing science and technology to improve your life.

BR17_ST_Componants_with_Box_03-A-e1492184457982

It’s an extremely well-designed product, much better than the invasive wearable sleep monitors that I’ve seen in the past. The Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor measures things like how long it takes to fall asleep, the various sleep cycles, body movement, and heart rate. It then makes suggestions on simple changes you can make to your routine to feel better rested.

The key, really, is to understand how you are sleeping, so rather than ask, “Why am I so tired?” you can instead ask, “What am I going to do about it?”

After only a week of using the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor, I was already feeling more refreshed because of the personalized coaching that the Sleeptracker app offers each day based around my sleep habits.

Something as simple as letting the product change your wakeup time by 15 minutes through the Smart Alarm feature can make a world of difference in how you feel for the rest of the day. I’m hopeful that continuing to monitor my sleep, and following through on making changes, will give me the energy and focus I need for on my parenting journey. #ISleepTo be a better dad.

Learn more about the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor on their website. Or follow them on Facebook. Don’t wait to get it for yourself, so you can stop asking that question, “Why am I so tired?” Even with everything a parent needs to worry about, there’s no reason you should be losing sleep.

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Beautyrest for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

BeautyrestSleeptrackerLogo

Let Your Kids Get Dirty

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Maytag. All opinions are 100% mine.

Muddy miles

Kids are filthy.

There’s just no getting around that fact. From toddlers to teens, your kids are going to find all sorts of different ways to dirty themselves up. Parents should be patient and remember that a little bit of dirt, or maybe a lot of it, isn’t going to hurt. In fact, getting dirty can be quite fun. Continue reading