All Systems Go

So, remember back when fall started and we were juggling new schedules and grieving the loss of Bill and Nick was traveling and I began substitute teaching and things got a little hairy for a while? No? It’s largely a blur for me, too.

But I do remember kind of, I don’t know, losing it during a visit with my therapist, frustrated that not only did we have a million balls in the air (and I suck at both sports and juggling), but also that the girls were struggling with all of the change. My therapist asked me what I thought I could do to help get things under control (not in an OMG you are such a mess way, but more in a literal way), and I told her that once I had a system for things – a way of keeping us organized, some checks and balances – it would get better.

Or at least we’d know what the hell was going on, when.

Annie, in particular, was growing agitated that every day was different than the one before. Did she have library? Was our babysitter coming today? Would Daddy miss bedtime because of an early hockey game? Did she have soccer practice? Would Mommy be gone at breakfast because she was subbing? Was dinner going to be before, during, or after Ella’s swim lesson? Did Ella even swim tonight?

Damn. Just typing that makes my head spin.

And she couldn’t even have a glass of wine at the end of the day. Or, say, for lunch. No wonder the kid was out of sorts.

In typical ADHD fashion, I hatched a plan the moment I left my therapist’s office and decided to put it into play that afternoon. Yes, it meant that the vacuuming wouldn’t get done and that our dinner might never get made, but we would be organized, damn it.

Home base would be the fridge, in part because it’s in a central location, and in part because the girls open the fridge doors, like, 238 times a day, so I knew they’d be facing the information over and over again.

What? This IS organized. Go with it.

Although we have a large wall calendar, it’s up high and the girls never check it, so I decided to put a monthly calendar above the ice dispenser, specifically tailored to the girls’ needs. Visits to the vet and oil changes and annual checkups for my lady parts? I’ll keep those to myself, thanks. Daddy’s early hockey games and Mommy’s subbing and the visit from a relative at the end of the month? Vital.

Feel free to click on any of these fabulous photos to see them larger.
Come on. You know you want to see the puppy up close.

Next, there’s the two week dry erase calendar, which is more detailed than the monthly view. This way, the girls can know, at a glance, if I’m teaching piano and a babysitter is coming, or if I’m teaching piano at home sans sitter, or if they need to gather their library books or should plan to stay after school for an activity.


Below this calendar are the girls’ weekly homework assignments as well as the monthly hot lunch calendar, which they check nightly to determine which days they’re buying and which they’re not. I don’t think they’ve missed a pizza Wednesday all year long.

Finally, away from the fridge, there’s the daily dry erase board – an idea I got here – which is kept by the girls’ backpacks and lets them know what they need to bring with them that day. systems2

Can you tell we live near Rochester? What gives it away?

Annie and Ella tell me what to write on the list each night, and then they’re responsible for packing their bags in the morning. While they both go down the list to see what they’ve got and what they don’t, only Annie actually crosses things off… but, ironically, she still occasionally forgets things. I don’t know anyone else in our family like that. *cough*


I’d love to say that this has eliminated frantic goings-to-school, but it totally hasn’t. There are still tears some days as we head out the door, because hair doesn’t fix itself, you know, and breakfast cannot magically teleport itself into hungry stomachs… but at least I know that the daily WHAT ELSE DID YOU NEED TO BRING?? craziness has been largely eliminated.

Boots on… bags packed… maybe we can sneak out the door without having a brush come anywhere near our heads…

We started this whole “system” thing back in October (ish), and it’s pretty much accomplished what I wanted it to: namely, I know what the hell is happening,  and when, and Annie feels like she’s got a sense of what each day looks like. Nearly every night around dinner, I’ll catch her standing in front of the fridge, muttering things like, “So, tomorrow I’ve got library… Looks like Daddy’s playing goalie again… HOLY COW WE’RE GOING TO MINNESOTA IN THREE DAYS!” She really seems to thrive with everything laid out so clearly in front of her, and although we’re going through enough dry erase markers to buy stock in Expo, I’m down with it.

Ella, however, didn’t really seem to care. Although she’s always been our kid who craves predictability, who struggles with change, and who absolutely cannot handle a surprise, she didn’t voice any opinions about the system. Yeah, I’ll see her rechecking the school lunch calendar from time to time (making sure that she’s really chosen the best options for the week), and she seems to peruse the dry erase checklist each morning, but like I said, she doesn’t mark anything off, and she doesn’t talk about it one way or another. So I wasn’t sure that she was even paying attention.

Because Ella really needs to know what to expect each day – as mentioned, homegirl cannot stand being surprised – I always make sure to remind her, casually, of anything I think might throw her for a bit of a loop. Sometimes, I’ll just work a reminder into conversation while we’re walking to school: “After Sammy picks you up from school, you can try one of our new snacks!” Other times, I’ll be more direct: “Don’t forget that I need to take yearbook photos tomorrow after school, so we’ll need to stay at the building for an extra twenty minutes.” Sometimes, she rolls her eyes at me, but she’s ultimately grateful to be in the know.

Last week, it was already well past bedtime when I remembered that I’d completely forgotten to tell Ella that I’d be pulling her from school the following day to take her to a doctor’s appointment. I was afraid that, in the hustle and bustle of the morning, I might also forget to tell her – and also, I know that she likes to know things like this as far in advance as possible – so I crept back into her room to supply her with this critical information.

Ella! I’m so sorry, but I forgot to tell you – you have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning…

“… at 10:30. I know.”

(She said this without lifting her head or even opening her eyes.)

Oh. Well then. Glad we got that straightened out. ‘Night.


Sooo… I guess she actually is looking at the kitchen calendar. Like, a lot.
Maybe we should buy that dry erase marker stock after all.