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My BFF is a Ginormous Calendar
We are a large-ish family. Five kids at home (seven total), plus Mom & Dad. In the past, we’ve had tons of animals – farm animals, typical pets, even plenty of “I found this guy in the yard; do we have a box?” pets. We don’t have so many animals now, but we still create a lot of activity that has to be managed.
Currently, our five kids are in three different schooling situations, with atleast four different daily schedules, and even different days off. Among the group, they participate in several extracurricular sports, clubs and lessons. We have all the usual appointments (pediatrician, dentist, oil changes…), plus therapists, counselors, specialist doctors, orthodontists, and more.
Then there are meetings at school, tests, project due dates, birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, work events. I have meetings, classes and events for my doTERRA business. I also menu plan a month or more in advance. And I often use the calendar to note medication schedules, the starting or stopping of a certain activity, or an incident that might need to be referenced later.
In short, nothing less than a Ginormous Calendar will do, and our family command center is built around it.
The $6.87 Calendar that Saved My Sanity
For several years when the kids were little, I used a Flylady calendar. (FlyLady was a lifesaver for me when I suddenly went from zero kids to four under 7 and had to get organized fast.)
It was pretty good, and offered a fair amount of space to write in each day. But after a while, it got to be too spendy for my budget, which mostly went toward diapers and animal crackers. So I made do with the cheapest calendars I could find – usually the ones with pretty pictures and slick magazine-like paper, that I could pick up somewhere for a dollar.
Those were easier on the budget, but I hated them. They drove me nuts. Small, unlined squares, and the slick paper made everything smeary. Plus they’re weak, and they rip and fall off the wall easily. Not conducive to keeping track of seventy-leven million things per month.
So, at one point, I was strolling through Staples, and suddenly realized I could use a giant desk calendar, and just hang it on the wall. Genius! Amazing! Best Idea Ever! I probably grinned like an idiot all the way home.
But You Can’t Put a Ginormous Calendar in Your Purse
That calendar saved my sanity. I could fit everything in, and even keep it fairly neat, so I wouldn’t lose my mind over all the scribbles and arrows. The Ginormous Wall Calendar is now my BFF, and I will always use one. (I will admit, though, that last year I was trying to squeeze a dollar out of a dime, and went back to the $1 smeary thing. I don’t think I made it three months. Never again!)
But you can’t grab the BFF off the wall and head out for the day. Well, maybe you can. But it’s a bit unwieldy. So then what?
A little secret: I keep two calendars. Yeeaaahhh, I keep trying to figure out how I can NOT do that, but no luck yet. I carry a planner with me at all times. It’s my other BFF. In it, I keep track of not just all those seventy-leven million things, but also homeschool planning and activities, as well as everything to do with my business and blog. It’s jam-packed, and I’d be lost without it.
Atleast once a week, I spread both calendars out on the kitchen table and sync them. The old fashioned way, with a pencil (and not even a mechanical one!). Yeah, I’m retro like that 😉
Calendar-y Things I Don’t Do
I’ve tried all sorts of things to make my calendars more organized, more colorful, more Pinterest-y (I love Pinterest!). But the fact is, I’m the kind of girl who needs to make a list (lists are my favorite!) with plain ol’ paper and pencil. There are several fancy methods I’ve tried and discarded. Such as:
- I don’t write each person’s activities in a different color. Tried that. I’m always in too much of a hurry to make sure I have every color with me, and to use the right one at the right time. My OCD tendencies did NOT like fudging those rules. Made me crazy. Like, how many times can I crumple up a whole calendar and start over, because I accidentally wrote the blue-kid’s appointment in green? Ack! So everybody gets whatever color pen or pencil is the handiest to grab. I write the person’s initial, and just try to use roughly the same format, as a nod to my need to do things right, whatever that means.
- I don’t use electronic calendars on my smartphone. I’ve tried. This summer, I used Cozi almost exclusively. Oh, there are some features I like – like being able to link in everybody in the family so they can see things, contribute things and get notifications. That could be awesome, especially as our kids keep getting more and more teenagery. But having my whole life inside a tiny little screen that wasn’t always accessible (like when I was on the phone with someone, making an appointment. Ahem.) made me crazy. And I didn’t like the layout, or the fact that I can only see a few things at a time. Plus, I can grab a pen and scribble something in my paper planner way faster.
- I don’t use stickers. They drive me nuts, gumming up the flow of information, and taking up all the space. So pen and paper it is.
How the Calendar Helps Our Kids
There are the usual things, like memorizing the months of the year, and learning to spell Wednesday. Practicing patience while counting down to Christmas. Remembering people’s birthdays.
More significantly, though, our kids came to us from situations of neglect and trauma. They worry. They stress about things most kids don’t even consider. They’re hypervigilant. They have to know what to expect.
I have kids who stand in front of the calendar several times a day, memorizing everything. To them, it’s an anchor. Safety. It means Mom & Dad have it all planned out. It means they can know what’s coming next. These are the same kids who, for the first couple years they were with us, couldn’t go to sleep until I told them what was going to be for breakfast the next morning. They needed to know, not just that I had thought about it, but that we actually had the food. These days, they do their best to hold me to the dinner plans I write on the calendar, because it means they can count on it.
(Unless it’s something they don’t like. Then they do their best to convince me that Mac & Cheese is a vegetable.)
Other kids have learned responsibility because the calendar plays such a prominent role in our family management. The rule is, if Mom doesn’t get an official notification from the school, it doesn’t go on the calendar. And if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. I won’t send the whole family into a tizzy for an activity one kid never mentioned. So they’ve learned to get it in writing, bring it home ahead of time, and make sure Mom has time to work it in.
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