Back To School (For Me)

I am off to school!  Today is my first day of classes for the new semester.

I am taking two courses this time around — Perspective Drawing II and AutoCAD — classes that will definitely benefit me in the long run but something I can not looking forward to doing to be perfectly honest.  After the struggle I had with Drafting last semester, I am nervous this time around for these two courses.  However, as with anything my attitude is a large part of how I will perceive the challenges that lie ahead.  Fingers crossed that this semester kicks butt!

Well while I am busy toiling away in my AutoCAD class, why don’t you take a gander at the new Projects Gallery I created.  I compiled all my favorite projects on to one page so it’s quick and easy to find them.  Take a look!

Okay I am off to eat breakfast and get centered for my full day ahead!  Have a great one…..

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Blog Series: Back to School Prep with Simplified Bee

I am lucky enough to have Cristin of Simplified Bee to wrap up my week-long series on prepping for the return to school.  Cristin is what I call “the real deal”.  It is always so pleasantly surprising to find someone is as charming and sweet as you imagine them to be – it was like that with Cristin.  If poodles could mate with unicorns and have dolphins as kids that wouldn’t even come close to Miss C — yeah Cristin is THAT nice in person.  So on this final day of the work week, take a minute to find out how Cristin stylishly organizes her family for school.

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney at the San Francisco Design Blogger Meet-up. His positive energy is contagious and he has a great sense of humor. I was thrilled when he asked me to write about getting organized for back-to-school!

As millions of children head back-to-school, parents think about how to make the transition easier. The answer is easy: get organized. There is a direct relationship between how organized a child is and how well they do in school. As a parent or guardian, you can help children develop life-long organization skills. Here are a few back-to-school tips for getting organized:


{image via The Zhush

Establish a Routine & Plan Ahead. Streamlining the morning routine is essential to get kids out the door and to school on time. It’s easy to get frazzled in the morning, so prepare lunches, book bags, outfits, even the breakfast table the night before. Create a storage area near your most used door and assign each person a bin and/or hook for their gear. 

Using color coded baskets or personalized tins {like the one above from the MacBeth Collection} will help keep items organized and allow for quick identification when leaving the house.


Create a Homework Station. Few children enjoy doing homework, but making creating an efficient work environment may make the task more fun. First determine where it’s best to set up the homework station – Near the kitchen where an adult can help? In a quiet room alone? Is a computer needed? Once a location is selected, it is important to have an easy accessible storage bin or drawer with needed school supplies. Based on your child’s age and school needs store items such as writing implements, paper, tape/glue, scissors, ruler, erasers, crayons and markers. When purchasing school supplies, consider eco-friendly and non-toxic items. Visit EWG’s back-to-school guide for a list of greener options. Pottery Barn Kids has a great Mini Lazy Susan perfect for a storing supplies at the homework station {above}.

{image via House of Fifty

Centralize School Communications. Besides your child’s school papers, there will be lots of communication parents will need to take action on or reference throughout the school year. Some of these items include classroom rosters, school handbook, supply list, permission slips and school calendar. Creating a centralized place for all this information is key to knowing where these important papers are when you need them. A binder or file folders are great options for keeping all that paper organized into subcategories.

Getting organized for back-to-school takes a little effort, but it will make the transition smoother!

Cristin from Simplified Bee®

Thank you Cristin!  I think the idea of a “homework space” is fantastic – like a home office for your kids!  Tailoring a spot specific to their needs during the school year is a great way to create a routine in your child’s school year.  I remember as a child, my Grandmother would also clear the coffee table and make me do my homework – after a while, it became second nature and it also helped the rest of the family know what I was doing.  All they had to do was swing by the coffee table!

So tell me — are you ready for school? 

I want to thank my guest bloggers again for participating this week and giving some fantastic ideas and tips!  Big props to Cassie, Courtney, Shannon, Erica & Cristin!

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Blog Series: Back to School Prep with Moth Design

I readily admit to this….I have a crush on my next guest blogger.  Honestly how could you not have a crush on Erica of Moth Design?  She is beautiful, stylish, runs a thriving design business in Canada and is a mother to five boys.  Yup, peeps, she holds it down as a single mom of FIVE hormone-raging boys and has yet to lose her sanity.  How does she do it?  Well I will let her explain….

Hi there! It’s Erica from Moth Design. As a single mother of 5 boys, organization is the key and there are several things I do every August to keep our family afloat when the school year takes off.

Tip 1:
I make my boys help me locate supplies and back packs from the previous year to determine an accurate list of what’s on hand. Usually there’s enough supplies to last for the first days. I then shop directly from the teachers lists to avoid unnecessary purchases or duplication. Something to keep in mind, grocery and drug stores that don’t usually stock an “office” section will often mark down their school supplies to fantastic prices in the weeks after school begins as they need to make room for Halloween candy!

Tip 2:
We  go through the prior year’s clothes and shoes to assess what still fits or can be passed down. This year there are still jeans that fit but the knees are ripped. I’m planning on trying out this clever patch. The great thing is you don’t have to be a master seamstress to do these fun fixes. Instructions (here).

another version (here)

Tip 3: 

Extra socks and underwear. In my family everything is color coded. Boring perhaps, yes, but this was the best thing I could have done for myself. EVER! There has never been a basket of mismatched socks since and it cuts the time spent putting laundry away in half. So here’s the tip… every boy has their own color underwear (ie grey, navy, etc…) and I buy socks with different colored stitching, based on size, at the toe. The same can be done for girls too. Usually I can pick up big packages of both at stores like Walmart or Target in the fall. Given every child knows their color it’s easy for them to put away their laundry and keep organized.

Tip 4:

I remember learning in a psychology class that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I start putting my kids to bed earlier the last two weeks of August in anticipation of the first few days of school. The transition of re-entry can be stressful and a good sleep schedule helps. I also have my boys put the following days clothes at the end of their beds before they go to sleep. This cuts down the rush in the morning and eliminates the pandemonium caused by not being able to find socks or clean pants. ps- do a test run of your child’s alarm clock to confirm it is working too!

Tip 5:

For those of us in colder climates, the one year that I didn’t buy boots and mittens early and when the first snow fell we didn’t have the appropriate snow gear. Man, did I feel like an idiot dropping of my kids in their sneakers. Since then I always set a reminder in my planner to keep my eye out for the arrival of boots and snow wear in stores and I buy promptly.

Tip 6:

I’ve never ordered fancy pre-printed sew in clothing name labels. However, I’ve found a system that works for me. I buy fine tip Sharpies and write our last name in all of the boys clothes. There’s been several occasions when one of my boys has a classmate with the same winter coat or backpack. It’s just easier to write their name in the collar and eliminate confusion. This also helps with laundry sorting. I write every boys name in the back collar of their undershirts and they can put things away themselves.

Hope this helps facilitate a smooth start to the school year! Good luck everyone and thanks so much for having me Courtney!

Thank you Erica!!!!  I love that Erica’s system empowers her sons to help themselves which I think is key.  By creating a system that is color-coded and simple to follow, her sons can now fend for themselves.  I also love her tip regarding non-traditional stores to purchase school supplies!  But now I am thinking about Halloween candy…….

As I ponder if there is any candy in the house, why don’t you all think about how  Cristin of Simplified Bee is going to wrap up the series tomorrow?
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Blog Series: Back to School Prep with Shannon Berrey

Shannon Berrey is one of those people who you would love to hate but you just can’t.  Her talent is only matched by her big heart and limitless energy.  She is an amazing interior designer, artist and super supportive Mom to her two kids.  You would think that with all those balls in the air, a few would drop but Shannon has perfected a simple way that keeps her family organized and is stylish to boot…..

Thank-you, Courtney for inviting me to your Back-to School party this week!

This time of year has changed dramatically for our family over the years. Gone are the days of shopping for the perfect backpack, pretty folders, packing lunch boxes, and celebratory BTS parties.

Oh how I miss it! 

With 2 teenagers, the schedules in our house are hard-core. Maris {16-rhymes with Paris!} plays volleyball, basketball and runs track. Also throw in Student Council, FCA, weekly allergy shots…

Jack {13} plays soccer, basketball, baseball, and travel baseball. Travel ball practices happen in another town and weekends are spent in other cities/states for tournaments.  Throw in homework and my design schedule……..

How do I keep it all straight? It’s not the most innovative idea, for sure, but, it is one that I have used to maintain sanity for the past 10 years. 

A huge chalkboard smack in the middle of the house. Our kitchen and living room are open to each other and this life saver hangs so everyone sees it all the time. It allows us to be privy to each others schedules.  

All the artwork and pictures on the wall changes often, but, the chalkboard will stay put until my kids graduate. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you–it’s a chalkboard hung on a chalkboard wall.

I still have my work schedule on my computer, but, because travel is such a large part of our life, it is great to be able to view our upcoming weeks at a glance. 

It is also offers other reminders, as well 🙂

Thank you Shannon!  With all of the different computer programs, agendas and smart devices available to keep tabs on your life, I love how Shannon uses an approach that allows her to share the burden of scheduling with the whole family.  The idea of the chalkboard in the center of the home allows her family to be self-sufficient in figuring out schedule conflicts and frees up Shannon from being the task driver.  Simple, elegant and easy – the three pillars of any organization system.

So tell me, what organization systems do you use with your family to keep them on track?  Speaking of keeping a family on track, check by tomorrow to learn how Erica of Moth Designs manages to keep her sanity with 5 boys while running a thriving design business.

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Blog Series: Back to School Prep with A Thoughtful Place

I was lucky enough to have crossed paths with Courtney of A Thoughtful Place at the San Francisco blogger gathering earlier this summer.  Not only was she funny & bubbly she was a wealth of information about everything relating to design in general.  And let’s be real peeps, she has an AWESOME name….that alone would have insured her a spot in this blog series.  But honestly, Courtney’s knack for finding fun, simple and thoughtful ways to kick off the school year with your child’s teacher was the REAL reason I invited her to participate.  Check out her fun projects that will definitely get your child to the head of the class…..

Having met Courtney at a blogger meet up in San Fran, I was over the moon when he invited me to come share some tips on starting the school year off right! I taught fifth grade for over ten years so the first day of school is no stranger to me! Teachers work extremely hard to get the room and curriculum ready to go. My advice to you is to take your child’s teacher a little something on the first day of school. The key to this, though, is a LITTLE something. If you go too big it may be perceived as trying to kiss up be too generous! 

Idea Number One: Fresh Flowers

Teachers have spent hours preparing for this first day of school. There is nothing like a fresh pop of color to place on their desk that first morning. Keep it simple and PLEASE do not bring flowers that are not already in a vase or jar {they don’t have time to deal with that!}. I use my pasta jars as vases. They are cute and chic and cost nothing. Trader Joe’s is a great spot to pick up some daises for only $5. In fact, you can put together two separate bouquets with just the one bundle. That is a price performer. Add a splash of personality with some scrapbook paper. It only takes a little bit of effort to show that you when the extra mile. 

Idea Number Two:  A Little Something Sweet

Why not start the school year off with something sweet. For this treat, I started with waffle cookies form Trader Joe’s and simply dipped them in melted chocolate chips. 

The extra effort comes in the packaging. It only takes a few minutes to pop them in a clear bag and top with a folded piece of scrapbook paper. I simply staple each side to keep it together. You could really fill these treat bags with anything. If you don’t have time to make something, how about a handful of store bought chocolate covered blueberries?  

No matter what you choose to give the teachers on the first day, a hand written note is a very thoughtful idea. Just a simple note with your gift that says you are looking forward to the year and thank you for preparing the classroom. 

Sharpened pencils and the smell of new crayons tops the list as one of my favorite parts of back to school. My daughter begins Kindergarten this year! Such a milestone. I will definitely be handing her teacher one of these little gifts. Happy school year to you all! Thanks for having me, Courtney!

Thank you Courtney for these awesome ideas!  Taking a little extra time to introduce yourself and your child with these treats is a great way not only to introduce your child to his/her teacher but also to introduce yourself as a parent.  Most of my friends who are teachers complain that they rarely hear from parents unless there is an issue, so imagine how surprised and delighted they will be to get one of Courtney’s awesome gifts!

So tell me, do you do something special for your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year?   Leave a comment and let me know!  And guess what, the party doesn’t stop because tomorrow, I am tickled to have Shannon Berrey share her perspective on back to school prep!

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Blog Series: Back to School Prep with Hi Sugarplum!

A conversation with a friend spurred me to ask 5 fantastic blogging Moms “How Do You Prep For the School Season”.  All this week, I will be hosting a series of guest bloggers on the site and having them explain how they prepare their families for the upcoming school season.   I am excited to have my friend Cassie of Hi Sugarplum! kick off the blog series!

Hello fabulous Courtney Out Loud readers! I’m Cassie of Hi Sugarplum!, and I’m thrilled to be guest posting today. Courtney and I have been carrying on a blog affair for quite some time, so I feel really at home here. I can only hope some of his charm, wit and mad-skills will rub off on me.

I have two kids, 5 and 10. My son considers himself a pro, as he’s entering 5th grade, and my daughter is starting Kindergarten.


I helped her get excited for this big change by creating a special place in her room to do schoolwork.

art center collage

Not that she’ll have a lot of homework in the beginning, but she feels important having a work area like big brother.


And other than shopping for new backpacks, shoes and supplies, our biggest preparation for returning to school is a mental one. See, we take our family vacation the very last week of Summer Break. Typically we go to the beach with no friends or electronics…just the four of us spending time together. It’s a full week with no schedules, limited rules and no outside distractions. We all return relaxed and connected, and my goal is always to continue that feeling through the school year.


This means setting some firm (and selfish) boundaries, and sticking with them.

1. Limit Activities
My Son is allowed no more than two extra-curricular activities at a time…one sport and one musical instrument. Driving from place-to-place and out every night for practices is exhausting for all of us. And exhausted equals cranky and unhealthy.

2. Learn to Say ‘No’
This is a tough one for me. I’m a working-mom, so I have a fair amount of guilt that comes with it. Early on, I agreed to help in the classroom, chair committees for the PTA, cook food and do crafts. The requests are endless, and I was left feeling overwhelmed. Plus, all the extra stuff I was doing was taking me away from spending what little time I had with my kids. So I’ve learned to say, ‘No’ a larger percentage of the time. It’s not always easy, but the trade-off is a less-stressed mom, which is a nicer and more fun mom.

3. Make Family Time a Priority
Apart from sitting down to dinner together most nights, we are also fairly selfish about our weekends. My kids have plenty of friend time, but we don’t allow sleepovers and play dates every weekend. They don’t always love this, but if they are constantly gone, or someone else is always over, then we aren’t connecting and doing things as a family.

hawt dogs

Soon enough, they’ll both be too old and too cool for Family Movie Night, but until then, I’m going to make sure we have every opportunity for one! I’d love to hear how you keep your house from getting chaotic during the school year. And are you as crazy about making sure your kids get enough sleep as I am? Thanks for having me, Courtney! Hopefully putting this in writing will help me stick to it!

Thank you Cassie and you are so right!  Taking time out as a family is one of the best things you can do to ensure a fantastic and successful school year.  Even if it is just a weekend at home, blocking time out with no distractions or visitors is a great way to not only have a small reprieve from the chaos of life but also give yourself the opportunity to be full present for your kids.  However, what I love most is Cassie’s ability to say “No”.  By effectively managing her time, she is able to spend more of it doing the things that are important to her.  And you know what….a happy. stress-free Mom is the best kind of Mom in my book.

So tell me….do you and your family take some time to regroup right before school?  Do you have a special place you love to go?   Or better, have you learned the power of “No”?  If so, leave a comment and share your experience.

Tomorrow Courtney from A Thoughtful Place with sharing how she kicks off the school with a little something for her children’s teachers.

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Blog Series: Prepping for Back to School

A good friend from college is preparing to send her first child to pre-school and is experiencing the mixed emotions of she excitement and fear.  She is excited to have half the day to herself moving forward but scared because she thinks she is running behind on prep for the big day.  I went over the other day to help her but I think I just exacerbated the situation because I found it funny watching her run around her house like a crazy woman trying to organize outfits, lunch schedules and after-school play dates.  I finally had to ask her, “Is all of this really necessary?  Are all the other Moms as manic?”  And my friend turned to me and said…..

Courtney, among the Moms at the school, I am the LAID BACK one…..I know some of the kid’s Moms have been prepping for back-to-school since June. 

Which got my thinking, can sending your school really be that crazy?  The Partner and I are childless (much to the chagrin of our collective families), so I can’t profess to understanding the time, energy and effort it takes to getting a family prepared to head into school season.  However, I do know a slew of fantastic “Blogging Mommas” who are able to juggle careers, family and the occasional blog post, so I turned to them and asked the question…….

What do you do to prepare for back to school?

Throughout next week, I will be hosting these five fantastic ladies as they give us their take on the question……


The series kicks off on Monday with Cassie of the hilarious blog, Hi Sugarplum!

Until then, have a GREAT weekend and time some to enjoy the last bits of summer.

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