Get Ready for the Demands & Delights of Fall
School has begun, there’s a brisk note in the air and time already feels as if it’s speeding up faster than Robert Downy Jr. at the Less Than Zero wrap party.
Fall is the best time of year in New York. But getting back into those demanding routines is a struggle that can make it hard to be thoughtful, proactive and organized enough to take advantage of some of the most incredible weather of the year.
I’ve barely been able to get anything done in the mere run up to the first day of school. Which unfortunately came on the heels of a rough few weeks at work. Which naturally coincided with having no babysitter.
But it is time to get it together: routines, food, money, day trips, holiday planning and more. Here are my tips for launching the whole gang into Fall with gusto.
Why are routines so hard, even though routines are what you need to make life easy? It often comes down to not being able to get kids to sleep early enough, which makes the mornings harder than necessary. My strategy: Early bed times for all of us. That is the only solution to surviving the new school year. Of course, that means getting dinner done earlier, which is the real trick.
Meal planning and cooking is the absolute hardest part of a working parent’s day. Now is the time to focus on a few quick and easy go-to meals and repeat as much as necessary until you get through September. My strategy: Aim for lots of soups, which my picky children miraculously eat, and other things that reheat well like pasta and chicken cutlets. I am going to give my rice cooker (one of the few kitchen gadgets that I find truly useful) a serious workout. All meals must be kid and adult friendly – no cooking different things for everyone and no major experimenting this month.
I deeply dread the deluge of school papers. It’s always the hardest clutter to deal with. I know there is only one solution for this. My strategy: I am going to do my best to follow the old “one touch” rule: deal with every paper once. Instantly. Sign the permission slip, write the check, place the book order, RSVP to the party (“no” if undecided, can always change to a “yes” later), discard all artwork that is not making it into the Gagosian Gallery. And feel no guilt for not taking part in every optional activity, birthday party or fundraiser.
CLAIM YOUR WEEKENDS
There are always so many things I want to do in the fall. Often the season goes by and I only do a fraction due to poor planning. I always make a list of things I want to do, but this year I got a grip and slotted every activity onto the calendar. Which made me realize, of course, that my list was far too long. I couldn’t fit everything. But looking at it in the context of real actual time means I’ll probably do more of the activities than I would have if I just improvised. As much as I love having nothing on the calendar, sometimes it is a necessary evil.
This Fall, I want to check out out some places I have never been, like Wave Hill in the Bronx, which looks incredible. I’d love to try some amateur bird watching in the park. There are many groups you can join and it’s free. A corn maize is on the list — it’s been a few years since we’ve done one. The big excitement for October is that my husband and I are planning a trip, just the two of us, to Maine to see Acadia. I’ve never been to Maine and am so excited.
IMBIBE YOUR FALL INSPIRATION
The crisp, cool newness of Fall is delicious. I love indulging in all the Fall harbingers that, to me, are as cozy as a sweater. I’m installing my favorite Fall plants outside one by one. My playlist reminds me of the many October road trips that I’ve taken with my husband through the years. We will definitely be spending the first cold, cloudy afternoon inside watching The Fellowship of the Ring. And hot tea cannot come back into my life soon enough.
THE SUMMER DEBAUCHERY HAS TO END
At least for a little while. The constant drinking and socializing with friends and neighbors outside is one of my favorite things about summer, but it has to be held in check this month. It throws everything else off. My strategy: enjoy the cool September days outside after school, but dinner time is non-negotiable and no cocktails, whatsoever. This will have the added benefit of saving money and calories.
This will be my first debt-free Christmas since having our children. I do not intend for it to be my last, so I am definitely going to start thinking about how I can approach holiday expenses more smartly, and spread them around, where possible. In the past I’ve failed at buying gifts early, always regretting them by Christmas. This year I’m only going to try to get some early gifts for my kids and they must be sure winners. Board games and art supplies should be safe bets this year. I bought several gifts last year that will be in this year’s stoop sale pile, which is a huge waste.
As usual, I am trying not to be overly-ambitious with Fall goals, or to set myself up for failure. Just trying to get a few good habits going is no small feat. Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch had such a great insight about habit forming in a recent post of his: Don’t miss two days. I thought this was so apt. You won’t necessarily be derailed the first time you miss something. But the second time has a far bigger chance of doing so. So I’m really contemplating this every day.
Fail or succeed, I’m happy the Fall routines are back. Walking to school this morning felt great. I can’t wait for more cool days, for orange leaves, for pants and sweaters, for ovens that are hot and full of good smells and for days spent on farms and hiking trails.
What are you looking forward to?
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