Sunday, June 9, 2019

School Memento Storage System

Every year on the last day of school, I send my boys to school with an empty backpack. And every year on the last day of school, their backpacks come home, bulging with crumpled papers, worn notebooks, half finished art projects, and a pencil box full of broken crayons and mechanical pencils with no lead. It's tempting to empty everything straight into the trash (and trust me, a lot of it ends up in the trash!), but I happen to be pretty sentimental when it comes to my boys' school work and I like keeping items that I think they might enjoy one day.

So one of the first big projects of the summer each year is filing everything away from the school year so that it can be easily accessed and enjoyed for years to come. I have perfected this system over the 4 years I've had kids in school (more if you count preschool), and find it incredibly easy to manage and maintain. This works for me, so hopefully you can find something here that works for you too!

Here are some things to consider.

1.) Decide how to store everything
My storage method of choice is 3 ring binders.  The advantage to binders is that they don't take up much space and they are easy to access if you want to look through things. The disadvantage is that you have to whole punch everything which can be time consuming. Honestly, I set aside a whole morning to do both of they boys' binders for the year. But trust me when I say the final product is soooo worth it. I know many people use a bin or box to store things too. The advantage of a file bin is that you can just drop papers in it as you go and don't have to spend time putting it together. The disadvantage is that it's not as easy to access everything if you want to spend a time looking through the papers. When my boys were in Pre-K/Kindergarten, it took 2 binders each year for each child. I did one of artwork, and one of school work. By the time they were in 1st grade, I could fit everything into one 2-3 inch binder.

Binders by year on the left, year books in the middle, box of baby mementos (birth day newspaper, hospital tags, favorite outfits, baby book, etc.)

2.) Create a system that's easy to maintain

Every Friday, when the boys bring home their folder of papers for the week, I immediately sort through them. Some papers get recycled (or composted now that we have a system for that!) and others go straight to the "Keep Forever" basket. The boys both have one in their closet, and I just stack up papers all year as they come home. Keep or toss - every Friday. It takes less than 5 minutes a week. By stacking them up, from beginning to end, everything stays in chronological order and is ready to file at the end of the year.

In Lex's closet, we use a basket, just the right size for paperwork. 

For Eli's closet, we use a shoe box for the "Keep Forever" box. It's overflowing by the end of the year, but it works!

3.) Decide what to keep. There are sooooo many papers and projects that come home from school. And it starts in preschool. From the first time they right their own name (preschool), to the time they master writing in cursive (2nd grade), you have to decide what's important to you to keep. Here is my rough guideline of what I have kept throughout the years (of course this will be different for everyone).

Ideas for the Keep Pile:
*Anything with a hand print

*Projects that are a reflection of them. Typically these happen at the beginning of the year and are titled "All About Me," or something like that. Another version is a list of their favorite items or goals they've written for the future (typically around New Years) or the end of the year reflections.

*Cards and letters: This includes Valentine cards, thank you notes from teachers, birthday cards, etc. I use gallon sized Ziplock baggies for this kind of thing.

The time Lex was sick for an entire week and his class sent home Get Well cards. 

Birthday Cards, also stored in a baggie. 

*Final drafts of almost any writing assignment. I come from a family of writers (maybe explains the blogging hobby?), and love reading the stories and poems that people devise from their imaginations. It's the same with my boys' writing. Since kindergarten, if they have written a story, a poem, or a letter, I've kept it.
A Poisonous Snake, a non-fiction story by Eli. 
*Paintings and drawings - okay, this is one's hard. I don't keep every drawing or painting. Obviously. Kids draw lots of stuff and a lot of it is really crappy. So how do I decide which ones to keep? Honestly, I just keep the stuff I like and throw the rest out. That's honestly all I can say. I tend to keep most everything they make in art class at school, but I also like it when they draw detailed comics at home.


*Report cards, progress notes, and data charts.
*Tests that they've aced (although I throw most spelling tests away).
I love to layer things in the binder, so you can see several things at once. Here is Lex's artwork (on bottom), his certificate, and blue ribbon. The artwork is big, so it folds over the other things. 

*Miscellaneous - one example of this is the name card from their desk. It's the last thing teachers send home every year.

Eli's desk name tag, followed by his first day of school work. 

Another "miscellaneous" that definitely went in the "keep forever" pile: the part of Lex's jeans that had to be cut off when he fell at school and had to get stitches. They are stored in the binder too, in a Ziplock baggie.

Some additional tips:
*Use the front binder pocket for items that immediately bring back memories of that year.
Lex's name card, class composite picture

Followed by his first day of school picture, a "Good Luck" note from his 2nd grade teacher  and his third grade teacher's "Get to Know  Me" letter.
 *Use Ziplock baggies to store things like Valentine cards, or anything small. Just whole punch the baggie and store it like normal.

*For bigger projects, fold it over.

*Let it be messy (can that just be my motto all the time?). Your papers won't all line up, period. School is messy. Art is messy. Learning is messy. Let your storage system show what school was really like that year.

*You might wonder about the projects that are just too big for the binder (shoe box projects, posters, etc.). We have not had too many of them yet, but when they start coming home, they probably won't make the "keep" cut. Both my boys made toad houses in 2nd grade. They were made of  a milk carton, leaves, twigs, and pine cones, definitely not built to stand the test of time. They stayed on the front step until the boys stopped showing interest - and then I threw them out. In first grade, they both made clay hanging owls. Those made the keep cut and are displayed in our den. You just have to decide what fits your home's personality and keep the things that match that.

4.) Don't forget to enjoy them. I store the binders in each of the boys' rooms and they are easy to reach. We pull them out several times a year to look through them. I keep their year books right beside the binders, and have their single box of baby mementos right above the binders. The boys are so proud to have a whole section of their closet that's dedicated to things they have made and accomplished.

I hope you've found something useful here. Happy organizing!

Friday, May 31, 2019

May Round Up

I spent the afternoon poolside, watching the boys go between practice swimming underwater and cannon balling from the edge. I stayed under the canopy reading Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder, which happens to be our community's "One Read" book for the summer. I doled out one dollar each to the boys, their daily pool allowance, which they both spent on sour candy. After hours in the water, I wrapped them up in towels, and stopped by the store for everything we needed for marinated, grilled chicken, and a giant salad. Now I sit, watching What About Bob, the quintessential sseasonal movie. And just like that, we landed in summer. Big. deep. breath.

This month has been a huge month. First we had to finish out the school year, which was totally insane.  There was also a new puppy and the road trip to Ohio. Boy Scouts meetings wound down, while baseball geared up. And finally, we jumped 2 feet first into summer vacation, with a family road trip to the woods of Kentucky. 

Here's a walk down memory lane.

At the beginning of the month, I got to chaperone Eli's 2nd grade field trip to Runge Nature Center. I love getting to do things like this with the boys, especially when it's something outdoorsy like this. Eli and I got to spend our whole day together.

May the Fourth: Also known as Star Wars Day, and also the day that we brought home our new puppy, Daisy. 

I wrote all about Daisy's first days on this post here. Since that post, Daisy has really settled into a routine around here and is just about house trained. She and Kylo are just the sweetest together. Although, I think she might drive him crazy sometimes, he would never actually let on to that and allows her to do just about anything.



The only recipe I posted this month was also made on May the Fourth for the Kentucky Derby. I wrote about these Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders, here.  

Shortly after May the 4th...

Lex went on his 3rd grade field trip to a cave, which turned out to be the only field trip he got to attend. this year. Just days after this picture, he got horribly sick. More on that in a minute.

Mother's Day weekend, the boys and I made an undercover road trip to Ohio to a.) surprise my mom for Mother's Day, and b.) celebrate my brother's 40th birthday. I made sure to get my annual Mother's Day picture with the boys while we were there.

On the way back home, Lex came down with a fever, so we kept him home from school on Monday. Tuesday was his class's park day, but he was still running a fever, so he missed that. I was so bummed for him. He tested negative for strep on Tuesday, but still had a fever Tuesday night. He missed his awards assembly on Wednesday. On Thursday, he was tested for mono and told to stay home until the results came back.

His whole class made him get well cards when they found out he was going to have to miss their big field trip to the pool on Friday. He tested negative for mono, and sprung back to health over the weekend, but we will be talking about this one for a while. What a horrible week to be sick.

Eli finally was able to use his flint and steel from Santa to start his very first campfire in the back yard. Jeremy got a video of it. I was one proud mama. He's been trying for weeks! The secret was dryer lint.

Just for the fun of it, I used some of Jeremy's scrap wood to make little fairy doors for the base of the trees in the back yard. It's whimsical and I love it.

At 2 years old, Kylo is finally leash trained! We didn't work with him on a leash that much when he was a puppy, and boy did that make training him difficult once he got bigger. I dedicated several consecutive days to walking him around town, and in no time, he wasn't pulling my arm off anymore.

Lex had his end of year piano recital, and the only picture I managed to get was this one of the boys doing their best to ruin said picture.

And then guess what happened. Eli got sick with a fever too. With just one week of school to go. He missed the entire last week of school including field day. Poor guy! He was totally bummed, and I was one exhausted mama after 2 consecutive weeks of sick kids.

Lex made it back for the last week, and got to participate in his class's ice cream party.

School got out on a Thursday, which was Eli's last day with a fever. Friday we packed up all our camping and hiking gear. Saturday, we left for a weekend in London, Kentucky.

The first night, we spent time skipping rocks into the lake.

And also splashing around.

On Sunday, we hiked Van Hook Falls trail. All 5.1 miles of it. I wrote a full write up of the trail here. Because my mom hiked with us, we got some family pictures along the trail.

Saturday night, the boys played with cousins and we grilled hamburgers and ate s'mores. Sunday morning, we headed for home.

But not without a stop at Cumberland falls. I posted several pics of that outing here. 

Between Kentucky in Missouri, we pulled off the highway in the town of Santa Clause, Indiana. We had never been but it's been on our list for a while. We were shocked to see roller coasters in the middle of a field when we pulled into town. I didn't know that a theme park was the the big attraction in this town. We drove to some shops and wandered into the Christmas Store.

And guess who we saw in the middle of June! Santa asked the boys about their favorite presents last year, and let them write their names on the Nice List for this Christmas. We checked out a world map that has pins representing people all over the world who have visited this shop. Santa also told us that the high school has an art contest every year for designing the Christmas post mark for the year. The winner's postmark is used through the month of December, then retired after the season. Isn't that cool?

After a successful outdoor weekend, we arrived back home and the next day bought a pool pass which we intend to use daily, or as close to it as we can get, for the rest of summer.

And finally, I was invited to an outdoor yoga class with baby goats. They were so stinking cute! You could just pick them up and hold them like babies. The yoga part was awesome too.

We are all ready for summer. Bring the heat.