back to work || september edition

In case you missed it, I’ve returned to full-time teaching this school year under special and unique circumstances. Last month I decided to start an informal little series about this return after a decade-long absence in the full-time work force. (You can read the August edition here.) Some of what I’m sharing is serious and spiritual. Some of what I’m sharing is practical or fun.

Back to work

This month, I’m going with practical and fun. I’m sharing some of the little systems I have in place that help me/us with our new rhythm.

1. I have a quirky Sharpie system that tracks the weeks of the semester.


Before the school year began, I bought one of those huge Sharpie packs just for me.


Each week, I use one color of ink all week and then on Fridays when I get home, I retire that pen and pick a new color. By the end of this week, I’ll have five Sharpies in the bag on the right. (I also have another reason for varying my ink color; it has to do with grading/fool-proofing a way for students to substitute my initials on graded work!)

Seeing one baggie of Sharpies get smaller and one get fuller is a tiny way of motivating me to keep going, keep working hard, and reminding me that the goal of finishing a successful semester strong is totally doable!

2. I stop at the Fresh Market on my way home every Friday! 


I have about a thirty minute window on Friday afternoons before I need to relieve our sitter. Each week on Friday, I run in the Fresh Market and take a walk around the store. I get one of their little 3 oz. coffee samples and pick up one or two treats for our weekend. Lately I’ve been getting a pound of their Georgia Pecan whole bean coffee and a praline peach pie. When in Georgia, you get the regional coffee and the pie made from the seasonal, iconic, state fruit! I also bought some homemade Hatch chili pimento cheese that Ryan has asked to be added to the weekly list. (Hatch chilis found in NM right on the doorsteps of El Paso + Southern cheese spread = perfection!)

3. I write out expectations on our chalkboard for the kids and sitter to see.


One of the greatest tasks I’m juggling right now is managing and communicating expectations.

  • Claire to Ryan
  • Claire to kids
  • Claire to sitter
  • Claire to co-op teachers

This year more than ever, many of the roles I’ve taken on are being shared by others. We all have jobs/responsibilities to maintain. I’ve found that most of my meltdowns have happened when my own expectations are unmet. (For example when I get home and chores or school work have been neglected, the house is a mess, or co-op responsibilities are undone…)

There’s a much greater chance of expectations being met when they have been clearly articulated and communicated. Once again, my chalkboard saves the day. Moving it into the kitchen/hub of the house has been clutch.

4. My caffeine addiction has only become stronger. 


During these first few weeks of back to school, I’m literally floating away on all of the coffee and soda that I’m consuming. This is BAD, BAD, BAD. This week, I’ve eliminated soft drinks from my ritual and have been having more WATER, WATER, WATER. When I am tired, stressed, thirsty, or tired I reach for caffeine. I recognize the detriment I’m doing to my body and soul when I over indulge so I’m working now to eliminate or at least reduce that habit.

5. I have had to address and re-assess my wardrobe. 


Over the past four plus years of our military service I have donated, given away, sold, or thrown away nearly all of my dress clothes. I haven’t needed them. AT ALL. In military circles there is literally no where that I need to wear dressy or professional clothing. Formerly in our church ministry, we dressed up very much on Sundays: Ryan wore suits and I was in very dressy attire too. Now in our military chapel and casual church settings the dress is VERY informal.

And in homeschooling circles, as we all know, denim jumpers is the fabric of choice. For the past four years, I’ve created a wardrobe of sundresses and skinny jeans that can be dressed up or down with accessories and a few nice shirts/cardigans.

While my new job doesn’t demand ultra dressy or strict business attire, I have found that the expectation is a step or two above skinny jeans. Therefore, I’ve had to invest in a few staples (and by staples I mean adorable Nine West flats and a precious, complimentary cross body…) to professionalize my wardrobe once again.

I’m trying to shop smart and get lots of mixable and matchable pieces. I recently bought some black dressy-ish pants (I refuse to use the word slacks…), a blazer, a few blouses, and the accessories (pictured above) for fall.

While I am still aiming to use a modified capsule wardrobe, I won’t lie, I don’t hate having a legitimate excuse to buy some clothes for myself! It’s been good for me to get dressed up a few days each week after being mostly a SAHM all these years where (for me) yoga pants and clogs have been all the rage.


To recap, the lessons I’m reminding myself of this month are these:

  • routines and rituals are a balm to my soul
  • routines and rituals are vital to the success of our entire family dynamic
  • one or two cups of coffee = good || 64 oz. of caffeine = bad
  • getting dressed up for a reason makes me feel good

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