A Fresh Start for the New Year:

Are you suffering from the annual post-holidays letdown? My twin boys are! They so enjoyed their vacation from school and extracurricular activities. Despite their protestations to the contrary, I know they enjoy their everyday lives – yes, even school – but there’s something so delightful about having days and days of unscheduled time. Those lazy mornings spent in pajamas make for a harsh return to reality when the alarm rings on that first day back to school. Heck, on a chilly morning, I don’t want to get out of bed either! Both to motivate my buddies and myself, I came up with a few ideas to make January something to celebrate.

Ok, this first idea might sound silly, but bear with me. I love new school supplies! Seriously, wasn’t that the best part of going back to school in August? Well, it’s no fun in January when half your crayons are broken, you’ve lost the cap to your favorite pen and your dry erase markers are too much dry and too little erase. What’s the answer? Take the start of the year as an opportunity to do a mid-year school supply refresh! Even something as simple as a new pencil case can make going to school a bit more exciting. I realized this fact when I bought fantastic erasable pens (Pilot Frixion) in a huge variety of colors for myself. Trust me, these are not the gross erasable pens of my youth; friction erases the ink, so there’s no mess. Well, my boys liked the pens so much that a few pens – ahem – went missing. Fortunately, Santa brought each boy a set of 24 different colors to call his very own. I’m not kidding when I say that pen set was the hit of their stockings! It’s a good thing Santa shops on Amazon where you can purchase the colors otherwise sold only in Japan. Wink wink.

Also on January’s agenda? Cleaning out the playroom. I know, I know; that doesn’t sound like too much fun for anyone. But somehow my “old toy buy back program” makes the process smoother. What’s that, you say? Well, I started “buying back” their old toys for a small dollar amount (and I mean small). I know you are absolutely shocked – insert eye roll here — that they are far more inclined to get rid of old toys when there is some type of incentive. If the toys are in good condition, those toys can easily be resold at a consignment shop or yard sale, and you can recoup the money you shell out. I often donate to charity any toys in good condition, which eliminates another step for me and hopefully enables those toys to be enjoyed by another child. In my mind, this is a win-win. The playroom is organized, old toys have a new home and a longer useful life, and the kids are thrilled that they have money to “reinvest” in a new toy (say, a new game for whatever device they received as a holiday gift).

Oh, and because I only buy back toys in good condition, my buddies also have an incentive to take care of their newest belongings. This really hit home for my twins when we traded in their old video games for credit at a local gaming retailer. Unfortunately, they had scratched a few of their old games, so those games were worthless. But they “earned” eight dollars for trading in the remaining games in good condition, which let them purchase a new-to-them game. Score!

Sometimes, in the course of cleaning the playroom, we realize some of the new toys should be organized differently than the old ones. We repurpose the existing containers as much as possible, but occasionally there’s something else we need. When that happens, we all go to the store! I like to let them review the various boxes and baskets, because whatever system we choose has to work for the way they are willing to organize. For instance, I thought it would be a great idea to keep our building bricks together by set. My kids? They may as well have said, “Not a chance, Mom.” Instead of buying individual shoebox size lidded boxes, we instead ended up with large bins in which the building bricks could be sorted by color. No, it wasn’t what I intended – but it was a system they could understand and maintain. Plus, you may find that they get inspired by the various storage options and decide to organize something else. Seriously, this does happen. I almost hyperventilated when my kiddos asked for a small drawer unit to organize their desktops, but I somehow regained my composure and agreed.

Last but not least, doesn’t everyone celebrate National Spaghetti Day (January 4)? Yes, such a day does exist, and yes, my family ate lots of spaghetti. Charlie was so tickled when he realized his all-time favorite food had a holiday. So find a random holiday and celebrate it just for fun! You’ll be amazed at how many obscure holidays both January and February hold. Thanks to an article in the New York Times, we’ll be learning our names in Morse Code on January 11, 2017.  Because … well, why not? Of course, we also celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and the extra day of rest is especially welcome after a few weeks back in school.

Three cheers for a fresh start to the New Year … and plenty of fun activities to kick it off!