Keeping Track: A Modern Family’s Calendar

May 17, 2010

The last day of school here in Colorado is May 21st. Which is coming up fast. (Too fast!) My five oldest kids attend 3 different schools and the calendar between now and the last day of school is comically packed. Seriously, I keep laughing when I look at the calendar because it is ridiculously full. There are end of year celebrations for each child. Final class field trips and outdoor field days. Recitals and performances for band and theater. Gymnastics meets and ice skating expos. Oscar will be graduating from preschool. Maude will be graduating from elementary school. (Do we really call it graduating? Moving on, maybe?)

I know I’m not the only one. The end of the school year just gets crazy for everybody. There’s no way around it. This is modern American family life. (And I fully embrace it.)

In an effort to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, Ben Blair and I spent the morning syncing our work calendars and to-do lists with the family calendar. We use a combination of iCal, Outlook, Google docs and a big family calendar made of post-it notes to manage everything. We’re always looking for ways to simplify how we track information and are pretty aggressive about adopting new technologies we think might help. The next thing we’d like to experiment with is one unified calendar (we’re thinking a Google calendar) that everyone in the house can access and edit from whatever computer they’re using. Which I think could be fantastic.

But even if one unified calendar turns out to be wonderful, I don’t think I’m ready to give up the big family calendar made of post-its — where the kids can draw happy faces on the last-day-of-school square. I think my family is happiest when we use a combo of hi-tech and low-tech to make things work.

How do you keep track of everything? Do you have a set time that you calendar with your family? Do you use a paper calendar or a digital one? Did you ever use a Franklin planner? I was addicted to them for years…

PS — Can I just say this is a totally awkward time to add a new baby to the mix? Do I have the worst timing or what? Hah!


Dodge Caravan asked about my thoughts on technology — how it allows me to find some semblance of work/life balance, while raising a big family and working as well. I responded, “How much time do you have?”  Then I told them I’d write up a series of 4 posts on the topic. This is post number one.

This Content Series is brought to you by Dodge Caravan, so technologically advanced your kids will be like ’011101110110100101101110. Click Here

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Naomi May 17, 2010 at 5:41 am

google calendar. absolutely fantastic.
i also carry around a russel & hazel mini binder that has a paper copy of my schedule that i use pencil to update.. high tech and low tech. definitely the way to go.
also, congratulations! yay for baby flora!


2 allysha May 17, 2010 at 6:51 am

Ben and I use google calendar and it’s great. As long as we remember to use it!


3 Tina May 17, 2010 at 7:23 am

Props to you for having a sit down to sync up with the hubby! Both my husband and myself use a Palm Pilot for planning. The idea was to sync things up together, and we never have. I use a dry erase week by week calendar on the side of the refrigerator. I tried to find one that looks slightly appealing. I have a problem getting everything written on it. (I can’t imagine using it with 6 kiddos! ) I agree though, I like having a big visual one for the fam. This summer, our plan is to upgrade to Iphones and use outlook for our calendars. We are promising to get in sync! I saw a family calendar I loved somewhere on a blog? It was an old window pane with the perfect number of rectangles in it for the month. Someone put it over a chalboard painted board. Voila! It was so adorable and I thought my kiddo would love to decorate the days with chalk.
Your new little one is about as precious as precious can get!


4 Ana May 17, 2010 at 7:43 am

I have also been using google calendar for more than two years and LOVE it!!


5 Cheryl Burchett May 17, 2010 at 7:55 am

My sister convinced me (kicking and squirming) to move from the ring bouund calendar I keep in my purse to a google calendar. I dreaded it, but now I LOVE it! You can link your calendar to family members, so my sister and I (who are already inseparable an dconsequently attend many of the same events) can keep tabs on each other. She often reminds me of something coming up, but also I get an e-mail from google about a day ahead.


6 Mel May 17, 2010 at 7:59 am

My husband and I have started using the Cozi family organizer. I love it that it sends us an email at the beginning of each week with reminders of all that we have scheduled. It’s also color coded by family member. Now, if I could only get him to add his appointments….we’d have perfection.


7 Tennessee Cassie May 17, 2010 at 8:01 am

My fam uses iCal religiously. We run a pretty rigorous schedule, and everyone has a Mac device (iPod phones or touches). Any changes made to the schedule by anyone are sync-ed at the end of each day. This also allows Mom and Dad to review the overall schedule and see where we may need to divide and conquer with our driving and presence (this is what a digital camera is also for, so that we record for posterity and just in case one of us was at a different function). We’ve got a combined family, so we also have a child going to and from another parents’ house added in the mix. I’ve been impressed by how easy it is to completely consolidate everyone’s schedule, color-coded, and it’s been a lifesaver more than once to know exactly where my husband is (is he in a meeting if I need to reach him? Should I call or just text? for example).
I love Google calendar, but what if you don’t have an internet connection? I have the iCal on my phone, it’s static.


8 Julie R May 17, 2010 at 8:39 am

honestly, a post-it calendar on our fridge has been the only way that my husband and i can actually sync our calendars and know what each other is doing, whether we need a sitter for a certain night, etc. (PLUS i love changing up the post-its every month and using new colors/designs!) :)


9 Jeanette from Everton Terrace May 17, 2010 at 8:45 am

I’ve never used an electronic calendar and for the life of me, I don’t know why. I have a Kate Spade mini planner and I write everything in that calendar and never remember to look in it. I have a birthday book which I keep right here next to the computer screen and I check every few days to make sure I’m on top of birthday cards (big family). Mostly, I keep it all in my messy brain and on dozens of sticky notes, which is probably the best reason why I should go electronic.


10 Sherri May 17, 2010 at 8:54 am

I am experiencing much of the same chaos…. 8th grade graduation (complete with an after-ceremony dinner on a Tues night, an all day school picnic) AND kindergarten graduation (right – “moving on” more like it, I think) – preschool picnic, etc. I also do a big fundraiser for our school – hubby and I both have consulting projects on our plates right now (he’s a designer – I’m a writer), and…. like you, we use a combo of dry erase board, bulletin board (complete with the funny post-its, drawings and school notes you describe), iPhone, online calendar and big notes stuck right on the glass of our front door to remind us of things….Works for us. I can’t go totally digital – I can’t go totally paper. I’m loving some of the comments here – getting ideas. A friend of mine uses the Real Simple calendar, but… I find all the stickers, etc. cumbersome and confusing. I tried the same with a “Mom Planner” that I carry around. I’m a “jotter” and post-it note sticker – have to embrace that, I guess.


11 Janet May 17, 2010 at 8:59 am

I was a confirmed paper planner for years and then I went digital and I love it. I now have an iphone and I love ical with mobile me that syncs my phone and laptop automatically. When I had all my kids at home I kept track of them with their initials. I have just one at home now so I don’t need to, but I think it would be fun to have each child assigned a color in ical and then you could easily see their activities and appointments. Plus, six kids = rainbow = fun!


12 LetterB May 17, 2010 at 9:42 am

First, belated congratulations! Baby Flora is so lovely. So happy for you and for the entire family.

Second, it’s in the air isn’t it? My husband and I were just talking how we need to have a digital counterpart to our pencil-and-paper master schedule on the fridge. We’ve had some major snafus lately because he can’t access FridgeCal from work. We’re going to be experimenting with google calendar (we need something multi-platform) and trying to keep it in sync with the paper. We’ll see how it goes!


13 the mrs May 17, 2010 at 10:01 am

We use the cozi online calendar. It’s great as long as we all remember to add our items and remember to look at it. It has a lot of great family friendly features and can sync with Outlook. (Not that we take advantage of those awesome things.)

Enjoy that new baby!


14 jenny May 17, 2010 at 10:05 am

we use a cozi calendar. it is so awesome! its a family calendar that everyone can access and its color coded, so its easy to keep track of what everyone is doing.


15 Morgan May 17, 2010 at 10:11 am

My family used a Google calender, where everyone has their own color. It works out pretty well, considering it’s 2 parents, 2 teenagers, and myself, the 20 something, and we all tend to run our own directions. We set it up after a few “lack of communication” incidents.


16 abbeyviolet May 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

My hubby and I use google calendar and love it. Our kids are still little, but it is flexible enough that I think it will grow with us.


17 LoriSB May 17, 2010 at 10:44 am

we use the google calendar and make sure that everything goes on it and it works great. I also have a paper calander/organizer (since I need to be old-school) – a Whomi calander that has separate spaces for 4 people’s schedules. my husband and I also have a separate paper calendars for our respective jobs, and work-related items don’t get put on the google calendar (or my separate paper calendar) unless they impact the family (if one of us needs to be away for business for example).


18 Shana Baehr May 17, 2010 at 10:58 am

Google and iCal are wonderful! We’ve used many different systems over the years but those two are the ones that work beautifully.
Congrats on the new baby!!


19 Kristen May 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

Have you seen the WeekDate calendars? They are so fun to use, keep everything properly organized, are especially useful for keeping track of those weekly activities without having to write them again and again, and I think they have wall calendar options too. My favorite low-tech solution by far.

High tech: Google Calendar. Although we have so many accounts and schedules to manage that it can get kind of tricky. I find we usually revert to our paper versions.


20 Kate May 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

My husband and I LOVE Google calendar. We color-code our own events and share them with each other so we don’t forget to tell each other things. It works really well. We do still keep paper calendars around the house, partly for visual interest and partly because I can never remember what day it is!

Congrats on June…she’s adorable…and definitely looks related to the family!


21 Natalie May 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

Love love google calendar! Husband and I have ours synced with the iphones.

It seriously almost eliminates the need to communicate! I joke – sort of.


22 Dawn May 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm

We use the Cozi online calendar as well. I love it — the one thing I miss is that it doesn’t notify me if I try to schedule something that conflicts with something already on the calendar. Does the Google calendar “flag” conflicts for you?


23 Beth May 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I’m like a crazy person. No really, I am. We have a huge wall calendar (MoreTimeMoms) that we put all family stuff on (including birthdays, etc). I also have a paper planner for me (Daysteps). I have tried and tried to use an online planning system, but two issues kept erupting: 1) P does NOT use electronic calendars, so he never has a clue what’s going on and 2) I would completely ignore the to do lists because they were on my computer and I just would not look at them.

We agreed that if everything gets written on the wall calendar, then no one loses track. It works for us. My paper one is an exact duplicate and I take it everywhere so I can check what I’ve agreed to with what is.


24 Angela May 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm

We’re iCal people. I love the alarm feature to your phone and email. It helps me never forget. And if I’m on overload and fearful I might forget something, then I stick post-its everywhere: bathroom mirror, car steering wheel, and even on my phone, the exact devise that will alarm me, lol.


25 Keia May 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I used the calendar on my phone and a paper calendar…plus the school calendar! I usually ignore the paper calendar and pre-program my phone calendar four days in advance for an appointment…so as you can imagine I either forget or remember!

Oh I use post-it’s too…but I always leave them behind.


26 kirsten bingham May 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

i love for weekly to-do lists (i use it because it’s pretty and functional- if it was just functional i’ll be honest, i would forget about it) but i agree, i like a mix of new technology and the classic big calendar (i love that big helvetica one)

but, i don’t have 6 kids. just one 16 month old who does whatever i want to do- which is nice. no schedule yet.


27 katie May 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

We never really got got everyone using this, but it is a web based calendar that can be used from any computer by any of your family members.


28 Jan (Family Bites) May 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Wow…I think I need to get on board with google calendar all of these recommendations. My kids are so envious that yours finish school on May 21 – here in Toronto we go until June 29!


29 Sierra May 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Well…I may have tweeted sharpies on the forehead, but folks have a way of frowning on that kind of behavior. We actually do a combo of emailing each other info and then updating a paper cal. in the kitchen. I love the paper one because we have a months snapshot and even the kids (well, the two readers) can see what is coming up.


30 Denise May 17, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Two major thumbs up for google calendar! My husband and I can update it from anywhere and the other can immediately see what was added!


31 Lord Dodo May 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

Good morning!

I hope you won’t mind my dropping by, but I just added ‘family organizer’ to my Google Alerts’ and up came your blog!

This is just what we are in the early stages of developing…an app from the Dodo Pad – to integrate high tech with our low tech diaries and calendars that we’ve been producing for 45 years – they are Britain’s best loved organizers – now available in academic year as well as full calendar year formats. We use the line ‘low tech antidotes to the high tech lifestyle’ and I hope our app will do just that. If you are a Filofax fan we have a few A5 diary inserts for 2010 left and you can find them on Ebay or our own website …just serch ‘A5 Dodo Pad 2010 Filofax’!


32 Caroline May 18, 2010 at 7:55 am

First, congratulations on beautiful Baby June! This si a great topic. For as much as my family and a I are online, we are still paper-based planners. We have a large wall calendar that the 4 kids can add to & check. I also have a smaller chalkboard on the kitchen counter where I write up a daily briefing of activities/meetings/school functions etc… This is working for us right now but I can see looking into an online schedule system soon!



33 Asia May 18, 2010 at 10:34 am

Oh my goodness… I grew up with the Stendig Calendar in our house, and you just inspired me to order one for our house, so my kids can grow up with them too… My mom is a designer and always loved them :)

for now we use a combo of my brain, Google, iCal, and a dry-erase board on the fridge…


34 Sara May 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm

We use google calendar and love that we can both update it from anywhere, but I do still also (usually) do my white board calendar month to month. I miss having a cute paper one, though…

LOVE the new pics of baby June!!


35 Michelle Lamar May 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I did Google calendar but had trouble getting my kids (Tween +Teen) to check their emails. I’ve been using Cozi and L-O-V-E it. Want to marry it. Lets me keep calendars for family + each child + I can text reminders to them. I get to nag them via text. Genius.


36 Ashlea Walter May 19, 2010 at 4:36 am

I’ve tried using the electronic calendars, but I’m so bound (no pun intended) to the process of writing things down on paper that I can’t keep up with the electronic one too.
A teacher told me a while back that even if you never look at it again, the simple of act of writing something down (in this case, taking notes) creates a strong connection in your brain. I find this to be very true.


37 Kristen (IGreenSpot) February 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

I’ve been using Google Calendar for the past 3 months, and so far no complain.


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