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Angels, ninjas, to-do lists, and me
Angels, ninjas, to-do lists, and me

Angels, ninjas, to-do lists, and me

I have a love-hate relationship with super-productive days like today. Love because, well duh, task ninja all day long. Hate because I just know a metric crapton of THIS MUST BE DONE NOW OR ANGELS NOT ONLY DON’T GET THEIR WINGS BUT WILL GET EATEN BY ZOMBIES will descend upon my head tomorrow. And we just can’t have that now, can we?

My to-do list and I go way, way back. Middle school. In fact, we started dating in 7th grade, the very age my dear twice-exceptional, executive function-challenged son is now. I think it’s safe to say I got an overdose of the uptight executive function at that age and, to date, he has missed the memo about it even being offered. Dear child, I’m more than happy to loosen the Type A death grip on my butt cheeks if you’ll learn to make a list and check it twice. Meet you halfway, so to say.

186797_320I bought assignment notebooks back before it was required by the school cool. Growing up so close to Evanston, I was one of the many students who bought a Chandler’s notebook every year. We just called them a Chandler’s. “Did you get a Chandler’s yet?” “What color Chandler’s did you get?” (I was partial to red and the traditional black). We all just knew it meant assignment notebook. One year, my eighth grade year, we had a fantastic history teacher who had the most eye-popping and notable wardrobe, even for the 80’s (he stayed at that middle school for over 50 years and there is now a wing named after him, god love the man, I lasted two years teaching middle school). That year I kept detailed notes of his very…preppy…attire, in my Chandler’s, and now am very sad I no longer have it. I used those assignment notebooks through high school and probably the first year or so of college. The family-owned shop that sold them shuttered in 1995; the building it was in is now a Potbelly Sandwich shop, among other things, and is not far from where my parents live now. But dang I miss those notebooks.

Since then it’s been Daytimers or Dayrunners and Palm Pilots and iPhones and more to-do apps than I can count (I have finally settled on Things, because it does almost everything I need it to do and because once I shell out that much coin for an app it’s not going anywhere). Trust me when I say I’ve tried more than one. Or a dozen. And not one offers the ability to directly connect to a middle schooler’s frontal lobe to shape and guide slow developing executive function. Pity really. That would make a ginormous fortune, and if it suddenly appears in the app store I will be forced to demand a cut of profits. Are you a programmer? Let’s talk. I have this great idea…

We’re at the beginning of a new school year, fresh and clean like a brand new notebook. No assignments, no doodles, no Xs or scratch-outs or bent and torn pages. Anything and everything is possible. Today proved that to me. I had a good day, slicing through the to-do list as A zipped through his assignments. Tomorrow might be full of wing-less angels running screaming from zombies, but if they’re lucky, a few ninjas hung around, just in case.


  1. Kim

    Clearly I’m older than you because in my day, at least the early jr. high ones, Chandler’s were black or…black. I *had* to get one in junior high and when I insisted (in that lovely adolescent way) that I needed a CHANDLER’s, my parents had no idea what one was and I couldn’t think or didn’t know to simply say “assignment notebook.” Now the kids are issued a notebook through school from Day 1, which kind of makes sense.

    1. Jen

      Mine were almost always black, but I’m pretty sure I had one red one. And my parents also had no idea what I was talking about; at least in our day they didn’t know about assignment notebooks, as opposed to twerking. 😉

  2. I miss my Franklin Planner so much. I’ve tried to use my iPhone and Google calendar and a million other things – but nothing is as satisfying as that Franklin planner was. It was calendar and diary and doodle book all in one. I’d still carry one around today, but you might as well wear mutton sleeves and drive a horse and buggy, right?

  3. Our schools publish “agenda planners” unique to each school, with holidays and even club dates etc. pre-printed. Starting in 1st grade, the teacher models how and what to write in them each day/week. Parents have to check and sign them at least weekly. By middle school they use it as a hall pass and therefore are “encouraged” to not lose it. Someone has planned for executive function learning here and I’m rather amazed since our county isn’t exactly in the forefront of anything else.

Whaddya think?

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