Morning madness! That's what it's like in our house the first week back to school. While the kids shower and get dressed, I'm in the kitchen pacing the morning countdown in the "delicatessen," sorting, slicing and slathering on mayonnaise while trying to remember individual preferences.

Then they come galumphing down the stairs for breakfast. Since body clocks are still asleep, the kids are usually behind schedule and so in a frenzy that they race out the door to catch the school bus, leaving a belonging or two behind.Every family has its own tips for "getting out the door" that really work. Here are three of mine.

Countdown

Hang an inexpensive battery-operated clock in the bathroom. If the power goes out at night, this clock just keeps on ticking.

On those mornings at the end of the week when the kids are predictably sluggish, play loud music on the radio. The louder, the better -to keep them moving!

Healthy start

Even when you are in a hurry, it's important to eat a healthy breakfast. For a quick, nutritious and delicious family favorite, make a "smoothie."

In a blender, mix and match the following ingredients according to taste:

5 ice cubes

1 cup of juice

1 cup plain yogurt

Fruit in season, such as a handful of strawberries and/or a few blueberries

1/2 banana

Pour blended ingredients in a big cup and sprinkle with granola. Serve with toast, a bagel or cereal.

"Putting on your coat" trick

It's not always easy for preschoolers to learn how to dress themselves. Here's a quick "putting on your coat trick" you can teach them. Lay an unzipped jacket face up on the floor in front of the child. Have him stand behind the neckline then squat, lean forward and place his hands into the sleeves. In one movement, he can flip the jacket over his head and it will be in place! Attach a little toy to the zipper pull for something to hang onto while zipping. Listen for a proud "I did it myself!"as he goes out the door.