"He's not my little baby anymore!" Vanessa Lachey tells PEOPLE of son Phoenix, 2½, who will go to preschool part-time for the first year

By Justin Curto
August 02, 2019 04:50 PM
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2019 marks the first year all three of Vanessa Lachey‘s children will be going to school — and the TV host has a plan.

“I’m going to get their bags packed the night before. I’m going to get all of their essentials for school and the next size up, so when they size out of that they’re ready to go,” Vanessa, 38, explains to PEOPLE.

“I’m going to have their lunches packed the night before, we’re going to have gas in the car, we’re going to be ready,” she enthuses.

Why? “So when you wake up, you can just be present and ask them if they’re excited about school, if they’re ready for their day,” Vanessa says. “Just enjoy the moments that go by way too fast.”

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RELATED: Nick Lachey and Wife Vanessa’s Daughter Is “NOT Happy” About Starting Preschool

Mother to Phoenix Robert, 2½, Brooklyn Elisabeth, 4½, and Camden John, 7 next month, Vanessa is partnering with Kohl's to make the planning easier for this important back-to-school season. She and musician husband Nick Lachey will send Phoenix to preschool part-time for the first year.

“It’s a big deal. It’s him starting to gain his independence and starting to figure things out for himself,” she says. “He’s not my little baby anymore!”

But Phoenix will have some help: big sister Brooklyn, who’ll be attending the same preschool full-time. Says Vanessa of her only daughter, “She’s the cutest little caregiver-helper-lover-person in the world.”

Vanessa Lachey shopping at Kohl's
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Kohls

RELATED VIDEO: Nick Lachey Reveals His Valentine’s Day Plans With Wife Vanessa

Meanwhile, the couple’s oldest child will start first grade at his K-6 elementary school, but he’s equally excited about spending time outside the classroom.

“Camden is my little sports guy,” Vanessa shares with PEOPLE. “You name it, he does it. He wants to try everything. He’s so active. He does not stop.”

With Vanessa filming for Top Chef Junior, which she hosts, and her husband touring with his band 98 Degrees, she acknowledges that they’re “constantly trying to figure parenting out day to day.” (They still make time to watch TV together at night, or hop on the phone when they’re away from each other.)

RELATED: Vanessa Lachey Reveals How Embracing Her Parenthood “Daily Fails” Has Made Her a Better Mother

Last Friday — with Nick, 45, on tour — Vanessa was running late to get Camden and Brooklyn to their summer camps in the morning. She decided it wasn’t worth rushing her kids; instead, she’d take Camden to camp late and let Brooklyn spend the day at home.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m by myself. There is no reason I need to force these kids to speed up the process of brushing their teeth and eating their breakfast and running upstairs and getting in the car,’ ” Vanessa tells PEOPLE. ” ‘I’m going to stress them out, I’m going to stress myself out. It’s summer camp, it’s not that deep.’ “

When she arrived at Camden’s camp a half hour late, she saw they’d barely started. Then, she spent the day at home with Brooklyn making muffins for when Nick came home Sunday. “I said to myself, ‘It’s not the end of the world, it’s going to be okay,’ and it was,” Vanessa says.

And with a busy school year ahead, it’s a lesson she wants to keep in mind: “You’ve just got to know that things aren’t going to always go according to plan, and you’ll be okay.”

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