Back to the School Future

by Jason Tudor

Overheard on a Mervyn's clothing rack in 1983 ...

Say, where ya goin', Mom? Just stop right there with your feathered hair and tube top. It's me, corduroy, and I've got something to say. Did I mention I'm corduroy? Oh yeah, and I've seen you circling the store looking for last minute back-to-school bargains like a women who really knows her stuff. I'm it. Let me explain.

First, I know. Your son said he wanted that popular OP brand that all his friends are wearing. He gave you the nod on some 501's. Okay. Fine. Maybe. But look at me for God's sake. Lush. Shiny. Striking. Don't like my tan? My friend is Navy blue. His buddy is Butterscotch. Another is wheat. Still another is dusky rose. We're the Color Me Badd of clothes; a rainbow of corduroy flavor (Oh, I need to write that down!). How could your son NOT like that?

Oh, and did I mention who's wearing me this season? Kirk FREAKING Cameron. That's right! Oh and did I mention Alex FREAKING Keaton aka Michael J. Fox wears cords and a sport coat while he's berating that patsy father of his? Your son couldn't be in cooler company. Those, mommy dearest, are the facts of life and to deny your son two or three pairs of me ... well, gimmie a break.

Now, I know where you're going to go next with your finger on your chin there: the noise. Look, corduroy-clad thighs scraping together in a crowded high school hallway is a sign of dominance; an aural urine territorial marker that swishes, scrapes and smells of good judgment -- and victory. Squint and scrunch your face all you want. I'm a winner.

Now, don't let these red tag placed on green tag placed on yellow tag clearance stickers dissuade you from reality. Seven dollars a pair IS a bargain, but people in France are paying, like, seven times as much. The Japanese aren't just snatching up real estate; they are awash in corduroy pant value. So, tell your son he's making an INTERNATIONAL fashion statement. That I'm on this clearance rack next to these terry cloth shirts with the zippers merely means I'm one step closer to justifying your back-to-school budget.

That's right ... reach out a hand. That's it ... that's ... wait! Where are you going? I just explained that ... what exactly didn't you like about velvet ... I AM A BARGAIN AT TWICE THE PRICE! DENIM IS FOR PINKO COMMIE HIPPY FREAKS!


Doesn't matter. I'll get the next one. Or the next one after that. Once you go cord, you never go back.

(When Jason Tudor's Thorazine wears off, he's allowed one ball point pen, one-side of one sheet of used bond paper and access to a dictionary. This is one of the things he made. You can discover more of his drug-holiday induced creations on Twitter @jasontudor or his website at www.jasontudor.com)



by Bill Mullis
Now that everybody's back in school, it's time to cast our minds back into the depths of time to remember a quieter, gentler age....

It was a quiet day in the spring of my junior year of high school. I was, through no fault of my own, in a college prep program, along with a bunch of kids who were certifiable geniuses. Or, in some cases, simply certifiable.

Two of these guys (let's call them Mark and Ricky) were especially strong in the physical sciences, including, of course, chemistry. They were, in every way, completely respectable young citizens of the Republic, with nary a spot nor blemish to their names. They were, in a word, model students, beloved of parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Until the unfortunate extracurricular project.

Turns out one of them (which one has been lost to the mists of time) got his hands on an old chemistry textbook in the local library, and was astounded to find the formula and detailed instructions for the making of nitroglycerin.

As I understand it, the discoverer called his buddy over and said, "Look at this. Is this for real?"

"No way," said the buddy emphatically. "No way they'd actually put that in a book. It's gotta be fake. They must have left something out."

"No, I think it's real."

So when the compound changed color just the way the instructions said it should, the intrepid duo were suddenly very trepid indeed. They looked at each other over the flask of innocuously amber liquid and, surrounded by the contents of the chemistry lab storeroom they had entered without authorization and used without forethought, very quietly and softly decided to vacate the premises.

They went to the next lab down the hall, where the science teacher was using her lunch period to grade lab notebooks, and poured out their sorry tale. More probably, stammered would be the accurate verb, but I'll try to put the same brave face on it that Mark and Ricky did. The teacher, having spent a long career listening to cock-and-bull stories, listened with the proper amount of jaded skepticism, then asked the appropriate questions the appropriate number of times. She sighed, put down her sandwich and her red marker, and stood.

"Show me," she said.

The first indication the rest of us had that something was amiss was when the fire alarms went off and we evacuated the building. The buildings on either side of us were also cleared. I missed English and History, and didn't even get to see the bomb squad. I understand they were impressed by the purity and the potency of the compound Mark and Ricky produced, since it would have flattened half the school if things hadn't gone as well as they did.

The police detectives weren't nearly as impressed, but once they determined that no actual criminal intent was involved, just plain old-fashioned stupidity, the boys were released to their parents. No charges were filed, but these guys couldn't cough loudly without a police interview for the next hear and a half.

And that's why chemistry lab storerooms are locked up to this day.

Bill Mullis currently spends his days feeling sad because he never got to play with high explosives as a child. You can keep up with his latest antics via The Captain's Log at www.mindovermullis.com.

Image credit: usafa.af.mil


The Kindergarten Cookie Caper

by Pauline Campos

It was all about the cookies, I think.

My complete lack of desire to let go of my mother's leg while crying buckets of six-year-old tears until the new kindergarten teacher handed me the basket can't really be otherwise explained.

At least not after the first day.

We moved from Detroit to the suburbs in the middle of my very first year of school. I was the New Girl. And it was terrifying. New house. New city. New neighbors. New faces. It had all seemed very exciting on the walk to the New School on that first day with my mother. It was an adventure! Until she tried to leave.

That's when I screamed bloody murder, wrapped myself around my mother's leg with a force that only the jaws of life could break, and begged her not to leave me. That very memory is the reason I left my own daughter's first preschool drop off stunned stupid that she had run off without a kiss, leaving me happily forgotten, but that's another column.

Mrs. Drapeau, the teacher, knelt down before me, trying to talk me at my own level to make me feel more at home. All I heard was "You...here...Mom...leave...feel better...cookies?" between my wails of agony. I'm sure I made quite the impression on my new classmates.

"Cookies?" I stopped sniffling long enough to blink away the next tear so I could focus. "Who has cookies?"

Mrs. Drapeau stood up, went to her desk, and returned carrying a basket of cookies and juice boxes. She kindly explained that every student took turns bringing in a package of cookies to pass out for snack time each day, and the lucky kid also got to pass them out to the other students! But seeing as I was so upset on my first day, maybe Little Suzie wouldn't mind letting me pass the cookies out for her this time.

I glanced at Little Suzie. She looked pissed. But she was smart enough to force a smile and nod her head. Looking back, I'm assuming that turn of events solidified my future position on the Popularity Totem Pole with Cheerleading Captain Little Suzie graduating from high school still harboring that kindergarten grudge.

Some people's children.

But on that day in 1983, my only thought was Pride in My New Important Job. I was passing out the cookies, people. I was Special. Maybe this place wasn't so bad after all. Maybe tomorrow I would try to be a Big Girl and not cry when Mommy turned to leave and...

Or maybe I wanted to pass out the cookies again.

Every morning I turned on the water works, not even conscious of the fact that I was manipulating the system to increase my own self worth. Pretty impressive for a six-year-old, I think.

Pity, but I lost the ability to cry on cue after I moved on to the first grade. No matter...there were no cookies to pass out.

Pauline M. Campos is a former journalist-turned-stay-at-home-mom to Buttercup. She blogs at Aspiring Mama (Parental Advisory: Occasional F-Bombs Dropped) and can be found on Twitter as @aspiringmama. She has written a book and is currently looking for an agent in the hopes of convincing her mother-in-law that writing in her pajamas  is, in fact, an actual job.



by Jeanette Levellie

“Mom, I can quit school now; I already know everything.”

I looked down at my son in his baggy shorts and Star Wars t-shirt, the top of his head barely up to my shoulder. I forced a grin from erupting. “No, son, you are not quitting school. You have eight more years to go, then college. And although you’re smart, you don’t know everything.”

A storm filled his eyes. “Yes, I do, Mom. I know everything there is to know! So I don’t need school anymore.”

I learned a word when he was three and his sister was six that I pulled out whenever the argument started smoking. “Nevertheless,” I said, “you are not quitting school.” He stomped down the hall, slamming the door to his room. This shook our entire 48 x 60 mobile home, rattling every goblet in the built-in hutch, but I stayed glued to my spot in front of the stove, where my spaghetti sauce and I shared a silent chuckle.

After he came out of his room and got over his pout long enough to eat spaghetti, he went to a university, procured two degrees, and became an animator/writer par excellence. But there were a heckofalotta neverthelesses between that pout and those two degrees. 

            The summer he turned fourteen, I forced him to choose between taking music lessons and joining a sports team. I was thrilled when he opted for guitar lessons, since I could barely tell the difference between a hockey puck and a pie tin.

He came home crying after the first lesson. “Mom, my fingertips are so sore, they might fall off by the time the summer is over. I’ll have to live with little callousy stubs the rest of my life. You’ll be to blame if I fail in my chosen profession because I can’t use my hands.”

My word helped me circumvent a trip to the guilt farm. “Nevertheless, you are not quitting guitar. If your fingertips fall off, we’ll find a teacher with a huge glue stick to paste them back on for you.” When he started composing songs for the band he formed, I asked him if the glue didn’t ruin the guitar strings. He acted like he hadn’t heard me. Of course.

But my favorite use of the word was during his junior year of high school. I had pushed him through Algebra, dragged him through Biology, and prayed him through Government. All he wanted to do was draw cartoons.

“Mom, I will never use any of this stuff they are teaching me. I don’t need to know how many bones are in my feet, or why we have negative numbers. Animators never use that junk. All I need is art.”

“Nevertheless, son, you have to take these classes to get into college to study animation. They’re the hoops you have to jump through. Sorry.”

That was over ten years ago. Last month the animation studio he works for announced the completion of a project they’d done for Microsoft’s Halo action comics. I let myself grin this time, and patted my word on the back. “Good job, nevertheless.”

*** artwork copyright Ron Levellie, 2009

“Nutty with a dash of meat” best describes Jeanette Levellie’s speaking, writing and life. She has published hundreds of humor/inspirational columns, articles, greeting cards, and poems. A spunky pastor’s wife, Jeanette is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and waitress to four cats. Find her mirthful musings at www.jeanettelevellie.com


Stop looking at me like that

by Stacey Graham

I was a weird kid.

Not the kind that stared down adults until they cried, but if you’ve read my blog and essays here at An Army of Ermas, it’s a little obvious that I was a few apples short of a fruit basket. Yesterday, my daughter and I drove past one of those creepy concrete figurine outlets that dot the northern Virginia/West Virginia byways and while she commented on the majestic 15ft fake stone eagle about to soar over the heads of the various concrete woodland creatures that lined the highway, I spotted… Taffy.

I was about eight-years-old and apparently had little to no contact with the outside world, as my best friend became a slate-gray concrete raccoon that stood about two feet high. How my mother was talked into letting me take this thing home is a mystery though I suspect it was just to get me to shut up about how delightful life would be if only I could bring Taffy to school – to the library – to the pool – on road trips…

I had big plans to paint Taffy in bright sunny colors that reflected her inner awesomeness while still holding true to her raccoon heritage because I’m sensitive like that and it was the 70s- every friggin thing was in bright sunny colors and I nearly vibrated with sensitivity (aside from the whole serial killer thing). Taffy remained gray, however, the victim of my mother’s screaming fit as I tried to dump a gallon of leftover paint on top of the raccoon… in the living room, on the new orange shag carpeting. Mothers can be so fussy.

Taffy remained my constant companion for a year or so before she vanished. I don’t like to point fingers but I suspect my mother of misdeeds involving play dates with breathing children and midnight roadside drop-and-dashes at concrete outlets but today all is forgiven. Taffy’s coming home.


Yoga Bare

It's vacation time so while the Ermas are off sunning themselves, I'm trotting out several of my favorite essays. Enjoy!

Stacey - Editor of An Army of Ermas


by Amy Mullis 

It’s not that the folks in one part of the country eat healthier than the others, but I come from a place in the South where if you slow down for a yellow light, we will deep fry your car. We’ve done everything from Oreos to pickles. A slow-moving Volkswagen is not going to give us any trouble.

So when the family doctor mentioned that the levels in the Captain’s blood indicated that various but important internal organs could freeze up like Bill Gates’ Windows, we were faced with the choice of updating his will or changing his diet.

As a final insult Doc threw in the kicker, “You’ll want to get some exercise every day. And I don’t mean the kind you get pulling the release lever on the recliner.”

The Captain sighed mournfully, hovering on the brink of starvation and eyeing Famous Amos like they were twins parted at birth. “I’ll leave my knife collection to the boys in case they’re right about that graveyard up the street.”

What can I say? Once you’ve had Southern food, a zombie apocalypse seems palatable next to the thought of giving up biscuits and gravy forever.

But I checked the man’s life insurance policy and decided that he’s worth more in flesh than in funds. True love and a nice dose of greed conquers all things.

So in the name of health and paying it forward, I loaded up the Yoga program on the family game system and demonstrated the various poses. I looked like a napping Labrador in the Downward Dog position. That is, if the Labrador had consumed more breakfasts than his own more often than not, which is a reasonable assumption if you know a Labrador.

Soon the Captain of my Dream Boat decided that since he is under doctor’s orders to reduce his ballast, he can use exercise for an excuse to hold on to the remote, and he latched onto the Feng Shui of yoga and jumped on my workout bandwagon with both love handles.

The difference is that I wear clothes.

I don’t want to be indelicate, but this man gives a whole new meaning to the term “sun salutation.” It’s enough to make you pray for an eclipse.

I rounded the corner into the living room just as he started another pose. There’s not a swimsuit model alive that’s assumed that position and made it to pay day.


“I’m supposed to touch my toes.”

“With what?”

The dog put one paw over his eyes and limped out of the room on three legs.

“Yoga is the ancient Eastern art of obtaining balance. To ensure your Yin and Yang compliment each other.”

“Well don’t look now but you’re about to get rug burn on your Yang.”

“You don’t appreciate the peace that comes with reaching the inner you.”

About that time, Son 2 came through the back door, happy in the knowledge that a math teacher with the flu gave him an extra video game hour in his day. This kid is 19, and he’s so cool he sweats perma frost. At that moment he had achieved Nirvana and was one with a Klondike bar.

As usual, the cat came in with him, purring around his legs like they were from the same litter. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the semi-regularity of his hygiene routine, but felines follow him around like he wears catnip skivvies.

There are times when it seems possible to stretch an instant like an overstuffed garbage bag, and more action than seems possible happens at once.

The Captain snapped into a position that caused his Yin and Yang to become one just as the Klondike bar in turn became one with the floor. My maternal superpowers kicked in and I flung the nearest article of covering, a tasseled blanket from the couch, over the offending object. (Not the ice cream bar.) This move was interpreted as an invitation by the kitty who, as the instinct of a thousand generations kicked in, sprang into action, claws in attack position, intent on consuming the dancing tassels.

In high school, I wasn’t the type that dabbled in theoretics or quantam physicals. All I remember from my science class is the little ditty that says, “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.” It seemed like it might apply to big brother somehow, so I tucked it in the snack cupboard of my mind to apply later.

I didn’t realize it gave felines the power to fly.

Everything that happened after that is a blur. But the phrase "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" keeps scrolling past my mind's eye. I guess sometimes it’s better for Yin and Yang to have separate dressing rooms.

Hubby made a vow never to do sun salutations without pants ever again. And now we all have inner peace.

Except the cat, who still puffs like an electric pompom whenever we turn on the Yoga video.

Visit Amy at Mind Over Mullis and help her cut a swathe through the jungle--the one below her knees.


A Brief Natural History Of Teenagers

by Bill Mullis

The creatures known as teenagers,
Refrigerator foragers,
Antagonizing fathers, mothers,
Feeding off their little brothers;

Incessantly on telephones,
Gnawing on their rivals’ bones,
Growing taller, feet by feet,
All they do is sleep and eat.

With stomping, snarling, rolling eyes,
Mutterings and heavy sighs,
They make your life as miserable
As inhumane-ly possible.

But when the darksome days are done,
When the lonesome race is run,
(Accolades, a mighty cheer!)
A human being will appear.

A real, live, breathing personhood,
Where once a beast of shadows stood!
Reflect, you may, and if you would,
Behold it all that it is good.

So with the dawn a hope at last,
Now that the grief and angst is past,
Be thou freed from this perdition!
But what to do about tuition?


Three Little Words

by Terri Coop

“Back to school.” Those words conjure visions of fresh-faced cherubs in new clothes eager to learn after a long summer break. It also brings to mind images of moms high-fiving each other over margaritas by the pool. Even though I’m not a parent, I go with the latter.

In August of 2002, I discovered the school bus stop was directly in front of my house. We’d moved in during the summer and this tidbit wasn’t shared by the real estate agent. Had I known, I would’ve knocked 10% off the offer.

On that fateful day the little darlings queued up at 7:00. It was a hot sunny morning, so several decided my front porch would be a nice shady place to share a pre-school juice box or two. After sweeping trash for a week, I realized an uncomfortable truth.

This was war.

I started my campaign cautiously. I was outnumbered, new in town, and my opponent was strong. On Monday, I was sitting on my porch with morning tea. Even a footstep onto my path was met with a sharp crackle of a lowered newspaper and my best lawyerly glare.

It worked.

It took a week, but the local offspring retreated to the telephone pole on the corner casting subdued and sullen glances my way. Even after it was too cold for sunrise tea, the trash stayed where it belonged, in the gutter, where the prevailing wind made it their parents’ problem.

Until my morning net surfing was disturbed by a loud KA-WHUMP. Storming outside to investigate, I found a baseball on the ground under a matching dent in my siding and a group of the world’s most innocent children standing with their backs to me.

I picked up the offending sphere and strolled over to the juvenile cadre. After plying my well-honed interrogation skills, I discovered that someone named “nobody” had thrown the ball and evidently all of the kids in my hood need glasses, because no one saw anything.

I had one card left – a daring bluff. Feigning nonchalance, I said, “Okay, how about I ride to school on the bus and talk to the principal. I’m sure he can give me a list of your parents and their phone numbers.”

Ah, the innocence of small town youth. They didn’t know the driver wouldn’t let me on the bus and the principal certainly wouldn’t give out that information. Another lawyer glare and a small rift formed in the wall of silence. One of the older girls stepped aside and, like the parting of the Red Sea, her friends followed. The brotherhood broken, it only took a few seconds for the cheese to be standing alone.

Tossing the ball from one hand to the other, I asked him to explain. A choked, “sorry,” spluttered out. It was enough. My siding was so hail-pocked that the new dent probably smoothed out an old dent. This was about principle and turf.

He reached for the ball and I said, “Nah, this is mine now. If you want it back, send your dad over to introduce himself.”

I still have that ball. And I never had another bus stop problem in the eight years I lived there.

So, those three little words,




Are both a cry of relief and a call to battle.

Terri Lynn Coop lives in the Midwest and practices her lawyer glare every chance she gets. She has perfected some Jedi mind-tricks to keep local kids out of the backyard and relishes her title of the "mean lady on the corner."


Kisses, Crayons, and Crooked Hair

by Sara Spock

For the first time in years, I’m not a student. I’m not going back to university this fall, buying books, binders, pencils, and post-its. I won’t be living my life within the confines of student and preschooler time. Exams, 18-year-old classmates, papers, grade-grubbers, and lectures are behind me. I’ve transitioned from an adult student and researcher to a Penn State Graduate and stay-at-home mom, at least for the next year. Instead, I’m sending my 5-year-old off to Kindergarten. We’re spending August in search of the perfect Star Wars backpack, the fastest playground pounding shoes, a mile-long list of school supplies, and the best prices on bulk Kleenex.

With trembling hands, I filled out the registration paperwork and promised myself I would not cry. I. Would. Not. Cry. I managed to hold it together long enough to make it home, where I locked myself in the bathroom and bought more stock in Scott Tissue.  I thought about my own foray into the adventures of Kindergarten:

The look of horror on Mrs. Fuentes’ face when she caught me tasting the sweet minty deliciousness of non-toxic paste; the shocking realization that my parents weren’t omniscient; the crooked bangs in my kindergarten picture to hide 8 stitches across my forehead; the shouts from Mrs. Stahl when she caught Timmy and I under the table sharing the innocent smooch of first love; the stink-eye from my mom when she read my report card, “Sara is a very smart girl, but she talks too much in class.” 

Robert Fulghum was right, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The list of knowledge is different for each person, but the sentiment is true. Kindergarten teaches you about life, people, and where you fit. And it makes me wistfully sad and unbelievably proud that my baby is about learn his own set of life’s lessons.  I just hope he stays off the glue.

Sara Spock is a mom, wife, Penn State graduate, lab assistant, English tutor, and freelance writer.  When she’s not doing back to school shopping or catching cat naps with her 6 week old, Sara can be found over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. blog. post. at. a. time.


Purple Marker Haze

Yeah, I see you crouched over there, waiting to score an armload of twenty-cent notebooks. I know you well, even though I’ve never met you before in my life. You’re grasping a school supply checklist from the front of the store, but there are no sticky children behind you, pulling you to the Hanna Montana backpacks or insisting on the giant 36-color box of crayons.  Your hair is remarkably free of peanut butter, too. You’re trying to blend in for The Man, but I see you quietly grooving to a psychedelic display of highlighters.

We’re office supply junkies, and back-to-school season is our Woodstock.
We have it tough, you and me. We have no kids, but there’s this manila folder monkey on our back, and he wants more gel pens. And a Beatles pen case to keep them in. So we sneak around the families comparing Kindergarten nap mats, pretending to shop for children who don’t exist. Apparently these children are really into florescent push pins this year. 

Occasionally, we’ll drag some unsuspecting niece along as cover, but they cramp our style; it’s hard to be freaky over one-subject Jimi Hendrix college-ruled notebooks when a five-year-old is squealing for a Dora the Explorer ruler.
It’s always safer at night, and we huddle together around the marker displays, sharing tales of the good old days when Trapper Keepers ruled the land.  We trade coupons for staplers and day-glo pencils until some clerk shoos us back into electronics where it’s safe to geek out over laptop RAM and productivity software.
Another family passes through, and you gently ease up to the new recycled pens. Our eyes meet. 

“Don’t sniff the brown scented markers,” I whisper before I slip over to the next aisle, where padded binders in bold patterns await. In a few minutes, I feel a presence beside me.

“You want some good stuff?” 

I nod.

“Staples starts their clearance Saturday. 8 a.m.”

Back-to-school clearance? Oh yeah, baby. I am so there.


Paper, Scissors, Rock!

by Amy Mullis

On the whole, I’d rather give my teenage son a Platinum MasterCard and send him to Wal-Mart on Saturday night than do the Back-to-School shopping myself.

His gym locker is in better shape than the Three-Ring Binder section of Wal-Mart after the list-bearing hordes have swept through. Back-to-school shoppers invade discount stores in August like a swarm of fire ants in a field of sweetgrass, and they’re not leaving until they’ve crossed the last bottle of hand soap off their list and called in their relatives to find the Green Lantern lunchbox they hid behind the broccoli display back in June.

Anyone who thinks a mother in search of a pack of Crayolas and a bottle of Elmer’s isn’t dangerous has never had a kid in 4K. Here’s a woman who has visions of getting a toddler-sized tornado out of her kitchen and Dora the Explorer off of her television and there’s not a force of nature that can stop her from climbing over two Kleenex displays and a store manager to get that last glue stick.

Don’t even get me started about book bags and blue jeans. You’d think that one pair of pants made out of faded blue denim would be pretty much be like the ones you found for ten bucks on the clearance rack at Target. Just because the hem hit mid-ankle and the waistband tucked neatly under his armpits, Teen Boy at my house went all white around the shoetops and refused to have his yearbook picture made.

And when did a backpack become a designer accessory? Today’s bags have room for everything except books, which—according to Son One who is a High School graduate, and therefore an expert in these, and all other, matters--are optional in the classroom these days. I can understand filmstrips going the way of ancient technology, but books? They take up valuable space needed for everything from cell phones to e-readers.  When my kid said he needed a Kindle, I thought we’d reverted to book burnings and I offered to go out to eat and send all my cookbooks to fan the flames.

But the main source of our back-to-school woes is friends. It is a principle of life that a true friend will not buy the very last pair of torn Hollister jeans at the mall. Nor will a friend refuse to eat school lunch and choose to hang out at the drink machine after I’ve shelled out $300 in advance for the pizza line in the cafeteria. Last year I discovered that I was feeding three random boys and the school rabbit, while the only things my child ate off his plate was apple peel and barbecue chips.

This year I have resolve. I will not buy clothes just because the people my child doesn’t even like wear them. I will not buy trading cards just because the people my child does like would rather duel than eat lunch. I will not volunteer to chaperone the school dance just so my child can go and eat free pizza.

But if I get free pizza, that’s another story. I’ll have to buy something cool to wear. Maybe some Hollister jeans. And a backpack to bring home leftovers.  After all, I donated my cookbooks to education.


"I've Got Whos-Its and Whats-Its Galore"

by Patti Wigington

It’s that time of year again. I went out to buy some cheese and a loaf of bread, and came back with six packages of college-ruled paper, ten boxes of crayons, a bunch of #2 pencils, and something like 47 glue sticks.

Why? Because I have a fondness for school supplies, and because I’ve got a pair of kids entering sixth grade in just twenty-eight days, but hey, who’s counting? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I enjoy back-to-school shopping. In fact, I don’t really like shopping for anything besides shoes and electronics. But what I do love is the smell of a freshly opened box of Crayolas, or the grinding sound that the sharpener makes the first time you stick a pencil in there, or the smooth white expanse of lined notebook paper which has yet to be doodled upon.

Sure, my kids get a list each summer. There’s the Master List, which always has the same stuff on it, year in and year out: pencils, notebooks, index cards, a box of Zip-Loc baggies, and some Kleenex. Then there’s also the teacher-specific lists. Some years we get the teachers who are happy with the contents of the Master List and demand nothing further. Other years, we get teachers who say, “Now, in addition to all that other stuff, I’ll need a four-pack of blue, green, red and black dry erase markers, a roll of 35 mm camera film, a 6.4 oz bottle of aloe scented hand sanitizer (not the store brand!), the T-34000 Mega Super Awesome Calculator, and a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle.”

And it doesn’t matter what they ask for, or whether I have the list right in front of me. There’s always something I have to go back for, either because it’s a last minute addition, or because every store in town was out of that ONE type of Post-It stickies that my kids have to have for their Science & Math Enrichment program.

So naturally, I came home from the store with my cheese, my bread, and $84 worth of school stuff. I’ve got more folders than anyone can use in a single school year, scissors that the art teacher probably won’t even ask for, and highlighters galore. I feel like Ariel, in “The Little Mermaid,” and just want to sing, “I’ve pencils and papers aplenty, I’ve got protractors and rulers galore… Sharpie pens? I’ve got twenty! No big deal… I want moooooooore.”

The night before school begins, my kids will root through the bags, pulling out what they need, checking off their lists. The remainder of the stuff will sit in a corner of my office, quietly waiting for me to suddenly yearn for a fresh pink eraser, or for that moment some time around December when I exclaim, “Wait, I actually DO have a roll of Scotch tape!”

And inevitably, that first afternoon, they’ll get off the bus and remind me of all the things I need to go pick up. Like those darn Zip-Loc bags that I forget every single year.


Back to School Diva Shopping

by Harley May

When I was a child, the return of each school year meant a few things, but the most exciting for me was Back to School shopping. The clothes, the book bags, lunch boxes and notebooks…I enjoyed all of it. And by “enjoyed” I mean, “I was a major pill” about all of it.

Considering what I put my mother through, it would only be fair that I spawn a bull-headed child with firm opinion and fashion senses. My first born is a little less opinionated. His fashion sense has most to do with what’s comfortable.

“Why can’t I wear jammies to school? And another collared shirt? Those itch!” If allowed, he’d wear pajamas everywhere. I can relate to comfort-motivated attitudes. I hated wearing dresses and brushing my hair and was the opposite of a girly-girl. If given an option between two dresses as a little girl, I’d pick death first.

The greatest kind of irony is the kind that gives me a daughter who is Queen Diva Extraordinaire.  My 1st grade daughter has a few more criteria in what she wants to wear:

1.)    “Does the skirt twirl? We have to do a twirl test.” Blue jeans and shorts are always too itchy, too tight, or two short, so we stick with skirts and dresses. Regular skirts won’t do. They. Must. TWIRL.

2.)    “There isn’t enough pink here.” Pink is crucial. While going down the road, she’ll start to tell me a story, “So…then Angelica shared the blue paint with Ethan and they broke the bunny sponge and OH MY GOSH. DO YOU SEE THAT PINK CAR OVER THERE? MOM. MOM. DO YOU SEE IT? WE SHOULD GET ME THAT.” Pink to my daughter is like “SQUIRRELL” to a dog. The clothes have to have a little pink.

3.)    “This doesn’t have a pony, kitten, puppy dog, princess or a unicorn on it. Even a ninja girl will do.” Never have I ever felt so loved as I do on the day I brought home a t-shirt with a kitten on it. I know, I know. I shouldn’t try to buy her affection. But it’s so easy.

4.)    “I have to see how all of these outfits looks with the shoes.” Are you frightened? I am. I plan on running away before her teen years. As an adult I’ve grown to appreciate shoes more and in great part to my daughter. My favorite item of clothing is a pair of Fight Club-inspired stilettos, but I look at them as a treat. I try shoes on for fun, not to buy. Girlfriend will spend all morning trying on shoes and want to walk away with at least three pairs. To her credit, she’s willing to work for them. She will go home and clean like a fiend if it means I’ll pay her extra allowance for shoes.
Yes, she is a picky dresser. But I’m thankful she doesn’t care what all the other kids are wearing. Quite often the clothes she picks out are unique and her own style. I’ve decided that she’ll help keep me stylish in an age-appropriate way. The last time we went shopping together she picked out a shirt for me that wasn’t at all something I’d pick up off the rack, but I can be a good sport and thought I’d at least give it ago. And as it turned out, it looked nice on me.

So, if anyone needs their floors scrubbed, let me know. My daughter would like both the pink AND purple Converse shoes for school this year. 

Photo credit: aliexpress.com