Back-to-School Humor

by Abby on August 26, 2014

It’s back-to-school time, and suddenly my inbox is flooded with funny takes from parents who are SO ready to have their little love bugs out of the house all day. And YES, I am one of them! This comic strip my mom sent me pretty much sums up my feelings:

For Better or For Worse comic strip: back to school means freedom

Look, I adore my children and enjoy spending time with them. But 3 months is a LOT of time. And I’ve decided that summer is pretty much only fun for kids. Not as much for the snack-packers, sunscreen-appliers, and nonstop activities coordinators. (Meaning: me.)

The world’s most adorable viral-video makers – the family that brought us “Christmas Jammies” – have done it again with this back-to-school, “Baby Got Class”:

And because I like yoga pants and using the bathroom solo as much as the next mom, I also enjoyed this Back to School Mom Rap. There sure are some clever, photogenic parents out there.

But this post a friend sent me about how much things have changed about going back to school since the 70’s made me LOL for reals. I did grow up in the 70’s, but in a hippie teacher family so the Wonder Bread and Virginia Slims don’t apply, but I SO can relate to the striped shirts and corduroys (Toughskins!) constituting my back-to-school wardrobe. And the brown paper grocery-bag book covers! I got a little nostalgic.

And #10 in the second part, about the BPA-free bento boxes and the Instagrammed Disney-shaped vegan hemp sandwiches, almost made me wet myself in the carpool lane. HOW did we go so far off the rails?! I know in the past I’ve lost my mind over school fundraisers and finding twistable crayons at the craft store (WTF? Who comes up with these supply lists?!). But I’m trying really, really hard not to do that this year.

There’s some good advice here: 5 Things Parents Need to Stop Doing this School Year. Although re: #1, doing your kid’s homework? Last year my son’s teacher wrote notes on his homework, chastising us for not pre-correcting it: “Get your parents to check your work!” Huh? Isn’t that what teachers do? And also how kids learn? Plus I was too busy Instagramming our dinner. As for #4, may I remind you of my volunteering horror story? Alrighty then. My work here is done. Happy back-to-school, everyone!

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Change is in the Air

by Abby on August 9, 2014

As I sat in the shade of the pavilion enjoying the breeze, I looked out over the wide, grassy expanse where the boys chased bugs and threw sticks and climbed trees and whatever else boys do. This is the part of the summer when we have pretty much done everything there is to do and been everywhere there is to go and still have several weeks left before school starts. So we begin what I like to call the Park Tour of Greater Baltimore. Another day, another playground. Lucky for us, there are tons of ’em around here.

children's shadows on the grass

It occurred to me that about 7 years earlier, I was in this same pavilion in this same park. Back then I was a newish mom doing sit-ups on a towel next to a bunch of babies. A couple times a week, I’d pack up my considerable gear and the baby and head over to this park to walk and squat and talk to fellow moms in my Stroller Strides class while working my post-partum muscles.

Back then, the days stretched out ahead of me, nothing but naps and feedings and diapers. The days were busy but lonely. I was constantly doing something, but felt like I was accomplishing nothing. I was still finding my way as a new mom. The fitness class was pretty much my only interaction with other adults most days. The fresh air and conversation did us all good. It was the highlight of my week until my favorite instructor moved away, and the moms began leaving to have second and third babies. Change is inevitable.

Back in the present, the boys’ shadows began to lengthen in the late-afternoon light. Just as their chubby little baby legs have stretched into strong, lean, little-boy limbs. This summer has been unusually cool. (Thanks to the polar vortex?) Lots of people love it. It’s certainly a break from the typical hot, wet wool blanket that usually envelops us here in July and August. But to me it feels like a loss. Where did our summer go? We haven’t been to the pool as much. The water’s cold, the kids aren’t as into it as they were in past years. When we do go, the parking lot is half empty, the kiddie pool almost deserted. Where is everybody?

Change is in the air, almost palpably. For many moms I know, this fall is when our youngest children will go off to kindergarten. People have been asking me for months, breathlessly, “How do you feel? What will you DO?” The implication being that I will be bereft, aimless, searching for something to fill my time. Part of me wants to snark, “Oh, I’ll probably buy AND put away the groceries in the same day.” (With drop-off and pick-up, I will gain exactly 2 hours in my workday when school starts. Let’s not go crazy, people.)

“Are you going back to work?” ask some acquaintances. I bristle at this question. In my mind, I never stopped working. I never left anything to go back to. I was a freelance writer before I had kids, and within weeks of my first son’s birth I was back at my desk, writing and publishing again. Eight years later, I’m still at it. These people don’t know that, of course.

Many moms I know ARE going back to work. Quietly, surprisingly easily it seems, they are picking up part-time jobs and finding positions with flexible schedules, like it’s no big deal, like that was the plan all along. Maybe it was. Many of them have already started their new jobs. It’s partly why the pool and parks are emptier.

shadows under swingset

In fact, my work life is also changing. The freelance world has evolved, again, and some of the gigs I used to have are gone. Columns canceled, budgets cut, publications folded. Even blogging’s different now. So I have adapted and changed as well. My work is different now, steadier, more stable, more responsibility. Less time for creative writing, and for blogging. Change is inevitable.

While I may be reflective and a bit melancholy, I don’t feel sad, exactly. I won’t be one of the moms weeping at the classroom door. (I don’t think.) I don’t mourn the loss of those endless days with an infant. I don’t miss the long stretches between paying assignments and worrying over every bill. I do miss my little community of new-mom bloggers back in the “olden days,” and the connection and conversation that happened before “likes” and “shares” took over. I do miss the actual, real-life people I used to see at the park and the pool and toddler gym classes and preschool pickup.

My girl Oprah has some thoughts on change in the Sept. issue of O mag:

We live in a state of constant change. Whether or not we’re paying attention, the process is always happening. Even people who can’t see it in themselves witness change daily in their children or in others around them.

Life is about recalibrating. About continually asking yourself: What do I have to do to get where I need to be? How do I create the life I want?

… the short answer is this: We have to make ourselves over daily, consistently, in order to keep moving forward. We are not meant to stagnate.

… The best way I know for sure to stay in steady makeover mode is to take care of yourself. To feed yourself with love and loving thoughts …  To surround yourself with people who bring you light, and to banish all forms of negative energy.

Moving forward, you will see that the value you give yourself is the value the world reflects back to you. When you care about yourself enough to embrace change, you’re on the path that will lead you home to happiness.

What’s changing in your world?

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The Toughest Week of the Summer

July 29, 2014

It’s mid-summer. The pool is strangely uncrowded. The parks are almost deserted. Every other car that drives by is laden with bikes and kayaks. You know what that means… vacation time. No, not for us. We already went on our vacation. For our babysitter. Each year when it rolls around, a mild panic sets in, […]

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Field of Dreams

July 21, 2014

The hubs and I had dinner with some old friends of his recently. The guy is retired from the military and involved in all sorts of exciting pursuits, from going back to school to taking cooking classes, which he enthusiastically told us all about. His wife seemed so supportive and thrilled for him. I don’t […]

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On Dinosaurs and Talking to Kids About Death

July 15, 2014

I will never forget the night my older son, who was maybe 5 or 6 at the time, appeared in the living room doorway long after we thought he was asleep, sobbing. His narrow shoulders were shaking and his hand was pressed to his lips. “What’s wrong, sweetie?” we asked him, bewildered. “D-d-does extinct mean […]

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My YouTube Debut, and Other Things On My Bucket List

July 9, 2014

My bucket list, if you could call it that, all started with the Milestone Birthday I recently celebrated. Leading up to it, I felt the urge to try some new things, put myself out there, take some risks. I decided to start with public speaking. Because why not tackle the one thing most people fear […]

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Fun with Photo Apps

July 7, 2014

I’m back from vacation but not really “back” yet, if you know what I mean. All I want to do is leave the unpacking and laundry for later and go through all my photos. So today I thought I’d share a couple of fun photo apps, under the guise of imparting some useful information while […]

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Scenes from a Summer Vacation

July 2, 2014

This post from a couple of years ago is one of my favorite vacation-related posts. Kids and their questions. And poop jokes. Originally posted Aug. 2012: Some scenes from our annual family vacation at the lake: On a walk with 3 kids, ages 6, 5, and 3 “Guys, see that flower? It’s called Queen Anne’s […]

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The Evolution of a Family Vacation

June 30, 2014

When you have a baby or very small children, your summer vacation is drastically altered. It usually goes like this. Remember that sleep-deprived summer when my youngest was 5 mos. old when I considered bailing out of our family vacation at 4:30am? I stayed, but only because I couldn’t take out the car seats by […]

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A Lazy Summer Morning

June 27, 2014

“Mama? Can we go downstairs yet?” I crack one eye open and squint at the clock: 5:56 a.m. Are you kidding me?! “No, not yet, buddy. It’s way too early. Come lie down with me.” Shuffle, shuffle, kick to the kidneys, swipes the covers. Oh, what’s the point? No one’s getting any more sleep this […]

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