September 2, 2013

the night before the first day of school

I had plans.  Big plans.  School supplies that hadn't been delivered to school during the open house day, would be magically sorted and stuffed into the appropriate back packs.  Clothing options for the week would be stacked on dressers.  Lunches would be started and lunchboxes would stretch across the counter top awaiting the addition of cold food in the morning.  A decent easy meal would be shared and last minute jitters discussed.  Bedtimes would be enforced.  Since I was returning to work after having the summer off, my work bag, clothes, and lunch would be sorted out as well.  An early bedtime would assure that I wouldn't experience a drowsy commute home.

How quickly the best laid plans can unravel.

The kids' school hosted an open house/ orientation this year the week before school started.  We were allowed to unload supplies into their lockers.  Awesome - let's clear a walking path in the kitchen and dump this stuff at school.  So, the night before the open house I spent a late night organizing the piles of school supplies purchased from various stores into five piles in the kitchen.  With the crumbled copies of the supply lists splayed out in front of me, I tried to decipher my markings and notations.  After everything was distributed, I discovered a few holes in my system.  Not enough colored pencils, does this kid need folders and an expandable, don't I have a drawer somewhere with at least 10 pairs of scissors in it? 

After the orientation at school was complete, I dropped the piles of paperwork and teacher handouts in a heap near my desk and continued to enjoy what was left of summer break.  Mistake number one.  These packets distributed by teachers included forms to be filled out, explanations of snack procedures, an invitation to a boohoo breakfast for kindergarten moms, and maps of the junior high layout for Tetonka to study prior to attending the new building.  Oops!  I should have known that the hidden agenda behind the orientation day was parental homework from the teachers. 

After I assembled the remaining supplies into the backpacks lined up on the cedar chest in the kitchen, I sat down barely able to focus from sheer exhaustion and began to fill in the kindergarten packet for Curly's teacher.  Questions like, 'When did she start talking?'  It seemed like Curly has always been able to talk.  Hard to remember a time when she couldn't.  And 'Does she like to play alone, or with others?'  Both.  If the kids are home, it's on.  Playtime.  Constant.  If the kids aren't home, she is singing to herself as she lines up her princesses on some building she's constructed of magnet blocks.  Mistake number two:  focusing too much energy on the fact that Coach stayed at work an hour longer than usual.  Wish I would have just pressed onward, accepting that last minute prep was left up to me.  It's not as if he would have grabbed a pen and started cluing the kindergarten teachers into Curly's most likely time of day to have a bowel movement.  So much for my respectable bed time.

Organized piles of clothes on kids dressers saves me from fumbling around in the dark each night to find something for them to wear.  Part of my evening ritual involves flinging an outfit over the back of each kitchen chair.  Of course dressing in the kitchen will only function so long as they are young enough not to care.  (That being said, I no longer pull out clothes for Laddie and Eddie.  They shower in the morning and get dressed upstairs - don't get me started about how Laddie wanders around from the laundry room to my room searching piles of clean laundry until he finds just what he wants to wear.  And the wet towel?  Oh yes, I find it after school in a damp heap wherever he made his wardrobe selections.  Ugh!).   Mistakes number three and four:  Intended to start to hunt for matching clothes to stack up hours earlier.  Oops.  Also, I failed to inform Curly that her school requires that kids wear athletic shoes to school so that everyone is ready for P.E. class.  Her vision of a  pretty dress with sandals for the first day were dashed.  We compromised, and she decided to tuck her sneakers into her backpack and wear sandals with socks to school.  What kindergarten teacher would get mad at that face anyway?  Besides, it was the first day she could lead with a look of confusion, and she is a quick change when it comes to shoe changes.

The search for lunchboxes was mostly successful with one exception.  Mistake number five:  check the lunchbox inventory earlier in the summer.  Eddie apparently no longer owns a lunch box.  The two he was operating from in 6th grade no longer exist.  Not sure that we ever successfully removed the rotten lunch-meat smell from the secret pocket only he knew about anyway.  He dragged that not-quite-right lunch box to school all of last year.  Good riddance.  Mistake number six:  oops, am I really that low on groceries?  Lunch packing was a stretch.  A little dry cereal in a baggie at snack time instead of goldfish never hurt anybody.

Dinner.  Mistake number seven:  Introducing a new recipe the night before school wasn't a well thought out plan.  A few kids liked it.  A few tolerated it.  Tetonka, who has the most jitters about starting at a new building with a locker combination to memorize, needed the calm dinner environment more than anyone.  He hated the dinner the most.  It got ugly.  Ugliness devours time in our house.  Enough said.

Finally bedtime.  The most important piece to the night before school.  Set the tone for the year.  Be firm.  Get them started on the right foot.  Mistake number eight:  The blue nail polish didn't raise any red flags earlier in the evening.  That would have been too easy.  Now that most of the day's soccer practices, Irish dancing workshops, and driver's ed classes were complete, I had a minute to think while I rinsed a few kids in the tub.  Oh shit!  I am not sending a kindergartner to the first day of school in blue nail polish.  This was a gift bestowed on Curly while she played at a friend's house.  Who knew I was only going to have a few tablespoons of remover left?  Who knew that this particular brand of polish would be the stubborn kind?  Who knew that Curly would take such offense to her beautiful, blue nail polish being scraped off?  Who knew that she could work herself into a major tizzy?  Who knew that when I asked Curly to use the wad of paper towel soaked in remover to continue to work on erasing the blue while I ran to pick up Reggie from soccer that she would dump the rest of the remover out (even though she was instructed not to touch it)?  While this disaster was unfolding, Mini shared with me that she had lost a tooth.  Only problem - the tooth was still in her mouth, because it was stuck on her braces.  (Nine year olds with braces - don't get me started!).  I offered to try to pry it off.  This seemed to make the most sense to her.  Mistake number nine:  Removing a tooth from braces exposes a gum to a bracket that is now free to irritate the gum.  Ouch!  No wax available in the house.  Tetonka reappeared several times like a stubborn weed to whimper about his fears concerning the new building.  I felt his pain, and related my freshman year first day story to him.  I hoped that once he spotted humor in a similar situation, he could relax.  Finally he stayed in bed, and I began the paperwork nightmare that I failed to realize lurked in the pile on my desk until the eleventh hour - literally.  So much for an early bedtime. 

Is it too late to decide to home school?  Now that would create some serious blog topics!