That time I bought snob juice…

It is officially back-to-school time, and I just made my first set of lunches. Lovely, reasonably healthy school lunches. It was fun.

No. It was not fun. Making lunches is really not ever fun, but now it is worse.  Because here’s the thing. While grocery shopping, I went to get all the things I would normally get that my kids like and I did this: instead of buying the usual whatever juice boxes/bags my kids like, I shelled out the extra $2-3 for the supposedly much better organic 100% juice made from exquisite fruits picked on a sustainable farm by fairly paid farm workers living in a democratic country. Or whatever.

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I did it. I bought the expensive all-natural, better be freaking Nectar of the Gods for that price juice boxes. And my kids are going to hate them. Even if they have way more sugar than the regular old crappy juice boxes. But this magical juice will look so nice next to their lunches…all pretty in the recyclable packaging the bright label that screams…”look at me, I’m so healthy and this responsible mom is super healthy and so are her kids and they all drink pricey juice that is way better than that other juice that isn’t even really juice and…”

F**ck. I just became THAT mom. I did it. I totally caved in to peer pressure and bought Snob Juice.

What the hell was I thinking? I know what I was thinking. I was thinking about that one time  I had to bring snack for a school event or club, it was just really kind of horrible and stressful. Can you bring fruit? Fruit is good…but what if isn’t organic? Right? Because you can totally tell these perfectly plump strawberries are not organic. But organic strawberries for 35 kids? Not happening. What about little ham-roll ups? Nope…nitrates. Goldfish crackers? Don’t you know Goldfish crackers are bad?  The organic little bunny things that are supposed to taste like Goldfish crackers? Nope…my kid says they DO NOT taste like Goldfish crackers. Cookies? Sure…cookies. Just not the kind with sugar.

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Fruit snacks? NO. Under no circumstances are you ever supposed to bring fruit snacks to anything ever anymore. They are horrifying little nuggets of gelatin filled with dyes and chemicals and corn syrup and probably some eye of newt and the blood of a virgin as well. You don’t ever bring fruit snacks. Or Kool-Aid. Trust me. Don’t ever bring Kool-Aid.

It is bad enough now that if you sign up to bring a snack to any kid-related thing it is expected to be some cutesy themed cocktail toothpick skewered masterpiece created by using special order cookie cutters and multi-step instructions from various internet websites. It is even worse that if you dare to send a packaged goody, it has to come with a carefully printed label containing a cutesy pun that sort of explains and makes it okay that you bought packaged goodies. But now your packaged goodies can’t just be packaged goodies. They have to be the RIGHT kind of packaged goody. The non-GMO, all-natural, totally organic sawdust and twig flavored kind of goody. Why? Because it is better? Because it is healthier?

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F**k no.  Because *gasp* other moms might judge you if you brought the regular stuff.

There. I said it. We do all these crazy things because other moms might judge us. We make bento box lunches with cartoon character shaped sandwiches and little cubes of cheese in cupcake liners and perfectly julienned carrot sticks because, well…a sandwich and an apple (a non-organic GMO apple) just won’t cut it anymore. We scour the shelves in the supermarket during the spare 10 minutes we have for the brand specific, gluten free, salt free pretzels on the Halloween party sign up.  Sure… the big bag of pretzel sticks would probably do the trick, but hey… we might get the side eye if we brought that s**t. Yep. Other moms might judge us. Or they might not. We might just be worrying that they will, and so we go to extremes, because hey, opinions matter, whether they exist or not.

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I’m not saying it isn’t okay to be health conscious. Because it totally is. Being healthy is wonderful and wanting our kids to be healthy is even better. And as a former teacher, I can tell you that not feeding the kids eight kinds of frosted cupcakes at the holiday party is really just a GREAT idea. So yeah, being healthy is fabulous.

But so is reality. And being a mom. And sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. Occasionally that involves feeding her kids, and maybe other people’s kids, some stuff that is not the greatest.

Like fruit snacks. Because maybe the mom that brought those bad fruit snacks in had a really rough day. Maybe the dog projectile vomited all over the house, and she was late for work, and the kids were late for school, and one of them forgot to finish their homework, and there were 100 other errands to run that day because her husband was sick, and it was late and the kids were crabby and she ran into the store and grabbed the fruit snacks because they were the first thing she saw. And then she grabbed the Kool Aid because it was next to the fruit snacks. And it was on sale. And she really didn’t feel like spending and extra $50 in that moment to come up with a really super healthy awesome snack the kids would actually like.

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Pssst…I am so sorry for that time I fed your kids artificially flavored non-organic GMO fruit snacks. With Kool-Aid. 

Except I’m not. Because it was late and I was tired and the display was right inside the door so I bought them. And I made up for it later in the year by cutting up approximately 64 equally portioned cubes of non-processed mild cheddar cheese for another event. So there.

And then several years later…because I was maybe a little scarred by that fruit snack incident, I caved and bought Snob Juice. I did it. And now I’m sending my kids to school with Snob Juice. And a regular sandwich. With a GMO, non-organic apple. Of course.

Maybe, for the next classroom party I will create beautiful artistically crafted individual organic fruit bouquets.

Or maybe I will just send a Costco sized bottle of neon green punch. With potato chips.

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Either way, I’m sure the kids will enjoy it.

A for freaking effort…

For today’s fun, we’ll talk about grades. And report cards. And other such school related magic.

A few days ago, I said this:

” Yeah…we’re not really worried about grades at this point.”

And with that statement, in this day of accolades, achievements, test scores, perfectionism, and helicopter parenting, I broke every cardinal rule of modern day child rearing. I think I broke the assistant principal, too, because she looked at me a little like this:

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In her defense, my kids attend a really, truly amazing school full of educationally committed parents who line up at the office door if their kids so much as get a B on a math test or fail to make the fabulous wall of achievement in the hallway. So I can’t really blame her for the complete and utter shock at what really came across as the underachieving parental philosophy of the year. I’m fairly certain she thought I was sealing my child’s fate as a future high school drop out and alley dweller.

Her response to me was: ” Shouldn’t you be?”

My response. “Nope.”

To clarify, I had said that we were not worried about grades “at this point.” As in we weren’t worried right now, in this moment, at this particular present time.

My oldest kid entered middle school this year, and sixth grade did not hit us like a freight train. It hit us like a freight train carrying rockets carrying nuclear missiles. Schedule changes. New routines. Multiple tests, homework, and projects to study for all at once. Too many binders. Work checks. Algebra. Seven different teachers with seven different ways of doing things and the expectation that all of these sweet, wonderful, children will just magically adjust and achieve stuff with a test, project, and homework load that would make most adults cry a river of frustrated tears.

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Yep. So there’s that. And this:

My kid has the typical attention span issues that many kids face. She also has a healthy dose of learning issues, accompanied by the usual school related anxiety and lack of organizational skills that comes with this bit of fun. Throw in a great big helping of  tween hormones and all of the social nonsense of middle school, and you’ve got a recipe for a hot mess.

So no, I wasn’t worried about grades. I was worried about her assignments coming home. I was worried about her turning things in. I was worried about her studying and studying, only to have her fail a test because she got nervous. I was worried about her having to redo math assignments, because she wrote an answer wrong, or solved an equation right to left instead of left to right. I worried about mean teachers and I worried about meaner kids. I worried about her self-esteem. I worried about her giving up.

So here we are, near the end of this first year, and while most of my giant pile of worry has been cast aside, I still refuse to worry about the damn grades.

Because last night, my kid spent four and a half hours doing  homework. Homework that she remembered to bring home, on her own, without my help. Homework that she knew would take her twice as long as the children she refers to as “those responsible kids”, and probably eat up most, if not all of her free time.  For math, she told me she had to do page 975. It was actually 579. I watched as she wrote the answer 12 as a 21, erased and wrote again. I watched as she sat there diligently, writing, erasing, and rewriting, until it was all done correctly, because she had promised this teacher she would “do better.” Several weeks ago she took it upon herself to do all her math on graph paper because it was “easier to keep track of the numbers.” Then it was on to the next assignment, which took even longer, because answering questions on a test review isn’t easy when the format of the book confuses your eyes. And then typing on the computer, because it is easier to see your spelling and grammar errors and impossible to reverse a letter when you’ve got good old MS word helping you out. And then the studying. For a Social Studies quiz that may or may not go well, depending on the level of anxiety, the absence or presence of a word bank, and the random distractions going on in the classroom. Over four hours of this. So, as she said, she “could bring her grades up.”

So grades are the least of my worries.  Because in this year alone I have watched my child demonstrate more perseverance and execute more problem solving skills than most adults my age. I’ve watched her take a situation that completely overwhelmed her, and find ways to make it not so overwhelming. I’ve watched her try, and fail, and try and fail, and keep trying. I’ve watched her cry about her report card and say she “isn’t smart” because she wasn’t seeing those A’s and then work harder, even though we have told her over and over again that her best effort is more than good enough. I’ve watched her come home beaming from a nice compliment from a teacher or a successful day. I’ve watched her handle her challenges with bravery, humor, and the occasional sarcasm. I’ve watched her pick herself up from failure, and celebrate success. So while I don’t denigrate the importance of grades, I can’t place them high on the list at this moment, because what my kid (and so many other kids dealing with whatever stuff they are dealing with in this modern age)  has accomplished in a single year can’t be measured by a letter on a piece of paper.

So yeah, I’m not really worried about grades at this point. Because my kid is an effing rockstar. So is yours. So are the “responsible kids.” So are the kids on the wall, and the kids with straight A’s, and the kids working their butts off to pass a class. They get an an  A for freaking effort.

So is the wise teacher who wrote this. Perhaps I will send it to our assistant principal.

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