Avoiding First Week of School Fails


The smell of pencil shavings permeates the air, kids’ tennis shoes are actually clean, not yet filled with various shades of rubber mulch, and bus fumes are hanging above every suburban corner because the first day of school has arrived!

I’m not clicking my heels up too much. It’s always bittersweet. I desperately love my children and enjoyed having them around for almost all 2,880 hours this summer, but I must confess, it’s time for my darlings to increase their mental capacity outside of my home.

Clearly, things won’t go perfectly the first week of school; but I am proud to say if both my children are accounted for after a summer of fun and vacationing, and if I can get them into the car with shoes and something other than a swimsuit, I will chock that up to a major success. I’ve learned to lower my standards substantially.

However, it always helps to have a refresher course on things to avoid when getting back into the school routines.

How to Prevent First Week of School Parenting Fails

Make sure not to get lectured by your child because they were the only kid in 3rd grade who didn’t have a snack or water bottle for the first four days.

Never mix up the Dora the Explorer and Spiderman lunchboxes. Don’t think that hazing can’t start in elementary school.

Always sign up to volunteer for school activities, but don’t be hopped up on Red Bull or a double espresso when doing so. Your calendar will yell at you later.

Avoid driving your minivan the wrong way in the drop-off lane simply because you forgot to read the email explaining the changes to last year’s intricate system.

Beware of forgetting to check the school lunch calendar on the day the cafeteria serves mashed “potatoes.” If you failed to pack your kids’ lunches, you will know as soon as they get in the car, what a disaster it was and how the stink of the potatoes made them want to puke – followed by gagging noises all the way home.

Don’t forget to show up for the PTO coffee, despite the fact you organized it, are to lead the meeting and also are the person who volunteered to bring the coffee.

Never forget to set a timer to warn you it’s time to pick up the kids because you’ll get a phone call from the front office sweetly asking if you were planning on retrieving your children. The niceness on the line only makes the parental embarrassment more horrifying.

Don’t assume you purchased your kids’ school supplies online earlier in the summer, especially if you are prone to gloat how you wouldn’t be enduring the end of the summer craziness at Target like everyone else. Because it will be your Johnny who’ll come home crying on Day One asking where his pencils and notebooks are.

And to avoid the worst fail of them all, don’t ever trust your memory by not double-checking the district calendar. That last week of your family vacation you took right before school starts will be ruined when you hear 14 messages on your answering machine, asking why your kids have been absent all week and if they need to be taken off the class register.

Not that any of these fails have happened to me. Aren’t we all perfect parents?

 (previously published in The Kansas City Star newspaper on 8/8/15)

It’s hard getting back into the swing of things. Have you ever done anything ridiculous on the first week of school?


Canning Cucumbers has me Pickled

canned tomatoes and cucumbers in a glass jar isolated on white background

Have you ever had one of those days when you think you just can’t handle it anymore? I’m not talking about ending it all, but perhaps an impromptu locking yourself in the hall closet and not coming out until your luck improves.

My near breakdown recently was due to cucumbers.

It started in early May, when my husband who is the master of his garden plot, decided to change up the summer vegetables. He had read about hay bale gardening in some hipster article and thought it sounded unique and interesting.

Since our suburbanite soil is at least five-feet of clay deep, and our vegetable harvest in years past has resembled an elementary school science project involving moldy beans in wet paper towels, I agreed a change was in order.

Nine years ago, when my husband insisted we needed a minivan, little did I know it wasn’t for roomy family traveling, but for turning it into a flat bed truck and hauling sheetrock, lumber and two metric tons of hay bales.


After removing all of the seats, he filled it to the roof with cattle food – a nice earthy aroma that only livestock could savor. Consequently, I will be pulling out straw from my seat cracks until the cows come home.


Back to hoarding cucumbers…little did we know hay bale farming would prove to be so successful. We had eighty pounds of them in the first few months. Yes, we weighed them. My cute husband chooses to enjoy math.

After scouring canning cucumbers websites for Pinteresting recipes, I remembered the only recipe that had consistently failed was a good dill pickle recipe. I begged friends on Facebook to send their favorite tried recipes and was excited to begin canning.

Why didn’t I remember that annually for the past four years, I had sworn aloud I would never, ever, as God as my witness, can any vegetable or fruit again?

I do declare, that aging plus memory fails equals plain rudeness.

After making cucumber salsa, cucumber salads, and a few new Asian recipes, I pulled out the canning supplies from the basement. Three trips later, I had the smell of vinegar, garlic and dill scorching my nose and clinging to my clothing and hair. I was transforming into the little gherkin that could.

After sterilizing the jars and filling them with fresh ingredients, it was time for the boiling bath. Fifteen minutes later, I reached for my canning tongs to sadly find they had broken in half. Being creative and overly confident, I fashioned a replacement tool constructed from kitchen tongs and spatulas. What could go wrong with that?

My first attempt to retrieve a jar from the rolling boil did not go as planned. The apparatus wasn’t strong enough for a solid grip on the metal lid and the jar splashed back into the kettle burning my hand and wrist. A smart person would have halted the operation, but I wouldn’t be writing about this if I had slapped on a Band-Aid and turned off the stove.

Now I was really irritated and driven to succeed. After cooling my burned skin in the sink briefly, I went back to try again. Strike two! This time the wave of scalding water jumped on my neck and upper chest. Hell has no fury like a woman with her tongs.

In order to get even with the inanimate objects, I dove once more into the fire to find my abdomen and shirt doused. Apparently, it took only four times for my smarts to kick in, so I threw in the towel and my inferior tongs.

I’m not proud of my tenacity or stubbornness because at times like this, it’s literally a pain in the neck. So I’m taking a break from pickling. My epidermis will surely thank me for it.

Unfortunately, the tomatoes are coming in strong and canned salsa sounds delicious.

Do I have any takers for the job?

Do you can veggies or anything else or would you rather douse yourself in boiling water than get involved in the process?

My Husband is Trying to Kill me

Biking is his Weapon of Choice

husbandkillIt was a bright, sunshiny day. My husband and I planned to enjoy our time together sans daughters because they were spending a few days at their grandparents.

It was a perfect day. The birds were singing while perched atop their favorite branch, as gentle breezes swayed them back and forth. The puffy clouds danced above forming various animal designs.

That’s what I dreamed while gazing out my kitchen window. Then I noticed the temperature gauge and 99 degrees barked in my face. Mother Nature wasn’t messing around.

I’m not sure how I got hoodwinked into taking a bicycle ride at high noon. I didn’t owe my husband anything. My mental capacity wasn’t diminished. But somehow I was persuaded it was a grand idea. Obviously, my husband is trying to kill me.

There was one slight problem. I don’t know how to ride a bike anymore. The idiot who said riding a bike is “just like riding a bike” had obviously never met me.

When I was a child, however, I had my blue bike with a silver-striped banana seat. Every Fourth of July, I would decorate it with streamers and playing cards in the spokes for our annual parade.

I even rode my bike delivering newspapers when I was older. I’m fairly certain it takes balance and skill, so at one time I was adept at pedaling and coasting downhill.

Until I met my husband, I hadn’t thought about owning another bike. Why would I need one of those when I had a car and legs?

I’m a walker. I enjoy watching the scenery as I stroll along. When my friends and I were training for a walking marathon many moons ago, we probably covered every trail in the metro.

Bicyclists would come blazing down the trail from behind and yell out, “On the left!” After jumping out of our skin, we would roll our young eyes and titter about bikers who were whizzing by nature’s beauty.

This was about the time I started dating my husband. While I was training for the marathon, he was training for the Bike MS 150. Apparently, this bike event is a big deal and not just an opportunity to wear tight shiny shorts in public.

So the other day, when wearing some of my husband’s shiny non-breathable clothing and had a strangling helmet strapped on, I realized there was no turning back. A bike ride was in my immediate future because in his own sweet way, my husband was trying to kill me.

Word to the wise: if you are getting basic instructions on operating bike gears before getting on a trailhead, you might not be a biker.

Needless to say, I never got the whole “gear” thing down. There were several times when the chain hopped off the bike to mock me, leaving me at bottoms of hills pedaling slowly to nowhere. I was going downhill quickly on an incline.

That’s when it happened. I decided my husband was plotting to kill me. Shouting ahead, I inquired if he’d made any changes to our life insurance policy. Perhaps he found some woman to raise our children. A younger version of me, but not funny and a bad cook, who loved biking, worked at a bike store so she got a great discount on shiny apparel, and had a bell on her handle bar to warn those pesky walkers.

My impending need to vomit didn’t come from those wild thoughts. Spinning my wheels in the near 100-degree weather was what nearly drove me to the ER. Heat exhaustion is a nasty beast and I strongly advise against it.

Per my request, my loving husband left me alone on a curb to rest and drink water. As he raced home to get the minivan to pick up his red-faced, nauseated wife, I dramatically texted friends to say my goodbyes – just in case I died on the curb.

Thankfully, I was wrong. My husband wasn’t trying to kill me. That gives a lady a boost in confidence! But it will be a long while before I hop on a bike.

If God wanted people to ride bikes, we would have wheels instead of feet.

It’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

One hot mama

One hot mama







Are you a biker or Walker/Runner? Or can you be both?

Summer Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose

As I open the newspaper each morning, I read about someone who has performed some horrendous crime. Why is it that further into the summer months the offenses become more frequent and irrational?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because everyone is losing their blooming “summer mind.”


Never heard of summer mind? I know you’ve felt it in suburbia – especially if you have children.

The beginning of summer is brimming with possibilities of sleeping in late, splashing in the pool and relaxing vacations. All the while you never have to harp on your kids about homework or shuttle around vans bursting with cleated-children to their 50 million soccer games.

This is your bliss time.

But then by the middle of summer, something happens. Many vacations are over and by the end of the trip; the entire family is getting on each other’s last nerve.

And the neighborhood pool seems so far away even though it’s within walking distance. How many times do the kids need to go swimming anyway?

“Honey, it’s just too hot to go to the pool. Maybe when it cools down a touch.”

Plus, you could get chiggers or mosquito bites on the walk there, and you don’t want to apply your Coppertone 50 and then bug spray.  DEET is a don’t in the pool, for sure!!

Then you have all those towels to dry again for the 7th time this week. Oh, goody… more laundry!

Well folks, it’s mid-July and the summer honeymoon phase is OVER! Take a leap summer. I’m ready for a crisp October.

So the felons in the news, who maybe don’t have air conditioning or a pool down the street, do you think they were pushed over the brink by the sweltering heat?

They just couldn’t take it anymore, and in a fit of heat stroke, they robbed a Dollar store. Here in Kansas City the other day, someone held up a thrift shop for charity.


This is the best you can come up with?!

I don’t understand why “dollar-type” stores seem to be frequently robbed. Doesn’t the word “dollar” make one think perhaps that store wouldn’t have a lot of cash inside since they are only selling things FOR ONE DOLLAR?!

Obviously, the people here…have lost their summer minds.

Or maybe the unfortunate people on the news have been locked up all day with their children with no breaks.

The three-month summer break keeps these kids home-locked. If the parent can’t afford daycare or programs for the children to get out of the house, the whines of “I’m bored” or “I’m hungry” or “Get Bobby off my head!” can be overwhelming. There really is so much one parent can take.

Hence, another parent loses their summer mind.

I’m not saying these behaviors are justifiable. As I tell my girls, “Illegal behavior is…illegal.”

But there is a side of me that just nods my head and thinks, “Oh, the Demons of Summer have stolen another parent.”

Luckily, I am fortunate to ship send my girls off to camps, and have relatives who will gladly help out to watch them during the summer so our family can get a break from each other. Just an overnight can make all the difference and help us reboot our emotional summer hard drive.

We only have three more weeks until school starts back up in our neck of the woods.

So I’m going to suck it up, spray on some bug spray for the walk to the pool, paint on my happy face, and splash with my kids in the water.

One thing is for sure…until the temperature drops, I’m keeping my distance from the Dollar and Thrift Stores.

Are you getting to that maxed out feeling? Ready for the kids to go back to school or are you sad that they are leaving you? I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

Lost Stuffed Monkey Discovery Prompts Social-media Search for Owner

11709430_10207055599779032_682904509662740112_nGrady Reid of Olathe was driving through the busy intersection of 121st and Blue Valley Parkway on July 4 when he noticed something odd in the opposite lane. He turned his car around, and as if the tides had parted, there were no cars behind him.

He managed to stop, pick up a stuffed monkey and bring it home — beginning his quest to find the toy’s owner.

“He was in rough shape,” said the father of one and television cameraman for a local station. “This belongs to someone, but I didn’t have any grand ideas about how to broadcast it.”

To the rescue: Social media.

“First thing I did was take a picture and put it on my Facebook page. Then I called work, and asked our web producer if they could put it out there. That same day they it was on their station’s Twitter feed,” Reid said.

Within 24 hours, he watched the infectious story grow as nearly 15,000 shares were made on Facebook from the funny half-dozen photos he posted. Reid said he couldn’t figure out how many people saw it on Twitter, but that “it was fun watching it all day retweeting and retweeting.”

Reid empathized with the thought of child missing his or her loved one.

“I have a kid. So as a parent, we’ve all been through that — lost something close to us. My kid left something behind in a restaurant once and we’ve gone back to get it. I think every parent has done that.”

That’s why Reid has not given up the fight. Even though the little chimp still hasn’t found his buddy, there have been several good leads.


Monkey’s first mugshot

Three days later, a woman contacted Reid saying the photos on Facebook looked like her daughter’s stuffed monkey who had been lost for four years. She claimed their monkey had extra markings where the girl’s grandmother had added extra stitch work.

Reid was on his way home from working a night shift when her text came through.

“I was pulled over in a strip mall at midnight, texting pictures of the monkey’s ear and tail,” he said.

The woman said the grandmother could meet him right then. And since she had done the stitching, the grandmother would recognize it better.

“Now I’m meeting old ladies in parks and looking at stitch work,” Reid said laughing. Alas it was not hers.


When will my buddy find me?

Manuel Cantu of Olathe also saw the Facebook photo and sent a text to his 12-year-old daughter, joking that the lost monkey online resembled her stuffed pal, George.

Little did he know that George was missing. A few weeks prior, Cantu’s daughter had gone to Worlds of Fun and then over to a friend’s house for a sleepover. Some time in that stretch of time is when she lost it.

“I bought it when she was born,” said Cantu. “It was 2003.”

This was the missing link to squash their hope of reuniting. Reid noticed the date of production on the missing monkey manufactured by Ty, Inc. was 2009. Sadly, there was no way that it could be George.

“Even down to the missing eye,” said Cantu. Both the monkey on the street and Cantu’s daughter’s buddy had lost the same left black-buttoned eye.

So the search for the owner continues.

“If no one comes forward, maybe my daughter could adopt it,” Cantu said.

(by Stacey Hatton, previously published in The Kansas City Star, July 15, 2015)