Category Archives: list

The Runaway Mama’s Guide to Organizing Your Kid’s Schoolwork


You started the school year with a folder, bin, or paper bag to hold all of the artwork, school projects, report cards, and other stuff your kids brought home. By winter break, you made an audition video for “Hoarders.” By spring, the local fire department declared your house a fire hazard.

It didn’t end there. On Monday of the last week of school, the paper dump began. Every notebook, folder, agenda, journal, workbook, worksheet, drawing, pencil, pen, crayon, marker, eraser, glue stick, and piece of paper your kid doodled on during the year made its trek home. By the last day of school, you. couldn’t. even.

Sound familiar? Don’t panic. Follow these simple steps and I promise you’ll finish organizing your kid’s schoolwork just in time to collect it all over again in the fall.

1. Deal with it. Don’t ignore it or hide it in the basement or a closet to get it out of the way. It will never go away, and you’ll wander aimlessly through life wondering why you never reached your full potential.

2. Get rid of all of it. (Optional) This is a risky move, but it’s also completely understandable. If you can sleep at night and you aren’t concerned about having trust issues with your adult children, go for it. Also, you’re my hero.

3. Get your head in the game. Find a quiet, comfortable spot to sit. Close your eyes. Take some deep, cleansing breaths. Think about the time when your own parents cleaned out their basement and hauled several boxes filled with crap precious childhood memories to your house. Think about the rage emotion this made you feel because What the hell am I supposed to do with all of this crap?! Now open your eyes and repeat after me: I WILL BREAK THE CYCLE.

4. Pick the weeds. Throw away homework. Fractions worksheets are not priceless. Dispose of everything inside your kid’s petri dish pencil case. Remnants of every stomach bug, lice breakout, and strep throat epidemic reside on each sticky, grimy pencil stump. If you can sterilize the actual pencil case, keep it for next year. If not, dump it.

Pro Tip: When in doubt, throw it out!

5. Tear through it – all of it – Marie Kondo-style. Does it bring you joy? Keep it. If not, toss it! The things you should keep will jump out of the pile at you. If nothing leaps right away, keep digging. This is the lightning round. Be brave. Be bold. Pour yourself a cocktail. Everything’s going to be okay.

Pro Tip: Do not do the lightning round with your kids. Get rid of the toss pile immediately or run the risk of never EVER getting past step #5.

6. Take a break. Put what’s left in a neat pile and walk away from it for a few weeks. Perspective is everything. Or, time heals all wounds. You need to rest and re-energize before you tackle the second half of the project. Besides, spending oodles of intimate, unstructured quality time with your kids will give you the motivation you need to ruthlessly play the keep or toss game all over again.

7. Repeat! With fresh eyes, cut your keep pile by at least a third. You can do hard things!

Pro Tip: Do a keep or toss lightning round for the previous year’s schoolwork. You’ll be amazed what still feels worth saving (or not) a year later.

8. Prepare to archive. Write your child’s name, grade, and school year on the bottom corner or back side of everything that makes the final cut. If you think you’re going to remember these details ten years, weeks, or minutes from now, ask yourself what you ate for breakfast this morning and/or the date of your last period. Trust me. You’ll forget.

9. Choose your storage system. Consider the long view. When it’s all said and done, you’ll have at least a dozen years of schoolwork on your hands. Whether you choose boxes, bins, or bags, keep them compact so you don’t need to rent a storage pod to hang on to book reports no one cares about. I chose an extra-large artwork portfolio with expandable pockets. It’s doesn’t have a large capacity, but that’s precisely why I picked it. It forces me to choose what to keep and toss judiciously.

Pro Tip: There will be extra stuff, like yearbooks, trophies, and framed photos, that need to be stored elsewhere. Get one plastic bin for each kid and label everything.

10. Put it away! Store everything in dry place for 20-25 years, at which point it will be your turn to enrage surprise your grown kids with a U-Haul filled with priceless hand print turkeys, awkward school pictures, perfect attendance certificates, and Venn diagrams from their childhood.

You did it! You finished organizing your kid’s schoolwork! Buy yourself a new pair of shoes, a bottle of wine, or some Snoopy bandages for all of those paper cuts to celebrate your awesomeness. Just be quick about it because it’s time for back-to-school shopping. Hurry before the glue sticks are sold out!

Raising kids is hard. I’m here to help. Read more in “The Runaway Mama’s Guide to…” series here.

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The Runaway Mama’s Guide To Preventing Lice


I don’t generally take requests for writing topics, but an old friend reached out for some practical advice on how to handle lice, or more precisely, the threat of lice, which I will now refer to as “It” because there was once a time when the mere mention of pinkeye would cause puss to ooze from my children’s eyes. I don’t want to provoke the universe any more than necessary, and my head is already feeling itchy.

I’ve never written about It before except probably to inform you that I’m as afraid of It as I am death by great white shark. I had It as a child. I remember the experience well because my mom let me say swear words while she ran that fucking metal comb through my fucking hair for fucking ever. It fucking hurt!

Before we proceed, I feel it’s my duty to admit that It has never infested my children’s heads. My children have also never had the stomach flu, a fever over 101, or a broken bone. Now that I’ve put all of this in writing, I’m pretty much a sitting duck, so I hope you can appreciate my level of commitment to this blog, my faithful readers, and old friends. That, and my stupidity.

Let’s do this before lightning strikes my house. It goes without saying that remaining childless is the best way to prevent It. If, however, you’ve taken the parenting plunge and you find a letter in your child’s backpack informing you that It has been detected at school, here’s what you should do.

  1. Feign ignorance. Burn the letter and pretend It isn’t happening. Like climate change, Donald Trump running for president, and inappropriately sexy Halloween costumes for young girls.
  2. Remain calm. Alternatively, panic. Personally, I’m a panicker. It’s my schtick.
  3. Pour a glass of wine. Leave the bottle out. Actually, get a straw (also my schtick).
  4. Check online to see if you live in one of the 25 states where It has built up a resistance to common over-the-counter treatments. If you live in one of those doomed states, call a realtor immediately. I hear Michigan is lovely in the winter!
  5. If moving isn’t an option, consider homeschooling.
  6. If the thought of teaching your kid common core long division at the kitchen table makes you want It instead, go back to #3 and then skip ahead to #8.
  7. If you’re fortunate enough to reside in one of the 25 states where over-the-counter treatments are still effective, don’t get cocky. (Sh)It still happens.
  8. Call your spouse and insist that he leaves work right away. Someone in the house needs to be sober and available for a wine run. If you’re on your own, make sure a neighbor or friend is on call.
  9. Scream into a pillow and then wash every sheet in the house.
  10. Keep your kid’s hair dirty. In fact, keep him dirty all over. You’ll be amazed how much free time you’ll have to panic, drink wine, scream into a pillow, and fold freshly washed fitted sheets when you don’t have to give your kid a bath.
  11. If you’re the kind of mom who’s a stickler for personal hygiene and routine (whatevs), keep the bath, but skip the shampoo and load your kid’s head with hair styling products in the morning before school. There are also many over-the-counter preventative sprays (conventional and organic) with ingredients like rosemary, mint, and tee tree oil that supposedly help keep It away.
  12. If your kid’s hair is long, put it up, for fuck sake! Tell her to keep that ponytail or braid intact all day or you’ll cut it off. This is not a drill!
  13. Tell your kid not to touch any other kids’ heads, clothes, jackets, shoes, hats, lunch boxes, or backpacks or you’ll cut his hands off. I repeat, this is not a drill!
  14. Don’t let your kid wear a hat to school for “protection.” It’s a rookie mistake that will inevitably result in It happening because if you think that hat won’t end up on other heads during the course of the school day, you must be drunk, which could be my fault.
  15. Call your mom, mother-in-law, or that college friend with whom you’ve lost touch. Karma is a bitch and you need all the positive energy you can muster right now.
  16. Mix together in a blender: 6 strawberries, 1 oz. heavy cream, 4 oz. skim milk, and 1 ½ oz. Belvedere Black Raspberry Vodka. Lather the concoction in your kid’s hair before bed. Kidding! Drink it!
  17. It doesn’t like oil, so dump a jar of mayonnaise on your kid’s head and leave it on overnight under a shower cap (good luck with that!). Or, make yourself a turkey and mayo sandwich because if you’ve been following my advice, you’ve been drinking heavily on an empty stomach.
  18. It doesn’t like extreme hot or cold temperatures, so keep all brushes, combs, and hair accessories in a sealed bag in the freezer. Better yet, keep your kid in the freezer. If your freezer is small like mine, you’ll probably need to make room, but do not under any circumstance sacrifice the ice cream or vodka.
  19. Contact your bank or financial advisor. If It happens, you’ll need to take out a second mortgage on your house to afford the – gulp – lice removal professional who will restore cleanliness and sanity to your home.
  20. Pray. I’m not a religious person, but if ever there was a time, this is it.

Good luck!

p.s. This blog post will self-destruct in 30 seconds. In other words, this conversation never happened.

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