A Real Mom’s Back to School Checklist: Fantasy vs. Reality

It’s that time, Mamas. There’s a hella lot to do to get the kids ready for school, and it’s a damn good thing you’ve had all summer to get it done [insert laugh track].

If you’re anything like me, you want to be the mom who does all the things to ensure a smooth transition back to school, but you also want to be mom who puts all the laundry away and that hardly ever happens.

I’ve created a fantasy vs. reality back to school checklist to point out all the shoulda woulda couldas, but, more importantly, to emphasize what matters—getting your kids’ butts out the door on the first day of school because #ByeFelicia.

Good luck!

 2 months before

Fantasy: Schedule annual physicals and request medical forms for fall sports.

Reality: Build sandcastles. Eat ice cream for dinner. You’ll regret this later, but until that unfortunate Sunday night…

6 weeks before

Fantasy: Sort through last year’s fall/winter clothing to see what still fits or should be donated.

Reality: There is no fall/winter clothing to sort through because your kids refuse to wear pants.

5 weeks before

Fantasy: Check your kids’ progress on summer reading and math assignments.

Reality: Ha! It’s only July!

1 month before:

Fantasy: Purchase school supplies.

Reality: It’s too late. The shelves are stocked for Halloween.

3 weeks before:

Fantasy: Create a “back to school” organization station with color-coded bins, cubbies, and hooks for each kid.

Reality: Put a laundry basket by the front door.

2 weeks before:

Fantasy: Get your kids back on an early bedtime routine.

Reality: That seems like a lot of work when the first morning will be a bitch anyway.

1 week before:

Fantasy: Merge the new school calendar with all extracurricular schedules in a master calendar.

Reality: Your mom group text or local Facebook parents group will remind you about anything important.

3 days before

Fantasy: Meal plan for the first week of school.

Reality: Alphabetize your takeout menus.

The night before

Fantasy: Prepare healthy lunches and snacks.

Reality: You never emptied the lunchboxes in June. Call the EPA emergency hotline and burn lunchboxes in the backyard.

First day of school

Fantasy: Enjoy every moment! They grow up so fast!

Reality: Ask a friend to tag you in her pictures. Binge watch Orange Is the New Black. You can shower tomorrow.


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Hello, My Name Is Dark

Dark was a turning point in our quest to name our first child. Dark as in, Hello my name is Dark. In all fairness to the process, Oscar technically came before Dark, but the look on the grandparents’ faces when we unveiled Oscar forced us back to the drawing board.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to have a daughter named Samantha. Sam for short, like Sam from “Who’s The Boss.” By the time having a baby became a reality, I was into the letter E in a big way. It would be Elliott for a boy or Elsa for a girl, and not that I’m bragging or anything, but I picked Elsa long before the “Frozen” frenzy of 2014.

Alas, that first pregnancy didn’t stick. My Elliott or my Elsa weren’t meant to be.

I did two things after that loss. I got a dog and named him Harry. I also created a new list of baby names that made everyone pray I’d have a boy because who in their right mind would name a girl Agnes, Josephine, or Gertrude when you could name her Emma, Ava, or Sophia.

Worry not. My rainbow baby was a boy. I daydreamed about Henry, Asher, Levi, Booker, Paxton, and (the short-lived) Oscar, but grandparents are an opinionated bunch and spouses get a say, too (sigh), which led us to Dark, which was a dark time, indeed, because I had to reconcile that I married a man who wanted to name a baby Dark.

For obvious reasons, we 86’d Dark (and Oscar), and on an early morning walk with Harry and my cankles, we contemplated Dillon. Or Dillan. Or Dylan.


That was that. Years later, I met a boy named Declan and immediately had baby name regret, but it seemed unfair and potentially confusing to change Dylan’s name, considering how many monogrammed items we owned from Pottery Barn, so I left it alone. But, whenever I needed to speak in code around him—you know, when you want to talk about your young kids in front of them without them knowing you’re talking about them so you either have to spell stuff, which is exhausting, or pretend you’re talking about some other children—I referred to my first-born son as Declan. My second child, when speaking in code was required, was Rebel (never has a name so truly epitomized a child).

Rebel’s birth certificate reads Riley. Not girl Riley, thank you very much. This is a sore subject for my boy Riley. Anyhow, most of his friends call him Nutty. Me? I prefer Riley Pie. My Dylan will always be my Pickle, but tweens embarrass easily. His 10th birthday cake had icing that, per his request, read: “Happy Birthday, Sugar” because Sugar is Life.

So much for all the time and energy we spent picking names.

p.s. I finally got my baby girl (puppy)…

…and her name is Gertrude.




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Filed under motherhood, names

I Used To Hate Summer Vacation. Now I Love It.

I’m in the sweet spot of summer vacation with my kids. It’s like the second trimester of pregnancy when the nausea and exhaustion finally subside and your belly is just big enough to be adorable, but you can still see your toes. And your shoes fit and you don’t have cankles and you can sleep for more than an hour at a time and you don’t pee a little bit in your pants after you pee in the toilet and the baby isn’t nestled right on top of your sciatic nerve. But, I digress.

I didn’t exactly enjoy summers with my boys when they were babies. Saving their wet, slippery, bloated swim diaper-clad lives every 45 seconds in the pool was my kryptonite. The years are short, indeed, but those dog days of summer were undeniably long, and since I lived in a tropical climate, the days were the same in July as they were in November—hot, smelly, and filled with prayers for naps.

Preschool summer camp was a respite. I don’t miss paying the tuition, but I did love how school days transitioned seamlessly into camp days filled with structure, fun, messes for someone else to clean, and a few toddler-free hours for me to catch my breath and buy tampons at Target alone.

Early elementary school summers were marked by strong opinions. I do not want to go to all day camp or tennis camp or sleepaway camp or ANY camp. They were too young to understand I needed space and not old enough yet to let me pee alone. But camp is a must or Mommy will combust!

They went. They survived. I dare say, they thrived. At the very least, they learned how to play Ga-Ga (whatever that is). Then, we moved to a place far, far away where the locals appeared to enjoy spending endless summer days with their offspring. It was either Mars or Northern New Jersey. Begrudgingly, I assimilated.

Last summer, we dabbled because dabbling is a thing in these unknown parts. A week-long STEM camp. Boring. A half-day, week-long nature camp. Scary. (In their defense, there was an incident with a wasp nest.) A two-week stint at a traditional day camp. Too long. Then, we all got lice. The end.

But this summer?

This summer, I drink hot coffee while they sleep. They stay home for brief periods of time while I breathe and buy tampons alone. Don’t fret. There are strict rules. Also, we stay in touch with Donald Trump memes and gifs of pugs playing the piano. Our camp selections are balanced—not too boring, wasp-free, and just long enough—and we have a rhythm to our drum lesson drop-offs and library pick-ups.

I sit in the shade with a book while they do six million cannon balls off the community pool diving board. I can barely hear them say, “Mommy, watch this!” and they barely care. My ten-year-old is officially allowed to be dropped off at the pool on his own. I haven’t done it yet, but I will, because, damn it, tweens are a moody bunch.

I’m not even close to counting down the days until the alarm clock must be set, lunches must be made, and reading logs must be signed. In fact, I hope this summer never ends. I’m wise enough to know the 3rd trimester of summer vacations looms, but until then, I’m positively glowing.



Filed under summer