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Back to School Time: Moms Are Off to a Running Start

For many parents, shopping for school supplies is a test of endurance, requiring mental and physical stamina. On the heels of the summer Olympics, I can’t help but to compare this competitive back-to-school ritual to an athletic race.

Picture this: Teams of children and their moms in running shoes take their marks at the store entrance. When the whistle blows, they grab their buggies and sprint to the school supply isle located strategically next to the Halloween candy.

Racers break into a sweat as they lunge for hole reinforcers, zippered pencil pouches, protractors, and other items in accordance to strict regulations on the supply list. For example, points are deducted for college-ruled (instead of wide-ruled) notebook paper. Non-washable markers are grounds for disqualification. All participants must pass a caffeine-free test and be old enough to drive a shopping cart. No coupons are allowed.

Prizes are awarded to the top three teams to cross the checkout line. The bronze finisher wins a $50 gift card for the school cafeteria; the silver medallist goes home with a case of Post-it notes; and the gold medal champion wins a year’s worth of glue sticks and an unlimited gym pass.

My point is that everything in life seems to move faster these days. In the department stores, mannequins already wear turtlenecks, and I’m still trying to find the perfect swimsuit. That’s why when it comes to school supplies, I waste no time stocking up on spiral notebooks and index cards. I begin my quest for three-ring binders before the first day of summer camp even begins. My intentions are to get better organized, and Jack and Sari share my enthusiasm.

In preparation for his last year of middle school, Jack hoards more mechanical pencils than a graphic design studio. If his enormous collection of lead refills is any indication of how much he plans to study in eighth grade, I won’t stop him.

Sari takes her school supplies seriously as well. Now in fourth grade, she scrutinizes over which two pocket folders have the most adorable pictures of puppies on the cover. Likewise, it takes no less than an hour to choose a new insulated lunch bag that coordinates with her backpack.

Finally, the school year is off to a great start. My kids go to bed earlier. Plus, I listen to whatever music I want when I drive. I also have an excuse to buy mini crackers and bite size cookies for school lunches.

Best of all, I like to have my routine back and time for myself. Most moms share this sentiment, although a handful of parents dread the end of summer because they miss their children. To them, I say, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. If you or your business would like to donate school supplies to students in the St. Louis metropolitan area who can’t afford to start the new school year with the basic tools to learn, please contact KidsSmart (www.kidsmartstl.org) or visit my website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.

Sidebar: More than 80,000 students in St. Louis can’t afford basic school supplies like pencils, paper and crayons. KidSmart Tools for Learning helps these children succeed in school by providing free school supplies through KidSmart’s Free Store.
Donations from individuals and businesses help keep the shelves of KidSmart’s Free Store stocked with everything from crayons, markers and glue to business surplus items such as binders, envelopes and promotional items. Community volunteers stock the shelves, manage inventory and keep the free store running each shopping day.

KidSmart distributes the supplies through teachers who shop at KidSmart’s Free Store once a month. After shopping, teachers distribute the materials directly into the hands of our kids in need. Schools where 70% or more of the children are on the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program, a national poverty index, qualify to shop at KidSmart.

Since opening in 2002, KidSmart has distributed nearly $8 million in school supplies to more than 40,000 economically disadvantaged children in the area. There are still more than 40,000 students in desperate need of KidSmart services.