First Day of School Rules For Parents

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 12.44.44 PMPrayers have been answered! The first day of school is here. Praise the glory that is the number 2 pencil and all hail the college ruled notebook and three-ring binder.

I will admit that starting school in August seems really, really early and I have some guilt issues that I’m this excited to see my daughter go bye-bye for seven, long, beautiful hours a day. But then I remind myself that school ended for us before Memorial Day and presto I’m no longer feeling bad about doing the back-to-school happy dance.

For those of you curious about what my happy dance looks like it’s a combination of a jig with a little Polka influence, then I throw in some Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever disco with a hip hop influence that says, “This girl still got it” and if I’m really feeling it, like my back doesn’t hurt and my knees are making that weird clicking sound (what’s up with that?), I bust out a cartwheel.

I think I look cool doing it. My husband disagrees and says my “dance” is not only incredibly painful for him to watch, but also scares the dogs and rattles the house’s foundation. Whatever. I think he’s just jealous because really who wouldn’t be? When I do my hip hop inspired Running Man move it’s, it’s . . . well, it’s something else that’s for sure.

The only thing that has the power to kill my happy dance is parents who on day one break some very basic back-to-school rules. This is why I, (whose hip now hurts from landing my cartwheel on my butt) in the spirit on continuing education, will now share with you my top four back-to-school rules.

Rule #1 Do not bring the teacher a gift on the first day. I see this happening every year and it’s in a word – awkward. I don’t care if it’s a Starbucks skim mocha latte with extra foam or a cookie cake. (In the yes this really happened department. One year a mom brought a cookie cake to a teacher and the icing was a picture of the teacher’s face. Yikes!)

The whole gifting the teacher on the first day of school says way too many things about the parent doing it. Who’s ready for a pop quiz?

Does gifting the teacher mean:

A) That you’re the worst kind of suck up. 

B) You’re letting the teachers know you’re willing to reward them for favors.

C) You’re a show off and are using the first day as a way to signal to all the other parents that you’re a Super Mom.

D) All of the above

If you picked D go to the head of the class because you just got an A+.

Rule #2 Do not turn the first day of school into a photo shoot featuring your child. I get it some parents want to publish a coffee table book on their kid’s first day of second grade. But don’t be the parent that asks the teacher to participate in your pictorial to such an extent that it’s creating chaos.

When my son was in the fourth grade there was a dad with two cameras (each with a telephoto lens) around his neck directing the teacher as he clicked away. It was all, “Mrs. Williams can you lean in closer to Katie so I can get another angle? “Okay, now I need you to move your head to the right, pick up a textbook and pretend you’re showing it to Katie.” On and on it went until I stood in front of his cameras. (Someone had to do it.)

 Rule #3 Do not have your mom sorority, clique, gossip girl group, whatever you want to call it, block the forward motion of other families walking into the school because your collection of awesome friends have decided to have a “I haven’t seen you since Bar Method class yesterday” reunion in the foyer of the building.

Ladies, please take all that love to the parking lot or cafeteria and let other parents and their children proceed into the school without having to leap over you or accidentally on purpose hitting your Lululemon Hotty Hot shorts (actual name of a Lulu short BTW) with a Marvel Superhero’s backpack.

Rule #4 If you have a position in PTO/PTA or are a room parent that requires the help of volunteers please (and I’m begging you to take medication if you have to) resist the urge to begin your campaign of volunteer shaming on the very first day. Go ahead and put a flyer in kids backpacks heralding “exciting volunteer opportunities for the school year” but for the love of all that is holy DO NOT start guilt tripping or doing any subtle brow beating as in: “Wow, it seems like I never saw you last year? Did you do any volunteering at all?”  OR “Do you think you can make time for (insert your child’s name here) this year.”  But wait there’s more with this goodie – “It would be nice to know if we can finally count on you.” And last, but not least the classic – “Don’t you care about education?”

Now parents let’s follow these rules and make it a great first day!

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a new book out and for a limited time only it’s just 99 cents for a heaping helping of Snark! You are now gazing at the second book in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Dear Snarky – What Should I do About a Mother Who Cheated to Get Her Kid a Citizenship Award?

dear_snarky_logo-1Dear Snarky,

I know it’s summer but I’m still angry about something that happened the last day of school. My son is in elementary school and every year they have an awards ceremony. This year the same girl got almost every award including a citizenship award that you have to be nominated for by a school employee and a student.

Well come to find out the school nurse and the kid that did the nominating BOTH have family members that work for the winning kid’s dad. The mother of the student that wrote the nomination letter even said she was approached by the kid’s mom and was more told than asked to have her child write a nomination letter for this girl. She, of course, made her kid do it because she didn’t want any work repercussions.

I want to write my own letter to the school and point out the hypocrisy of their awards ceremony that they let a mom micromanage so her kid wins everything. My husband says to just let it go. What do you think? Shouldn’t I take a stand?

Signed, Still Angry

Dear Angry,

I’ve got to agree with your husband on this one. Move on sister and enjoy what’s left of your summer. This battle is not worth your time. The hyper controlling, manipulating, so her kid gets everything mom is a dime a dozen these days. You might as well be playing Whac-A-Mole. Once you take down one, another pops up.

In fact, by the time your kid gets into high school any award that is not validated by a third-party and is in no way connected to the school are the only ones anyone pays any attention to. For example, a National Merit Award based on scores for a test taken outside the school and tabulated by strangers in state far, far, away – that’s one you’ll be impressed by.

Yes, it’s sad this is the way things are now, but until parents quit placing their own self-worth and validation on the back of their kids I fear nothing is going to change anytime soon.

*If you have a question for Dear Snarky “21st Century Advice With An Attitude” please email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com or leave me a private message on my Snarky Facebook page.

 

For All The Moms Who Have Completed Their Elementary School Tour of Duty

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 11.13.12 AMI have my fair share of personality quirks. One of them is that I’m not very sentimental. For example, I didn’t need a box of Kleenex and waterproof mascara when my youngest child completed her elementary school career. It’s actually surprising to me the number of mothers that get all choked up about this “milestone.”

Listen up moms, instead of boo hoo you should be going yahoo! Because not having a child in elementary is a cornucopia of awesome. Yes, there’s still a whole lot of stuff to deal with parenting an older child, like teen angst, having a kid drive and all that college prep stress. But there’s also freedom for you, as in you no longer have to be involved in the day-to-day management of your kid’s classroom life.

Just in case you doubt me on this I have compiled the top four reasons to be elated that you are no longer an elementary school mom.

No More Dioramas – This alone should be reason enough for a party. You can now actually look at a shoebox without experiencing harrowing flashbacks to various diorama dramas. I’m still haunted by my daughter’s second grade diorama project that featured the planet Saturn. Do you know how hard it is to get the rings of Saturn not just around a shoebox, but to stay affixed? Let me help you out with that answer. It’s four glasses of wine hard.

No More Homework Help – Yeah, your kid may still need help with their homework in high school, but you won’t be smart enough to do it. I don’t care if you’re right now doing the math for a manned mission to Mars high school algebra will still be beyond your capability. The reason is because the way you were taught to do algebra back in the day is all wrong. Sure, the answers will be the same, but the show your work part will not be up to the 21st century spread sheet that is now high school math.

No More Room Moms – I can say this because I have a long history of being a room mom, so here goes – room moms can suck. In my experience they come in four varieties:

1) They’re either laid back and focused on fun for the kids.

2) Super anal and controlling to the point that you get 20 emails and 32 texts reminding you that you signed up to bring napkins to the winter party.

3) They volunteered for the gig so they could attempt to be the teacher’s bestie and could care less about actually getting things done.

4) Put the B in the bitch and are using their “room mom” status as phase one in their goal for global domination.

To experience a school year without a room mom or home room party obligation is a most joyous thing.

No More Book Report Projects – My children’s book report projects almost killed MY love of reading. You might as well have signed me up for electroshock therapy whenever one of them announced they had a book project due.

I thought I was an emotionally strong woman until my son had an assignment that involved him making a puppet. I’m not ashamed to admit that a puppet of George Washington broke me – not just a little bit, but on my knees in the kitchen doing the ugly cry broke me.

It felt all kinds of wrong hating the father of our country, but hate him I did because I had to construct a freaking marionette puppet of G.W. in all his breeches, pilgrim shoe and tricorn hat glory.

Oh, and just in case you’re thinking big deal you had to draw and color puppet let me clue you in to the fact that the puppet had to be wearing clothes. That’s right, I had to sew a teeny, tiny presidential outfit.

Finally, I got smart about the project and just gave up on the whole marionette thing of attaching strings. I also abandon ship on sewing. In a final act of desperation I raided my daughter’s Barbie Princess Castle, stripped the Prince Charming doll of his pants and shirt and called it a day.

The next morning as I walked my son into his classroom I was feeling okay about the puppet. It wasn’t great, but it looked like an 8 year-old-had done it (or an emotionally fragile mom at 2 a.m). Then I saw the rest of the kids’ puppets. God Bless America, one girl had a George Washington puppet that was three feet tall, outfitted in satin breeches with a cutaway jacket, a cravat and hair! The puppet had a wig. Who does that? It was also outfitted with a voice box.

The puppet, I kid you not, sang the Star Spangled Banner. It may have been highly immature of me to point out to the girl’s mother the historical inaccuracy of George Washington singing the Star Spangled Banner, but how could I not? You don’t just bring a wig-wearing puppet into a classroom and not expect some blowback.

So for all you moms who are no longer parenting an elementary school child rejoice for you are free or at least free from show off mothers who have puppeteering skills.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

 

Four Fab Fundraising Ideas

1fb5387a132366d121e67849c4cedcdaI don’t know about you but right now I’m completely stocked up on gift-wrap, cookie dough, popcorn and coupon books. In fact, just when I thought it was safe to open my door, my email, and venture into the office break room the secondary onslaught of school fundraisers has started. Now, I’m being hit up to buy raffle tickets, magazines and partake in school carnival “underwriting opportunities.” This madness has to stop. Lucky for all of us I have a plan.

The problem, as I see it, is that kids are selling things no one really needs. So to more accurately target the desires of the suburban consumer I have come up, what I think are, four full proof fundraising strategies.

PTA Paint Ball – This would replace the “adult only” school fundraiser. Which is where parents buy tickets to attend a party, with hopefully a hosted bar, and bid on auction items to raise money for their child’s school. While, extremely popular in the past decade, enthusiasm and attendance for these kinds of events are waning. Sure, it was fun, in an, “Oh wow, I didn’t see that coming” kind of way to witness parents, fueled by alcohol, fight over who would be the high bidder on the third grade class basket. But even that gets old year after year.

The Paintball event would allow you, under the cover of “supporting education,” to “decorate” last year’s snooty home room mom with a direct hit and blast away at the PTA president who rolls her eyes every time you ask a question at a meeting.

Get Out of Volunteering for One Year Raffle – What mother wouldn’t want to spend a couple or a hundred dollars for the chance to win a Get Out of Volunteering Card from their child’s school. Imagine the joy and sweet, sweet freedom this would bring you. Anytime you get an email asking for help or get harassed by Sign Up Genius you can just type back, “I’ve got the card.”

Even better, when you feel certain you’re getting bullied by some moms, who have been known to surround the driver’s side window of your car at school pick up, because you haven’t done, what they think, is your volunteer due diligence you can just roll up your window, while mouthing, “I’ve got the card.”

TMZ the Suburbs – For a yearly fee, discreetly charged to your credit card, you can subscribe to a monthly digital newsletter that would be gossip central for your slice of suburbia. Want to know who got a brand new set of “twins” that answer to the name of Double D this newsletter can let you know. Or curious about the neighbor who is “downsizing” but you suspect is in divorce mode TMZ the Suburbs can help. The beauty is anyone can write this. No real-time has to be spent investigating or following leads.

For example, if you publish, “a certain mom with blonde hair that’s says ‘I go to the salon twice a month to maintain this Goldilocks wannabe mane,’ and has an acute fondness for XS Lululemon yoga pants, (even though she should really try going up a size or two, just saying) was seen driving her import SUV away from the local fear of aging Surgical Center this morning” you’ve got it made. Because, you’ve just described more than half the women in the burbs and you know at least one was getting something done. So bingo, you’ve got the Circle of Life of gossip. This is the kind that points a finger at many targets and gives the gift of speculation thus fueling more gossip.

Police Ride Along Auction – I want to do this one so badly I would consider selling an organ to finance my attempt to be the high bidder. I mean, who wouldn’t want to ride shotgun with local law enforcement as, per your directions, they patrol the school drop off and pick up lines? Even better they’ll be issuing tickets to all the idiots and the Rules Don’t Apply to Me parents, whom for years have been wreaking havoc, threatening public safety and your sanity, with their morning and afternoon behavior.

Think of the ecstasy you would experience as the Escalady, who almost every afternoon cuts into the front of the pick up line by backing up her rig right into the cross walk, is asked to not only get out of her car but, in front of all the parents, is issued a DWI field sobriety test, because anyone who does this everyday, after repeatedly being told not to, surely must be drunk or high.

I say we start the bidding at $1,500. Do I hear 2,000?

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

Tusk, Tusk, Another Hyper Involved Parent

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There are few things I dread more than a school project. I believe the diorama is evil and an instrument of Satan and my children’s science, history and invention fair entries have made me cry and I’m not talking tears of joy.

In fact, the last place I ever want to be is frantically searching the aisles at a craft store on a Thursday night looking for chopsticks/wooden dowels/ or anything Martha Stewart-y to make a mobile. But there I was with my “It maybe the last-minute but that doesn’t make it late” child in a race to buy supplies for a project due in less than 12 hours.

As I was crouched down digging through a bin of reduced American Girl Craft kits thinking about how I could use different parts to make a decent mobile, I see a mom I know. She had all the tell-tale signs of “School Project Over Kill.” Her hands were singed from excessive glue gun use and there looked to be what I think was permanent marker on her face. I gave her the “Don’t you hate school projects” eyeroll and she responded with two words – Invention Fair. Well, actually three but I’m being lady like and not counting the F word. I got up and gave her a hug.

Please, if you’re on your high horse right now doing the sanctimonious two-step as you self righteously mutter, “But school projects are for the kids to do not the parents.” Stay really still for a second so I can kick you because I’d have a better chance of seeing free-range unicorns grazing in the empty field near my favorite Target than a kid turning in a school project that doesn’t have his or her parent’s DNA all over it.

If you want to check out different parenting styles all you need to do is a 360 degree rubbernecking at projects lining the hallways at any school’s open house, family book fair night or Parent/Teacher conferences. Feast your eyes on the fourth grade Invention Fair entries that look like the design team at Apple was brought in for a consultation.

Do a double take at the fifth grade Science project that required welding because who among us doesn’t keep a shielded metal arc welding kit (designer helmet optional) in our pantry and wouldn’t be averse to letting a 10-year-old use it.

Stare in wonder at a second grader’s diorama that would put an elite squad of Disney imagineers to shame. Never mind that no seven-year old on planet Earth has such advanced fine motor skills.

These projects represent the parenting style I like to call Hyper Involved or Get Out of My Way Kid I’m Taking Over this Project. (As your kids get older rest assured these parents still find stuff to do like write their teenagers college application essays.)There’s a certain degree of hubris with this parenting style as defined by the total lack of concern that no one is EVER going to believe a child took part in any aspect of the project. I saw one teacher, who I shall always cherish, tell a parent, “Nice work mom. You got an A.” The mother in question didn’t even have the good sense to be embarrassed by the comment. She just smiled and adjusted the sleeves on her Northface.

I always wonder what the Hyper Involved parent is trying to compensate for especially the Mastodon Dad. Several years ago, one of my kids was assigned the project of making a mastodon tusk. One week later, I’m dropping my kids off at school and it’s the day the projects are due so you see many children carrying in mastodon tusks. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but a dad in a huge pick up with what seems to be a life-size tusk laying in the back of his truck.

He pulls in front of everyone, double parks, puts on his hazards like that makes it okay he’s causing a traffic snafu, hops out of his pick up and with the help of two students proceeds to hoist what I’m guessing is a six-foot long paper mache tusk out of the back of his truck.

The dad couldn’t have looked prouder. I’m telling you he had some serious swagger going on carrying that bad boy into the school. I watch all this, primarily because I’m blocked in by his vehicle, and just shake my head. I’m thinking that tusk has to be a metaphor for a lack of size in other areas of this dad’s life. And maybe that’s what drives the Hyper Involved parent a need to show off, to preen, to draw attention to themselves even if it’s something as simple and innocent as a child’s school project.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

The Idiot’s Guide to Picking Up Your Kids From School

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 I thought 10 Steps to a Successful School Drop Off would have been enough information to help parents safely navigate the treacherous school drop off/pick up waters. Sadly, dear friends I was wrong. So, because you asked here is the safety guide for retrieving your children from school. As always feel free to laminate this in the teacher’s work room and post it outside your school’s parking area.

1) Do not at any time “freelance” from the correct entrance and exit points to your child’s school. Not even if your uber talented angel, who everyone that will still listen to you knows is a freaking sports prodigy, has a private, very expensive, oh so hard to get lesson, from pick one: a batting coach, almost MLS soccer God, former Division 3 NCAA football star, dance legend, as seen on TV Cheer captain etc. and this means you’ve got to pick up your kid right this very minute because that lesson starts soon and the money clock is tick, tick, ticking. This harrowing, almost crisis VIP situation, still does not give you permission to enter in the exit only lane, drive on the grass, hop a curb, park in the school bus area and generally give every other parent that is following the rules the middle finger with your car management behavior.

2) If you’re in the school pick up line and your precious child gets to the car and announces they forgot their homework and will need to go back into the school DO NOT remain in the pick up line. You will hold up the line for God only knows how long because there is n-o-t-h-i-n-g slower than a kid going back into a school to look for something. You have two choices. 1) Tell your child to get in the car and then proceed to a school parking lot. From there you both go into the school for homework rescue. 2) Send your absent-minded sweetie back into the school and inform him/her that you will be waiting for them in the school parking lot.

3) The school pick up lane is not an informal sorority rush function or a Kappa mixer with the Chi O’s. This means Under No Circumstances do you, the parent/driver, leave your car. I know it’s tempting when you’ve got five minutes to kill till the bell rings and there’s Sarah sitting in her Suburban and it’s been maybe a whole two hours since you talked to her at the Pilates studio and wow, a lot has happened since then, like you just found out that Mandi is going to be chair of the Junior League Christmas Affair. Are you F’ing kidding me? Regardless, I implore you to resist the urge to exit your vehicle. Stay seated and distract yourself by doing a Kegal workout (remember to keep those muscles contracted for at least 10 seconds at a time) because we all know what’s going to happen when you get out of your car. Sure, you’ll start by chatting up the Escalady behind you but then because you’re one super popular mom and you’re having an excellent hair day you’ll begin working the pick up lane like it’s a receiving line at a wedding. Before you know it you’re engrossed in some juicy gossip with the mom 15 cars back, so juicy you don’t notice the kids are out of school and meanwhile your empty vehicle has been holding up the pick up lane for 10 minutes.

4) You also do not leave your vehicle to go inside the school to check on one little thing that you know will only take a minute. Less than a minute really because you just need to ask a quick question. It never takes a minute. Elementary and middle schools are the lands that time forget. Once you enter a single minute magically stretches into 20 and there you are inside blissful unaware that your empty car is creating a parking lane log jam.

5) If you are volunteering at the school do not make the mistake of parking your car at the beginning of the pick up lane. Yes, I know you arrived at school at 1 p.m. so you could cut out fall leaves for the cafeteria bulletin boards and of course no one was in the pick up lane at 1 and quite frankly you think you should get the first space in line because hello, you’re volunteering. Shouldn’t there be some upside? But here’s the problem, by the time the bell rings you are still not at your car because you got distracted either admiring your handiwork with scissors (Seriously, fall leaves have never been cut with more precision and attention to detail) or by chatting with various members of the school staff so there sits your driverless car, all alone, creating gridlock more impressive than those leaves you cut.

6) Restrain yourself with the best of your ability to not flee from you car the moment you see your children’s happy faces walk out of the school building. I know it’s hard to wait even one second longer to give those bundles of awesomeness great big hugs and sprinkle kisses up and down their faces as those other, less loving, and dare I say lazy moms, just sit in their SUV’s and wait for their kids to actually open their own car door. I mean OMG, you’ve been separated from your love bugs for seven agonizing hours. What kind of mother doesn’t get out of her car? Who cares about holding up the line? Just take a couple of deep breaths. You’ll have them all to yourselves very soon and then you can do a great big family hug and ignore them as soon as you get home to watch a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills marathon.

7) If you are sending Nana, the nanny or a neighbor to collect your kids from school I not only beg you to make sure they know how the school pick up lane works but I suggest a trial run with you in the car for guidance. One timid grandma, texting nanny, or clueless neighbor can clog up the whole pick up procedure. I once saw some kid’s Papaw reduced to tears and he was a Vietnam Vet. This kid retrieval process is not for the faint of heart. Forget the Vietcong, there’s not much meaner than a mom who has to go to the bathroom (like you wouldn’t believe how bad because right before she came to get her kids she made a quick grocery store run and there was no way she was going to use the restrooms at Walmart), has three kids to get to soccer practice in less than 30 minutes and is about to run out of gas stuck behind a great grandpa in a 1979 Buick LaSabre who doesn’t know he’s supposed to move up in the line not stay parked.

If you already abide by these rules I salute not only your common sense but your higher level cognitive intelligence. Go forth now my smart friends and lead by example.

Dear Snarky – Did I over complain at my kids school?

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Dear Snarky,

My twins have just started the first grade. I love their school but I do have a couple of issues with things like school pick up and drop off, homework assignments and the cafeteria. I have shared my areas of concerns via email and in person to both of my kids teachers and the principal. All three of them were very receptive to my complaints and seemed like they were glad that I brought the problems to their attention BUT now I get the feeling they are all avoiding me. Did I make a mistake?

Signed, Evelyn

Dear Evelyn,

You didn’t actually make a mistake. I would call it more of a misstep in prioritizing. It’s never wrong for a parent to express their thoughts over problems they see at school, but I’m afraid your zeal in pointing out your many “areas of concern” less than 22 days into the new school year might have you tagged as just the tiniest  bit of a high maintenance whiner.

Here’s the deal, the school year is nine months long and like in parenting and marriage you’re going to have to pick your battles. If you’re complaining about everything you’ll get nothing. Prune your grievance list down to the issues that most impact your kids and pace yourself. There are only three times you can really just let it rip about everything that’s bugging you – I’m talking waving that mom freak flag with wild abandon and that’s when your youngest child is in their last year of elementary school, middle school and high school. Those three years you are good to go in sharing your opinion about everything because you’ll never have a child at any of those schools again and that means you’ve got nothing to lose. Who cares if the entire school staff hates you – you’re outta there!

If you have a question for Dear Snarky email me at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com.

Five Ways to Get Out of Volunteering At Your Kid’s School

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It starts in late summer with emails from the PTO alerting you to various “fulfilling” volunteer opportunities awaiting you at your kid’s school. On the first day of your school your child’s backpack is stuffed with sheets of colorful copy paper – each one proselytizing a “fun” volunteer gig. By the second week of school you’re being solicited as you wait in your car in the after school pick up line. Week three of the new school year the gloves are off and you feel a little like you’re being bullied into chairing the school spirit wear sale. When week four hits you give in from equal parts sheer exhaustion and because you get the feeling some of the other moms are talking about you and not in a good way.

Now, before you tape this list to your refrigerator please be advised that I have loved volunteering at my children’s schools. In fact, I have met my best mom friends from doing my volunteer due diligence. But there are times in one’s life when you need a pass from tallying up the school gift wrap orders which is why this handy list was created.

1) Have another baby. A newborn will get out of any volunteer duty. Just showing up at school with your bundle of joy is akin to wearing a sign that says “Leave Me the Hell Alone!” But beware by the time that baby celebrates it’s second birthday you will be considered back on the market and hit up with a vengeance. After all, you’ve had  a “two year break”.

2) Volunteer Outside the School. This one will buy you a year max. But it has to be a substantial volunteer opportunity with not just any organization. It should be high-profile – say Junior League president or chairing the Symphony Guild. Being a Cub Scout Den mother won’t do anything for you. In fact, it could hurt you as in – “Well since you’re already doing the popcorn sale for the Cub Scouts it would be sooo easy for you to just tack on chairing the school’s cookie dough fundraiser. I mean they’re like pretty much the same thing – right?”

3) Start a New Job. Tread carefully when using this one and make sure the words part-time job don’t enter into your career description. Which means even if it is part-time or a home based business as far as anyone on any committee at your kid’s school is concerned you’re putting in 40 plus hours a week.

But be warned this is not a “forever” excuse. It’s simply a single “get out of being a committee chair” voucher. The whole job thing in the school volunteer lexicon is meaningless because there’s always a mom who is a cardiovascular surgeon and is piloting her own jet to Syria two days a week to perform life saving medical treatment with the International Committee of the Red Cross AND is treasurer of the PTO.

4) Get New Agey. Share that you are restructuring your life and prioritizing your family’s goals to enhance pivotal bonding moments and increase your spiritual connection to the Sun Goddess Shemesh therefore leaving you with zero time for “other world” commitments. Sure, there will be talk that you’ve booked first class passage on the Space Shuttle Cra Cra with non stop service to WTF but I can guarantee not only will you be left alone but people will be wary of making eye contact with you.

5) Volunteer for the Big One. By this I mean agree to chair your school’s biggest fundraiser. Oh, I know it sounds counter intuitive, but trust me one big volunteer commitment is your get out of jail free card for YEARS. Here’s how I suggest playing this for optimum long-term impact. When your eldest child is in third grade bite the bullet and say an enthusiastic yes to the fundraiser. While chairing the fundraiser let it be known about all the hard work you’re putting in, the hours it’s stealing away from your precious family, and for extra measure I always like to throw in that it’s causing just the tiniest bit of marital discord. All of this is excellent info to share at any PTO meeting when you’re asked to do an update.

After the fundraiser is done and has exceeded expectations, because who are we kidding you were in charge and of course that means fundraising records were set, you then ride off into the school volunteer sunset. What all this means is for the rest of your tenure as a parent with school aged children you can use the excuse that you Chaired the (insert name of fundraiser here) back in (insert year here) and you really are still recovering. No one will dare challenge that statement and instead will look at you with awe and in some cases eyes aglow with reverence and thank you for your service. Sure, it’s was months of hard work, but if you do the math and extrapolate that over the years your kids are in school you’ll find that it’s a cost benefit analysis winner!

***For all things wonderfully Snarky go to www.snarkygear.com where you can find the new fall Snarky line of clothing and accessories. Plus, there’s my book – Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. (Click here for purchase information.)

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

The Suburban Anthropologist’s Definitive Guide to the Elementary School Mother (Revised for 2013)

imagesAs another school year is beginning I would be remiss if I didn’t share this compelling research completed by my keen scientific mind (and by scientific I mean snarky). I consider myself one of the foremost Suburban Anthropologists currently working today.  My area of expertise is the suburban elementary school mother. Known in the science community as -”Mater Ludem.” In my study I have documented that elementary school moms can be placed into 17 distinct species categories. (In alphabetical order)

Bling Bling Mom: Bling Bling yearns to the center of attention. You can spot her a mile away because of her tendency to over bedazzle. From excessive cleavage to turbo tanning Bling Bling likes to think she’s one hot mama. Not big on volunteering she will help out on any “dad heavy” events like Field Day and attend the parent only fundraisers where she usually over imbibes and hits on someone else’s spouse. Her female offspring can easily be identified as the little girls wearing large diamond hoop earrings and kitten heels in kindergarten.

Enviro-Organic Police Mom: This is the sugar buster mom or as I call her, while shoveling McDonald french fries down my pie hole, the no fun mom. The Enviro- Organic Police Mom is armed with science and lots of good sense but her crusade is not tempered with compassion. She’s the mom responsibility for the sugar-free birthday party treats rule, the fruits and vegetables only school holiday parties and the no bake sales or cake walks at the school fair edict. I applaud her healthy mission. I object to her condescending manner. Just because a child has experienced the unfettered joys of the Happy Meal does not a bad mom make. The Enviro-Organic Police Mom can usually be seen wearing hemp shorts, a sustainably grown bamboo velour hoodie, and organic cotton tennis shoes with natural Amazon hevea rubber soles. Do not let her see you with a plastic water bottle.The lecture will be long and intense. Her offspring can be found at my house eating tablespoons of refined white sugar and Duncan Hines brownie batter.

Facebooker/Twittering/Instagrammer: Say hello the social media whore. This is the mom’s whose self-worth is measured by how many followers she has on her various social media sites and she’ll even stoop so low as to request your kids be her “friend”. No hum drum detail of her day is so insignificant it’s not worthy of being status updated, tweeted or shared. Avoid this woman at all cost and if you do see do not make direct eye contact. Chances are if you so much as glimpse in her direction you’ll wind up on her Twitter feed as #momsatmykidsschoolaresostupid

Hipster Mom: Look for the mom in the tight indie rock band t-shirt, cargo pants, some kind of ski hat, (although it’s 97 degrees out), and the newest funky athletic shoe/sandal hybrid and it’s a pretty safe bet you’ve found the Hipster Mom. She excels at being cool and has extensive knowledge of off the beaten track eco-vacations, the latest, tastiest sustainable wheat harvested micro brew, and her iTunes is jammed with the most “awesome up and coming bands ever.” She’s the female version of Peter Pan, never growing up, stuck somewhere in between her senior year in college and grad school.  Her kids are way cool with long hair that looks like it’s never seen a brush, and baggy, saggy, yet expensive clothes that say edgy with a touch of vintage rocker.

iPadder: Beware of this mother at any school event and for the love of God do not sit anywhere near her. She will block your view of the school play, choir recital, band concert – you name it with her iPad hoisted up in the air. When not using her tablet to record every precious waking moment of her children’s life you can find her with her head down transfixed on her iPad. This mom has lost the ability to engage in the conversational arts as Candy Crush is taking up all of her free time.

Marathon Mom: You see this mom running most mornings apres school drop off.  She volunteers for events that feature some kind of physical fitness. She’s usually clad in spandex running pants, jog bra and a huge runners watch to track her time and distance. This mom is motivated and dedicated as long as school events do not interfere with her training schedule and marathon dates. The Marathon Mom can tend to her volunteer obligations all while jogging in place, checking her heart rate, de-wedging her Nike thong underwear and sniffing her armpits.

Mean Girl: Like cockroaches mean girls never die. They grow up and spawn mean children. This is the girl who made you cry in middle school, who you hid from in high school and the one you tried to keep out of your sorority by hiding her legacy references. The Mean Girl is up at the elementary school under the guise of volunteering, but it’s really to stir up trouble. She’s the mom who corrects the Friday spelling tests and then blabs about which kids got bad grades. She’s a fixture at every school function not to help, but to complain about how it is being run and/or start rumors about PTA malfeasance. No surprise her children are school bullies, yet in her eyes, they can do no wrong. She circumvents any of her child’s discipline problems by threatening to take legal action against the district.

Mom Jeans: A staple of any elementary school. The mom who time forgot. Her high-waisted jean clad lower half is usually paired with a tucked in knit shirt (that totally emphasizes the hideousness of the mom jean) and generic sneakers. Her hair is short and facial waxing is a foreign concept. The typical Mom Jean works in the background of school events preferring to keep an extremely low profile.  Although, there have been reports of Mom Jeans with superior math skills ascending to the “lofty” position of PTA Treasurer.

The Old (insert city or town of your choice here) Mom: The old designation does not refer to the Mom’s age, but her family’s social standing as in “She’s Old Dallas” translation she’s “old money” or “once upon a time money.”  Many of the Old (insert city or town of your choice here) Moms trade on the history of what once was and try to block out their more meager 21st century financial situation. This is evidenced by the fact that her children are in public schools.The Old (insert city or town of your choice here) Mom usually has at least four names, with at least one being ridiculous – like Windsor Astor Carnegie Ford.  Her friends call her Winnie or Tor. You don’t call her anything because she doesn’t make eye contact with your kind.  And by your kind, I mean those of us who not only shop at Target, but worship its mighty therapeutic powers. This Mom can be seen at school liberally name dropping and planning her 6 year olds birthday day party with a debutante ball worthy zeal.  Her volunteer skills are not wasted on the elementary school level, but saved for black tie events that may make society news.  One quirk in the Old (insert city or town of your choice here) Mom is that she is surprisingly cheap when it comes to donating to the school.  No contributions made to the school raffle, teacher birthday party fund or even a school directory purchase.  Rumors abound that she habitually forgets her wallet at lunch and one summer never paid for her children’s private swim lessons.  Her female offspring can be identified by their monogrammed hair bows and Lilly Pulitzer shorts.  Her male offspring by their collection of exclusive summer camp T-shirts.

Phoner: We’ve seen this category drop off in numbers as more and more Phoner Moms became Texter Moms or iPadders.  Although, the volume is still significant enough to warrant entry into the study.  The Phoner Mom can be seen and heard yakking into her phone during any and all school functions. Her phone turns her into a play-by-play announcer at kid’s events.  Empirical data example – at school concerts the Phoner Mom is sharing every bit of the action with her phone.  “Oh, there’s Eddie. He’s walking on stage. He looks so cute. I wish you could see him.  I’m waving at him now. He saw me. He’s waving back.”  This goes on for the entire concert. The Phoner Mom’s unhealthy relationship with her mobile device makes it impossible for her to follow school protocol and turn her cell off.  She just can’t do it. No amount of dirty looks from other parents, no intervention from school authorities is enough to break the hold the phone has on her.  She’ll need rehab and a 12 step program to successfully battle this addiction.  Research shows that the phone is a gateway drug that without treatment eventually leads to dual Texter/iPad Mom syndrome.

 Poser: This mom uses the elementary school as her own personal fashion runway.  Every foray into the school is a chance for this Mom to show you what she’s got in her closet.  She comes to pose not to participate. I estimate her morning grooming ritual takes at least two hours. Class party equals Rock & Republic skinny jeans and off the shoulder Marc Jacobs cashmere sweater.  P.T.O. meeting means Tori Burch sundress and matching flats. Her other identifying feature is gianormous bug eye sunglasses.  If the paparazzi frequented elementary schools and In Style magazine did fashion layouts featuring mom’s in the burbs then the Poser Mom’s life would be complete.

 Stiletto: The Stiletto Mom can be identified by her smoking hot shoes. I’m talking Sex in the City worthy footwear. Think Manolo Blahnik’s $965 Chiffon Open-Toe Bootie sandal/stiletto.  When she walks onto school property you hear her first. The distinctive sound of handcrafted Italy leather shoes with an outrageous heel clipping down the hall.  This mom is rarely sited on the grounds of an elementary school.  She’s a career mom with a capital C and doesn’t have much time in her schedule to make frequent appearances at school. Everything about her denotes power and prestige. Her clothes are as expensive as her footwear. She smells like money. If money smells like the Neiman’s couture department. When she shows up though she delivers. Cookies for the school party – they’re not just grocery store bakery issued.  They’re one-of-a-kind creations by a celebrated pastry chef.  Her off spring is the one that is not hugging his/her mom.  Stiletto child learns at an early age not to touch Mommy’s clothes with eager, potentially paste encrusted or magic marker stained hands.

Texter: The Texter Mom can be identified by her obsession with her smart phone. At any school event she can be found transfixed by her phone.  Cradling it lovingly in her hands as her thumbs work themselves into a frenzy.  No matter what is happening at the school her face never leaves her phone screen.  I’ve conducted several experiments over the course of the year to determine the Texter’s love affair with her phone in correlation to her motherly devotion to her child.  Sadly, I must report the phone won – handedly. Here is sampling of data from my research: Child on stage during a performance – Mom’s face staring at phone.  Child taking part in athletic event – Mom’s visual acuity focused on phone screen. Child in spelling bee – Mom’s face still implanted on phone, thumbs moving at high rate of speed.  The last bit of research that sealed the Texter Mom’s cellular preoccupation leaning towards an O.C.D. diagnosis was the Mom texting during her child’s parent-teacher conference.

Two Faced Roving Gossip: Dangerous if cornered the Two Faced Roving Gossip is a nomad moving between all the species categories. How else would she collect ingredients for her slander stew.  Her strength lies in her ability to be a chameleon changing her personality to suit each group and ferret out half-truths and facts to disseminate with the school’s parent population.

Vajazzler:  (Bling Bling Mom’s hotter sister) Her credo is: “I’m hot and you’re not.”  She works the elementary school environment just like she used to work the stage at the “gentleman’s club” – proud and loud. Her biggest challenge is remaining upright due to her overwhelming breast enhancement, that gravity being what it is, tends to tip her over at times. Look for the Vajazzler rubbing up against all the dads at school functions and not being afraid to “bust a move” during Field Day.  Beware having your child go to her house for a playdate. Rumor has it there’s a pole in her bedroom.

Worker Bee: This mom is the glue that holds the school volunteer effort together. She can been seen buzzing around the school multi-tasking at events and doing most of the heavy lifting.  Her unique trait is the ability to give a non- volunteer (i.e. The Poser) a blistering evil eye while simultaneously running the school fair and laminating children’s artwork. She also excels at self-control.  She can listen to anti-volunteer moms (i.e. The Mean Girls) complain about how “lame” a school function is and not punch them hard right in the face. Her identifying physical traits are dark circles under her eyes and hair that you know she’s going to color or highlight just as soon as the fundraiser is over.

Yoga Pant/Ugg Mom: From the first day of school to the last this is the mom who you will never see in anything but Yoga pants and Uggs. It doesn’t matter if it’s 110 degrees and the National Weather  Service has issued a heat advisory this mom will still be yanking on black yoga pants and her beloved fur-lined Uggs. This outfit is most often accessorized with a Venti Starbucks and a superior attitude.

No species groups are pure. In my research I have found that some moms are adept at shape shifting from one group to another or not being fully part of one group but having attributes of several different species.  For example, a Mean Girl could also be an Old (insert city or town of your choice here) Mom and a Poser or a Mom Jeans could also be a iPadder or a Phoner. As in any research you should factor in some degree of author bias. Yet, I think you will find my methodology holds true and my data is sound. For I am, if nothing else, a professional.

***For all things wonderfully Snarky go to www.snarkygear.com where you can find the new Spring/Summer  Snarky line of clothing and accessories. Plus, there’s my book – Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. (Click here for purchase information.) Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.