The Bento Box Solution


Well, it finally happened, the thing I’ve been dreading. Yesterday, my precious daughter rolled off the school bus bitching and moaning about the lack of artistic effort that I’ve been putting into her packed lunches. My first thought, “Oh shit, has she been on Pinterest?” My second thought, “We need to update our parental controls to include Pinterest.”

But no, it seems that some better-than-me mother (who, I guarantee, does have a Pinterest account) has been sending her daughter to school everyday with a lunchbox full of “love” in the form of Disney inspired entrees and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom carrots. And Ana has taken notice. Thanks a lot, lady. Thanks. A. Lot.

According to my daughter, Wednesday’s lunchtime was spent watching little Hayden nibble on Elsa’s certified organic noodle braid, while Ana despondently ate from a zip-lock bag filled with pretzels and an enormous amount of apathy. Her tale of woe was really quite heartbreaking. So, like any guilt-ridden mother, I decided to give this stupid Bento Lunch thing a try.

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I promised Ana an Olaf lunch, but when I read the first three ingredients: Japanese Nori noodles, purple seaweed, edible modeling clay, I was all, “Oh heeeellll no!” Packing a lunch should not require me to source food from various specialty shops and craft stores. I haven’t shaved in four days and THAT needs to happen before I start driving around town seeking out cuisine for my five year old to throw out.

But I promised her an Olaf lunch, so it was on to Plan B. Unfortunately, I had no Plan B…at least not until I drank a couple glasses of 2009 Cabernet from the Napa region.

And so, exhausted, not-so-perfect mothers everywhere, I’d like to present my “Damn you, Hayden’s mom!” answer to this crazy, expensive, and time consuming lunch fad:

The “I ain’t got time for that. Here’s some lunch money” Bento Box.

Step 1: Get lunch money from your purse.
Step 2: Arrange money and tape down
Step 3: Use a Sharpie to draw the rest.

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Screw making little broccoli trees with an “I love you!” tediously carved into their stalks with an X-Acto knife while freebasing your blood pressure pills and trying to remember your insurance provider’s Mental Health co-pay. No thank you. Besides, unlike a scene from The Lion King made out of graham crackers and Russian caviar, my “I ain’t got time for that. Here’s some lunch money” Bento Boxes provide the perfect canvas for real communication between you and your child:

Confronting potty issues:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Offering friendship advice:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Calling them out:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

I realize the “I ain’t got time for that. Here’s some lunch money” Bento Box still requires a minimum amount of effort on your part, which is something I’m normally against, but just think of the look on your child’s face when they open their lunch box and see something like this:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Arachnophobia, cured. “Thanks, mom!”

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Ladies, even if your child doesn’t buy lunch, I’m here on my linoleum floor, begging you to step away from the melon baller and to embrace the beautiful quadrilateral simplicity of a square cheese sandwich.

After all, you don’t need to win the “MOM OF THE YEAR” title because, as far as your child is concerned, you already have it.

Related post: The Lunch-Packing Manifesto

10 Ways School Sucks For Adults Just As Much As Kids


school sucks

As I’m driving my daughter to kindergarten, she proclaims, “Mom! I hate going to school!”

It takes every ounce of self-control I have to resist saying, “You know what? ME TOO. Let’s go to McDonald’s, get ourselves a smoothie, and go back to bed.”

Because seriously, this all-day, every-day school thing is a pretty raw deal for everyone involved…

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1. Rise and shine. I have to get up early every single day. The only reason I graduated was so I could put an end to this early-morning business, and now I have to start all over again?

2. The language police. Every day, I find myself worrying if today is the day she drops the “f” bomb at recess.

3. Having to get dressed. I’m losing out on at least two all-day pajama days per week, which is seriously putting a cramp in my ability to not do laundry on a regular basis.

4. The fact that that they lose stuff. And I’m stuck digging through the school lost & found, also known as “The Lice Box.”

5. The art projects. I can’t be trusted to bathe my children every night, but the teacher thinks I’m going to make time to help glue cotton balls onto this worksheet or cut letters out of a magazine?

6. The endless crap. “Oh cool! You brought home yet another drawing that you’re never going to let me throw away and expect me to keep and cherish forever!”

7. The late pass. The Walk of Shame to the school office when we’re late to school is way less fun than the Walk of Shame I remember from college.

8. High school, part II. When was anyone going to tell me that the same snobs that ran student government in high school are the ones now running the PTA?

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9. Money! I have dysfunctional family members who don’t ask me for money as often as my daughter’s school does for field trips, class projects, book fairs, popcorn day, etc.

10. Homework. I suspect that homework is just a way for my kid’s teacher to figure out how much effort I’m actually putting into this whole parenting thing.

Related post: Going Back to School: The 1970s vs Today

How to Sort Through Your Elementary Student’s Folder in 12 Easy Steps

little-girl-with-backpack Image via Shutterstock

Every afternoon when my kids come home from school, they come barreling up the stairs, unzip their backpacks, pull out their half eaten lunches, and thrust their classroom folders in my general direction at precisely the same time.

It’s a pivotal moment. The contents of the dreaded classroom folder will dictate how the rest of my day and evening is going to go. In other words, there is a direct correlation between the cornucopia of shit that comes out of there and the amount of stress I’m going to have to endure.

But now that my oldest is in fifth grade, I’ve had a few years to figure out a sorting system that’s really made a difference. Believe me the last thing you want do is just open up the folder and go through it willy-nilly. That’s what the dumb moms do.

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Instead be smart and follow these twelve easy steps for staying sane while sorting through your elementary student’s classroom folder. Then I promise you’ll be A-okay:

STEP 1: Open up the folder(s).

STEP 2: Calculate the total number of folders you must sort through.

Hint: This should equal the total number of elementary aged
kids you have.

Bonus Tip 1: If you have fewer folders than elementary aged
kids in your household immediately scold your child for forgetting
his/folder (again!)

Bonus Tip 2: If you have more folders than elementary aged
kids in your household immediately ask your child why the fuck he
brought Tommy’s folder home (again!)

STEP 3: Calculate your “Friendly Folder Fraction” by taking the number from Step 2 and using it as your denominator. Place the numerator 1 above it. Don’t let the basic math scare you off. It’s a total cinch.

Example 1: Jill has 2 folders to sort through. Therefore
Jill’s Friendly Folder Fraction is 1/2.

STEP 4: Randomly throw out pages. This is called leveling the playing field. Why should those of us with multiple kids do more work?

Example 1: Jill throws out <1/2> of the pages contained in
each folder. In other words, Jill throws out every other page. I mean
recycles. Jill RECYCLES every other page.

Bonus Tip 1: Get your kids involved and make it a fun family activity.

STEP 5: Survey what remains. If you have more than one kid in your household immediately recycle any PTA or School Club related information. There will never be time. Don’t kid yourself.

Note: If you only have 1 kid in your household then the PTA
is counting on you. And I hear they’re looking for a President.

Put all corrected homework and art projects in one pile. When nobody is looking quickly toss it in to the recycling bin. That’s officially in the past now.

STEP 6: Put all corrected homework and art projects in one pile. When nobody is looking quickly toss it in to the recycling bin. That’s officially in the past now.

STEP 7: Autograph the hell out of the Reading Log.

Bonus Tip 1: Sign it all at once for the entire week. True, your child
hasn’t had a chance to read yet, but don’t get mired down in the
details. Besides, if you can’t trust your kid who can you trust?

STEP 8: Collect any new assignments. Hand them to your child. It’s now his/her problem. Not yours.

STEP 9: Quickly review the remaining documents to see if anything requires a signature. Don’t read it. Just sign it. It’s called a Permission Slip. That’s because you have permission to sign it.

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STEP 10: Look for any new health announcements. You’re looking for the word E-B-O-L-A. If you don’t see that word, you’re good, discard the form. If you do see that word, sorry, I can’t help you. The CDC can though. Speed dial them at 1-800-CDC-INFO.

STEP 11: You’re almost home free. The only thing that should be left in the school folder is the Picture Day Order Form.It’s only sent twice per year – once for actual Picture Day and once for My Kid Looks like a Constipated Goldfish Day (aka Retake Day). Don’t agonize over which package to buy. Remember, the answer is always C. Pick C. Write your check. Seal your envelope. Never mind the taste of adhesive in your mouth. Now it’s time to…

STEP 12: Pour yourself a glass of wine and toast to your ingenuity!

Congratulations, you’ve just mastered your biggest life hack to date.

Related post: 10 Ways School Sucks For Adults Just As Much As Kids

10 Things Not To Say To Your Kids’ Bus Driver



First things first, let me be clear that I love being a school bus driver. I love “my” kids and all the crazy things they say and do. But the adults I have to deal with? Lets just say that I’m glad that it’s the kids that I drive around.

These are just a sampling of the things I’ve heard during my time as a driver:

1. “My children will never ride the bus, it’s too dangerous.” A bus is designed to be safe without seat belts. That’s why there are tall padded seats. As a driver, I cannot see the lap of every kid on my bus and someone would get hit in the face by an unbuckled seat belt. Your child has a higher chance of being in an accident while you drive them to school. Even if the bus is hit, it sits high off the ground so the damage isn’t done to the area where the kids are (in most cases). Basically, in your average car vs. bus collision…The bus WILL win.

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2. “My child was bullied on the bus and you did nothing.” Sadly this happens. We do our best to take care of it. Those who are bullying get in trouble–this often involves a trip to the principal, a call to their guardians, and if it is severe enough, they are not allowed to ride the bus anymore.I have parents call and tell me I didn’t deal with it when their child was being called names on the bus. I always want to say: “Did YOUR kid tell me there was a problem? No, they did not. I have up to 77 kids on my bus and there is ONE me! I am sorry I didn’t hear your kid get called a poopyhead in the LAST seat on the huge bus. I was making sure the kids crossing the road were not run over by the ASSHOLE going 50 in a 35 zone and texting, while I could hear his music over my BUS ENGINE (and previously mentioned 77 kids) and flying by the GIANT YELLOW BUS WITH FLASHING LIGHTS!” But I don’t.

3. “Are you sure it was my kid?” Yes, I am sure your child, who I have driven since he was in kindergarten (and is now in 5th grade), was trying to strangle his seatmate. Thirteen other kids also say it was your child. It is NOT the first time we have talked about this. Yes, I do have to write a report about it. Yes, there is a chance your child will be suspended from bus rides for the near future. I am not visually impaired. If I were, I would not be allowed to drive the bus.

4. “Well, the other kids hit him first.” And… the other kid is also in trouble and I just got off the phone with his mom who swears her son would never do such a thing (see above). That does not mean your kid has the right to punch him back. Golden rule, two wrongs don’t make a right, ring a bell?

5. “Oh yes I know, he/she is a trouble maker.” This really just means, “I know my kid is a pain in the ass, but I am not going to do anything about it.” I am sorry parents but seriously, remember who is the parent and who isn’t and grow a pair. Put on your big girl panties and tell your kid he/she needs to straighten up or they will be walking to school.

6. “What do you mean you won’t come to my house?” I live in Vermont. There are a lot of roads we can’t go up. We do not drive up private roads, and other roads we simply make it up. We also need a safe place to turn around, and what might be a nice, easy road in the Summer or even Fall when school starts is not easy in the Winter when there is ice and snow. We are a bus, not an ATV.

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7. “I am so sorry I am late.” I don’t care what your reason is. You made every other child arrive home late because you couldn’t get to your kid’s stop in time. No, I will not drop your Kindergartener off at the bottom of the 3 mile hill to wait for you.

8. “I am sorry, I didn’t see you.” You would be amazed how many people say this after driving by our lights. I am glad all my kids crossing the road are trained to wait for me to give them a thumbs up before crossing. My response (in my head, if not out loud) is “You didn’t see me? The BIG YELLOW bus with the FLASHING LIGHTS and the FLASHING STOP SIGN? Should you even be allowed to drive?”

9. “It wasn’t me who passed you.” We call in the license plate numbers of those who pass our lights. In fact, our kids are trained to read them and tell us what the plates are. The police call the person, and they tell the cops it wasn’t them. Oh, so it was not you in the car with the specialty plate that says PASSBUS that is cherry red and a 1966 mustang convertible with the white wall tires that was driven by a female with blond hair, at 3:17pm at the Grille? My bad.

10. “How can you possibly do your job and not kill someone?” A school bus driver is not glamorous. I love the hours; I get my kids’ vacations off and I don’t have to pay for after school care. But more than all that, I love my job.

I love watching the kids grow up; the kindergarteners from my first year of driving are now in 5th grade. I love hearing about lost teeth and won games. I love seeing last year’s 7th grade boys coming back after the Summer, standing 3 inches taller.

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Are there days I want to duct tape them all down? Yes.

Do I have to stop on the side of the road and put the fear of bus drivers everywhere into them? Yes.

Then there are the days you get a hand drawn card telling you that you are “The bestest diver in the whole word.” These are the days you treasure. These days make it all worthwhile.

An Open Letter to Educators From That Mom

two-boys-in-school Image via Shutterstock

Dear Everyone Presently Involved In My Kids’ Education,

You won’t remember me as Elizabeth. Or Liz. Or Grace’s, Jack’s, Henry’s, George’s and/or Nina’s Mom. You will remember me, this year anyway, as That Parent. I’m going to own it right from the get-go in order to save us both time and disappointment. You’re welcome.

No doubt, you are some of the most under-compensated, under-appreciated individuals on earth. And not for one moment do I want you to believe that you are under-appreciated or under-valued by me. You aren’t. You hold a very dear place in my heart as a catalyst to ensuring that these kids can move out one day. And survive for more than 22 minutes.

We have just embarked upon what is sure to be an indescribably long school year, and I feel it’s incumbent upon me to identify and justify myself before anything really embarrassing happens within the confines of your classrooms.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first year in 14 YEARS that I’ve had all 5 kids in school full-time. I apologize in advance.

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I thought this was going to be the start of a totally awesome new era. And it is. Sort of. I mean, as it turns out, having these guys in school all day is harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s a LOT of work.

You know those papers I was supposed to sign acknowledging agreement that kid would have to run a mile every Monday? And that she might have photos taken of her? And that if he searched for porn on the school computer he’d be expelled?

To be clear, the reason they haven’t yet been returned to you is not that I don’t support my kid running. Or that I support inappropriate Internet searches. I don’t. The “Selena Gomez naked” search recently discovered on our home computer was dealt with. Okay? I have no problem with my kid having to run a mile. Now, I’ve never seen it happen, and I’ve no idea if it’s even possible, but I don’t have a problem with it. Nor do I have a problem with them being photographed. In fact, if you could do it frequently, I’d appreciate it as I haven’t taken a quality photo with a real camera since 2009, or printed one since 2006. If you think you’re overwhelmed, you should touch base with Shutterfly’s servers.

I didn’t sign them because I’ve decided that rifling through my kids’ backpacks is an activity from which I graduated when they graduated kindergarten. You have my permission to present the logical consequence of them not having forms signed. If I need to sign a form consenting you to dole out that consequence, we may be at an impasse.

To the band instructor: Jack does not yet have an instrument. This is not my fault. This is because Jack signed up for strings thinking that he thought he could play the electric guitar. After accepting (read: violently acknowledging) that electric guitar isn’t an option, he chose the cello. Sir, a cello won’t fit into my car. As soon as he accepts that I’ll order his violin.

To the language arts instructor who gave my oldest child a “0” on Monday because her copy of To Kill A Mockingbird hadn’t yet been procured, it’s all Amazon’s fault. I plan on blaming them often this year. So you know. But their pricing is just really good.

To the nurse: Every time the school’s number pops up on caller ID, I panic. I’m at first relieved it that it isn’t the principal. When I learn it’s you, however, I go into fits. Remember that part about this being the first time in 14 years I’ve had 6 hours per day to myself? Therefore, I’d like to state up front that if Jack or Henry hasn’t thrown up and doesn’t have a fever, he needs to go back to class. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that their stomachs experience divine healing the moment they are within 10 feet of an XBOX which tells me that, 99% of the time, they are just fine.

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To the art teachers: I realize I’m late with my payment for the kids’ supplies. This is because the vat of supplies they needed just to start school cost $7689, and it wiped me out of Starbucks money, without which I can’t deal with the fact that more money is required. So just hang on.

Speaking of supplies, I would like to communicate my joy that I didn’t have to purchase toilet paper as a supply. Because I hear some schools in the area required that. Just wow.

To the math teachers: Please just tell the kids that asking mom for help is cheating. When George, who is 9, came to me asking what the probability was that a sock chosen from a group of 6 red ones and 5 blue ones would be red, I told him probably the same as the probability that I would survive the next 10 years, and I don’t know what that is either. My apologies if he actually wrote that down as his answer.

I guess that’s all for now. I’m exhausted. If any of you would like to meet me at the liquor store around the corner anytime after 4:00 today, I think they’re having a 2 for 1 special on Skinnygirl. I’ll bring the straws.


Elizabeth, AKA That Parent

Related post: Shout Out to the World’s Okayest Moms