Monday, August 6, 2012

back to school with OCD mom

It's back to school season. I'm stressed, and I guarantee you it's going to get ugly. Throw a little pre-menopausal PMS into the mix and we've got a party, friends.

I know myself well enough to warn my husband and children ahead of time. This happens every year like clockwork. I remind them I love them, and kindly ask them to wipe the next few days from their memories.

I've mentioned my self-diagnosed OCD before, and every year in early August, it's at its glorious best. This queen of to do lists and shopping lists and calendar lists, all neatly organized into file folders and priority stacks, struggles mightily keep it together when it comes to preparing three children for the upcoming school year. Complications:
  • It's still 100 gazillion degrees in Phoenix (think: going from store to store looking for the dream backpack at a reasonable price. Sweat. Lots of it).
  • I quit my big job to be a freelancer, so now we can barely afford to buy new erasers.
  • I'm also a procrastinator, so I try to jam it all into like 48 hours.
  • I still have to go through everything the kids brought home from school last May. Did I mention I'm a procrastinator.
I kind of made things a little easier on myself this year by lecturing the kids ahead of time. If we already have 15 highlighters in the office drawer, I'm not buying you a brand new pack just so you can have the joy of tearing open a new one. And we're going to sharpen all 417 colored pencils we have in this house, all of which are still 6 inches long, and you'll pick your favorite colors for your pencil box...yeah, the one you used last year. Ever heard of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? You'll never know we didn't just tear the sticker off of that thing.

The one exception? Crayons, even though we have them coming out our ears, since I think we still have every crayon from every elementary year for all three kids. But I'd have to be truly destitute to ever deny my child the joy of a brand new box of crayons for the first day of school. Otherwise - all bets are off. We're recycling this year, kids.

So. School starts in less than a week so I suppose I better get this show on the road. To start, I joyously merged all three kids' school supply lists into one Word doc, with a neat Wingding checkoff box next to the item and a "G", "C", and "O" to indicate which kids needed which supplies. That list was awesome.

However, I can't actually buy the school supplies until we can put them in their backpacks. And we can't put them in backpacks until we clear out last year's stuff. And we can't clear out last year's stuff until we clean out and reorganize the kids' office area. And we can't clean out and reorganize the kids' office area until the rest of the house is clean and the lawn is mowed and the pool is vacuumed, right?

The contents of Connor's backpack.
How he's still walking upright is beyond me.
Since my beloved Larry has stopped questioning my obsessive logic, we scoured the house, lawn and pool yesterday, thus making it possible for me to settle in today and sort through every sheet of anything my kids got last year. Which is a lot, folks. And included a long lost birthday invite and Certificate of Achievement for some thing or another.

By the way, I'm flabbergasted at how much my sons were toting around in their backpacks. Note to self: actually take a look in there this year, and secure the number of a good chiropractor. In the case of my daughter, her teacher retired this year, and instead of hauling all the old stuff in her classroom home, she gave it away to the kids, thank you very much for pawning that crap off on us OH! Did I just say that? Now we have to either negotiate with our kids to part with it or sneak it into the trash when they aren't looking. (Not that I've ever done that.)
Olivia contemplating the pros and cons of the primaries
versus the pastels for her markers. Look how patient I'm
being. That's my killer list in the foreground, btw.

Next, the trip to Walmart. Sadly, even Target, my favorite store in the universe, is too expensive for us right now. I suck it up, brave the obnoxious crowd, and do my best not to make Olivia cry as I control freak the hell out of school supply shopping. I did pretty good; she didn't break down until the end of the trip, which I kind of counted as a victory.

(Let's be honest though...we all remember the joy of shopping for school supplies. She was so excited to go, and so patient. Makes me a little teary-eyed knowing she's my last one.)

Anyway, upon return from the shopping expedition - the Sorting Of The Supplies. We started with the backpacks lined up on the dining room table, recycled supplies matched up with corresponding backpack. I then dole out the bulk of the new supplies utilizing my awesome list.

Still very proud of all the recycled school supplies. One
only needs so many pencil boxes and pouches and
highlighters in the house at one time.
By this point, Olivia's sensed her limits. I'm in the zone. She approaches me carefully.


"Yes Olivia."

"Um. Can I, um...can I please hand out all the pencils and pens?"

I felt her excitement. Her cautious optimism. Oh sweetie, you so totally get it. I know how badly you want to look at the different colors of click pencils and choose the best color for boys versus girls and give everyone three to start with and stack the rest in the office for future use. Then sharpen all the wood pencils and give everyone two of those. I know she looked on longingly as I loaded paper in the boy's notebooks, little fingers itching to help set up neatly organized binders. There's no mistaking it, my little control freak protege. I know it's almost time for me to pass the baton to my heir apparent. Or, uh...share the baton. (Like I'm going to give it up completely?)

I challenge you to find a more perfectly packed pencil
box. Or, more pink and zebra stripes (there are zebra
striped scissors in there somewhere).
I let her dole out those pencils, and she executed with mad precision. It is perhaps time to step back, relinquish control, and let my girl's organization skills blossom. She spent close to an hour organizing her own supplies. See the pink pencil box? That's from last year...note how sparkly clean it is (mm hmm, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, I'm telling you). Then look at the geometric perfection with which it is organized. That's my girl.

And in the end I only cried once, which I thought was pretty good, too, considering my stress level; and that was just the oh I wish we could get our kids all the things they want, but I know that's not good for them even if we could, but I'm still gonna go ahead and be sad about it for 5 minutes moment. But it passed. I went on to spend the entire evening with the kids' full school calendars in front of me (god bless the Internet and the ability to download anything, anytime), putting every scrap of information I could into my Google calendar for the entire year, which made me feel much better. 

And after a weekend of frantic preparation, I think we're ready to roll. My phone is going to be beeping with reminders every 20 minutes, and the kids are ready to fly out the door with their backpacks at a moment's notice. And I'm going to enjoy this moment, because even though school starts Wednesday, the crazy starts first thing tomorrow with rehearsals for the show Griffin was just cast in, back to school night the next two nights, the last minute story to write for the Republic...

Most importantly, Larry hasn't left me, and the kids are rolling with the punches. Lucky for me. Very, very lucky for me. Because in the blink of an eye, I find my three babies in 10th, 8th, and 4th grades; one day I'm going to miss the early August madness.

We're ready. Bring it on.

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