Please, Just Buy the Kleenex (on your kids’ supply list)

I’m a teacher on hiatus as a stay-at-home-mom.  My husband is a teacher.  We both work/ed in parochial schools, notorious for high quality education and extremely low budgets.

I’m also extremely thrifty by nature.  We thrive quite nicely (no debt, saving for parochial high school and retirement at 60) on one teacher’s salary.  I know both sides of this coin.

Please, just buy the Kleenex.

your kids' school supply list

It’s back to school shopping season, and I am bracing for the onslaught of negativity.

That calculator is too expensive.  I can’t believe I need to contribute to a class stock of pencils.  Why can’t I just buy for my child?  This is too many supplies.  I don’t believe I need this brand of marker – I’ll just get whatever I feel like.  A whole pack of Expo markers?! They can’t possibly need two big boxes of Kleenex.

I can tell you personally, with all sincerity, if the teacher has asked for it, it’s necessary.  No teacher brings home a big paycheck – they know about scrimping and saving.  Teachers don’t like storing big backup collections of Lysol wipes – it’s a pain to find a place for all that stuff.  They feel badly asking you to search out specific brands and models of items.  They know the backlash they’re about to get, and they’ve stuck their neck out to ask for specific supplies anyway.

Because they, the professionals, have determined it would be best for your child’s education to have these specific supplies.

I can’t possibly exhaust all the specifics of everyone’s school supply list, but here are just a few possible explanations for why things may be required.

1 – Specific brands of pencils, or shared pencils for the whole class

Pencil sharpening is a huge time-waster in education.  The noise of the sharpener is disruptive during lessons or work time.  It requires students to be out of their desk (either at a sharpener, or emptying their personal sharpener) which opens the door for all kinds of management problems.  Many off-brand or “designer” pencils do not sharpen well – the lead is off-center so they’re never really sharp, the lead breaks off each time it’s sharpened, or the plasticy coating on the pencil gets all chewed up and stuck in the sharpener.

Whole-class pencils are a teacher choice made because of ease of management.  It can be very time efficient and smooth to always have a stock of sharpened pencils, all identical so there is no time or talking wasted in “choosing” or “finding”.  It’s not about some kind of classroom communism – it’s about efficiency and management.

2 – Specific calculators or other math devices

It is VERY DIFFICULT to teach a math class where there are several different models of calculator, protractor, etc. among the students.  Each set of directions must be given 4 or 5 times to accommodate the differences.  And while directions are given, the children to whom they don’t apply are likely getting distracted, goofing off, or craning to see their neighbor’s “cool different” device.  If everyone’s supplies match the teacher’s, then the directions can be given once, and even a large poster or presentation be created that exactly  matches what the kids have in their hands.

3 – Kleenex, Lysol wipes, paper towels, etc.

Children are natural wasters, and messy little people.  I understand that supplying paper products to a classroom, again, feels like “classroom communism” because other children are going to use them.  But to put it plainly, your child is spending 8 + hours a day for 3/4 of the year IN THE CLASSROOM.  That’s a lot of paper product usage!  If the child were home all of those hours, they would likely be burning through Kleenex and paper towels at home.  When the common cold sweeps through a classroom of children, an entire box of Kleenex is easily used up PER DAY.  The teachers personally Lysol wipe all the desks , doorknobs, sinks, EVERY DAY during flu season to try and prevent absences.  Trust me when I tell you, I never made it past February before running out of the school supply list paper products and having to buy for the rest of the year myself.  If the teacher bought all of these products for the classroom, that would mean purchasing 50 boxes of Kleenex, 20 containers of Lysol wipes, 20 rolls of paper towels… that extremely expensive for any one person.  Divided up among the students (who do all use them in some way! Promise!) it is much more manageable.

4 – Name brand markers, crayons, paints

These are asked for because they work the best.  There are many cheaper brands of art supplies out there, and they are cheaper for a reason.  They don’t work very well!  Off-brand markers dry out faster, don’t wash off as easily, and/or come in oddball colors that do not work for what we have planned.  Off-brand crayons have precious little color payoff and break easily.  These types of “little inconveniences” turn into big headaches and management problems when a child gets upset about his or her artwork “not working” or “being ruined” or can’t do the directions because the colors in that pack of supplies are different from others.


All of these supplies are requested after careful consideration, editing down of the list, weighing pros and cons, and year of education, training, and experience.  That’s not an exaggeration – every choice a teacher makes is for the benefit of your child’s education.  They are professionals at running classrooms and imparting knowledge.  They re-evaluate their supply list every June, adjust for any changes noticed in the last school year, then cross their fingers that the supplies will come on the first day of school as asked.

So please, just buy the Kleenex.  Maybe even a couple extra boxes.

For ideas on ways to cut costs for back-to-school (that don’t negatively impact the school day!) check out this post with six ways to save on school supplies and clothing!



10 Things That Make Me Happy

I was tagged by Kristal at Lattes and Little Hugs to do this challenge – what a great idea to “force” me to make a gratitude list.

While I was working on this post, I actually came up with so many things that make me happy, I think I will have a few installments of this topic!  I hope it inspires you to create your own list, or to focus a little on self care, or to recognize happiness in your every day where it is maybe hiding.

In no particular order:

10 Things That Make Me Happy

1 – Sunny Mornings

I don’t realize how much I miss sunny mornings until spring comes each year.  I like to get up earlier than my kids and spend my quiet morning time alone on the patio.  I’m a serious introvert, you guys!  Even if the kids are with me, it’s so lovely to feel some sunshine on my face and look out over my backyard while I do a little work.

sunny patio book and mug

2- Snuggles!

I’ll be honest – I don’t really know what my love language is.  But baby snuggles (toddler snuggles, if they’ll let me!) are a surefire way to melt my snarky, crusty exterior.  I’m lucky that I’ve been able to borrow babies from sisters-in-law (and co-author Deb!) for many years, and you bet I try to snitch snuggles from my boys whenever they can be caught.  Some of my favorite moments of motherhood have been holding my littles close while they fall asleep – either while we were nursing, or when they were transitioning to a new bed or a new room.  Right now I’m getting to lie with my 1 1/2 year old while he gets used to having a big boy bed (a floor bed) which means I get to listen to a singing giraffe while smashed on a crib mattress with a sweaty little boy.  Best moments of my day!

author holding a baby

3 – A neat, tidy, clean home.

If you’ve never noticed, I’m quite the fan of Marie Kondo.  I’ve decluttered my entire household three times, and am itching to do it again.  It is so relaxing to have no clutter, so satisfying to look around and see no housework to be done.  I read a quote once somewhere (let me know in the comments if you can find it, because I no longer can!) that everyone should sit for an hour alone, each day, in the best room.  In my current home, I finally feel that all my rooms are “the best room” and enjoy spending time in them.

a clean playroom

4 – Coffee

Now, I realize there is coffee all over my website,  my other social media… it’s in the URL… but that’s because honestly, it is one of the greatest simple joys in my life.  I have some kind of soul-connection to coffee.  The smell of it, the flavor of it, the feel of a warm mug in my hands.  Somehow, I am more myself when I’m holding a cup of coffee.  Morning, afternoon, it really doesn’t matter when the coffee is happening.  While I was pregnant I even condescended to drink decaf because I missed it so much!

cup of coffee in a coffee shop

5 – A good book

I’ve been a bookworm since I was 3.  My mother had a limit at naptime – she would only read me ten books.  TEN BOOKS.  It hasn’t stopped since – I read voraciously throughout gradeschool, until in 8th grade my teacher was finding me classical literature to read because I’d devoured everything in the school library.  I was a Literature major in college (an education major, but my subject area is Communicative Arts and Literature) and in one semester took both Victorian Lit and World Literature at once – that’s two novels (and accompanying papers) a week.   If you combine #4 and #5 into one, you get my favorite hangouts: bookstores with coffee in them.  This was my favorite haunt in college, and the place in that town I miss the most (Hi, Jerry!)  When I sat down to make goals for this year, reading every day was the first that popped into my head, and I’ve been loving spending more time on my favorite hobby.

antique copy of scarlet letter

6 – A freshly-made bed

Fluffy pillows.  Crisp white sheets.  Soft blankets.  A light lavender scent.  That might seem like some kind of styled photograph nonsense, but that’s actually my Saturday night!  I find it the best way to relax, like a self-care ritual disguised as housekeeping.  I get in there with a #5 and #4, and spend a couple hours to myself.  It’s like the adult version of a fort.

white bed linens, with book

7 – Simple vacations

I wrote a post this winter about a vacation both of us blog authors (and hubbies) went on, and how to replicate the feelings at home.  My favorite kinds of vacations involve limited planning and limited “must-dos” when I get there.  Going to a place I’ve never been, with my family or friends, and just exploring what’s there, napping and eating and lingering as we feel like it.  I always come back from these kinds of trips really refreshed!

simple vacation, fireplace

8 – Leisurely walks with my family

In case somehow this is not clear yet, I do not exercise.  (Is there a tag for listing things that make you supremely unhappy?)  But I do love walking with my family, more like wandering, really.  We pop the kids in the stroller and they’re contained and entertained.  Most of the time, they’re even quiet.  I don’t even take toys along for them – I never have taken toys on walks or in the car – and as a result they’ve learned to appreciate nature, point out various landmarks around town, talk to each other, notice toads and sticks and flowers.  Meanwhile, my husband and I can actually TALK to each other (whaaaat?!?) and get a little sunshine refreshment.  Even during the school year, the kids and I take a walk every single day (barring actual blizzard conditions).  It takes a long time to bundle everybody up for winter walks, but we all three go a little berserk if we don’t get outside.  I sometimes put an earbud in one ear and listen to some music, or bring a travel mug with my morning tea in it.  Zen.

family on a walk

9 – Big, curly hair

On me, on other people, I’m indiscriminate.  I think because this is what grows out of my own head, I feel an automatic solidarity with anybody else with giant hair.  I automatically assume upon seeing them that they’re creative and pleasant and witty.  Maybe that’s not true, but only good can come of assuming the best about humanity, right?  As for myself, the bigger and curlier my hair is on a given day, the better I feel.  This is a paradigm that comes along with the hair, but I truly can’t imagine having flatter hair!  I feel like I need that giant mess up there to make more space for my personality, snark, volume.  Like the wild flowerchild inside of me needs to be visible to the world.


10 – Camp BASIC

I know this is super specific, but it’s about authenticity here.  Camp is absolutely my favorite place to be on earth, and I am 100% the most happy that week of my life.  It is so spiritually filling, and also personally uplifting as I am literally in the woods with most of my dearest friends.  We pack an entire year of loving each other, sharing our stories, singing Father Abraham, and adventures into one short week.  I don’t know who I was before I went there the first time.  I don’t know what on earth I was doing with my life.  (No exaggeration.)  I love it SO MUCH that I’m actually on the board of directors.  (Translation: I love it so much I sit through lots of phone calls.  I hate phone calls!)

camp basic campers and counselors

There’s my (first) list!  What makes you happiest in the world? Feel free to leave a comment, or consider yourself tagged and do this challenge on your own blog!  (Please link me as tagging you, if you do!)

Tagging: Shell at !  Go check her out!


2017 Goals / Resolutions : A Midyear Review

This is the first year I really sat down and made “New Year’s Resolutions” – really just goals – and wrote them down and am following up on them.

I’ve always had goals.  My style of making goals has always been a little daydream-esque – I have an idea of how I want my life to be, a mental image if you will, and I try to chase it.  For example, I picture myself having coffee on my patio every morning as the sun comes up.  I picture myself reading every day.  I can imagine the mountain of craft projects I could complete.  In my mind, I’m a pie-baking, barefoot, laundry-hanging stay-at-home-mom with a bunch of children running loose in the backyard.  And throughout the year I’ll think about those daydreams, that “ideal life” I have so firmly in my (very visual, introverted, ADD) mind.

But let’s be real: that’s never actually gotten real results.  I’m too scatterbrained for that to work, and I have too many dreams and ambitions.  Already at 30, I’m 100% sure that I have too many wonderful daydreams to ever accomplish them all.

So this year, inspired by some fellow momma bloggers and vloggers, I actually sat down for an afternoon and wrote down some goals and resolutions.  I pared down the 234098256 ideas running around in my brain and tried to be reasonable about what I could accomplish.  I know it’s really important for goals to be tangible, time sensitive, and specifice, so I made a particular point to try to mold my zany mental images that way.

I came up with goals in each area of my life – homemaking, family, self-growth, blogging, and YouTube.

In each category, I tried to make no more than 4 or 5 goals.  That totals out to a lot, but such is my life!

Overall, ******** spoiler alert ********* I think I’m doing okay.  About half successful.

More details in the latest video:


How are you doing on your goals this year, if you set some?

Have one in particular that’s exciting you?  Frustrating  you?  Let’s chat in the comments!

A Positive Spin: Being a Superhero

Please read the following  quotes with a snarky, irritated tone of voice.

mom tossing child - they're not lazy, you're just a superhero

“I can’t exactly do this by myself!”

This was my husband, trying to take a messy bib off a potty-training toddler who was running away down the hallway.

Are you kidding?  It’s one kid, and a bib.  Seriously.

This was my husband giving two little boys a bath.

Then why do you do extra-curriculars until long after dinner, and expect me to bathe both kids myself?

This was my husband trying to get both boys dressed for church on Sunday morning.

You realize I do this every single morning every week while you’re working, right?

This was my husband trying to make waffles with both boys in the kitchen.

How do you think you have dinner to eat every day, Mister?

“I’m tired, y’know?”

Same husband, explaining why he’s watching TV instead of helping me clean up to host a party of his coworkers.

TV makes you less tired?   How handy.

Falling asleep reading the boys their bedtime stories, which inevitably makes them screech and whine that he’s not “reading it nice.”

Not an excuse to poop out on your kids!

Sending me to do the grocery shopping by myself at 9 pm.

I am so tired I could fall down.  What gives you the right?!


These “cries of desperation” make me so ANGRY.  They reek of self-centeredness, weakness, lame excuses.  It feels like I carry the brunt of the parenting, and when my husband needs to do one minor task he can’t handle it.  I mother the boys solo for 10-12 hours per day, but still need to help him do it for 2 more hours in the evenings?!  As though a yogurt-covered bib is the most difficult possible scenario with two boys under 4.

Then, my perspective shifted dramatically.  (Do you ever feel like the Lord just smacks you upside the head with an attitude adjustment?  That’s what happened.)

I was in the middle of a mighty internal struggle, trying to hold back my biting words (the comments in italics.)  For a blunt, opinionated woman like myself, this struggle is a lot like plugging holes in a dam with my fingers.  I usually fail.  But this time, I had a revelation.

My husband floundering in these mundane tasks doesn’t mean he is being wimpy or trying to pass off his parenting onto me.  It actually means I’m a superhero.

That I possess an important set of skills, a talent at putting out proverbial fires, can juggle an inordinate amount of crises at once.  That my super-intelligent, creative, patient, 2nd-grade-teacher husband is flattened by fatigue and mess and multiple toddlers, and I am not.

The fact that I can do this full-time parenting gig all day every day and still stay awake through storytime, not get yogurt on the carpet, remember the groceries late at night,  throw parties, and have neatly dressed little boys is a testament to my strengths, not his weaknesses.

We stay-at-home moms and dads, we professional parents, are superheros.  We can accomplish what many others cannot.  We’ve been called to have an enormous mental fortitude, determination, and patience, and continuously pour from what we have been given into others.

I’m really glad my attitude has shifted about this BEFORE we add more little humans to this family

So the next time you hear your partner say, “I can’t do this by myself!” or “Could you just help me?!” or “I’m too tired!” I suggest choosing to hear “You’re a superhero!” instead.