Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Back to School

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Back to School
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I can hear the school bells ringing now and the summer coming to a close. I have received the large packets in the mail from both the elementary school and the religious school. They are both plump with important information. It takes nearly an hour to transcribe all the important dates (school trips, school holidays, special services, school plays, etc.) into the large calendar that hangs in the kitchen. This calendar has huge squares for each date, to effectively list (color-coded of course) all the important events of all four members of our family. It even comes with stickers to highlight special events (birthdays, soccer practice, martial arts classes, vacations, dentist appointments, etc.). The calendar is available from Flylady, the online Queen of how to organize family life (www.flylady.com).

It takes another hour to read through all the information packets regarding pick up and drop off times, PTA meetings, care and treatment of school books, parent-teacher conferences, and the essential “back-to-school” lists. We have forms that have to go to the pediatrician to fill out, and forms we have to fill out ourselves listing all of our phone numbers (work, home, cells, and emergency contacts, in case you can’t find us at any of the above numbers). There are order forms for everything from lunch pizza, to school sweatshirts. If I ordered everything available, I couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage for September.

Most important of all is the list of things I need to buy for my kids to prepare them to start school, and this I know from a past experience of losing this particular form – “You lost the GREEN form?!” the school administrator exclaimed incredulously, as if I’d shot a squirrel with a Beebe gun. The list is very precise: “four #2 pencils, in a small, clip-on pencil case — Please do NOT buy pencil cases with Power Rangers on them; three spiral bound books, each with four sections, in red, blue, and green. One black marbled non-spiral notebook. Two glue sticks – Please do not buy the ones that are purple and dry clear.” My favorite note this year says, “Two boxes of tissues or one bottle of hand soap” and I think, “Wow, what if everyone brings in the tissues?”

Remember I have two children, with two separate lists. Often the items are not all available at one store, so we spend the day going from Target, to K-Mart, to Big Lots. Of course, when we get to first store we realize that the glue sticks they sell there are the wrong ones (purple) but buy them anyway, “just in case” we can’t find the right ones elsewhere. We then drive to second store and find the right glue sticks at half-price and then we drive back to return the first ones, only to realize that my younger son has opened all the glue sticks in the back of the car. Now I realize, of course, why the teacher didn’t want the ones that are purple, although I do think the purple color matches the ground in melted crayons on the seat from last year’s excursion.

One new item I noticed in the stores this year is a pre-molded plastic book cover to protect the text books (books are now required to be covered; I wonder if was our family’s coffee mishap last spring that prompted the new school rules). They only cost $2.99 each. Hmmm, eight books, times two children – that’s over $50.00 to protect books that I’m never sure are actually read. In my day (violins please), where we obviously did study math (see above) we used the comic pages from the Sunday paper to cover the books, honest.

One new addition to our already busy lives is my older son preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. (For those of you that have been reading my column for a few years, yes, it has been over a decade that he’s been on this planet. Wow, is right!) In truth, we are three years away from his Bar Mitzvah as I am writing this, but the preparation is obviously a looong process. We have already picked the date for the event and notified the (“If I’m alive, I’ll be there”) grandparents, who do not put this on their kitchen calendar, because, well, let’s be honest, they really don’t have that many places to go anymore (frankly, I am looking forward to those days myself).

Apparently, in order to be Bar Mitzvah at age 13, he must attend Religious School all morning on Sunday (which he already does, in part, because his other mother teaches there), and he has to learn Hebrew (Thursday nights for two hours, not including driving time) and he has learn trope (how to chant the Torah, starts one hour earlier). In the small print, it clearly states, “Children are expected to participate in 20 hours of community service” (Who do they think drives them there?).

So our lazy summer days are coming to an end. In addition to all the above there are aikido classes, soccer games, after school science club, flute lessons, oh yeah and gymnastics (times many of the above by two), we have to squeeze in six hours a day for school, not to mention homework. Now you know why Flylady got rich selling that damn calendar.  I’m not sure she knows that it has been an essential organizing tool in lesbian and gay homes across America; if she did she would add a Gay Pride sticker for the month of June.