School is in session for most, if not all, school children. Mothers are breathing huge sighs of relief and all the prayer groups around the country are wearing their knees out for the teachers. My kids are generally excited about the return to school. They get a few new outfits, get to see their friends, and return to a more sane way of life with schedules and regular suppers. Summer is fun and spontaneous and loud and crazy but eventually we all need the scheduled routine of school days to help us long for and appreciate summer again.
I am not sure about other mothers, but for me school schedules also bring on a reduction in groceries. In the summer months our grocery bill escalates about 300 percent. Prime example: I pull into the driveway with a car load of groceries. I holler at the kids to help me unload. I grab several bags set them on the counter and head back to the car for more. As I arrive in the kitchen with the second set of bags I see two kids munching on Oreos. They give the shoulders up, “who knew,” kind of grin. I set the bags down and order them out to the car to finish bringing in. One tries to grab another Oreo on the way out. I smack his hand and shoo him out. We all work together to bring in and put up the groceries. I guess I am not paying attention to the kids because as I stuff the last plastic grocery bag into my bag of bags I see the youngest throwing away a blueish package.
Quickly I turn and lift the trashcan lid. On top is an Oreo package. Whattt??? Empty! This bright blue package came in on the first tide of unloading groceries. This package of cookies was in the house for less than an hour and now it is empty. I lift up my voice in dulcet tones and call for a family meeting. Well, maybe not so dulcet. In fact I screamed at them, “Get to the kitchen, NOW!!!”
I knew they were guilty because they were hiding. Not a peep from anyone. “Children! I need to see you in the kitchen,” I sing-songed as I searched. I looked in the TV room. Empty as the package. I looked in their rooms and in the bathrooms. Nothing. NO one. They were definitely in hiding. I would try the chicken pens. Sometimes, when they wanted to butter me up, they would rush out and feed the animals in an effort to look helpful. Sometimes they would go gather the eggs. They knew if they came to me with eggs in hand they were basically safe. I found them out behind the barn feeding and watering the animals. The youngest still had a chocolate ring around his mouth.
I could tell instantly that they KNEW what the family meeting was about. I could also sense that a story had been concocted. They shifted around and swallowed a few times. The youngest held out the egg basket in a gesture of détente. His smile was shaky as he licked his lips one more time. I smiled at the others to show that all was OK. When the pre-teen smiled back I could definitely see Oreo crust stuck in his braces. I blew. “Seriously? An entire package before we can even put up the groceries?” They shuffled and listened to me rant. As I turned to walk back into the house, I said, “I will not buy another package of Oreo’s until after school starts.”
There was groaning and gnashing of teeth. I told dad that they would eat the varnish off the kitchen cabinets by the end of summer. They are like the guineas and chickens, foraging all day long. Nibbling and snacking and tasting. Squawking and screeching for more. On a daily, hourly basis. I almost feel sorry for the grocery store chains every August, because once school starts I am not sure how they stay in business.
And so the cycle continues. On various August mornings across the country, we fall to our knees to thank the Good Lord for the distant sound of bus drivers revving their engines. Thank you Lord for bus drivers!
I want to wish the teachers a great school year. I pray for the kids to be safe and to be kind to each other. Thanks to the cafeteria workers, secretaries, and janitors who keep the schools running. Thanks to all the PTO’s and other parenting organizations who give their time to make better places for their children. And a special thanks to older siblings who are FORCED to give rides to the younger ones. May this be the best school year ever!