Money sails out the window as the school year begins

It is fundraiser time at both kids’ schools. In addition to that, both schools are doing different drives collecting items for needy families. This got me thinking about all the money you spend as a parent.

It begins in August with back to school supplies. The schools provide you with a list. Luckily, some of it like scissors and pencil boxes can be used from last year. But folders, paper and pencils must be bought. I spent $100, and that includes usually an extra or two for the teacher’s classroom (at least when they are in elementary school).

The start of school also means joining the PTA. That is $6 or $6.50 per person. I usually sign up both parents and the student at each school. And there are agendas (required at the elementary level and optional at the middle school level), spirit shirts to wear on school spirit days, class shirts for the elementary student (for field trips), organizational dues and shirts for orchestra, shirts for extracurricular activities at the elementary, gym clothes (two sets so you can wash one while he wears the other – I lucked out on this one as he hasn’t outgrown last year’s sets.) Total $150.

Then comes September. And you think it is time to put away the checkbook. But no…there is more. There are school pictures ($24/student at the cheapest package for what I need) and the PTA fundraiser at one school (another $50).

October hits and both schools are doing fundraisers. Lexie has a fun run, and Jase is doing catalog sales of overpriced wrapping paper, chocolate, household items or magazines. We of course bought/supported each child/school as I know there have been budget cuts to the schools. This money will pay for field trips and technology at the elementary school and will pay overtime for a police officer to monitor traffic in the mornings as well as some special assemblies and extras for the students at the middle school.

And then at the end of the month is Red Ribbon week, and both schools are collecting donations. The middle school is collecting socks and underwear for a center for disadvantaged students, where they receive five outfits as well as brand new socks and underwear. For the elementary, we are collecting umbrellas for a disadvantaged school where many of the students walk. When it rains, many of them stay home. Their principal wants to give out umbrellas, so our school is collecting gently used or new umbrellas. Of course, I will donate to both donation drives.

I also donated to a faculty candy-bar buffet at the middle school. And supported the book fair at Jase’s school. Alexa’s will be coming in December, but I have bought a few books from the class Scholastic Book Sales.

And last, we have a Bake Sale for the middle school orchestra. Not only do I need to buy some baked goods to be sold, we will also be buying some treats after the orchestra concert.

So, with just 2 ½ months done for the school year, I have already spent $550. And there will be more things coming – other food drives or donations, party food, pies for the middle school faculty at Thanksgiving, group photos, class photos, orchestra photos, the cost of Jase’s orchestra field trip. Oh, and I almost forgot Spirit Nights at 2 different restaurants coming up. A portion of the evening sales goes back to each PTA.

Whew. It is a lot. And yes, I know I don’t’ have to do ALL of these things. But I still do. I know that the money or items are really needed. Those funds raised by the PTAs or schools will enrich not just my kids’ experience but those of their classmates.


Shy or just reserved?

There he stood, leaning against a tree. He watched the other boys playing but didn’t approach them. I knew he wanted to, but he still held back and watched. Ea he hung out in the pool alone while the other boys dove off the diving board. It wasn’t fear of the diving board that kept Jase away. It was the awkward shyness of not knowing how to join his friend who is playing with other boys he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well.

This was the scene recently at a birthday pool party that Jase, Lexie and I attended. It was a joint celebration for Jase’s friend Aidan and for Aidan’s sister, Morgan, who is Lexie’s friend. While Lexie had no problem running off with some girls, it was Jase I knew who might struggle at the party.

Last year, his best friend Noah also came to the party, so he was fine that Aidan was hanging with his cousins who Jase doesn’t know. However, this year Noah didn’t make it to the party. This left Jase feeling very left out. I encouraged him to join the other boys who I am sure were not excluding him on purpose.

But this reserved boy has always been a worrier. He is more likely to sit back and observe before joining in. He is hesitant to join a big group and does better with one-on-one interactions in small groups. He is me.

I remember these feelings and problems from my own childhood. Even as an adult I sometimes struggle with feeling like I fit in. But even though I know what he is going through, I don’t know what to tell him to make it better. Maybe he just has to find his own way.

Three years ago, I wrote about Jase being shy and a worrier. I had hoped he would grow out of it. But it doesn’t look like that has happened.

But the funny thing is that he isn’t consistent with his shyness. He has performed in the school talent show. His teacher told me he was always participating in class and even about him dancing in front of his classmates. Of course, this was at the February parent-teacher conference, and maybe that is him half the year to feel comfortable to do those things.

At the recent pool party, he spent the first hour and a half either by himself or watching the other boys. I don’t know what happened but then all of a sudden he was with the group doing crazy dives off the diving board. I saw him talking to a boy he didn’t know and popping balloons with him. Suddenly, he was fitting in and not ready to leave when the party was over.

Maybe this is just how Jase is. Maybe he needs that time to access a situation before joining in.

Fundraisers almost impossible to avoid if you have kids

Jase went to a church-based preschool. There were never any fundraisers as tuition costs covered all activities. Then he went to elementary school, and the money quests began.

fundraiserIn the first few weeks of school, he came home with a coupon book that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) wanted him to sell. We bought one and called it done.

But of course we weren’t done. There always seemed to be something going on – Jump Rope for Heart (American Heart Association), Pennies for Patients (Leukemia) and a Walk-a-thon (another fundraiser from the PTA).

A few years later, a change of principals created even more money donating options with a Fun-Run, McTeacher night (an event where the teachers run the local McDonalds for an evening), book fair, and a host of other food options that provided kick-backs for the school. This included Mom/Son or Daddy/Daughter dinners at a local restaurant, buying a snow cone from the Kona Ice truck after school or the food trucks they started bringing in for Family Night and Meet the Teacher events.

It now seems that there is something every month that either the school, the PTA or some other group at school wants our money. And this doesn’t even take into consideration that the Boy Scouts sell popcorn, the Girl Scouts have cookies and nuts, and a host of other extra-curricular activities raise funds with the sales of cookie dough or gift wrap.

Two years ago, I became an officer at the kids’ school PTA. We decided that to cut down the demand for money from parents that we would just hold one PTA fundraiser instead of two. We would hold a large festival in the Spring, and this would be our ONLY fundraiser to raise money for not only our programs but any gift to school we wanted to purchase.

Both years it was a success. We raised the needed money for our programs, which include bringing in science programs, theater performances and authors, but we also were able to fund a science lab and add amplification systems to all classrooms. (There systems allow the teachers to wear a microphone and allow all students to hear her/him no matter where the teacher or the students are located in the room.)

It was great. But there were those who complained about the price of the fundraiser. ($20 per person with food or $15 per person for the no-dinner option for a 4-hour event) And I do understand that the price can be prohibitive for larger families, but we offered ways for them to reduce their cost by volunteering at the event and even gave away tickets to families that were really strapped for cash (those families were chosen by the administration and remained anonymous.)

I much preferred this method of raising funds because it was fun. We had music, food, games, prizes, a silent auction, cake walk, and inflatables for a whole evening. It was billed as a community event, and it was better than having to sell something.

But then this year hit and the woman who was president of the PTA and the instigator of the festival/one fundraiser idea became in charge of fundraising. She decided that there was just too many complaints about the price of our festival, so we needed a SECOND fundraiser. She wanted us to sell chocolate.

I voiced my opinion – I don’t like selling. I don’t want my kids going door-to-door, and we don’t have a large family who is going to want to buy the chocolate. But she assured me and the rest of the school that this was an easy sell at a great $2 price point.

wfc_30csvpShe envisioned every child selling at least one box of 30 chocolate bars. I warned her that not everyone would do it. She responded by saying that there would be kids selling more than one box, and that they would make up for the others who didn’t sell any.

Well, it looks like she was wrong. Instead of her high hopes of 75% participation, it has been closer to 25%. We have a lot of chocolate bars that didn’t get sold. I guess other parents agree with me that they don’t like selling. Or maybe they are just tired of raising money for the school. (Most parents don’t differentiate between a school fundraiser and a PTA fundraiser.)

I would prefer that both the school and PTA limit how much they demand additional money – shirts, photos, books, fundraisers. The list goes on and on. But I realize that I am dreaming. Fundraising is here to stay and my only option is to decide which ones I will spend my money on.

Adjusting my daughter’s ADHD meds – at her request

In June of 2015 we started our daughter Lexie on medication for ADHD. At the time, we weren’t even sure she had a problem. Her teacher had shown concern that she couldn’t sit still in class and was having trouble concentrating. The test from her pediatrician had proved inconclusive but she suggested trying medication to see if it would help – and it would give us the answer to the question whether Lexie had ADHD or not.

Jumping to medication may seem like a jump when you don’t have a definite diagnosis but no amount of redirection seemed to help Lexie. We worried about the side effects of the medication and that we would be creating some kind of zombie who shuffled through the day. But we also didn’t want her to continue struggle in school.

adderall-xr-10-mgWe started her on the lowest dose possible but saw little in the way of change. But the next highest dose seemed just about right but we waited until she started the school year to finalize the amount of medication she took. We wanted to see how she did in a school setting verses just being at home in the summer. At our first parent-teacher conference, her teacher said she was doing great. Lexie’s reading had already jumped several levels and she seemed to have no problem paying attention.

Everything progressed well through the school year. The dose seemed the right amount to give Lexie the focus she needed without diminishing her bubbly nature.

Then she started third grade. From the beginning, she began complaining about not being able to focus. She would tell us when her teacher had to redirect her or when she would get in trouble. Comments from the teacher came home echoing the same thing – Lexie wasn’t paying attention in class.

Lexie has never been a fan of taking the medication. She doesn’t like that it sometimes makes her not hungry. She worries that she isn’t her same fun self on the meds. But she also finally has realized the benefits. She too knew that last school year she had less problems.

drugitem_5271When I asked her if she thought the medication wasn’t working properly, she said yes. We talked about how much she has grown in the past year and how medications must change as you get bigger. She suggested that might mean she needed a higher dose. She then thought about it for awhile and even talked about it with her teacher who of course wouldn’t tell her what to do but did ask her questions to help her fully explore her options.

When we went to see the pediatrician, my eight-year-old calmly explained to her rationale for going to a higher dose. The doctor agreed it was a good thing to try so we went up one more level in her medication.

And so far it has been helping. Both Lexie and her teacher say she is more focused in class. So barring a drastic change in her weight at her one-month follow up appointment, it looks like Lexie was correct in asking for an increase in her medication.

Even when I want to say no…it doesn’t work

My husband often says I take on too much, and that I need to learn to say no. Yeah, that hasn’t stopped my yet. But after slacking off during the kids’ winter break, I felt a little overwhelmed last week as I tried to get caught up.

I had just spent almost all of Wednesday taking care of our financial records from the end of the year and doing some tax work for my husband’s law firm. So Thursday morning came, and I was thinking of all the things I needed to get done – especially with publishing a book in only two and a half weeks.

I spent the time preparing my kids’ school lunches talking myself out of going to my volunteer time in Jase’s class. I go every Thursday for about an hour to help with their math stations but it is after all a volunteer job. They can certainly do without me. And then Jase came downstairs….

“Do you know what today is?” he asked, excitedly.


“Yes! And you know what that means?”

“We are closer to the weekend?”

Jase laughed. “No. It means someone will be in my classroom today!”

I was in shock. He seemed so excited that I would be there. He has never really shown that before. So after deciding I had better things to do with my time, I quickly changed my mind again. I would go help out his class. It is after all only an hour, and he so wanted me there. I want to keep being involved while the kids are excited about it. I know the day will probably come where they are rolling their eyes and grumbling about their mom being at their school. But we aren’t there yet.

You know, when I volunteer to do these things – work in Jase’s class, do our homeowner association newsletter or run the HOA activities’ committee – I always do so because it seems like it will take such little time. Volunteering in Jase’s class is just an hour a week. The HOA newsletter comes out quarterly and takes less than an hour to put together. We also have the two HOA pool parties down so that it takes shopping at just two stores and about thirty minutes to set up (plus an hour and a half for the actual party.)

So it never seems like a big deal to sign up for these things. Of course, all those “little” projects do add up, and they do take away time from my writing time. I could have used last Thursday to finish formatting my novel. But instead, I made my son happy. It was worth it. Not to mention I had the weekend to finish working on my new release.

Check back on my blog tomorrow as I reveal the cover for The Heir to Alexandria. It will be available on Amazon starting Tuesday, January 27th.