Wednesday, July 31, 2013

OH NO. It's Back to School. Time to Give it Up.

Photo credit: Anankkml
Hello! Lydia here. I'm waving at you like your embarrassing 7th grade friend. HIYEEEE!!!!!

I have to go buy school supplies this weekend and I'm not happy about it. I like this summer and I don't want it to be over. My kids are actually being pretty cool and I'm terrified that it's going to stop and be a big goat rodeo again. When everything starts back up in the fall, it's always a big beehive of activity. There will too many things to do and all the bees in my brain will be buzzing all the time trying to keep track of it all. So I would like the rest of this summer to be slllllooooww and boring. So slow and boring that we are aching to get back to into action in September.

It will not happen. Because this week marks the page turning on the calendar and the need for me to buy school supplies. Where I live (in Virginia), it's a tax free holiday so that people like myself can buy things without paying all those pesky sales taxes. How nice of you, Virginia. Thank you. 

This weekend, while I am buying stuff on a ridiculous school list that makes no sense, I will be thinking of all the other moms who can't afford to do what I'm doing. When I was the age of my youngest kids, I lived in public housing with my wonderful, magical, single mom. We had no money but we were still blazingly awesome.

So I will be thinking of the parents who wish they could buy their kids' back to school stuff this weekend, but they can't. Because they have to wait for their next paycheck, or for their child support to finally show up, or because they have to save a few a dollars each week until they have enough.

I will be thinking of the parents who will wait 'til the very last minute, not out of procrastination, but because they keep hoping they will be able to scrape the money together. When they realize they can't, they will sit down and choose what bills will not get paid this month, so that their child will have what they need to start school.

I'll be thinking about the moms for whom school supplies are the last things on their mind at all because they are not basic needs. And trying to get those basic needs met is all she has time for. Notebooks are not milk. Pencils are not a safe place to sleep. She will worry about school supplies some other time.

I'll be thinking about the moms who have to swallow their pride and ask their families, case managers, churches, schools, or charities for help.

I'll be thinking of the millions of families who make too much money to qualify for any sort of help. Parents who work full time and still can't afford a new backpack for their kids. The parents who would never ask for help, or sympathy, because they know how many others are worse off and they hope things will be better next year.

So this year, I'm showing up early and I'm showing up for them. I'm buying as many cheap, tax free school supplies as I can. There are stores that have things for a penny (Staples, for example). I'm bringing my kids with me. We're going to talk about how lucky we are that we can afford everything on their lists.

We're giving these supplies to a local domestic violence shelter that Mommyland has worked with for the past two years on our Mother's Day project (Give It Up, Mommyland). It's called Duffy House. If you live in northern Virginia, you can donate school supplies to them by checking out their website right here. UPDATE: The drop off for supplies is at Burke United Methodist Church in Burke, VA. There's a sign and a basket in the front lobby. Lobby is open from 9-5 M-F and on Sunday mornings.
If you don't what this is all about, click here.

You can donate school supplies to tons of other places, too:

  • Your kids' school (I bet the front office staff knows exactly who needs it most), 
  • Any public school system (check their website),
  • Any family homeless or domestic violence shelter, 
  • A preschool or child care center serving low income kids, 
  • Churches or business participating in backpack programs.

And of course, if you know a family who is struggling and would never ask for help - just buy a bunch of stuff and drop it off. Ring the doorbell and run away. They don't have to know who did it. Let them think it's the back to school fairy.

If you can't afford to donate anything, please don't let this post make you feel schmidty. Let this post remind you that me, and Guru, and Kate, and all of us in Mommyland are rooting for you and your kids. And that we love you.

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013


  1. Bravo! Well said. I'll be doing the same up here in Massachusetts.

  2. My daughter's summer camp collects every year and donates to a local woman who has made it her mission to help underpriviledged kids. I've already donated Jessica's backpack from last year (Since it's in perfect condition, but she wants a new one and we're lucky enough to be able to do that.) But, I plan to go grab some more stuff over the weekend. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Well said...I'm a teacher...thinking of "all my kids" as I buy the things off the crazy list for the kids who live with me :) Whatever I buy for the kids in my house, I buy one or two more when I can, knowing there will be kids in my classes that won't have supplies for any/all of the reasons above. Thanks to everyone who helps out however they can!

  4. Yup! There's usually a program or two in most cities that you can donate to. Our church does a school supply drive for the program here in town every August, and right after Christmas when supplies dwindle for most kids. Even if it's just a pack of pencils or crayons, every little bit helps.

  5. That just made me fog up a little.

  6. You rock, Lydia!!!!

  7. Great post! My son and I have already donated supplies to his daycare, and we have another bag of supplies ready to deliver to church this weekend.

  8. My daughter's school has an option of giving them $25 and they'll deliver the necessary supplies to the classroom (pencils, crayons, etc, not backpacks or clothes, obviously). I still went shopping, and got everything on the list for $15. Another mom asked if it was really worth having to shop for it if I'm only saving ten bucks. There's a woman who doesn't know ten bucks is a meal, or a couple outfits from the thrift shop or garage sales, and that ten bucks is an hour and a half worth of work for some people. I couldn't do it then (that ten bucks was essential for gas that week), but my husband recently got a promotion and I'm hoping I can spend double that for kids who don't have what we have.

  9. Lydia, you are awesome! We've been on both side of the equation (scraping by and able to share) and I'm thankful for what I've learned at both ends of the spectrum.

    My kids will love taking a large bag of cheap-o supplies to school to help their friends (plus, it's a good move karma-wise). Thanks for the reminder to count our blessings.

  10. My son attends public school in San Diego, and all supplies are provided for the kids. No back to school shopping. I was also surprised when, at the end of the year in May, his teacher handed me a bag of his "things" to take home, including his plastic container with several crayons inside. We never bought any of that.

    Money is tight, but I could certainly spare $20-$30 for kids in need, especially since my son won't use it. Will definitely look into donating!

  11. Love this... a great reminder to those of us who have an abundance (relatively speaking). Maybe for your own kids, you buy a backpack that's just a bit cheaper than the one they *really* want so you can spare a few extra cents for supplies for the kids who have nothing. Or buy store brand instead of more expensive name brand stuff. We're donating a fully loaded backpack to our church's program.

  12. "I'll be thinking of the millions of families who make too much money to qualify for any sort of help. Parents who work full time and still can't afford a new backpack for their kids. The parents who would never ask for help, or sympathy, because they know how many others are worse off and they hope things will be better next year."

    You've been hiding in my closet, listening, haven't you, you creepy stalker! <3 No, but seriously, that describes my situation perfectly. My kid wants a new backpack because he's no longer happy with the Batman one he's had for the last two years, and we had to tell him that we're not buying him a new one because Batman is sooooo COOL, not because we just can't afford it. Because we don't think that kids should be dragged into mom & dad's financial problems whenever possible. We'll get by, the kid will just have to bring his lunch in his old Batman pack, and he will have the necessities even if it hurts. There are LOTS of kids at his school who are worse off, so even though we struggle, we count our blessings as well.

    Thank you for your awesomeness Lydia!

  13. Thank you for recognizing the struggle for those of us who do have two paychecks but STILL have a hard time paying all the bills, let alone the extras that come with back to school. My kids have never had a brand new "back to school wardrobe"...we make due with what they can still wear from last year and a few "new" things from Plato's Closet. They don't get a new backpack every year- last year they got lucky because grandparents bought fancy new ones for them all. They will use those again this year.
    However, no matter how much of a struggle it is for us, I always try to buy a few extra things when they are on sale, like the 15 cent notebooks or 50 cent glue sticks at Walmart, and donate them to the elementary school. Because, as much as we struggle, I know there are others who are in a worse position than us. It helps me remember to be thankful for what we do have.
    Thanks again and God Bless.

  14. awesome.awesome.awesome! three cheers for understanding & empathy & reaching a hand out to help.

  15. A well-timed reminder. When my oldest was the age of my youngest, we lived in a public housing project and she went to Catholic school. Thankfully, the school had many sponsors that helped out with things like tuition and school supplies. Nowadays, I don't have to scrimp and decide who gets paid so uniforms can get purchased and I try to give back any way I can by donating school supplies, art supplies, and my time.

  16. Yay for you! Well said.
    I too live in VA and I decided the $4 I spent on sales tax was worth paying for not shopping with the rest of the state on the same weekend. I have no spine.

  17. Such a great idea! We do a collection at my church, but I'm doing a little extra. I know mom's (like my sister) who struggle paycheck to paycheck and I'm blessed to have enough for my family and to help others. Thanks for thinking of the mom's who could use a little extra and inspiring your readers that can, to help those who can't!

  18. Some days you make me cry with laughter and others you make me cry with joy about ways you give back or causes you support. I love you. You are wonderful.

  19. Thank you!

    I am one of those moms who is worried that glue costs $2 and she needs 3 of them! I have been buying all summer in bits and pieces to afford it. I am buying Dollar Tree cause it is cheaper. It is hard. But I still know that there are those worse off than us! I am lucky enough to have family to help and a job that gives almost, but not quite, enough.

    We are all in this together. Some years are good and some aren't. We all need to help when we can. And accept it when we need! And sometimes that is harder.

    Thank you.

  20. I was just talking to my friend about back to school supplies. What our plane of attach was going to be. Now, we are going to add to our list so that we can give a little more to my churches backpack program. Things can be tight at times for both of us but we are blessed to have what we need. This made me tear a bit.
    Susan Hopper

  21. thank you so much for the great reminder!! We will be heading out this weekend too for supplies, and now I will buy two of everything and drop the extra off at my son's school. I wouldn't have thought of it on my own, so THANK YOU!!

  22. In tears. Great post.

  23. I've done the same thing since before I had kids. I love shopping for school supplies. If I can score glue from Staples for $.01, then why not? Someone needs it.

    Our local homeless shelter really welcomes the supplies, as does our church pantry.

  24. Thank you so much for posting this, Lydia! I have been stalking here at Mommyland for several months now, but have not been brave enough to comment yet. This put me in tears though! The good-and-bad-at-the-same-time kind. I have been that mom, and my Birdie isn't even old enough for school yet. But there are so many moms who need so much more, and I just thank you for reminding us all that we can still help, even if it's only a little! Love you, Lydia!

  25. I'm a teacher too, and I love you for what you do to help other people. Been teaching for 20 years and can barely make ends meet even though my "kids" are all grown and mostly self-supporting but there are still grandchildren and students who need so much. I hope to be able to get a few things this tax-free weekend myself. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Fantastic! I'm a high school teacher, and yes-- we know exactly which kids most need it. I find 2-3 each year to buy supplies for, and I know there are more who could use some help. Deliver them to any teacher you know, and I can assure you they'll find a good home.

  27. Thanks for sharing the info about Duffy House. I recently left the work force to become a SAHM and I have a ton of beautiful work clothes needing a new home, as well as 2 boys growing out of their clothes quickly. Now I know where to send it.

  28. This is so nice of you. I don't know what I'm going to do as far as getting what my kids need for school this year, and we are in that exact position of figuring out what we can avoid paying this month so as to not get shut off. My oldest son's birthday is this month too, so it's hard.

  29. You rock, as always. We have a tiny bit of extra money right now and I mentioned to hubs I wanted to make a donation to the shelter you work with (we're now in the DC area so it's sort of local and I don't know our new 'hood yet) and here you are beautifully giving me the web site so I don't even have to search your archives for it.

  30. Oh even yesser. :)Our house got wrecked in a big stupid flood this year and I am so grateful for the backpack program in my community. I'm having enough trouble making ends meet without having to buy supplies for my four kids right now.

    And for anyone who lives in Alberta, Canada (or has heard of it, or can find it on a map), we have teachers in flood-affected areas who need some help rebuilding their stocks of classroom supplies. The High River Flood Support page on Facebook can help direct you to schools in the area who need help. (Hope that's OK to post.)




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