In August, my son Wally started first grade. For us, this meant the first time he’d be doing full day school. This also meant the first time we’d be packing him a lunch.

I had heard all the stories about all the mom mistakes. An Eeyore-mopey kid saying to the mom at pick up after the first day, “You forgot to put a note in my lunch.” I did not want to be that mom. I also could not imagine having any time to devote to coming up with something new and clever each morning, considering that it is morning, a time of day when my kids are most likely to give me their favorite directive: “Mom, wake up your head.” Most mornings, I wake up, stumble in the direction of the coffee maker, and by the time I am there, Vivvi is at my heels asking me questions and telling stories. I pretend she isn’t talking for the ten minutes it takes before that glorious, glorious moment when I can lift the cup to my nose and inhale the steamy golden goodness. (On vacation with Wally’s family once, his Dad commented on how I hold my cup with two hands like it is a precious thing. And I wondered, Why the metaphor? It is a precious thing.)

From that moment, we have the chaos of getting breakfast on the table (usually cinnamon toast or oatmeal or some other maximum two-step, minimally diversified food-group meal. In this house, as long as something is easy to make, we tend to agree with Buddy the Elf’s food group categories of sugar, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup). Once the coffee does the job, I tornado around the kitchen to be sure there will be time to (1) eat, (2) get dressed, and (3) pack a lunch. (Only now am I realizing that our list of things to do in the morning is minimal. Three things. Truly as easy as 1, 2, 3. So why does it usually seem so hard?)

The kids eat and decide if they want to bother each other until they fight and I yell or if they want to act goofy and wild until they fight and I yell. I, in the meantime, try to pack a lunch, pick out clothes for 3 people, and not yell.

And, as a side note, I realize that Wally is in first grade and should be able to pick out his own clothes. But when he does, he comes upstairs wearing strange combinations, like a button down and sweatpants, or a huge undershirt that hangs out from beneath a too-tiny long sleeve like a dress.
“You’re smart!” I say. “You are observant enough to notice my friends’ haircuts and describe them in detail. You remember movie lines from something you saw one time two years ago. Why can’t you just remember five outfits and recreate them?”
“I don’t have room in my brain for that,” he says. “It’s too full of all the other things.”
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the next Steve Jobs.

And so every school morning I make the breakfast, pick out the clothes, and pack the lunch. And the first day of school, I realized I’d have to write a note in the spare moments I had left after doing all of those (seriously,-why-are-they-so-time-consuming-?) things. I wrote an I Love You, signed it, zipped it in his lunch bag, and he was off.

When I picked him up, I asked about his day. “It was good,” he said. “But when you sign my lunch note, can you sign it ‘Mom’ instead of ‘Mommy’?” And that is a post for another day.

By the second day of school, like the nincompoop I am, I was out of ideas. I was tempted to send him with this:

FullSizeRenderHusband Wally saw my struggle. “You’re not going to send a note every lunch, are you?” Later, though, I noticed a lunch note Husband Wally had created in the lunch he packed. He drew some kind of funny picture with a joke. (Here, you may feel free to imagine me saying, “You’re not going to send a note every lunch, are you?” in my doofy-est voice making my doofy-est face.) So I decided the challenge was on.

For the first part of the year, I thought of a character Wally liked from a show or movie, and drew. And it ended up being rather fun—a new way for me to wake up my head, a chance for me to take a break from yelling or doing the morning 1-2-3 or parenting in general and doodle for a minute.

IMG_2858IMG_3192One day, though, I remembered our stash of extra printed Christmas cards that were hanging out in a box and a new idea was born.

IMG_3703FullSizeRenderAnd so after Christmas this year, when I was about to take our stack of beautiful cards that our family and friends had spent oodles of money on and throw them in the trash after one final, loving review, inspiration struck again.

IMG_3670What I love about this is that it only requires a stick figure and some tape. Also, if I have a minute after creating the note, I can snap a pic and send it to the source to share a little joy and love with them. Maybe it will reach them just as they are up to their ears in 1-2-3 like me and improve the moment, at least a little.

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IMG_3835Occasionally I will stretch myself and add a joke with it, but usually it’s a stick figure scene and I’m done. Because a real head and a stick figure body is always just the right amount of funny.

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So this is why, if you send me a Christmas card, I may end up chopping it to pieces in the near future. Your tiny cut out heads are just the inspiration I need to get through a 1-2-3 kind of morning.