Although we’re all attempting to reduce paper to save the planet, it seems that weekdays about 3:15 p.m. my kitchen is flooded with so much school-generated material that I could paper the school’s entire gym floor. Apparently the school missed the reduce, reuse, recycle email.
As soon as I hear the familiar, “Hi Mom, we’re home!” and “Let go of my backpack!” I can sense another “school paper shuffle” event is about to occur. I hear zippers pulled and binders opening and I walk a little slower to prolong the discovery of what awaits me in the kitchen.
By the time I get there, the kitchen floor resembles the copy room after a machine malfunction and I wonder if the teachers have any paper left in their classroom.
To prepare for this event, I stretch my arms, angle my neck back and forth and crack some knuckles. I look up and notice the boys staring at me.
“Mom?” my son asks as I am sifting through the papers. It looks like a snowstorm of white with blue streaks.
“Yup,” I answer, blowing the hair off my face.
“Somewhere in those papers is my homework from yesterday. It needs to be signed,” he says and the phrase ‘needle in a haystack comes to mind.’ I lick my index finger and continue sorting paper.
Soon the finished piles consist of:
- A “keeper pile.” This will not be filed properly until the “cleaning out of the home office” commences in a year, or we move. It may end up in three more piles in the office before finding a file slot.
- A “throw away pile.” No child should spot their work in the recycle bin. Covering the school papers in the recycle bin with a newspaper article about eating your five vegetables a day does the trick.
- A “send back to school pile.” This pile ends up being split into a pile for each child to put back into his backpack. The whereabouts of the paper after a child takes it back to school is a mystery.
- A “hang on the refrigerator pile.” Refrigerator space is divided equally amongst all children. This helps to eliminate one sibling fight from the 23 you deal with every day.
- A “homework pile.” My intelligence is called into question when I can’t understand my eight year old’s homework assignment. This pile could take anywhere from a half an hour to three hours to complete.
But wait! There is a sixth pile…the “unidentifiable paper pile.” These papers reside at the bottom of the backpack, they smell of school lunch, goldfish crackers and gym socks, and one piece has a tomato soup stain on it. The school hasn’t served tomato soup since December, and it’s now February, but this jumbled piece looks like it was once a yellow flyer from the PTA. Oh, well.
I glance at the six piles and pat myself on the back: Mission accomplished.
“Oh, mom? I forgot to tell you,” says my son as I stop and listen to his announcement:
“There is a packet of papers here from the teacher conference you are supposed to look at and sign,” he says, handing them over.
Back to the school paper shuffle…