Life Lessons From the 5th Grade


Life Lessons From the 5th Grade
by Mikey

  1. Open book tests are hard. If you ever hear there is going to be an open book test, this is what you need to do: a) freak out b) calm down c) study hard d) wash, rinse, repeat
  2. Don’t multi-task. It is a really, really, really bad idea to read your Percy Jackson book (Battle of the Labyrinth) behind your social studies book in class.
  3. Don’t get cocky. If you take a math test and you think you aced it, and then tell everyone that you aced it–including your mom–don’t be surprised when you get a D. It’s called Karma.
  4. Don’t go super fast during tests because you will make careless mistakes. If you have extra time, check your answers to make sure you weren’t being cocky. (see number 3)
  5. 4th graders will copy all the games you play at recess because they have no imagination.
  6. If people laugh at you, just think in your mind that those people are overrated.
  7. The Lightening Thief movie is nothing like the book. It is the most inaccurate thing I have ever seen in my life. I think that the movie directors got the story mixed up but when they realized it they had already spent a lot of money on the movie and couldn’t redo it without going over budget. The movie is so wrong that if you do a book report in class on The Lightning Thief I will totally know that you only watched the movie.
  8. Always practice for music class! It will backfire on you if you don’t!
  9. Having your mom work at the school is awesome because if you forget your clarinet and give her puppy dog eyes she will go pick it up on her lunch time.
  10. The Rules of Walmart

    Yesterday the Mister had to take his mom to the emergency room. She’s okay now, but at the time she was tired and miserable and hours away from going home. I was out running errands when the Mister texted me about getting comfortable clothes for his mom.

    Of course, I said. Since I didn’t have her house keys and she lives 30 minutes away, I offered to go buy something. He agreed. I went into one store, then another. Yesterday was the first day in recorded history that cheap sweat pants in a size Medium were not available in the United States. Except, of course, at one store. My last resort. The place I only go in case of extreme emergency. Not just regular emergency, extreme emergency.


    There are several topics one doesn’t mention in polite society: (A) religion, (B) politics, (C) income, and (D) Walmart. Not-so-coincidentally, talking about D usually involves A, B, and C. I’m going to disregard my biological impulse for self preservation and devote an entire post to my personal rules for shopping at Walmart.

    Rule No. 1: Never Shop at Walmart

    I get a pass on this one since it was an extreme emergency.
    Status: FAILED.

    Rule No. 2: Arrive with an Empty Bladder

    I didn’t, so I had to venture into the Walmart bathrooms. Again, I get a pass on this one since it was an extreme emergency. I tried, unsuccessfully, meditation, mind-over-matter, and the pee-pee dance to prevent the inevitable.
    Status: FAILED.

    Rule No. 3: Maintain a Positive Attitude

    Create a Wall of Happy. Say excuse me, please, and thank you. Show respect to fellow shoppers. Smile beatifically at the parents of children having tantrums. Be a good person.

    Rattled from breaking two of my hard-and-fast Walmart rules, my Wall of Happy started to crumble.

    Status: FAILED.

    Rule No. 4: Bring Entertainment

    I usually have a book in my purse, and of course there is always my phone. But because it was an extreme emergency, I decided to forgo a cart or hand basket in favor of grabbing what I needed. Then I walked to the “Speedy Checkout” register, only to stand in line with my arms full of miscellanea, unable to access my entertainment.

    Status: FAILED.

    Rule No. 5: There is no “Speedy Checkout”

    Management must instruct their employees to affix Walmart price tags with spit and wishes, because there is always at least one item in 75% of the shopping carts without a price. This produces all sorts of outrage as everyone else in line waits for the mythical Price Check Employee to appear in a swirl of smoke and intone, The Soft Touch Hanes Sweat Pants, classic fit, are $9.86.”

    There is also at least one shopper who will produce 400 unorganized coupons on a Sunday afternoon, ready to do battle over the price of a 32-pack of Gatorade.

    I stood for 20 minutes in the “Speedy Checkout” line listening to a woman argue about the price of juice before remembering Rule No. 5.

    Status: FAILED.


    Rule No. 6: Expect the Unexpected

    There will always be that one guy wearing something you can’t believe, or that one employee you can’t believe has a job. This is normal at Walmart, The New Colossus of shopping.

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to wear spandex,
    The street-rat-crazy of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the butt-cracked, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    I call her Babushka, the 4’3″ fuse attached to my cannonball. Babushka, though I don’t know if she’s a Russion grandmother. Her age is indeterminable, maybe early 50s. I know she wears a headscarf tied under her chin and looks like she walked out of a Van Gogh painting. Actually, she bears a horrifying resemblance to the late Zelda Rubinstein, down to the stiff walk and raspy, child-like voice.


    Babuska, my nemesis. It’s not the first time I’ve stood in her line, which always takes forever. When I see her, I run. But this time, this time she got the best of me. I was in line, almost 20 minutes by this point, when they did a shift change. I watched with dismay as a black, simple headscarf made it’s way through the aisle of bottled water like the dorsal fin of a hungry shark. I was doomed.

    True to form, Babushka slowly and methodically scanned each item. If an item didn’t scan, she did it again, even slower than before. Watching her scan items is like watching a sea anemone creep along the ocean floor. She scans an item three times before reaching for the handheld scanner. I commend her for working; it must be a grueling, exhausting job. I wish she didn’t have to work at Walmart. I still want to strangle her with her headscarf.

    She requested so many price checks that the mythical Price Check Employee stopped coming back. The crowd behind and in front of me started sharpening their pitchforks. “Why are we here,” said a woman holding a lamp.

    “We’ve been here too long,” I said. “We’re invested in this line, so now we can’t leave.”

    Four college boys tried to buy everything plus one white serving dish without a price tag. Babushka turned the bowl over and over and over again, perhaps looking for the answers to life’s most important questions. She began randomly scanning the bowl with her hand scanner in case the tag was invisible, I suppose.

    I had enough. I, normally a patient person, came unglued. “Gentleman,” I called out. “If there is no price, you are not getting the bowl. Let the dream go and move it along.” Four pairs of entitled eyes turned and looked at me. I looked back.


    At this point, I had been standing for 30 minutes in line to buy $7 worth of clothing. I started imagining my 30 minute drive to the hospital, walking through the halls, searching for my husband and mother in-law. Babushka, Babushka, Babushka. I texted the Mister that he would have to meet me in the parking lot.


    Finally, three customers later, it was my turn. MY TURN! I walked up and handed her my items rather than placing it on the conveyor belt because I noticed the counter was wet.

    “I don’t know why it’s still wet!” She said in her terrifying voice. “I cleaned it but it’s still wet! So sticky! So sticky!”

    “That’s alright,” I said in what now sounded to me like a rumbling baritone. “I’m in a bit of a hurry and it’s just as easy for me to hand you this.”

    “So sticky!” She said again. “I cleaned it once already!” She grabbed four squares from a roll of toilet paper and started wiping the counter.

    “Perfectly fine!” I said. “But, really, I just need to get going.”

    She scanned my items while I stood ready with my ATM card. I ran my card through faster than I ever have in my life. My fingers flew across the keypad. It read “WAITING FOR CASHIER”.

    I was almost there, almost done. Almost out of the hellhole. And then. Dear God, and then.

    “So sticky!” She said. “I don’t know why it can’t get clean!” I wanted to reach across the counter and tell Lady Macbeth to forget the damn spot and press that little button that would complete the transaction. Instead, I watched, slack-jawed, as she moved away from the counter and shuffled towards a bottle of cleanser 5 check stands away.

    “No!” I yelled. “No! It’s not that sticky! Please, come back!” She didn’t hear me over the creaking of her bones. The luckiest part of my entire Walmart experience was that a manager happened to walk up to help the checker next to us. I begged her to check me out. “Just press the button,” I said. “That’s all you have to do.”

    As the manager pressed the button, back came Babuska, wildly spraying her cleanser all over the counter, the lamp on the belt, the customers, the world. “Watch out, my eyes!” cried out the woman with the lamp. Babushka and her toilet paper, rubbing everything down.

    Status: FAILED.

    Forty minutes later, I had my $7 sweat pants. I texted the Mister to let him know I was on my way, forgetting the most important rule of all when it comes to Walmart shopping.

    Rule No. 7: It’s Not Over Until Sam Walton Sings

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    I’ve been trying to spend less time on Facebook, but it’s not because I’m working or too busy. The truth of the matter is that to get to my Facebook page I have to go through my personal page, and I’ve basically come to hate most of the people with whom I’m “friends.”

    Seriously. So annoying. Part of the problem is that I found most of these people back when my best friend and I were in charge of the high school reunion. Before then, I was never on Facebook. Now it’s like I’ve been sucked into a whirlpool of malcontent.

    By all means, call me an idiot for having a different opinion. Nothing could make me happier! Unless, of course, you attach a meme with bad words and a picture of a cat releasing it’s bowels all over a keyboard to hammer home the point that you think what I believe is crap. I won’t even judge you for using such literal imagery. (Hahaha, yes I will.)

    If I ever post about something that happened 6 months ago, by God someone better chime in and remind me that it was actually 3 months, 12 days, and 4 hours ago or I’m going to be very disappointed in the Facebook police.

    Always, always, always tell me how I could be a better mother. I really need your help on this because I think as a woman who has never met my children, you might be able to provide a “fresh set of eyes.”

    I don’t care what you think about the other candidate.

    Two weeks ago I almost deleted my Facebook account. Some friends convinced me to keep it because if I delete my personal account, I lose my blog page. “I remember to read your blog when a post of yours shows up in my feed.” I get that, but if she only reads my blog when I remind her, maybe I’m keeping her from doing something more important. I don’t need to be reminded to read the blogs that really speak to me and my life at the moment. I don’t want to add unnecessary noise to anyone’s life.

    For these reasons and more, I’ve been slowly moving away from Facebook and going back to Twitter. It’s easier for me to reply to people when I’m on break at school and I don’t have to deal with people I want to throttle or run the risk of getting roped into another War of the Words.

    After only a few days back on Twitter, I’ve been directed to some great links!

    Rebecca sent me this one on the “All About that Bass” video. Go ahead and have a little clicky-poo, all you visiting readers from the Collective Haters of the Internet, LLC. And while you’re at it, go reread the post you hated so much. I put it back up and added a few comments.

    Twitter is how Linda Bacon heard about this post. She sent me an email wishing me luck on my journey. Fangirl moment.

    I found out a lot of people like and use doTERRA essential oils. I swear by quite a few of the oils and I was able to search and find a few other users. Facebook is actually a better place for reading doTERRA stuff but, again, trying to avoid Facebook.

    Twitter isn’t perfect, of course. People can turn on you quickly. My brother says Twitter can be a medieval stockade but with blue birds instead of rotten vegetables. He has a point, but that can be said of all social media.

    I wonder what would happen if I stopped all social media? Instagram would be TOUGH to let go.

    The Art of Doing Nothing


    The boys were supposed to begin swim practice three weeks ago. The first week we didn’t go because it was the first week of school. I thought it would be too chaotic. The second week we didn’t go because I was so sick. There was no way I was getting out of bed for beginning/intermediate swim practice. This week, the third week, we had choir practice on the first day of practice and a parent-teacher open house on the second day of practice. On both days we got home after our usual dinner time and by consequence went to bed late. In my case, very late. On Wednesday we could have gone to practice. It was the first day in several weeks where we didn’t have another obligation to meet and the boys had light homework. If ever there was a day to spend two hours at a pool, this was it.

    We didn’t go, obviously. I pulled away from the school parking lot and decided we would have a late afternoon/evening of just nothing instead of going home, changing, and then eating a quick snack on the way to practice. Mikey was excited about the idea. Nico, wasn’t as excited. He likes swim practice, but he’s in the beginner’s group. They aren’t exactly on an Olympian training schedule.

    For months I’ve been debating what to do about the boys and their activities. Choir is nonnegotiable. We feel strongly that they should be involved in at least one church ministry. Mikey wants to continue with clarinet lessons. He loves it, and his teacher thinks that by 7th grade he could audition for a youth symphony in our area. Nico wants to do an instrument, too, but he doesn’t seem in love with piano. He keeps talking about trumpet/clarinet/drums/violin. So, anything but piano.

    If we did choir, music, and swimming, there would be an after school activity Monday-Friday. It’s too much. I can’t do it and we can’t afford it. I guess if we tightened up our belts (more) we could, but the reasons why I should do that elude me.

    Origami Dino

    Our pediatrician repeats at every annual checkup that physical activity is key to healthy childhood, which is why the boys have always been in sports. But the other day I realized they don’t need to be on a formal team to get physical activity. I know that sounds obvious, but I can’t be the only one who has forgotten that you can get physical activity just by playing outside! Riding bikes, playing kickball in the street, shooting hoops, etc. are all ways to exercise. This realization reminded me of a passage from Simplicity Parenting, my favorite book on parenting.

    Three out of four kids quit youth sports by the age of thirteen. Too many of the 40 million kids who play organized youth sports get seriously injured, emotionally scarred or simply learn the wrong lessons about teamwork, social cooperation and leadership. It’s downright tragic that at precisely the age when kids are physically, emotionally, socially and neurologically primed to benefit most from team sport participation, they opt out in droves.

    This is another interesting excerpt from an article on the decline of risky play in children thanks to our concern they will hurt themselves. (Guilty.)

    An ironic fact is that children are far more likely to injure themselves in adult-directed sports than in their own freely chosen, self-directed play. That’s because the adult encouragement and competitive nature of the sports lead children to take risks–both of hurting themselves and of hurting others—that they would not choose to take in free play. It is also because they are encouraged, in such sports, to specialize, and therefore overuse specific muscles and joints. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.5 million children per year under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries. That’s about 1 out of every 7 children engaged in youth sports. Sports medicine for children has become a big business, thanks to adults who encourage young pitchers to throw so hard and so often they throw out their elbows, encourage young football linemen to hit so hard they get concussions, encourage young swimmers to practice so often and hard they damage their shoulders to the point of needing surgery. Children playing for fun rarely specialize (they enjoy variety in play), and they stop when it hurts, or they change the way they are playing. Also, because it’s all for fun, they take care not to hurt their playmates. Adults, who get all wrapped up in winning and may hope for eventual scholarships, work against nature’s means of preventing damage.

    Here is a link to the entire article.

    Staying home was incredible. I cleaned out Nico’s folder and finished all outstanding paperwork. The boys had their homework finished before dinner, which we ate early. I had time to read with Nico, who really needs my attention in this department. He’s an incredible but extremely insecure reader. Mikey had time to study for an English test until he felt confident with the material. Later, I went through the chapter with him and quizzed him on some concepts. Subject! Predicates! Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? While the boys took their evening showers, I made our lunches for tomorrow. Now I’m writing a post and getting ready to go to bed. If this is life without sports, I might take it.

    p.s. I walked into Nico’s classroom at parent/teacher night and knew which desk was his without having to read the name tags on the desks. SIGH. The second picture is an Origami Diplodocus from Mikey.

    Catching Up

    Origami Yoda

    I have a long list of posts I will never write. I actually sat down last week and wrote out a plan because there are so many projects and thoughts from the summer that I never shared, and then God looked over my shoulder as I ended my list with a flourish and said to Himself, “LOL, how adorable. I’ll give her the worst head cold ever.”

    The cold was worth it, though, because on the day I felt my very worst, I came back to bed after doing homework with Nico and found this Origami Yoda note from Mikey on my pillow. So, so awesome. It’s one of those things I will never throw away.


    Not so subtle mom-brag moment over. Let’s move on to some other super-exciting stuff you can’t live without knowing!

    Last week was bad. I had to pay for the boys to have hot lunch and breakfast at school, there was nothing to eat for dinner, and I was all-around miserable. I vowed to myself that I would take better care of myself and our home. No more sleeping less than I should, skipping meals, and working until I’m sick or exhausted. So far, so good. I’ve gone to bed early, had breakfast every day, and have been working on saying NO. I was feeling so good about my progress that on Sunday I made their lunches for Monday and Tuesday and later that night I made a week’s work of waffles. Breakfast for the week, done!

    I was smugger than a mom with an instagram account and a bento box. In fact, I did instagram my brilliance! Too bad I didn’t have time to instagram breakfast the following morning. I don’t use the microwave preset keys that often–too high tech for me–but on that morning we were running behind so I grabbed a four frozen waffles and chucked them into the microwave like a discus wielding Olympian. Then I pressed some buttons, not really sure which, and returned to headless chicken flapping. I decided to cut the microwave short a couple of minutes later; the boys would have to deal with slightly cold waffles. Imagine my surprise when I opened the microwave and found the waffles expanded to 32 times their normal size. Then they collapsed in a rubbery, steaming display of defeat similar to the fall of the Hindenburg.

    They were obviously overcooked, so I did what came naturally. I pulled them out of the microwave and yelled, “Boys, your waffles are ready!”

    To their credit, the boys tried valiantly to eat the waffles, abandoning forks and knives midway through breakfast so they could tear at them with their hands and teeth. I don’t mean to brag, but I think I invented Wheat Jerky.


    Nico wears glasses now. I think he looks like Clark Kent and is super, super adorable.


    The other day at school someone made a comment about my blue shoes. The next day I wore red shoes and at that moment realized I only own one pair each of brown and black shoes. The rest are blue, orange, red (two), pink, black and white striped, yellow, and gold. This must be my subconscious trying to justify why I wear the same pair of Target skinny jeans every day.


    Last little something! Last night Mikey came in from getting seed for Buttercup and said, “Mom, you have to go outside and take a picture of the sunset. Seriously, right now.” So I did.

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.