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For school lunches, hold the plastic sandwich bag

Many retailers and schools are advocating waste-free options for back-to-school shoppers this year, especially when it comes to lunch. School lists call for Tupperware instead of Ziplocs, neoprene lunch bags instead of brown paper ones, and aluminum water bottles, not the throwaway plastic versions.

Sales of environmentally friendly back-to-school products are up just about everywhere. At the Container Store, the increase is 30 percent over last year for some items, said Mona Williams, the company’s vice president of buying. “We have seen a huge resurgence,” she said.

The trend makes the schools happy (much less garbage). It makes the stores happy (higher back-to-school spending). It even makes the students happy (green feels good).

Mama Drama: School Anxiety Support…for Mom

Dear Mama Drama:

I was bullied in school and have a lot of anxiety for my daughter who just started preschool. I worry that the teachers won’t stand up for her and that she’ll be picked on, so I’ve told her to hit anyone who bothers or hurts her.

Her teachers say that she will end up in trouble instead. How can I help her stand up for herself if she can’t hit?

~Scared Mama

 (photo credit)

Dear Scared:

Bullying is a real problem, but you can empower your daughter to stand up for herself without teaching her to hurt others.

Our experiences growing up have a big impact on how we view school for our children. It is easy to project these onto our children, but is more important to support them in creating a positive outlook about school so their experience can be better than ours.

Hitting it not a socially acceptable behavior and if used as a first response will lead to a great deal of difficulty for your daughter. Children who hit are often ostracized in school, as other students don’t feel safe playing with them. They are also more likely to have consequences that lead them to miss class time and learning opportunities.

Talk with your daughter’s teachers about your concerns and the reasons for them. Ask them about how they monitor the class, handle problems between students, and teach social skills. Knowing their strategies should help ease some of your fears.

Encourage your daughter to see the positives in school and in her classmates. Model noticing safe and friendly choices and ask her about the things she enjoyed in school each day. Make sure you are looking for the positives as well and not being critical or overreacting to typical interactions that happen in preschool. When you have questions or concerns, try to share those with the teachers out of earshot of your daughter.

Find resources to teach your daughter pro-social skills for problem solving and making friends.  The Mama Drama column on Bully Busting Basics describes skills to teach and books to read with your daughter.

The bottom line is that you don’t want other kids hitting and bullying your daughter and other parents don’t want their children hit or bullied either.  Teach your daughter to be strong in her social skills, rather than to be afraid that others will hurt her.

If you still feel overwhelmed by anxiety, seek professional mental health support to help you work through these issues.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Heat-related illnesses spur petition for Sept. school start in Denver

Three cases of heat-related illness during the back-to-school heat wave are being used to fuel the argument that kids shouldn’t have to be in the classroom before Labor Day.

“The bottom line for me comes down to health and safety,” said Stacy Smith, a parent of two Denver Public Schools students who is petitioning for a later start date. “There’s a reason why kids are not allowed in hot tubs or why they can’t legally be left in cars. But yet, they’re being left in 100-degree classrooms all day.”

Smith started a petition a week ago, after hearing other parents

How to help your child make friends and fit in

An interview with Dr. Jeffrey I. Dolgan, Senior Psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado

Q: How can parents help their children choose good friends?

A: Parents need to find out who is in their child’s peer group. You can get a good idea about the other kids by making connections with their families. I suggest hosting something to get everyone together, like a back-to-school BBQ or a soccer team party.

Q: How can parents discourage “mean girl” or “mean boy” behavior?

A: Being a mean girl or mean boy has to do with set-ups. Kids will say,

Successful School Fundraisers: Cookie Dough vs Real Dough

It’s no secret that schools are hurting for cash. Parent volunteers are stepping up as best they can, and schools turn to fundraisers to help bridge the gap between the Have and the Want, or in some cases, the Need.

(Stock photo by muresan113)

I do not begrudge the schools for doing fundraisers, and kudos to the volunteers! The kids need what the schools offer, and these things don’t come for free. During a time when millions of dollars are being cut from school budgets across the state, the money has to come from somewhere. The old adage is true: money doesn’t grow on trees.

I’m going to go out on one of those mythical tree limbs and say it’s not found in a tub of cookie dough, either.

Yes, I said it.
Out loud.

I refuse to

How An Innocent Pep Rally Can Invoke Future Child Humiliation

Two years ago, my daughter Hadley and our family were delighted to walk the parade route of the Arvada Harvest Festival with Arvada West High School’s cheerleaders. She was one of many kindergarteners from six elementary schools that feed into the high school who took part in this local tradition.

We looked forward to doing the same thing with our newly-minted kindergartener Bode this year until I realized I would be having knee surgery the week prior. As I started conjuring up possible solutions like decorating a wheelchair or handcart and having my pioneers haul me around, I stopped dead in my tracks. And remembered The Parade Walk of 2009.

It was my first event since my daughter entered elementary school. Parents were encouraged to participate and, if they were pulling wagons, to decorate those as well. It was then something very ugly was triggered. Something that I did not know even existed in the deep recesses of my mind. Some would call it school spirit. Others would call it

8 Quirks of the New Kindergartner

It doesn’t matter if your kindergartner goes to school half-days or full days. It doesn’t matter if they went to preschool for 2 years or it’s their first school experience. The transition can be difficult, baffling, but fun. Our sixth child, Beatrix, just started kindergarten two weeks ago. Thankfully, I know some of the issues that are cropping up are normal and not surprising.

1. Extreme Talkativeness: Your kindy kiddo might come home bursting with the news of the day. From the moment he enters the classroom to when he exits the building for the day, amazing things are happening. Letting him talk it out is the best way to help them process everything new. And it will lead to…

2. Serious Fatigue: Beatrix hasn’t been this tired since she was a toddler. Kindergarten 2011 is busy and more demanding than our kindergarten experiences. I went to half-day, she goes all day. I spent my days playing in an indoor sandbox or with the classroom dollhouse. She tackles subjects I didn’t until 1st grade. The good news is that within a few weeks, fatigue starts to fade.

3. Extra Clinginess: Most kindergartners are fine

Why I was blamed when my child went missing

On Friday, my 7-year-old daughter did not come home on the bus as expected.

In a frenzy, I tore over to her school and was terrified when the staff was unable to locate her. “Haddie’s teacher said she got on a bus but we’re not sure which one,” they assured me.

As I was conjuring up every worse-case scenario in the book, they located her on the same bus she rides in the morning, which is different than her afternoon bus. Call me crazy but switching up the route…and bus number…is confusing for young kids.

And mortified parents.

I posted my angst to my friends on Facebook and while most were sympathetic, some of my closer friends blamed me,

How Homebound Services Could Help Your Child

Life sometimes gets in the way, as I’m sure most of you are aware of. But when it comes to a child’s education, removing roadblocks is a necessity.

When my 6-year-old brother Simon was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on June 16, 2011, our family had to adjust to a new “normal.” With countless doses of chemotherapy and a steady stream of medications, Simon’s life, as well our families lives, changed drastically in a short period of time.

Due to Simon’s recent medical issues, he was not able to start school as scheduled. For Simon, school was one of his favorite times of day, and this year he was set to start 1st grade.

Simple ways to stop daily homework battles

A new school year has begun, which inevitably means homework. Well, in my case, the teacher smartly did not assign any homework to my newly minted fourth-grader in the first week of school. It was enough for her to get used to a new classroom, a new teacher, and attempt to cope with the fact that her BFFs are in other classrooms, located in other galaxies, far, far away.

But I know it’s coming. I sense the tantrums brewing.