I’ve been watching the haloed, blurry-edged, emotion steeped photos of back to school for what feels like a month now. I’ve learned over these last four years of school that we are at the tail end of the back-to-school swing. I suppose at some moment I imagined that it would mean that I could crib from others and get my act together. The truth is that while I get the heads up that it’s coming, it doesn’t slow my schedule or change the way I conduct my life (which is really just code for: react to the things thrown at me and that I forget in the mayhem that is just-trying-to-get-by.)

Honestly? There are still days when I wake up and think, “Ok, today I really need to do this right. I am going to make myself look ‘presentable,’ start the day prepared and end it knowing I did everything I could.” Yet when I apply the lipstick reserved for special occasions, instead of seeing a reflection of readiness and grace, I see a joke. A clown really. It slows me down as I try to repair the awkward stain just south of center of my entire face. When I paint my nails? Same thing. When I plan a pitch in advance rather than just gauging my audience? Same darn thing.

We went school shopping weeks ago, we practiced reading, worked on printing, we covered the inevitability of more bullies or mean kids. This afternoon I tried to take the girls for a last summer hurrah, I knew exactly where to go. Briar has been asking all summer, brilliant! But as I began to declare exactly where we were going, the website rendered and I saw that the place was set to close in 14 minutes. FOURTEEN MINUTES. Gah! Plan B was a bounce house joint at the mall. Memorable in a way I didn’t intend.

A part of me wants to wake up tomorrow and take the shots in front of the door that you redo year after year, but I know we’ll have a different door next year, or I’ll forget which door to use. Or, truthfully, the picture won’t do it for me. Despite the fact that I can’t seem to stop gauging my effectiveness against other mothers, other chroniclers, I can’t ever get satisfaction from doing it that way. The one time I tried to do a cohesive party theme, the memories endured in the patch of fun we offered in the unbranded, unregulated, do-it-your-own-way cupcake decorating, not the heavily art directed “party table.”

Tomorrow we open the doors to 3rd and 1st grade, then Monday Pre-K comes to life. I bathed the girls tonight and asked them to pick out clothes. They have new bags and fresh supplies, but Briar’s hair was cut in the tub tonight. We decided at the last minute to let them give the bus another try because they really, really want to. Despite having written all the dates in a leather-bound book and wanting to have my head in the game, I feel like my legs are the beaters on a hand-turned egg beater and someone else is cranking the handle.

I’m trying to be ok with that, trying to believe that the girls won’t come home this year and say, “You aren’t like the home room moms,” or “Why don’t you ever have things planned before the day comes?”

Going back to school always makes me feel a bit like I don’t know everything I am supposed to know and it really, really hurts.