5 Reasons I’m Having School Photo Rage

5 Reasons I’m Having School Photo Rage

Even on a good day, there are quite a few reasons to be annoyed by school photo day.

  • You have to remember that it’s school photo day.
  • You have to fight with your kid about why for ONE DAY you would like them to consider wearing a shirt that doesn’t have a picture on the front of it.
  • You have to have them practice a smile that doesn’t look like they’re plotting the photographer’s death and/or hitting the peak of an acid trip.

But the absolute worst part of photo day is dealing with the purchase procedure of said photos.

  1. Choose from backgrounds. This year’s selections included, “Barbara Walters 1984 Interview,” “Between Two Ferns,” “A River Runs Through It,” “That Scene From Gravity When Sandra Bullock Floats Away,” or “Underage Camp Counselor.”
  2. Select from packages A-Q, ranging in price from a minimum of $20 to a maximum of infinity dollars, because of all the mind-boggling add-ons like puzzles of your face, and note pads of your face, and pillows of your face so you can put your face on your face.
  3. Use the convenient “pay online feature” so your kid can keep saying, “there’s no money with the order form…they won’t let me get my picture taken if you don’t pay….I don’t think that code counts, I think they only take real money….”
  4. Pay with a check, if you can find your checkbook, because, do they even make checks anymore?
  5. Forget to put the order form in your kid’s backpack.
  6. Deliver order form to school office and add to a 3″ pile of other forgotten order forms.

At our school, there seems to be a photo day with each passing season, which caused me to post this question to Facebook after the latest “It’s Picture Day!” warning came home.


I was about to just have my kid opt out of spring picture day because we had literally just received the “Package B” (B for Bargain) of photos that we ordered from the fall picture day. But then word started spreading that kids were being encouraged to bring props for their spring photos. Friends’ kids were hatching plans for photos featuring Harry Potter style wands and scarves, favorite stuffed animals cuddled in arms and suddenly the crazy photo backgrounds were inspiring fantastically creative ideas.

Finally! Something to help differentiate spring photos from the traditional blue-background headshots that were taken a few months earlier.  Count me in!


Even though the spring photos were done through the same company as the fall photos, instead of pre-paying for the photos and receiving a package of surprise photos a few weeks later, you just selected your background for your photos so you could approve the photos before buying them.

This also seemed like an amazing idea, EXCEPT it turns out that the method of approving and purchasing the photos is the most annoying, wasteful process possible: every child in the school (that’s 1,000+ kids in our school alone) is sent home with an envelope full of four sheets of photos, (an 8×10, two 5×7, four 3×5 and eight wallet sized) PLUS a hard plastic “fun pack” of photos, including a bag tag, key tags, book mark and door hanger.


If you want to purchase any/all of the photos, you pay online (or by check) by a set date.

If you do NOT want to purchase any/all of the photos, you return all of them to the school.

Which is where my rage begins.

  1. What a wasteful, environmentally detrimental process, and horrible lesson to teach the kids who have been told to reduce, reuse and recycle since birth. And what do you do with 23 pictures of my child that I send back?  Do they get recycled? Do they become part of some European ad campaign or frame fillers? Do the hard working employees at the school have to deal with the disposal, or even worse, inventorying them, packing them back up, and shipping them to you?
  2. There’s no GOOD reason for companies to do this.  In a day and age where everything is digital and photos can be better protected online through watermarks, vs sending home hard copy 8x10s that can be easily scanned, why would a company opt to using this method?  My best guess is that they are counting on busy, overwhelmed parents messing up and having to buy photos that they either forgot to return by the cut off date or that their kids enthusiastically brought home and cut up, or popped out of the “fun pack” before their parents even had a chance to see them. That just feels super shady and icky.
  3. Having to hand a pack of unpurchased photos to your kid to return to school sucks. And the companies that do this know that it sucks, and know that parents will pay for the photos to avoid feeling guilty if their kids think they “don’t want” photos of them.  Worse yet, a friend had to console her daughter who was in tears because she wanted one of the little key tags from the “fun pack” but for some reason her mom didn’t want to pay $15 for it. Again, ick.
  4. Stealing is bad for everyone. For parents who cannot afford to pay for the photos, there is the obvious temptation to scan or take a photo of the photos before sending them back to the school. Now the photo company is out the money for producing the photos the parent scanned and the kid gets a lesson on how it’s okay to steal, even though it doesn’t technically feel like stealing, even though it totally is.
  5. And now I’m ragey because I would have willingly paid for these awesome Yoshi-prop, clip on tie (?) photos of my son, but now I feel like I’m just buying them so I can own them to use for this post to point out how ridiculous it is that I have all of these photos without paying for them in the first place.


Please, school photo companies, I beg of you – Parents want to have a warm, fuzzy feeling when they look at the school photos of their kids, not a ragey, icky feeling that they just got tricked into buying photos of their kids. It’s hard for me to believe that you make more money this way, after paying for all the development and shipping of hundreds and thousands (millions?) of photos, but if you do, just know that it’s off of parents that feel tricked and frustrated by this business practice.

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Dear Moms: It’s Okay To Skip The Class Field Trip

Dear Moms: It’s Okay To Skip The Class Field Trip

Today I am filled with mom-guilt. Since there are more types of mom-guilt than there are Eskimo words for snow, I should probably be more specific.

Today’s guilt (or at least this hour’s guilt) is Guilt Type #26: When you have to tell your child that you won’t be chaperoning their class field trip today even though you never missed any of his big sister’s field trips. Even worse, the aggrieved child reminds you about how you used to drop him off at a daycare for the express purpose of being able to attend his big sister’s field trips (Guilt Type #37.) To top it off, you may have kind of, a little bit, fibbed (or at least exaggerated) about the excuses for missing the filed trip (Guilt Type #26.B)

Yes, I did need to take the dog to the vet to get his booster shot. Could the appointment have been rescheduled? Sure. Did I consider rescheduling it? Not really.

Yes, I also did have a tennis lesson scheduled for this morning. Did one of the other moms in our group skip practice to go to the field trip?  Yes.  Did another mom leave right from practice to join up for the second half of the field trip?  Yes. Did she offer to even drive me there?  Yes.  Am I filling the rest of my day with non-mission-critical tasks like farting around in the back yard throwing the ball with the dog, doing laundry and spreading compost on the yard instead of attending said field trip? Yes.

Perhaps it’s because it’s the Friday before spring break and this mamma has shit to do and would like to do it in a leisurely, methodical fashion vs a frantic and rushed mess.

Perhaps it’s because he’s the second kid and I SIMPLY CANNOT feign enthusiasm in the same museum that I have chaperoned dozens and dozens of kids through in previous years.

But mostly it’s because I have chaperoned dozens and dozens of kids to dozens and dozens of museums, parks, zoos, dairy farms and caves over the years and do you know how many of those kids have complained about a parent that couldn’t attend?  ZERO.  Do you know how many kids of parents who were there barely noticed the presence of said parent(s)?  Most of them. Sure, there are special cases when a child benefits greatly from having a parent, but for the most part, kids have a great time if their parents are there and have a great time if they aren’t.

I can also speak from the experience of growing up with a single, working mom who would have given anything to be the chaperone on those trips but simply could not. I never even gave it a second thought and in fact liked having the independence of being in some exciting new adventure with just my classmates. I also know from year’s of attending my daughter’s field trips that I was doing it more for my benefit than for hers.

Because I know this in my head, it makes no sense to feel guilt about falling short a “100% Parent Attendance” bar that I have set for myself over the years. So this week I stood tough and looked my 8-year-old straight in the eyes and said, “Honey, I’m sorry, mommy won’t make it to the field trip on Friday…and it’s the dog’s fault.”



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P.S.  I just received this photo of my son from the field trip (which he is surviving without me) with a note that she was feeling guilty being on the field trip instead of being home preparing for Spring Break.  See – there’s enough mom guilt for everyone to share!






The 10 Stages of Grief of Being Reported to the HOA Yard Police

The 10 Stages of Grief of Being Reported to the HOA Yard Police

I was recently subjected to the lowest of the low in Suburbia-shaming: I was reported to the neighborhood HOA Yard Police.

Please note, this is not an anti-HOA post. I have lived in plenty of neighborhoods where I would have gladly given up my exterior-paint-color-freedom to have an HOA that took care of broken-down cars parked in lawns. I’m particularly fond of our HOA as they have been extremely generous in supporting our school’s beautification efforts and making our neighborhood a beautiful place to live. 

My issue is the people who bypass the simple human interaction of discussing a concern with a neighbor and use the HOA to do their uncomfortable work for them instead.

In case you ever find yourself in the deep pit of despair associated with being yard-shamed by one of your friendly neighbors, who is waving, “howdy neighbor!” at you one moment, only to duck into their car and shoot off a report to the HOA about you the next, here’s my experience to help guide you through your stages of grief.

Stage 1:  See a car driving by your house slower than normal and automatically assume that they are planning a major heist to steal all of your finest Ikea furniture.  Say to yourself, “I better take a photo of this suspicious vehicle casing our neighborhood in case I need to report it to our neighborhood Facebook Group using the heading, “It Might be Nothing, BUT Keep Your Eyes Out for This Suspicious Vehicle!”



Stage 2: Witness said suspicious vehicle do a dramatic u-turn to narrow in on their target: Holy crap! I AM THE TARGET! Turn on the alarm! Hide the priceless Charming Charlie jewels! Oh wait…Upon closer inspection, realize that the suspicious vehicle is actually the Neighborhood HOA Yard Police there to respond to a complaint about your totally average, yet apparently totally unacceptable yard.



Stage 3:  Admit to the Facebook-World that your jungle of a yard is completely out of control and a danger to neighbor children and animals who could be entangled and trapped forever. Beware! Stay Away! Nay, LOOK AWAY! No one should be subjected to this level of turf-travesty!

susannekerns.comStage 4: Wonder if the complaint was actually about the weeds, or about the political and social beliefs of the woman behind the weeds who is vocal about running a pro-LGBTQ+ site called Informed Parents of Austin.



Stage 5:  Send an email to your awesome, all-natural, yard guy, who, like most yard services, is working around mother nature’s schedule because it has been raining just about every motherf*%$#g day for what feels like the past 17 months.

Stage 6: Find a letter from the HOA in your mail box two days later. Remember you’re late paying your HOA dues.  Wonder how you’re a 45 year old woman who has so many strikes against you with the HOA that you’re not 100% sure which issue this letter is about.  Open it.  It’s the yard.  Forget to pay HOA dues for a few more weeks.



Stage 7: Get increasingly ragey on the drive home from the mailbox. Pull over to the HOA common area next to your street and start taking a bunch of, “you think I have weeds, well look at YOUR weeds,” photos like an angry two year old.



Stage 8: Remember that the reason that your HOA common areas have some weeds is that they have a serious commitment to the environment and work their asses off to maintain common areas through hand-weeding and natural, non-chemical methods. Remember that this is one of your favorite parts of your HOA: that they value the environment and the health of our kids and streams over having perfectly pristine grass. Wonder why they don’t allow the same environmental commitment from their residents. Presume that they simply have to respond to reports made by other residents and probably had better things to do with their day than come take pictures of my yard.  Decide to focus rage on neighbor who submitted the complaint instead.

Stage 9: Work through rage by spending an afternoon hand-pulling weeds in the rain until you’re completely drenched because Austin, Texas is like some freakish jungle where weeds grow three inches in a day. Think of all the times that you packed up your lawnmower to go mow the grass at the school to remember that you’re not a bad person. Break your no-chemical rule and go nuclear on some weeds before they can enter your nice, next door neighbor’s lawn.

Stage 10:  Wonder if it WAS the nice, next door neighbor who turned you in. Get really sad. Remember the time she made you a platter of nice cookies for Christmas.  Decide even if it was her, the cookies make up for it.

Not actual photo. Hers were even prettier but I ate them all too fast to get a picture.

Stage 10: Complete a Kill Bill style list of all the neighbors who have ever wronged you. Realize that you actually like everyone in your neighborhood and if some stranger was concerned enough about the weeds to contact HOA without having the balls to just come talk about it, then they have issues that even the most pristine golf-course turn can’t fix.

In closing: To the neighbor who called me in, and to all of the neighbors who want to call me in but don’t: I’m trying. This whole “organic lawn care” thing was much easier in Seattle, but I’m not giving up. Also, if you think the front yard is bad, for the love of all that is holy, you better steer clear of our back yard.

Also, watch out for that whole “glass houses/throwing rocks” thing. As you look down on me from your lush lawn, remember that watering your lawn more than once a week is a violation too.  😉

Austin Watering Schedule


The moral of the story: Let’s try keeping the “neighborly” in neighborhoods. If an issue is important enough to report to the HOA, it’s important enough to do the neighborly thing and go talk to your neighbor face to face. You never know, they may be going through something that is keeping them from being able to attend to whatever issue is bothering you.

Let’s save the HOA’s valuable resources for real grievances that you haven’t been able to work out neighbor to neighbor….like that crazy lady who keeps making Bingo games out of our neighborhood’s Facebook group.




Come hang out with me at my Facebook Page – there are NO weeds there.

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Kids > Guns

Kids > Guns

Sorry, everyone – there won’t be anything funny posted here today. In fact, there will probably be a lot of completely unfunny things posted here.

You see, I just finally watched one of the many videos from the latest school massacre.

I have to admit, I was too cowardly to watch them yesterday. I was also too cowardly to watch them today, but one autoplayed in my Twitter feed and I saw it.

I didn’t want to see it, because I did not want to feel it.

I was afraid that if I saw it, and felt it, that would make it real.

Like a Schrödinger cat. I didn’t want to “open the box” and make 17 people die.

But I did see it.

I saw dead children lying in pools of blood.

I saw the look on the surviving children’s faces as they were forced to file out of the school, stepping over their friends’ dead bodies and strewn backpacks.

To the NRA, the fear mongering lawmakers, and all the American citizens who support them through their ideals and their votes: it is time for YOU to see it too.

It is time for you to value our children’s lives more than you value your precious guns.

It is time for you to stop blaming mental illness while you strip funding to care for the mentally ill and strip the laws that limit their access to guns.

It is time for you to value the life of school age child as much as you value the life of an embryo.

It is time for our children’s lives to be worth more to you than donor money or the next election cycle.

It is time for you to sit down in front of hours of footage of gunned down children, toothpicks holding your eyelids open, Clockwork Orange style until you finally SEE it.

Until then, I’m sending you my thoughts and prayers, because, if there is a God, you are going to hell. And if there’s not, living without the capacity for empathy or compassion must be its own special hell.

The Time I Argued About Sex Ed With a Stranger at a School Meeting Until My Face Looked Like This.

The Time I Argued About Sex Ed With a Stranger at a School Meeting Until My Face Looked Like This.

A few months ago, I started hanging out at the SHAC.

What’s a SHAC, you ask?

It’s a lot like the B-52’s “Love Shack,” except it’s in Austin instead of Atlanta, and it takes place in an Austin Independent School District conference room instead of in “a little old place where we can get together.”

Like “The Love Shack,” I would like to put up a sign that says, “Stay away, fools, ‘cause love rules at the Love Shack,” because a few meetings ago, I had an encounter with someone who is quite foolish.

In fact, she, and her anti-LGBTQ+ group, are the reason I now will be attending the SHAC (School Health Advisory Council) meetings on a monthly basis.  (That, and because the SHAC feeds me dinner.)

She’s also the reason I had to post this to Facebook after I returned home from last month’s meeting.
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Try These 3 Things When Your Kids Get Stage Fright

Try These 3 Things When Your Kids Get Stage Fright

I would be the last person to volunteer to go up on stage and dance or sing in front of a room full of people (or iPhone screens which presumably have people holding them up,) so I’ve had some challenges convincing my kids to get excited about things like recitals and school plays.

“You’ll be great!”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of!”

“No one has ever literally died of embarrassment (that I know of) so PLEASE JUST PUT ON YOUR DAMN BALLET SHOES!!”

If parenting has taught me nothing else, it’s that it’s impossible to be rational with irrational little humans, especially when their fear is actually pretty rational and natural, (and your primary driver for making them perform is the fact that you just shelled out $50 for that recital costume, so it will be worn on stage even if you have to go up there and move your child’s limbs like a little, angry marionette.)
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