Good morning, quite literally! I’ve awakened from hibernation. While the rest of the world winds down into autumn, I’m waking up to the start of a new year! Back-to-school season is ripe with fresh starts and fresh pencils, clean slates and clean shoes, new people and new notebooks! So, as far as I’m concerned, happy new year!

Like mama bears coming out of their caves, the parents of Evergreen are now stumbling back to the reality of life. Yes, it’s life with days open and kids at school—and it’s also days of sports schedules and supply lists and icing 26 cookies for the classroom party. We’re thrilled to be awake again—and a little bit groggy and super hungry (for caffeine), so apologies for the longer-than-usual lines at the various coffee houses around town.

Please note, this is not an excuse to gorge oneself. Yes, you’ve starved your way through the pool-nap of summer hibernation, but pacing is essential. What you call preparation for winter, well, might be a little premature, if not ill-advised. You’ve forgotten the natural order of things. You have to survive back-to-school goodie bags, Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, New Year’s Eve champagne and tapas, Valentine’s chocolates, Easter candy and end-of-the-year parties before you get your next rest. Packing it on after summer is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

I must also mention, it’s now time to begin grooming again. Hibernation bed head is a real thing. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t taken a hairbrush to my head for an entire summer, and I do need my kids’ teachers to take me seriously for at least the first week. Hibernation lends itself to strange hair growth and split ends, lengthened and unruly claws—talons for some, and they know how to use them—as well as general neglect for physical appearance. Soon, clothes will be required again. Shoes, too. But if we made it out of quarantine and back to society last year, we can handle this annual re-entrance.

There are delights to waking up from hibernation slumber, and they are not lost on us. We’re pleased to find the fruits of the season are beginning to spring up. Though summer’s heat lingers, and so do the tourists, the promises of fall are peeking out like the faces of the ceramic jack-o-lanterns King Soopers is already displaying. Just a few more weeks and the barns about town will be dotted with twinkle lights, just you wait. Is it any wonder the parents hibernate during summer? The rest of the year happens in a blink.

 One of the most challenging parts of coming out of hibernation is the usually jarring reminder about certain challenges to the parenting lifestyle, or worse, an encounter with one’s natural predators. Parents, I don’t want to scare you, but there have already been many sign-up sheet sightings and calls for task forces have also been circulating the area. While you’re just trying to round up your children and get them off to where they need to be, please do be aware that “boards,” “associations” and “groups” have been watching. They know where you are and they will strike when you are at your most vulnerable. It’s hard to be caught off-guard, I know, but remember your natural defenses: you can say no.

It is important to identify not only your natural enemies, but your natural allies as well. Strength in numbers, that’s what our instincts teach us. Even the most capable parents fare far better in herds. Telltale signs of a trustworthy pack member include: grabbing your child from the pick-up line when you are late; purchasing an extra coffee, just in case; and being the sort of organizational freak who always happens to have tissues and Band-aids. Align yourself with these evolutionary companions—and try to be one yourself.

Mama bears know their own strength, and parents everywhere must recognize theirs, too. In fact, forget the mama bears. They’re weak. They sleep through the cold. They sleep through the soirees and the tournaments and the pageants. They sleep through the snow pants (and snow boots and, Oh My God, the mittens—can anyone get mittens on their kid in the morning without hysterics?!) They wake up to the blossoms of spring, splash in the creek in the summer, romp through the leaves in the fall, and then when it’s time to really get down to business, they get fat and roll over.

Parents of the mountain area, we are the familial phenoms of these woods and canyons! As we bumble about feeding our young and keeping it together, see how the other mountain creatures scamper from our paths. They know our power! They fear our might! There is no way they are rolling their eyes as they read this, thinking, good Lord, please give me the tourists on the road instead of moms and dads on their way to piano lessons!

So, like I said, happy new year! Happy back to school—and good luck out there.