BACK TO SCHOOL: 6:00 am Artwork

My mom used to write little notes on my napkins and tuck them into my lunch. I would read them while squeezing peanut butter through the holes in my saltine cracker sandwich.

From the time my son started kindergarten (he’s in 8th grade now), I doodled and wrote little napkin notes to him and later, his sisters, once they hit elementary school. I would fold and tuck them under their sandwich. I was never very consistent, but the kids loved them enough to always bring them home, a little soiled, but that’s why they’re napkins! I kept stuffing the returned napkins into a zip-lock bag and came across them the other day. What a journal! Tooth fairy visits, birthdays, first days of school, special person days, field trips, holidays, new happenings in their lives, and some just plain silliness. My artwork, like my handwriting in general, changed from napkin to napkin. Keep in mind that my morning coffee probably hadn’t even finished brewing when I was drawing most of these.
Click on photos to enlarge.
After drawing, I would sign my name with a heart until the day my son let me know that wasn’t cool. So I started hiding a heart somewhere in the doodle on every napkin for the kids to find, and so as not to embarrass my son. Their friends at lunch would look for the hearts too.

We found several in the pile that the kids had drawn themselves and snuck into one anothers lunch boxes, so cute!

I haven’t done napkins in a while and since my kids helped me go through this pile today, well, it looks like I’m commited to another year of getting up just a little earlier.

By the way, you DON’T have to be an artist to remind your kid how much you love them when they’re away. Happy faces and hearts are really just as special.

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76 Responses to BACK TO SCHOOL: 6:00 am Artwork

  1. #1 - Queen Scarlett says:

    I wish I could draw more than stick figures. These notes are priceless. Absolutely lovely.

  2. #2 - Nicole says:

    wow, Cathe! These are amazing! I am so amazed and thrilled that they were saved.

  3. #3 - nikki/WhiMSy love says:

    That is truly sweet.

    Mom’s napkin notes in my smelly lunchbox were the best!
    I can’t wait to write napkin notes to my girls.

    I can’t believe you saved so many–that’s fantastic!!

  4. #4 - earth and sun folk says:

    what an excellent idea! i write little notes to my daughter and wish we would’ve saved them 🙁
    but…it’s never to late:)
    thanks for sharing….very cool.

  5. #5 - Lauren says:

    So sweet! I leave notes on the outside of my husband's brown bag lunch telling him how much I love him, or telling others "hands off the PB&J!" : )

  6. #6 - Annie says:

    That is just about the coolest thing ever. what a great chronicle…makes me wish I had done it, too (now that my kids are 15, 12, 10 do you think they would mind if I started now?)

  7. #7 - Megan says:

    That is the coolest thing ever! And I love how you saved them to look back, so sweet.

  8. #8 - Valerie says:

    Those are sooo cute ! I so want to do that when I have children !

  9. #9 - puglyfeet says:

    So cool. Are you going to frame them?

  10. #10 - Rachel says:

    These are inspiring (mother love is something else). My kids PREFER to buy school lunch. Have I taught them nothing?! Hopefully they will grow out of it. I do slip notes into their backpacks anyway.

  11. #11 - Beau says:

    love these!

  12. #12 - PamperingBeki says:

    That is just the cutest thing ever Cathe!!! I love it.

  13. #13 - Reneesance says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to parenthood *G* I am completely stealing this idea for when my babelet gets to school age

  14. #14 - Huntinghouse Folly says:

    How lucky your children are to have a mom who is not only so talented but also so loving. And how wonderful that you are raising kids who recognize that your notes are precious things to save. You must be a really special mom.

  15. #15 - Candice says:

    My mom used to do this for me and I loved them as well. Yours are truly fantastic though. Some really great artwork to look back at.

  16. #16 - Leta says:

    These are fantastic! What a sweet idea. I’m sure your kids will remember this for years to come.

  17. #17 - Jennifer says:

    God knew exactly what He was doing when He spirited your heart and hands together. You are amazing!

  18. #18 - Sarah Jane says:

    oh my goodness…just awesome. My mother would write notes on our napkins every single day as well. SHe wasn’t an artist, but I kept so many of them! This is just so great!

  19. #19 - Amy says:

    What a treasure! My oldest (a 2nd grader this year) is sitting next to me at his computer and he just asked me if I thought 2nd grade was too old to have lunch notes still…we both agree it’s not. Thanks for the reminder!

  20. #20 - orchard_girl says:

    My oldest has been saving the napkins I doodle in an extra pocket in her lunch box. My son tosses his along with the reusable containers I hope to reuse.

    Thanks for the fun reminder since school is less than a week away.

  21. #21 - erin wilson says:

    Wow! You are quite the artist. My mom put a note in my lunch all throughout elementary school and then would slip notes in my book bag throughout the rest of school. My friends were always super jealous of my special notes, and I always felt so special. What a good idea to have kept them! Would make a great coffee table book….

  22. #22 - Mary says:

    That is so very sweet. You must find a way to preserve those forever!

  23. #23 - The Jade Dog says:

    How sweet!

  24. #24 - mgu says:

    That’s too sweet…
    Bet they’ll always remember these

  25. #25 - Sayo says:

    wowzers! very nice! what a sweet mom you are!

  26. #26 - Kasey Spain says:

    my mom did this for me all through school! i wish i had kept my napkins. Im so impressed! you should really scan all these and make a coffee table book out of them as gift to your kids for graduation. how amazingly special.

  27. #27 - ~ tracychong ~ says:

    This is such a beautiful and touching story =)

  28. #28 - industrialpoppy says:

    I love this tradition!

  29. #29 - liz says:

    this is the most adorable thing I have ever seen a mother do in my whole life. you should totally make them into a book- laminate them or something. it would be so fun to flip through them even later in life when your kids are even older to look back.

    very inspiring.

  30. #30 - emilyruth says:

    coolest napkins ever…

    & even though my drawing skills
    are not even close to yours
    i'm going to try to do this too…

  31. #31 - AnneMarie says:

    i do this too- my girls are pretty young and have not told me to put hearts…
    when I am stumped for something to draw I write a knock knock joke or riddle.. they can trick their friends later in the day 🙂

    love your collection!!!

  32. #32 - Greek Goddess says:

    You’re a fantastic artist. What fun. You ought to scan them and publish them if only for your own family using a photo book service like blurb or shutterfly or something like that. Your kids will have fun looking back over them someday. My dad always wrote on napkins during dinner to explain things to us (he’s an architect). Congrats on being a fun mommy.

  33. #33 - ladybug1024 says:

    I wish I could draw this well when I was really trying! What a great idea, my Dad used to doodle on my lunch bag when he was covering when Mom was out of town. I wish I had kept even one of them now. How smart of your kids to bring them back home! Thanks for sharing, I really enjoy reading your blog.

  34. #34 - T.Allen-Mercado says:

    How awesome are you?! My dad was the resident doodler. I kinda regret telling him how uncool his drawings were as I got older…

    Thanks for sharing.

  35. #35 - ChichiBoulie says:

    How Wonderful! What a lovely tradition.

  36. #36 - Miss Mish Mish says:

    That is so sweet! And you have so many!

  37. #37 - Amy @ Living Locurto says:

    Amazing art. I agree with a few of the other posts… you should create a book. Take photos of each and make a hardback digital book.

    I don’t know how you can do that fancy type on a napkin?? You got some mad skills!!! 🙂

    I’ll try to remember to do this. How fun!

  38. #38 - teresamcfayden says:

    okay, such a cute idea I can hardly stand it. Gonna try it tomorrow! Thanks Cathe!

  39. #39 - Ilena says:

    Those napkins are a treasure. I love the masked milk snatcher.

  40. #40 - Jen says:

    What a treasure for you and your kids. I see a coffee table book in the future. I wish I had your artistic magic.

  41. #41 - Anna says:

    I cheated and skipped ahead a few posts…wow! That is the cutest thing ever. I love the milk thief one! I need to doodle more 😀

  42. #42 - stephanie says:

    ok – i admit i didn't read through all the posts, so i may be repeating something someone said already . . .but you should have these bound into a book – i'd love to leaf through it!

  43. #43 - Easperee says:

    Oh Cathe… you make my heart melt…what a wonderful , awesome, amazing mom. I want to be your friend. You are so creative and and an awesome artist.

    Oh please please please contact me…I know I will enjoying talking to you but you may think I am a stalker..Oh dear I will stop…but thank you for being so amazing and for sharing.


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  45. #44 - DawnT says:

    Hi Cathe, I just have to tell you how much I *LOVE* your fabulous lunch notes! I’m a scrapbooker and use my supplies to make lunch notes for my daughter. Looking at your notes you reminded me to draw more. Thanks!! You have inspired me to do just that.

  46. #45 - Debra Fillingim says:

    I would love to see all those napkin messages made into a quilt!

  47. #47 - meri says:

    wonderful! you should make copies of them and give each child his own little booklet…

  48. Pingback: Printable Lunch Box Notes

  49. #48 - Viviana says:

    You are such a wonderful Mom! I started sending notes in pre-school because my son could read, he still loves them! I cut tons of mini envelopes with my die cuter and use those, I just write the not on the inside and seal it with a tiny sticker, I always put a little candy in it for him. I look forward to picking him from school and hearing what he thought of the note.

  50. #49 - Jeanette Saari Norlock says:

    what a treasure.
    Artist or not, you would want to be one looking at these, they are so much fun.
    Being a keeper of things myself, I have every letter and card I have ever recieved since childhood, in hat boxes in the attic, as well as every greeting card and letter my children have recieved, I might have to start this tradition

  51. #50 - wendy baker says:

    there is no end to the cathe holden touch. and it is one of talent, kindness and clever consistency. xow.

  52. #51 - Jennifer says:

    Just one more reason to add to the list of “Why I wish I could draw.” So jealous!

  53. #52 - Milagros says:

    PRICELESS! Very cool memories.

  54. #53 - Lori O'Donnell says:

    What a testimony to the mom you are. The fact you take the time to do these says a lot, but the fact they kept them speaks volumes.

  55. #54 - Theresa Begin says:

    Love these, Cathe..though mostly because I know those memories will be priceless to your kids, and you. Thanks for sharing a wonderful display of love from the heart!

  56. #55 - Diane M says:

    What a treasure of memories! TFS

  57. #56 - Kay Neil says:

    Had dinner with your Mom and my Deb. We went to Magoo’s on Battlefield. Diane seems to enjoy being back in Springfield and I am glad she is. We met in 1980 and have been friends since then.
    It was so good to see her.

    I loved the idea of the napkins in the lunch box. Like your site too.
    Love, Kay

  58. #57 - Ellen S. says:

    Those are awesome. Thanks for the inspiration, I’ll try to not compare them with my shoddy doodling skills. 🙂

  59. #58 - Linda Kinnaman says:

    I used to do the same thing for my kids when they were in grade school. It started when my daughter had several allergy problems and couldn’t eat the school lunches. This was a problem cause brown paper bag lunches were not cool. So to cheer her up, I started doodling her napkins with pictures, stickers, silly jokes and encouraging notes. They were a hit. Even her 5th grade teacher looked for them and remarked to me about how she too was starting it for her own daughter. So glad to hear so many share in this practice.

  60. #59 - Jess says:

    So beautiful. I love this and will be doing it when my children are old enough to have a lunch box.

  61. #60 - Diana Giambrone says:

    These are so priceless! I see a book…better I see a bestseller!!
    xox, diana

  62. #61 - Kelley Swan says:

    While my mother didn’t leave notes in my lunchbox as a child, I put several in my daughters last year (she was in kindergarten) that were mostly hearts and doodles since she couldn’t read a lot of words yet. This year she will be in first grade, and she can read like a pro!! Can’t wait for school to start so I can leave her actual “notes” in her lunchbox! Love your blog! Since I found it, I sit on my porch with my coffee, dogs, cats & chickens every morning laughing, and drooling over your posts!! Thanks! Kelley

  63. Pingback: Lunch Napkin Love Notes | Just Something I Made

  64. #62 - Jill says:

    Oh. my. gosh. I love these! I am definitely going to attempt this once my daughter is old enough to read. What a cool idea! 🙂 And you are a wonderful artist!

  65. #63 - Shayda Windle says:

    this is so sweet and amazing!

  66. #64 - Carol O. says:

    You could take all the images that don’t have your kids names in them and use them to make a book. It is DEFINIELY an inspirational collection. 🙂 There are LOTS of bloggers who have made a book from their blog contents, I would ask them how they got started and go with it. The pics of napkins on top of a pile of napkins are too cute. You could do all kinds of pics, including office desk, school cafeteria pics, picnic table pics, with milk and cookies pics, each one as if the napkins were part of the passing of the day. It would be awesome. 🙂

  67. #65 - Barbara says:

    Hello Cathe!

    Barbara from Hungary, Debrecen. I collect napkins. Just surfing the web. I found it on your website. I love it. I wish you continued success in the job for you!

  68. #66 - Barbara says:

    Hi Cathe!

    I am Barbara, from Debrecen (Hungary). I am collecting the napkins. I’m surfing the web.I found the page on the internet, I really like. You are very skillful!Congratulations!

  69. #67 - Julie says:

    These are amazing! I wish I was half the artist you are. I was looking for new ideas for my kindergartener’s lunch box. I take embellishments from her craft box and glue faces or designs on to her lunch time notes of one liners or little poems for her to read. Always looking for new ideas though. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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  72. #68 - James Meyer says:

    Hi Cathe,
    I’m a stay at home Dad due to the good fortune of being in the finance industry over the past 20 years. I make the lunch in the morning for my daughter (11) before she goes to school and I always include a napkin. I was looking for napkins that have fun, upbeat, comical (for 5th graders) sayings on them and came to your site. It doesn’t appear that something like this exists. If they do, please point me in that direction. If not, it might be a great business opportunity for you…and/or if you want a business partner for financial backing, I’d be interested in being part of it….thx, James

  73. Pingback: Printable Lunch Box Notes

  74. #69 - Nikki Kennedy says:

    Cathe, your post made me cry (joyful tears) as I too have been writing on my daughters napkins since my 6th grader was in kindergarten. I too save them in a zip lock bag (minus the ones my oldest sneaks away to hang in her room). I’m horrible at keeping baby books and noting memorable events but somehow have a knack for this. I also have what my 2nd grader calls my logo, a heart with a U linked in it. I love the idea of hiding it in the drawing. I look forward to looking back on these lunchbox memories and know that in my own way I accounted for every step of my girls’ young lives. God Bless!

  75. #70 - Sylvia says:

    IF you sold these I would buy them!!