I’m not sure when it happened. I suppose since the start of school which is not even a month old. But somewhere in those few days, a new sensation has swept the ranks of our elementary school. In what I can only describe as the offspring of Silly Bandz, the Rainbow Loom and its rubber band bracelets have invaded our world. I don’t know how many age groups have been infected by this latest craze, but my house, and from what I can tell the entire third and fourth grade at my kids’ Virginia school, is infested.

I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago when my oldest came home from one of his early days of fourth grade with a single woven rubber band on his wrist. A few days later, more were covering his entire wrist. Either they were growing organically or something bigger was happening. The next day his brother tattled that a wallet had been taken to school and that money had been exchanged. Stories emerged of “savvy” classmates arriving at school with a paper bag full of bracelets and going home with “a bag full of cash.” It seems someone was charging four dollars for these little creations. If they were older, I’d have suspected something truly sinister from that description. In elementary school I was less concerned, but it still prompted our investigation and resulted in clamping down on all such the school bus transactions (at least for our kids – we think).

The next week I saw a message come through on our family email account that something crafty sounding had been ordered from Amazon. Mommy, much more in the know than I, had apparently made the decision that she better spend money to save money, or something like that. Faster than I could say Amazon Prime two-day free shipping, I came down from my office into what looked like an underground child labor sweat shop. Our kitchen island was covered in tiny colored plastic bands and Mommy and her brood were huddled around a small rectangle rack holding an assortment of things that looked like tiny laboratory test tubes. I had flashbacks to watching her help the children dye Easter eggs and a shiver went down my spine. I kept a wide berth of the commotion but was able to decipher that the rectangle device in the middle of my kitchen was the epicenter of the bracelet craze. I was staring at the Rainbow Loom.

I wondered how far this phenomenon had spread. It was only September, but in today’s online world, nothing stays local for long. I spoke to my friend in New Jersey this week and, unsolicited, he described to me a similar scene at his house. The only difference was that his fourth grade daughter had kicked things up a notch. A few nights earlier, he had walked down the hall after bedtime only to notice a light from the doorway of his daughter’s room. He cracked the door and peeked into a mini video studio production in progress. She had carefully positioned her iPod Touch and bedroom lights to film her own YouTube video demonstrating how to make the latest bracelet weave. She worked away over the Rainbow Loom and narrated in painstaking detail her every move. She had moved past just using, even just dealing, she was now teaching.

This was all getting to be too much, so I decided that I better figure things out before our house was fully engulfed in tiny colored rubber bands. I did a quick Google search on my phone to see just how pervasive this trend was, but it didn’t take long for me to realize – the Rainbow Loom was everywhere! The Today Show, Michael’s craft store, Amazon and more. According to the article on Today.com, the “Loom” was created by a guy named Choon Ng in Michigan in his basement with his wife and two daughters. Soon they were selling so much that they had to install and elevator to transport the boxes to their garage. (At this rate they’ll have to find a way to load them onto their new yacht!) Why is it the only thing my kids create in the basement is a big mess? Maybe I’ll call Mr. Ng and try to discover his secret.

On my flight home last night back to Richmond from New Jersey I noticed a boy in the seat ahead of me wearing a bracelet. He looked about 9 or 10. Halfway through the flight I looked up again and he was hunched over his tray, working away on none other than a Rainbow Loom. They were following me. Hopefully when I get home, the circulation isn’t completely cut off from my son’s arms and neck as these colorful creations grow bigger and bigger by the day.

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