There's an army of creatures walking stiffly through our community like mechanical soldiers, their arms outstretched in front of them, moaning softly, their eyes glazed and bloodshot.

They're not the living dead. No, they are more terrifying than that. I'm talking about the stressed out, sleep-deprived parents of children who returned to school this week. Zombie parents andndash; and my wife and I are among them.

It's our own fault. Instead of using the weeks leading up to the start of school to make a smooth transition from our summer schedule (late dinners and bedtimes) to a school schedule, we pushed it to the very end andndash; unwilling to release our death grip on summer.

Even those parents who were more successful in making the transition are suffering from the change. Our sleep patterns are at best erratic, and lead to mood disorders, chronic fatigue, and irritability. Personal hygiene? Forget it.

The "dead giveaways" of zombie parents are easy to spot. Similar to our undead brethren, who have an insatiable and endless desire for human flesh, we have a similar desire for stimulating food and drink to get us through each day. (I've been on a constant diet of soda and chocolate all week.)

We are incapable of speech, but can often be heard moaning or making other types of guttural sounds. We have blank, expressionless faces that become more animated when we engage in a sugar-enduced feeding frenzy. (I attacked a half-gallon carton of Rocky Road ice cream last night and believe me, it wasn't pretty.)

You'll likely find us wearing the ragged remains of whatever clothing we were wearing in the waning days of summer vacation (and the associated stench that goes with it).

We also have increased strength relative to normal humans that not only helps us rip those ice cream cartons apart, but enables us to rise at the unholy hour of 6:45 a.m., wake up the kid (who, by the way, is the only one getting a solid night's sleep) and slap together a peanut butter sandwich. (Zombie parents are not known for their culinary expertise.)

Of course there are the "uber" zombie parents; the worst of the worst. For them, the horrific reality of returning to a school schedule was simply too much. It left them with only the basic aspects of zombie behavior. They can remember how to move around and have limited motor skills, but lack any semblance of coherent consciousness or higher brain functions.

These zombie parents pose the least threat to humans (not so for cartons of rocky road ice cream). They can often be found watching TV episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants or Wonder Pets and laughing maniacally. Also, they've lost all resistance to those incessant TV commercials, picking up the phone every 10 minutes to order the latest KidsBop music CD or Moon Sand. Many uber zombie parents consider the annoying spokeswoman for Progressive Insurance to be their best, and only, friend. (It must be that ghoulish, pasty-white make up she wears.)

The only thing that can return a zombie parent to their original state is time.

Meanwhile, if you see me, my wife or any other zombie parent, please offer us a kind word, and perhaps a fresh set of clothes, deodorant and a carton of Rocky Road ice cream.