Back To School Supply Shopping: A Story

August 11, 2013

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Last week, after my friend Ann wrote a hilarious school supplies list on Ann’s Rants, I left a comment on facebook for her, mentioning that I didn’t even have the school supplies list yet. This got me thinking something like, I should probably figure out how to get a school supply list for both Miles and Asher. Yeah, I’m quick like that.

School starts August 26th here, and we have a couple of busy weeks ahead of us, so after Ann’s post reminded me to print out the lists, I headed to Target solo as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I love Target shopping alone and on this day I had a plan. I can do this quickly, I told myself. A kindergarten and second grade list can’t be that complicated…I know! I’ll pretend like I’m in a race! Super Target Sweep! 

(Just so you know, before I started in on the school supply list shopping, I returned a jar of red peppers. Ryan asked me to return them after explaining that they were moldy when he opened them, brand new. I was all, Um…okay….I’ll return the peppers! As it turns out, returning peppers is awkward. Hi I need to get my money back for these peppers. They are moldy peppers. okaythanksbye.)

Anyway, then I moved on, to the rows of school supplies in the front of the store. Now before you go explaining, yes, I know all about the big section at the back of the store. But I had a plan for racing everyone, remember? I mean, no one else was going to be up there with me, right? Those suckers were headed to the back, to the crowds, to the bumping shoulders and oh excuse me, and there I was alone in the front aisles. Genius.

Now on to the next part of my master plan for quick back to school shopping. I decided to start with Miles’ list and finish that and then start Asher’s list. I know my SQUIRREL brain and going back and forth between lists would have been a mess. SO, I had brought along two paper Target bags from a recent visit. I would put Miles’ second grade list things in one and Asher’s kindergarten things in the other. This saved me from getting all confused like, Wait, which one had two boxes of crayons? Was it Miles or Asher with the red spiral wide ruled notebook with 70 pages, or was his supposed to be green?

Nope, not me. That wasn’t going to happen to me! TWO BAGS, one for each child. Go ahead and steal that brilliant idea!

(If you haven’t had to go school supply shopping in the last however many years and you’re wondering why I have to make up games like Super Target Sweep and why I would need to keep all the things separate, I understand. I don’t know why either, but it has something to do with there being at least twenty items on each list and how very, very specific these items are–see Ann’s post for examples. NO ROSE ART.)

Back to the racing: I was standing alone in the aisle, contemplating what “H20 Crayola” could possibly mean when I started to take a really good look at the lists. Doing that made me sort of start to lose my confidence because these lists are mind-bending. It’s like Greek, or math, I just don’t completely understand it. Then I suddenly remembered my two full bags of things for Miles last year, at the beginning of first grade and how hard it was to find all the things. I started to realize that I might not really be able to pretend to race. I started to just stand there, staring, trying to look a little confident, chewing on the end of my pen and staring at my two lists. Stand up straight, Heather. Look lively! Don’t let your knees buckle, Heather! Breathe! 

A woman came around the corner just then with her mother. What a welcome distraction! I watched her closely, to see if maybe it was just me. Am I the only one that finds this to be totally overwhelming? Thankfully, this woman showed me that I am not, because she had her list in her hand and it was all crumpled and she looked frazzled, maybe even a little sweaty. She huffed, Here’s more construction paper….but look! This is the wrong size too. I don’t get this. Why do they want it to be smaller? Then she made a sound like an animal and she was all crouched down to look at the lowest shelf and I decided to tell her this was all very mind-bending and even though I was not going to do it, I did. I had The Conversation with her. I even started it. I swore to myself I would not have The Conversation, but I couldn’t stop myself….

Oh I know! It’s just so crazy! I mean, When I Was A Kid, my mom bought me crayons, a couple number 2 pencils and a folder and a notebook. That was that! SO easy! We threw it into my Debbie Gibson backpack and called it good! I said.

I KNOW, she shriek-yelled. I don’t know what’s happening. I just know that I only have two kids and I have sixteen glue sticks in my cart. What are they going to be making? The school?!

Ha ha haaa, we laughed, and then I moved on to another aisle, looking for scissors with a “blunt end”, but only if they’re made by Fiskars. They weren’t there, they were all sold out, taken ahead of me by previous racers/parents. Oh no, I thought…I have to go back there, to where everyone is... I can do this, I shook it off. I have time. No hurry. And anyway, maybe someone back there will be able to tell me what “plastic Brad Folder Green” means. Because I have to find many Brad Folders in certain colors but I don’t know who Brad is…

There were a lot of people back there to ask, but they seemed very busy already asking each other things. Oh no, they don’t know either. I started to shut down, like in high school, in algebra class. I could feel myself starting to dissociate. I bit at my nail and stared at a row of colorful folders–Justin Bieber, cats, horses…the flourescent lights started to seem brighter and everyone who was talking around me seemed to be yelling.



I was already over it, and It had just begun, so I forced myself to look back at the list, to try again, and read “1/2 inch tablet with 1/2 page blank and 1/2 page handwriting lines” and that was it, I was frozen. So I tried to shake my self free of the overwhelmed trance I was in by scanning quickly through what I hadn’t crossed off and tried to focus on something easy. Pink erasers. Okay, I know what those are!  I spun around to look and only saw crayons and glue, over and over and over…more and more and more…markers, crayons, glue, glue sticks, jumbo glue sticks and every color of dry erase marker besides the package I needed–TWO BLACK ONLY CHISEL TIP DRY ERASE MARKERS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! WHERE?!?! WHY ARE THEY ALL DIFFERENT COLORS?!!! WHHHYYYYY!?

Oh look! 24 packs of CRAYOLA only crayons! Two in this bag, three in this bag. I DID IT! 


This seemed like a good time for a daydream, so I imagined what it would be like if all of we frustrated and confused parents broke out in song, in unison, like a back to school flash mob, raising notebooks above our heads and then side-stepping two to the right, then two to the left, spin again. The words of our song were even coming to me, to the tune of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

There’s a list here, hurting my eyes
reaching a fevered length and it’s bringing
me down the aisles

Finally, might you see it crystal clear
Go ahead and give me this list
and I’ll be standing right here.
See how I’ll leave with a plastic brad folder in blue
Don’t underestimate the things that I can do.

The things on this list
They keep me thinking that I almost have it all
The things on this list, they keep me breathless
I can’t help feeling,

We’ll never have it aalllll

And it was true. I left that store without several of the things on both lists. I didn’t have it all. I exited right after I heard a couple calling to each other, from the depths of the school supply vortex where I stood, in the back of the store, with all of them. Obviously, they were looking for a certain kind of paper, yelling things like, “Honey! I think maybe I might have possibly found it…maybe. It feels sort of weighty or medium?!  I don’t know?! It’s kind of like a cross between cardstock and construction paper!? That’s what it means, right?”

“I don’t know! Is it yellow?! Are there 50 pages in it?!”

I smiled at that guy. We rolled our eyes in solidarity. He was trying so hard. We bonded.

So yes, I left and I didn’t have it all. I was rolling in the deep. I came home and admitted defeat to my husband and calmly explained that from now on, school supply shopping will be a team effort. And no, we won’t bring the kids with, as this task demands our full attention. We’ll have to do this is a date sometime. Super fun.

By the way, what’s a manila notebook? Maybe a notebook with yellow-ish paper in it? That looks like manila envelopes? But isn’t?


(just checking)

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