Back To School Supply Shopping: A Story

August 11, 2013

photo (79)

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)


Cynthia August 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I keep reading blog and Facebook posts along this same theme. It sounds dreadful. My children go to private school, and my many tuition dollars apparently cover the dreaded school supplies, so this endeavor is unfamiliar to me. The more I hear about it, the more I’m beginning to think that the cost of private school might be worth it based on the avoidance of school supply shopping alone.
Cynthia recently posted..Piles

Ann August 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I’m dying over our shared brain, because I started a whole parody to “unwritten” but just couldn’t devote the time, the heart—MY SOUL to more back to school verses. But here’s a snippet:

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, school forms undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, all free-time now planned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate pin numbers you could not find

Reaching for gluesticks in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release immunizations
Feel the drool on your chin


PLASTIC BRAD FOLDER GREEN?? SO EASY HEATHER. it’s a prequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Heather August 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

ANN. It’s just TOO much, the tandem making up of supply lyrics.

Casey August 12, 2013 at 11:34 am

You guys are KILLING me. I don’t even have the list yet! I thought I could just Amazon Prime everything!

I may have to make up my school supply list to Kanye’s Stronger.
Casey recently posted..Mornings With Roozle

Karmen M. August 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Tell me about it. I have seven kids and six of them will be in school this year. I don’t have their supply lists and we just moved here right before summer started, so I am not sure what to expect. I went to Walmart and just started throwing things in my cart that I thought we might need. $130.00 later I am hoping that I have it all and no that did not include backpacks. Those I had purchased earlier. School supplies are just crazy.
Karmen M. recently posted..The same old story stuck in time

Leigh Ann August 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Crap, heather. I haven’t even started. We were waiting until we could take the kids and make it a fun “let’s get ready for kindergarten!” thing.

I may have to solo this one. No fun outing. But let’s face it, it probably wouldn’t be fun anyway and I’d admit defeat by leaving and coming back by myself anyway.

Dying at your Adele parody.

Melanie August 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm

If my husband wasn’t asleep, I’d be laughing out loud! Hilarious, and true! My 3rd and 4th graders need 72 pencils. Each. Undecorated. Sharpened! (I am sending 24 and feeling some mommy guilt. (Why??)

Thekitchwitch August 12, 2013 at 8:31 am

Of course NO ROSE ART! How could you even consider purchasing a Rose Art product! And you must have one green, one red, one blue and one yellow folder–pink and purple need not apply. God forbid if it’s decorated.

Said in a slightly bitter tone because my kids need to bring 48 pencils each to school on Wednesday. What is it about 48? Why is 48 the magic number? Whyyyyyyyyy?
Thekitchwitch recently posted..Bravery or Idiocy?

Skye August 12, 2013 at 9:03 am

I’m with Cynthia, paying for private school now feels WAAAYYYY worth it.
Skye recently posted..Austin’s newest Goodwill is open!

mommasbacon August 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

I definitely feel for my mom now with three of us! It doesn’t look like the lists are getting any shorter…….just more specific. Oh Joy!

Pamela, August 12, 2013 at 9:45 am

The “making up new lyrics to old songs” game is the thing I do that drives my husband out of his mind. I do it without even realizing what I’m doing. I can’t even help it.

We homeschool, and I don’t even have the list, but reading all of the school shopping posts on blogs and the effbooks gives me all of the empathic stress. I feel your pain.

Romelle August 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

People always ask me, “How do you do it all?”, referring to homeschooling. I always wonder the same thing about public school parents. I homeschool because I am too lazy to do all it takes to meet the demands of public school. More power to ya, supermoms.
Romelle recently posted..Facebook DOs and DON’Ts for Teens

Marta August 12, 2013 at 10:05 am

OMG yes! Can we as parents combine and ask teachers to just include a photo or something so we know what items we need or better yet I will just send a check please buy whatever you want them to have.

Last year for kindergarten I had the most ridiculous time finding these very specific flair tip pens that had to be in blue, red and black. And only those colors. Shoot me.

This year wasn’t so bad for first grade. Except for the fact that I had to buy two Elmer glue and 4 LARGE glue sticks. What are they gluing???
Marta recently posted..The House Update: Part I.

Missy August 12, 2013 at 10:41 am

I have not even read all the way through, I just had to immeadiatly squee at the Supermarket Sweep nod. I would RULE SuperTarget Sweep!

* Friend of uppoppedafox

Missy August 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

Target has started having a Beauty Concierge to help people navigate teh beauty supplies. This choice seems a bit short-sighted when they could have a school supply concierge and perhaps a coffee and chocolate sampling stand.

IsassSara August 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I OBSESSED for years about getting the listed items. The perfect number of (insert brand name) low odor dry erase marker. The right “washable” markers, which by the way, never seem to get washed off properly…my kids are now entering 5th & 3rd grades. Guess what? I don’t even CARE about the lists anymore! Two years ago, I refused to shop in July, when stores put out the big back of the store maze. I could not find anything, sold OUT. Oops. Ended up paying so much more. The next year I did my time, sucked it up and went in July. Filled two drawers full of everything on the lists! I refused to send it all to school, where it would wind up in “the classroom supply”. So I hoarded it. The kids would come home and say ” I need…” I’d go to the drawer and that was that. We had LEFT OVER! I was ticked! I have a supply of glue sticks that will last me another 5 years! My kids don’t even DO art projects anymore! This year I bought notebooks, notepaper and fancy $30 backpacks. Because that is all they care about AND when they start bringing homework books home their backpacks take a beating and if they aren’t good ones, you end up buying 2-4 a year for ones that break.

shayla August 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

man, i don’t have kids and am still nostalgic for the easier school supply shopping days when i was a kid. i’d volunteer to help – just as long as you make up songs and push the cart the whole time.

Jessica Smock August 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

This is so exhausting! Wow. From a former teacher’s perspective, that is just incredible to me. I stopped teaching in 2008. I think every year these kinds of expectations on parents get more intense.
Jessica Smock recently posted..Juggling Without a To-Do List: Reflections From a Work At Home Mom

Amber August 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I’m finally done with school supply shopping! I think I bought 18 glue sticks.

Plus tons of folders. The supply list stated with “brads.” I had no idea what they were talking about. I immediately thought, “Bradley Cooper?” I don’t think that’s what they meant.
Amber recently posted..You Don’t Mess With A Man’s Truck

stacey August 13, 2013 at 9:36 am

I have never been so thrilled as to have homeschooled all these years. Goodness, though, you did make me laugh. Just send this post to your children’s teachers and they will for sure understand!
stacey recently posted..Mentors from a distance

Katie August 13, 2013 at 9:43 am

I call bs on those lists. My kids get cheapo brand basics (pencils, erasers, notebooks, folders, crayons, that’s about it), and if at some point during the school year they absolutely can’t do some project without some other crucial supply, we get it then. But guess what? That almost never happens.

And I’m pretty sure my family is the one keeping RoseArt in business for generations. Ain’t got no money for that Crayola stuff. If there’s a brand cheaper than RoseArt, we get that.

Elaine A. August 13, 2013 at 10:58 am

I am always amazed at how every year the supply list totally turns me into a zombie.

(but, I just enrolled my boys in a new school here, much like homeschooling, but not me doing it and their lists were the same! Hallelujah!!) ;)
Elaine A. recently posted..By Searching

Jennifer August 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

There is no 10 pack of washable markers. I don’t care what that school supply list asks for.
Jennifer recently posted..What’s on my refrigerator?

Lynda M O August 15, 2013 at 12:48 am

Thank God my kids are grown and the Littles have parents of their own to deal with this incredible pile of BS every August. What are our tax dollars paying for anyway if we have to supply the fugging Kleenex for the classrooms ?~! I’ll stick to my babysitting wherein I buy whatever diapers I like the best that week and the parents are eternally grateful that their babies are clean and loved and fed.
Lynda M O recently posted..Off the Loom…

Aubrey August 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I’m a senior in high school this year- and I always remember supply shopping as a fun thing…..until I got my car and had to go on my own and pay for it myself. We don’t have lists once we get to high school, since everyone has a different group of teachers that require different supplies. I go and get the basics: pencils, pens, notebooks, planner (because the tiny pieces of crap the school requires us to buy from the board SUCK) etc. After work on the first day of school, I go to target and buy whatever specifics and planners my teachers told us to get, then I return home to complete at least 5 “about me” signature pages for each teacher. This is insanity.

Arnebya August 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

School starts Monday. I have no lists. Getting paper, pens that are Bic and pencils that are PaperMate and hope they’ll make it through week one. Maybe I should take my easy button to Staples with me.
Arnebya recently posted..Ignition

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: