Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School Supply Shopping: It's Not Just About Pencils Any More

There was this one scene from the movie You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan, who played the owner of a children’s bookstore, is happily arranging freshly sharpened pencils on her check-out counter after her e-mail “pen pal” had written to her, "Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

All those lovely, nostalgic thoughts about the promise of the new school year can get me in the mood for autumn, but any poetic sentiments I might’ve been holding about the smell of freshly sharpened pencils were immediately eclipsed the moment I walked into the store (two separate stores, actually) to buy my kids' school supplies. Why? Because back to school time is no longer just about some pencils and notebooks and maybe a new backpack. It’s about these dang school supply lists whose items parents are supposed to buy because schools no longer provide the stuff.

I spent this afternoon racing back and forth in a wildly disorganized fashion through the packed, disorganized aisles of Target and Staples with the three Picket Fence Post kids trying to locate the items on their school supply lists. I started off hoping that we’d get this done quickly, sans drama, but alas, it wasn’t long before I started getting cranky and frustrated.

(The Youngest Boy suggested that after we found the school supplies that we pick out school clothes. This proposal was swiftly rejected. I told him there was no way that I was doing that again without his father in tow. I’ve been down that road before, taking the three of ‘em clothing shopping alone. Wound up sweating, racing from one changing room to the next, trying to get the right sizes, demanding that they show me the clothing on their bodies to check how they fit, arguing with them . . . not doin’ that again solo if I can help it.)

If you can believe it, Target was out of block erasers. They were also out of those sturdy, 100-page composition books with the black and white covers. I must’ve looked five times in the school supply and office supply sections, but had no luck. When I was finally resorted to asking a clerk about those items, he shrugged and led me to another guy who was nice but gave me that, “Boy are you late lady,” look and said, “Sorry, we’re all out of those.”

Later at Staples, the kids could only find these fairly expensive erasers, and I needed to buy a total of 24 of them. I refused to believe that Staples would be completely out of those pink block erasers, so I asked a sales clerk there if those were the only erasers Staples had in stock and he . . . you guessed it . . . shrugged his shoulders. I later found cheaper, Staples-brand pink erasers, no thanks to that guy.

And for what, pray tell, were we shopping? Here’s the exact list that my fourth grader’s teacher sent to him:

“1 pair of Fiskar pointed-tip kid scissors

2 large glue sticks

2 packages of 12 #2 pencils with erasers

1 box of 8 ct. Crayola washable markers (conical tip, fat)

2 Ultra fine tip black Sharpie markers

1 box of 24 ct. Crayola Colored Pencils

1 – Sharpie Accent Highlighter

7 twin pocket folders, one of each color: red, green, blue, purple, orange, yellow, white

2 twin pocket folders – your choice of color or pattern

3 (100 pg. wide ruled) Mead Composition books, black and white firm marble covers

2 Black 3-ring binders (1/2”)

1 package (100 sheets) 3 hole punched line paper

1 plastic pencil box

4 packages of “super sticky” post-it notes (3”X3” size, solid colors)

2 rolls of scotch tape – clear

2 boxes of tissues”

We couldn’t find a white pocket folder, so we bought a clear plastic one. The only pointed-tip kid scissors were larger and for older kids, but I bought them anyway. (Speaking of which, why do we have to keep bringing in a new pair of scissors every year? Where did the ones we bought last year go? Why can't the kids put their names on their stuff and be responsible for their own scissors?)

Here’s the recommended supply list for the two older children, who are starting sixth grade next week:

“8 Two Pocket Folders, one each- red, yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, and two colors of your choice

24 Pencils

12 Red Pens

12 Erasers

Ruler (Vinyl)


Package of Index Cards

You will also need an assignment book or planner. [The Middle School] assignment book may be purchased for $5.00 when school reopens. If you choose not to purchase a [Middle School] planner, please bring your own planner on the first day of school.”

Additionally, in a letter sent home to the middle schoolers by the principal, the students were told they also needed “a notebook.”

Total cost of all of the above supplies (not including the “extras” the kids wanted/said they needed, like stuff for the middle school lockers, multi-subject notebooks and expandable folders to keep their papers organized, etc.): $81.45.

Me, I’d be happy with a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

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