That Time of Year Again

Usually, I love a good stroll down the office supply aisle. There’s something deeply comforting about looking at a colorful selection of writing utensils and notebooks. (That’s not just a writer thing, right?)

But August means that it’s time to take a deep breath and gear up for the obstacle course also known as school-supply shopping! 

Every year, we lurch around the store, while I try to accomplish the following:

  1. read the school-provided lists with one hand and steer the cart with the other,
  2. find the best deals that will fulfill the obligation, and
  3. navigate the crowded spaces filled with many other irate supply-list shoppers.

When my sons were much younger, I ALSO had to:

  1. keep things moving and the snacks flowing,
  2. clarify repeatedly that no, we can’t get anything off of THAT list because your grade uses THIS list, and
  3. explain that although you are indeed picking things out, you won’t be able to keep them because they are headed for the “community pile,” so we don’t really need to spend fourteen hours deciding between the green folder and the blue folder.

I have an idea: why doesn’t the school or district order the supplies themselves? We’re already paying fees for books, technology, and field trips…how about just add one more fee to that and keep the rest of us out of the school-supply equation

(Pause here to recognize that many individual teachers go above and beyond to buy supplies themselves for the classroom–that, too, is an issue given the not-even-remotely-substantial-enough salaries that teachers receive, which could be a whole other post topic. Short version: teachers deserve so much more.)

Anyway, if the school ordered supplies in bulk, they’d be in a position to negotiate discounts, which could save parents money versus when we buy things ourselves! And everything would come out of the community pile (rather than going into it) so it would be like the school was giving the kids presents. Win-win!

Would love not to do this Odyssey of The Absurd every year–especially since it feels as though the list sometimes creeps beyond expected items–or at least feels like it does. Folders, pencils, and lined notepaper?  Happy to buy those.  Garbage bags, cleaning supplies, and reams of printer paper?  Not so much.

Husband’s response to the news that we had to provide EIGHT large glue sticks one year: “Well, then I better see something glued come home EverySingleDay.”

31 thoughts on “That Time of Year Again

  1. I remember those days, Cynthia! And, of course, that panic that arose from the one thing on the list we couldn’t find. There was always that one thing!

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  2. My kids are in college now, but I do not miss this part of the “back to school” circus. Our argument was always over folders. I had to buy at least eight per kid, so no, you cannot get the one with the graphic that costs $3.00 each. We made a deal: one “fancy” folder and the rest came out of the $0.25/each pile.

    And yeah, the Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, rolls of paper towels, boxes of tissues – that was insane.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I hear ya, Cyn, about the search for school supplies! For me, I’m finding that the lists come later and later each year. And instead of an across-the-grade list, it’s very specific to the teacher. It’s like a scavenger hunt to find the items! (Although we did have one math teacher who sold her *own* graph paper notebooks–and they were a lot cheaper than going elsewhere! So grateful to that teacher.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Margaret! Agree…there was always something kind of magical about picking out the most desired folder or notebook design back in the day. Or drawing something onto the paper-bag-turned-textbook-cover. 🙂


  4. Three words: Pee Chee folders! Do they still use those? And brown shopping bags cut so they could become textbook covers, which we’d then scrawl all over with horse drawings, hearts, or comic book heroes.

    Okay, so I’m dating myself a bit here…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I LOVED covering my textbooks with brown grocery bags, Leslie! I could doodle the name of my crush all over it and when you were all over him, you could rip it off and recover the book, awaiting your next victim! Ha!

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    2. I forgot about Pee Chee folders! Haven’t seen them recently. And HA I just wrote about those shopping bag covers too. Do they even do that anymore? My sons did not have to.


      1. It’s a good thing, because they don’t use brown paper grocery bags anymore! I seem to recall my kids using pre-made ones out of stretchy jersey-type material … yet another thing on the list! And of course, they had to have a different design for each book so they grabbed the right one before class.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, I for one loved school supply shopping, even in NYC, because it meant a trip to several stores where the kids could find their “favorite” supplies (Lisa Frank for my daughter for a couple of years, as I remember) and Trapper Keepers and lunchboxes. (Oh, and new shoes.) I don’t remember any “community” stashes at the time. But I always secretly extra-loved it because then Mom could buy new notebooks and pens and academic planners for herself, too (plus whatever other impulse items they were pushing, I’m sure). Of course, the nostalgia factor is key here. Cynthia, once you don’t have these errands anymore, you may find yourself going back for glue sticks just to have your own private stash, lol. It’s a little sad, really. (Sniff!) But…new shoes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds so lovely, Lisa! Normally, I adore shopping for writing supplies too. Just not the back-to-school obstacle course version. 🙂

      (The whole picking out of items only to learn they were going to be ripped out of their hands thing changed the dynamic too.)

      Love that you’re able to hop into NYC whenever you like! We lived in Hartford for a year and took the train exactly once, to go to a Broadway show. Should have taken more advantage of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This also reminds me that my son worked at Office Depot for awhile and used to come home from work every day during back-to-school sale time looking like he spent time in the WWI trenches.

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  6. Husband’s response to the news that we had to provide EIGHT large glue sticks one year: “Well, then I better see something glued come home Every. Single. Day.”

    That made me LAUGH, Cynthia!

    When my kids were young, you could pay a set amount and have the PTA or whoever gather up your kid’s supplies for you and it was all waiting on their desk the first day of school. I never took advantage of this service because 1) I LOVE SHOPPING FOR SCHOOL SUPPLIES, and 2) I had a cabinet my kids could rummage through because I bought up tons of supplies at the end of the season when everything was half-price so we only had to buy the big and/or weird stuff.

    (As I read that over, I’m amazed once again at what a weirdo I am. Sigh.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, I would write a check to the PTA in a heartbeat for that. Love the cabinet idea! You’re so smart.

      ps: Tee hee–we did NOT see the expected amount of glued projects come home over the course of the year, sadly. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I don’t get needing to buy supplies for the entire classroom. I truly don’t. Sorry, but that should be the responsibility of the school board (without charging fees to the parents), and if that isn’t in the budget, then other things need to get shifted around.

    Heck, working from home, my company is trying to provide office supplies for us.

    No other government organization expects employees to provide their own office supplies. They have the budgets for those.

    (And I will stop there.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was oh-so-relatable for my, Cynthia! I confess: the past couple of years I’ve waited until the second week of school to shop for supplies. It seemed that the published lists would rarely match up to the teachers’ needs, so I decided to let the dust settle and find out what they really want the kiddos to have rather than scurry hither and yon to find exotic graph paper. (Yes, why is it always graph paper?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so smart, K!! Beat the crowds!

      Come to think of it, there’s always the “but my teacher said I also had to have X” requirement that came after the first week of class…sigh. And yes, what do they do with the graph paper? I never see it again but I buy it every year.


  9. As a non-mommy, I love school-supply season. My husband has let me go to King Soopers unsupervised *twice* this week. The first time, I honored his trust and limited myself to two plastic folders and a pack of Zebra pens. The second time, though, I may have shattered that trust. BUT, I now have glittery silver and purple 3-ring binders! And a metal box with kittens on it! No regrets.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Fun post, Cynthia! I remember being so geeked out when my mom finally let me buy one of those pens that clicked to FOUR different colors, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

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