One more round of school shopping

First Posted: 8/13/2014

It’s helpful to start the new school year with a little prayer.

Dear Lord: I hope no one needs notebook paper, scissors or Twistable Crayons. Hopefully people can just steer clear of the school supplies altogether. That might be the key to peace on earth. Amen.

Back when I was a young lad, I didn’t give much thought to when someone purchased my school supplies. As long as they were there on the first day of school, I was happy.

Now as a parent, I realize that “Mission: Impossible” should have been about purchasing all the school supplies you needed in one trip without losing your sanity.

In preparation for the start of school this week, my family has been out shopping for school supplies seven times. Seven. We spent less time deciding on the names of our children. (“Oldest daughter,” “middle daughter” and “youngest daughter” probably wish we’d thought them through just a bit more.)

When our oldest first went into kindergarten, we thought we could just pick up all the supplies we needed the weekend before classes started. That was the first time I ever heard the term Twistable Crayons, which soon became my nemesis.

One of three things must happen with Twistable Crayons. One is the stores don’t know teachers put them on the list, so they run out. Another possibility is they’re hard enough to find that people stock up when they find them, essentially creating the shortage. The third is someone sees my family walking into the store and hides them.

Whatever the reason, we’ve always had trouble finding Twistable Crayons. Each year, we’ve backed our shopping date back a week to get to them before the masses do.

This year, we began our school shopping just after the Fourth of July. My wife took our two younger children out with their lists and grabbed everything they needed. It’s an odd assortment of items, ranging from facial tissues to facial recognition scanners, which seemed pretty advanced for elementary students.

A few days later, I went out shopping with our oldest daughter for the items on her list, the regular assortment of note cards and surface-to-air missiles every junior high student should have. We even picked up the one oddball item we realized was missing from our middle daughter’s list, a big eraser of the type I haven’t used since I was in second grade myself even though I make plenty of mistakes daily.

We put all of these school supplies into their book bags and shoved them in a corner. We declared success. We’d finally won the war in school shopping. It only took two trips out.

We fought the urge to stock up on the items we found. After all, how many glue sticks could one family need? What’s the point in building a cache of wooden rulers? How many No. 2 pencils do you need to be No. 1?

Early last week, my wife and children started going through the bags to double-check everything. To our surprise, we didn’t have everything.

Suddenly we were missing binders and boxes of facial tissues. Apparently someone had opened up a few packs of notebook paper in the past month, perhaps cutting it up with the now-missing scissors. I suspect it’s the same people who hide the Twistable Crayons at the store.

Like all the other fools, we headed back out to the store. You’ll have more success finding a loaf of bread and a jug of milk in a store during a blizzard than finding all these school supplies in one place. The people have the same dazed sort of look as they wander down the picked-over aisles, justifying to themselves that their pretty princess won’t mind a camouflaged book cover.

It took five more trips to various stores in a two-county area, but we think we have everything.

Then, on the first day of school, one of the children will inevitably tell us they desperately need some other item. That’s when we’ll have to pull out our little prayer one more time and head back out for one more round of school shopping.

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