Last week I started our back-to-school shopping, because we do most of our school supply shopping in nearby Ames, where if you wait til August you're going to find yourself vying for binders and ballpoint pens with thousands of Iowa State students. I must admit, however, that these creatures are actually a lot less annoying inside the store than out, where they will blithely wander in front of your moving vehicle, too used to having the right-of-way on campus to remember that their flesh sack will always lose against even a small car. Either way, I try to stay the heck out of Ames come fall semester.
This is the first year I've had three children to prepare for full-time schooling, three separate supply lists clutched in my hand as we've roamed store after store because I'm determined to get the best deal on all items and I apparently hate myself. I thought I knew what shopping for three school-age children was going to look like; I mean, Adelaide's going into fifth grade, right? I know what I'm doing, here! [laughs hollowly]
I think I first realized I was in trouble when I walked past a display of 30-packs of glue sticks. "Thirty glue sticks?" I asked myself. "Who the heck would need thirty glue sticks? Are they expecting an influx of preschool teachers here?"
Then I read through our children's lists and began adding things up. 12+4+10= 26 sticks of glue, oh, and don't forget to buy extra supplies for when your child runs out throughout the year!
Me. I need 30 glue sticks. And 18 highlighters, and 24 dry erase markers, and 68 pre-sharpened #2 pencils. Those packs are meant for the likes of me.
This makes me wonder about large families: What kind of frightening numbers are they adding up across multiple supply lists? Oh, so that's why so many of them homeschool! (I know, I know, it's not just because of school supplies, but really, that has to be a factor, right?)
I just keep dumping the sacks full of supplies here. I won't let our kids take them out or touch them in case I find them at a better price elsewhere. Finding new neuroses is so fun!
One of my favorite experiences shopping for all these things this year was one day last week when I had one kid picking out eight folders and one finding just the right size of protractor and one right next to me because "CAN YOU PLEASE STOP TOUCHING EVERYTHING?" I was shuffling through the lists and checking things off and noting down prices if I suspected I would be able to find an item more cheaply elsewhere, when an older couple moved within earshot. The woman had a list of school supplies, and the man had what looked like an identical list, and although she was steadily and quietly making her way down the list, adding items to their cart, he couldn't seem to get past his outrage long enough to actually get anything done.
"Crayola, Crayola, Crayola! What does it all have to be Crayola? This store brand is less than half the price! And why Fiskar scissors? And Elmer's glue? Is this teacher sponsored by Elmer's? Does she have the Elmer's cow on her car and all her clothes? And I can't find these tie-con-der... whatever pencils anywhere! Why are they making this so hard?"
|Because of this.|
Evidently it had been a number of years since this man had last shopped for school supplies, and he was unaware of the trend to require brand name supplies. Honestly, I get it, as it would be tough to be a teacher and have half your class with non-functioning cheapo scissors and crayons whose colors aren't so much classic red and classic yellow as reddish-pinkish and yellowish-orangish. On the flip side, I have given up on getting the exact brand of pencil some teachers require, as there is no way I'm spending ten bucks on Ticonderoga when I have a drawer-full of spiderman and First National Bank pencils that I'm almost certain function in exactly the same capacity as their city mouse relatives.
|My phone is full of photos like this, with a corresponding shot of its price. This is SO SO helpful when comparison shopping.|
At this point, I have 90% of our school supplies purchased, and am a temporary expert on where to get the best prices for each item. Derek's sister pointed me toward Staples and Office Max last week, and although I found the latter severely picked over and not worth the drive to the other side of Des Moines for the few things I found there, Staples was surprisingly great, with their $0.17 notebooks, $0.50 composition books, and $0.97 Crayola items, whereas Wal-Mart can't be beat in terms of dry erase markers (must be Expo brand, of course) and Post-Its (again, must be Post-It brand- blargh).
I was informing/ outright bragging to Derek about how on top of things I am in having this done already when he asked if I had the kids registered for school.
Registered? You mean, like, signing our children up for the place that requires all these nit-picky things?
Really, now, what kind of sense would that make?