Back to School Shopping: A Lesson in Denial

Actual Receipts from Today's Extravaganza

Actual Receipts from Today’s Extravaganza

We are armed.

Every last grain of sand is vacuumed from the car. We have two lists, four kids (Maisy’s mandatory “can I please bring a friend” friend,) and several coupons and reward cards for various stores.

It even felt like fall this morning–crisp, cool, bright.

We stroll through store after store picking up the right 2 inch binder (not 1 1/2,) glue sticks, #2 pencils, erasers, pens, highlighters and reams upon reams of loose leaf. Maisy is required to have a specific Texas Instrument calculator. $100 please. How can you put a price on my child’s education. $100 calculator for the 13 year-old it is.

Maisy is giddy. As in—almost manic. I am concerned. She is skipping, talking loudly, and running around the store exchanging this folder for that folder.
She is visibly shaken as the sales clerk tells her they no longer carry “5 Star” folders. “But, I-I-I got them here last year…” I convince her that a folder brand will likely not impact her academic performance.

Sam is moping. I think his hands actually graze the floor a few times. He is disinterested enough to show me a hot pink binder and say “This OK Mom?”
“Honey, that is PINK.”
“Oh. OK. I’ll keep looking then.”

Hadley is just crying.

“Why don’t I get a binder?”
“Where am I going to put MY papers?”
” I will so have work to do!”
” Maisy! YOU ARE MEAN!”

Meanwhile my head throbs.

On the way home, we recite the “Beginning of the School Year Creed.”

“We will use that giant dry erase calendar. Every kid will get a color–Yes Hadley yours can be pink. We will write down all homework, projects, and activities on that board. The laundry room will be reorganized. Each kid will get a hook for their back pack and a cubby for their shoes. All homework will be done in bedrooms on the nice neat desks we have provided. We will get off the bus and have a small snack and then immediately do homework. We will start projects the day they are assigned. Our home will be a quiet, organized, learning haven. ”

Then reality.

On the first day of school, they will all get off the bus sweaty, hungry and tired. I will NOT have gotten home in time for the bus as promised. As I race up the hill just behind the bus, my kids will give me the first “we knew you would be late” look of the year. I will not have fresh fruit and milk for snacks. Sam will try to eat the slice of left over pizza left in the box by the trash. After THAT screaming match. I will sit down with my coffee/wine and begin filling out the fifteen pieces of paper all asking the same questions. I will invariably forget to check the box that says it is ok to give my kid Tylenol. The nurse will be calling me.

By the end of the first week, the dry erase board will be graffiti laden. Hadley will have accidently used a Sharpie to draw on it instead of a dry erase marker. The hooks in the laundry room will be littered with bags of items to be returned. These items will find their way to Good Will by Christmas with the tags still on.

At least once in the first month, I will be shamelessly begging a teacher for another copy of whatever worksheet. “I know you are not going to believe this but ….our dog..actually ate it.” Lucy will also chew the corners off of at least ten library books. Those coupled with the twelve we cannot find before the year is out will result in our financing the new library wing. We will not receive a plaque.

By winter break, we will have completed at least one project at 1 am—7 hours before it is due. Maisy will have lost her $100 calculator and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth at the injustice of using her own money to replace it. A politely worded email from Hadley’s teacher will ask us to “please work on shoe tying and coat zippering.” Sam will have gotten to school at least once in his slippers-”I couldn’t find my shoes Mom!”

We will miss at least one of the three parent -teacher conferences–ideally it will be Maisy’s. Her teachers just perpetually look shell-shocked upon meeting us. “YOU are Maisy’s parents? She is an amazing girl!” Translated: How does your daughter manage to have her sh$% together when you two look like you were just caught in a tornado? If we make it to Hadley’s conference, her teacher will ask us to get her hearing checked. “She just doesn’t seem to be able to follow instructions.” Chris and I will nod in thanks and on the way to the car will reassure each other. “Oh. She can hear fine…she’s just bad.”

Spring will find me begging for a vacation. We will inadvertently schedule it during PSSA’s. We will get a letter from the principal explaining the importance of being in school the ENTIRE 180 days. Chris will delete my email response before I fire it off.

I am not a pessimist. I have just done this a few times.


  1. LOL :D FYI – if you want to remove Sharpie from that precious dry erase board, try nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol. Please don’t ask me how I know (because I’m pretty sure you can guess). And people wonder why I homeschool!!! It’s because I’m not organized enough to get my kids out of the house at o’dark’thirty with backpacks and lunches AND dressed properly!!! Just. Can’t. Do. It. LOL :D

  2. Cathi Thompson says:

    You had me laughing, nodding mt head in agreement and thanking the dear sweet Lord my boys are now 23 and 26!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blogs!!! Thank you for “keeping it real” and making my night!!!!!

  3. Love this! Just shared it with my kids, we were laughing at the similarities. Have a great school year!

  4. You have the. best. blog. When I see that you have posted something I cannot wait to read it. Thank you, once again, for sharing so much of your life with us!

  5. It is refreshing to hear this. I always think that since I am an educator, I am supposed to be better at this. if this is the way it works in the home of two physicians, I’m probably doing OK.

  6. Love it but it has me groaning at the thought of school starting in 3 weeks. Wish my house could be a quiet, organized, learning heaven!! Ours is more like a construction site with a lot of cursing under our breath wishing it was bed time so I could have a glass of wine “heaven”

  7. Love this! Will share with my son! This is so me!!

  8. “Our home will be a quiet, organized, learning haven.” At least you dream. I am so beyond that. We home school and every single second half I say “Next year we will be more organized…we will use dry erase boards….we will be on time….blahblahblah. Honey, that daydream is OVER. This year I am just going to try to keep my head above water and keep on swimming. And if the school supplies ever get sorted from last year I’ll buy some new ones….those deals are slipping away.

  9. I think that I am still in denial over school starting soon. We haven’t shopped for supplies or uniforms. $100 for a calculator? Glad my oldest is only 8 :)

  10. coffee/wine. HA!

  11. I’m actually excited about preschool starting up again. It’s been a fun but long summer with my four year old home with me 24/7.

  12. This was a perfect little summary of what going back to school looks like in our house too! : ) Last year the cat clawed one of Kaishon’s papers. The teacher really didn’t believe me when I emailed her… Oh well.

    I hope your kids have a fantastic year!

  13. It fills my heart with all KINDS of joy to know you’re exactly like me in terms of school preparedness, lol! Good luck, you know it’ll be fine? Stuff to laugh about when they grow up :)

  14. This is such a cute and realistic post. It’s that time again, thanks for the chuckle and the reminder…

  15. OMG way to funny. oooo btw the calculator cost have come down our last 1 was $150.00. Now its just collage cost. lol

  16. Glad I am not the only parent who has purchased that calculator. Hopefully it will see the light of day. Great blog and how did you see what was going on in our house? Although we have the rabbit that will chew through the papers.

  17. I love your blogs and they make me feel so much better!! I have three boys and some days I am ready to pull my hair out!! Your stories make me realize I am not the only one who deals with all the craziness!!!


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