Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Pencils and Books
Jennifer Flaten

In the middle of my living room sits a trio of regular ordinary brown paper grocery sacks, okay maybe not ordinary, these sacks are bulging at the seams.

That is because I have just spent the better part of an hour sorting school supplies for the various grades and then filling each bag with folders and notebooks of every color imaginable. No actually, the school has very specific color requirements.

Perhaps, they feel that a pink or purple notebook might inspire anarchy.

Anyway, the folders and notebooks joined erasers, unsharpened pencils and markers....all the basics that every returning student needs and then some.

Now I was on to the party supplies. Yes, party supplies. What other explanation could there be for napkins and paper towels, if not a party?

You think kids don't party in school? Pfft, you remember school...someone is always celebrating a birthday and birthdays mean treats.

My kids ate more cupcakes at school last year then I have eaten in my entire lifetime...and I really like cupcakes.

Birthdays aside, teachers are forever coming up with parties to celebrate even the most mundane accomplishments in school. Oh, look everyone has sharp pencils...party.....the class managed to complete one math problem...party.

Anyway, after cramming the paper goods into the bag, I was ready to tackle the task of fitting not one but two cylinders of disinfectant wipes and jumbo-sized box of Kleenex into the already overstuffed sack.

Feeling vindicated that all those years of playing Tetras were not in vain, I squished and squeezed, adjusted and crammed until voila-15 pounds of sh*t in a 5 pound sack.

I consult the lists...ah yes, the lists, the virtual bible of school supplies. If it isn't on the list, we don't need it.

Of course, each year we get to school and find out that the teacher wants the kids to have something that wasn't on the list....and I am supposed to know this through some sort of parent/teacher telepathy.

According to the list, I have only one last thing to add.

I hold my breath as I plop a package of Ziploc bags on the top of the gently swaying tower of supplies, the bag totters but holds.

That's it; this bag is officially at (if not over) capacity.

I leap back afraid that merely breathing on the bag will cause it to explode its contents all over my living room.

Ha! I'm done!

All the school supplies are present and accounted for; I have managed to purchase everything on the list in only two trips, with a minimum of angst.

Unfortunately, one bag weighs more then all three of my kids combined and I have no idea how we will transport them from the house to the car, let alone from the nether regions of the school parking lot to their classrooms in the bowels of the school building.

Ah, but that is for another day, for now I have to find some place to stash these bags lest the little monkeys get a hold of them and rip them apart.

Now you would think telling the kids not to touch would suffice, but alas, the pull of the brand new markers and fresh clean paper is just too much. I could have the bags wrapped in barbwire and electrified and they would still find a way to weasel the supplies out of the bag.

Unless I put the supplies under lock and key they will have all the paper drawn on and the crayons wore down to nubs before you can say "Time for School".

Now last year, I saw people coming in to school with these little boxes called SchoolPax.

Supposedly all your supplies are packed into this box no bigger then (I kid you not) a hatbox. I am wondering if it is like a jack in the box, you open up the box and boing! The school supplies pop up and spill everywhere.

I considered buying a set of those this year, but figured where is the sport in that? Anyone can buy a prepackaged kit.

Nope, I wanted to test my bargain shopping ability to see if I could get all the supplies without needing to withdraw my retirement savings. I managed to do it, just barely.

The emergency backpacks I had to buy to replace last year's backpacks, which met with an unfortunate accident, let's just say a small mildew problem turned into a major blowout by a trip through the washer, almost broke the bank.

I hope that we will need no more pencils and no more books. That is until next year.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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