Wednesday, September 07, 2011

tales of first grade

The day before school started...

I was up early and planned to hit the store first thing to complete shopping for the children's school supplies. Clutching what seemed like a very long list of required first grade school supplies in one hand - my purse, keys and the hands of four children in the other ... I took a trip to Target while my husband stayed home and cleaned the rain gutters in preparation for a storm that has since dumped more than six inches of rain in the past three days.

(The ecosystem that he discovered thriving in our gutters will be the subject of it's own separate post.)

When I arrived on the Target scene, I was optimistic that I'd get all my shopping completed in 30 minutes or less, provided I wasn't distracted to purchase things I absolutely do not need but seem to always buy whenever I step foot in to Target.

My optimism quickly took a nosedive when I arrived in the "BACK TO SCHOOL!" section and realized that the school supply buckets were almost completely devoid of things that were on my list. Had I been in the market for Mead notebooks with glittering kittens and puppies on the front, I would have hit the mother lode.

But I was specifically instructed to purchase 96 #2 Ticonderoga pencils, 36 highlighters, 60 glue sticks, 27 plastic colored folders and so, so, so much more. Many more supplies than I ever remember purchasing when I was in school, last century.

What Target had available, was far less than what I needed, not unsurprising since I delayed shopping until the day before school started. Had I known that I could have downloaded the first grade school supplies list a month earlier from the school's website ... oh, who am I kidding?

I still would have been combing through dregs on Labor Day.

So we quickly plotted a course to Office Depot where a very large population of northern Virginia had congregated to celebrate the occasion that is Back to School. By now, however, the children were ready to go home because we'd already been to the store, even though the store didn't have anything that we needed. Except a new bathmat and fragrance oils and Revlon make-up that was on sale and adorable Halloween towels for the kitchen and curses Target.


I'm now convinced that the amount of time it takes to complete shopping when you are shopping with small children, adds time to your outing. More specifically, I'll bet there is some mathematical theorem that shows the duration of your shopping experience is exponentially proportional to the number of children you have. For example, if a shopping trip takes you twenty minutes, solo, it will take forty minutes with one child; eighty minutes with two; one hundred and sixty minutes with three; and three hundred and twenty minutes with four.

(Now I better understand why my mother who bore seven children dislikes shopping. A simple trip to the grocery store might have taken her 42 hours.)

In addition ... if you happen to be in a store with children and large volumes of customers and if you need to ask for help to get an item not on a shelf - and that clerk has to use a walkie talkie to call the stockroom who will then comb through inventory - just go ahead and multiply your time in the store by ten.

Midway through my shopping, I noticed that Henry was randomly removing some of the meticulously selected items out of the cart, so I had to go reconcile what was in the cart, what was missing - and then go recover the items, while trying to remain focused and not give up hope. By the time I got to the last item on my list ... GLUE STICKS ... it felt like I had been in the store for three years.

There I am embarking on my fourth aimless trip down aisle 6, while the kids are kung fu'ing each other and holding on to the cart so we are wider than we are long and bumping in to all the displays while my whole body is twitching and I'm suppressing the urge to just abandon the cart and retreat! retreat! retreat! when I finally (Praise God) spot what looks to be the .... last two? .... 30 count boxes of glue sticks. They were carefully hidden behind the abandoned cart of someone who cares for their mental health more than I and decided to come back on a different day once their children were confined in school.

I'm preparing to move the cart out of the way and with that last item within grasp, I'm overcome with the same exact feeling of crossing the finish line after a seven hour marathon, when I heard a young boy say, "Oh look Dad, there are the glue sticks!"

Had I been on my own and this shopping soiree had taken only 20 minutes, I would have gladly given the glue stick to this young boy. Because of course Office Depot has more glue sticks in inventory in some stockroom in the back, but I couldn't wait for that, because I might die there.

My survival instinct had kicked in when I scrambled to push the cart out of the way and dove headfirst to get the two remaining glue stick boxes from the bottom shelf. And as I'm down there clutching the long sought after glue sticks to my chest, I hear a voice say, "Jenna? Is that you?" I look up to see the young boy with a defeated face and just over his shoulder was his father, none other than a Senior Vice President of my company. Also known as my boss' boss' boss.

So glad I stopped to put on some make-up before I ventured out.

(But I couldn't find it in me to give up the glue sticks.)

We returned home and the children sharpened 36 of their 96 #2 Ticonderoga pencils. On #37, the electric pencil sharpener died and Charlie completed the rest by hand.


Twas the night before first grade and all I could see ...
Were mounds of school supplies and paperwork piled before me.

I had thought of sending them to school with all of their supplies on the bus, but reconsidered when William actually capsized under the weight of his backpack.


On the first day of school, the girls were so excited that they were up and dressed, completely ready to go before their alarm went off. William was terribly bothered that he had to get up when Henry can stay in bed and SLEEP ALL DAY. I told him if he thinks it's bad waking up at 7 AM, it'll be a real shock to his system when he needs to be on the bus at 6:20 AM for middle school.

Meanwhile, Charlie and I were up before the crack of dawn preparing a hearty breakfast and packing the children's lunches. They each had a sandwich, yogurt, cheese stick, graham crackers, fresh cut pineapple, strawberries and an apple. This seemed like a lot of food, but unlike last year when they were only in half-day kindergarten, this year they'd be gone all day.

Hence my surprise when yesterday afternoon, when they were getting off the bus, the first thing I noticed is that all three of them had on bright green IOU stickers from the cafeteria. This was their first time eating in the cafeteria and they thought it would be a lot more fun to eat off the little trays than the lunches we'd packed. Besides, who in their right six-year-old mind would drink water when chocolate milk is available?


Because of the children's decision to eat lunch at school, we currently owe $2.65, per child, to cover the cost of the food they consumed. Apparently, they had some a small amount of money in their backpacks, but the teacher informed me they were all Canadian coins.

Today when the kids told me how they were so excited to eat in the cafeteria again, I quickly crafted my own sticker that read, "PLEASE DO NOT FEED THIS CHILD. HE/SHE HAS FOOD FROM HOME & THEIR MONEY IS FOREIGN."

Last year ...



This year...



My babies are growing up so fast.


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