Back to school shopping

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Every Spring I say the same thing, I am going to do a little back to school shopping over the course of the summer and avoid the headache come the end of August and maybe save a few bucks. Every year 2 days before Labor day I drag my slacker self to the local mall and office stores to try to do it all in one outing. Oh yeah, with 3 kids in tow.

I started out the day feeling pretty good. I could actually find the kids supply lists this year (only because I could instantly download them from the school website) and my kids were kind of into going because they all had a little cash in their pockets of their own to spend however they liked. I failed to tell them their $5 would probably not even cover a pretzel and pop.

I load the kids in the car, first stop Dunkin Donuts to ensure I am adequately caffeinated. With one large caramel swirl with a turbo boost I am ready to take on the supply lists at walmart. Once we arrive at Walmart the caffeine is kicking in and I am feeling a little like:

Here is a store by store account for our 4 hours of shopping. This is my version of what really happened while we were shopping.


The feeling that I actually had it together only lasted until I actually looked and the 3 different lists I had in hand. Standing there in the back to school aisles of Walmart with the rest of the slacker moms. I realize my oldest will need a Trapper Keeper. I ask her what she needs a Trapper Keeper for, she says “what is a Trapper Keeper?”

supply list

A mom next to me looks up, and says “the school is specifically asking for a Trapper Keeper?” and glances at my list.

I reply “yes, have you seen one?”

To which she replies “not in 20 years” and gives me the ‘have fun with that look’.


I decide to get what I can at Walmart which also included 72 #2 pencils,  for my oldest. I am convinced the middle school has a weird sense of humor and just enjoys toying with parents. How did they even get to the number 72? Are they worried my daughter will not tell me when she is getting low on pencils? Or maybe after Labor Day Walmart no longer stocks pencils???


No Trapper Keepers.


This is where things really started to turn.

Tote bags for 3 kids.

I would like to go on record as saying I doubt the zippers on two will last past January.

We buy a bunch of mix and match separates for my youngest.  A jumbo pig eraser for unknown reasons for my oldest. And as far as I know the last Trapper Keeper in Ontario County.

Back to school shopping Trapper Keeper

I can sense my tribe is starting to get restless, and I am kind of excited about actually getting my hands on a Trapper Keeper. So after check out I hand them each $2 for an icee. And tell them to go get an icee while I use the bathroom, I am really starting to feel the effects of that large caramel swirl with turbo boost.

I will not go into details about my time in the bathroom, but while I was in there I actually thought:

“It is nice that they are all old enough now to know to stay together and look out for each other and be more independent”

As leave the restroom and approach the snack bar I expect to see my 3 kids sitting at a table contentedly slurping down their icees.

The reality is: I walk into a scene that looks like there was icee warfare. One of my kids had an issue with the lid and spilled their whole icee on the fountain bar. If looks could kill I would have been dead from the glares I was getting from the sole snack bar employee who was ringing up a whole line of moms who are also bribing  treating their kids.

I clean up the best as best as I can with the cheap napkins and decide to head out quickly.

J.C. Penney

I have to say I am glad J.C. Penney’s is back. I missed them while I was boycotting their lame new pricing format. And apparently so did everyone else because that store was swamped. Today we had a simple size exchange to do.

It should of been quick. There should of been minimal interaction with the sales clerk.

I sent my daughter to the table of shirts 3 feet away to pick out her shirts, this time in the right size and I wait in line. When my turn is up. I tell the sales clerk I am doing an even exchange for size.

Somehow she takes this opportunity(?)  to tell me that everything in the store is an additional “20% off if I use my Penney’s charge”

To which I say “here is my receipt, this is an even exchange. No money or cards should have to be exchanged today” and then I made one crucial error I say “and anyway I don’t have a Penney’s charge”

Sales Clerk jumps on this: “Will you be doing more shopping? I would hate to see you miss 20%, we can open you one up in less than 5 minutes”

Me: “No, we just need to pick up other school stuff today elsewhere”

Sales Clerk: “Well bathing suites are like $4.00 right now with the additional 20% off”

Me: “Well, I will not be sending my kids to school in swim suites, lets finish this exchange”

*This is actually a much condensed version of our conversation, the woman would just not stop talking…

It is really unfortunate this conversation had to coincide with my caffeine crash.  But give a woman a break, no means no. Even in relation to back to school shopping.


Another even exchange for size with receipt.  I have very little tolerance for these types of stores, the music, the perfume, the general sensory overload. Which is the same reasons my tween loves it.

The poor girl doing our transaction just could not get it right, I could tell with every key she punched on the register she was screwing stuff up more. She ended up doing the exchange and giving my money back. I told I should not be getting any money back.

She nervously kept punching buttons and trying to fix it herself. For like 10 minutes,and I have no idea where my kids are in the store. Finally she goes and gets the manager. The manager is upset, even I can tell, and the cashier is close to tears. She sends the poor girl out to the floor to “straighten up the shelves”, and apologizes to me, saying “it is her first day”.  Hours later I  still feel sorry for the new clerk. Especially because after we left the aeropostale my youngest told me she spilled her icee in the back of the store, and left it there.  I think I know who ended up cleaned it up, sorry new girl 🙁


Sears was supposed to be the last stop of the day. On the list clothes for my son and shoes.

I decide to start with the shoes, thinking that would be the hardest part.

He wears a size 7 wide in mens.

We find a pair, they are grey and blue. Not cool, but they fit.

I am desperate now and talk him into them. Try not to judge me, do you know how hard it is to find a mens 7 wide??

He caves.

I am loaded with shopping bags like a pack mule. So I give the box of shoes to my oldest to carry while we shop for clothes.

After about 5 trips into the dressing room and bouncing around between the Lands End section of the store and the boys section. I declare we have success and can pay and leave. We get to the cash register, I pile up the clothes and ask my darling daughter for the shoes.

Blank. Stare.

I was so busy ushering different sizes and colors to my son in the dressing room I did not even notice that at some point my daughter set down the box of shoes.  I ask the cashier to suspend our transaction while we re-trace out steps.

We look everywhere. Nothing.

We check back in the shoe section hoping they were returned.


I ask the shoe associate if there is a re-stock rack she could check for these shoes.


She looks and says no, offers to help us look again.

Still no go on the shoes.

Come on, how far can a misplaced pair of shoes go?

I tell my son we will try J.C. Penneys on the way out.

Maybe I will need that credit app…


 Back at J.C. Penney

The shoe situation there is worse than Sears. And I can sense impending disaster like some dogs sense earthquakes.

My kids are starting to crack around the seams. Very shortly things will fall apart.

I tell my son we will just have to come back another day or go somewhere else for shoes. Eventually those shoes will turn up at Sears, right?

He is not buying it. and tries on a pair of 8 wide Nikes. He claims they fit, I am so loaded with bags bending over to see where his toes are would most likely throw me of balance, and if I fall on the floor I may never want to get back up and finish this shopping trip up.

I want to walk away. I am done.

My youngest senses my fatigue like a wild animal senses weakness in it’s prey.


The demands start, and I am rapid fire bombarded with “I am hungry,bored,thirsty,tired” etc.

I say to my son “the shoes fit and they are what you want”?

He looks me dead in the face and says “yes”

We head to a check out, get in line and my youngest daughter says “I need to go to the bathroom”

We leave the line and head to the bathrooms. While I am waiting for my daughter I see a mother with 2 young kids who were bickering.


She says to them “Hands to yourselves! If I have to talk to you again we will leave here without tote bags and you can bring plastic bags to school”

I laugh a little at this classic mom threat. It is funny because me and half the mall was right there with her. Done and over it all. But we all know there is no way her kids are going to school with shopping bags on the first day of school.

We go back to the check out. And get in line. I tell the cashier I know all about the 20% off but don’t want to get any other cards involved in today’s massacre. She is sympathetic.

As I was digging in my purse I hear two of my kids laughing, I look up to see my youngest sprinting along the tops of  the display beds. An older woman is watching with her hand over her mouth in shock.

I am debating pretending I don’t know who this child is, but I see she is turning around and it looks like she is planning on adding flips to her next pass.

I yell “Get off of that bed right now, or I will return every single thing I bought you today”

I too have resorted to Mom Threats.

She gets down, and tells me it was as much fun as she thought it would be. I try not to scream. It is hard, but I manage to hold it together.

Patience is what parents have when there are witnesses

We leave the mall.

We did it. We made it through another year of back to school shopping. It is over…

And then from the back seat in the car on the way home my son says “Mom, those shoes don’t really fit me”

So close…







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