One thing excited me most about the start of the school year as a child: new supplies.
Oh, the days of eager anticipation they created. I'd stare at the plastic coating on my pristine Mead Trapper Keeper, occasionally opening that then-cutting-edge Velcro closure with a rrrrrip that awoke visions of organizational and academic excellence to come.
Surprisingly, I didn't get beat up much as a kid.
If you want to try this approach to psyching up Junior for another year of our public education system failing to close the racial and socio-economically achievement gap . . . then you've already flunked! Peak school supply shopping season occurred in July. The retail world has been stocking up for Halloween for a week now.
Well, maybe you can make do with what remains in the clearance bins:
The most essential of all school supplies is the backpack, known in parenting circles as "the black hole into which nothing of substance escapes." Notes from the teacher, book reports, warnings about plague outbreaks -- at one time or another, someone will neatly place all of these items into your child's backpack. Yet when anyone looks inside only the following will be found: rotted fruit, Silly Bandz, crumpled art projects, Captain Underpants comics and several reams of individually folded loose-leaf sheets bearing illegible handwriting and/or drawings of, if you have a boy, flatulent dinosaurs or, for those with girls, incontinent puppies. (OK, that might actually be a rainbow instead of urine but it’s hard to tell. I blame government's lack of support for the arts.)
TIP: Find a backpack sturdy enough to withstand the inevitable and fruitless (unless you are actually seeking rotted fruit) shaking and prodding that will occur when trying to figure out the mystical sucking power of this time-space anomaly.
TIP: Avoid trendy styles. Your kid may beg for a Jonas Brothers pull-along in September, but come February, she'll be dying for something Justin Bieber-ish. You'll never go wrong buying items in solid colors or bearing geometric patterns. Also good are timeless cartoon characters, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo or Sarah Palin.
A panic broke out a few years back when someone found many popular soft vinyl lunchboxes contained lead. A manufacturer's claim that it added the lead to protect passersby from the mercury present in tuna fish sandwiches carried no weight.
Parents met opposition from conservation groups when switching to plastic bags (wastes oil!) or paper ones (kills trees!). They responded by making their kids buy the cafeteria's offerings. Then this past spring, ABC-TV aired footage on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution of the chip and cheese sludge served in a West Virginia elementary school. American parents shrugged and said, "Meh -- what's a little lead?"
TIP: Look for a lunchbox lined with nylon or a non-PVC material, such as reinforced concrete. As with backpacks, seek styles that never go out of fashion. My favorites here are always classic cartoon characters. Nothing will satisfy a child more than opening an insulated bag plastered with the likeness of Glenn Beck and finding bologna.
HAND SANITIZER/BABY WIPES/PAPER TOWELS
If you don't have a school-aged child, then right now you are scratching your head. So am I. Why are you reading this far down?
Cleaning supplies have been the rage in recent years, what with outbreaks of swine flu, avian flu and underfunded school supply budgets. You won't find a shortage of any of these items in the store. However, you will tire of teachers' weekly reminders (assuming they are not placed in your child's backpack) of the need for your little one to bring in more of these cleansers to deal with the germ-riddled, mouth-breathers they take of your hands for six hours a day.
TIP: Save money on these items, not to mention clothing, by outfitting your child in a hazmat suit and gas mask. Buy a size up to allow for growth during the school year.
TIP: Better yet, consider home schooling.
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Holy shiitakes, Padma! Cure JM is now No. 3 among organizations vying for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. We need to move up just one more spot and stay there through August to win that money for research into Thing 1’s juvenile myositis.
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