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Surviving last-minute school shopping

Sarah Walker Caron is an award winning journalist, freelance writer and editor. She lives a happy life in Maine with her two children, where they love to hike, visit the beaches and have lots of silly fun. Check out her food blog at Sara...

Embrace the list

Just when you thought it was safe, back to school shopping is still happening everywhere . . . and the parents are frantic. Before you get caught in the paperclip aisle, surrounded by rabid parents looking for multi-colored thumbtacks, here's how to survive.

Embrace the list

One would think that the school supply list would tell you exactly what a child needs for school. It doesn't. Somewhere between the end of school and now, the teacher has decided that they actually need compasses instead of protractors and the last model of TI calculator instead of the old, trusty TI-84. Headaches, right? It seems like summer school lists are never quite what schools want come September. Personally, I think it's some sort of racket.

But rather than have your child branded as obstinate for your refusal to adhere to the new sacred list, you head out to find the new must-haves-or-you-will fail. Take a deep breath. It's going to be a bumpy road.

Problem #1: The crowds

You step into the store and it's like there is an everything-must-go free for all. Harrowing, no doubt.

But your child still needs his or her supplies. Muddle on. Just suck in a deep breath and remember that the other shoppers have no more entitlement to anything than you do (although they might think they do). So, if that means rolling over the cranky lady's feet who won't budge to let you by, so be it. Okay, you really shouldn't do that.

For best results though, leave the kids at home. It's far easier to manage the crowds alone.

Problem #2: Forgot the list

You've made a big effort to get the needed supplies when you realize that for whatever reason -- perhaps you forgot it, perhaps your child took it back to school, perhaps the dog decided it would make a great chew toy - you don't have the list with you. What's a mom to do?

Call for reinforcements. Don't give up or give in. First, try any other moms from your child's class. If you can't get them, or they don't know, call the school. If the list is at home, call home and make your child do a little work for the supplies.

Problem #3: Supplies are out

You are almost done, save that one elusive item. What do you do now? The store is out of stock.

Well, first try more than one store. If you still can't find it, consider what the item is. Is there anywhere else that might carry it? A teacher's supply store, perhaps?

For books, order online. Many retailers offer overnight shipping, so this could work for ultra-specific needs as well. For book covers, if you can't find what you need, think outside the box. Old fashioned Kraft paper or paper bags work great. For specific colored covers, either tell your child to get out the markers or buy a plastic tablecloth and make your cover. Yes, a plastic tablecloth can be a durable and easy alternative.

The bottom line

As long as schools keep saying kids have to have items, we are going to keep buying them. It's all in the name of setting our children up for success. So, as painful as it can be, just suck it up and buy the darned binder.

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