Back to school absurdities – pencils

Every back to school season I can remember, there has been one absurd thing.

I’m talking about the one thing on the supply list that you look at and think “seriously?”  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like every year there is one item that just drives me to total distraction.   I get all worked up in a tizzy over finding whatever the elusive item is and drive my family generally crazy trying to find whatever “it” is.

Sometimes it’s been an item on the school supply list that is mysteriously absent from the shelves of every store in the tri-state area.  Sometimes it’s been their uniforms.

Last year, it was pencils.

Pencils almost ruined my back to school joy.

The listing was innocent enough looking.

24 yellow #2 hexagonally shaped wooden pencils with pink erasers, sharpened*

They couldn’t get any more specific unless they gave us a brand name.

Let’s break it down so you can understand my hysteria.

24:  I got that part covered.  It was easy enough to find two packages of twelve pencils or one package of 24 pencils.  Not a problem.  (unlike this year where the packs of 36 were the ones on sale and I had to split them between kids.  my boys were scandalized.)

yellow:  Technically, this confused me. What shade of yellow were they talking about?  There’s so many!   There’s mustard yellow, sunshine yellow, daffodil yellow, butter yellow…  I decided to interpret the request based on the clear desire for uniformity in school supplies.  I went with the traditional yellow pencil yellow.

#2:  This is easy.  Any other hardness of lead (did you know it’s not really lead in there?) is more expensive and much more difficult to find.  My kids won’t be bubbling in scantrons on a daily basis, but it’s still a good all around soft lead.

hexagonally shaped:  As opposed to round? triangular?  hand carved?  This requirement would make much more sense to me if I wasn’t also asked to buy round pencil grips.  Why not just buy round pencils instead of asking me to stuff a hexagonal pencil into a round rubber hole to make the pencil round.

wooden pencils: I was a rebel once.  I bought the ones made from recycled plastic instead.  No one noticed.

pink erasers:  Why does this matter?  What could possibly be wrong with having erasers in some other color?  I am raising boys and they wanted the blue erasers.  They were not happy about the pinkness.

sharpened:  I was NOT phased by this.  I bought them pre-sharpened.  (if you bought unsharpened ones, don’t stress.  your children now have a new time-out.  they can be sent to sharpen pencils as a meditative activity.)

*:  This was the part that drove me nuts.  Do you even know what * means?  Look. Right there at the bottom of the page!

* – all items with a star(*) on them must be labeled with your child’s name.

Oh my freaking word.  Excuse me as I go beat my head against the wall.

I spent three days trying to figure out how to label pencils.  I looked into ordering pencils with his name embossed on them.  ($100 minimum order, two week turn around time, only available in round pencils with white erasers, and they were the wrong shade of yellow.)

I tried printing out labels and sticking them on.  They wouldn’t stay stuck.

I tried using my label maker.  It was too big.

I finally decided that I would just NOT label the pencils.  I’d rather buy a new box of pencils (yellow, #2, pre-sharpened… the works) than spend time labeling every single pencil.

I took the cheater’s way out.  I wrote his name on the box of pencils.

The best part?

When we went the before school meet-the-teacher event where the kids bring in all their school supplies, all of the parents are sharing war stories about the labeled pencils.  The only solution that worked was to print the name in 8 point font, cut it out, and attach it to the pencil with clear tape.

It took HOURS.

That’s when the teacher says

Oh, don’t worry about it.  They’ll just dump the pencils in a common bin.  That was a typo on the list.  There’s no WAY you should have to label pencils. That would be silly.

Apparently, sometimes cheaters DO win.

labeling pencils

Every year, there’s some little something.

What triggered your back to school absurdity this year?

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. OH MY GOD. I would have LOST my mind if I had labelled on those pencils and then been told I didn’t need to!! Cracked up at this post!-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted..Carpooling: You Are Doing It WrongMy Profile

    • It makes sharpening a bunch of pencils look like a walk in the park in comparison. I can’t IMAGINE! The few parents that actually put the labels on all those pencils looked so peeved. I seriously waited a year to share this story because I wanted them to have time to heal. I don’t think they would have thought my post was funny last year. It was too soon.

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