It's about time to head back to school.

(We'll pause here while you moan.)

Of course, it's possible you're not completely bummed about going back. Maybe you miss your friends. Maybe you're a bit bored playing video games and hanging at the pool all day. Maybe your folks are getting on your nerves (or the other way around).

But ready or not, you'll be back in class in just a few weeks. (Kids in Prince George's and Frederick counties start next week, but kids in Northern Virginia don't go back until after Labor Day.) That means you'll be needing lots of stuff for school.

But not everything needs to be as ho-hum as a marble notebook or a No. 2 pencil. Tracy Grant scouted out some new gizmos, gadgets and supplies and discovered some things to make going back to school cool.

Backpacks

They're not just for books anymore. Backpacks come with compartments for water bottles and cell phones. One feature that seems a must this season is a special spot where the headphones for your iPod, MP3 or CD player can pop out so you can listen to tunes while waiting at the bus stop. Ogio even makes packs with special straps to hold your skateboard in case you can't leave home without it (up to $69.99 at www.ogio.com). L.L. Bean lets you create the backpack of your dreams online. You pick the size, colors, even handle and zipper type (www.llbean.com, starting at $29). Looking for something that's simple, cool-looking and can handle dirty gym clothes as well as books? The NBA sells drawstring mesh bags with any team's logo for about $15.

Writing

If you take a lot of notes and then go back and highlight the important stuff, you know what a pain it is to switch from pen to highlighter and back to pen. One of the coolest items this season is the Tandem pen by PaperMate. It's a pen and highlighter in one. You can really use both ends of this pen, and the highlighter can be replaced when it runs out. The pen sells for about $5 at office supply stores.

Tired of getting papers back from teachers covered with red ink? Flair can help. The company has updated its famous red pen with new colors, including sky blue, magenta and tangerine. Maybe you can talk your teacher into trading in her red Flair for a lime-green one! The pens are $4.99 for a four-pack.

If you're pen-phobic and like to do everything on the computer, Microsoft's new wireless mouse will have you clicking and dragging and stylin' all at once. It comes in three fun designs (Groovy is shown here) and cost $40 to $50.

Now, we know it's not fun and it's definitely not cool, but we have to say that the No. 2 pencil may be the most perfect writing implement ever invented. Don't leave home without it.

Paperwork

One thing about school: You generate a lot of paper.

If you would like to start the school year in a Zen state of mind, check out the Far East binders from Wilson Jones. They're decorated with characters representing traits such as peace, serenity, courage and energy. You can get Zen for about $3.

If you just know that sixth grade is going to be a slam dunk, then go with the full line of NBA notebooks, folder and organizers. They range from $3 to $10 and can be found at most Staples and Office Depot stores.

Your books can have a ball in an NBA mesh bag.This Ogio backpack can carry a skateboard as well as books.L.L. Bean has a create-your-own backpack, with special places for phone, tunes and water bottle. Take hold: from top, highlighter pens, wireless mouse, colorful

Flair pens and reliable No. 2 pencils.From Zen to NBA, ready for writing.