To which I say, good luck with that! As much as I would adore the chance to grocery shop alone (or do anything alone, for that matter), it doesn't appear that that will be in the cards for at least 15 years. Which, now that I've actually put that little truth nugget in print, seems rather bleak to me.
So last week was one of those times where I had to do the bi-weekly grocery shopping by myself, with the kids (and if that isn't the biggest oxymoron I've ever written or read, then....I don't know what.). I always do my grocery shopping on a Thursday. We get paid on Thursdays, and there is no way in heck I am sacrificing one red little second of my weekend at the suburban jungle known as Kroger. So no matter how busy I am on the Thursdays we get paid, I am going to the grocery store.
I used to have the luxury of being one half of the good old American dream called the DINK (dual income, no kids) and would wait till D went to work and go grocery shopping at around 7:30 on whatever Thursday night. I loved it. The store was always relatively empty and there was something satisfying in being able to linger over the produce to select the least bruised apples without worrying about getting out of the way of fellow shoppers or stock boys. (It's funny how your idea of paradise changes when you have kids. Before kids, paradise is a tropical vacation. After kids, it's the ability to go out by yourself after 7 p.m. to grocery shop without having to arrange a babysitter or rush back home because your husband is "babysitting" and is counting the minutes till your return.)
These days, now that I'm a DITK (or a DICK if you change "two" to "couple" ha ha ha. I'm such a child.) I have to come home from work and immediately get the kids in the car to go. If we wait even 10 minutes after I get home, we are in trouble because we are nearing the danger zone of dinner time. But the benefit to this plan is that D is almost always available to come with me, which is great because he can distract L and I can focus on wearing C in the carrier and selecting our groceries. Plus, D always unloads the cart so I can sort through my coupons while we're checking out. Our team effort of grocery shopping is one of my favorite things about being married to him. Which is way less depressing than it sounds, I promise.
But on this particular Thursday last week, I happened to have the day off. And since D is in the middle of Kamikaze Season (aka lawn season), he was exhausted. He had worked the night before and had gotten only 2 hours of sleep before he went out to do lawns. I knew the last thing he'd want to do was go grocery shopping, and that by the time he was done with lawns, it would probably be dinner time anyway. So I braced myself and decided to take the kids in the morning.
I have gone many places by myself with the kids, but the grocery store is by far the most challenging. If you are going to just pick up a few things, you can put the big kid in the seat up front of the cart and put the baby's car seat in the basket of the cart. But if you're going for a big trip....I'd turn back if I were you.
But, it had to be done. So I wore C in the carrier and put L in the cart and off we went. Of course, I had selected a cart with a wonky wheel. But I didn't realize this until my cart became so laden down with food that I would have preferred to poke myself in the eye with a pencil than transfer both groceries and toddler into another cart. Instead, I chose to deal with it and throw my entire body weight into turning the cart. Not an easy task when you're wearing a 13 pound baby on your front.
So we went to the fruit first. L is crazy over fruit and would probably live on blueberries, peaches, bananas, strawberries...basically any fruit (and graham crackers) if we let him. He loves fruit. And it was really cute because he was pointing to all the fruit and saying his version of their names.
Now, in the old days before C was born, I often went grocery shopping with just L. I used to give him whatever grocery I had just selected to hold, and then I'd say "Ok, let's put it in the cart!" and take it from him and put it in the basket. Or sometimes I'd let him hold it and thank him profusely for helping and tell him what a good boy he was. I liked doing that and making him feel involved in the errand. Plus, it kept him interested and prevented boredom from setting in, which is always disastrous.
So we went to the first display and got two plastic boxes of blueberries. You know the kind of boxes, right? The ones that have the little slots in the bottom so when you wash them the water drains out? Ok. So I got those and put one on either side of him in the seat. Then we went directly to the apples and I got a bag and started counting them out to him as I put them in the bag. I got two bags of apples and put them on top of the blueberries. Then we headed for the bread.
As I was trying to find the very specific brand and type of bread that my not-at-all-picky husband likes, I kept up a running "dialogue" with L. But I wasn't looking at him. I walked about 5 feet away from the cart to get the bread, and as I turned back, I saw him throwing the bags of apples in the basket. And then I remembered how D keeps L entertained by giving him things to "put" (aka throw) in the basket. And just as I remembered that, it suddenly occurred to me what was about to happen.
I saw him lift the box of blueberries and as he swiveled in his seat to toss them in the cart, I tried to say "L NO!" But it was too late. The blueberries hit the mostly empty bottom of the basket and the container popped open, exploding like a blueberry nuke. And little, tiny blueberries rolled EV.ERY.WHERE like little blueberry prisoners who finally had their chance to make an escape.
I remind you that I was wearing C in the carrier. This is more awkward than being pregnant, because when you're pregnant, you don't have to worry about your baby falling out if you bend or move the wrong way. Plus if you fall when you're wearing your baby in a carrier, the chances of them getting hurt are much higher than if you fall while pregnant since there is no placenta or huge boobs to help cushion the fall.
So what was I supposed to do? I couldn't just push the car at warp speed to make a quick getaway, since there was a blueberry graveyard under the cart. If I moved the cart even a centimeter, I would have run over the blueberries and squashed them, leaving a trail of evidence in the form of blueberry juice.
I briefly considered walking 10 feet away and looking disapprovingly at L and saying loudly, "UGH! Who does that kid belong to??" But I'm pretty sure there were witnesses who could place me at the scene of the crime, and I've never been a good liar anyway. Plus it would totally blow my cover when L looked directly at me and said "wa-wa-la-la, mama!" as he pointed at the watermelons.
So I just looked around helplessly and prayed that a Kroger employee would happen along my path. In order to make them not totally hate me when they did happen along my path, I made the effort to squat down and try to balance and pick up blueberries at the same time. It didn't go great, but I managed to pick up a handful.
Poor L, he just looked at me like "What did I do wrong Mama?" So I summoned some real effort and drop-kicked the annoyance and the "arrrrrrgh!!!" out of my head. Instead, I called up a smile and said, "That's ok baby, I know you were just trying to help. But next time we won't throw the blueberries, right?" And he slowly shook his head "no" because he doesn't know how to say "yes" yet, but I took it as a yes anyway.
Finally some poor Kroger employee happened upon us and mercifully told me she'd clean up the berries. I told her I didn't want to push the cart away because I didn't want to leave the blood of the slain blueberries in my wake, but she waved me off, told me not to worry about it and even went to get me a new package of berries. I was so appreciative that I even plan to write a letter to Kroger about her. And I hope this plan is more successful than my plan to start toning my arms up, which has been in "plan" mode since, oh probably April.
Anyway, we finally got to move along and continue with our shopping. By this point, I was pretty wary. When something goes so wrong like that right at the beginning, it doesn't really bode well for the rest of the trip.
On we went, the bockety cart wheel growing bocketier by the minute. By about aisle 5, I realized that C seemed to be sinking lower and lower in the carrier. I put my hand under her butt to boost her, and felt an adorable little foot peeking out from the bottom of the carrier. Which is when I realized that I hadn't adjusted or otherwise tightened the straps on the carrier since I had adjusted them back in February when I was 22 pounds heavier (thank you Weight Watchers). And then I realized that these realizations were really kicking my butt that day.
But what the heck was I going to do? I had to take C out of the carrier and use both hands to take off the carrier, tighten the straps and then put her back into the carrier. There was literally no place I could (or wanted to) lay her down so I could do the necessary tightening. I even briefly considered telling L to hold her and then laying her in his lap. But I dismissed that bright idea as quickly as it had occurred to me because I'm pretty sure if I asked her, C would tell me that she prefers to never fall from the cart to the floor of the grocery store.
So instead, I had to make the tough choice and do something that would eternally mortify my husband if he were with me. (Except, if he were with me, I wouldn't have been in that pickle in the first place.) I stood there for a second, watching people walk by. And when I saw the right kind of lady walk by (old because old ladies love babies, not old enough that she'd drop C, friendly looking, and not in a hurry) I stopped her and said, "Excuse me, but would you mind holding my baby for a second?"
She gave me a look that said that she knew I was talking but couldn't believe that I'd said what I said and asked me, "What?"
"I'm sorry," I stammered. "I know this is really weird, but my carrier is super loose and I really need to fix it but I can't hold her while I do that. Would you mind holding her for just a few seconds?"
"OHHHH HONEY SURE!!!!!!!!!!" she squealed. Like I was asking her if she wouldn't mind if I gave her 10 million dollars. And then I got a bit nervous. But the carrier needed to be tightened, so I handed C over. And then the really sweet old lady proceeded to chatter to me at a speed of approximately 30 words per second.
"Oh my daughter has five kids she adopted three of them you know and she has every carrier you can think of oh are those kids ever sweet so I know just what you're going through with that carrier she has every stroller you can think of too and why I bet you are the same way with these precious little ones and oh how old is your little boy why what a sweetie he is too but oh I bet he gets into mischief bless his heart and look at him that big boy helping you with your shopping oh now make sure you get that carrier tight enough honey we don't want this little angel falling out I bet they keep you busy bless your heart and look at you you look like the sweetest little mommy ever just like my daughter with her five precious ones she lives in Florida you know so I don't get to see them often but I sure do love seeing them and you know when I'm done with my visit I am ready to be done because five sweethearts is a lot you know but I bet you know that because two babies this little must keep you hopping!"
By the point she stopped for breath, I had tightened the carrier, replaced it on my body, baked a cake and went with L to pick out a coming-home outfit for the birth of his third child. I had been standing there with my arms out to have C returned to me but the very sweet lady wasn't even paying attention. She was just staring at C the whole time.
After holding my arms out for about a minute, it dawned on me the reality of the situation. I was standing in the middle of Kroger while a complete stranger was holding my baby and not giving her back to me. I began to get a little alarmed.
As if reading my thoughts she smiled at me and said, "Now don't you worry, I promise I'll give her back. I thought about taking off with her, but I think you could probably catch me" Ha. Ha. Ha. Not a very funny joke to make when you're actually holding my baby. Maybe funny if I'm holding her and you're walking by and saying "Aw, she's so sweet, I wish I could take her home with me!" NOT funny when you actually are in a position where you could probably take her home with you if you tried hard enough.
Just as I was about to reach out and snatch C back, the lady handed her over to me. I quickly put her in the carrier, thanked the lady, resisted telling her that I was sorry, she couldn't have the baby but was she interested in my toddler? and took off.
By the time I finished pushing the bockety-ass cart through the store, I was literally sweating. I wearily dragged myself to the checkout, where I realized that I had forgotten at least 30% of the things that had been on my list. But I was not pushing that cart back through the store for ANYTHING.
I loaded the groceries onto the checkout belt (missing my husband keenly at that moment) and tried not to punch the checkout clerk in the face when she asked for my ID as she scanned the beer. I mean, I know that wasn't a rational reaction because it's her job and everything, but I felt like she could have helped me out by seeing any of the following:
1) I have 2 kids and clearly need the alcohol, so even if I wasn't 21 she should throw me a bone.
2) I am sweating my kiester off so maybe she could scan the beer last so I'll have time to get my ID out.
3) My outfit is an assortment of Land's End and Kohl's so I am CLEARLY over 21 (but still as hip as the day I was 18, booyah!).
(And the sad thing is, I don't even drink beer. It was for D.)
While I was fishing my ID out of my wallet, C decided that it would be the ideal time to start melting down. And lately, L has found it fun and/or funny to join in the melee and whine when C whines, sort of like how a dog howls along when someone sings really badly.
So I'm bouncing and swaying and shushing, trying to calm C down before L starts his crocodile tears and pretending like I don't see the laser eyes the cashier is giving me. And this is totally a change of pace for me because usually I get the "Awww how old are the babies?" and "My, your children are so well-behaved! And trust me, we get some bad ones through here." I'm used to people bowing at the feet of my maternal awesomeness, not giving me That look, the one that says "Your kids are really chapping my ass today lady."
So FINALLY the groceries are bagged, placed in my basket and paid for. I muster my last spark of energy and head for the van. I thank sweet baby Jesus for the person who invented the buttons on the key fob that open the doors and hatch automatically and wearily put the kids in car. I load the groceries into the van and then sink into the driver's seat, thankful that the ordeal is over.
And then I get home and realize that I still have to unload and put away the groceries, and what the heck am I supposed to do with the kids while I'm doing that?
Strike 100, you're out.