The girls and I had an adventure today. You see, I like to do my grocery shopping in one large trip a month, rather than tiny little trips throughout the month. Why do I prefer it this way? Because I don’t particularly enjoy trying to keep my two children content in a shopping basket in the busy aisles of our local Wal Mart Supercenter. Shopping in Japan was a breeze in comparison. Sure, I had no idea what half of the foods on the shelves were (being illiterate as I was and all), but I had a sleeping newborn and a relatively calm one year old who just gave me all the time in the world to wander around and shop. Which I did. Here? It’s a different story because those adorable little infants are curious toddlers. Today, I vowed that we would spend only an hour in the store. If it didn’t land in the basket during that hour, we weren’t turning back to get it, lest I turn into a pillar of salt in the chaos that is the grocery section of Wal Mart while with two toddlers. One hour! Easy, right?
Within the first two minutes in the store, Emma produced the stinkiest poopy diaper of her life. (And this is really saying something with Em.) After that was taken care of, Ana stood up in the cart and began yelling greetings at every senior adult who passed us. “HELLO!,” she’d yell, as she hung out of the cart. God bless her — she loves senior adults. She got plenty of greetings right back, a few handshakes, and a hug or two. Despite the time-consuming nature of chatting with your local senior adults in your local Wal-Mart pharmacy section, we managed to finish up our business in the health and beauty section in record time and quickly moved to the shoe aisle. I had seen a pair of Disney princess slip-on sandal sneaker things (how’s that for descriptive?) that are going to be perfect for our vacation, since they’re worn without socks, they have good soles for walking, etc. Ana, however, didn’t like them. Round and round I went, trying to talk her into loving the Disney shoes, all to no avail. She finally got weepy — “no thank you pin-cess shoes, Mommy” — so I told her I was going to get two pairs “for Emmy.” (Partial truth, since one pair was for Emmy, the other pair… well…) Em was thrilled by the prospect of owning two pairs of the exact same shoes. As soon as the “pin-cess shoes” were in the cart and unofficially belonged to Emmy, Ana changed her mind, wanted her very own pair, and spent a good long while trying to put them on, even though they had those plastic things tying them together. Crisis averted!
We hit the food aisles, list in hand, with no intention of stopping for anything that wasn’t on the list. At one point in my mad dash, I looked down to see Emma stretching herself as far as possible to the left to grab a box of cookies (not on the list) whilst Ana was stretched as far as possible to the right to grab a box of cheese crackers (also not on the list). I was able to get everything out of their hands and press on. After a brief altercation with Ana over some fruit cups that she desperately needed to get open, we finally arrived at frozen foods. The basket was getting kinda full at this point, so I moved my purse up next to Emmy (who was sitting in the baby seat) so that we could pack the icy goods even deeper. Remember how I said that I just do one shopping trip a month? (Well, except for the trips to get milk. But those are quick trips!) To make this possible, I have to buy five pound bags of everything. French fries. Chicken nuggets. Fish sticks. After hoisting all of this into the basket, Ana hardly had any room, but she managed to find herself a seat… right on top of the bag of frozen fish sticks. Emma, meanwhile, was rummaging through my purse, found my sunglasses case, and was holding it up to her ear and yelling, “Hello?! Hello?!” (It doesn’t really even look like a cell phone… which may be why she grew increasingly frustrated with its lack of buttons to push.) Ana then started telling everyone we were passing, “I COLD! I COLD!” Because she was sitting on frozen fish sticks, of course. I picked up a couple of frozen pizzas, which the girls immediately began passing back and forth to one another, taking the time to LICK THE BOXES as they inspected the pictures on them. “Mmm…” Emma would say. “Mmm! Cheese pizza!,” Ana would agree. Sigh.
At this point, I realized that I hadn’t picked up any of the boxed pasta dishes that Wes eats for lunch, so I had to run back that way (my hour was running out!) and toss several into the cart. Ana picked up one and started shaking it, then gave one to Emma who did the same. The percussion jam session continued on through the vegetables, the cheeses, and the meats, gathering attention from everyone around us when Emma added caterwauling vocals to the beat. One last stop to pick up eggs (which I didn’t even dare to put in the cart), and we were off to the checkout line, with about five minutes to spare. Then, things kind of got out of hand, what with Ana’s behind being totally numb from those fish sticks and Emma just about to go bananas after sitting that long in such a tiny space. (Oh, and bananas. Yeah, they had already attempted to eat the bunch I had thrown in the cart, and when I took them to put them on the counter to pay for them, the girls started weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth as if to alert everyone around us that I was starving them by withholding bananas.) I got them calmed down in time for Ana to run circles around the cart, singing the theme song from “Wonder Pets” at the top of her lungs and in time for Emma to lean all the way over and start putting the groceries that hadn’t even been scanned back into the cart. (Little thief!) I told the cashier, who looked to be all of fifteen years old, as she watched the mayhem that is my life, “This is a lot harder than it looks!” We paid, thanked everyone in line for their patience, and with Ana on my hip and Em in the basket, I pushed the cart one-handed to the exit. I stopped for the employee to check my receipt (like you’re supposed to do), and he waved me away, saying, “You have your hands full — go on!” (Translation: Lady, please take those wild monkeys out of the store. Thank you, I will!) I got everyone and everything packed into the car, and we started heading home. The time? One hour and five minutes. Not bad.
Today, as I watched a whole lot of people watch me do a rather craptacular job of managing my children, I felt like pulling my cart up next to theirs and telling them how I never envisioned myself becoming the crazy Wal Mart mommy. Never! And how I used to watch women like me, who have NORMAL toddlers (like mine!) making mayhem out of even the most mundane of tasks, and swear that I would do MUCH, MUCH better when my day came. And I’d always be wonderfully put together while doing it. Shopping in my heels and pearls with my perfectly behaved little ones! Confession time, y’all. I’m not even sure I made it out of the house with deodorant on this morning. I know for certain that I didn’t put on makeup and that I took all of thirty seconds to brush my teeth. I had no choice — Emma followed me into the bathroom, like she does every day, and wouldn’t let go of my knees until I put her in the car. Who has time to get fixed up when an Em is permanently attached to them?! I looked bad, y’all. Bad, bad, bad. And that’s okay. And as bad as this trip sounds now that I’ve typed it all out? It was actually one of our mild grocery adventures. This is just what life is like during this season. And I’m okay with it.
So, let that encourage you if you, too, are a crazy Wal Mart mommy who leaves the house without putting on deodorant. You just don’t have time, friend! I understand! No shame in that! I took the time to write the memory of this trip — just one of many, many trips exactly like it — so that we’ll both look back, praise God that this season is short, and have some sympathy the next time we see a frazzled woman in the frozen food section who is trying to pry a bag of frozen corn out of the hand of one toddler while her second toddler is rubbing a frozen burrito on her head. (Which mine have done. And worse! )
Oh, and once we got home, Ana was convinced that her stuffed Elmo doll had died, and it took a full thirty minutes to calm her down enough that she could be convinced that he was, in fact, NOT dead. (Just sick, as I finally conceded when she kept demanding that something was, indeed, very wrong with him!) Still not sure where all of that came from, but it was quite traumatic. Let me tell you.
It won’t be like this forever, and we’ll likely miss even these crazy days once they’re gone….