January 27, 2009

A Typical Shopping Trip...

So what was life like after that “surprise” came along?  People have remarked that I must be amazing to be able to handle all those kids so close in age.  I wish I could report that they were correct in their thinking, but I commonly reply, “No, God's Grace is Amazing.”

I thought, however, I would add a few anecdotes in my next few posts about what life was like back then—the insanity, the chaos, the disposable diapers (you have NOOOO idea...), the wet kisses and sticky hugs that were not short in number, and even how I handled discipline.  I claim no originality for the coping mechanisms that worked because they were either accidentally happened upon after much trial and error, or gathered from others who had walked the path before me. I will, however,  claim complete responsibility for the failures (if I am brave enough to post them...) even though blaming my kids for my shortcomings would be the easier route to take.

As a starter, I thought I'd give young mothers of multiple youngins and curious onlookers a glimpse into a typical shopping day.  I'll admit, this narrative isn't one particular trip, but it does represent things that really happened; some of them all on the same day.

Since setting is really important in a good story, I want to you to picture the spot where we lived when the kids were very young. We lived smack dab in snow country in Central NY. Add to that the reality that we lived at a high elevation on what southerners here would have considered a mountain and had a driveway that went up at a "decent" pitch for over 200 feet.

It’s January, and I desparately need bread, milk, cereal, and some vittles for the hard working hubby. There’s just no getting around it, I must venture out for groceries.  After strapping up my attitude, I gather up the kids’ winter gear and begin dressing four youngins to brave the elements: four snowsuits, four knit caps, four sets of mittens, four pairs of boots. And, lest you think I was some organization wizard, it took time to locate all the pairs. Mind you, these children were not unusual toddlers; they wriggled, fought, complained, and inevitably would soil a diaper once they were totally bundled up. After a good forty minutes (ten minutes per kid...)I'd herd them into the minivan, buckle them into four carseats amidst loud protests (who would want to be confined in a carseat with a snowsuit on??), and carefully slide the car down the driveway.

Twenty minutes later, we arrive at the grocery store. As I park, I silently bless the person who thought of special parking near the door for “Parents with small children”—after all, that’s a handicap in and of itself! It is no small feat to safely unlatch four children and get them from the parking lot into the store. I had a routine, though. After each child emerged from the van, they had to put one hand on the vehicle while I unbuckled the others. It worked fairly well, if I do say so myself. With the baby’s carseat on my hip and three others holding hands, we would navigate the parking lot.

Once inside we get two shopping carts. I clip the youngest’s portable carseat onto the seat portion of one shopping cart, stick another older toddler in the seat of the second cart, and put the two smallest into a basket, surrounding them with the winter gear we have shed. Now that I have created a spectacle, I begin pushing the two carts (one in front, one pulled behind) down the aisle. Of course, my angelic children played quietly and let me comparison shop, NOT! I routinely stop to break up a fight, patiently (ahem) acknowledge a “mommy, look!”, or glare at a child and say through gritted teeth, “we’ll settle this at home!” Needless to say, curious onlookers stop me to ask, “Are they all yours?” I am tempted to say that I run a daycare in my home, but I grudgingly answer, "Yes."

After about an hour of wandering aisles and filling up the empty basket, oh, and trips to the restroom for the one potty training toddler, I checkout and then the process of bundling up begins again. This time we even make it out of the store with all of the mittens and hats.

At the car, I strap the four in their car seats, deliver a snack to each (except the infant, who at this time really wanted to nurse and is letting it be known...), then proceed to put the groceries in the back of the minivan. I then unbundle and sit in the passengers seat to deliver lunch to the infant, then plop him back into the carseat and head for home.

Look for installment number two soon—arriving home and putting away the groceries...


  1. I have a friend here who had surprise twins with three somewhat older kids already. I gather that Meijer (the local superstore) was her solution to the shopping problem, because it's literally open 24/7. She goes out to shop at something insane like 5 a.m. (or maybe other insane times in the middle of the night, too) in order to shop alone while the kids are with hubby, presumably in bed. I'm not sure which solution is the more daunting...

  2. Eventually my favorite store opened up a kiddy care, and I could leave the three oldest there to play while I shopped!! When the were older, I also began to shop either late at night or early in the AM. To be honest, that's pretty much what I do now, even though the kids are old enough to stay alone, because now I have school hours I try to keep.

  3. Even though my 4 weren't as close together as yours were, being a homeschooling mom meant I took them with me whenever I went shopping. One of our major shopping day rules was that if the kids couldn't keep from touching something, they had to keep their hands in their pockets. It worked well when they were old enough to apply it.

    I remember when the youngest was 2yo, and we were doing the homeschool-event-grocery-shopping-Christmas-shopping marathon, and I was standing at a prescription counter ready to pay for my purchase when I noticed something in my purse I didn't recognize...

    After a general family conference right there in the middle of the store, we figured out that it had come from the previous store (a couple of miles down the road) and that the 2yo had grabbed it and put it in my purse while I was checking out there. I was SO embarrassed!

    We quickly finished up at that store and drove back to the previous store, where I hauled all 4 kids out of the car AGAIN and went in to confess my toddler's crime. Unfortunately, the cashier had left her sense of humor home that day and I scuttled my family back out the door with my proverbial tail between my legs. It was a long time before I dared shop in that store again!

    Can't say I miss the stresses of those days! ;)


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