Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm On Strike!

Hi! It's Rindi again!

Grocery shopping is definitely a necessary evil in my life. I both love it and hate it. All alone, I find it a relaxing, enjoyable stroll through a delectable wonderland, but with my children along, I find it nothing short of a Chinese torture chamber. A few years ago, when I had two little girls and a baby boy, I came up with a great solution to my grocery shopping woes.

“I’m not going to the grocery store ever again,” I announced one night during dinner. My husband, Greg, paused mid-bite to stare at me in amazement.

“What do you mean?” he asked, confused.

“I mean,” and I repeated it a bit slower for emphasis, “I’m not going to the grocery store ever again.” The idea was starting to sound better to me every time I said it. “It’ll work wonders for our budget,” I added happily. (Don’t get me started about our budget!) Greg seemed mildly amused but totally unconvinced.

A few days later (Day 2 with no milk and the food supply dwindling), Greg stood in the kitchen holding his box of Cheerios. “Are you really not going to the grocery store again?” Now, I had his attention. I was cracking the last two eggs from the carton for Greg’s meager breakfast as I said, “Yep, I am on a grocery store strike.”

“Rindi,” he started complaining, “come on! It can’t be that bad.”

“Yes, it can!” I assured him. I was thinking about the last time when a whole carton of cottage cheese had dropped from the cart while I was checking out. It had splattered all over my shoes, my pants, the floor, the cart, and the magazine racks. I had Miles on my hip, and, of course, he was fussing by this point. Julia and Emma were begging me for candy, and I was standing in a huge mess. “No candy!” I had hissed at the girls. Julia started to cry very loudly, and I couldn’t seem to get that burdened cart to move an inch forward! Maybe if I kicked it… Finally the cashier handed me a wad of paper towels and asked very politely if I would like to go get another carton of cottage cheese. Exasperated, I told her I’d just forget about the cottage cheese this time. She started to insist that she would wait if I wanted to go grab it. I wanted to say, ‘Look lady, with what I’ve just been through here today that dairy aisle seems a few nautical miles away and I wouldn’t dare drag my children back there for a silly carton of cottage cheese. Forget it!’ She wouldn’t have heard me even if I would have said that because Julia was wailing even louder. Just then a nice bagger offered to fetch the cottage cheese for me. I smiled and mouthed “thank you” over the sobs, and then understandably didn’t say a word when he brought me back a carton of regular cottage cheese instead of the low-fat kind I had originally picked. If I’m going to blow our budget, I reasoned while feeling more discouraged with each high-priced ding of the scanner, I might as well blow our diet too.

A couple of days later (Day 4 with no milk and almost no food), I could no longer creatively come up with anything for us to eat. I decided to change my grocery-shopping strategy: the entire time while in the store I would repeat the words ‘we don’t need that…we don’t need that’ over and over. Hopefully, that would help me buy less, spend less, and okay, while we are at it, eat less. But since I was shopping on a hungry stomach (remember…Day 4…no milk), I kept thinking, well, we actually do need that. Plus, it was hard to concentrate while repeating those words. Half-way through the first aisle, I abandoned my well-thought-out strategy. The trip resulted in the same overstocked cart, the same candy-hungry children, and the same frazzled mother. I started to hope they wouldn’t ban us from the store.

In an effort to ease my tension, Greg offered to go with me to the store. Two carts are better than one, right? We completely blew our budget, but it was a pleasant family experience, I reflected later at home while unloading the bags. By the way, where did we get these cookies and donuts?

So, taking Greg with me didn’t exactly solve all of my problems. Besides, I felt extremely guilty dragging the good doctor around the store. That is the constant plight of a stay-at-home mom, I suppose. I usually need help (mental more than physical as Greg is quick to point out), but does a guy really need to spend all day long at work only to go straight from the clinic to the grocery store?

Like any good martyr, I sighed loudly and told my family I would resume my regular grocery shopping duties. “But don’t think I like it!” And I stamped my foot for emphasis. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, I realized that by giving up on the grocery store strike, my family wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the laundry-room standoff I was currently concocting.
"C'mon, Mom! We need food! Some of us need to maintain our weight!"

Everyone knows that “attitude is everything.” So, begrudgingly admitting that fact, I finally decided that my attitude about the grocery store was all wrong. I needed to embrace the grocery store as my means to nourish my loved ones. Of course, I truly am grateful that we never go hungry (except that once when I got a hare-brained idea and went on a grocery store strike). The convenience and abundance of our grocery stores are beyond anything else on earth.

So with these warm thoughts in mind, I ventured out to the store yet again. I grabbed one of the jumbo carts with the blue “kiddie” seats trailing behind the actual cart. My kids love those carts. I used to think they were great too, until a well-meaning fellow shopper said to me as she passed by, “I could never push one of those things.” I was left wondering why she could never push one. Did she think they were too heavy? Too tacky? Too big? Or did she simply think I was crazy for bringing three children to the grocery store? Hmmm…I guess I’ll never know. Anyway, just to show how much my attitude had changed, I bought ice cream cones to entertain the kids while I shopped. Note to self: Never buy ice cream cones to entertain the kids while I shop. My spirits were dropping fast as I mopped up slobbery ice cream from their faces. I ended up buying a ton of groceries in hopes that I would never have to go back. That is not a very successful plan, I know. By the end, I was trying to drag two carts full of food. I was tempted to search for “Mrs. I-could-never-push-one-of-those-things” just to see what she thought of me now. Emma and Julia were running and playing through the fruits and vegetables, and Miles had just HAD it. He didn't want to ride, and he didn't want me to hold him. He just wanted to run around and destroy things. I held him football style in one arm while he was screaming and squirming. With only one free arm and two full carts, I was failing fast. I made Emma try to push one cart, but she couldn't exactly see over it. I had to help guide it and she kept running into things, mostly me. Then, when I finally maneuvered to the checkout stand, I had a huge amount to load onto the counter and my arm was on fire from holding Miles. Somehow, Emma, Julia and I loaded it all on to the conveyor belt of doom. As if I wasn't stressed out enough, the total price was enormous, and I felt suddenly sick. At this point Julia announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. I hurried to pay and dragged my load to nearest restroom only to discover it was closed for cleaning. The sign very nicely read, “Please use the bathroom at the back of the store.” Yeah, right! There was no way I could get to the back of the store if my life depended on it. I left Emma guarding the carts, took Julia's hand, (Miles was still in the football hold, and I suppose I had forgotten completely about him), and walked very confidently into the bathroom. The cleaning lady just stepped lady! Julia went potty on the toilet, at least that was successful, and Emma stayed out alone with the carts (also a success). Then we had to turn around the entire caravan, which caused a slight traffic jam at the front of the store, but we finally made it to the automatic doors. Thank goodness for automatic doors! After depositing all three kids and all of the groceries into our minivan, I returned the two (yes, two!) carts, got in the van and had the urge to just cry. Somehow I held it together, because I knew the task at home of getting everything carried in and put away would be equally challenging. I needed to reserve my strength. In the end, the whole ordeal lasted about 3 1/2 hours.

That night over dinner (incidentally, I do love to cook and that requires groceries) I said to my husband, “I’m not going to the grocery store ever again.”

I thought I saw an almost imperceptible smile cross his lips.

But as I looked at the pleased faces surrounding our dinner table that evening, I knew that I would somehow find the strength to continue shopping week after week. And the good news is, I have shopped, week after week, for many years now and I'm alive to tell about it. Like my mom says, "Life is hard...and then you die!" So if you are like me, make a good list, flex those biceps to hold the baby, take a deep breath and hurry to the store. And may the best woman survive...(because, let's face it, we really have no other choice!).


Millie said...

Oh man that's so funny! Actually I never shop alone. Robert almost always comes with me. We have so much fun, it goes much faster and Robert can actually keep us more on budget. We love walking around and thinking of different meals/snacks to make. But we're young and I'm sure in the future that will change.

Jen said...

I have three boys (ages 6, 4 and 17 months) and a deployed husband. I FEEL YOUR PAIN. I think my big turn around was when I started planning my trip the way I would plan a vacation. I make lists in the order of the aisles, I clip and organize my coupons ahead of time and I give my boys my phone set on timer to time us and see how fast we can go. If we can get through in under X minutes (depending on the size of the list), everyone gets a treat at the check out. Now, I get "Hurry mom! Run!" hey - whatever works. :)

stalee said...

Rindi that brings back bad memories. I know exactly what you are saying. Oh that was so funny. I remember coming out of the store sweaty and tired. I would be so mad tears would come to my eyes. I am so glad those days are behind me. Thanks

Alli E. said...

Darling post. I have been right there with ya too many times! Once as I was leaving the store my whole gallon of newly purchased bleach someohow opened over many of my groceries and all down one of my favorite skirts I was wearing!! I think I did cry!

Anonymous said...

rindi, I loved your story. I know how hard it is to shop. Someone told me that instead of saying "Life is hard and then you die", they say "Life is hard and then you live." I am not sure if that is your torture or your blessing. But now that I am 57 years old the grocery store is a lot more pleasant and I don't have that panic feeling anymore. So you only have 26 years to go. Mom

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