Rules for Grocery Shopping with Toddlers

Every time I think I get a handle on this parenting thing, something unexpected comes along.  Lately, it’s been an early surprise of the terrible twos.  They are real.  They exist.  And they have manifested themselves in BOTH of my sweet little angels in the past few months.

My parenting skills have not caught up to manage the outbursts and moments of defiance, and despite putting on a brave face with my kids to let them know mama is still in charge, they seem to sense my weakness…and they know when to strike.

Take an ill-fated Friday afternoon shopping trip for example.  If you’ve read my post about 5 Nerdy Things I’m Thankful for as a Mom, you know I prefer to grocery shop alone.  This particular afternoon, though, my girls seemed extra sweet and excited to go to the store, so I decided to go for it.

The girls were particularly into their dolls this day, and for some crazy reason, I allowed them to each bring a doll with us to the store.  I even let them pick out new outfits to dress the dolls in AND let one of the girls bring an extra doll with her.  I clearly wasn’t in my right mind…

Besides toting three dolls along, I decided to try a new parking spot on the back side of the store so we wouldn’t have to walk across the busy part of the parking lot but could wind around the sidewalk to the entrance.  Seems logical, right?

On the way in with the two toddlers and their three dolls, I was actually pretty proud of myself.  The girls looked so innocent and sweet carrying their little dolls, but I noticed about halfway to the door the great new parking area I chose did NOT have a cart corral.

But on a happy, cheerful afternoon when you’re walking in without crossing the busy parking lot and looking at your happy children toting their dolls, a missing cart corral isn’t a problem!  I can carry the few groceries I’m buying out to the car, of course! (Insert ominous music here…duhn, duhn, duhn).

After a decent trip around the store with only a few dolls flying out of the cart (they were getting less cute and sweet by the minute) and minimal hitting and yelling, the checkout is where I made the biggest mistake of all.

I let my girls OUT OF THE CART under the assumption they could walk alongside mama on the safe little sidewalk to the car.  Who does that?  Why didn’t the checker tell me I was an idiot?  Why did I turn down the offer to help me to the car from the teen who sacked the groceries?

The dolls were dropped and scooped up, all three of them, by mama.  I tucked them under my arms so I could hold the grocery sacks…

Can you see it coming?  Some fellow mama or someone with more of a brain should have grabbed me, shaken me hard by the shoulders and yelled some sense into me.  These were NOVICE parenting mistakes I was making, all of which were doomed to lead to a disaster!

As I was lugging the bags of groceries on my arm, squeezing those terrible dolls in my armpits and pleading with my toddlers to keep following me to the car, it happened.

Munchkin 2 froze in her tracks.  You could see the wheels turning in her little mind, calculating the odds and sensing my weakness.  She planted her feet, gave me a naughty little smile and took off running into the very parking lot I was trying to avoid entering with my genius parking place.

I dove. I yelled.  Groceries flew, dolls hit the pavement, and some innocent bystander who happened to see the spectacle held Munchkin 1’s hand on the sidewalk while they watched the ordeal unfold. (Innocent bystander is now my new BFF, by the way).

The running toddler only made it a few steps into a handicapped parking space at the entrance, but between the yelling, her crying and the flying groceries and dolls, we made enough of a spectacle to draw attention from everyone walking in to the store on this doomed Friday afternoon.

Call me crazy, but Friday afternoons in front of King Soopers seem horribly busy.  Busy enough and full of enough people lingering at the entrance that I couldn’t bring myself to add to the humiliation and spectacle and give the little one the spanking I so desperately thought the situation warranted.

The nice lady My BFF who held Munchkin 1’s hand helped me gather up the groceries and dolls and make my way to the car, and who knows what in the world she was thinking about me. I couldn’t really concentrate with Munchkin 2 screaming in my ear as I lugged her along with all of the other junk I was carrying.

Behind the closed doors of my minivan, I sat in the seat and had a moment.  Talk about publicly earning the mother of the year award!

So, after this disastrous afternoon, I now follow these rules without question if I have to take the Munchkins shopping.  If you shop with little ones, take note–if my story can save even one mad dive into a handicapped space in front of a large crowd of shoppers, it will be worth it!

1.  Do NOT allow your children to bring any type of toy that cannot be stuffed into your purse into the store.  Said toys will prove hazardous in the event of a chasing a running toddler.

2.  Do not under any circumstances let your toddler free from the confines of the shopping cart.  No matter how well you think your child minds or how many bribes you are prepared to offer (don’t judge–I’m one of those parents who does something which I claimed I wouldn’t do in my pre-child days), unbuckling a seat belt and allowing your child to walk to the car will likely end in public humiliation.

3.  Friday afternoons are horribly busy and embarrassing days to shop.  The sheer number of people gawking at the front entrance while you chase the aforementioned toddler will be significantly higher than at, say, a nice quiet time like 11:00 at night when the sweet little angels are sleeping peacefully. Does anyone know if the Starbucks is open then?

4.  Leave your bagged groceries in a shopping cart with the securely buckled toddlers.  Even if you only have a few bags and what seems like a short walk to the car, grocery bags swinging from your arm will make chasing and scooping up a runaway child nearly impossible.  The extra toy you have to carry along with the escaped child is yet another reason why grocery bags MUST stay in the cart.

5.  Don’t see a cart corral anywhere near the super-cool new place you chose to park? Forget it! Be that person and leave the cart obnoxiously out in the middle of the lot. A dirty look from the one person who notices your inconsiderate behavior is a thousand million times better than the public humiliation you risk by not keeping the protection offered by the shopping cart with your grocery bags and toddlers securely  in it.

5.  Snugly laced running shoes and clothes made for diving and sprinting are highly recommended.

6.  If someone offers you help or has to step in and help because they see your toddler abandoned on the sidewalk while you chase her sister, do not turn him or her away. When the pity card is all you have left, play it!

7.  Have an understanding and hilarious friend on stand-by to talk you out of crying in your car over your lack of parenting skills and to remind you that even the best mom-ninjas learn the hard way sometimes.

If at first you don’t succeed. . .

Run to King Soopers and pick up the store-bought version of your kitchen disaster!  But hey, what kind of blogger would I be if I simply wrote about my trip to the grocery store?  So, I picked up a candy thermometer on Friday and decided to give this so-called “easy” fudge another try.  Turns out, a candy thermometer really is a crucial piece of any candy-making attempt. . .who knew!

Here’s the recipe from my grandmother’s cookbook:

Maybe it is easier than I originally thought. . .sorry for doubting you, Mama Ann!  I’ll send you an easy-to-read copy if you’d like.

Just four ingredients AND the secret weapon–the candy thermometer.

I had a sweet little girl on my shoulder the whole time.  This time it was Munchkin 2 who decided to help me in the kitchen.

aka, Julia the kitchen helper

Turns out, the time it takes to reach soft ball stage is also the same amount of time it takes a tired baby to fall asleep.

So watching the candy thermometer slowly creep up to the little “soft ball” mark was a little bit like watching the ball drop on New Year’s. . .except the temperature is rising and the ball is falling, and the temperature seems to go a little slower. . .so maybe it’s a terrible comparison, but the anticipation level was the same.  Here is what I saw in the pot when we hit the magic mark and after I stirred in the peanut butter:

A little prettier than “dirt clod” stage. . .

Believe it or not, this fudge actually came out of the pan–no chisel needed!  I found it was easier to spread in my greased, foil pan using a rubber spatula.  I put it in the freezer to cool when it was finished.

Peanut butter fudge.

It tasted great, too.  I feel like there is a Rachel Berry-esque gold star next to my name today.  I guess you’re never too old to learn!

P.S.  An over-night soak took out all of my previous fudge-tastrophe.

“Dirt clod” fudge and poop stains. . .why Martha Stewart doesn’t have to watch her back when I’m around!

So today I learned volumes. . .I apparently need to have a chisel, a candy thermometer and a huge stock pile of Oxyclean in my arsenal. . .and some sliced cheese and a pair of flip flops by the door. . .

I guess I have always known in my heart of hearts that I am not the next Rachel Ray. Sure, I can cook. I can follow a recipe and make quite a few decent dishes, and I actually enjoy baking every now and then. My mom, grandmother and sister-in-law are all amazing in the kitchen, though, and they enjoy it way more than I do. I seem to have more disasters than other chefs I know. . .maybe I am just more adventurous than my skill level, or maybe I am just not as good in the kitchen as I think I am. . .either way, today I think I outdid myself in epic proportions.

I just wanted a snack. . .a simple, easy snack. When the pantry is empty, what does every hungry domestic goddess do? Pull out a trusty cookbook, of course!! (I plan on filing one more complaint with cookbook companies, by the way–my mess was entirely preventable!). I found a four ingredient recipe in my grandmother’s cookbook for peanut butter fudge, and the recipe note read, “This is fast and easy! You can make it while popcorn is popping!”. I grabbed the sugar, cocoa and milk and pull down my Betty Crocker basics cookbook for a mini-lesson in candy making and to learn what this “soft ball stage” of candy making is all about. The cookbook says you can do it without a thermometer if you do a “cold water test” and drop some candy in it and feel it, so I jump right in. Why not?

Twenty minutes later, I’m sweating and holding a crying baby on the hip farthest from the stove (Munchkin 1 decided she was done watching from her bouncy chair and needed to help–she was as clueless as her mama, apparently!) and calling my mother to complain about the mistake in the family cookbook. “I could have popped 5 bags of popcorn by now!” I yelled as my chocolatey mess kept boiling. I dribbled some into the cold water like the cookbook said after I hung up, and it was crunchy. . .the first time I did the test, the liquid dissolved, so I figured I’d better wait a while. . .guess I waited too long! Not a nice soft ball like the picture showed at all, and when I pulled the pot off the burner, the boiling liquid quickly hardened to a consistency I’d describe as “dirt clod stage,” and no, adding peanut butter to it didn’t help. . .my snack ended up as scraping a little bit of peanut butter off the top of the “dirt clod” fudge. Apparently I dropped some on one of my burners, so my kitchen smells like burned sugar, and my pot is soaking in hopes that some of it will come out. A chisel might save the pot. . .maybe. . .but if I ever attempt this ridiculous candy making again, I guess I will invest in a candy thermometer. Who knew?!

After leaving the kitchen in defeat, I piled some clean laundry from the dryer and carefully placed Munchkin 1 on top of it so I could talk to her about my disaster on our way to the living room to fold the laundry. Did I mention it was white laundry? When I picked her up, the laundry, well, wasn’t so clean anymore. She left me a beautiful poop stain on top of some of her Daddy’s previously clean clothes. Once again, an epic fail at domestic goddess status. . .laundry re-do!

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I almost forgot to mention the event prior to the kitchen catastrophe. . .our yellow lab escaped when a cleaning sales person came to the door, and I had to run after him barefooted with a baby on my hip (I think it was Munchkin 1, poor child!) and a slice of cheese in my hand. Sadly, a neighbor just happened to drive by and witness the chaos. . .this stay-at-home mama business is definitely not for the faint of heart! And to think, yesterday I was worried I’d be bored and run out of things to blog about. . .I just hope the smell is gone before Dustin gets home. . .