Monday, February 15, 2010

The Grocery Game

Has anyone ever heard of this? If not, you can read about it HERE. We have recently tried to cut down on our spending for groceries. Having 4 hungry kids who need a lot of food and a lot of milk can take a toll on your wallet. I am also missing my cheap Florida produce people! Seriously, who knew it would be so much more expensive to buy fruits and vegetables outside of the sunshine state? It kind of makes me wish I hadn't pushed the fruits and veggies so hard with my kids.

Although the online Grocery Game can be fun to play, it is nothing compared to the grocery game we play whenever we decide to take the kids along to the store. I will admit that the triplets never even entered a grocery store until they were over a year old. I was just not that brave. I've heard many moms of multiples say that they would take the stroller in with them and push it while pulling the cart behind them. I don't know what kind of advanced motor skills these women have, but I could not do both of those things at the same time while trying to navigate food and cart packed aisles as wide as a toothpick. I have a hard enough time just trying to get the cart down the aisle without knocking over some precariously constructed food display when I'm ALONE at the store, much less with a stroller in tow! No, pushing a stroller and pulling a cart was not an option for me. So my husband and I just resorted to one of us going to the grocery store at night once the kids were asleep. It was just easier that way.

Once the triplets got a little older, I really started to worry that they weren't getting exposed to normal everyday things like other kids do (I know, first time moms worry about little things like this). I felt embarrassed that my kids had never been to a grocery store, so we decided to take them along. I remember being so nervous the first time, but it went (gasp!) beautifully. No screaming, no tantrums, no having to abandon the half-full cart in the middle of the store and go home ... nothing. I was truly amazed. Gradually though, things started to get a little tougher at the grocery store. I contribute this increase in toughness to two things: 1) The disappearance of the novelty of the grocery store and 2) The arrival of baby #4. This is when we really had to start to play our own version of the Grocery Game.

The newness of the grocery store wore off quickly. I mean, how many times does a kid have to go up and down the aisles to realize that they're all the same? Coupled with that is the fact that they realize they aren't getting to eat any of the food going into the cart. Letting them gnaw on the box of Cheerios only lasts so long before they realize that it's just not the same as the real thing. Their new found antsiness resulted in us making our first move in the game ... distraction. What better way to get a kid through a trip to the store than with a carefully constructed distraction tactic? So we started with balloons. We thought it was innocent enough. Our grocery store offered balloons free to kids and we thought, "What could the harm be?" Man, were we ever wrong. In a matter of a few trips, we created balloon craving monsters. All three kids became obsessed, no, completely consumed, with having a balloon as soon as we drove into the grocery store parking lot. It was sheer madness. We would get them in the carts and sprint through the parking lot, race past the deli, and just miss toppling over a few children on our quest to get to the balloon station before the wailing would begin. And the obsession we nurtured was not just limited to the grocery store. Suddenly our sweet little babies became balloon hunting mongrels. I swear they could smell them from over a mile away. If there was a balloon within a 100 yard radius they saw it and they wanted it. It was like suddenly we had created these little heroin balloons addicts that had to get their fix every time we left the house. Finally, we had had enough. We put them through an intensive balloon detox program and they can now be in the same room with balloons and not go completely insane. Occasionally one of them will start twitching, but we just find something else pretty to distract them with and it's fine.

The next hurdle we ht with the grocery trips was when Luke was born. Suddenly, our carefully crafted trips to the store had another wrench thrown into them. It wasn't too bad when he was still in an infant seat because we could just put his seat in the back of the cart and he was fine. But Luke is a big boy and he graduated from that infant seat in no time flat. Because he was still a bit too small to sit in the cart with one of the triplets, we had to resort to carrying him. I don't know about you, but it is not my idea of a good time to lug a 20 pound weight on my hip up and down an aisle while simultaneously pushing a child in a cart and trying to shop for food. Not gonna happen. Luckily I have a sling/wrap that lets you carry your child on your hip. This has actually worked out pretty well. It allows me to have two hands free at times and I don't have to support all that baby weight with my arms. I'll admit my shoulders are little crooked from the weight once we are finished, but they usually straighten back up in an hour or two.

So, as you can see, the Clifford Grocery Game is an ever evolving contest that has taken many twists and turns. I'd probably liken it to an intense game of chess ... Matt and me on one side, the kiddos on the other ... and every carefully thought out move by one side is met by another well planned move from the opposition. I admit that it does make me cringe a bit when I think about what their next move will be. But, for now, I'd have to say that we're playing a nice clean game. The stakes are high, but I have full confidence that we will eventually come out on top.

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