Today I thought it swell to take all 4 of my little sweethearts to Vitamin Cottage around 4pm to buy dried elderberries to make witches’ brew on my stovetop because January is not the boss of me. And because last month a friend hooked me up with a bottle of her own home-brew that cured a sinus infection without a z-pack. (And it doesn’t taste terrible. Recipe here.)
As I was pulling into the lot I miscalculated and had to recalibrate and reposition the mini for optimal car seat to shopping cart child schlepping. A bemused employee watched me back out and re-park 75 precious feet closer to the cart corral before deadpanning the following:
“Should I leave you the big cart?”
Yes my good woman, yes you should.
I gratefully buckled Evie into the top slot before wiggling and jiggling Luke’s just-the-right-size baby seat into the body of the cart. Which left 7 cubic inches of available real estate for actual groceries, which was fine, because Vitamin Cottage.
I stationed a blonde pre-schooler on either side of the cart and we set off across the parking lot. The same cart corralling employee spotted me from across the lot and yelled TODAY’S A REAL FAMLIY OUTING ISN’T IT??? And what would have been deeply off-putting to 3 years ago me just kind made today’s me chuckle.
To be fair, and in her defense, I don’t suppose many people do bring a quartet of small children to Vitamin Cottage at 4pm on a Tuesday.
But until you have, have you really lived?
The five of us, aided by a helpful teenage employee named Dustin, soon found ourselves armed with dried elderberries, surprisingly inexpensive Seventh Generation dish soap (more on that later) and a can of lactose intolerant formula for those special nights where you feel like treating the special little person in your life to something white, powdery, and completely legal. Or for when mommy goes out for more than 4 hours and doesn’t want to pump.
We had to pit stop for the potty where the cart-dwellers and I sat guard outside the ladies’ room, admiring the promotional posters and watching people come and go down the back hallway. My favorite employee popped around the corner and waved as she made her way into the office, laughing “how are you going to fit any groceries into that cart?”
At this point I could have been flustered or I could have been annoyed, but I can honestly say I was neither. I smiled and said something about it being a great budgeting tactic to have so many bodies on board you couldn’t allow for a single impulse buy.
In reality, the 5 items I had selected for purchase were piled atop the baby in his carseat, and as we doubled back to the spice aisle for some 6!dollar!cloves!, I mentally berated myself for not just going to Target and dropping another $28 on activewear and Star Wars paraphernalia. Because magical syrup wasn’t really going to keep us healthy, was it? And for this kind of money I could be the proud owner of another pair of black “running tights” and a Luke Skywalker journal.
I forked over a fistful of cash and collected my 5 items, redistributing them across the baby’s abdomen because plastic bags are immoral, and the kids and I hustled back into the parking lot. As I dug through my purse for the keys, Jared the checker loped up behind me asking if I were looking for a phone. Chagrined, I took my battered hot pink Otter Box from his proffered hand. Thanks Jared.
As I loaded kidlets back into the car one by one, I spied a really, really inexpensive bottle of dish soap that’d been stowed away behind Luke’s seat. Oops.
As I held the contraband bottle in my hands, squinting into the late afternoon Colorado sun and mentally weighing my options, I decided that going ahead and taking the soap and coming back at some indeterminate future point to pay for it was basically shoplifting, so instead I hoofed it back inside with a baby on my hip, throwing $3 at Jared and panting out an apology.
At this point Jared would be right and just in his judgment of me being a hot mess.
Back to the car, back to the buckling, and back to the house where I did indeed brew a grog of the foulest-smelling stuff I’ve sniffed since the last time I let my amazing husband make good on his offer to “make something up” for dinner, and came home to hamburger curry over green peas.
But, mixed with honey, it isn’t completely terrible.
And, we probably saved $4 making it at home. Or at least $2.75. For sure I saved $1. The punchline of all this pointless backstory is that when I first started combining kids and public places, not only was I probably not nearly as hot a mess as I am today, but I was 100% more nervous, more concerned with everyone else’s opinions of me, and more prone to judge my kids’ behavior harsh harsh harshly, because they were my little ego reflections for all the world to see.
To be clear, I probably was hotter. But I was far less a mess.
Now? We’re objectively a little trainwreckish. But it’s ok. They’re learning and I’m learning, and I think we’re probably entertaining the general public more often than not. And even if we’re not, I’m just so much less concerned with how it looks, with how I look, with who’s looking…that it’s just not an issue.
If I’m being completely honest though, I still prefer Costco. And it’s much harder to lose anything in those big ol carts.