The Challenge: shopping by myself with 3 kids in carseats who all still wear pull-ups at night because they lack bladder control, and making everything fit into our van with the broken hatchback (it doesn't stay open on its own)
I do this pretty frequently, and it's always an adventure. Here are a few ideas I'm working on:
1) Prepare for the trip ahead of time. This one I did pretty well on. The girls all had snacks, toys, and drinks to tote along for the hour car trip, and I remembered my iPod to listen to while they watched Max and Ruby in the car. I also drank my coffee, took my vitamins, and prayed for God to give me extra strength. Even an optimist like me knows I'm going to need it!
2) Choose your stops wisely. You lose energy fast when you make a million little trips and have to drag everyone in and out. If you're shopping with small children, consolidate your errands, or consider bringing along someone old enough to sit in the car while you, say, drop off the dry cleaning or mail a package. Our big stop was Costco today, which I love, because they have a) free samples, and b) those huge carts that seat two little ones up front.
3) Get the kids excited, or you're in for a l-o-n-g trip. Sometimes I promise them a small treat if they behave well, or I'll get something for them right away and keep it in the cart as a reminder (even something you were already going to buy for them will work, like shoes). This time, our first stop was the food court, and the girls got a frozen yogurt to eat while I shopped. This was a great distraction and met two needs at once - hunger and the need for diversion.
4) Make sure you have an extra diaper in your purse. I put one in yesterday morning, so I didn't double check at the store. We went to the bathrooms right away and I got the older girls into stalls and whisked off the baby's diaper, tossing it into the trash like a pro. I reached into my purse and found...a sanitary pad. I thought briefly about putting it on her, but decided against it.
So I put her little pants back on her and prayed, "Please...don't pee on me." We all ran around the corner to the diapers and got a HUGE box of Huggies, which I wasn't going to get. I went to tear open the package to pull one out, when I saw that someone else must have also been in my same predicament, because there was one missing already. Only they didn't buy the box. So we ran BACK (still praying) to the Huggies section and got an unopened box this time. And thankfully, no weedling occurred in the meantime. :)
5) Laugh it off. We got the cart with the wheels that squeaked, I chose the milk that leaked, I had the kid that shrieked (happy shrieks though!). My cart got so full that we had to wait in line, check out, load the groceries into the van with the broken hatch, then go back and do it all again to get everything we needed. Mishaps will happen, and you can go through your errands stressed and yelling, or you can have fun. We sang "Deck the Halls" all through Costco and ate every sample we were offered. That's what memories are made of!!
6) Above all else, stay calm. To round out this fantastic experience, as I was putting away the food at my in-laws' new (empty) house, a snake slithered right past my foot and under the hot water heater. The girls were sweetly coloring a card for Grandma at the table. I wanted to scream and run, but I was afraid if they knew about the snake, they'd never want to go to grandma's house again. Instead, I said with forced sweetness, "Okay, girls. It's time to pack up and head out... now!" They complied pretty easily, and I squatted down to keep an eye on that snake from across the room. Did I mention I HATE snakes?!?
7) If you make it back alive, reward yourself! Shopping is an all-day event for us, so I try not to schedule anything else on those days. My wonderful husband even took us out to dinner later, then he took the girls outside so I could get the house straightened up and we chilled the rest of the evening. He's the best!!
Daddy baby-sitting <3