Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why I DO NOT Shop At W*nC* ...even though it's cheaper!

Today, against my better judgement, I decided to hit W*nC* for my last bit of Christmas dinner shopping, instead of the usual S*f*w*y or Fr*d M*y*r. I had just told my sister-in-law that I would never venture there because things always go wrong and the lay out really confuses me. Many times I just haven't been able to find my way to what I need. But, it was a last minute decision. I was right by W*nC*, stuck in traffic, thinking about how much cheaper it would be and maybe it's gotten better since the last time we were there and after all the kids were doing so great. Nevermind that it really was closing in on naptime and come to find out Eliza had actually already fallen asleep in her carseat. I pulled in and began navigating the parking lot traffic.

The trip actually started out pretty good. We got a great parking spot right next to the cart return so coming and going would be quick. Then, to help with the holiday spirit I had us all wear our Santa hats that I had brought. So far so good. I was inspired by a beautiful family with ten or so kids that entered the store before us, all color coordinated and behaving so nicely. I did note that the father was there, too, so I knew that despite their having more than double the amount of kids I had, my job would still be harder, but with our hats we'd win in the cute department.

And so we set off. I had Eliza in the sling so she could fall back asleep if she wanted, a good list to follow and let's not forget our great hats!! I felt kinda proud that I was so prepared for once. Of course the girls got confused on the Exit versus Entrance doors and at W*nC* there's no crossing over to go through. When you're on the wrong side you have to OBEY YOUR MOTHER and come back out and enter through the Entrance. It's ok, we made it in.

Unfortunately Sierra's hat wouldn't stay on right. She was just beside her self trying get it set right and she really wanted the Christmas bell that Santa gave her to stay on the end but that weighted it wrong and made it pull off. Of course her hopping up and down in anger really threw it for a loop but thankfully she chose to stop me right by the discounted green beans and those were on my list for green bean casserole. So I got the beans and adjusted the hat and thought, "All's well that ends well".

I allowed myself to get a little distracted by the huge box of fish crackers I saw on sale out of the corner of my eye. I sent Josiah to go get it, then sent him back when I realized there was no way I'd be spending $6 on fish crackers when we have plenty of regular crackers that everyone would enjoy. We pressed on. As we were approaching produce apparently Mia "inadvertently" stepped on the back of Josiah's shoe which was very annoying to him and he really wanted me to hear about it but I was in the middle of counting out the right number of cans of cream of mushroom soup, thinking about how many bananas we would need and responding to two older women who were just tickled at the sight of our family in the cute Christmas hats. Especially the baby... "where did you get that little hat!!"

List! Where's my list? I was beginning to shop a little "shoot from the hip"-ish and thought the list would solve everything. OK! I began to tell the kids what else we needed in hopes that would distract them from their bickering. No one was listening. A large Hispanic family smiled and laughed at our cute hats. They pointed at Eliza.... "so cute!" I smiled.

Sierra kept grabbing the cart and jumping on trying to get a ride. This throws off my direction because I really can only use one hand to drive between reading the list, getting what I need off the shelf and keeping a hand on Eliza in the sling. This is not a new issue and I guess I can be thankful that I'm not pregnant and having it bang into my tender tummy but still.... "DON'T TOUCH THE CART!!!" Lots of people looked at us. I smiled hoping they'd be distracted by our hats. Worse! They were distracted by Sierra's temper tantrum right in the middle of the tight W*nC* aisle. She desperately wanted a ride, her hat kept falling off, she bumped a water bottle off the shelf, and I was telling her "no, no, no" at every turn. For a four year old it was just the worst day ever and so she plopped herself down and began to sob and cry. Unfortunately for her there was just no time for this pity party so we continued on. "Oh, I don't want to hit your little girl" said a well meaning Christmas shopper since Sierra was partially blocking her road. I was thinking, "Just bump her a little it might motivate her to get up and OBEY HER MOTHER!!!" I gathered up my little puddle of a girl and told her to just put her hat in the cart and hold my hand (I would steer the cart with my hips and elbows). Off we go.

I hadn't decided if I was going to make cranberry sauce or just buy the can but seeing as we were right near the canned fruit aisle I made the decision to just go canned so we could get out of there quicker. "Turn left everyone." "Which way's left?" Oh honestly haven't we learned this? "Turn by the cans.... Look out for that cart! Sorry." It's like it's always our first time in a grocery store.

There was no cranberry sauce on the canned fruit aisle. I went down the canned soup aisle, maybe it's kind of off on it's own because it's not really a fruit once it's made into sauce, right? Nope. I tried the fruit aisle again. These aisle were packed and slow and Eliza had decided she didn't like her cute hat anymore and began pulling it off and throwing it down and squirming in her sling. Fine, no hat and you can sit in the cart now. Great, the cart has no belt. I tried to use the sling as a belt by putting it around her and hanging my purse in it to weigh it down. She wasn't going for that. Meanwhile Sierra decided that she did want her hat again and the issue had reached a new crisis point and her whining and crying had reached a new decibel. Josiah was still trying to tell me about all the annoying things Mia was doing and Mia was bouncing around in the aisles causing cart pile ups left and right. People around me were "tsk-tsking" and all I could think was "maybe the hats will help" so I put Sierra's hat back on and tried to distract Eliza enough to keep hers on. It actually helped for a while and at least we looked cute.

I decided we'd go for frozen cranberries and I'd make the sauce. It's easy to make and I needed ice cream and frozen juice anyway. I had Josiah go for some vanilla ice cream and I went in search of the frozen fruit. Veggies... potatoes... burritos... no frozen fruit. I went around again.

"WHAT KIND OF VANILLA?" a frustrated Josiah yelled across the frozen foods. I sent Mia to tell him he could choose. They both came back empty handed since apparently Mia said, "CHOOSE!" in a mean voice and Josiah was not going to respond to that. After circling the entire frozen foods department three times I knew I needed help so I asked two young WinCo staff members where I might find the frozen cranberries and they looked at me like I was wearing my festive hat in July! You know what... no cranberry sauce this Christmas. Oh the disappointed whining that followed this executive decision. I sent Josiah back for ice cream, "Just choose a vanilla, whatever kind you want, I don't care." *breathe*

As we headed to the check out we were passing the canned foods again and I couldn't help but feel like with one more trip through I could find the blasted cranberry sauce and save Christmas for everyone. Being the hero type, I tried one more time. I studied labels hard, not letting the bickering or whining distract my focus. There was definitely no cranberry sauce there. I left for check out mildly dejected at my failure.

It was about then I realized that I only had three kids. Mia, my independent, distracted child by nature, was missing. I sent Josiah back an aisle begging him to be kind in his pursuit of our lost girl. No Mia. He came back saying a man said, "Are you looking for your sister?" So obviously she'd been spotted. Several people passed us as we stood waiting for her to catch up, "Aren't you missing a one?" I guess we drew enough attention that people knew how many kiddos I was juggling that day. Unfortunately, just before she slipped away, she had taken off her Santa hat so now I had no identifiable clothing to mention to these observant people.

After several minutes we headed towards check out looking up and down every aisle as we went. Then I saw her, up with a clerk in the front, standing with her fists doubled up, arms laced tightly against her chest, face set in the bravest way she could. Our eyes met and you could see the relief. First she slinked side ways towards us then she fully ran. As she got closer the tears she'd held at bay came streaming down her face and I held her right there in the middle of all the chaos and carts and I cried a little, too. The lesson I'd been telling her all these years had hit her heart so there was no need for reminders. I pulled our group into the juice aisle for a little recovery time. Finally everyone was quiet, there was no bickering or whining, our festive hats lay in the cart. So we headed for W*nC* check out... the one where you bag your own stuff. *sigh*

Things went really well actually. The man behind me was so chatty with the clerk that I didn't feel as pressured while I directed the kids and bagged up our stuff. As we pulled away from the check out stand I said, "Hey, let's put our hats back on so we'll be warm outside and we'll look so festive!!" Everyone did and then I noticed the girls were chewing on something. Apparently while I was distributing the groceries between bags they had gathered up all the spilled candies around the candy machine and helped themselves. What a treat!

W*nC* was a trial again to say the least. I can't help but think bad thoughts about it. But, at least it's over and we're set for Christmas dinner.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again

Ya know, Christmas just isn't my favorite time of year. It seems like it carries so many expectations, mostly my own, and the pressure just ruins any "Christmas spirit" for me. It's also a time where Andrew works so much that whatever is going to happen depends fully on me to accomplish, it limits our ability to plan any travel, as well as the extra work around the house and sometimes it's just plain overwhelming. This year I decided I want to change my heart regardless of what happens with my circumstances. So here's some glimpses into what I'm doing...

The last several years I've been paring down the expense of Christmas and that has helped. This year I decided ease up the schedule, too. As I took so many things away I've been able to look at what I do want Christmas to be for us. What traditions do I want to create for my kids? What do I love about Christmas and how can I do those things well?

We're keeping the gingerbread house tradition. You know I've never decorated my own house, I've only ever done these with the kids. I like that the kids work together and getting to see what they come up with. I hope through the years our creations get more beautiful but for now we're doing fine with the $10 store bought kit and tons of candy piled on.

I also decided that I want to be a Christmas baker. I had a neighbor once that always made bread and jam and that was what she gave out each year. First of all it was yummy. But also, her delivery meant we had a little time to chat and connect. I love it! I want to give gifts of myself to people like she did. So this year we made cinnamon spice nuts, a very special dark chocolate fudge, and some Christmas monster cookies. It's been fun deliverying these to neighbors, old and current, and to Andrew's employees. Next year I plan to get a jump on things and stock up the freezer. I only need to figure out how to have an annual baking day with family or friends. I love the idea of doing all this together. What fun!!

This year we started something new. The kids saved money for several months and were able to bless families in need by purchasing a goat and a chicken through World Vision. I haven't given them the thoughtful thank you card that they sent us, it will be a part of their Christmas presents. It was thrilling to see how much these guys could pull together in only a few short months and I hope that this coming year we're able to be even more creative in finding ways to raise more money for this annual gift.

In lieu of an all out gift buying burnout season, we decided to have the kids buy for each other this year. That was fun. I thought they did a good job picking appropriate gifts for each other. We've done little gift exchanges in the past but this year that's all they're getting, so they got a little more to spend. We also got them a few little stocking stuffers and some clothes. I think Andrew's got something for Josiah that's more of a "right of passage" type gift. The goal of all this is to shift the focus from presents to memories. What can we do together that we'll always remember when the things have long since worn out.

One tradition I remember growing up was the St. Lucia Bride, a Swedish practice where the oldest daughter prepares breakfast for the family wearing the Christmas wreath with candles on her head. Having three girls I'm having to modify a bit but I still have special Lucia Bride memories from my own childhood so we will keep this alive!

I've also decided our Christmas dinner tradition will be the Swedish meatballs. My grandmother told me once that this was an old family tradition from way back and since IKEA came into my life and introduced me to those yummy meatballs it was an easy tradition to re-adopt.

Next year I'd like to look deeper at Advent. We've dabbled in it in the past but I'd like to really embrace it. I also think exploring more of Hanukkah would be very educational. The Women's Holiday Dinner really wet my appetite for it this year but I wasn't prepared enough to pull anything together.
I love being with family and if I could have everybody together every year with time to cook age old recipes, take long walks all bundled up, play Scrabble games until we can't think, do craft projects with the kids, sing together and no video games or constant movies being played.... ahhh, I would love it!

I suppose this post is mostly for myself, to help me remember where I'm at and where I'm going. But what are some of your traditions? What matters to you this time of year? How do you balance your own Christmas intentions with all the outside demands? What gifts do you like to give? Inspire me people! :)
Lord, lift me above my own narrow horizons, that I might fulfill your true vision for me. - B.J. Hoff