Bookishness, Mamaishness

Grocery Store Fun. (No, seriously.)

I may be unique, but oftentimes, taking my two children to the grocery store feels a little bit like crossing the Plains on the Oregon Trail. Oh, sure, there’s less dysentery, but other aspects are quite similar. You have to pack snacks, drinks, diapers/wipes, extra clothes, AND you have to remember the list and coupons. I have a headache before we even get to the store. Let’s not discuss toddlers who won’t sit in the cart, and the evil, evil grocery store planners who like to move things around for no apparent reason.

There are all kinds of suggestions floating around about how you should feed the kids ahead of time, make shopping a game, and give the kids their own personalized lists so that they can help with the shopping. Folks – I’m lucky enough to make ONE list. There is not a snowball’s chance that I will be making additional lists for the girls with cute fonts and graphics. And sure, I give them a snack before we leave the house, or leave immediately following a meal, but those evil, evil grocery store planners pump some sort of creepy pheromone into the grocery store air that makes small children famished as soon as they walk in the store.

So, here’s what we do to eliminate as many bad feelings as possible:

*Go to the store at roughly the same time each week, so that we start to see the same employees. This means that we have folks to talk to, and that the girls are looking forward to seeing “friends,” not dreading a boring chore.

*Look for colors (Clara) and letters (Bethany) on signs, food, and packaging. This requires ZERO preparation, and can make things just a tad bit more exciting.

*Talk about which foods go into which meals. Again, zero preparation, but adequately engaging for at least a minute or two. Sometimes this is obvious – pasta turns into, um, pasta – but other times, it can be pretty interesting. You put flour and eggs into many different recipes, after all.

*Give choices when choices are appropriate: red grapes or green? Rotini or ziti? Ham or turkey? Vanilla or chocolate? Something I learned a long time ago in classroom teaching has held true in mothering, as well: don’t give any choices that you don’t want the kids to pick. Thus, ‘broccoli or ice cream’ is not a good idea, unless you really don’t care which one they choose.

*Take a deep breath, and let them ride in the ridiculous car cart. Sure, it’s like driving a land yacht, and you will probably push over two or three poorly-placed displays, but it just makes them so darn happy. Sometimes, it’s fun to be a yes mom.

Of course, there are still p-l-e-n-t-y of trips where you deserve a medal just for getting the groceries and the kids back into the car at the end, but doing some things slightly differently has made some serious improvements for us.

You knew there’d be a book to help, too, right?

grocery store fun

The premise is an old nursery rhyme:

“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig! Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog! Home again, home again, jiggity jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun! Home again, home again, market is done.”

{If you need help with the tune and tempo, you can watch this video, but I’ll warn you that it is mighty strange.}

Anne Miranda has turned the rhyme on its head in [amazon text=To Market, To Market&asin=0152163980]. The book begins with the standard version of the rhyme, but then continues into disaster as the main character buys animal after animal. Each of these animals contributes its own personal bit of chaos to the house, until eventually our shopper is forced to buy a cartload of vegetables and make a pot of soup for lunch. Janet Stevens’ illustrations include both drawings and collaged photographs, and no lesser personage than Colleen Salley served as the main character’s model. The illustrations make this a book you can read a hundred times, because there are many hidden details that add to the overall humor.

My girls both roar at the antics in this book, and the familiar tune helps them ‘read’ it to themselves. It’s a great book for making predictions, as it’s nearly impossible to guess exactly how each animal will act when s/he gets a second alone. (You know, sort of like a toddler.) Once kids have the story down, they tend to enjoy telling you what will happen next, which is a great exercise in comprehension building. And finally, if you, like me, have ever had a rough trip to the grocery store, this story might make you feel just a tiny bit better.

You can also sing funny lyrics to the tune when you’re at the store, if you’re so inclined. I’m not so good at coming up with rhymes on the spot, but I know some folks who are awfully gifted at it. Feel free to video your versions and send them to me. In the meantime, good luck shopping!