Tuesday, November 20, 2007

an amazing trip trick: the grocery store

I've got several "amazing trip tricks" that I plan on sharing because I often get asked "How in the world do you get anything done?" And if just one person can learn something of value from this blog, then the time I spend updating it when I could be sleeping, will not be in vain.

I've been taking the triplets grocery shopping - by myself - since they were only a few months old. When they were infants, I would load them in to their triplet stroller and push them through the store. If I would be purchasing more than could fit in a small hand basket, I would either drag a shopping cart behind me ... or better yet ... ask a manager if one of the bag boys (or girls) could accompany me.

This was a wonderful tactic because not only did I have someone push my cart for me, they were extremely familiar with the layout of the store and knew exactly where everything was. I completed grocery shopping in record time when our triplets were infants because I didn't spend a half-hour searching for toothpicks on aisle 10 when they were actually on aisle 12. Next to the tartar sauce. Which I needed, too.

As the children grew older, I would load all three of them in to the shopping cart and push them through the store. This worked well at Costco because the cart holds two children in the seats and the third child I would put in the basket. But if the cart only had one seat, I would put two in the basket and one in the seat and load all of my groceries underneath.

These days, the kids want to walk. And because in reality - the kids want to RUN and CLIMB and TOUCH every.single.thing - there is no way that I can (or will) step foot in to a store, by myself, with the triplets unless they are wearing safety harnesses. The only thing worse than seeing a child that is totally out of control running around without their parents able to get a handle on them, is to see three children totally out of control and running around and me, swearing profusely.

Think what you will about safety harnesses. I happen to think they are the most wonderful invention for keeping my roaming toddlers close by and safe. Particularly now that we know how to use them and don't fall all over ourselves.

Arriving at the grocery store, I will park as close as possible to one of the cart corrals. Once I grab a shopping cart, I unload the children one by one and put them in their harnesses. I then tie their harnesses to the shopping cart, one on the front - one on the left - one on the right - and I load Henry, in his carseat, in to the basket. As we walk in to the store, I'll tell them "All ABOARD!" and the kids will stand on the rack beneath the cart, so I can walk quickly without running them over.

Once in the store, I will solicit their help to keep them engaged. Today, when we went shopping, I let the children fill up an entire produce bag full of green beans. And yes, of course I purchased them. Although, that would be funny in a terribly obnoxious sort of way to see a child fill up produce bags just to keep them occupied.

Unless it is something breakable or heavy, I will let the kids put all the items I'm purchasing in to the cart. I'll also ask them questions regarding the items on our list. "Where are the strawberries? WHO SEES STRAWBERRIES? Who see bananas? Who sees bread? Who sees eggs? Who sees ice cream?"

Then, I'll follow those questions up with "No, you can't have strawberries. No, you can't have bananas. No, you can't have bread. No, you can't have eggs. No, you can't have ice cream."

If the kids get bored with riding on the cart rails, I will have them pretend that they are Santa's reindeer, and our shopping cart is the sleigh. Showing the kids Christmas movies while I was 9-months pregnant turned out to be a great idea, after all...

Whether they are riding on the rails - or pulling the cart - it's important to have a list and be quick about shopping. If you take too long trying to remember whether you prefer salted or unsalted butter, you shouldn't be surprised, or frustrated, that your children use your temporary lapse in movement to construct a tower out of margarine tubs.

I always pick up a healthy snack - raisins are a great choice - to keep little hands busy when I am navigating the narrow checkout lane that is bordered with sweets and magazines. I have found that if my kids are focused on their little boxes of raisins and helping me unload groceries on to the belt - they are far less likely to grab magazines off the racks and bite through unopened candy bars.

Regardless, it's good to educate and frequently quiz your children on the kind of candy that YOU like, because if you have a conscience, you will wind up purchasing anything that they have tampered with. But rather than getting angry when I see that my kids have gnawed through several Snickers bars, I see it as a reward for myself - for going grocery shopping alone with the children.


  1. A million kudos to you! It always makes me a little sad when I find out that people don't go shopping with their children....ever. I know that there are sometimes exceptions to the rule, but I think that learning to be patient and work to get things done is something that is an important part of being a family, even with toddlers.

    And, as always, you are certainly living proof that if you can do it, so can everyone else!

  2. I'm 18 weeks pregnant with BBB triplets and also have a 2.5 year old. Keep the tips coming! I need all the advice I can get!

  3. I am so proud of you. You have to be organized and have a spirit of adventure to go shopping with your gang. I know I always took all of mine shopping and it was fun. It is especially good to help them unload the car and put the groceries away.
    You are teaching them a lot by your adventures.

  4. I might just need one of those harnesses after all... My almost 3 year old thinks those long aisles are for running! Yet she rufuses to sit in the cart any longer, this would be a great compromise for us... I am once again amazed at you!

    On another note I was a little surprised to see the picture of the harness tied to the cart after your entire post about carabiners because I thought you would have just quickly clipped each one to the cart with the carabiners... BTW I have some of those on order too!

    This is why I dulurk to your blog so much, you keep me laughing when I need it the most, you have great tips and devices that can be used by anyone, and you have adorable children!

  5. Carabiners are awesome, but I haven't clipped them to the shopping cart yet. I don't know that they would work on the plastic kind because the area to clip would be too difficult to access. Although, the metal type would probably work well.

  6. Who gives a rat's patootie what people think about harnesses? They don't have THREE busy toddlers.

    I tried shopping ONCE with a toddler in a harness and was run in/around/through the clothes racks. Never did that again. I just got a stroller with a 5-pt. harness instead, lol.

    I think you are amazing. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. I want to get a harness for my little boy, but I'm afraid of the looks and comments I will get. You definitely need them with three!

    You continue to amaze me. You really are a great mom. I love your blog. If you ever write a book, please let us bloggers know so we can buy it! (Unless of course the book is about rocks!)

    - Lindsey

  8. As someone who has been around for a while, I think harnesses are a terrific idea. Not only for parents' sanity, but for the children's safety. And who cares if people give looks or comments. The smart ones will be sending positive vibes.

  9. I know your blog is titled Amazing Trips, but every time I read you I just end up thinking "Amazing MOM!!"
    You inspire!

  10. Joy H, I read all the comments above yours and didn't read anything about anyone slamming the harnesses. I think you're getting a little defensive, dear.

    Jen, you're doing a great job. I love reading your blog everyday...and I love how real it is. I have only one child and sometimes she kicks my butt. You amaze and inspire! Have the Happiest of Thanksgivings, you have so much to be thankful for!

  11. Anon: I'm pretty sure Joy was referring to my statement within the post:"Think what you will about safety harnesses. I happen to think they are the most wonderful invention for keeping my roaming toddlers close by and safe..."

    I've had a few people actually tell me "leashes are for dogs!" When they do, my response always is "My dogs can sit, stay and heel - very unlike my three toddlers. Although, they are getting better!!"

  12. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am a mother to just one four month old, and I took her on a grocery trip for he first time last Friday. It went fine, but prior to now I had been terrified to do and had relied on my husband to pick up things on his lunch break or vons.com delivery (too many screw ups has turned me off from this service). I am amazed by your fortitude and organization.

    (Found your site by way of Parent Hacks. I have been having a great time reading through your adventures.)

  13. You have described exactly the way I've always shopped minus the safety harnesses. That's the ONLY thing we do differently while shopping. I even let them get an organic apple when we walk in and eat it while we are in the store. I do the ALL ABOARD and they ride on the cart. I did the exact same thing when they were smaller with pushing the stroller and pulling the cart and later, I too put them all in the cart. Are you sure weren't following me around taking notes??? Hee hee ;)

  14. Thanks Jen --

    I wasn't being defensive, you are correct. I was making a general statement about the sentence in YOUR post; not a comment about something someone else said. I appreciate the clarification.

    FTR, I'm hear to support Jen and hear about her adventures. If I have a 'problem' with something I either keep my mouth shut or I would contact Jen directly.

  15. As a triplet mom plus one, just like Jen, I never opted for the harnesses. I was worried that they would become too dependent on them and they wouldn't know the proper behavior when they were off of them.

    Although it took blood, sweat, and tears, we taught them to stay right by our side wherever we went. I warned/threatened them of the danger of running away, from being flattened by a car to being taken away by a stranger. They have been fairly obedient in this aspect because we were so consistent with the consequences.

    Although sometimes I would love to harness them, or better yet, cage them, we have been successful without the harnesses.

    Just making a plug for the other side! No judgement being passed at all.

  16. Re: the use of harnesses ... the only time I really use them is when I'm in a store OR ... when we're in a crowded area (i.e. the zoo) and I'm the only adult. The kids hold my hand, too, but I have a grasp on a lead - just in case they bolt. (Or more likely, wander.)

    Just because they are in their harnesses doesn't mean I will hold the leads the entire time we walk. If we are in what I perceive to be a "safe area", I'll loop the lead up and tuck in to the back of their harness, so that they have freedom to roam. Even w/o their harnesses, the kids (for the most part) are great about sticking with me.

    I am working REALLY hard on teaching them the danger of running away, how they could be taken, hit by a car, & badly hurt. I can definitely tell some of my lessons are sinking in. BUT - they are still only three years old and there are limitations to what a 3-year old understands & can be expected to do.

    Bottom line: Under specific circumstances, safety harnesses are saving my sanity and helping to preserve my patience. AND, they are giving me the courage and freedom to go out and do things, by myself, without worrying that I am going to either lose one of the kids, or have them break something of value.

    Plus, they preserve my voice - which I typically need so I can yell when we get home.

  17. Woohooo! I've got 15 month old triplets and they LOVE the store. They will be fussing and whining, but the minute I put them in the cart, they start laughing and saying "Hi" to everyone. I must be on the right track, because I've been doing just what you used to...one in the seat, two in the cart and groceries underneath and in the hand basket.

  18. You totally amaze me!!!

    I love how you brought your camera along and took pictures!! Wow, you must really have it together to remember the camera!! When I told my dh about you taking pictures in the stores, he couldn't believe somebody would have the time and energy to remember to grab the camera, even more to take pictures too!! WOW!

  19. Haven't you other crazy* moms of multiples heard of Safeway.com???
    You couldn't pay me to take me to take all 4 of my kids to the store on a regular basis.
    I just recently posted about the twins just now being able to act civilized when we are out in public. Of course I willing admit that I'm not half the mom that Jen is.

    *said with a wink & a smile