Monthly Archives: June 2016

Conquering Costco

I think the best way to summarize my feelings about Costco would be to borrow from my daughter.

Today, in Costco, after she screeched from dropping her spoon from a sample of Indian lentils:

Me: “Arden!  We do NOT yell in a store!”
Arden:  “It’s NOT a store!  It’s COSTCO.”

She gets it.

It’s not a store, it’s a planet; one teeming with food in mass quantities, offering samples right before lunchtime, otherwise known as appetizers, and feeding four of us two hotdogs for $3.23 that I would never otherwise eat.

We go about every other week, and it is always enjoyable, satisfying, necessary work.  And I always go alone with three kids.  That might sound oxymoronic, but alone really means “the only person over three feet tall in my party.”

I want to emphasize that I built up to this feat, doing it for the first time three months ago. Before that, forget it.  I’d bring only two kids or another adult to assist.  Also, the first time I did this I felt heroic upon completion, only to turn and see a mom getting hotdogs with a toddler in her cart and newborn twins wrapped across her chest in a Moby.  I was knocked off my high horse faster than you can say free refill.

Like her, when I roll in with two kids in the cart and one on my chest, the stares roll right along with me.  I am entirely accustomed to this and don’t mind in the slightest.  We would be able to buy so much more food if only Costco gave me store credit every time someone said to me, “You’ve got your hands full!”

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August 2014 and April 2016.  The only real difference is on the right I have a baby strapped to my chest.


Friends and family are often deeply perplexed as to why I don’t go when I’m alone in the actual Webster’s definition of the word.  The answer is simple: I love Costco, but I do not want to spend “my time” there.  “My time” is evenings or naptime, or the occasional hour-escape by myself on the weekend.  I want to go to Costco on “kid time” when I need something for us to do anyway, and I have food that needs to be restocked.  Besides, they love it.

Should you venture there with one/two/three/baker’s dozen of your own progeny, my hot tips follow:

Get Gas First

Costco is a good time, but nobody wants it to continue once we’ve exited the building.  Once we’re in the car, it’s time to go home, it’s not time to ask the kids to endure another errand.  They like getting Costco gas on arrival, but getting it afterward is like asking for one of them to pee on the car seat after holding it successfully all this time.

Park by a Cart Bay

Even if it takes a minute longer to find a spot (and it nearly never does), this is essential for getting kids into the cart safely and returning it later without leaving them alone in the car.

Costco IS the Activity

The entire reason Costco works as a morning errand is because I am not rushing.  I am not  going to Costco on my way to a play date or an appointment.  No – that would be masochism, which is not my brand of fun at all.  I make a trip to Costco sound like a trip to the park and the kids are all in.  This doesn’t take nearly as much work as it sounds; they already love going, so I just say, “Do you think we should go to COSTCO today?!” and they’re already squeezing their little feet into their Natives. (One of them can do this successfully, the other cannot, and I do not blame her; it’s hard.)

Make a List

There is enough to think about in a warehouse with three kids without having to ask oneself if there are eggs in the fridge at home.  Or having to walk each aisle slowly to mentally assess if there’s anything one has forgotten.  Make that list and then haul your massive cart across that shiny cement like you were born to do it.

Let Samples be Your Friends, But Discriminate Against Your Friends

Eating free snacks is a highlight for the little gremlins, because they share my genes and are predisposed to love anything that’s a snack and anything that’s free.  Free snacks is a unicorn that must be ridden across the sky.

However, I take full advantage of the fact that the twins face me in the cart, and Hunter faces me in the Ergo, because then I can see what snacks are ahead before they can.  Costco loves to push flavored yogurt, “cracker cookies” and other garbage, so if I spot those I steer clear or make an early announcement that our train will not be making a stop at that station.  “Oh that’s yucky yogurt, that’s not the kind you like,” I assure them.  For now they believe me; we’ll see how this goes when they’re old enough to read.

Involve Them

I think attitudes transfer pretty easily, not just to kids, but in general, and this applies here.  If I’m stressed and annoyed at having to do this, they pick up on it.  Instead I really try to have fun and let them feel like it’s a group endeavor.  I’m constantly talking. “What else do we need, you guys?  Let’s check our list.  Shoot, we forgot your favorite salad in a bag!  Back to the cold room!  Do we need anything else in there?  Oh and later let’s remember to get napkins.”  They totally dig it, and – hand to heart – remind me of things I’ve genuinely forgotten.

Henry: “We forgot the quesadillas!”

He means raw tortillas.  But he’s right.

Lunching There is a Double-Edged Sword

Eating hotdogs after shopping serves several purposes: lunch is done with no cooking or cleaning, it’s a treat for being well behaved while shopping, it’s a treat in general because we don’t eat hotdogs at home, and it’s $3.23 for two dogs, which feeds four of us, so it feels almost criminal to walk on by.

HOWEVER…it’s a little work to get it done.  I make the twins stay in the cart so that they can’t mess around on the benches, fall, or run around.  Hunter stays on my chest, and we get our hotdogs and then park next to the end of a table.  I need a little table surface so I can put our hotdogs and drink cups down while I’m trying to hand things to each of them.  I fill condiment orders, then hand them each half a hotdog while I fill the cups 75% with water and 25% with lemonade, which is possibly their favorite part of Costco.  Then I stand in front of them and remind them over and over, “hold it tight with both hands!” because I recoil at the thought of a hotdog dying on the floor.  All this while trying to feed Hunter and myself, and providing them sips of their precious lemonade.

People stare, and I just keep trucking, because once this is over, we’re home free — riding home with a car full of fresh groceries, full bellies, and smiles as big as the one drawn on the receipt.


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The Upside of Going it Alone

Mike has had to travel for work quite a bit lately, and it’s given me the opportunity to flex my put-the-kids-to-bed-myself muscle.  Do you hear the positivity in that sentence?  That took months of self-pep talks and slightly angry prayers.  But here we are – positive!

 Today he was away and we had a really great day.  My mom came over and we went to the first farmer’s market of summer and had a truly terrific time.  Henry and Arden’s experience of the market compared to last summer was palpably improved; rather than passively observing and tentatively interacting with the vendors and food, they were excitingly pointing and talking about every sight, particularly the waterfront.
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When we got home, I threw together a healthy, if unstructured, meal, and then it all started to be exactly what you would imagine pre-bedtime would be for three children under age three.

I made a dozen trips from the table to the sink to carry dishes, wipe mouths, wipe the floor, wipe the hands, remove the food, stack the plates.  Hunter cried until I let him out of his seat and then speed-crawled to the slide to do his newfound head-first dives.  Henry asked to go outside in his bare feet, with Arden immediately following.  Two minutes later I was on my hands and knees wiping grape skins off the floor when Arden barreled past, announcing her need for the toilet.

A minute later Henry called from the backyard, “Arrrrrrrdennnnnn!  Arden!”

“I’m wiping right now!” she hollered back, in a classic unselfconscious toddler overshare.

I was too amused by the cute exchange to actually process the information, and by the time I did, I heard splashing.  One should never hear splashing coming from the bathroom of a toddler.

I darted into the room to find she had not only peed, as I had assumed, and was attempting to handle the situation on her own.  There was no mess, there was no issue, but she had put paper after paper into the toilet and was now holding one high and moving it around as if she were stirring a bowl of soup.

Then like a shot in my mind — had she closed the screen door?  Was Hunter crawling toward it AS I was wiping her?

I raced to the back door to close it and glanced in the living room to see he was still contentedly playing by the slide.

After handling Arden’s situation, I got all the kids outside and we were having a happy time running around and getting our final ya-ya’s out until last call for bedtime…wherein Henry promptly tripped on the pavement and scraped an elbow.  Minor!  I promise it was very minor, but as I hugged him to comfort him, the pain made him angry enough to bite me across my collarbone so hard I actually screamed.

Moments like this are when I want to call human resources and say that these work conditions are unacceptable.

We made it inside and up the stairs to their bedrooms.  I changed the twins into pajamas, Hunter cried from exhaustion, and I took him into his room to get him ready for bed.  I told the twins it was time for quiet and to stay in their room while I changed Hunter.

One minute later I step into the hallway to see Henry dragging the last of their rug from their room.

Before I could go with my first instinct of rage, I looked up and saw them dancing around in the altered space, a space they changed, a space they made their own on a whim.  I walked Hunter inside and he broke into a little chortle, tears still sitting on his cheeks.  He smiled ear to ear and then sucked his thumb as he watched his siblings cavort around the room.

I herded the clan into the bathroom for tooth brushing, and then sent the twins back to their room while I lay Hunter down for the night.  I stood rocking him, singing to him while he sucked his thumb with his head on my chest.

“All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing.  Oh praise Him, hallelujah…”

The sound of the twins’ laughter from their room next door was so joyful, so abundantly glad, I realized they are lifting up their voices.  I so often try to quiet them, to stifle that joy in the name of order and my own sanity, and as I rocked Hunter and listened to them I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of their happiness, of their limitless love for one another and their lives.  Despite my failings, despite my frustrations and selfishness, this remains.  They remain, just as they are.  Pealing melodies of belly laughs down the hall.

I laid Hunter down and went back into the twins’ room.  Normally I’d curtail the fun and usher them to bed, but I just leaned on the doorframe and watched, taking the best video my flippant memory could muster, brand-ironing the image on my heart of Henry chasing Arden, of Arden being chased, of them catching each other, tumbling down to the ground in a heap of happiness.


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