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Two Hours in Wal Mart

Ann E. Butenas


My list was long... "diapers, make-up, detergent, shampoo, baby wipes, swim suit, bathroom cleaner, etc."

Being the efficiently minded person that I am, I had my list and corresponding coupons all made out in the order the aisles go in the store. (Having done this route weekly for nearly four years now, I know exactly where everything is located. In fact, I have often helped other shoppers find items much quicker than store personnel!) I took a deep breath, loaded my three preschool-age boys into the car, and pulled out of the driveway. As I looked into the rearview mirror at each of them sitting peacefully in their car seats, I felt confident this trip would be a breeze.

Less than two hundred yards down the road, it happened. "Stop hitting me!" "Gimme that!" "Mom, Noah 'pooped' in his diaper!" "I want something to eat!" "Mom, Noah took off his diaper!" I once again gazed into the rearview mirror and realized I might need to call in the forces on this trip. I reached for the car phone and frantically dialed up the number of a good friend. In the process of doing so, I instructed (read: hollered at) my boys to settle down while I made the call. The phone rang three times. "Great," I thought to myself. "She is not at home." God was watching over me, however, as by the fourth ring, she answered. "Christy!" I said, very cheerfully. "How would you like to accompany me to Wal-Mart today? I have not seen you in awhile and perhaps we could grab some McDonald's for lunch while there!"

Of course, as I suspected, Christy agreed to meet me there. Thank goodness! I really did want to get together, but, admittedly, deep down I knew I could not trust myself to handle the three wild animals I had caged in the back of my car. I hung up the phone, and once again, the call of the wild commenced. "Are we there yet?" "I'm hungry!" "I want to buy some candy when we get there!" I sighed as I continued down the road. The store was merely three miles away, but today, it might as well have been 100. As luck would have it, the parking lot was full. I circled the lot, not with a prime parking space in mind, but in search of one of those few available shopping carts that have the two extra seats attached. Frankly, I do not know why I bother getting those carts, as I can barely keep the boys in it, but it does afford me some piece of mind knowing that the carts come equipped with straps on each seat, should I need to lay down the law in the diaper aisle!

I find a cart and then spot a parking space in an area that seems to be a quarter mile away. "Boys," I command them. "I am going to park the car now and then we will get out, hold hands, and run like mad to get that one cart clear up by the front of the store before someone else gets it." Fate was on my side and we made it to the cart before someone else got it. (Actually, my competition for any cart in the parking lot at that moment was an elderly man and a teenage boy, neither of whom I could imagine would want the semi-truck-like cart I was after. Nonetheless, it was the thrill of the chase!)

Once inside Wal-Mart, I stopped by the McDonald's inside. Of course, being near the noon hour, I had to wait in line with my three boys. What a challenge! Wait! I take that back! I did not have to wait in line with them because they did not stay in line with me. The youngest crawled from the seat (Yes, he can get out of the safety belt -- didn't you know that those were designed to see how quickly kids could escape from them?!) and into the back of the cart, resolutely smashing my bag and all that was inside of it. He was then trying to climb out the back of the cart. Meanwhile, the older two boys had already circled the front part of the store three times. I kept calling (shouting!) their names and could only hear in passing, "Over here, Mom!"

With one hand on the cart and two eyes scouring the store, I tried to keep my boys in sight while I waited to order. Meanwhile, a middle-aged woman standing behind me asked, "How old are they? They sure are cute." I responded appropriately while maintaining a visual field on my troops. She continued to engage in conversation with me, every now and again advising me as to the boys' whereabouts. After ordering and receiving our food, I motioned the boys to a table. Of course, the table I chose was not the table the older boy chose. A mild threat not to buy a much-wanted toy for that young man resulted in the only winning battle of the day for me. We all sat down and commenced to eat. My friend Christy finally arrived with her one-year-old son, who, by the way, remained relatively controlled the whole time we all were together.

After lunch, the games began. I had to figure out how I could purchase my 23 items in less than an hour without forgetting anything and without over-purchasing. Thank goodness Christy was with me. While I was clearing the table, I instructed my boys to get into the cart. After all, I purposely got the cart with two extra seats attached so they would all have a place to sit. Once I looked up, I saw that all three of my boys were standing in the back of Christy's cart, with her little boy sitting on the seat up front. (My youngest, by the way, managed to climb into Christy's cart from the back of my cart.) I gave up and sheepishly pushed my overly grown cart with no kids in it down the aisles while Christy maneuvered her smaller cart with all the boys inside of it.

As luck would have it, not less than five minutes under these circumstances, my boys decided they wanted out of the cart. The oldest boy literally jumped out. He did this by grabbing the cart of someone going the opposite direction and holding on for dear life. I think he scared that poor lady to death! The middle boy climbed out. The youngest cried until I picked him up. Within 30 seconds, the oldest had gotten away from me and was last seen headed down the sporting goods aisle. Moments later he whizzes by in someone's abandoned wheel chair. (At this point, all I could picture in my mind was someone uttering, "Help me! I've fallen and I can't get up!") Going down another aisle was the middle boy on a brand new bicycle, complete with training wheels. I did manage to grab some much-needed laundry detergent before chasing these fellows down. Christy went after one. I pursued the other. About ready to give up, with my youngest still in my arms, I found Christy in the office supply aisle with, you guessed it -- my other two boys in the back of her cart. Thank goodness for Christy!

I did finally manage to get all of the items on my list, and then some. While I was picking up the last of my items, my oldest boy comes charging around the corner sporting a walking cane. My thoughts immediately went back to that wheelchair. "Alec! Take that back where you found it!" I commanded, at which point a rather weary-looking gentleman came around the corner. Alec dropped the cane and ran. I managed a grin and handed back the cane. "Oops!" I thought. Finally in the checkout lane -- two hours later and 35 items more, Christy and I began to collect our breath. Christy was in front of me and noticed that half of the items she was placing on the conveyer belt were not hers. "Alec!" I yelled. As I glanced across the rows of all the checkout lanes, I noticed several people looking bewildered as they were taking various items from their carts and placing them on the counters for purchase. Now I figured out where Alec puts the items he does not put back.

We all made it to our cars. Christy thanked me for a wonderful time. "We will have to do this again," she lied. I thanked her and loaded the boys into the car. The fighting between the three of them began before I even got the seat belts buckled. I saw Christy put her now sleeping child in the car, unload her two bags into the trunk and drive off into the sunset. I still had 10 bags to put into the trunk and two other errands to run.

As I got into the car, I glanced over at the car phone. "I wonder what my mom is doing this afternoon?" I mused.

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master's in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12.

Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-oriented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder.a great way to keep track of a child's complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son's Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as "Ann's," for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys!

Her website showcases her new book.

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