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Posts Tagged ‘shopping whilst heavily accessorised with small children’

An imaginary conversation between The NDM and An Imaginary Friend about Real Events. 

NDM: God, I had an awful day yesterday. 

FRIEND: Oh, dear. I’m listening…

NDM: I went to [insert name of local monster mall] with the three kids but without a stroller…

FRIEND: Oh, I think I know where this is heading… 

NDM: We went to Sanity Records first because I wanted to exchange those Deadwood disks. Except I couldn’t find the receipt and was expecting a bit of a fight. But the guy there was really helpful, remembered me from the time I’d made my original purchase and swapped them straight over. 

FRIEND: And the kids? (Shifts slightly in seat in anticipation) What did they do?

NDM: They just browsed through the DVD bargain bin.

FRIEND: (disappointed) Oh. 

NDM: And then we all had to walk right to the other side of the centre to go to EB Games to get a Wii disk polished. 

FRIEND: (perking up) And?

NDM: We stopped to look at things along the way. There’s lots of interesting things to look at in shop windows if you take the time to stop and look. Which we did. And when we got to EB Games, the teenage shop assistant was very helpful as well and the children and I enjoyed looking at all the different Wii accessories while we waited. There’s quite a lot, you know. Even a little steering wheel. Although I think it’s probably called a steering Wii-l.

FRIEND: (stifles yawn) Right. 

NDM: It was all going so well that I decided to push my luck even further and pick up some groceries at Safeway on our way out. 

FRIEND: (mutters to self) Here comes the money shot, surely…

NDM: I let everyone carry their own basket…

FRIEND: …And… AND??

NDM: It took us no time at all.  And we sang songs together in the car on the way home. (PAUSE) And that’s it. 

FRIEND: That’s it?? That’s your “awful day”??

NDM: Yes, that’s it. That’s my awful day. 

FRIEND: I don’t understand. Where’s the crisis?

NDM: Where’s the crisis? WHERE’S THE CRISIS? The crisis is there is no fucking crisis. How on earth am I going to blog about that???

FRIEND: Shit.

NDM: SHIT. 

FRIEND: I’m sure you’ll find a way.

NDM: Not bloody likely.

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Recently I had a faux-affair (also known as a “faux-fair” – well, at least by me) and it was all my husband’s fault. No, really.

You see, it all started when my friend MGK had to skip the state and decided to offload some of her excess clothes on me. Yes, I got myself a whole new wardrobe without having to squeeze into a changeroom cubicle with two children under 5 and what is very possibly in the Guinness Book of World Record as “The Widest Pram in the World” only to find I’d gone up a size and have some shop assistant try tell me that “Papaya Whip” was sooooo my colour. So you can imagine how grateful I was for such a gift from dear MGK. 

My husband was a little odd about it all, though. Whenever I wore any of my new acquisitions, he would say that I looked like MGK. After a few such remarks, I turned to him and said: “Is that how you like it, Big Boy?” To which he curtly replied that he thought RR (MGK’s husband) probably gave me the clothes just so I could dress up as MGK for him. 

And that is exactly what he told the Mild-Mannered Lawyer as he chauffeured us in the Love Bus to MGK and RR’s leaving drinks.

“Oh, that’s just great!” I exclaimed. “Thanks for sharing that! With the MML! Of all people.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly enough will know that the MML is a shit-stirrer under that mild-mannered exterior of hers. But since my husband never reads this blog, he probably can claim that he Just. Didn’t. Know. Which is probably something we can safely assume about him when it comes to Most Things. 

So the first thing I had to do when we arrived at the bar was to launch straight into damage control. I marched right up to RR and, bypassing the usual chitchat reserved for such occasions, launched into a rushed explanation about why there might be rumours circulating about him and I having an affair.

“And… and… it’s because of the clothes!” I concluded.

And RR gave me one of those looks which clearly said “What are you talking about, woman.” Believe it or not, I get that look a lot.

But luckily for me, even the lamest of jokes can be revived with the excessive consumption of alcohol, and soon a few others – including the extremely good-natured MGK herself – were joining in the fun. We were all ha-ha-ha-ing and he-he-he-ing as RR began asking me to put on MGK’s jacket and calling me MGK. Which was a relief because there’s nothing worse than being at a party where there are false rumours about you having an affair with someone and That Someone is looking at you like you just pulled your underpants out of the microwave

Anyway, at the end of a fun-filled night, MGK and RR gave me a lift home. RR, a good sport to the last, bid me goodbye by saying “Go to your husband now…”. And my brief faux-fair, dear friends, was over.

(Psssst. Are you reading this, RR? I’m wearing the green polkadot dress… And my husband would like you to know that he’s wearing the pink top…)

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Any parent knows that when it comes to the whole wardrobe management side of parenting, the most challenging aspect is by far the shoes. 

With clothes, you have a certain license to push the boundaries of size by making your children sport “ankle-freezer” trousers or the crop-top “peek-a-boo-belly-button” look. 

Unfortunately, attempting the equivalent with footwear is akin to the foot-binding practices of the Han Dynasty and frowned upon most severely by The Authorities. 

And while you can always roll-up sleeves or trouser legs that are too long, the “too-big shoe” either makes your child look like Sparkles The Clown or gives them an excuse to turn said shoes into a lethal airborne projectile with just one violent shake of the leg, just to prove once and for all that the shoes are “TOO BIG, MUMMY”. 

And then, when you do have a pair that fit, either the little foot will suddenly have a godzilla-style growth spurt or – far more likely – the shoe wears out. These days, most children’s shoes appear to made out of fortified cardboard and flour glue and the only way you can guarantee  more than two months’ wear out of them is by wrapping them carefully in cotton wool and placing them in the vault of a Swiss bank. Just one day’s wear on my own children’s feet appears to be the equivalent of holding the shoes up against a bench grinder on high speed or feeding them to a pack of savage cardboard-eating wolves. 

Shopping for new shoes can be an extremely stressful pasttime (as my blog post “Shoe Business” clearly illustrated) not least because the feet you are buying them for won’t stay still long enough to try anything on. Often this will result in a situation such as the Case of the Strangely-Fitting Sandals From Target which turned out, upon closer inspection, to be two of the same shoe but in completely different sizes. I would have returned them except The Pixie had already been wearing them for TWO WHOLE DAYS before I discovered the mistake and it was all far too embarrassing to take them back when they so obviously had been worn. 

You also need to be in the right frame of mind for shoe shopping. A recent misadventure at McDonalds where there was the inexplicable purchase of a McChai Latte then led to a shoe-crime spree where I bought The Pixie a pair of Hannah Montana shoes because they were the only god-damn pair in the whole of Kmart that seemed to fit. Which might have been forgivable if she was actually into Ha-Mo, but since she was blissfully unaware of It until that point, it was like knowingly introducing cane toads to Northern Queensland

Of course, even in that brief period where the shoe does fit and is indeed fit to be worn, there’s still the whole matter of finding both shoes when it’s time to leave the house. I have long suspected that when my children come home, they dutifully put one of the shoes on the shoe rack, take the other one and, blindfolded and spinning around like whirling dervishes, throw it randomly into the void. And don’t even get me started about the whole process of then getting the shoes (when finally found) on their feet, especially since I’ve already blogged about it (see “Herding Cats“).

Somewhat forebodingly, The Pixie’s first word was “shoes”.

Quite possibly, my own last word will be “shoes”. As in “Aarrghhhhghhhfhgggghhhhh! Freaking fuggin’ shitty shit shitting STUPID SHOES!”, which I will shout before I drive my own gloriously unshod foot through the floor Rumpelstiltskin-like and disappear, ne’er to be seen again.

Stupid shoes.

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The other Sunday, as I was dropping off Mr Justice at a playdate, I found myself grumbling out loud about how I was supposed to be going food shopping next with the other two children and how I resented doing this on the weekend because I could do the shopping with Pixie and Tiddles any day and, any way, weekends were supposed to be different from weekdays, otherwise What’s. The. Bloody. Point. 

Mr C, who politely listened to my little rant, patted me on my arm and gently suggested that I give up the distinction between weekday and weekend because it might make me happier. 

And at that moment, I saw the days stretch out in front of me as far as the eye could see and I almost fell over with the endlessness of it all. It took me back to those early days as a First Time Mother, carrying Mr Justice around a local park, looking at other older children and thinking “The parents of those children survived…” and feeling like I might just not be able to myself because I could hardly breathe through the crush of unrelenting responsibility for this small angry creature from Jim Henson’s Workshop that I was holding.

And that was before I knew the full weight of it. That there would be wave after wave of requests and demands from that small creature – and the others that followed him – for sandwiches without crusts and drinks with heart-shaped ice and a dash of pink food-colouring in the blue-and-white plastic cup and NOT the white-and-blue one, thank you very much, and for comprehensive entertainment programmes for each day without one single minute left unscheduled in case someone actually got Bored for a minute, if you don’t mind, and for new shoes whose soles seem to have worn-through before we’ve even left the shop we bought them in, while you’re at it.

Of course nobody often says those things in italics, but their gratitude is inferred in their smiles and the way that when Daddy comes home they still want Mummy-Books and Mummy-Teeth and Mummy-Huggles, Mummy-Eskimo-Kisses-In-Bed and, of course, Mummy-Poos (which I hasten to add is where I act as Door Sentry while they do the ablutions – oh, why, oh why did I never manage to have just one child who was a Solo-Pooer?).

Overwhelming.

Nope, I’m clinging to this weekend concept for as long as I can, I said to myself as I drove off with my screaming children in the back into the car. And adhering to the “a change is as good as a holiday” rule, I decided to do my food shopping at a different supermarket.

Nobody can accuse me of not knowing how to have a good time. Nobody.

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The other day Mr Justice filed a formal complaint about his school sandals. The evidence he presented to the court were two tiny holes, one on the sole of each shoe, which I summarily dismissed, thinking those shoes would do him Just Fine until the weekend, when I could go out and buy him a proper pair. 

But then I found him one morning, on the verge of tears, poking one of the shoes with the end of a paintbrush. At first I thought he was freeing a random rock that had filled one of those tiny holes. But then I discovered, in one of those Boinggggggg! moments the writers of “Lost” seem to favour, that the whole sole was filled with bits of gravel and that walking in those things definitely created a Princess and the Pea situation. And, as someone who starts swearing like a crazy bitch whenever even the smallest bit of tanbark gets into my Crocs, I felt his pain. 

So I decided to take the late pass on the chin like the Man I’m Not and went to buy him some school shoes at the local Discount Shoe Emporium on the way to school. But before we could go, we had to find some shoes for The Pixie to wear, which presented me with yet another FMI (Footwear Management Issue). 

Just the day before, one of the Pixie’s sandals had broken irreparably and both shoes had to be binned, even though she had bravely said they could be her “hopping shoes”. Another pair was MIA, there was one single Pink Croc on the shelves and then there was one last pair that had been deemed “TOO BIG!!!”, as the Pixie helpfully screamed at me whilst shaking her leg violently to show how the oversized shoe fell off when she violently shook her leg, which apparently she does all the time otherwise those shoes wouldn’t be the Big Issue they quite clearly were. And so I promised to buy her a new pair of shoes, if she could stop violently shaking her leg long enough to walk in the Too Big Shoes between the car and the shoe shop. 

But could we find a single pair of pink shoes that fitted the Pixie in that giant Shoe Emporium? No, officer, we could not. At one point, I discovered The Pixie in aisle 4 trying to squeeze her Size 9 foot into a Size 6 sequinned ballet slipper, sobbing her little heart out. It was a little like one of the Ugly Stepsisters trying to shoe horn her hoof into the glass slipper – or, even more tragically, like me trying to squeeze back into my pre-baby clothing. Again, I felt my child’s pain. 

Having found and paid for Mr Justice’s shoes already, I decided to abort the rest of the mission and go directly to the school. But The Pixie quickly escalated her sobbing to a full-blown tantrum, screaming “I’M NOT GIVING UP!! I’LL FIND MY SPARKLY SHOES!!!” and making me realise that the “It’s too big” moment earlier that morning had been a moment of quiet reflection in comparison. 

The shop assistants all started running around to find a suitable pair of shoes for her Royal Highness but alas, there wasn’t even a seasonally-inappropriate pair of pink faux Uggs to be found in the entire store in her size. I glanced over at Mr Justice, who had his hand to his throat in an anxiety-attack-because-we’re-so-late-for-school gesture, and was about to call it a Mental Health Day for one and all when all at once I realised that 

A) it was raining; and

B) I had – as recently as two days beforehand – spotted The Pixie’s gumboots wedged under the stroller in the back of the car.

Now all parents will know that Gumboots + Rain = Puddle-Jumping Fun. And so with the promise of puddle-jumping (and glossing over the fact that Tiddles McGee was wearing canvas sneakers and his inevitable participation in that activity would lead to yet another Footwear Management Issue with his melodramatic cries of “Wet!! WET!!!”) , I managed to coerce The Pixie back to the car and deliver Mr Justice to the school only 29 minutes after the bell. 

And the late slip? “Shoe Crisis” was the only thing I could think to write as our excuse. It  was the closest thing other than this almost 700 word blog post that could describe it.

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I think the Health & Safety Officer at the local supermarket has definitely issued some kind of warning about me. Whenever I approach a checkout, the cashiers kind of flinch. It might just be because my children tend to be screaming by that stage of the shopping process, but it might also just be because my recyclable “green” bags present a very real health risk. 

Ah, the green bags. A couple of years ago, I handed over a huge wad of them to the cashier which turned out, upon closer inspection, to just be two bags, one of which was designed to carry wine bottles and no use at all when it came to the packing of Bumper Size cereal boxes. The cashier obviously took pity on me and gave me a little something for nothing.

“Some customers,” she said, “Put their green bags inside one of the ‘chiller bags’. It keeps them neat and all together and you always have enough at the checkout.”

Such sensible advice! Of course she might have just been directed by management to cross-promote her supermarket’s branded chiller bags but, what the hey, I bought one anyway and have been storing the vast majority of my green bags in there ever since. 

Now, until I saw that toilet paper ad about “folders” and “scrunchers”, I never even thought there was another way to deal with toilet paper other than to pull off half the roll and scrunch it into a ball big enough to protect my hand from all excretive matter. ANYWAY, it turns out my mother is a reformed scruncher when it comes to green bags and now folds them neatly in the “mother” bag. I tried it for a while but I just can’t find the time to neatly fold them all and, hell, those bags don’t fold easily and I get as little OCD satisfaction from folding them as I do from trying to fold fitted sheets. Fact. 

And so I’ve gone back to scrunching. And I don’t just scrunch a few in there, I scrunch a lot. So the resulting effect is like one of those “can ‘o’ snakes” you buy in joke shops – the poor unsuspecting cashier unzips the chiller bag only to have all the green bags spring out into their face, giving them a bit of a shock to say the least and potentially taking an eye out One of These Days. 

Which was why I think Health and Safety have issued some kind of warning about me to their staff – although after yesterday’s little shopping adventure, I would definitely have been upgraded to a Category Seven Risk. 

You see, yesterday I was just doing a “mini-shop” and, wanting to avoid an unnecessary can’o’snakes incident, had just grabbed a couple of rogue bags stuffed at the back of the cupboard. 

The cashier gave me this strange look when she packed my shopping but I thought it was only because I’d bought a 3 litre container of milk marked down to a dollar because it only had one more day left before the use-by date. I felt like saying “I’ve got three kids. We drink a lot of milk. So sue me.” But I held my tongue. 

It wasn’t until I got home and unpacked the bags that I finally understood the “look”. Inside one bag, along with all the groceries, was a petrified carrot. And in the other bag, was a small pink pair of size 2 underpants that had obviously once been well and truly soaked in urine and then forgotten and left to dry out at the bottom of the bag and at the back of the cupboard over the course of at least a year. They had  subsequently taken on a strange cardboard quality and were prettily dotted with black mildew, like some kind of experimentation in organic batik methods gone terribly, terribly wrong.

I’m sure if my mother were the type to leave comments on my blog, she might gently suggest I go back to folding. That way there’s never any risk of leaving anything behind. And I won’t become the only customer in the brief history of our local Coles whose bags they will ask to check on the way *in* to the store.

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Every year here in Australia, we mark the birth of the Prince of Peace by engaging in hand-to-hand combat in shopping malls all over the country. I guess it’s an improvement on, say, embarking on the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition in the name of Christ. But not much. 

Usually the local shopping mecca (“The Monster Mall”) is filled with people wandering about aimlessly looking for ways to spend their money. But as a recent trip to the Monster Mall showed me, people are now wandering around With Extreme And Violent Purpose looking for ways to spend Uncle Kev’s money. (For non-Australian readers: the Prime Minister recently promised $1000 per child to families in an attempt to inject a bit of oomph into the flailing economy. I don’t know what effects it’s had on the GDP, but from where I was standing in the Monster Mall, it looks the fiscal equivalent of feeding Mr Justice something saturated in E102 food colouring: everyone’s gone just a little hyper-whacko-crazy and will probably need physically restraining on the sidewalk somewhere, just as Mr Justice was after three large serves of “rainbow jelly” at kindergarten).  

Anyway, I truly feel sorry for anyone working in retail at the moment. One friend, The Lovely Tattooed Lady (hereby known as TLTL), works at the Monster Mall in a shop that sells flowing kaftans and “ethnic” jewellery. The kind of place where incense might be burning and the shop assistants greet you by saying “Namasté” and realigning your chakras for you. Just the other week, TLTL had a lady turn on her because A) certain limitations in the shop’s computer system which wouldn’t allow her to pay for her purchase in the way she wanted to and B) she was late for work. Both of these reasons combined evidently gave her the right to go completely E102 on the shop floor. TLTL did her best to resolve the situation (not an easy job when someone’s screaming at you all the while) and the lady eventually left the store, supposedly to go off to her job which she was oh-so-late for. But then, in fact, returned to the shop a further THREE times simply to continue her screaming at TLLT. Seems that punctuality wasn’t so important to her after all. Although, maybe I’m being unfair and that screaming at helpless shop assistants *was* her line of work? God knows there are enough people out there doing it, somebody somewhere must get to turn professional in this particular sport. 

My own shopping experiences in recent days included an incident where a pregnant lady wished death upon me because I blocked her path with my pram and children and took far too long for her liking to manoeuvre them out of the way. If that was her first child she was carrying, then she has yet to learn that no matter how pregnant you get, it is still easier for you to move out of the way in that delicate state than someone who is heavily accessorised by two small children on foot and a $10 opshop stroller beset by heavy bags of groceries and a dodgy wheel. Sorry, I have all sympathy for the plight of the heavily pregnant, but it’s true. And if that *wasn’t* her first baby, then she was just a bitch, pure and simple. 

Yep, there’s definitely the foul stench of desperate cut-throat consumerism in the air. I remember back to my own halcyon days working in retail (now almost 20 years ago), where I was so filled with the Spirit of Christmas that I turned a HAPPY BIRTHDAY party hat I found under the counter into a HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS hat simply by adding a word with a magic marker. Customers either commented on my hat with a smile or politely ignored it, according to their personal beliefs. However, these-a-days, I expect customers would either fail to notice it at all or choose to spit in my face and subsequently fire-bomb the shop. And all because they were running late for work.

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