Bouncing Babies, Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, Terrible Twos, The Salties, The Wonderful Ones, Threenagers, Tips & Hacks

9 Ways to Play with Rocks

My kids have thousands of dollars worth of games and toys and arts and crafts and I even am not above allowing some indulgent screen time. But the fact is, at the end of the day, they love dirt and sticks and rocks. Yeah, rocks. Which – don’t get me wrong – I love. I love SO much, I want to pass that love of rocks on to you! So here are nine fun ways for your little ones to play with rocks.

  1. Paint them. Rock painting is so in right now. Seriously. It seems that it’s t22447575_10102454468377797_269538747_nhe hot kid  craft on Pinterest. And it’s hot for a reason. Because kids love to paint rocks. Whether your kids want to paint ladybugs or pumpkins or just go nuts free form, kids will love it. Plus, you can do it outside, which is extra awesome because you aren’t going to ruin your dining room table. We even have some friends whose kids love to paint rocks with WATER. I mean, you literally can’t get a cleaner craft than that! It’s. Just. WATER. And rocks. World’s easiest cleanup ever.
  2. Tic-Tac-Toe. My 4 year old is obsessed with Tic-Tac-Toe right now. Which means there are sheets of paper all over my house like confetti with scribbles all over them. So you know what’s boss? A reusable tic-tac-toe board. Even better? One that’s in my yard, that I only have to draw once, and then can use rocks for our “X’s” and “O’s.”
  3. Stacking. All three of my kids love to stack things – anything! They also love to compete with each other. Who can make the highest stack of rocks? Who can keep the tower balanced? Who will knock it over? There are so many variations even in different ways to just stack the rocks. And endless entertainment!IMG_20170826_103408267
  4. Carrying them back and forth. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, this list just jumped the shark. These chicks think my kids will be entertained by carrying rocks back and forth across my yard.” And maybe you’re right. Maybe your kid won’t do it. But we’re here to tell you that we literally sat in Jaymi’s backyard and watched our kids carry rocks from a bucket to a pile AND BACK AGAIN for like 45 minutes last week. I think they made some sort of a secret game out of it, but they didn’t clue the adults in on the rules. All I know is those rocks were on the move in the hot little hands of our kids. Kids that got wiped out from all that rock carrying. So, SOLD.
  5. Rock Hunt. This one’s pretty simple: Do just what it sounds like. Hide those rocks and let the kids find them. As one of our kids’ friends announced the other day, “You don’t have to wait for Easter to do an Easter egg hunt!” True that, Muriel! Egg hunts are great one day a year, but rock hunts – those are a classic the other 364.
  6. Steal the Bacon. Remember sweating on the blacktop waiting for your number to be called so you could race to grab a blackboard eraser? Well, we’re fresh out of blackboard erasers at our house. But we got rocks! And whether it’s a group of kids at a playdate or just two of mine facing off head to head, a race for the rock is a big hit. More bonus points for this one being another tiring activity. With basically no setup, no cleanup and the only parental involvement being to yell, “GO!”
  7. Rocks as Cooking Ingredients. Stone soup isn’t just a classic story about a selfish
    IMG_20171005_160834699_HDR
    You can never have too many cooks in a stone soup kitchen!

    town that is tricked into sharing their soup. It’s also a culinary classic in our backyard. Stones, leaves, dirt all create a “delicious” base to be stirred with sticks. This one takes some more parental involvement (I admit I’m wayyyyyy over pretending to slurp soup and report how delicious it is) and can be significantly messier than some of the other options, but my kids are all about getting messy, so bring it on!

  8. Story Garden. A story garden is the perfect way to bring your kids’ imaginative play outside. This one’s a two parter, but worth it! First, see #1 and paint those bad boys. You can paint anything you want on the stones – houses, animals, boats, foods, cars, bugs, rainbows, shapes, people – you name it! Then, make stories! The possibilities are ENDLESS with what you can create! Here’s a few ways to play with them compiled by The Artful Parent and we’re partial to this cute Hungry Caterpillar set which is perfect for retelling.
  9. Rock Toss. Only to be played if you trust your kids won’t chuck the rocks straight at your head, their siblings heads, their friends heads, etc. Once that’s established, my kids dig this one. We use a hula hoop as the place to toss rocks and we start a foot or two away from the hoop. Each kid gets to toss a rock into the hoop. After they make that shot, they step back. And back. And back. And back. Until they miss at which point we start over. My competitive little kids love the challenge of this. Once the hula hoop has been mastered, you can always make smaller targets with anything you have around the house!

Now go find some rocks, and have some fun!

#rocks #paintedrocks #stonesoup #pretendplay #childhoodunplugged #toddlers #preschoolers #kids #outdoorplay #imaginativeplay #getoutside #letthembelittle
Get outside and have fun with these EASY ways to play with rocks – that your kids will LOVE!

 

Effing Four Year Olds, momlife, parenting, The Salties

Torrez of the Day

A few weeks ago, in a fit of desperation, I had a rare stroke of genius.

“The kid who cleans up the most blocks gets to be the Torrez of the Day!”

My son, aged one and a half, pretty much did nothing. Because…aged one and a half.

But my Four Year Old? Whoa. Continue reading “Torrez of the Day”

Effing Four Year Olds, koefoe party of 5, momlife, parenting, Salty Mama Lists, Why We're Salty

Seven Skills They Didn’t Teach You in Parenting Class

For a first time Mom, I felt incredibly prepared when my son was born. I had 17 nieces and nephews and had been around kids a LOT. I was ready to change diapers. I wasn’t afraid of the dreaded first cold. I knew all the first aid and CPR you could want. I was prepared. And then the kids showed up and I learned all the things I hadn’t learned.

You probably haven’t learned all the things either. Add these to your to-do list.

  1. How to throw a ball.

Okay, I’m not a complete athletic disaster. I can throw a ball. But it’s actually WAY harder to throw a ball to a three year old than to another able bodied adult. You have to somehow throw it really slow. And make sure to avoid hitting them in the face. Because they won’t just catch the ball if it’s about to hit them. They’ll wait, let it hit them, and then freak out about it. And then make you throw it again and again until your arm falls off.

  1. How to draw every animal in existence.

Before I was a Mom I’m not sure I’d ever drawn a rhinoceros. Or a “water dinosaur.” I know I didn’t draw the animals/monsters/creatures that my children imagine – and then request for me to draw. To their exact, but undescribed, specifications. But I do know that a lot of the time my drawings are not up to my children’s standards. I should have spent more of my first pregnancy in an avant garde art class taught by opinionated toddlers. If they have one of these in your area, it will be worth every penny.

  1. How to move silently through a house.

When we were house shopping, I did not walk through the house listening for squeaky floorboards. FATAL mistake. Because there’s a board in my son’s room that has almost destroyed me. After spending countless hours lying on his floor praying he’ll fall asleep, the last thing I want to do is wake him up stepping on that board. Squeaky doors? I’m just going to take them all of their hinges. Or go to some sort of cat burglar crash course in how to be more sneaky.

4. How to Remove Objects from a Nose

Maybe you think this is covered under basic first aid, but not so, my friends.  There are actual techniques for this sort of thing.  For example, do not put any kind of finger or tool up there. Is it close enough to the nostril that you can pinch above it and push it out? Or should you try to blow it out like in that viral video that’s been going around (doctors say no, by the way, so THANKS FOR NOTHING VIRAL VIDEO)? Or do you have to go to freaking urgent care over this?? No one prepared us for A.) That level of decision making. B.) That kind of medical know-how.

5. Tetris Level Packing Skills

No one told me that I should have been spending WAY more time playing Tetris in preparation for parenthood. From packing a diaper bag, to packing my car for a day trip, to packing my daughter’s backpack on show and tell today (which is much more complicated than one would originally believe, I assure you), I use way more spatial awareness on the daily than I ever imagined I would.

6. Emotional Awareness of Others, Bordering on Psychic Ability

In the thirteen seconds it takes from when my daughter first appears in the dismissal line to when her teacher hands her over at the gate, I have to decide what kind of mood she is in and how to react appropriately. Will a big hug make her push me or melt her like a popsicle? Should I dare ask how school went? Does she want to walk or should I prepare for a battle about whether or not I am going to carry her to the car? It seems like an impossible task, one I am certainly untrained for. But I gotta say…for an impossible task, I’m getting pretty darn good at it.

7. How to Put Gloves on a Child

Ooooohhhhh, you think this is easy? That’s cute. Because guess what? Kids can’t move one finger at a time. And eight of their little fingers fit into one glove finger. So you sit there like a rational adult saying “Move this finger, no pull this one one, okay put the big one back in, no not that one, the other one, wait, now we’re back how we started!,” before you realize that you are fighting a losing battle. Better to take your chances with frostbite and save your sanity.

What other skills do you wish they’d told you that you’d need as a parent?

7 things they should have taught you in parenting school. Except for they don't HAVE parenting school. They totally should, btw. Read more at thesaltymamas.com.

 

Bouncing Babies, Effing Four Year Olds, Mama Mojo, momlife, Terrible Twos, Threenagers, Why We're Salty

Truth Tuesday: I’ve Considered Running Away

Okay, maybe not literally. Maybe not totally seriously. But I’ve probably given it too much actual thought than I should have.

Lots of times, I love motherhood, I do. When all three of my kids are in a sweet spot, I think I could have three more. When two of them are delightful and one is going through a more challenging phase, I power through. When one is nice and two are little hot mess machines, I hunker down and know we’ll get through it. But when all three are hellions? I start making a list of possible talents I could contribute to the circus.

Right now? I’m in full on circus mode.

In the past few weeks all three of my children have thrown up on me. I’ve had many midnight discussions about diarrhea and why my son is “peeing out of his butt.” We had a solid week where at least one child was wide awake from 3am on, which leads for a very early wake up for Mommy and Daddy. We’ve had night terrors. A four year old that just. doesn’t. listen. A two year old that is in active transition from the terrible twos to being a threenager whose greatest joy in life is her abundant ability to tease her brother. A breast feeder that’s found out her big ol’ teeth make excellent weapons. And I ran out of coffee creamer.

It’s weeks like these that make me spend considerable amounts of time researching the standard working contract for cruise staff. Not that I’d actually drive down to the cruise terminal and go to the employment booth and fill out the application to work a 6 month tour on the Carnival Inspiration or anything. Of course I wouldn’t actually go and do that. I don’t think. But I’ve definitely gotten closer than my husband should find out about.

And yes, there have been good times, but right now? Right now I’m overwhelmed with yet another night of changing sheets filled with last night’s dinner, a 2 year old that comes tumbling out of her crib before the sun rises and a baby that has found she’s sure to get my attention by biting anything she can sink those chompers into.

I love them, I do, but just think how much more I could love and appreciate them if I took, say, a six month break. If I went off on an adventure and came back with arms full of treats and souvenirs and a heart full of missing them. I won’t do it, but I’m definitely still gonna dream about it.

Why I've Considered2

Effing Four Year Olds, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Why We're Salty

Taylor Swift: Look What You Made ME Do.

 

My daughter is a Taylor Swift fan. Like, a big fan.

She knows the words to pretty much every song on the 1989 album.  She knows what each song is about. She loves her music videos and her “fashion” and her pretty hair and she especially loves to dance to her TS jams. She loved Taylor Swift in the way that only a four year old can.

And now she doesn’t.

I let her listen to the song “Look What You Made Me Do,” recently, thinking she would be excited to hear something from her favorite singer. I thought the beat was catchy, and she could dance to it and learn the words easily.  I knew the video was dark, but I thought as long as I just played the song, the lyrics would be subtle enough to fly right over her head. I figured she’d be bopping and singing along in no time.

But you know what she said? “How come Taylor Swift got mean?”

If you haven’t heard it or seen the video yet, you’ll need to know that it is dark and edgy and the lyrics are full of bite. There are zombies and burglaries and car crashes.  The song is a lot more bitter and a lot harder than anything she’s put out before.   Clearly, she’s trying to reinvent herself.  And look, it is not up to Taylor to be anything for anyone but herself.  It is her life, and her brand, and she can do what she wants with it. That’s her right, and I stand by that. But Lila? Lila doesn’t.

And you know what? I’m kind of with Lila on this one.  You don’t have to get edgier, and sexier, and darker with each album. It’s okay to be kind, and sweet, and keep your optimism no matter what life throws at you. I’m tired of artists feeling like they have to constantly evolve.  You can have a truth and stick to it. You don’t need to keep up with the  Joneses Katy Perrys.  You don’t have to get mean in order to stay popular.  In fact, it may just end up costing you, and some of your fans, a little something in return.

So we’ll keep rocking 1989 in the car, and we’ll keep Shaking it Off. But otherwise, I think we’re done here.  Thanks for the fun, Taylor. It was good while it lasted.

How Taylor Swift's new song,

 

Effing Four Year Olds, momlife, parenting, The Salties, They Said WHAT?

A Teacher Gift You Should Start on NOW

For many of us, school is just getting started.  End of year teacher gifts are FAR off of our radar. We are miles away from Teacher Appreciation Week (thank goodness. It has turned into such a circus, but that’s a post for another day.) The last days of school? Please. Let’s just get through Back to School Night first, am I right?

My teacher has a voice like a buffalo

Except then I had the CUTEST idea. On the first day of school, when I asked Lila how her day was, she said “I need three popsicles. And a nap.” The second day, she said, “When Mrs. D gets mad, she sounds like a buffalo. It’s AWESOME!” And it made me think about all the funny/silly/sweet things my students must have told their parents about me and my classroom, and I desperately wished I could have heard what those things were (I mean, the nice things, of course. I’m not a glutton for punishment. I don’t want to hear about how the kid said I’m a monster, obviously).  

So I decided that I would keep track of the little things Lila reported about at school on a  cute little paper somewhere, and then at the end of the school year, we could gift Mrs. D with a collection of the sweet, crazy, funny little moments that stood out most for Lila. Along with a fat gift card to Target. Because TARGET.

And I can’t just keep something like an adorable printable to myself, so we’ll go ahead and share it with our friends (aka YOU!).  Download the free printable HERE and put it in a safe place where you can add to it throughout the year, and we’ll check back in with you in the Spring to see how it’s going.  Follow the blog to make sure you don’t miss out on the update! End of Year Teacher Gift- Quotes Page

 

Want to make your printable even cuter? Click the link below to purchase a custom copy that includes the student and teacher names of your choice.

Custom Quotes Printable

This custom printable will take your gift to the next level! Simply click through to purchase, and you will be contacted for the names you would like included. We are also willing to make changes to the months and questions for no additional fee.

$2.00

Do you have a kiddo in school? We’d love to hear the funniest thing your child has said about their classroom or teacher in the comments below.

Wow your child's teacher with this easy, printable gift idea from thesaltymamas.com

 

 

Effing Four Year Olds, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Why We're Salty

My Daughter Went Feral (And Not in the Way That’s Trendy Right Now)

My daughter just went full on feral at a birthday party.
One minute, we’re laughing and taking pictures, and the next she’s screaming and clawing and BITING. All because someone “took” the seat she had planned to sit on. I guess I should be grateful she took it out on me instead of the clueless offender, or else I’d never be able to show my face in that circle again. But it’s hard to be grateful for anything when you’re wresting a gnashing alligator that used to be your child in front of a group of people whose opinions and parenting styles you respect.
I mean, what the HELL. If she was a dog we’d be talking about whether or not it’s safe to keep her, but because she’s human, I don’t get a say in the matter. I have to keep her. Safe surrender at a fire station is only good for babies up to three days old. Not that I checked or anything.
But I don’t have to let her keep her cupcake. That bad boy is going right in the trash. It is quite literally the VERY least I could do, on a scale of cupcake tossing to orphanage, so frankly she should be grateful.
Now I’m gonna go nurse my wounds (figurative, luckily, thanks to my seven year career as a bite-dodging-teacher) with a diet Coke the size of my head. Maybe with some vodka in it this time.
Kids know exactly how to embarrass their parents...like by going feral at a birthday party. Read what this hilarious mom did next at thesaltymamas.com!
Effing Four Year Olds, koefoe party of 5, momlife, The Salties

Summer Send-Off

The Salty Mamas reflect on their summers, and they made you this sweet little printable so you and your family can record your summer memories too!

Summer may not officially be over until September 21, but let’s face it: It’s over for us. The kids are in school, the lifeguards are working their last weekend at the beach, and there’s football on the TV today. For all intents and purposes, it’s fall. But before we put on our cozy scarf and grab a pumpkin spice latte, we have a tradition of sitting down as a family and doing a Summer Send-Off.

And now, you can join us! Snag this printable and take a few minutes to capture the best, worst, and most memorable events from your summer!

Record your family's summer memories with this sweet, free printable!

What’s your favorite vacation memory?

Jaymi: We spent an amazing three days at a cabin on some remote coastal property in NorCal. The road trip there was intense, but man was it worth it. No TV, minimal internet, no work, not even toys… Just our little family and our friends, spending the days hiking, rope-swinging, roasting S’mores, and playing at the beach. Pure, unplugged magic.

Christine: On a whim, we decided to go down to San Diego for a night to go to the zoo. They were going to have bands and lights and a special bubble show off this giant bridge and it all sounded like fun. But all my kids wanted in the whole world was to see the hippos. So we walked around, we did the bus tour, but still no hippos. They were on the very very very far side of the zoo through very steep and windy paths. And we were pushing a thousand pounds of stroller. I really wanted to shut it down. We could see them next time. But the kids were insistent. We had to see the hippos. So right before the zoo was closed, we made our way to the right path. And it was DARK. This isn’t like some amusement park where they light everything up – no, this is like the wild. And it was a little spooky. And there were animal noises everywhere. You could barely see. And then we came upon the hippos. And there was no one there. Just us and one beautiful hippo swimming back and forth and back and forth. And my kids were the happiest I’ve seen them in a long time. I was so glad we went looking for the hippo.

What’s something from summer you’d like to forget?

The unnecessary stress I put myself through. I get too worked up over things that are supposed to be all fun and get caught up in the details. I need to try to relax a little!

The Great Potty Training Debacle of Summer 2017 – wherein my 2 year old, who we thought was ready to potty train due to one successful declaration of “I need to pee!” She was NOT apparently because upon us making the effort to train her she decided to go on a two week stint where she would poop consistently – and EXCLUSIVELY – in a pool. Not cool.
 
What will you miss most about the summer?

I am going to miss all the opportunities for free or cheap kids’ activities. Cheap movies, wading pools, late evenings at the park, days at the beach. Anything that got me out of the house and having fun with my kids! And I think I’m going to miss having Lila home with us everyday (I mean, you never know. I could be like, “Thank God It’s Monday” on the regular. Only time will tell!).  Having her home gave us so much flexibility, and so many opportunities for fun, that I know that I’m going to miss her. But summer will be here again before we know it!

I’ll miss our pool being warm enough to swim in everyday. Poop incidents aside, the pool is our favorite thing. And this year I had the added bonus of the big kids both being completely confident swimmers so I could sit on the side and watch them have a great time – and get hella tired. Early morning swims as the sun rose, hot midday swims while the baby napped, sunset swims where I had to beg them to get out to eat dinner and late night y’all should be in bed already swims. Soon the pool will be too cold for us to swim whenever and I’ll sure miss it.
 
What was your best moment of the summer?

 An evening at the wading pool. Hands down. So simple, but I was already nostalgic for it while it was still happening.

Is it so absolutely terrible if my best moment totally did NOT involve my kids?? During our staycation, we had the genius idea of getting a babysitter at the hotel. Vacations are wonderful, but all that togetherness and kids and hotel rooms and everything that makes it into a trip can be forgotten for one brief shining night when you get a babysitter! My husband and I went to Disneyland and went on rides and ate food without managing the needs of the tiny people and had conversations without interruptions and it was the kind of night that makes you realize why date nights really are that important. Which is why over after dinner drinks and some chocolate bread pudding that was bomb.com we decided we needed to make date nights a “thing.” So we did. And I definitely credit it to that one perfect summer night.

 

Now it’s your turn- download the printable and spend some time with your family talking about your summer highs and lows, and then share a little with us in the comments below!

Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

10 School Readiness Skills (That Have NOTHING to Do with Academics!)

 

10 School Readiness Skills.png

This post includes affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a small commission off of in made by clicking through. Thanks for supporting The Salty Mamas!

The school year is rapidly approaching, and for the very first time, I am preparing my own little girl for going “Back to School.” As a former teacher, there are soooo many things I want to teach her before school starts- and believe it or not, letters and numbers are the least of my concerns! Here’s ten things that you can teach your kids that your Kindergarten/TK/Pre-K teacher will LOVE you for.

1. How to Write Their Name
This is a really, really hard thing to teach whole group. Spend a little time having them trace their name before having them move on to writing it solo. And feel free to leave the paper and pencil approach until later- check out Practical Name Writing in 12 Fun Ways by Hands On As We Grow.

2. Cutting on a Line/Curve
Similar to the skill above, scissor skills are really tricky to teach when you’re no longer one-on-one. Show your kiddo how to hold the scissors, to use them safely, and to move the paper (not the scissors) as they cut. You can draw lines on paper for them to practice with, or buy this colorful activity book that gets progressively harder with each page.

3. Coloring Skills
Now listen, we LOVE a kid who colors outside of the lines. BUT, there are times when coloring inside is important, too. Help your child to learn the difference between coloring for fun and coloring on schoolwork. Help them to decide when to use “realistic colors” versus when they can go rogue. Any coloring book can be used for this, but this fun book really narrows in on these skills.

4. Glue Skills
Let’s save the poor teacher some mess, yeah? Can you imagine cleaning up after thirty kids with glue bottles? Let’s don’t do that to him or her. Work on squeezing the glue bottle just a little (we use the phrase “Dot, dot. Not a lot!”). This exclusive, Salty Mama printable can help your kiddo to practice this skill, along with a few others on the list. Also work on using gluesticks. Need more help with gluesticks? This cute little craft kit  will give your child plenty of practice- and they won’t even know they’re working on school readiness skills!

School Readiness Printable
You can work on several school skills at once with this fun printable craft! Get yours here!

5. Pencil Grip
I don’t want your child’s teacher to have to run around to each student and show them how to hold a pencil. Think of all the time wasted! Have your child practice using a functional grip (on or two fingers on top of the pencil, with the thumb underneath). Is your child struggling? Use shorter pencils or crayons, which eliminates some of the other, less useful grips. Need more tips on how to help with this? Head on over to Living for the Sunshine to read more about ways to practice.

6. Folding a Paper in Half
Okay, this is a weird one, but there are a LOT of school crafts that involve folding a paper in half. Practice folding length-wise and width-wise (like a “hot dog” or a “hamburger,” if you remember from your school days). You can have them practice their scissor skills on their folded paper by tracing a half-heart and letting them cut it out.

7. Workbook Skills
I am no fan of workbooks personally, but there are going to be plenty of them at school. Grab one from the dollar store or the Target Dollar spot, or order a fun one here. Kids can practice valuable school-skills like circling an object, drawing lines from one item to another, and finding the line where they should write their name (or writing on the top right-hand corner if there isn’t one).

8. Putting Things in and Out of Their Backpack
Can you imagine the first-day-chaos if none of the kids could do this? Practice opening and closing backpacks with your kids, and make sure they are able to open any containers/packages that you plan to send to lunch with them. There’s not a ton of time to eat, and you probably don’t want your kid waiting the whole lunch period for it to be their turn for the lunch aide to open their Pirate’s Booty or juice box.

9. Taking Off/Putting On Their Own Sweater (Shoes, Etc.)
Big kid school is not like little-kid-preschool or daycare- there just aren’t enough grown-up hands to assist with these tasks! Help your child to become independent with their own zips/ties/snaps. And avoid sending them to school in shoes with ties until they can retie them on their own!

10. Wiping Their Own Booty (TK and Up, at the Least)
I mean, I’m just saying.  I can almost guarantee that wiping booties was not a part of your child’s teacher’s credential program, and someone’s gotta get it done. It’s gonna have to be your kid, so get to work on this one- stat.

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Effing Four Year Olds, momlife, Terrible Twos, The Salties, Why We're Salty

Terror at Trader Joe’s

Apparently I was feeling brave. Apparently I was feeling confident. Apparently I was a fool.

Because for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to load up my kids and go to the grocery store. But not just any grocery store, Trader Joes. Now, let me be clear. I LOVE Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have on near you it’s a wonderful neighborhood grocery store with amazing food and drink from around the globe and around the corner. When my kids were little – wait, they’re still little, but like, really little, cart bound “little” – TJ’s was the best. We’d walk into the store and there was always a beautiful buffet of bananas welcoming us. We’d toss a half dozen or so in the cart and then I’d hand each of my kids one. I mean, I always paid for the bananas later, but I think the produce lady at Ralph’s doesn’t trust that I’m actually going to pay….No such problem at Trader Joe’s. No one there threw us shade for sampling the product as we strolled through the produce section.

The banana usually lasted through produce and fresh meat, and then we rounded the corner and it was time to start looking for the Bixby Beagle. Now, I won’t tell you how long it took me to realize that the Bixby Beagle isn’t a fixture at all locations, despite it being named after my neighborhood, so I don’t know what the dog is called where you live – or if it even IS a dog – because I just learned it could be any animal, but I love that dog. Because it gives my kids something to DO for the next little bit. As I meander through the frozen foods, my kids have their eyes peeled for that beagle. Because when we find it? They get a lollipop! A nice fresh, not-covered-in-lint-because-I-found-it-at-the-bottom-of-my-purse-while-hunting-for-something-to-calm-the-storm-brewing-in-my-cart lollipop.

We can usually make the lolly last until checkout at which point my kids get to try to entertain the checker, who then HANDS THEM A MILLION STICKERS. It’s like Willy Wonka’s factory over here when they start unraveling the giant roll of seasonal stickers. Sometimes, they’re even scratch ‘n’ sniff. My kids think every day is Christmas at Trader Joe’s.

But then my kids got older. And they got wise to the fact that there are ADORABLE tiny little carts that are just their size! First the bananas, then the lollipops, then stickers – clearly Trader Joe’s was catering to their VERY specific needs. So it should have come as no surprise to me when Cole told me that “Uncle Robert” got him his very own cart too! This will teach me to pretend that the manager of the grocery store is related to us.

For a while, things were okay. Cole was the biggest and somehow Evie just accepted that she still had to ride in the cart and Cole was allowed to push his own. And he did surprisingly well. He took his new responsibility seriously and I think he could smell the fear on me and knew he was one bruised shin away from having his rights revoked.

Then I started getting wise. I started getting organized. And for the love of God I started going to the store while Cole was in preschool. Going to a store with a 2 year old and a baby only feels easy when you’re used to having a 4 year old there too. I had gotten so used to the chaos of all three that two felt like a breeze! It was like old times! And that’s when you start to make mistakes. You get sloppy. You decide to let the two year old give this whole tiny cart thing a try. You think this is your new normal, not remembering that there will come a time when you will have to go to the store again with all three kids, but by then, it’s too late. By then, you’ve created monsters.

Which is how I ended up as the caboose in a crazy choo choo train of tiny cart insanity. To those we ran down, I apologize. To those that looked at me like I’m crazy, yeah, you’re probably right. To those that muttered something under your breath like I couldn’t hear you, I could. I’m not even saying I disagree with what you said, but I heard you bitches, okay? To those that seemed entertained by us, thank you. And to those that gave me a look of, “Hell yeah, mama, you got this!,” a huge, huge, thank you. It was because of you that we made it. Because of you that I didn’t give up in the pasta aisle, just lay down on the floor and cry, and just GIVE. UP.

Instead we pushed on. Ate a banana. Found the beagle. Got our lollipops. Grabbed some stickers for the road. And got the F OUT OF TRADER JOES.   trader joes