A Sunday Family Outing

January 6, 2013

Sunday is family day in our house. There is no rushing or planned extracurricular activities. One of the advantages of being a SAHM is that I try to plan the kid’s activities during the week as much as possible to keep Sunday as free as possible. We keep the kids busy in the evenings and Saturday mornings, but Sundays are for lounging. Having that second cup of  coffee with a second breakfast or letting the kids watch morning cartoons while we read the paper.  Mr. L and I take turns sleeping in (the best that you can when a two-year old is screaming, “Mommyyyy!!!!”) and we all relish in the lazy but comfortable feeling of not having to be anywhere. That is, until one kid starts getting stir-crazy, then another and when the third begins climbing up on the kitchen table once again, we know it’s time to get moving.

Today was a planned tobogganing day but unfortunately the weather did not co-operate. Instead of nice powdery snow, we had snowy rain, the worst kind of wet slushy weather you do not want to go out in. So instead Mr. L, taking initiative, suggested a trip to the bookstore where the kids could play with the toys while we took turns grabbing a few items for ourselves, then groceries with lunch out afterwards.

“Sounds good!” I agreed and off we went piling into the van. My only suggestion to the plan is that we head to the nearby big box bookstore that has a Starbucks attached. Starting my “remove addiction to Starbucks coffee” resolution on Monday meant I needed one last fix.

After scoring on a close parking spot, ordering green tea for my health conscious guy and a grande “full of fat” bold misto for myself, we head to the kids area at the back of the store. The girls are nearly running in their excitement to see the beanie boo collection and Jacob is yelling, “Choo! Choo!” over a new obsession, Thomas the train. We get there and stand in horror. They have revamped the kid area and it no longer has any toys to play with!!! Just books, in a bookstore!

We are shocked and confused. The kids are looking for the train table, or the colouring table or anything to keep their little hands busy. Six sets of hands start fiddling nervously and Jacob having wriggled free from Mr. L’s arms starts running as only a toddler boy can.

I look behind the neatly lined chapter books and sales tables thinking I am missing something and see two other parents with the same confused look on their faces.

“Does this store have the toys?” a lone Dad asks while keeping an eye on his much-behaved girls who are politely looking at the titles on the shelf in front of them.

“I guess not…” I respond.

“How about the one on the other side of town, does it have a play area?” he inquires while his girls start sitting on the ground their faces planted in their hands.

“I think so,” I say. As I look to see my girls taking fairy books of the shelf one by one to examine each title. Jacob is nowhere to be seen and I only hope Mr. L is keeping an eye on him.

The Mom with an older boy responds, “the one over by the Toys R Us definitely has a play area.”

“I guess we’ll head there, thanks!” the Dad responds and the girls are looking confused as he sits on the only wooden chair in the whole area contemplating his next move.

“What do you want to do?” I ask Mr. L who is tall enough to tower over the book stacks. “Shall we just go get groceries?”

“All right,” he responds. “I also got a call, want to meet J. and the girls for lunch?”

“I guess,” I say desperately trying to see if he has Jacob in his view. I see a blue hat bobbing around and around in a circle in the middle of the kid area.

So, with not even five minutes in the store we try to convince our brood to leave.

“Mooommm…you said we could pick out a magazine or a book for $3.00!!” my younger girl pleads her big brown eyes welling up with tears.

“Moommm..are you sure I can’t get another fairy book?” the elder girl whines.

“Mommyyy!!! No! No! I play Thomas!!!” Jacob shouts.

“I can’t drink my tea with all this going on.” Says Mr. L.

Picking up Jacob who is kicking and screaming, I hand him to Mr. L nodding towards the door.

Taking each girl in hand as I put back the fairy books they have accumulated on the floor I gently start dragging them towards the exit.

“Jacob, Mommy is right here. We go to the grocery store now!”

“Audrey, I understand I said that but our plans have changed because they don’t have a play area and Jacob has nothing to do. We’ll do this again some other day. We’re going to the grocery store and then out for lunch with your friends!”

“No Elizabeth, you just bought a new fairy book and we have ten at home to read. You don’t need another fairy book.”

“Mr. L, could you please just help me get them out of here?”

With my breath spent on managing all of them, we make our way to the van and I breathe. A lot. After all, we have the grocery store and lunch out to face today.

The grocery store we go to has lots of samples on Sundays. It’s guaranteed that we can let our kids nibble for free (which I appreciate considering how much I spend at their grocery store for our family of five) if we dare take all of them out that day. As a general rule, I try to do the shopping alone. It’s relaxing for me to putter through the store planning the week’s meals. I can appreciate the rows of red apples neatly stacked and smell the coffee beans roasting at their gourmet coffee area and everything else melts away.

When we moved into our current house, this grocery store just opened and it still has that new store feel to it. I fell in love with it, knowing I spend nearly an hour every few days here, I have emotionally invested in my local grocery store. But being alone doesn’t always happen so some weeks we trek all of them to the grocery store and rush through grabbing small bites of whatever baguette, cheese or yogurt sample they have out that day.  Today the kids are actually well-behaved and my list is smaller than usual so soon enough we are out the door and meeting our friends for lunch.

Love the grocery store!

Love the grocery store!

Our friend J. has recently separated from his wife. They have also have three young children, all girls. Mr. L and I have talked at length about the sadness of their marriage not surviving, how hard it is for all of them, how it won’t happen to us. We are also trying to maintain friendships with both parties. I met his soon-to-be ex-wife at a Mommy exercise class when Elizabeth was an infant and have had many playdates and lunches cherishing the “Mommy Group” time.

Then as our friendship moved past the “Mommy Group”  we started having couple nights out and got to know J. very well. At this time, we consider both of them our friends. Their separation was a bit of a shock as they were very private about any issues they had and always seemed to have it together. Mr. L and I feel frazzled most of the time and feel like we have nothing together.

This past year I have had three couples I know separate, one of them being my sister. It’s been one of those years. During our conversations about this, Mr. L and I both acknowledged that having kids, and sometimes when you have three or more, can put a real strain on any relationship and the reality is some of them won’t make it. It just makes it that  much more important to take a step back sometimes and not lose your relationship because it can be fragile when you both are not sleeping, worried about money, arguing over how to handle the kids and feeling overwhelmed.

In any case,  it’s nice to get together with him when he has the girls and catch-up and it gives him a bit of break. I can only imagine how going from a couple to a single with three young kids would be hard and adult conversation, even over a chaotic lunch of grilled cheese and chocolate milk would be most welcome.

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