You may have missed this YouTube classic, unless you have elementary school-age children who love anything Star Wars. My fourth-grade daughter brought home this fresh link thanks to the recommendations of nine-year-old boys at her school. It’s funny how things have changed—when I was her age, we talked about what we watched the night before on Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley. Now it is all about funny YouTube clips, hip iPod tunes, and Nintendo DS downloads. Or Pokemon cards, which is a world into which I cannot or will not venture, to the chagrin of my seven-year-old son.
Grocery Store Wars is a hilarious parody produced by Free Range Studios courtesy of the Organic Trade Association. This live-vegetable footage features Cuke Skywalker, Obi One Cannoli, Princess Lettuce, Ham Solo, and Chew Broccoli to battle against the evil supermarket practices of pesticides and irradiated food. While I still get a chuckle whenever I hear the name Luke suggested for expectant parents (“Luke, I’m your father!”), this is not the battle to which I am referring. I’m talking about my most recent voyage to my oft-frequented destination for a woman with four children: the grocery store.
It is a rare occasion to leave my house unaccompanied by my toddlers, and my weekly trip—the modern day equivalent of hunting and gatherin—is no exception. At least today, we have molded plastic grocery carts shaped like racecars, complete with two steering wheels—ideal for children who cannot or will not grasp the concept of taking turns or sharing. Heaven help me if I have to go more often than once a week because that makes for a very long week. With the fun of riding in the cart, free balloons, and more snacks than mom can open before even reaching the checkout stand, you might imagine that there would be enough distractions to make it through a list of twenty-items-or-less without World War III breaking out. That would be the case if you had any children other than the LeBleu girls. We have our own episode of Grocery Store Wars played out before the suburban shoppers of northwest Austin on a weekly basis.
It starts out innocently and hopeful enough, going through the produce section with a second stop in the bakery for a “sweet” and appeasement for the duration of the trip. They look so picturesque sitting together, my two blonde beauties; one just turned three, and the other almost two. Before becoming a parent, I always fantasized about having twins (the efficiency of it, after all!). Being a twin myself and very close to my sister, I felt it would be great to have a built-in-playmate, after the busyness and sleepless nights of the first year, of course. Then I had children and had friends who had twins and was so grateful that I had managed to dodge that bullet. How did they manage? I always say an extra prayer of thanksgiving on Mother’s Day that my mom had managed to deal successfully with my sister and me, as well as my older brother, who is not more than two years older than us.
When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth when my third was only five months old, I almost lost it. How can this be? Three pregnancy tests later (and yes, I do know how this happens!) I embraced the fact that, while not twins, these two would be close enough to be the best of friends. Only thirteen months apart and both girls, they would be the next best thing to twins like my sister and me. Or the next worst, as I am finding out some days!
To be fair, my youngest is the instigator. She looks angelic with her big blue eyes and blonde hair, but she has a bit of the devil in her. She starts out by poking or grabbing at her older sister to get attention. When that fails, she pulls hair or tries to grab whatever is in her hand. When her older sister cries—like a dog that smells fear or a shark that smells blood—she goes in for the kill and hits her on the head. And then her older sister finally fights back, only this time she bites and (almost) breaks the skin before clueless mother finally figures out what is going on (Buy organic milk or not organic? Soy or lactose free—too many choices, too many decisions. I need to do like Cuke Skwalker: use the power of the Farm to decide), gets back to the cart, and has to separate this dynamic duo. I have to finish my shopping trip pushing a fully laden cart with the turning radius of the Queen Mary while holding onto a wiggly three-year-old and avoiding inexpertly placed pallets of bread and chips.
As I am at this store all the time and since it is adjacent to our neighborhood, I am always running into people I know from church, from school, from our street. Some look on me kindly as I am embroiled in battle and serving as head referee. Some do not make eye contact at all. Are they laughing at me? Are they laughing with me? Are they not laughing?
I recently ran into an acquaintance that just had her seventh (!) child at this same grocery store. Bless this kind woman’s heart because she must have the patience of a saint—she had all of her children with her. Or most, in any case, since I didn’t have time to count that high in the time it took to say hello, but if this woman could manage with seven (!), how could I not even manage my terrible two? What kind of a mother does that make me?
You have all seen the mothers at Starbucks—you know, the coffee moms who have time for lattes and girl time and their children all sit quietly, obediently, eating their muffins and sipping their juice. I have never been a coffee mom. In fact, the last time I was at Starbucks with my two, my youngest upended the Chinese checkers and Mancala games all over the tile floor, creating a major choking, slipping, and tripping hazard with one stroke of chubby toddler hands. Fearing a call to EMS or an ambulance-chasing attorney, I scrambled to put the game pieces away while sweeping the marbles out of my baby’s mouth all while waiting for my extra-hot, double shot latte. I have not been back since this episode of the dark side of toddlerhood reared its tempestuous head.
A trip to the grocery store these days with my “twins” leaves me physically drained and my wallet empty due to the escalation of rising food prices and hostilities within the cart. A friend suggested that I do my shopping while my babies are napping—my husband works out of the home office, so this would be an ideal solution to my grocery woes. I say, “No way!”—their nap time is my most precious commodity of me-time, and I will not squander it on a domestic chore that I rate just slightly higher than laundry on my most-hated list.
For now, until they are old enough to stay home alone or are in school full time, I will just have to don my full battle gear and arm myself adequately in order to win the Grocery Store Wars. I am open to any suggestions, of course, from seasoned veterans of similar engagements. Just send them to me, care of the Darth Tater at the Death Melon.