How To Stay Sane While Grocery Shopping With Three Kids

How To Stay Sane While Grocery Shopping With Three Kids | thisgratefulmama.com

I love going to the store with all three children.

Wait. No.

Just.

No.

While some may love shopping with a pack of squirming, squealing and wandering children, I prefer to go alone.

How To Stay Sane While Grocery Shopping With Three Kids | thisgratefulmama.com

As a stay-at-home mom of three, the likelihood of solo-shopping glory is slim. Especially in the summer when school is out.

While my husband is happy to stay home while I go alone in the evening or on the weekend, I’d rather shop during the week so we can spend those precious hours together.

We do our best to make shopping with three kids as painless as possible for them, and for me.

How to stay sane while grocery shopping with three kids

  1. Plan Ahead – Gone are the days of wandering aisles waiting to be inspired for this week’s meals. Shopping with children requires planning and a detailed list. If possible, rearrange the list in the order each item is found in store aisles – dairy and meat, pantry staples, paper goods and produce.
  2. Limit Stores – List in hand, you should have a pretty good idea which stores you need to visit. When possible, choose the store that carries MOST of your items. For me, it may mean shopping where I’d rather not in order to get home faster with my sanity in tact.
  3. Timing is Everything – Kids who are tired, hungry, or missing out on playtime may be in the mood for an unpleasant trip.  I like to run errands just after breakfast. Morning is when our kids and I are most likely to be at our best. Kids aren’t outside playing yet, and everyone is fed and well rested.
  4. Bathroom First – Never, ever leave home without making ALL children, even the oldest, use the bathroom. Emergencies aside, on most tripsthis will save you from the mad dash across the store hoping no one pees before you find the bathroom.
  5. Enlist Help – Who in your life is easy-going and genuinely wants to spend time with you and be helpful? Have someone in mind? Good. Ask them to shop with you. My mom has accompanied us on many shopping trips. She pushes an extra cart and keeps the troops in line. Have an older child? They are your built-in help. Assure them that their help will make the trip quicker so they can get on to whatever they would rather be doing.
  6. Incentives This is your backup plan. Some may call it bribery, I like to call it incentives. What motivates your kids? A fun activity? A shorter rest? Including them in meal planning and preparation? Snacks? Whatever helps them make it through the trip – DO IT – for all of you. Watch out so the habit of snacks doesn’t turn you into a human vending machine, but do not leave home without a backup plan.
    How To Stay Sane While Grocery Shopping With Three Kids | thisgratefulmama.com
  7. Not On The List, Not In the Cart – This takes discipline. Resist the urge to grab that item not on the list. It will save you money and keep the trip short. Plus, if you follow the list, you can use this rule to ward off all purchase requests from the kids. Sorry, not on the list.
  8. Use the Big Cart – Those giant carts with two seats in front are actually easier to push than you think, even when loaded with three kids. When we need to be quick, I still make our almost 7-year-old ride in the big cart. If the kids CAN fit, make them ride. Now you are free to walk as quickly as you can without running some poor soul over. Get IN and get OUT.
  9. Cut Your Losses – When everything that could go wrong does go wrong, be willing to leave the store and full cart behind. Promise your kids they will have to come back to do the entire shopping trip again and follow through. If you do, hopefully you won’t ever have to do that again.
  10. Take Care of YOU – Start the day right. A few moments alone with your God, Bible, and coffee will help you be your best all day long. Oh mama, I know how difficult it can be to fit this time in during a kid-busy morning. Have you considered waking up before your kids? Even 15 minutes can be a game changer. Trust me, you will not regret it or miss the sleep.

When the trip is done, and you’ve all survived, find a coffee-drive thru and treat yourself for a job well done.

Happy shopping friends!

How To Stay Sane While Grocery Shopping With Three Kids | thisgratefulmama.com

 

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When the Fun Is Over – Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues

Day After Fun Blues

The fourth of July this year was SO. Much. Fun!

Our neighbors rented a bounce house and we had a large neighborhood gathering with water, fun and food. Kids in swim suits were running freely between backyards.

It was a day of giggles, sun, water and all. the. FUN.

An amazing day ended with bug spray, glow bracelets and fireworks.

Our kids were exhausted at 10:30 and fell asleep quickly despite more fireworks just outside their windows.

I’m telling you – NOTHING could wake them. 

A fun-filled day is a wonderful thing, but some times it leaves its mark on the next day – in a not-so-wonderful way.

The morning went fine, but as the day continues…it becomes very evident that everyone is still very tired.

Even this mama.

The next day melt-downs, pouting faces and complaining make one thing very clear – the fun is over.

We knew it was going to be this way. We chose to have a non-stop fun day and make all the memories we could. We chose to encourage and celebrate the joy of being a kid in the summer in a neighborhood filled with kids.

You know what? It was worth it. No matter how hard today becomes.

We expected that today might hold challenges. And it has.

We established a game-plan to make the most of the Day-After-Fun Blues.

When the Fun Is Over – Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues

1. Sleep As Long As Possible

This is a no-brainer for older kids who love to sleep in. But for those of us with younger kids and babies…a late bedtime does NOT mean small children will sleep in. You can’t guarantee they will recoup any missed sleep but you can try.

Older Kids – If your child can read the clock, tell them they need to go back to sleep until a time of your choosing. Our son is always awake early but stays in bed until 7.  Last night we told him to stay in bed until 8:30. I had no idea if he would go back to sleep or not but HE DID! He slept until 8:45.

Preschoolers and Toddlers – tell them they need to try to sleep until you come get them. Our middle child stayed in bed so they both slept 2 hours later than their normal wake up time. This doesn’t always work but if they are tired enough, it just might.

Baby – No plan will make the baby sleep longer, but you can do your best to set conditions conducive for sleep. Blackout curtains, noise machine and plenty of food/water before bed. Pray they sleep as long as possible and don’t wake the big kids up.

2. Get Out Of The House

Tired siblings seem to get on each other’s nerves and seem prone to boredom. If possible, plan a low-key activity to get out of the house. This morning we got up and went to the Minnesota Zoo using our zoo pass. I know, this might not sound relaxing, but for us it is. We’re there often so are comfortable leaving as soon as the kids seem tired or uninterested. Not up for the Zoo? Head to the park, a walk, the library or even just out to lunch or dinner.

3. REST Time

Older kids may not nap, but ALL kids can take a rest. All of the kids lay down and try to sleep – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Older kids can get up and play quietly in their rooms – Legos and cars for our son, a doll house and dress up clothes for our daughter. The baby sleeps and this mama takes some time to write.

Practice Gratitude

We may will experience cranky moments. When it happens, if possible, take time to recall the fun. Reflection promotes gratitude, and gratitude promotes an attitude change. Discuss the best parts of the day – fireworks, food or fun. Laugh about the funniest and weirdest things that happened.  Try asking the kids to journal about or draw their favorite memories from the day before. Then praise their creativity and listen to them tell you about it.

Plan A Quiet Evening

No matter how the next day goes, tiredness increases as the day goes on. Plan a low-key evening – an easy meal, movie, puzzle or reading a big stack of library books together can help keep calm until that glorious moment of bedtime.

Grace

When in doubt, remind yourself of how tired you are. Extend grace. Soft words, distraction and prayer will go a long way to overcoming the day-after-fun blues.

Early Bedtime

When the going gets rough, keep looking ahead to today’s early bedtime. Each of our children will hit their pillows at 7pm tonight. Set the time and stick to it!

 

When The Fun Is Over: Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues | thisgratefulmama.com

How does your family handle the day-after-fun blues? 

How I Became A Human Vending Machine

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.comOnce upon a time I began giving our kids snacks in the store – a welcome and needed diversion, providing extra time and distraction. And, a more pleasant shopping experience for all.

The goal of the store snack is time.

MORE time.

Now, I’m not saying my kids are unruly or unmanageable without snacks. Most of the time, they are great. I can count on one hand times our kids have melted in the store – with or without snacks. They know how to behave. But when it comes to kids, even with the best laid plans, melt-downs do sometimes happen so we need to be prepared to deal with them with grace and move on.

Every child, even the most pleasant child, has a time limit. That limit may vary but could be caused by boredom, hunger, fatigue or some unexpected issue. Whatever the looming threat may be, we’re always on the melt-down clock when running errands.

For us, snacks keep the peace while warding off the real and serious problem of the hangries.

Tick-tock.

At first, the kids slowly ate and talked while we shopped. It was really quite lovely. Foods that take time to chew are first on the list: carrot sticks, snap peas, apple slices, etc.

These bags of healthy goodness were a win-win – they ate without complaint, and stayed happy longer. Generally, appetites for lunch weren’t ruined, and if they were it was OK – they got the good stuff in first.

For a while – it was almost foolproof.

Gone were the days of running through the store at break-neck speeds tossing things in the cart to get in and out before the melt-down clock ran out.

Our pace was just right. Leisurely, even.

I seemed like a brilliant solution. And maybe it was

But the glory-days of snack shopping was limited to about one year. As the kids grew older, that shiny brilliance has faded.

It isn’t that snacks don’t work anymore. They do. But trips just aren’t leisurely anymore.

Snacks can be a slippery slope. If there’s one snack, why not another, and another?

We’re back on the clock – but now it’s the snack clock. Better get everything done before the snacks run out.

My now older children scarf down even the chewiest snack in 2.2 seconds. They don’t want to chat and eat, they just want the next snack. Fast. So they inhale them – I mean, do they even chew them? At dinner, the same foods would take FOR-EV-ER.

Bottomless pits, I tell you.

I delay the next snack by requiring that we find a garbage to get rid of our trash first. It’s kind of a game, but more so just a tool for getting a few minutes between snacks. You can find us easily, my kids are the ones shouting at the top of their lungs – mom, I see a garbage!

Hooray (note sarcasm)...now you can have more snacks.

It seems that the store snack solution has slowly made me into a real-life human vending machine. For the payment of quiet, happy children, I fork over snacks while I get my workout pushing a cart loaded with 3 children and all our stuff at record speed.

It’s a mad dash, but, generally still a pleasant one.

Now that the kids are older, snacks still include healthy veggies and fruit. To try and slow the bigger kids down, they get beef jerky, raisins, roasted chickpeas or sunflower seeds (no shell), and mini bagels. The chewier, the better.

As you may assume from that list, sometimes snacks become lunch. It isn’t ideal, but does work out well if you need to do a lot of errands in a row. 

Plus, returning home and immediately plopping them in their rooms for a rest still feels somewhat shiny and brilliant. Unloading groceries in peace is a gift.

Don’t tell my kids, but I may also keep a bag Dum-Dums in my purse for emergencies (ahem – when snacks run out). IF the kids were good the whole trip, they just might get one.

I’m not above bribing them.

But one could argue that giving kids snacks in the store is bribery – I prefer to use the word incentives. 

Although snacks no longer provide a luxurious shopping experience, they are still effective in making our errands happier on a regular basis – and for that I’m grateful.

The human vending machine – yep, that’s me. Or perhaps more like the genie from Aladdin – Poof, what do you need?

Either way, I’m OK with it.

How do YOU feel about snacks in the store? 

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.com

6 Strategies to Keep the Peace When Your Child is Ill

We all know those days…your normally well-behaved and easy-going child becomes an opinionated, cranky, and whiny little person. As the day goes on, symptoms of illness that were not at first obvious, present themselves and the sensitivity of your little one is magnified even further.

Pretty soon you, and your family are walking on eggshells around an emotionally unpredictable tiny child who doesn’t feel well.

In our house, it’s not the days the child feels the worst; those days, they want to snuggle up, sleep, read books and watch TV. The hardest days are the day the child falls ill, and the day they start to feel better. They have a spark of energy and desire to play, but are frustrated by feeling badly and are emotional and hyper-sensitive.

It is obvious they do NOT feel well, and as a result, they are no longer equipped to cope with simple frustrations.

Whether home all day with the children, or spending time with them after work, you need a strategy to smooth out the rough edges and keep the peace of your household.

6 Strategies to ‘Keep the Peace’ When a Child is Ill

1. Lower Your Voice

These days can also frustrate you, so intentionally lower your voice. Speak more softly than normal, and encourage siblings to do the same. Quiet words are more likely to be received calmly and are less likely to be mistaken as yelling by a sensitive child. As a general rule, the quieter my voice, the quieter the response from the child (sick or not).

2. Run Sibling Interference

When one doesn’t feel well, tension between siblings can run high. A sick child is more inclined to perceive normal interactions as ‘unfair’, and be less equipped to graciously deal with the occasional ‘butting of heads’ (figuratively and literally). Helping the well child understand the other child isn’t feeling well may diffuse a few arguments, but if too many, the well child may feel slighted.

Let them play nicely together as long as it lasts. When the peace has ended, efforts to keep each child occupied and perhaps in their own space can pay dividends. Try keeping the other sibling busy building their OWN Lego tower, if possible, try staggering their naps/rest time, or see if they will play nicely in their OWN rooms for a while. Some alone time may allow them to miss the other and play nicely for a while later in the day.

3. Get Creative with Restful Activities

Fill the day with quiet activities that require your child to SIT: play-dough, books, coloring, puzzles, blocks, and that indoor ‘fake’ sand. For most of these activities, each child can have their own space and activity. I can buckle the little one into a high-chair (which allows for easy sibling interference), and the one who doesn’t feel well stays busy in a way that promotes REST. A few other ideas include:

  • bath time with plenty of toys – make it extra special by putting on swim suits, playing music, and adding sunglasses for a ‘pool party’
  • build a fort (or let them play in their closet so you don’t have to keep rebuilding it, fill it with their bedding and pillows and give them a flashlight and some books
  • build a tape road on your carpet and supply the trucks
  • any type of sensory play at the table
  • making cards or craft presents for grandparents or daddy using water-color paint, glue and cut paper, pipe cleaners or whatever else you have on hand
  • setup a ‘zoo’ with all their stuffed animals and give them little people to come and visit
  • sit and play doctor, restaurant or other pretend prop activity
  • paint a steamy mirror in the bathroom-keeps them busy while loosening congestion
  • play a board game if they are old enough
  • practice numbers and letters and writing them at the table – even better, use flashcards or a magnetic drawing board and do it snuggled up on the couch

4. Lengthen rest-time (if possible)

Plan ahead! Make sure they’ve eaten if hungry, have some water and tissues nearby, and if necessary, have had a fresh dose of fever reducer or paint reliever a little while BEFORE the rest. Do what you can to help them rest. My son no longer naps, but I TRY to get him to sleep when he is sick. Usually, if I do some extra work, he will sleep (which as a bonus gives ME a needed break!).

If helping them sleep means you need to sit and read a few extra books, or rub their back to help them fall asleep, DO IT! The longer they rest, the quicker they feel better, and the quicker your family can stop walking on eggshells. If the other sibling wakes first, spend some dedicated time with them as they may be getting less attention than usual.

5. Give in to Technology

I generally try to keep the kids away from TV, but am willing to use it liberally when someone is sick. They see TV as a treat, so getting to wrap up in a blanket, snuggle up with mommy and watch Mighty Machines on Netflix is special and exciting. Try to sneak in snuggle time with each child so no one feels left out. As they feel better, reduce TV time accordingly so you don’t have a battle when they feel well.  Try giving them a turn using the tablet loaded with a new kids app, scroll through family pictures on the computer, or play their favorite CD and let music distract them for a bit.

6. Adjust Discipline

The whine – you can’t mistake the sick whine because they’re laying it on pretty thick. Usually, I respond to whiny voices by asking the child to say it again, nicely and I get a chipper, smiley response. It may be over-the-top FAKE happy, but it is un-whiny nonetheless. When the child is sick, my request to say it nicely is often met with tears, and a MORE whiny and insistent request (aka demand). If the child was healthy, I’d  reinforce that crying and whining to do not get us what we want. EVER. Except when you’re sick. A little whine isn’t going to do much more than hurt my ears and test my patience. The sick child gets a minor whiny-pass, with gentle reminders to try to use a ‘happy face’.

Actively course correct – In addition to giving a break on whining, readjusting discipline to focus more on course correction instead of punishment can help avoid meltdowns. This does not mean ignoring a major offense, but trying to head off a behavior before it needs to be addressed. This can be done by suggesting something else to do, distraction with music or simply by scooping them up in a hug. If you can break their train of thought, you can usually prevent a behavior that requires discipline. On a normal day, I let them figure out where their actions are leading, so they can learn cause-effect of behavior; but when one is sick, I simply try to keep the peace.

Switch methods – You know your child best. Avoid using discipline that you know will amplify their emotions. When my son is sick, I try very hard not to give him a time-out because he hates being alone when sick. A time-out that usually takes 2 minutes becomes an all-out meltdown, sometimes inducing worse behavior that then requires even further discipline. SO, if the offense is minor, I try to adjust how I discipline so we still address the issue, but do so without a time out. For example, if he is takes a toy from his sister, inducing tears, he needs to apologize, say he is sorry and kiss her on the head (avoid kisses if you think they are contagious). OR, I might have him make her a ‘present’ to say sorry by coloring a picture, which can interrupt activity so he doesn’t do the same thing right away. I will then tell him that if the behavior happens again, I will have to put away a toy for the day (his favorite digger or dump truck are the first to go). When sick, confiscating toys works better than time-outs, BUT when he is feeling WELL, taking a toy usually induces a tantrum, so we start with time-outs. Don’t be afraid to try something new if your standard discipline isn’t working.

6 strategies for keeping the peace

The good news about minor illnesses is they go away. A little extra effort from you, and you can help keep the peace so the illness doesn’t set your house into a perpetual whiny and tear-stricken place.  Good luck!