Lost in the Supermarket

I briefly referred to this on Saturday, that my grocery shopping trip to the new Market District in Robinson Township was an utter disaster. This is partially my fault and partially the store’s fault.

What I Did Wrong

• Went shopping on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, that’s when I have time to shop.
• Went shopping with two children. Unfortunately, that’s with whom I have to shop. And the girls were, for the most part, well behaved. Not perfect, and far from holy terrors. (Kate, as per, was quite… er, restless, let’s just say.)
• Used the of the mini-van of shopping carts. Flora wanted to stay with Kate and me, not go into the Learning and Activity Center. I would have insisted she go in there if I had known then what I know now. Shopping with two children necessitates the use of large, unwieldy carts.
• Went shopping at a new, unfamiliar, HUGE store in less-than-optimal conditions. (See above.)

I am completely willing to accept my portion of “blame” for the worst grocery shopping experience of my life (excepting the time I vomited in the South Side Giant Eagle; I was 13-weeks pregnant with Flora and morning sickness won that day, all over aisle 5).

What the Market District Gets Wrong

I am certain that the new Market District is a very nice store — unless you actually have to get some shopping done. Then, the vast selection of products and the numerous specialty sections dotted throughout the store, combined with the sheer size of the store and the Saturday morning crowd are utterly overwhelming. I had a list of about a dozen items that it took me three hours to get. THREE HOURS. Unacceptable.

The prepared food section is a hot mess. Not in a good way. People mill about; there are no lines and no customer flow; ordering food is a free-for-all; and paying for food is a guessing game. The seating area — for a mom with a mini-van sized shopping cart, two children, and a tray of hot food — was nearly inaccessible. Note to whoever stuck that elevator in: IT IS NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR PEOPLE USING SHOPPING CARTS, even normal-sized ones. My children and I barely fit in there alone with the cart, and there was no way any combination of more than one normal-sized cart and any number of people (or strollers or wheelchairs, etc.) fit in there. BAD PLANNING. Thank goodness for helpful patrons — note: not employees, to whom it appeared I was invisible. This portion of my shopping trip 1) almost made me break down in tears and 2) almost made me abandon the effort of shopping at the store all-together.

If you provide mini-van-sized shopping carts for parents who choose not to use the Learning and Activity Center (no “Eagle’s Nest” here!), you should provide wide enough aisles for said shopping carts. Please and Thank You. There were certain areas of the store where I was sure I was going to get stuck and/or knock over whole displays. They were also the areas I didn’t mean to wander into, but I was unfamiliar with the layout, and by hour two I was completely disorientated.

It’s nice to be able to pick up a six-pack of beer (and a being able to pick up a bottle of wine will be even better), but it’s way too expensive. And the location of the beer purchasing area makes this just about not worth it.

It may seem that putting organics with all the other products — mainstreaming them, as it were — is a good, intuitive idea. It’s not. It just makes them that much harder to find. And I never did locate organic butter.

I like and support the idea of sampling stations. Unfortunately this Saturday morning with the crowd and my massive cart (have I talked enough about that yet?) they just added to the congestion and made everything take longer.

What They Get Right

The deli area is the picture of efficiency. No lie.
The coffee area (right near the deli) is loverly, and the free sample sure came in handy.
The bulk foods area. Although there should be more than one scale — and since there’s only one scale, it better freaking work every time.
Providing a map. In the end, it didn’t help me much, but it’s a great idea. And I’m sure it will help me IF I ever shop there again, and it probably did help others on Saturday.

Finally, to the other people shopping at the Market District on Saturday:

An “excuse me” goes a long, long way. Huffing at me, elbowing me, crashing your cart into mine, and/or rolling your eyes at me? Gets you NOTHING. I know the “excuse me” thing, combined with a smile, worked wonders for me, my giant-ass shopping cart, and my children. I had to use it several times, and I got a lot of “that’s okay”, “I’ve been there” and nice smiles in response. So next time, if it seems I don’t know you’re there, simply say, “Excuse me.” I will maneuver out of your way, and I will smile at you as I do it.

Options for me in the future should I decide to return to Market District:

Shop at a different time and/or day.
Shop with my husband as well as my children.
Shop without my children in tow (will necessitate employment of a babysitter).
Wait until Kate turns 3 (in January) so I can stow both girls at the Learning and Activity Center.
Forgo the prepared foods section all together OR only visit the grocery store to have lunch.

Incidentally, I heard from other (child-free) people who declared their experience at Market District pretty terrible on Saturday as well.

What should they do differently? What else do they get right? Or wrong? What else could I have done? Should I give the store another trial run, or just wait until the girls are older (college graduates or married with their own kids?)?

Success! (Or Four Down)

The birthday party at the Children’s Museum was a complete success. No muss, no fuss, and all the kids had fun. Plus, the museum was nearly empty because it was Steelers’ game day (boo).

This is what they looked like in their pretty dresses.

Pap-pap, Tadone, and the Girls. And, yes, if it looks as if Kate is being physically restrained, rest assured, she is being physically restrained. She was crazy on Sunday. Thank goodness there were so few people were in the Children’s Museum. I could pretty much let her run.

The Party Girl.

My Wild Child. With Lobster.

Fun with Water.

Look What I Did!



Pet Shops!

All-in-all, a Very Successful Day.

Two Down

My trip this morning to the new Giant Eagle Market District was absolutely the worst grocery shopping experience of my entire life. The store is not entirely culpable, but there are definitely areas for improvement. I can’t detail everything right now because I have about 13,000 hours of cleaning to do in the next two hours.

On the other hand, Dan and I had a good time at the Brewfest Friday night. We steered away from breweries with which we were familiar, and concentrated on beers we hadn’t tried. Dan mostly stuck with IPAs, his preferred flavor of beer; I tried a number of different styles.

Our number one choice was Ithaca Beer Company’s Flower Power (which in addition to being explosively, hoppily bitter and wonderful, is fun to say in a yinzer accent). A close second for me was Boulder Beer Company’s Hazed & Infused. We both liked Blue Moon Brewing Company’s seasonal offering, Full Moon, as well.

Another highlight was chatting with the Three Rivers Underground Brewers. I know one of these guys from college (and I’ve recently reconnected with his wife through Burgh Moms). Their beers were good, with the Slutty Redhead being the best. Also, if John teaches Dan to make good mead, he will be my husband’s new hero.

It easily would have been worth the price of admission, but as I won the tickets, the experience was even better. I will make a point of going to some rugby games next season so I’ll have more of a reason to attend this event again. We saw several Tweeps (that would be Twitter peeps, or people I know from Twitter), and if I weren’t afraid of leaving someone out, I would list them. Suffice to say, it was fun to chat with people IRL — as much fun as ‘twittering’ with them is.

Straight Talk

While October was my month to read scary books (and that was FUN), November seems to be shaping up to be the month of non-fiction. I didn’t plan it that way (really, if I were going to plan something for November, it would be Food Books), but I do have a lot of non-fiction on my bedside table, so to speak.

I just started Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and hoo boy, am I going to have stuff to say about that.

In the meantime, though, I finished a book recently titled The Curse of the Good Girl, by Rachel Simmons. I picked it up on impulse at the library because, der, I’m the mom of two girls.

If you don’t know, Rachel Simmons wrote Odd Girl Out a few years back detailing the “hidden” aggression in girls’ behavior. I believe some of her research has lead to terms like “Mean Girls” and/or “Queen Bees”. I would have to check further into that.

But, if you’re like me, just think the movie Heathers, and you’ll pretty much get the gist.

I am happy to have daughters. Let me say that right up front. They delight and amaze me. I never wistfully wish for one of them to be a boy. I honestly don’t care. (My desire for a baby boy has nothing to do with raising only girls to this point.)

But the world of the teen girl is not something I am looking forward to navigating with my daughters. What I did not know was that some of this girl socialization (for good and ill) starts so dang early.

Flora has already come home complaining about so-and-so not wanting to be her friend. She told me about a day where everyone at her school called her stupid. This incident was later traced to one girl.

She’s 5.

My daughters say things to each other like, “I’m not your friend anymore” and “You’re mean”.

I don’t like it. Further, I am not going to accept it. But I need to find the language, the navigation skills, to nip it effectively in the bud. Without turning either of my daughters into doormats. Obviously.

So, The Curse of the Good Girl. At first I rolled my eyes reading it, I admit (how very… girl-y). The book talks about how the desire to be a Good Girl undermines our daughters in the Real World (Simmons’ capital letters). The Good Girl wants everyone to like her; she will do anything, including denying her own emotions, ideas, and values, to maintain relationships. She silences her voice and she doesn’t take risks, afraid of what people will think of her or that she will disappoint people. And by people, Simmons doesn’t just mean peers; she includes parents, teachers, coaches, and later in life, managers, employees, bosses, etc.

In short, the desire to be liked and to have ideal relationships with everyone overrides our girls’ decisions on how to behave and feel.

But as I continued to read, I saw the importance of what Simmons was saying. I even caught glimpses of myself both as a Good Girl and as a Real Girl — even now, as a working woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a friend — even as a “mommy” blogger in a community of other “mommy” [and other types of] bloggers. In general, I am not a Good Girl — I am not afraid to express my ideas or opinions (just ask Dan!), although I do still fall into Good Girl traps occasionally (again, ask Dan). For the most part, I don’t care what people think of me. I strive to be tactful (and I fail, often), but I’m going to say what’s on my mind. I promise to use I Statements.

Looking back to my pre-teen and teen years, I can see instances where the desire to be a Good Girl kept me quiet. But those instances are few and far between. And mostly took place at home, not with my friends or at school. It was most difficult for me to express my emotions with my parents. I was labeled a drama queen at home.

The irony is not lost on me.

I have to find a different way to let Flora express herself while also guiding her in appropriate and constructive ways to express her emotions. And I have to start now.

Last night, for the first time, I tried something. When I heard Flora say to Kate, “Kate, you’re mean,” I interrupted. “No. We are not going to talk like that.” Flora looked a little surprised. I continued, “If you are upset with Kate, you say, ‘Kate, it upset me when you took the marker out of my hand.’ You don’t just call her mean.”

Another example is: I’m sorry. Flora starts with the “I’m sorry”s as soon as she senses she has done something wrong. If I continue to scold her, she exclaims, “But I said I’m sorry!” I have to explain to her that “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean that the thing for which she is apologizing didn’t happen. “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean that she didn’t make a mistake. She needs to recognize and express true remorse, not just cover her tracks.

I know that my daughters are young for this — I’m going to hear a lot more “you’re mean”s and “I’m not your friend”s and empty “I’m sorry”s. But if I give my girls the tools now, maybe by the time they really need them, they will be second nature.

I can hope, anyway. And I have to lead by example. Wish me luck. Tell me how you are doing it with your girls or boys. And I am open to further reading suggestions, too, regarding raising girls and/or confident children in general.

Against the Grain

With it being November, there are a lot of people writing novels and/or on their blogs every day.

Me? I’m starting to skip days like crazy.

This week has been especially trying. It’s lasted forever. And although I have things to say, I have too much to do to say them! I cannot believe that it’s not yet (as of this writing) Friday already.

And due to what’s on my docket for the weekend, I know it’s going to be gone in a BLINK.

Friday night: Brewfest, for which I won free tickets.
Saturday morning: Grocery shopping. At the new Giant Eagle Market District. Even though I’m sure it will be crazy. (Note to self: Make a shopping list. Don’t sell one of the kids to pay for groceries.)
Saturday afternoon: Cleaning house? At least some of it. Like, oh, the bathroom. (Note to self: Put “new shower liner” on shopping list.)
Saturday evening: Parents showing up for sleepover (as Flora calls it). Dinner. Entertainment.
Sunday: Church? Church. Pick up cake and ice cream. Drive to Children’s Museum for birthday party. Don’t forget to leave early to account for game-day traffic. Get home by half-time, and watch rest of game. Take MIL out to dinner for her birthday.
Monday: You’re back at work already??

Yeah, so. That blurred woman you see running by you this weekend? That’s probably me.

Five, in Words

Flora, I have been grappling for weeks with this letter to you on this, the occasion of your fifth birthday.

To which you would respond, “What does grabpling mean?”

And that sums up you, at 5.

This promises to be an extraordinary year for you. I know that they say that 7 is the ‘age of reason’. But it is only the age of reason, I suspect, because 5 is the age of ‘figuring stuff out.’ (I further suspect that 6 is more of 5, with actual reading.)

Part of my grappling of course is for ME, for having to wrap my head around the fact that five years have passed since you came, eyes wide open, into this world.

The other part of my grappling has to do with YOU. You’ve gone from that little loaf of bread (6 pounds, 2 ounces) to a lanky, chatty girl, curious about just about anything in front of your face.

You, like, have opinions. Maybe not fully formed ones, maybe not about religion or politics (although you have declared that church is boring). You have clearly stated wants, from your favorite meal to your desire to help me make said meal to the clear wish of what we should do after the meal (which usually consists of having a treat and then drawing).

You draw cats and chihuahua dogs (really tall ones) and people and rainbows. You write words now. I’ve recently watched you write, entirely on your own, “cat”, “love Flora”, and “No Kate”. (We should probably talk about that last one.)

We have conversations, often inadvertently funny ones. You tell me stories that make sense. You remember stuff I tell you (unless it’s to finish cleaning up the room). You ask questions, many of which, if I do not want to resort to a) making things up or b) admitting I don’t know, we have to Google so that I can answer them.

You know how to use the computer to play games (usually Curious George). You know a lot, like that red and blue make purple, and 1 + 1 = 2, and that clouds are rain before it’s raining, and that today is your birthday.

You’re sweet and helpful a lot of the time. (Sometimes you still are, decidedly, not.) You are, most of the time, a good big sister.

I’m tearing up as I write this, of course, because I never expected to be here, to have a daughter such as you, you beautiful, brilliant little person. Because I never expected to be so blessed and so lucky. So loved.

I love you, Flora-bean. Happy birthday.


The Mouse is in the House

(Actually, he’s in the car.)

Recently, I discovered Radio Disney.

Before you judge, understand something: I don’t enjoy Radio Disney. I stumbled across it on the AM radio dial during a pledge drive on my usual station of choice (WDUQ, of which I am a supporter. At the lowest level possible, but still).

The CD player in my car is trashed. We don’t (yet) own an iPod. The portable CD player we used on our Cape Cod trip has bitten the dust.

I’m out of options.

I have two daughters who love music. When I pick them up from daycare, they clamor from the back seat: “Song! Song!” They even request certain songs: “Kids song, Mommy.” “Do you have the Broken Song in this car?” (Me: “No.”)

Switching between radio stations in Pittsburgh is untenable. Slow songs are unacceptable to my girls; I can’t handle classic rock or Mark Madden. Bob FM sometimes gets our votes.

Radio Disney is the default.

Now, I also want you to know this: I assume that all female artists on Radio Disney are Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and that all male artists are The Jonas Brothers.

And if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

The clear advantage of Radio Disney is that I don’t have to edit for content. Yes, “Party in the USA” may be stuck in my head (at least until the Imagination Movers theme song is), but I’m not going to have to explain what a disco stick is.

Get me?

Rest for the Weary

Saturday night, I got home with the girls from a very busy day. We all got into our pajamas and settled in for the night.

It was barely 6 p.m. We popped some popcorn and watched T.V.

I finally threw in the towel at 10 p.m. Dan was out having a beer with a buddy, so it wasn’t like I had anything to wait up for. I think I was asleep before 10:15.

I woke up Sunday at 6:30 a.m.

I haven’t slept that well in a long time. I didn’t even know I needed to sleep that well.

We had a pretty low-key weekend — obviously. Sunday was spent putzing around the house and yard. What great weather. Sundays without the Steelers seem so formless, but Dan and I got a lot done in terms of cleaning.

We’ve plennn-ty more to do, however.

Random Thoughts: Brief and Bad

I don’t really have much good news.

I’m at trouble at work because of how much time I have been home with sick children. And you know what? I think I did the right thing staying home with them. So that’s that.

Flora woke up SCREAMING at 11:30 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. with ear pain. Dan’s taking her back to the doctor this afternoon.

Guess those antibiotics aren’t working.

I had ear infections as a child, and I remember how very much they hurt. As hard as it was to be empathetic at 2 a.m., I think Dan and I did okay with Flora. We were a little crankier — all right, a lot — with each other. Really have to work on that.


Oh, wait, I do have good news. The plague of insects that has descended on the house in the past few months has been stemmed. Thank goodness for cold weather.

I still see the occasional G-D FRUIT FLY buzzing around the kitchen. I make it my priority to track it through the air and squash the life out of it. We’ve a few Asian lady beetle carcasses laying around, too. It’s amazing that some of those seemingly dead bugs will rediscover their will to live (and their tiny little feet) and crawl out of the pile of crumbs I have swept up.

They aren’t very fast. They get dumped with everything else.


I have a lot of baking to do in the next 10 to 14 days. This is bad news if you are on the receiving end as I’m not much of a baker. But Flora needs cookies for her class (she’s going to be 5 years old in less than a week) and I am attending the infamous Cookie Swap with Burgh moms on Nov. 14. I have a couple of pretty easy recipes on tap; the trick will be how I deal with the kids while baking.

If I suit them both up in hazmat uniforms, I guess I can let them help.


Our new back door won’t go in because of wood rot and other problems. Do we just do something half-assed for now (and not use the back door) or do we spend thousands of dollars to do the job right and make the payments? FUDGE.


Updated to add: Flora has infections in both ears, a temp of 102, a new, stronger Rx, and she threw up in the doctor’s office. This day is just going swimmingly!