It occurred to me this morning that my procrastinating on Christmas shopping was going to get me into trouble. I'd been waiting for Hubby's help, or at least his babysitting skills, but he was going to be booked solid for the next five days, almost until Christmas Eve. Between his full-time job, our ailing pellet stove, (with which he has a date on Saturday to either fix it or demolish it) and the various musical events, he won't be around to help shop at all.
My heart sank as I realized I was going to have to face the crowds of strangers alone with three young children and make all the gift-giving decisions into the bargain. I'd been unwilling to face these facts until today; we just got done with the craziness of birthdays and I simply wasn't ready to tackle Christmas.
Today, though, I decided it was time to face the inevitable. I just needed to "get tough or die" as my mom so eloquently puts it. Time to just git 'er done and if I had to take the kids, then so be it. At least I could get a Starbucks along the way.
So after lunch we began the hunt for socks and coats and boots. I changed two diapers and fed the baby. I felt tired before we even got out the door, but I doggedly pushed on. We loaded and buckled and drove to the mall where mercifully we found one of the few remaining parking spaces available. Heading in, we looked for all the world like a circus train with kids here and there, a stroller/carseat combo, coats piled, boots clomping, purse and diaper bag dangling haphazardly or stuffed in corners, with me frantically digging through my purse to find the correct glasses so I could read the signs and price tags.
It was in the first store that Baby Bear began to fuss. Although he was fed, changed, burped and snuggly warm, he still began to wriggle and fuss, drawing dirty looks from passers-by who wondered why I was not picking up my poor, hungry, crying baby. So I picked him up. I knew I would not be able to carry him for an hour and a half, along with pushing the stroller full of coats and packages. My twisty spine would protest and I'd end up in bed with a heating pad for the rest of the day. So I ducked into the bathroom and put him on my back in the African Baby Cloth sling. With him on my back rather than my front, I can carry him with relatively little pain, but the African sling (What is it? picture of us here) is so unorthodox in the States, I drew stares, whispers, and dirty looks from the passers-by anyway. Baby Bear, unaware of the havoc he was causing, promptly went to sleep. He LOVES the African sling.
Curly, meanwhile, took the task of shopping and choosing gifts extremely seriously. She walked up and down the aisles ahead of me, suggesting things like a set of Hello Kitty dishes for Hubby's brother, who is graduating from high school this year. Yeah, Curly, Uncle E can use those dishes in the school cafeteria before football practice.
Wandering after us, Little Mister mostly wanted to hold my hand or told me his feet were tired. If he got more than two feet behind us, he would freak out and yell at the top of his voice, "Mommy, wait for me! Mommy! Wait! For! Me!" Since everyone was busy staring at us anyway (yes, I have a baby in a sling on my back, people. Get over it), I figured the fact that my son was being repeatedly abandoned was just one more point for the traveling circus. We saw some friends from church and he was absolutely enchanted with the idea that friends would be here, in a store at the mall of all unlikely places. He wanted to play hide-and-seek among the glassware and cooking utensils, an activity which mean ol' Mommy promptly put to a stop.
At one point, Curly needed to use the restroom. Because she is deathly afraid of the public toilets that auto-flush, I had to go with her (meaning Baby Bear, Little Mister and my purse and other junk had to go with her) to make sure the toilet was not going to flush unexpectedly and suck her down the drain. I assured her that it wouldn't and she went, much to my relief.
Gradually we collected more and more bags of goodies and the kids got tireder and more whiny. It was long past nap-time. At last, we had found something for everyone on the list and headed for the van, at which point Baby Bear awoke and declared his hunger to the world. I was a happy and exhausted mama when we finally herded everyone inside the houses and nap-time peacefulness descended. I have never understood the joy some women find in shopping, but I did enjoy a feeling of accomplishment somewhat akin to discovering that I am actually Superwoman and didn't know it. Only Superwoman, I am sure, never feels quite this tired.