That's the only phrase that comes to mind as I relive today's eventful shopping trip in my mind.
Tomorrow is Luke's birthday party. I needed to do some shopping today to pick up a few last minute items... okay, I'll be honest. I needed to pick up about 90% of the items for the party.
Although I've sworn off shopping with the kids until they are over the age of 27, I decided that they've been so good lately, that we could venture out to the wonderful world of Target. In truth, they haven't necessarily been so good. They've just been slightly less bad. That, I thought, was good enough for a quick excursion.
Have I mentioned that these little buggers know how to toy with my emotions? They made me SO proud, getting dressed like normal children this morning. Instead of the knock-down-drag-out fight that usually ensues the moment I say, "Let's put on some pants", each boy stood there and LIFTED HIS LEGS INTO HIS PANTS. Even shirts went on with no problem. Surely, this was a good sign.
It's like God was smiling down on me when we walked out to the car. A typical trip from the front door into the van generally consists of me quickly grabbing Joel as he tries to run across the lawn, then shoving Evan into his seat as he immediately tries to climb into the front. This time, they walked straight to the van, climbed up and into their seats. Even Luke, who usually screams bloody murder as I try to buckle him into the seat, was in perfect smiles, and giggled away as I buckled him. Aah, yes, shopping today was going to be a glorious experience. So glorious, in fact, that I decided to make a leisurely day of our outing. Lunch in the food court, then after shopping at Target we'd hit the dollar store and Michael's. I LOVE being a stay at home mom, enjoying sunshine and beautiful children!
It was all a lie.
I'll say that now.
We arrived at Target and found the "two-seater" cart (which isn't terribly helpful when you need three seats.) The twins were excited to get into the giant orange buggy that attaches to the cart. The seatbelts are always broken on this thing, and if you've ever tried to push it you realize it's like trying to steer an ocean liner through iceberg-laden waters. Nevertheless, the day was going to be great, so I happily let my sweet angels climb into the seats and haphazardly attached the broken seatbelts. "So we can be safe", I reminded them, using my best Dora impersonation.
Not that I had any other choice in cart, but I quickly realized the problem with this dumb buggy-cart system. The orange buggy allows two children to sit down behind the cart; however, the typical seating area no longer has leg holes or a seatbelt. Which means that, in order for Luke to ride in the cart, he has to sit cross-legged and balance the entire ride. I whined for a moment (intentionally loudly enough so that the nearest employees could hear my frustration) then we went on our merry way.
Shopping was going well; then the words I dread, "Pee, Pee!" came from one boy, then the other. Sighing, I led them all the way to the front of the store and parked the cart outside the bathroom door. I reminded the twins that we need to go straight into the bathroom, let me loose, and picked up Luke to carry him inside. They followed.
"Who needs to go pee?"
"Meee!" both boys exclaimed. We squished into stall, and I pulled down Evan's pants, and lifted him onto the potty, while Luke dangled precariously from my right arm.
"Ga ga!" All done, in Evan language. Problem is, he didn't go. I pulled him off the toilet in time for Joel to announce that he, too, was "ga ga." Apparently this was all just a ploy to get to flush the toilet. Darn geniuses.
We headed out of the bathroom, and I set Luke back in his seat. In that brief two seconds, the twins took off. Like bolts of lightning streaking across the sky, the two-year-old speed demons raced away.
Of course my shopping cart would be facing the opposite direction. As they raced past electronics and headed toward the stationary department, I struggled to turn my ocean liner of a cart without knocking Luke over. Five minutes later (at least it felt that way), I was up the aisles, racing after them as fast as I could move that stupid cart. (Racing is used very loosely here. Old ladies with walkers could have easily outpaced us.)
I caught up with them, sort of, near housewares. (Caught up is used loosely here. Briefly appeared in my view is more appropriate.) The orange boat, Luke, and I slowly followed the endless laughter and occasional glimpses of demon spawn that would cross our paths every now and then. They took us along the length of the back of the store. I prayed that one of them would fall down and get "kind of" hurt. Not any hurt that would cause permanent physical damage, just the kind that would traumatize them enough to never leave my side again. (As a side note, I was one of the runners as a kid, too. That is, until I got hit by a car. I was lucky to have lived; but my mom said, from then on, I stayed by her side wherever we went. I certainly don't want my boys hit by a car, but I think a bit of the mental trauma might do my boys some good.)
As we passed frozen goods and headed for produce, I was able to somehow close the gap between us. They knew I was closing in, and apparently had already hatched a plan of action.
They split up.
Evan took off into the twisted aisles of produce (why MUST they put those aisles on an angle?) Joel swiftly took off to the back of the store. I stood in the middle, completely dumbfounded, shocked that my two-year-olds just completely tagged team against me.
I stared at Luke helplessly for a moment. I briefly contemplated just leaving the store with him, starting fresh with the youngest of my brood. Only children enjoy getting all the attention, right?
Coming to my senses, I decided it'd be smarter to chase the child nearest the doors leading outside, so I went after Evan. Joel was probably somewhere in housewares. Ceramic dishes, shiny breakable mirrors... good luck to you.
A kindly 70-something woman took pity on me and abandoned her wheelchair-bound husband to help the cause. (Okay, so maybe he wasn't in a wheelchair. I know she did leave him to help with the chase, though.)
We eventually corralled Evan and I was able to grab him by the collar and toss him into the cart.
All the meanwhile, Luke had decided he'd had enough of this "sitting" thing and was using every moment I turned away to stand in his seat. At this point, I've got my wise helper (I wouldn't dare call her "old") running toward the back of the store, I'm again trying to turn the boat around so I can move up the aisle, all while holding onto Luke with one hand to keep him from learning the consequences of standing in his seat.
As the woman ran across the back of the store, I desperately tried to shove my way across a side aisle. An employee shouted at me that my son had been caught and I could find him in the Fitting Room area. I yelled thank you and made my way to the center of the store. There was Joel, surrounded by three employees, who clearly had to put up a fight to keep him there. I heard "The mom is here" across the radio, and they quickly passed him over to me.
Livid, I grabbed Joel and put him into the back of the shopping cart, telling him how mad I was and this was not a fun game. His response was to throw a flower pot out of the cart. It shattered on the floor. I picked him up and put him back in the buggy, cursing the broken seatbelt.
A woman came up and asked if I'd like help. I turned to look at her and said, "No, thank you. We're good now..."
Only to see Joel hop off the seat and take off down the center aisle.
In a panic, I ran after him, yelling at her "Watch my kids, please!"
How did these kids get to be so fast?
How is it that Joel could be in my sight one second, and have completely vanished the next?
As I ran through jewelry and makeup, I asked employees and bystanders if anyone had seen a two-year-old whiz by. No one had, but the sixteen-year-old makeup expert suggested I go to the service desk and have him paged.
I had to stop myself from smacking her on the head. "He's two," I calmly stated. "He wouldn't know how to respond to an overhead page."
Now is when I actually started to panic. I had NO IDEA where this kid was, and my other two were left in the care of a total stranger (even across the store, I could hear Luke's screaming fit over someone other than Mommy holding him.)
Standing in the middle of the front of the store, a cashier saw me and told me that he headed to electronics.
I turned and ran that direction. Ahead of me, I could see a group of four employees, crouched down low, looking as if they were attempting to corner some rabid animal into a cage.
I approached the circle, just in time to see Joel make his quick escape. Luckily, he unknowingly headed right toward me, and the chase finally came to an end.
We made our way back to the center of the store to the kindly babysitter. She had a glassy look in her eyes, and kept repeating the mantra, "They're fine. They're okay." over and over. One therapy session and she should recover.
(The good news is, I never, ever worry that someone is going to want to kidnap my children.)
I quickly thanked her and headed toward the exit. I had to transfer the boys into another cart, as I couldn't very well leave the store with all the items in the cart (and there was NO WAY I was going to bother trying to checkout at this point.)
As I transferred carts, Joel threw a fit because he wanted to sit in the orange buggy.
Of course you do, kid. Of course you do.