Brooke* struggled to open her eyes. She was hearing that noise again, interrupting her sleep. What was it? Ah yes, the baby. She had a baby. Time to nurse the little darling again.
"Just a moment love," she whispered as she rolled over to feed baby Nora.
The night had been too short, but such is life with a 4 week old baby. Today was the day Brooke had targeted for the first major outing alone with her three children. She felt her stomach heave in anticipation. Could she really do it???
While pondering her goal for the day (making it to Costco and back without losing any children) she heard sleep-heavy footsteps approaching the bedroom.
"Mommy, I want juice!" Ezra demanded.
"You'll have to wait just a minute, Ezra" she replied.
"No, I need juice so that I can play with your hair, please...Now!"
Ezra was not the happiest of morning children until his blood sugar was raised.
"Here we go, ready or not!" Brooke thought.
And so began another day in the life of an average mom. After feeding the baby, making breakfast for the kids, feeding the baby, doing the dishes, feeding the baby, bathing the kids, showering herself, feeding the baby, dressing the kids (the baby fell asleep--oh joy!) and packing up the car, they were ready for the final frontier: Costco!
Chapter 2--The Drive
"Coats on and hop into the van, kids!" Brooke yelled. "Hurry, I don't want to put Nora into her car seat until the very last second. I'm not going to listen to one more minute of crying than I have to."
The kids scrambled into seats and got buckled. Brooke wrestled Nora into her infant carrier and the sound track of the trip began. She backed the van slowly through the mud and out onto the street.
"Let's see, I have the (long) list, the coupons, my wallet, diapers, wipes, water for all of us, front pack for the baby, 3 kids..." she turned to do a head count as she thought through her mental list, "yep, all 3 kids. Now, for my brain. Haven't seen that in several weeks. Guess we can manage without it!"
"Mommy?" Ezra called from the back seat.
"How do front loaders work?"
"What?" Brooke asked, "You'll have to talk louder, I can't hear you over Nora."
"I said, how do front loaders work?" Ezra repeated a little louder.
"Oh, um, well, they have an engine and then a man or woman sits in the cab and operates them."
"How?" he asked
"Um, by using levers." Brooke replied.
"Uh, because that's how God designed it." she said.
"Did God make the front loaders, mommy?" Ezra asked.
"Well, he made the men that make the front loaders, so I suppose so."
"Mommy?" Caroline joined in.
"Mommy?" she repeated.
"I said, 'what', Caroline," Brooke said a little louder.
"Oh, can I have some gum?" she asked.
"Me too!" Ezra yelled from the back.
"Sure," Brooke replied as she finagled two sticks of gum from the pack on the console, handing one back to Caroline and throwing another carefully to the third row where Ezra sat.
"Mom?" Ezra asked.
"How do you make Nora stop crying?"
"Ha! I wish I knew. She's a baby sweetie, and that's what they do. Someday she'll stop crying and start talking the whole way to the store...like someone else I know." Brooke mumbled.
Chapter 3--The Parking Lot
Brooke maneuvered the van into the Costco parking lot and found a great spot close to the building. There are several advantages to living in a small town surrounded by other small towns--a non-busy Costco being one of the highest of those advantages.
"Okay Ezra and Caroline, I have to feed and change Nora before we can go in, so why don't the two of you look at books in the back for a while," she instructed her children.
"Yes, mommy," they chorused.
She took a screaming Nora out of the infant carrier and heaved her into the driver seat to nurse. Her mind elsewhere, she didn't notice all the thumping in the back seat until the crying began.
"Hey!" she called, looking into the rear view mirror, "what's going on back there, and where is Caroline?"
"She's stuck in the trunk," Ezra called back with glee.
"Are you supposed to climb over the seats?"
"Then why...never mind, this conversation will go no where. Okay, Caroline you'll just have to stay back there until I'm done with Nora and I can get you out."
Brooke heard a lot more thumping and eventually Caroline's head appeared, followed by her body in the rear view mirror.
"Phew," Brooke thought, "I didn't really want to hear more crying."
She sniffed the air. She sniffed again. "Okay, are you stinky, Caroline?"
"No." Caroline giggled.
"Tell me the truth," Brooke said in a stern voice.
"Yes, I am stinky," Caroline giggled.
"Oh good. Well, let me change Nora and then I'll change you," she replied.
Brooke finished up with the baby, managing to get a clean diaper on her without getting any extra decoration squirted on herself while the soiled diaper was off. Then she climbed awkwardly over into the back seat to change Caroline.
"Ezra, you'll have to hold the baby in the backseat for mommy, okay?" she instructed her 4 year old son.
"Okay, mommy" he said.
"DO NOT let go of her, even if she cries!" she told Ezra.
Five minutes later she finished up with the much smellier diaper of 2 1/2 year old Caroline. She carefully put Nora (who was crying again) into the front pack, found a cart someone had left in the parking lot, loaded both kids into the double seat (thank the Lord for huge Costco carts), added the diaper bag and sippie cups for both kids and double checked to make sure she had her items to return and her Costco card in hand. Then, jiggling as she walked to appease the baby, she headed with confident steps toward the door.
Chapter 4--The Act of Shopping
Once inside she headed for the return desk. The ladies working there were quite friendly, admiring the baby and both children, telling Brooke she looked nice (she knew better, although she had fit into jeans with a zipper that day for the first time) and chatting for a while. The one thing they could not do, was give her her money back. Brooke waited as patiently as possible for the 15 minutes it took for a manager to appear and turn his key in the cash register, magically returning the $5 to her credit card.
Finally, the 4 of them set off to shop. Brooke felt like a sideshow, at best. Everyone wanted to comment on the new baby.
"Do I always look at newborns in the store like that?" Brooke wondered, "Should I make eye-contact with them, or not? If I stop to talk to each person who wants to know how old she is, we'll never get out of here."
About that time, she looked over and saw her sister-in-law with her three children entering the produce department.
"I just tried calling you," Heather called over, "the kids were hoping we'd run into each other so that we could shop together."
"Oh good," Brooke said back, "now they can entertain each other." She lifted both kids out of the cart so that they could walk around with their cousins.
Brooke and Heather spent the rest of the shopping trip trading off taking the kids down separate aisles. Thankfully, being together was having a calming affect on the four older cousins, rather than the opposite. And about 20 minutes into it, Nora even stopped crying and went to sleep.
"Darn coupon items get all moved around where they aren't supposed to be," Brooke thought as she tried to check all the items off of her never-ending list. The cart was slowly filling to capacity. "Good thing the kids got out of the cart, I'd never have enough room with them in here!"
Finally, after zig-zagging back and forth and back again to find the diapers (which were moved around because they were a coupon item), the list was completed. Good thing too, because Brooke could not even see over the top of the cart to steer and one of the diaper boxes kept falling off and having to be stacked back on top of the pile. They headed for the check out line. Another blessing of a small-town Costco--no lines at the check out!
"Mommy, could we go through the self-check-out line this time?" Ezra asked, as he always did.
"Not today, Ezra, mommy can't lift all those items across the scanner with Nora in the front pack."
"Ahhh, okay, mommy," Ezra said.
Heather and her children were in the line next to them and the kids played for a few last moments. After paying the huge bill (Brooke hadn't been shopping since Nora was born) she and the kids headed for the food court while Heather and her family left. The first major hurdles had been crossed. Now, to finish off the outing!
Chapter 5--Eating at the Food Court
They ordered their favorite Costco food, a turkey wrap and a couple of cinnamon churros, and headed for a table. The food court eating area was mostly filled with older couples and more average moms out with their children. Brooke still felt like a side-show with everyone looking at Nora and asking how old she was. They gave thanks and started eating.
"Ezra and Caroline, mommy would like to say 'thank you' to you for how you are behaving. We couldn't have made it through the store without good behavior! Now let's finish our food and get out of here." Brooke said to the children.
"Oh! Could I borrow that?" and older lady said, staring down at Nora.
"Uh, you mean, take her home with you?" Brooke asked.
"Oh yes, her!" the older woman laughed as Nora began to cry.
"You'd probably bring her back in a few minutes for a feeding," Brooke replied.
"Okay then, she's awfully cute," said the woman and walked over to the counter to get a napkin.
Brooke took Nora out of the pack and got out her "Utter Cover for Nursing Mothers" she had invested in this baby-go-round. Just then, the woman appeared on the other side of her again.
"May I hold her?" she asked.
"Hokey Dinah! Did she really just ask to hold my baby. A total stranger in the middle of the Costco food court? She's very nice and I feel very awkward. If I let her, I'm a terrible mom. If I don't, I sure look mean. I have every right to say 'no'. Augh! What do I do? All the other older couples are watching. My kids are watching. Oh my word, what do I do??? "
"Here," Brooke said, handing the woman a bottle of hand sanitizer from her diaper bag, "please put this on first."
"Well, she can't run away with her, because I think I can walk faster than she can run. So, here goes," she thought again.
"Ohhhh, she's wonderful and tiny," the lady said in pure happiness. She held her for just a few moments and then handed her right back to be fed.
"You are gorgeous, she's gorgeous, they are all gorgeous!" the woman said, "and now I'd better be going before my husband comes and kicks my 'you-know-what'. Thank you!"
"Oh, you're welcome, good bye" Brooke said, holding Nora again with some relief. She ducked the baby under the cover and began to feed her. The kids kept eating and thankfully didn't ask too many questions about why their mother let a stranger hold the baby.
"Excuse me?" another older lady asked.
"Yes?" Brooke replied tentatively.
"My husband was wondering if you would like some help out to your car and loading up, you look like you could use it" said the woman.
"Oh thank you!" Brooke said, knowing that they would be sitting at the table eating for another half an hour, at least, "but I think that my two little helpers here will be able to get the job done along with me. You are quite kind to ask, though. Thank you!"
"All right, if you're sure," the woman said as she turned to go, "Good bye."
After another 30+ minutes of eating and nursing the baby, they were finally ready to pack up and head for the car.
"Uh, ma'am, is this yours?" an older man sitting behind Brooke held out a yellow pacifier.
"Oh yes, I believe that is" she said, taking the pacifier.
"Yeah, mine's pink," he said, handing it to her.
"Ha, we wouldn't want to get those mixed up!" Brooke laughed.
"No, we wouldn't," he said, "have a nice day!"
She loaded Nora back into the front pack, wrapped up Ezra's churro for later, at his request, and slowly maneuvered the cart toward the front door.
"Do you want some help out?" the ladies from the membership desk called over.
"Oh, no thanks," Brooke replied. The weather was nice and she was counting on her two helpers to pull her through.
She handed her receipt to the woman at the door.
"You've been here a very long time!" the woman said.
"Yes, we sure have," Brooke sighed, taking her receipt back.
Chapter Six--Loading Up
Finally back out at the van, Brooke told the kids to get in while she attempted to load up all the goods. This task was a lot easier back when the third row was folded down. Today it took a little creativity. Especially with a baby hanging off the front of her. She finally finished and looked in to check on Ezra and Caroline. Brooke sniffed. She sniffed again.
"Caroline! Come get in your car seat."
"I can't, mommy, I'm stinky again."
She changed the diaper and thought briefly about leaving the diaper on the ground. No, better not. She thought briefly about walking it over the garbage can by the entrance door. No, too tired. She opted to leave it in the van until they got home. Yuck.
*The names have not been changed because there are no innocent.
**The rest of the story disappeared, sorry. Also, if you made it through the whole thing--good for you. This is severely unedited--sorry for that as well : )