But I have a bone to pick with them. It has to do with what my daughter Lael calls “Balloo!”
You see, Trader Joe’s gives out brightly-colored, helium-filled balloons: red, white, pink, purple, green and blue. And Lael demands them the moment we arrive at the store. Insistently. Loudly. Very, very loudly.
Let me relate our most recent experience:
We arrive at TJ’s and Lael starts calling out “balloo! Balloo!” Keep in mind, this is like the third word my daughter learned to say, right after “boo” for boobie and “ball” for well, ball. Yes, Lael likes round things that start with “b.”
Somehow, miraculously, she doesn’t have a hissy fit as we pass the balloons at the entrance/exit of the store. So with Seth pushing one of those tyke-sized carts, I get a little shopping done.
I say “a little” because I’m spending a lot of time saying, “Seth, please get out of that nice woman’s way,” and “Seth please stop laying in the middle of the aisle – uh where’s your cart?” and “Seth, if you hit that person with your cart I’m taking it away.”
To that last one, Seth screams “NOOOOoooooooo.” The patrons at the very crowded store obviously think I’m beating the boy.
By this point Lael is fidgeting in the big cart; she wants OUT.
As I’ve done before, I just switch the two kids around. Suddenly, both kids are happy clams. Seth is riding high in his old perch that belonged to him before is “evil” sister was born. And Lael is FREE – as in wind blowing through her hair FREE – to push Seth’s little cart around.
And where does Lael go with her fully-laden cart that a 12-year-old would have trouble pushing? Straight for the checkout, of course. Why? Because Lael KNOWS that you always get a balloo! at the checkout line.
Only, I’m not done shopping. First I tried to re-point her basket. Loud, ear-piercing screams. I back off for a second before trying again. Louder screams. The windows vibrate dangerously. I back off. Customers give me an odd look that says, “So, will you be buying me a hearing aid?”
At least Seth is happily sitting in his cart.
As Lael pushes her cart ever closer to balloo! central, I devise a plan. Mentally closing my ears, I pick Lael up and drag her entire cart – these things are way too low to the ground for a grown man – over to the produce section. Miraculously, my ears recover a few minutes later with only a slight ringing in the background.
Success! Lael is distracted by the brightly-colored food. I resume shopping.
“Dad, Lael is putting stuff in the cart,” Seth says.
Sure enough, Lael is loading her cart up with plastic-wrapped asparagus. “Just let her Seth, it is keeping her busy.”
“Dad, Lael is putting more asparagus in the cart.”
“It’s okay, Seth.”
“Dad, Lael is putting apples in her cart.”
I look over, and sure enough my little girl has moved over to these paper bags filled with apples. I started to stop her, and then thought, “What the heck.”
“Dad, Lael is eating the apple.” Doh! My 15-month-old, whose front teeth only recently came in, had taken a surprisingly large bite out of the apple.
“It’s okay Seth, I’ll just buy it.”
“Dad, Lael is putting a box of cereal into the cart.”
What the… how’d she get all the way over there?
I look at the box of Trader Joe’s frosted oat flakes. “Hmmm, maybe mommy will like that cereal.”
Shopping became further delayed as store-goers now found Lael cute as a button and spent much time admiring our little shopper.
They must have arrived after the screaming.
Finally, it came time for checkout. At least that was easy. All I had to say was, “Lael time to go. Let’s go get your balloon!”
And off we went. Once in line, she began screaming “Balloo! Balloo!” again.
As a veteran TJ customer, I didn’t wait for the clerks – I just grabbed Lael and Seth a balloon before we were offered them.
Handing the balloon to a visibly happy Lael, I realized I had no idea where the apple she was munching on disappeared to. (Sorry Joe.)
Now most people would think the story ends here, but they’re wrong. The real battle is just beginning. Give me a day or so to put the rest of the story together.