Monthly Archives: September 2013

Failing at Grocery Store 101

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Columist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript September 12, 2013

I’m a Stop-N-Shop girl. I know every aisle and shelf of our local Danvers store. I know the clerks and they know me. I’ve considered having my mail forwarded there — I’d get it faster. In fact, I know the store so well, that I recently trusted my nine-yearold daughter to go in by herself and buy a jar of popcorn kernels.

“Center aisle, in the back, on the left, lowest shelf. Grab the jar, pay, and leave.” I instructed her. It was a surgical strike and I knew she could execute it.

My younger daughter and I sat curbside in the Giant Sparkle, living out this latest milestone in child independence.
And then ten minutes went by. Then eleven, twelve . . . something was going awry. Just as I was about to go in, she emerged with a suspicious smile. She opened the grocery bag and showed me the loot she’d ‘found along the way’ including brightly colored snacks and candy for everyone in our family.

She’d been bamboozled the way that every food marketing campaign in America dreamed of. In her defense, she’s a kid. She hasn’t learned to ignore the colors and the hollow promises of health and happiness via labels.

She’d learn.

For example, I recently decided to visit the new Whole Foods in Lynnfield. I needed milk and heard that the Starbucks next door was large and lovely. So I zipped a few exits south and entered the new Market Street Mall playground for grown ups.

I wandered into the hipster, muted toned, other-country land of Whole Foods and was instantly overcome by the cumin and cardamon smells, the glittering wine bottles, and the counters where they wanted to make me smoothies and lunch out of grass clippings. I felt off kilter. Dizzy, and simultaneously like I wanted to do yoga. I meandered a bit until I found myself in the gluten free section . . . wasn’t my babysitter gluten free? Dairy free?

A perky young sales clerk came skipping down the aisle and saw my perplexed look.
“Would you like to try something?” she asked.
“Well, my babysitter eats this stuff.”
She beamed. “Of course she does!! I love these banana chocolate muffins! And these, over here, are made with kale. Sooo yummy.”
I stared. Didn’t chocolate have dairy in it? Weren’t muffins made with wheat
The clerk threw open the freezer and ripped into the kale muffin box. “Let’s try one!”
I was impressed with her can-do attitude, so I didn’t bother pointing out the frozen component would stymie our tasting adventure.
She yanked out the rock hard lump. “Hmm. Well, just take it home! Throw it in your purse!”
Like shoplifting? Was I hallucinating?
I pulled out the box of the banana chocolate muffins and put it in my cart. “I’ll just take these
She shoved the kale rock at me. “Take it, tell them Jennee said it was ok!!”


I kept moving.

I had come in there for something . . . something I couldn’t forget to buy. Oooh but look, an entire case of energy drinks that, just maybe, had perfected cold fusion in a beverage and forgotten to alert the local scientific media. And over there was a whole aisle of potato chips with no potatoes in them – – at all.

I stumbled to the register with two bags of food that, best I could tell, was healthy and . . . weird. Finally, I left and real air hit me. The sound of traffic and cawing crows woke me from my daze

I had forgotten the milk.

Maybe they didn’t sell real milk anyway with all that, you know, milk in it. I hustled over to Starbucks and collapsed with a coffee that had real cream and toxic sweeteners in it.

My daughter might learn about the dangers of grocery product placement, but she wouldn’t be learning it from me.

The Sum of a Summer’s Endless Days

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Columist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript September 9, 2013

I’ve been at this parenting thing for almost a decade now. And generally speaking I’ve found summer to be a parenting hurdle. To be sure, I greatly prefer the summer sunshine and warmth, it’s the ‘endless days’ that presented the challenge.

When our two girls were babies, summers meant gallons of pasty, thick sunscreen that they’d try to eat, hats they’d try to rip off, and a constant state of stickiness that made all of us unhappy. Obviously I won’t even touch upon the horrors of introducing sand to that age bracket.

During the early walking years, summers meant living in a constant state of high alert in case newly minted legs might carry their owners into dangerous pools, oceans, lakes or marshes. Drowning anxieties kept me on edge at locations meant for relaxation.

Then there were the rides with height restrictions, the nap schedules to juggle, the inability to read, and hours and hours and even more hours (since summer days last so long) to fill with something fun and creative and educational and nurturing. PBS Kids could only account for so much of that time.

I was the mom who begged for Preschool to start. The one who considered camping out at school the night before Kindergarten began.

And then our girls turned six and nine.

The sunscreen, bug spray clumps in the creases of chubby toddler legs are long gone. The hats have given up the ghost, and fears of drowning have disappeared into the land of a strong front crawl and an endless ability to tread water.
This year summer was . . . fun. So fun that here, during this first week of school, I’m in a funk. I resent the brightly colored lunch boxes and fall colored plaid skirts. Me! What happened??

Is there a formula for such a summer?

Was the four road trips down the east coast to Pennsylvania and New Jersey — two which were spontaneous to meet new babies? Was it the day trips into Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, or huff up the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill monument? Was it the five days of Vacation Bible School learning about the Apostle Paul and how to jump into a slip-n-slide fully clothed? Or possibly the daily morning walks with Blue Ears around Boxford (ignoring, for this column, the approximately 500 deerfly bites). Was it the soccer camp? The tennis camp? The crazy half-day YMCA camp where the girls played shaving cream whiffle ball and won bead bracelets for demonstrating honesty, responsibility, respect, and caring?

It might have been the two teeth lost, or the one million scoops of ice cream and frozen yoghurt, or, quite possibly, the seasonally appropriate number of summer cocktails around fire pits and pools. Was it the BTA/BOLT horse show or the many, many lazy afternoons at Stiles Pond, (“Girls, go get another slushy!”).

It definitely had to do with the five (ok maybe ten) visits to Maggie’s Farm in Middleton where we ordered our favorite spicy calamari with extra peppers. It was certainly related to the weekly trips to the library and the countless books read this summer. My six-year-old’s favorite book was, “Judy Moody and a Little Monkey Business”, my nine-year-old’s favorite was, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, my favorite was a streak of Vince Flynn books read in memoriam to a great and prescient thriller writer gone too soon.

The three different beaches in three different states, and two different trips to Lake George in the Adirondacks, with multiple Stand Up Paddle opportunities at each destination, all played a part as well.

We did everything. Perhaps more importantly, when we did nothing, we were good at it. We were relaxed, we were sun-kissed, we were girls of the summer.

It all added up so that for the first time, the sum of this summer was that I was not ready for it to end.