Over a week ago, I was making a quick trip the the grocery store to pick up a few things.  We were going to a friend's home and I was bringing apple pie, so I had to get the granny smith apples, the pie crust (so much easier than making it yourself, and it always tastes like the perfect crust), caramels, etc. On this particular trip to the store, I had my one-year-old with me. 

Well, by the time I got done, I realized that there was a whole blog to be written about shopping with a baby!  I guess we could cover more than one subtopic on this topic, but I was in particularly interested in how a mother goes about doing this safely and with ease. 

When I first became a mother, I quickly discovered the mindset of looking for parking spots that are right next to (or extremely) near a carriage stall (buggy stall, cart stall...there are so many different names!). I don't care if I'm near the market door or not; but I do care how close the carriages are located. When I had an infant still being lugged around in his infant carrier seat, it was not only important for me to find the carriage stall, but also to make sure there was still at least one carriage in the one I picked to park near. Why all this? Well, as soon as I was out of the car lugging that heavy, clumsy seat, I needed a place to put it down! In the carriage it would go, and the rest of the time at the store was handled with much more ease.  Not only that, but when I returned to the car with the baby, the carrier, and all the groceries, I was able to load them right into the car and put the carriage in it's place without leaving my baby alone (this is why I prefer to park right next to the stall). Along with this, I believe that you always, always, always want to keep your keys on you at all times so that you don't lock the baby in the car! Know where your keys are at all times!  I can't say that enough.

Now with a one-year-old, I still find it important to park nearby a carriage stall for things to run smoothly when I'm done shopping, but it's not necessary to grab a carriage until I get inside. He rides well in my arms until then. But inside is a whole new set of rules. On that pie-making day, for example, I grabbed a carriage to put him in when I noticed that it had gum on it, so I picked another one only to find that the safety straps were broken! At last, I picked out a third and it was fine! After strapping him safely in, I cleaned the handles.  Thankfully, these days grocery stores often supply you with disinfectant wipes, which I find useful for the handle and the bar he tends to hold onto in front of him. (This is even more important because not-too-long-ago, he tended to try to suck on it --- YUCK! Best if you can avoid your baby doing that. You don't know what germs are out there, even with the wipe!)

There is one last observation I have made as a mom in the grocery store, and that is: those safety straps are not fool proof! Of course, it's first important that the straps are right under the baby's armpits and tight enough to keep him secure, but not pinching. (Baby has gotta breathe too!  Be careful!).  But even then, never trust the straps to watch the baby! My little guy is always surprising me with the new things he tries to do to wiggle around, try to stand up, etc. And the scary thing is that it can happen so fast and unexpectedly, especially when focusing on picking out groceries, loading the belt at the check-out, paying for the groceries --- we as moms really have to stay near the baby and not forget to continually pay attention to his safety. As I said, babies are fast and full of surprises! 

So, that all came out of my adventures to the grocery store. I hope it was helpful to you --- or at least made you chuckle because it's so familiar!

Does having people over to your home scare you or seem impossible do to because "the house is never right"?  Or you're "not confident in cooking"?  Or you "don't have fancy dishes", etc.?  Here's exactly what you need to lighten up!

There are a few simple key things to hospitality, that make it true, easy, and fun!  

1. Always be ready and keep it simple.  I always keep certain things in handy places (salt, pepper, napkins, etc. etc.) in order to make eating an easy and fun event whether it's just me and my hubby, or a big crowd of people.

2. Keep a clean house daily, but don't strive for perfect.  Everyone feels comfortable in a clean house, but few-to-none feel comfortable in a "perfect" house (where it feels like they can mess something up when they visit you --- no one can truly relax that way).

Three:  When a guest arrives, ALWAYS make it about them and their comfort, NOT about you or your house.  In other words, don't start unnecessarily apologizing because there are dishes in the sink, for example --- instead, give your guest a drink and ask them how THEY are doing.  While it is nice to keep the sink dish-free as much as possible, your guests are not so worried about whether or not you've caught up on your dishes (especially when you are taking genuine interest in talking with them and serving them).

4 (four): When time permits, it's fun to fancy it up a bit and set the table nicely, depending on the number of guests you have.  However, if making everything really nice before guests come is stressing you and your family out, it's really not worth getting fancy.  In that case, definitely return to keeping it simple!

hos·pi·tal·i·ty (noun)
1. Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.
2. An instance of cordial and generous treatment of guests.

Here is a poem, which was quoted by Elisabeth Elliot, many years ago
(and coincides with yesterday's blog entry) :

Do The Next Thing

"At an old English parsonage down by the sea, 
there came in the twilight a message to me. 
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven 
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven. 
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'

Many a questioning, many a fear, 
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven, 
time, opportunity, guidance are given. 
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King, 
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer, 
do it reliantly, casting all care. 
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand, 
who placed it before thee with earnest command. 
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing, 
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener, 
working or suffering be thy demeanor, 
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm, 
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm. 
Do the next thing."

Years ago, when I was an almost grown girl or a younger woman (however one may look at it), I enjoyed listening to Elisabeth Elliot on a short daily broadcast.  This woman is one of the most amazing, sacrificial women I have met in my life!  (I did once meet her when she spoke at a church in my hometown, when I was standing in the book-signing line).  Her stories are book material and movie material, and that is exactly what happened to them!  

Of all the things that she has shared, the simple phrase from her that has stuck the most with me through the years, is her advice to "do the next thing".  I hope you will be as blessed today to hear this, as I have been!  She told us, on the radio, to "do the next thing".  That means, don't get caught up with the worry and concern of the ten or twenty things that are on your list, and causing you to not really get one thing done well.  

So, there are dishes in the sink, laundry to do, a friend is calling, the kids are hungry for breakfast, baby has a dirty diaper, your husband needs you to contact so-in-so sometime this morning for a work-related question, the bathroom towel rod fell of the wall yesterday and still needs to be repaired... come on, you certainly can't do all that at once!  But do the next thing!  Prioritize.  Change the diaper.  Feed the children.  Wash the dishes (or load the dishwasher). Clean the children's faces and send them to their bedrooms to play while you make the phone call for your hubby.  Etc. etc. You get the idea!  Interruptions may come, but that's to be expected --- that might even be the next thing in that moment.  By the end of the day, you just might have a list --- short or long --- that was accomplished.  Now you can thank God for this, and you will be a more contented woman!  A major key here is:  don't be upset about what didn't get done yet.  Be thankful for what did get done.

Now that your computer break is over, do the next thing.  (P.S.  That doesn't mean "check facebook")  :)