I have a fear of turning into one of those people who tells (a) Health Adventure Stories and (b) Shopping Adventure Stories to captive audiences. The world is so big, and we have access to so much news, information, opinion, experience, art, that why should we be so self-centered? I went to church today and didn't get blown up, and I went shopping and neither my kids nor I got shot; how dare I tell anyone the story of that time I had minor toenail surgery? And yet I blatantly tell both, frequently. Here we go. When you're in the trenches of motherhood, sometimes your heart and mind are stretched to further horizons than you could have believed, yet your daily world revolves around two very small human tornadoes and their and your most basic of needs, and all you can think to actually express out loud is...a story about shopping. We'll see if I actually finish this or if the prospect of dipping pretzels into Nutella and watching Haven on Netflix wins out.
One of the biggest reasons we wanted to live in Old Town Alexandria is its walkability, or as we like to think of it, its European-village-ishness. We can walk to CVS, the grocery store (but with a double stroller, WHO DOES THAT?), the hair cutter's, the dry cleaner's, the farmer's market, multiple playgrounds, coffee shops, and any of one million clothing stores, boutiques, and restaurants. And the dire lack of parking options makes it more practical to walk. As we've been both trying to downsize our household goods by half and dealing with LOCOLAS (that's Lack of Cost-of-living-allowance Shock, COLA being a sort of overseas extra allowance, which is how Army financially makes up for making you live in a country where the dollar isn't worth very much--though I'd maintain that the DC area more or less is a foreign country where the dollar isn't worth very much) we've been trying with moderate success to keep our spending reasonable, and so I haven't explored many of all of those shops we can walk to. I abhor window shopping, especially when by "window shopping" one means going into intimate spaces where you and the shopkeeper can hear each other breathing, and then walking out having bought nothing. It's just awkward in my book. (If "walking out of a store having not bought something is awkward" doesn't count as a compulsive shopping symptom, it should.) So I've been keeping my window shopping limited to the actual windows, which I breeze by on my way to the park or pharmacy, a mother's most constant destinations.
And also because Target.
So when a local boutique organization hosted a Scavenger Hunt weekend, I ignored it and ignored it and then finally was like--lots of prizes? Don't have to buy anything*?--FINE! We were to get stamped at all 37 participating boutiques (all but one in walking distance of the house) to prove we'd visited between Friday and Sunday. I decided that even if I got nothing it might be a fun project for over the weekend. Like a Volksmarch: walking all over the place, a little farther than I might want to, but with other slightly unhinged people doing it too. Plus the Paterfamilias is getting busier, so I knew it wouldn't hurt to have the three of us occupied.
My little buddies on a break.
We set off with both kids in the double stroller** on sunny Friday after lunch, cutting it uncomfortably close to Oz's naptime as usual. Struggling out from under the blanket of afternoon despondency to leave the house is not easy and takes a while. The very first store, one I have frequently drooled over, is close to us and yet so, so far--there are several steps and one or maybe two doors to get into it, and it whispered a warning to me of 36 shops to come. (One does not simply waltz in and out of 37 boutiques with a double stroller, especially not one that actually contains children.) I ignored it. One stamp, $20 spent, and lots of kid/stroller wrangling later, we were on our way to the next one. And so it went. Lots of the stores had one or two steps and one or two doors--just enough to leave me standing on the uneven brick sidewalk, having to make the decision about whether to oust both babes from Misters Phil & Ted or to hoist Misters Phil & Ted and Miss EE and Mr Oz into a quite cozy store, where I might just realize that a pair of shoes is $425 and back away very slowly and carefully while whispering through gritted teeth "Don't...touch...anything!"
But thankfully, the kids gave me an excuse not to stick around and shop. I'm not saying I didn't buy anything, as I did recently realize that my winter wardrobe is college-quality and, in fact, dates back to the college-era, but I had the ready excuse of "Oh I just came in for a stamp and oh look my kids are melting down, in fact they might contaminate your water supply if I don't get them out of here right now!" (Not funny?)
Best of all was that a lot of the shops were well-curated, reasonably priced, and all-around awesome. Several of them are consignment shops, which are good for all kinds of earth-loving, wallet-loving reasons. I also found a store that stocks cloth diapering stuff and something I was going to buy on Amazon, for the same price, but without the $10 shipping. Here's my take after day 2:
*Ha!! That's a lot of shopkeeper breathing to have to listen to and not buy anything.
**We have a Phil & Ted's, which we realized was a necessity when we frequently found ourselves walking farther than our 4 yo could go, yet unable to do a double-wide stroller because of narrow sidewalks. I highly recommend it, but only if you can find one used like we did. It's useful, but not $600 of useful.
***Just in case the contest organizers see this, I do feel that we deserve two extra entries in the giveaway which is happening tomorrow...
Mandatory Photo Disclaimer: One day, I dream that I'll have the internet back on my computer and will be able to upload real non-phone pictures. One day.