FTSF – Success Begins in the Grocery Store Checkout Line

Categories Doing, Eating, Learning, Living, Loving, Organizing, Planning, Thinking

Last week, we became those people.

I had my first inkling in line at the grocery store. As I waited for my turn, I thought about all the things we had going on that week. Appointments, classes, homework, meetings, events…plus regular school and work hours. The line moved forward and I reviewed my menu plan for the week. Certain nights can be new meals, others need to be intentional leftovers or something fast and easy…

Another customer finished and took his bags and we all moved up in line. While I scanned the recipe headlines on magazine covers, I realized there was one night on the horizon that was going to be complicated. Somehow we had managed to pull a schedule that would not allow for dinner. And I don’t just mean no sit-down dinner together as a family – I mean at all. Somehow, schedule changes occurred such that Zilla and I had to manage homework, an appointment, and a Scout event all on the same evening. Oh, and dinner. Somehow.

This was going to take some planning.

I figured out that the Hub was going to have to be on his own until after we returned from the Scout thing. I gave him a list of all the things in the fridge he could eat on his own. He also asked for our itinerary for the evening, so he’d know where we were going to be.

OK, Hub taken care of. Now for Zilla and me.

We needed to get her home from school and handle homework right away before the first appointment. Not a problem. The tricky part was going to be getting from appointment to Scouts and squeezing dinner in between. I even called the eye doctor’s office to see how long the appointment would take and find out if he was on time or running behind. Short appointment, only ten minutes delay. No problem. Even with the delay, we would be able to handle a quick drive-thru dinner between there and Scouts.

Stop. I know, I know. Drive-thru is not my choice for a good (or even not-good) dinner, but time was of the essence. Yes, we could have packed from home, but every now and then Zilla loves a Happy Meal and we decided this was a good opportunity for a treat. Quick run through the golden arches, eat on the way to Scouts, put the GPS on, and arrive in good time for the event.


Zilla’s appointment took far longer than we anticipated. While we still could have managed our dinner in the car, we no longer had time to actually sit in the drive-thru and get the food. Thwarted. I knew we should’ve packed from home…

Luckily, somewhere in the back of my mind I thought we might want to have a backup plan just in case things didn’t run the way we hoped. So instead of dinner, Zilla and I had some water and protein bars for a snack on the way to the event. And yes, we got our promised Happy Meal treat on the way home.

In the end, we did it! We managed to pull off a night with everyone going separate ways, no room for a meal, and time delays working against us. The very obvious and simple answer is that we thought ahead. We planned. We allowed for that inevitable margin of error.

And we made it work. We were pretty proud of ourselves.

If you asked me even two years ago if we would be those people – the ones with a hefty after-school and evening schedule, the ones who have a string of things to accomplish in what is actually too little time, I would have said, “No way. Not us. Not ever.”

But the truth is that we are all those people at some point. Life is such that while our ideal might be for the whole family to eat dinner together at home, the day to run smoothly, and drive-thru to never happen, that is not always going to be reality.

I worried about that for a bit. I fretted in the Hub’s general direction about spiraling downward into a life spent in the car and never connecting as a family. I wondered (with just a touch of frantic hysteria) if the lack of family dinner time would send our Daughter forth into a life of delinquency and emotional angst greater than what we might expect as normal for a teenage girl. What about all those commercials that told us the family table would keep our kids off drugs? Does this mean we’ve already failed at that parental task?

He assured me we would be fine. And he’s right, of course. Because being busy and having days where you feel like you live in your car don’t guarantee the downfall of familial structure. And the family table is a concept, not a proscribed hour on the clock or a particular seat at your own dining room set. The family table is about maintaining consistent connection and communication with one another.


For me – for all of us, really – this was a huge victory. In this house that ADHD built, things like plans and timing and details are a challenge. But giving it all a little attention in the line at the grocery store set us up for success.

The Hub knew where we were going to be every step of the way. I knew that he was home with a decent meal for himself (hey, he’s a non-cook so this is a thing). Zilla was with me and talked to her Fab Dad on the phone between locations. We all knew what was going on and the details were covered. The things we usually talk about at the dinner table, we covered in the car and via the phone. And we managed to keep the stress level at a minimum.

Zilla commented on the whole situation that very night in the car.

“Mom,” she pipped from the back seat. “Since I started Daisies and Karate, we’re busy a lot more. We go places in the car a lot after school and we used to just be at home.”

Me: “Yup. You’re right. Does that bother you?’

She thought for a minute.

Z: “A little because I miss Dad. But not really because we talked to him.”

Me: “And we’ll see him after Scouts. All good.”

Z: “Yes, all good.”

And she’s right. We are more busy. We’ve become those people. We’re people who have busy schedules and things to do with a kid who has her own agenda now, too.

And it’s all pretty good.


Finish the Sentence Friday

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers gather to support one another in finishing the same sentence, completely or loosely. This week’s sentence is”It started in the line at the grocery store…”

Your host is Kristi from Finding Ninee.
This week’s co-hosts are Dawn M Skorczewski (this week’s sentence thinker-upper) and Nicki Gilbert from (Redboots). To read Dawn’s ending to the sentence prompt, please visit her FB profile page here.



Lisa A. Listwa is a self-employed writer with experience in education, publishing, and the martial arts. Believing there was more to life than punching someone else’s time clock and inspired by the words of Henry David Thoreau, she traded her life as a high school educator for a life as a writer and hasn’t looked back. She is mother to one glorious handful of a daughter, wife to the nicest guy on the planet, and reluctant but devoted owner of three Rotten Cats. You can find her adventures and thoughts on living life deliberately here on the blog.

29 thoughts on “FTSF – Success Begins in the Grocery Store Checkout Line

  1. Frist!

    I have found that the best conversations I have with my children occur in the car. Captive audience. Eye contact not recommended, so touchier subjects can be discussed without as much embarrassment. No one can eavesdrop.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard many people say that is a good place to talk. And we do a fair amount of it there already, so I’m hoping that as Zilla gets older and the issues become more weighty, we will have an established pattern of conversations like that.

  2. FRIST! (yes I know, with a head’s up – WHATEVS!)

    This was light, humourous, a gorgeous look at your family culture, and SO positive. I like that you all have this busy, exciting life, but you still make sure you connect with one another.

    It’s all good 🙂

  3. The busy life of America. I’m glad you keep the dinner time connection via phone or whatever. My adult children still talk about sitting around the dinner table and sharing the best and worst parts of their day. It’s a tradition to keep alive.

    My husband can fend for himself, but I always, at least verbally, provide options for him. Sometimes he won’t eat at all or sometimes he’ll eat cereal. Or sometimes he’ll grill up something. But he’s a big boy, that’s his choice.

    1. I know many families who do the best part/worst part of the day thing at dinner.
      My Hub is very much a non-cook. giving him options is helpful so he doesn’t have to do the not eating thing. Why do guys do that??? I can’t say I’ve ever skipped dinner because no one was cooking. 😀 Or any other time. 😀

  4. Gosh I hope not (to drugs) because we never EVER have dinner together unless we are out to eat. I wonder about the lives of the families who do get to do that. But we are just so out of the habit now even when we are all hear we don’t eat in our separate spots are not necessarily at the same time. It’s kind of sad. I hope we are making up for it some kind of way. Is there really a such thing as a nine to five family. Where everyone is just home at 6? There are other bonding times like in the car and bedtime that I hope fills the void of not eating together.

    1. That’s exactly what I mean, Kenya. As I realize that family dinner together every night is not always going to be possible, we look for other ways to keep that connection. Like I said, I think it has to be a concept, a way of relating to one another, not necessarily a physical location. There are certainly other opportunities – Cheerios was promoting family breakfast a while back. Their point was it doesn’t have to be grab and go, it only takes fifteen minutes to sit together in the morning and we found it actually is pretty easy! There’s bedtime, story time, drive time…lots of ways to keep that connection and lines of communication open.

  5. It’s all good. Love that Zilla still got to connect with Dad and that she ended up getting her Happy Meal treat. I know – not great health-wise but that’s okay sometimes. Tucker loves them, too. Or, at least the toys that come with them. Thanks for linking up with Finish the Sentence!!

    1. I really do think it’s the toys, Kristi. Especially when My Little Pony is involved! 😀
      We try to look for ways to stay connected, even when life has us on the go in separate directions. I like to think if we establish that firmly now, when Zilla is a teenager and out on her own, it will just be a natural habit for her to check in and stay connected. Fingers crossed and praying!
      Do they have to be teenagers???

  6. Do kids really choose the fruit alternative in happy meals now? I felt guilty for about five minutes once going through a drive through… and that was in the days of full on fries and cookies in the box.

  7. Somehow we are moving this direction too inspire of all my efforts otherwise. How can one gymnastics and one swimming lesson appt seem like so much? But somehow we seem to rush through most afternoons.

  8. You know, we’ve been one of those families for so long that I don’t remember what the alternative would be like. The boys each have their own busy lives, and we run around to help them make the most of it. The amazing and wonderful thing is that we still have a strong sense of family. We do things together, and the boys feel a bond — that’s so important to us. So there is a good life as one of those families and I’m sure that your family will be living it. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Anna. I don’t think it’s such a horrifying thing – just new for us. Our daughter is just starting to get into all of this and it’s uncharted territory. We’ll call it a new adventure!

  9. I truly thought I’d commented on this gem yesterday. Hmmm. You’ve brought me right back to the charming evening I hurled wax paper wrapped dry cheese sandwiches at my darlings in the back seat of the car. We were racing from swimming to skating (or vice versa) and that was dinner. I was caught up short when one of my children damn near choked. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. You sound like you’ve got things so much more under control. Lives can be busy and well lived. One just needs to be organized.

    1. If you wonder where your comment goes, very often it is stuck in my spam. There are a privileged few of you who, for some reason, always get sent to spam. However. In this case, there was only this one comment.
      Oh I love the dry cheese sandwiches bit. We like our cheese sandwiches with a bit of mayo – goes back to something my Grandmother would make when there were a whole lot of kids and not a whole lot of stuff to go around. Managed to work and we loved it. Cheese and mayo sandwiches by the pool in the summer – great memories.

  10. Oh yes, the life in the car! I know it well. You captured that “How do we make this all happen?” feeling so accurately, Lisa. It is on days like the one you describe that I fall back on the ever trusty breakfast-for-dinner: frozen waffles, cereal, and maybe a hard-boiled egg left over from breakfast :).

  11. Family dinner is SUCH a challenging thing. Schedules, my husband’s work hours, activities. We often eat family breakfast instead and then do our best over the weekends. At least it’s something. Because, as you say, “we are all that family” sometimes!!! And that’s ok!!

  12. Lisa, I loved this and how you captured that things can change but that doesn’t mean everything is going to implode, just a little reworking and we can still get the meaning we are looking for out of this life. I have a few days a week where I feel like I’m always in the car. And then a few that are busy but more manageable. It’s so important to have that balance, but also to realize that the proverbial “family dinner table,” doesn’t have to literally be that, as long as we are making time to connect. Thanks for these beautiful and meaningful words. PS – Glad my problem I mentioned on FB resolved itself and I could post here now too. : )

    1. Yay! Glad you got the problem resolved, Mimi. sorry it took me so long to reply. (yikes!) We’ve had a few of the crazybusy days here! 🙂
      I like your word – balance. That’s the important thing. Nothing is perfect or on an even keel all the time. Keeping an overall balance is the way to go. There will always be rough days.

    1. Hi, Karen. Well, the calm varies from day to day, but I feel like overall we get more calm than panic! 😀 It has often been our norm to operate in a reactionary and stressed state. In a house full of ADHD, trying to manage that chaos is hugely important so it’s something we work on actively. Stay tuned…there will be days when the story ends very differently. I guarantee it! 😀

  13. I think our worst year was when we had an 8th grader, 5th grader and 3rd grader. I am embarrassed to admit I carried a laminated schedule in the van. Ridiculous! In order to maintain our family dinner on Thursdays I would make one drop at Tae Kwon Do, one at ballet…home to pack a picnic, then back to get the TKD kid and off to the ballet where daddy would pull in right behind us and we would have a picnic in the van after girl 1’s ballet class and before girl 2’s. Many of those days are foggy in my memory.

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