Make that Trader Joe’s. From the minute I walk up to TJ, I’m in love. I completely fall for the island music hypnosis. Grocery shopping? No. Tropical island off the coast of Spain? Yes. Naomi runs to her mini shopping cart. I love and hate this. It’s very cute, a darling child pushing her groceries. It’s not so cute to chase, bend over, and and constantly steer her clear of everything (mostly other shoppers’ ankles!). And so she charges, like a fierce rhinoceros, in search of the monkey. Here in Escondido, he’s affectionately named Armando, which is a horrible name for a pet monkey, you agree. I chase her past the bananas, the bread, she weaves full speed past the cheeses. She’s no idiot. She knows there are two hiding spots for Armando the horribly named monkey. There he is, above the Eggs. She is elated, and the whole store knows it. Jumping, spinning, leaping. JOY has landed its ship in the egg section of Trader Joe’s. Naomi found the monkey, and from this point on, the timer is ticking. I have very little time to throw my desperately needed food items into her cart (Joe has repeatedly opened our fridge up this week and gawked at our nothingness!). Favorite items I can only find at Trader Joe’s: Milk Chocolate and Macadamia nut Lace cookies (these are insane), the perfect size bananas, butternut squash in a bag, brussels sprouts in a bag, garlic fries, garlic bread, roti, kettle corn and 51 bottles of sweetened condensed milk. Yes. Oh, this makes me giddy. You must know this about me. I love sweet. I blame it on my Thai bloodline and my childhood. Sweetened condensed milk was a staple, like bread, milk or eggs. It drenched our tea, our pancakes, waffles, roti, fresh bread, all over our cereal, ice cream, or even stood alone… one minute in the microwave, and we had “homemade” caramel. Trader Joe’s hit a goldmine when they put Sweetened Condensed Milk in a squeeze bottle. My Maneevone family went berserk. We obsessed over these treasured squeeze bottles. Playful and sneaky, we’d steal them from each other’s pantries. Dad bought close to a dozen one day, and after a week, he only had two left. This week, Anjuli sent out an S.O.S. to the family “Trader Joe’s sweetened condensed milk is SEASONAL! The stores are running out!!!” That same day my mom sent a family friend to Vista and Oceanside with $40, frantic to buy up their remaining supply. The family friend came home empty handed, it was too late, they were gone. The next day I called Chula Vista, Hillcrest, La Jolla, Carmel Mountain, and finally Point Loma. Bulls eye!! It’s more evident than ever, Asians do not live in Point Loma— only healthy people, who don’t eat sweets. While the rest of the county had emptied their shelves of this gold weeks ago, Point Loma held FIFTY ONE bottles. I quickly called a friend in Point Loma (thank you Hillary!), she rushed over and bought them all. Yes, indeed. Perhaps a confession is needed. My name is Wanida Maertz and I bought fifty one bottles of sweetened condensed milk from Trader Joe’s. I probably should have asked my husband Joe, but he would have brought reason into this purchase, and I wanted to remain slightly ridiculous. Oh the joy!!
Okay, back to my love affair. On evenings when Joe says “Go ahead, sneak out, I’ve got the girls covered, you go enjoy…” (Yes, he is as darling as he sounds)… I will drive straight to my Spanish isle. On this particular night, in my sweats, Uggs, and nothing hair, I slowly peruse their flowers, browse their section of premade dinners as inspiration for next week’s menu, enjoy their free samples… then what happens next is simply an encounter with angels. This angel’s name is Tyler. He works at my Trader Joe’s. “Wanida!” he says, almost singing it, as angels do. He starts blushing as he proudly introduces me to his co-workers “This is my worship leader!” Tender. Now I start blushing. I don’t remember anything he said after that, and really, it doesn’t matter, because the gist of it is… his kind words brought me back to life. (Grateful pause, here). Only steps away, the cashier, sang like an angel too. “I really like your hair,” she
said, and asked if I could turn around so she could see the back. Completely flattered, I might have spun around twice, had she asked. It doesn’t take much to bring joy to this stay at home mommy who sometimes feels like life moves along just fine without her. Obviously. If you’re ever at the Escondido Trader Joe’s, go in the evenings, you have a good chance of running into these angels too. You can have your own love affair with my exotic island grocer, off the coast of Spain.
Aria (9 months): Heavens, you’re a bundle of busy love! We are in love your giggles, your groove and your pudgy loveable rolls! *Close to ten months, and you finally did it. For one 12 hour stretch, you slept the entire night, and I did too. Hallelujah. Let’s do this again tonight please. *You love army crawling, you are so fast. No wonder you don’t want to find your arms and do a normal four point crawl, you are burning ground with your army crawling speeds! *You are exploring life upright! You move along edges and walls with a single hand and even shock us with a quick stand alone! *You have a reputation in the church nursery, “She’s busy!” I nod, yes, I know this all too well. I am constantly darting to your rescue. You gravitate towards leaves, muddy shoes, electrical cords, hidden cashews on tan carpet, flowers, and older friend’s kid’s tiny toys. There was a moment when Naomi couldn’t find the tiny skirt for her little panda toy (that she stole, but we’ll get to that later), I was confused, and thought she didn’t know what she was talking about. Naomi continued to be concerned. That’s when I heard the gagging. I darted to your mouth. We found the panda’s skirt. You keep me on my toes little one! *You love to eat, and you’re good at it! I can’t put food on your tray fast enough. Even with only two teeth (we’ve given up on any other teeth cutting through, ever), you’re tackling all kinds of foods. Whatever Naomi doesn’t eat, will often end up on your tray. You’re happy to eat it up! You’re fabulous. *We finally got you into a rhythm of a bedtime routine for you. You love your baths and you love turning the pages in your books! Lows: *You’re in a terrible habit of 45 min naps. *You might as well gotten the flu, your reaction to the flu vaccine gave you a 103.5 fever and a viral rash for days. Never again. Miserable.
Naomi (two years old): You are barrels of fun and a total joy! You are expressive in all you do. *Each morning, you, mommy and Aria have a dance party to Pandora’s Veggie Tales station. You absolutely love dancing, and somersaults (which you’re pretty good at!). *You say hi to everyone who passes our home. You love waving to our mail man, our trash man, the planes, the birds, Mr. Luna the neighborhood cat, your shadow, and all the neighbors! *In your sweet sharing spirit, you shared your crackers with Aria. After a few very scary seconds of gagging, Aria puked them up. Never been so happy about a puking baby. *Naomi, you finally got her big girl bed. You were a champ from night one. Mommy and daddy couldn’t resist peaking at you a few times during your sweet slumbers! When you wake up, you always cheer for yourself “Good job sleeping!” (Don’t think it’s been an easy road, there were weeks of you climbing out of your crib all night long!). *You and daddy have this funny saying that you absolutely adore ” Hey Bee! Get out of my bonnet!” Then all by yourself, you got creative and said “Hey Ladybug! Get out of my bonnet!” Daddy, liked your idea, and said Ladybug too. You piped in, “No Ladybug, that’s mine!” *You met the Disney channel, and you’re in love with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. *Aunt Anjuli came over in a flowy summer dress, and you smiled big calling it a “princess dress!!” *You never say something once, that’s boring. You like to say things over and over and over. This morning, for example “Bowcy bowcy ball, bowcy bowcy ball…” … and then 39 more times. *Each night daddy reads tons of books to you, and finally he turns the sound machine on, turns the mushroom night light on, puts you in your bed with your yellow blanket and milk, and says “goodnight!” You say “Daddy daddy daddy!!! Stay right here please, rub my back, please!” What do you think daddy does? Yes, he loves you very much. *You got your pronouns down! We were surprised (and sad) to hear our little baby perfectly ask, “Hold me please.” *While on our front yard swing, you took your little ducky along for a ride, you told Ducky— “Hold on Nomi, I take care of you.” Lows: Your new discovery of selective hearing. Your ears don’t work at the mall when we say “stop running.” *Walking back from a neighbor’s play date, you showed me your new toys. Two tiny panda bears, stolen goods! I’m still not sure if you understand the concept of stealing, maybe you do, and I’m the fool, but it’s definitely new territory for us.
Family: *We made it to an Indian Bistro and Phil’s BBQ for a family dinner! Mind you, it’s at 5:15pm. But we are out! We successfully cleared our plates and paid for the bill in 25 mins flat, long enough for Aria and Naomi to completely demolish the floors with their rice, peas and carrots. I am certain the restaurants are still talking about us. *Enjoyed another midweek visit from GrampBill. He brings fresh life into these long days and a never ending supply of energy and enthusiasm! *Two trips to our new favorite breakfast spot: The Snooze! (Took the girls with GrampBill, and I got some great girl time with Hill and Molls). *Joe and I enjoy a fancy dinner at Tango. We need time together, just us, more than ever. *Bought my first whole chicken and brussels sprouts! I asked Joe if he ate all his brussels: “I ate them all. I didn’t enjoy them, I mean, I am fine with them. But I did enjoy them in the way that it feels good to eat your veggies.” Ohhhh Joe! *Got myself some felt, ribbons and alligator clips on Etsy— crafting up cute little bows for the girls during short windows of me-space. *Ama Ama is in town! Very fun to have her around. She adores the girls. *There was a night when all four of us ate dinner together, and for 20 mins, no one screamed or cried— a quiet dinner where everyone ate their food without bribery or threats. Miracle. *Friday Night Lights ends, and another era comes to a close. In honor of our dear friend Coach Taylor: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”