Air Force Guy has been home for a few months now, but just last night we experienced one of those reintegration milestones that we all dread...
The first grocery shopping trip.
Now, I've managed to avoid this reintegration hazard for awhile. AFG was only home a few weeks before he had to leave again for another couple of weeks. And since he's been home, he's been working late and I tend to do my grocery shopping when the children are at either boxing class or swim team practice. I thought I was sailing through this process until AFG called me up today and said, "Don't leave for swim team until I get there! I got off early today!"
My eyes widened and my breathing very quickly reached the edge of the threshold where I reach for my inhaler. There was no more avoiding taking AFG to the (non-commissary) grocery store.
The trouble started as soon as we walked in. The store had created a lovely display of various fruits and vegetables. The apples were artfully arranged in a pinwheel of apple colors, while the pears were spilling out of wicker baskets. AFG immediately headed over and started filling bags.
"Dear, I really don't think we'll go through fourteen apples, ten pears, two bags of carrots, six pomegranates, and two fresh ginger roots - which, may I add, I don't think that you even know what to do with - in the next week. We should probably pare this number down."
"Of COURSE I will eat all this! I snack all the time! I probably go through three or four apples or pears a day! And that's not even counting bananas! BANANAS! I can't believe we forgot bananas!"
After navigating the produce aisle, we headed over to frozen food. Twice a week we have to opt for frozen rather than fresh, since the kids don't get out of their activities until at least 8:30 at night. I figured pizza and Bertolli dinner packs would be perfect this week. This, too, was apparently too much choice for someone who still hadn't recovered from the "eat whatever this is or starve" attitude prevalent at DFACs worldwide. When I told the children to pick two pizzas from the aisle, AFG rapidly started to enter the overstimulation zone.
"Pepperoni? Really? Is that all you want? What about Hawaiian? Or this... Chicken Barbecue Ranch? Or Four Meat? Four Cheese - I didn't know they were up to four kinds of cheese on pizza now. They have ASIAN STYLE PIZZA? How can we not buy Asian style pizza? What IS Asian style pizza?"
I made the mistake of asking AFG which Bertolli pack he wanted, as well. I thought I was helping by narrowing his choices.
"Hon, do you want the Tuscan Style Braised Beef with Potatoes or the Shrimp, Asparagus, and Penne?"
"Bertolli has braised beef now? SHRIMP? What else do they have?"
Obviously we were beyond the point where question direction was going to work.
The shopping trip went on. And on. And on. It began to seem like the grocery trip that would never end. Every single aisle featured some product that AFG hadn't remembered that he had missed and that his life wouldn't be complete without. Cereal, muffin mix, chips, lunchbox desserts, and yogurts - it all got tossed in. I realized that my role was going to be The Limiter, letting AFG get the foods he thought he couldn't live without while helping him resist the urge to "stock up."
I did draw the line at AFG's demands for Gatorade Recover.
"You don't need that. I work out more than you do and *I* don't need that."
"Maybe you need it and you don't know."
Finally the shopping trip ended, and I was supremely grateful to have AFG there to load the car up while I sat in the front and checked my email on my phone. I did need the break at that point.
This isn't the first time we've gone through reintegration, I should have anticipated this and figured out how to work in several quick but gradually more intensive shopping trips to help AFG ease into the world of fully stocked grocery stores without overstimulating him with food choices. I probably should have started out with a trip to 7-11 for some drinks, then worked up to a quick trip for bread, and finally a trial run for milk, lettuce, tomatoes, and spaghetti ingredients. I know this, and yet with all the things going on this time I forgot.
Now, I have three bags of raisin bran and I narrowly avoided a Sam's Club sized container of mango salsa. I think we're good, though.
But next time, someone please remind me to start the shopping slowly!