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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: When the toddlers grow up, they really can ‘help’ with the groceries. Thank goodness

}Hyrum and Emmett Ditto “help” their mom shop during a trip to the grocery store in 2016.  (Michelle Giles)
}Hyrum and Emmett Ditto “help” their mom shop during a trip to the grocery store in 2016. (Michelle Giles)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

When my kids were little, I thought the greatest idea in the whole entire world would be a grocery store with a drive-up window where tired parents could just pull up and purchase cheese, bread, milk or eggs. Those were the four food staples that – what with my army of toddlers and all – I was constantly stocking up on at the store.

“How is a drive-thru grocery store not a thing yet?” I asked all my other mom friends, who nodded their tired heads in agreement. “All a store would need to do is cut a hole in their stock room wall and keep some high school kid back there to hand out cheese, bread, milk and eggs. Can you imagine not having to drag your kids through the store every few days? What a beautiful world that would be.”

Nowadays, of course, the thought of a drive-thru milk and cheese window is rather quaint. It’s common now to do your grocery shopping online and then either have it delivered to your doorstep or to drive to the store and have someone bring it right out to your trunk.

But back when I was a much younger mom, such luxury was an unthinkable extravagance. I did try online grocery shopping a couple times back in those days, when I’d gotten a coupon in the mail for free delivery if I spent $100 or more.

Clutching that coupon in my hand, I stayed up late crafting the perfect grocery order – the one that would enable me to go a whole week without having to set foot in the grocery store. I think it took me well over an hour, but I deemed it a worthy use of my time.

And when the goods showed up on my doorstep the next morning promptly at 10:30, I was ecstatic. I carried all the bags inside, set them on my counter, and began unloading the miraculous groceries.

The 2 gallons of milk were perfect; the box of instant oatmeal completely flawless. My excitement lessened a bit when I reached into one bag and pulled out a family-size one-quart container of peach yogurt, followed by two more quart-size tubs. I could have sworn I had ordered single-serving cups, but apparently not.

“I guess we’ll just invite the neighbors over for some kind of yogurt-themed party,” I thought, undeterred.

The rest of the grocery order followed suit, with a few hits and a few misses (anyone need a single banana?). By the time I was done unloading the groceries, I realized with chagrin that I would need to go to the store the next day to get everything that I’d either messed up or forgotten. It was not a happy moment.

These days, the very toddlers who exhausted me through my grocery store trips as a young mom are the ones doing the shopping for me when I just can’t handle it anymore.

Lucy, now a college freshman cooking for herself, actually enjoys going to the grocery store. When she was home last month for Christmas break, she was a lifesaver any time I needed a last-minute ingredient for a holiday party or meal.

And George, my high school senior, saved my hide just last week as he was getting ready to come home from school and I called him in a panic.

“Where are you?” I asked. “Are you still at the school?”

“I’m just about to leave the parking lot,” he said. “What’s up?”

“Oh, thank goodness,” I replied. “Can you grab some things for me from the grocery store? Dinner time is closing in on me, and the thought of dragging myself to the store makes me want to cry.”

George gamely complied. I texted him my (kind of long and specific) grocery list and added at the bottom, “Get yourself something nice,” hoping he’d interpret that as “a king-size candy bar” and not “brand new AirPods.”

About an hour later, he came home with two armfuls of groceries (no way was he paying for a bag!) and two fancy vitamin drinks as his “very nice” reward (thank goodness). Dinner went off without a hitch, and I didn’t have to set foot outside my house. I guess acclimating my toddlers to the grocery store all those years ago wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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