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this is how you do it. (rocky mount, nc blackberry photographer)

I can almost hear Montell Jordan in the background…

Husband is out of town.  Ironically, doing Guard Duty on Memorial Day.  So there was me + three kids 6 years old and under.   What do you think is the perfect Memorial Day?  The park?  A family picnic? Sprinklers and yard work?  Nah; we spent last week doing all that stuff.  We chose THE MALL.

And we had a blast.

The girls love the bookstore.  Evyn has learned to read, and Ashlyn loves the train table, and Cam…well, Cam is still crawling and doesn’t get a vote yet.  Our local bookstore got rid of the children’s reading section (shrug).  So we headed to Raleigh.

Wanna know how we managed four and a half  HOURS at the mall without even a trip to the food court (I even got to visit two stores just for me)?

(cue Montell) This is how you do it:

1.  Bookstore.  Have your new reader show off her skills while keeping middle child entertained.  This gives you enough time to feed the baby a snack.  Where do you get a snack?  The coffee shop.  Milk and bananas. $2.47/child.

2.  The elevator is a game!  Let them push the buttons.

3.  Train table.  If you don’t know about the train table you probably don’t have kids.

4.  Make sure the baby is comfortable so he can kick back and relax.

5.  Let the kids shake their sillies out at the kid’s Romp and Kick and Scream section.  Most malls have one.  Do your best to wedge this activity between the obligatory trip to the Gap (where you will make a $15 return in exchange for a $68 purchase) and the bookstore.  This activity is the bait to keep them behaved at Gap and is also the wear-them-out-so-they’ll-be-quiet-at-the-bookstore trick.

6.  While waiting in line for the handicap dressing room (the only dressing room you can squeeze three kids into), let them play with the mirrors.  Let them dance, twirl, and make silly faces.  Don’t worry; almost everyone else in line is finding this entertaining.

7.  Get in the picture.  You know how I feel about this.  If I could have found a photobooth, I would have done that, too.  But crossing your fingers and hoping your phone will catch something will do.

8.  Box the baby into a corner of the Romp and Kick and Scream section, lest he get romped and kicked by the seven year olds.

9.  This is probably the single-most important factor to surviving – and even enjoying – the mall with three little kids: the stroller that actually holds three kids.  Worth its weight in gold.  The oldest did a lot of walking, but she got short rests on the “stand” part of the Sit-n-Stand.  Middle child found the backwards seat amusing.

10.  Double-fist the Starbucks.

Notes: 1) we left immediately after lunch and I packed a snack for the road, 2) we did get to make a stop at Children’s Place where Evyn picked coordinating skirts for herself and Ashlyn (on sale, of course), 3) I did make my own stops for clothes speedy and asked the girls for their opinions, 4) we did the Drive Thru at Burger King on the way home.  The key was to keep it all entertaining.

We really did have a great day and I’m so glad I took pictures to remember it.  Yes, they are crappy phone pictures.  But sometimes what makes the image beautiful is that you took it at all.