Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting #1

Written by Liz Eagle

giraffeCheap Momma's Guide to Parenting
Entry 1: What’s in a Zoo?
By : Liz Eagle

There are quite a few things in the world I value. Craigslist, Pandora, sunny days… But, as it should be, at the top of that list is my kids. Nothing in the world beats 2 little monsters running around, coming up with awesome projects, playing dress up, and pooping in the yard. When those fun activities end, however, it can leave us poor mommas and poppas feeling a bit stumped.

Don’t play games with me. Parenting isn’t all Pinterest and PBS. I can’t always do all the great things I see on and, dammit, sometimes I just don’t want to spend all my hard-earned money on it!

And that’s where my grand idea comes in: the Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting. “Necessity is indeed the mother of invention” someone old once said (presumably a parent). I’m so tired of the “First I take my kids to violin lessons, then soccer, then ballet and on the weekends we go out of town” conversations. You lose me after the word “First” because that implies you are doing more than one thing. Lots of days I have one thing on my list: nap. Check.

BUT on the days I have the energy and time (2 important variables in the parenting equation), I strap my little buddies in their booster seats and head off in search of something cheap--- or free.

About a year ago, my husband and I took the kids to the zoo. It was awesome. It was so big, we only got around to half of it. So we bought seasons passes. For a whole year, we could visit the zoo without paying another nickel. Great idea. The bad idea, though, was not taking into account the drive to the zoo, the time off work for my husband (heaven forbid I venture alone), and that a year is only 365 days. How am I supposed to fit 1 more day of zoo fun in that amount of time?

Needless to say, the year came and went and we never saw the other half of the zoo.

The good mother in me wanted my kids to have an animal experience (not to be confused with the current though fading animalistic/bath salts experience). The really, really good mother in me saw an easy way out: PetSmart. That’s right, bitches. PetSmart. I would like to emphasis the word “smart” here.

I can’t take all the credit, though. From my home in the glorious Villa Heights Neighborhood to the bustling Cotswold shopping center, housing PetSmart, is about a 5 mile drive. Because of the recent closing of the Ghetto-Teeter on Central, I had to haul ass over there to pick up some diapers anyway. On our way out, I saw two 12-year-old boys beaming lovingly at plastic bags filled with Charlotte’s finest tap water and little baby goldfish.

As I looked down the way, it’s like heaven’s light shone on the entrance of PetSmart. I’d like to think we hit it on a good day. There were a couple of white fluffy pooches being groomed, 2 double-leashed police-looking dogs, a rather large guinea pig, and the fish. Oh, the fish. Who needs an aquarium trip when you can be up-close and personal with 100s of tiny goldfish? An old man asked my 5 year old “Young lady, do you think you could count all those fish?” No, sir. No she could not. Because believe you me there were fishies a-plenty. (But, if you wanted to kill time, you could certainly have your little one count them over and over again. It is up to your discretion.)

We watched as an awkward teenage girl picked out some over priced marine life. We walked to the kitties and watched them jump from stand to stand. Bubbles would have been proud. We saw the parakeets chirping and fighting over something.

I felt like we’d seen it all. Fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians. And right up close and personal. Not all distant and neck-craning as the zoo. Certainly not under the blaring August sun. And all within the comfort of your own city!

So, for those needing this guide to be in guide-format, here is a Cheap Momma’s How-to for a Zoo-like outing:

  1. Pick a hot/rainy day where being outside is miserable so you don’t feel so bad about skipping the regular zoo.
  2. Google Maps your nearest PetSmart location, so as not to waste a drop of the liquid $3.72/gallon gold.
  3. Get your little ones amped up about all the species of animals living in said pet store.
  4. Take your own snacks (optional)
  5. Make laps. Mostly because there are only about 5 sections that house animals and you need to make it worth your while.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

And there you have it. The first installment of the Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting. Stay tuned: you never know where the cheapness will lead us.


Liz Eagle   Liz Eagle

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