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"Our cart makes music, Mommy! Its pretty!" a little girl with firey scarlet hair spoke in delight of the wheel below her. She was about three years old and sat comfortably in the shopping cart as her mother pushed it down the aisles on a rampage.

"Katie, play it when I'm on my deathbed," the mother replied.

The child looked up innocently, "What?"

Miss Parker smiled, "Never mind, Angel. Now where is your father? We didn't lose him in the toy department again did we?"

"But, Mommy," Katie inserted, "we didn't go through the toy partmit, you said daddy would buy more Play-Doughs and you'd have to peel them out of Laney's hairs again."

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean he didn't wander over there anyway," the brunnette wheeled her cart around and headed back to the toy aisle. Not to her surprise, there stood her husband with her other two daughters.

"Mommy! I told him not to do it!" the little five year old insisted as she immediately glued herself to her mother's leg.

Miss Parker knelt down and with a stern look aimed toward her chestnut haired daughter, "It was your job to keep him in line, young lady. You are the oldest, and next to me, most responsible in this house."

"We're not in the house, Mommy," the perplexed look on the eldest child's face erupted laughter from the woman.

She resumed standing and approached the man before her, who was eyeing a hot pink Barbie automobile while clutching his nearly two years old daughter. The little girl, cocoa eyes dancing, waved her arms excidedly and hit the box with a pop saying, "Good, Daddy!"

"You like this one do you? We're going to have to ask Santa about that then, huh, Maggie?" Jarod bounced her a little and she giggled. Then he realized he was being watched, "I'm sorry. Let's go get what we came for."

"That's right. Why is it that every time we walk into this madhouse to buy a pair of gloves, we come out with a coat, boots, hat, and a hundred more dollars worth of junk?"

"Havn't the slightest idea," the family continued walking, "ahh, the Christmas section."

"Yippie-yo-kai-aye."

"Now you need to get into the Christmas spirit, Parker," Jarod chastized.

"When its over, I'll get in the Christmas spirit," she murmured as they approached the light section.

"But its the most wonderful time of the year," Katie quoted as she skipped toward the colored lights, "lets get the big ones!"

"Tacky town is not our style this year." She reached for a box of icicle white lights.

"But-"

"No."

Jarod knelt down and picked her up, "Come on, Katie, let's go find some especially tacky and colorful Christmas ornaments for the tree."

He gave his wife a scornful look, shaking his head and she grinned.

Left with light duty, she threw in a couple more boxes of white lights and headed to the lit swags for the many windows of their home, all the time dragging two impatient little girls with her.

The youngest, Delaney, shook a jingle bell from inside the cart with the vigor and enthusiasm that only a child during Christmas could have. Maggie, however, strutted with the pride and confidence that she could only have inherited from her mother, including her striking blue eyes.

A few aisles away, Jarod held his daughter up high above his head as she reached for a box of festive glass spheres. Katie giggled happily as her father flew her safely to the ground after a quick kiss on the forehead. Her short red hair curling around her chin, inherited from her grandmother, complimented her sapphire eyes.

"You think we have enough?" he asked as he glanced at the stack he had placed on the floor beside them. Katie nodded and picked up a couple of them.

"Let's find Mommy," she replied.

"So we shall."

The family met up and started searching for a check-out line. The only one available read '15 items or less' and that certainly wasn't the case for them.

"You'd think that a place with 1,000 customers a day could open more than two registers," Parker muttered.

So, they remained in line for a good 15 minutes.

"Delaney Parker! No!" Parker shouted as she watched her youngest rip open a carton of ornaments and fling one of them to the adjacent line, smacking a man in the back of the head. The little girl clapped her hands together and giggled like a little mischiefous elf. Parker's hand clapped over her mouth and her eyes widened. Jarod dropped the box and kicked it under the gum rack inconspicuously. Maggie rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.

The man, however, walked over to them and with a grim look approached Jarod.

"That your kid?" he said, gesturing to the happy little girl. Katie swatted the two-year-old's hand away as Delaney reached for another box.

"Yes, it is. I apologize for your, um inconvenience," Jarod assured him while Katie tugged on his pants leg, "what is it?"

"There's glass in his hair," she covered her mouth to restrain her laughter.

"You need to learn how to control your kid," the man continued in anger.

Jarod started to protest, but was intervened by his wife, "I think she has excellent aim don't you?"

The man stared her up and down and laughed, "Pretty cocky for someone like you don't you think?"

"Someone like me?" Parker growled, allowing some of her skills from The Centre to shine.

"A mom, a dainty wife, beautiful," he rose an eyebrow, "not someone who should be picking fights."

Parker grabbed hold of his wrist and twisted it around suddenly without warning, "think again, pal."

Jarod sighed and collected his children as she signed the check and grabbed their purchases. Hopefully there would be no lawsuits in their mail anytime soon.

*****

"I swear, we can't even go into a Wal-Mart without starting something," Parker grumbled.

"We?" Jarod remarked as he turned the wheel, "that was all you, sweetheart."

She gave him a plastic smile before looking into the back of their van where three little girls were playing in their carseats.

"Daddy, are we there yet?!" Maggie bellowed.

"Does it look like we're there yet? I promise as soon as you see lots of Christmas trees, that's the place."

"But there's trees everywhere."

"We are here!" Jarod announced before he got a lesson from his little Miss Parker.

After a lot of unbuckling, the group scattered and began searching for a suitable tree.

Finally, one was found after much debate and a couple teenagers tied it to the top of their red van.

They began driving back to their established home, Jarod humming Christmas tunes the whole way.

"Mommy, tree!" Delaney shrieked.

"Yes, sweetie, we have a tree," she affirmed.

"Tree! Tree! Fall!"

"Fall?" Parker glanced at Jarod who returned her baffled look.
He looked into the rearview mirror to see her, but instead saw a tree sliding down the back of the van, "Parker, the tree!"

"What?" she turned and saw, "Oh shoot!"

"Please don't, Parker," Jarod answered as they pulled over to the side of the road, cars passing steadily, each driver staring intensely. She growled and slipped out of the car. The two struggled to retie the teenagers' lousy job while the children argued and laughed from inside.

"Can I help?" Katie asked.

The two adults replied in unison, "No!"

"Can Laney have your purse, Mommy?"

"No! Maggie, watch your sisters."

Suddenly a siren filled their ears and Jarod's eyes met Parker's.

She shook her head, "Not possible."

A police officer approached the van and she walked over to where they were struggling, "Seems you all have a problem?"

"Yeah," Parker wiped a stray hair out of her face in frustration, "I'd say so."

"Why don't you put the tree inside the van?" the obviously naive woman suggested.

Jarod laughed, "With three kids in carseats and ten Wal-Mart bags? I doubt it, ma'am."

"Well, I have a bungee cord in the trunk. You wanta try that?"

Parker quickly assured her that that would never work and tied the final knot on the former cords around the tree. On their way again, with the police officer tailing them the whole way, there were no more mishaps on the way home.











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