Large Family FAQ: Grocery Store Interrogation

Posted: under Homemaking, Housework, Large family.
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My brood. Perhaps the hardest thing about raising a large family is getting everyone to look at the camera.

Imagine if you will a typical grocery store visit for me.  I am one of those “perimeter” shoppers.  Because  I don’t buy many processed foods, and fresh ingredients have a bigger volume than boxed snacks, my cart is ALWAYS heaped up on top and fully loaded on the bottom rack. When I head to the check out, I typically have to pull my cart, because I am usually carrying a couple bunches of bananas in my arms, and maybe a few bags of ripe peaches, too.  I rarely take my younger children to the grocery store with me, primarily because I don’t have enough room in the cart, but also because they assault the groceries and thwart the other shoppers.  Last week I had to take both of my youngest.  Big mistake.  My four-year-old kept jumping in front of other carts, spread eagle, and demanding, “What’s the pass word?”  Later, back at home, I discovered teeth marks in the tube of goat cheese.  Beautiful, lovely teeth marks.  Like a dentist’s impression.

Tag-team troublemakers

Once I get to the check out, the interrogation begins.  Sometimes questions come from the cashier, but usually they are from another customer, like the unhappy soul in line behind me.  Now mind you, I go through a form of these same questions every time I go to the grocery store.  Everytime.  EV-ER-Y TIME.

“Are you having a party?”

No.  (Sometimes I say, “No, we are our own party.” But I digress.)

“How many children do you have?”

Nine.  Seven boys, two girls.  Ages 21-2, no twins.   (Right there I just pre-empted the next three questions.)

Then it comes:

“Are you Catholic?

Are you Mormon?

Are you Orthodox Jew?”

No, I’m Presbyterian.  (That last question might throw you, but it might help you to know that we are one of the only Gentile families in the entire neighborhood.  We live within walking distance of a synagogue.  Or maybe it’s because they saw the Kosher chicken; yeah, right there in the cart next to the pork tenderloin…)


“Do you know the Duggars?”

No. I don’t even own a TV.


“I hope you figure out what causes it!” and of course, they laugh at their own joke because, after all, it is so clever, so witty, so original.  I just smile.

Now there are variations of the Frequently Asked Questions that my older children have to endure, especially if they are on outings with the youngest siblings.  My nineteen-year-old daughter has to deal with a whole different realm of questions and assumptions.  Like this summer when the lifeguard helped her coaxed the little ones out of the pool by telling them to “Listen to your mother!”

Then there is a question that REALLY shocked me.  That is, really shocked me  when I heard it the first time.  It occurs when I am on an errand with my oldest son and one of the youngest children.  Complete strangers will look at us and ask me if I am on my second marriage!  Excuse me?  I don’t have a clever response.  I just reply, “No, there are seven in between” and smile. Frankly, I am not sure whether they are baffled by the age difference of my children or think my son is my second husband.

Oldest and youngest – Easter 2011

Oldest son, youngest son

 Then there is a final realm of questions that is related to those people, like the health department nurse or the census bureau, who are reluctant to believe that all of my children have the same last name. Sigh.

I suppose if I were enterprising, I would market a line of products to cater to the questions endured by extra-large families.  Perhaps I could sell t-shirts with the following slogans:

“Not a daycare.”

“Yes, they’re mine.”

“Same father.”

“My hands are full.  Full of blessings from Christ.”

But let’s face it.  Who would buy these products?  As my little guy one day realized – being a seventh child is a very rare thing.

Indeed, people notice my large family and my overflowing shopping cart, whom I do not myself notice.  One day while shopping unaccompanied, I headed in to the grocery store with an empty cart. The door opened and out came an elderly woman pushing her groceries.  She looked at me and said bluntly, “Going to buy out the store again, huh?”  What?! I had never seen this woman before in my  life, but she had seen me.  So while part of me would love to be armed with witty and cutting responses to the weekly FAQ, I realize that I can instead have a positive effect.  I have said it before and I will say it again:  One of the strongest pro-life statements I can make is to go to the grocery store with my hair combed and a smile on my face.

Now do you want to know about questions endured by a “grand multiparous woman” when pregnant? That would be another post altogether.


Comments (0) Nov 15 2012

I believe in the Hozone

Posted: under Housework, Large family.
Tags: , , ,

People frequently ask me why I haven’t posted anything to this blog in a while. Maybe it is because I have been so busy MATCHING SOCKS!

I have 134 un-matched, and un-matchable, socks. They have been sorted by color and size, and believe me, there isn’t another matchable pair on the table.  For this reason I must confess that I BELIEVE IN THE HOZONE!  Are you familiar with the Hozone?  It is that magical dimension which captures at least one sock from every load of wash.  I first became aware of the name of this mystical realm in a book called Sniglets, a wonderful book full of useful words that should be contained in a dictionary.

If there isn’t really a Hozone, I  don’t know where all of these missing socks could be.  You would expect that some socks, like a Captain America-themed crew sock, would be highly visible, but that is not so.  Furthermore, you might expect that my nine children would have drawers full of unmatched socks, but that isn’t so either.  With great regularity I tidy-up their drawers, usually when they are so overstuffed that they have pulled the knobs off.  If there is an enormous cache of lonely socks somewhere in my house, I certainly can not discover it.

White socks are the worst! Many may appear to match, but there are variations in sizes and cuffs. I can attempt to sneak them into the drawers, but un-identical socks are always rejected.

I used to know a woman who bought her three children identical white sport socks.  I thought that was, well, dysfunctional.  On laundry day, she gathered all their socks and dumped them into the washer with a cup of bleach.  At sorting time, she divided them into three equal piles and sent them to their rooms. Now I know there is a lot of wisdom to that “no nonsense” approach, but I was amused seeing her son’s white socks shining beneath his navy dress pants, or seeing her daughter vigorously stretch her mid-calf socks up to her knees beneath her skirts.  I don’t think that approach would work with my children.  Not only do my children cover a wide range of sizes (from men’s shoe size 11 to infant size 5), but  different children prefer distinct styles of socks (one prefers terry cloth, another wears only dress socks, another likes shorties…)  And I must not overlook my children’s fashion preferences!  My three-year-old’s socks MUST  thematically match his underpants.

While matching socks seems like a most elementary task, I have had little success delegating it to my children.  Even asking my twenty-year-old son to help is a recipe for disaster.   He will boldly match a 6-year-old’s navy sock with a 15-year-old’s navy sock.  Never mind that one is striped and the other is checkered! I suppose it is an outlet for him to release pent up resentment.

And so I labor on.  Whenever I encounter an unmatched sock, it gets held in a holding zone, and when that holding zone is full, I attempt to unite those socks with my enormous basket of long-time offenders.  This method has satisfied me for many years, but no longer.  I am near the breaking point.  On July 4 I am going to break with tradition and throw away all of the unmatched socks in my laundry room.  Either that, or donate them to a ministry for amputees.  But nonetheless, I am going to purge myself of unmatched socks.  And probably this time next year I will have a basket full of another 134 unmatched socks.

So what will I tackle next on my agenda?

My unmatched glove collection!





Comments (6) Mar 08 2012