27Aug

Finn vs. The Mannequin

Today was the first day of homeschool co-op. I’m teaching a writing class of middle schoolers, but for the first two hours, I get to drop off six of my kids and walk away.

I may have popped a wheelie in the 12-passenger van on the way out of the parking lot. My apologies to that lady who had to dive into the dumpster…

Finn and I headed off for big and important things: making returns at local department stores. I strapped him in the stroller while he chanted, “Wes go, Mama! Wes go!”

His chatter ceased abruptly when we walked through the double glass doors and into the fancy mall. It occurred to me – he’s never been in a department store before. Because: honestly, Why?

My stop was upstairs, so I hunted down an elevator. And remembered why I rarely use a stroller any more. I had flashbacks to huffing and puffing behind the quad stroller whilst trying to walk out Baby Number Whatever in a local mall.

I may have doubled over with a phantom contraction.

The elevator made Finn nervous, because he shook his head at it and told me, “No,” when we got off. Alrighty then…

We made our way to the counter where I began my return. Finn started asking, “Dem da guys? Dose guys?”

I answered him absent-mindedly like I had answered him all the way there in the car, “No, baby, we left the guys at co-op. We’ll see them soon.”

He kept repeating his question so I looked around. He was pointing at two mannequins who posed staidly in front of his stroller. “Oh. Ummm, no, honey, those aren’t real people…”

Finn tucked his chin and furrowed his brow. Staring suspiciously, he kept those mannequins in his laser-focused beams until I finished my business. I pushed him toward the mannequins and knocked gently on the knee of one awkwardly posed “woman.” He jumped at the hollow sound it made. “Do you want to touch it?”

“NO.”

He shook his head for emphasis and jerked his hand up tight by his chest, lest I try to force the issue. I relented and we strolled on… Right toward a bizarre arrangement of about twelve mannequins posed auspiciously in the main walkway. “Dere more guys, Mama! Alla guys!”

Then he proceeded to give me a tour of every mannequin we passed until we left the store. Perhaps we should stick to visits to Target when we want to do our fancy shopping…

(It took me all day to figure out why he called them “guys.” He thought they were giant army men like he and Adam play with at home. It was that army of mannequins in the lingerie section that convinced him.

And yes, I definitely made a sizable contribution to our “Kids Therapy Fund” jar this evening.)

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How he coped with waiting for me to try on twenty pairs of jeans…

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What Grown-Ups Think

The other night, one of our older boys came downstairs after bedtime, weeping. “I started thinking about how one day I’ll grow up and have to go away and I don’t want to leave you and my brothers and my stuffed animals! I just love them all so much! I’m happy herrrreeeeeeeee, sob.”

First – Inner fist pump to have a kid admit he’s happy under our roof. Always nice to hear.

Second – I totally get it. I did a little growing up of my own this week, officially turning 35 and ending what little shred of  “I’m not an adult yet” I was still hanging on to.

I love my birthday. I love the well wishes (God bless Facebook for reminding everybody), the presents, eating whatever I want (chocolate mousse, of course,) and being made much of.

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The kids made me breakfast in bed (and prematurely aged Andrew a few years in the process, I think.) My favorite consignment sale happened to fall on my birthday, so Andrew and I put our game faces on and stocked up on everybody’s clothes for the winter. Then we used our 12-passenger van as a dressing room, put on fancy clothes, and went out to a nice dinner. Like classy grown-ups do.

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Growing up is scary, it gets scarier every year. We just exposed the previously mentioned child to the trials of paying for food with his own money and it must have pushed him over the edge, hence, the freak-out. Understandable. Paying for food pushes me over the edge just about every single month.

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As I’ve pondered this year, I’ve secretly wondered… Now what? I mean, this is officially My Life. This is what I spent all of my young years wishing and hoping and wondering about. And now I’m here. I’m not done yet, of course, but I’ve sort of got a big picture idea of: this is who I’m married to (yay!), we have this whole passel of kids (lots of yays!), and my job is pretty much defined. I’m not going to become a Broadway star or develop a new talent for Olympic diving like I dreamed about as a kid.

To tell the truth, I actually LOVE my thirties. I’m figuring out who I really am now that I’m not so focused on incubating or lactating. Remembering I’ve got other talents, discovering how to combine my love of mothering with some of my other skills… It’s new and exciting. Plus, there’s the privilege of raising all these people we’ve been given. Daunting, but truly an honor.

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Were you ever one of those kids who got upset when the parents talked about Jesus coming back? “No, wait! I’ve got stuff I want to do – Life I need to live!”

I still have stuff I want to do. I want to see my babies grow up, to know the joy of holding a grandchild and getting to give him back for the nighttime feedings, to sit next to Andrew on my porch when we’re 100, laughing til I pee a little. (Or a lot, depending on how my bladder holds up…) But I’ve seen enough of Real Life to get now what all the fuss was about. I see the world through these dadgum grown-up eyes and I’m ready for Jesus to come and Fix It Already.

I finally understand why the older generations were always going on and on about heaven. Because they got to this part of being a grown-up and realized: This ain’t for me. This is hard, this is painful, and all of us are just plain BROKEN. This place doesn’t work like it should. But I’ve seen enough of Real Life to also know that there are good, beautiful, and true things. We just can’t see them perfectly all the time on this side of heaven. So I’m ready to get to the other side, to take in the good and beautiful, to revel in the True.

I don’t enjoy the hard stuff or these new wrinkles on my face, nobody does. I’ve never been more keenly aware of my own need for grace and mercy every single second. But the only way I’ll survive one more minute on this earth is knowing that at the end of it all: I get Jesus. We get heaven.

That’s better than all the other stuff we chase our tails trying to get, plus a bucket of chocolate mousse.

“I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

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