Paper, Plastic, and Are They All Yours?

A few days ago, I finally broke down and went grocery shopping.  With all the kids.

I know.  But I honestly had no choice.  The last food items in the house were a ziplock bag of peanuts in the shell and a half jar of instant coffee crystals from last summer’s camping trips.

Ken kept telling me to make a shopping list and he would go get it done before work one day, but me, oh no, I was too busy playing Diablo or not showering to be bothered to make that list.

The kids’ least favorite punishments are natural consequences, and who can blame them?  It’s bad enough you’re suffering, but to know the suffering is a direct result of your own choices makes it almost too much to bear.  So when the natural consequences of my laziness came to bite me in the butt, all I could do was grit my teeth, hunt down the baby sling, and load all six kids into the van.

I get it.  I really, really do.  It’s unusual in this country to see a large family.  I also have come to understand that many adults make personal comments about large families that they wouldn’t make when faced with another uncommon person.  So while I don’t think the majority of people would look at paraplegic in a wheelchair and ask him twenty questions about his situation, his lifestyle, and his history, there doesn’t seem to be the same filter in regards to family size.

It’s not a big deal to me anymore.  It used to weigh on me heavily when people would say things to/at me about the kids, but now I’m in a place where I feel comfortable being a sort of ambassador to a foreign land.  That’s why I make sure I don’t go out with all the kids unless I’ve showered, put on something not sweat pant-y, and still have enough patience left that I’m not barking at the kids like some deranged drill sergeant.  If I can’t meet those requirements, then it’s another day of voluntary house arrest.

But I really didn’t want to go that day.  Somehow, a very public outing with six children under ten seemed too much, like I’d reached some sort of tipping point.  Five was one thing, six just seemed to be Asking For Trouble.

Suspicions were confirmed when I pulled into the parking lot and quickly realized the only cart that would seat more than one child was –of course- the “car cart”.  You know what I’m talking about- the cart that has a plastic car attached to the front of it so your little darlings can pretend to steer their way through the market.  Or, in my case, the little darlings can pretend to be policemen, chasing down bad guys, and make loud siren noises all. through. the. store.  Oh, also? The car cart puts little hands at the exact perfect level to sweep across the lowest shelves, knocking 3 dozen cans of soup into the isle in a single movement.

There’s a lot of indignities I can handle as a mom.

Bodily fluids, diapers, embarrassing questions asked at ear-splitting levels in the middle of Mass, no problem.  But the car cart?  It’s the bête noir of my domestic existence.

Whatever woman.  Load three kids into the car cart anyway, strap an infant onto your front, remind the two kids promoted to walking status that they’re not to wander off, and go.

We hadn’t even made it into the produce section when it started.

To be honest, we did bring this one on ourselves, since the nine year old stopped in the middle of the floor, mouth wide open, marveling at the renovations the store had made during our absence.  So while she was commenting at how “glorious and spacious” (her words) the store now looked, we had a big fat target on us.

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Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • JoAnna

    I would like those car carts so much more if they were completely enclosed, except for a couple of air holes or something. And soundproofed.

  • Yes!  Kennel Carts, if you will.  Genius.

  • I’ve been bemoaning the fact that our weekends are ruined by the shared car forcing us to grocery shop on Saturdays or Sundays, but I think in my haste to belly-ache about things I’d forgotten that the alternative is to take children WITH me to said store.  No more complaints from me, friend.  Not a one!

  • gratiaplena

    As one of 10 children, and the mother of only 2 (I wanted 12, but God had other ideas), I love to ask that famous question, “Are they all yours?”. And I always congratulate the heroic mother for her generosity and love–but always with a little envy and melancholy.

  • Kennel Karts. You have to have the double K on something as awesome at that.  JoAnna, you’re an evil genius!

  • Argh!
    Thank you for this, Gratiaplena, though it hurts my heart.  I will remember you next time I field this question and offer up a prayer for you and all people who wish they were able to have more children than they do.

  • Nah.  You’re seven million years pregnant.  You have the universal “Bell-ache all you want” card!

  • Pat

    Brought back memories of myself with 4 in seven years, actually 7, but lost 3 babies.  The insulting question:”Don’t you know what causes that?” made me want to choke the asker. I answered, “In fact, I do!”and walked off. “Jerks.” I loved all of my little ones and still do, now that I am old and have them surrounding me whenever I am in need or lonely.
    You are a Stand-Out Mom and don’t you forget it!

  • I normally get the stories like the little old lady or the man…usually the shock comments are all boys, since I have 4…but like you I have learned to just let it slide…

  • my kids expect comments when we go shopping now and are surprised if all they get is looks :). Thank you for putting a big smile on my face! We need more ambassadors like you! 🙂 Blessings!

  • gratiaplena

    Thanks, Cari! God bless!

  • Sharon Grant

    Ok, I just have to tell you ladies, even though you know it’s coming…  there most definitely WILL come a time when you realize no one will know how lucky you are to be a mom of many because you will so rarely all be together.  It starts in high school, when activities and work keep the older kids from family activities.  Then college, moving away, getting married…  I saw a beautiful family with six young children in Tim Horton not too long ago.  I’m sure they endured the repetitive or thoughtless comments of many coffee drinkers that day, and even though I would have wanted to say something nice if I’d gotten close enough, I remember how it was when we went out and I just wanted to be unnnoticed for once.  But boy, did they remind me of my own family, and did they ever make me miss having my incredibly precious children all with me in one place.  They also made me think, “Wow.  My gang must have looked every bit as adorable as their kids when we were all together.”  It’s another trite comment, but time flies faster than you can ever imagine, and thoughtless comments notwithstanding, you really are at the best time of your life!  

  • Kvancura

    Dear Cari,
    I applaud your story as well as your sense of humor!  As a mother of 10, I, too, often dread going out all together (or at least 6 kids in tow!) sometimes.  I totally understand the ambassador routine; in fact, I often remind the kids that by behaving themselves in public, they are really helping out the pro-life cause.  And although I still get somewhat irritated by the 20 questions from strangers, I have found that the best answer is to smile sweetly and state, “yes, they are all mine; we have been blessed!.” This truism strikes home for most people who then actively confirm that yes, we have!
    Have a most blessed day! 

  • I told Ken something like this the other day.  All hell had broken loose, and I turned to him and said, “Funny thing is, 10 years from now, we’re going to look back on times like this and laugh and laugh.”

    Thanks for the perspective, Sharon!

  • QuoVadisAnima

    My favorite comeback to the “Don’t you know what causes that?” is “I would think the answer to that is pretty obvious!” said with a gentle smile – while walking off to make it clear that no further conversation is desired! 

  • Hough

    Loved it! I have 9 kids and I HATE taking them all shopping almost as much as I hate the stupid car carts!