Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hej Då!

("Hej Då!" is a commonly used "good bye" in Sweeden, and translates more literally to "Hello, then!".)

Today the munchkins and I ventured forth once again to the magical blue and yellow box of treasures: IKEA Portland.

Armed with the knowledge that it's the "ok" button on the phone that actually saves the photos I take, I brought back not only treasures to warm my home and family, but photographic evidence of our journey.

Witness . . . the girls being sweet and cooperative:

In an uncharacteristic fit of conformity, MissE (now 7--yikes!) agreed to wear a hair clip that matched LilMissL's.  I think they looked adorable . . . and at least there's tenacious evidence (those clips don't. move. ever.) that I did, at one point this morning, brush and otherwise groom their hair!

The boys being . . . um . . . boys:

(Don't you love CS's french fry glamour pose?  And I'm so thankful the Anderman's tongue is mostly in his mouth!)  Their heads were carefully groomed with a wet comb before leaving, as well . . . but it's hard to convince them to wear rhinestone-studded barrettes to prove it.

And the Baby bustin' out his favorite new move . . . The Uber-Nab:

The kid is seriously fast with those fingers.  If you get your head too close, it's game over until he decides to let go. ;o)

Overall, we had a very successful time.  We came away with nearly everything we went to fetch (minus an attractive laundry-sorter deal for the family's dirty duds), a couple of things I didn't have on the list (Hello, Persian carpet in As-Is!  Woot!), and another adventure under our belts.  Honestly, I love taking my kids to Ikea with me.  It's such a family-friendly place (love the baby care room, with a changing table, nursing chair, and toys for the kids!), the munchkins love looking at all of the displays, getting to try out the model living spaces, and play in the children's area.  I love all of the really great homewares (I'm a new duvet/cover convert . . . the older boys each scored a set today, and they love the poufy, squishy softness to snuggle under), I know the store well enough now to not be completely overwhelmed after an hour, and I get a lot of compliments from other Ikea shoppers on my family.  (What mother doesn't simply eat that up?)

(Honest . . . this really isn't bragging . . . I'm just so happy to see that some of the pain and hard word has paid off!)  Today was an all-time record for the number of people who stopped to talk to me for a minute or two about the spectacle of one mother with five children . . . in a public space.  

There was a gentleman about the same age as my dad (mid-50's) who came within about six feet of our table and addressed me, his face steadily flushing as he spoke with an admirably-controlled, quaking voice: "Ma'am, I would like to compliment you on the demeanor of your children."  I thanked him wholeheartedly, appreciating deeply that he was impressed enough to brave coming over to say something.  He was clearly very shy, and retreated as soon as my "Thank You" was spoken. 

Then there was the jovial man who sidled up to me and said: "Are these all yours, girl?!?"  When I affirmed it, he laughed and said "Heavens!"  We chatted for a few seconds, as he grinningly watched the kids arranging the dishes and lunch ephemera on the table.  Then looking me in the eye he asked "You're not Mormon, are you?"  I laughed again, confessing, and he responded with "Good for you!" before smiling and heading off to the lunch line, shaking his head a few times as he went.  

There was the dark-haired grandmother at the very end of our adventure, sitting at the table next to us in the cafe near the exit, who talked back and forth a bit about children and families.  It was clear, after a few exchanges, that she loved children . . . she and her husband had wanted six, had tried to get them here, but had lost babies 2, 4 & 6.  They raised three.  We spoke of what we thought her three angels were doing, and how they spent their time waiting for her to join them.  She was so warm and congratulatory, and visibly joyed by my life choices.  I need to plant her firmly in my mind, to hear her voice and see her smiling eyes on days when things overwhelm me, despite my mighty struggle.

In the interest of full disclosure: they weren't perfect.  There aren't old heads on those young shoulders, to paraphrase E. Nesbit.  CS ran MissE down in the couch section, trapping one of her legs under the stroller cart and eliciting quite the sobbing episode, until MissE was safely ensconsed in the second stroller to rest her mortally injured (and visibly unscathed) leg.  LilMissL was kind enough to take a turn walking without too much fanfare.  

LilMissL had a tearful breakdown while I tried to get everyone's orders straight in the lunch line.  (She was the only one of the kids who wanted pasta instead of mashed potatoes, and thought she wasn't going to be heard.)  

The Baby sobbed broken-heartedly when I disappeared into a batthroom stall (he was in a stroller cart, with the older children, in the bathroom proper).  

And there was complaining and moaning at various times.  Plenty of "Mom, can we get _____???" answered with a plain and quiet "No."  Our fair share of exclamations and excited voices.  And a few social goofs.  They are kids, after all. ;o)

And now that full disclosure has been made, can I just say that seeing people's positive reactions made my day?  I know that people watch me when I'm out with the kids.  Five children, three or four of which are in a straggling line behind me (depending on how many I've got in the cart), is somewhat uncommon 'round these parts. ;o)  Since moving to Oregon I've felt very much like an activist.  People overwhelmed with their child (or two or three) see me with mine.  People who haven't yet started a family get a glimpse into what's possible, instead of the more common and disturbing scenes.

Today, while out with a brood of five:
  • I was smiling.  
  • I was reasonably well-groomed.  (No model, but I'm clean and brushed, and usually have on a smile and mascara!)  
  • My children were not a hindrance (well, not much of one), or a spectacle, or a burden, or usually an inconvenience to those around them.  (We're working on the whole "pay attention so you aren't in the way of others" concept still.)  
They're somewhat shy, but at the same time unafraid, around adults.  This is their reality--their commonplace.  Being out with mom, in the "real world" (to borrow a tired school phrase), is part of their lives.  I'm careful to make sure their physical needs are met; we don't go out at nap time, I make sure they're fed and watered regularly while we're out, we make potty stops, I talk with them and we explore together wherever we are so they're not completely bored, etc.  If I mess up on any one of those, there are highly visible (and audible) repercussions.  (I've been a quick study on that lesson. ;o)

There are lactivists . . . and various types of rights activists . . . there are missionaries and Salvation Army bell ringers . . . people that stand out because they're serving a different purpose than the rest of us.  

That's how I felt today.  We stood out.

Today I finally realized that while only six people stopped to say something to me, there were in all likelihood far more than that who took notice, who watched, who wondered.  I was honestly happy to be there with my children, and I know it showed.

I've never been one to accept the status quo when it didn't match my priorities . . . or to accept the cultural myths that support the more broken facets of society.  Showing random strangers that children are complete individuals, entirely capable of handling themselves well in public places and that women can be capable of true happiness in motherhood was highly satisfying to me today.  I know those concepts are generally accepted as possible--but few in the adult world have ever seen hard evidence.  I wonder if other participants in social movements have felt the same on a good day?