Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm Free Again!

Congratulate me! My husband bought a new old car yesterday--finally!

After looking for months at many different models, he decided on a '97 Lexus with 172,000 miles on it. The owner was asking $5,750. The Kelley Blue Book was $6,400, and my husband negotiated down to $5,000. Since this Lexus model was made by Toyota, we know that it'll last for several more years. I'm really surprised by how attractive the car looks, and our mechanic said that it's in great shape. It'll need rear brakes soon and a new battery and cables. What a deal!!

My husband did an abundant amount of research on each car that he considered. He test drove a few, too. It's amazing how many people just handed him their keys and let him take the car for a drive--alone--after meeting him only minutes before. Either they want the car to be stolen so that they'd be able to collect the insurance because it's a piece of junk or my husband looks like a totally trustworthy guy. I hope it's the latter.

After we drove the car home, I called my friend who had agreed to take the Toyota Camry off of our hands. She said that they'd just returned from buying a '95 Mercedes (not diesel) with 117,000 miles on it for $3,500. Her husband found it that day and bought it on the spot. We took months to find the right vehicle. They took one day, and got the better deal, apparently. I'm happy that we won't have to worry about her with a small child and our unreliable car. But I have to admit, I'm a little curious as to why it was so laborious for us and so easy and cheap for them.

Regardless, I'm thrilled that now the kids and I can go out whenever we want to. I love my property, but there were moments when it felt as if we were wearing prison ankle monitors for home confinement. Trapped? No. Just overwhelmed, at times, when I'm not able to complete my tasks by running important errands. Now I can experience the joy of taking all the kids shopping with me. The funny looks. Sarcastic comments. Pointing. We're a circus sideshow, you know. And the funny thing is that my children behave well in the stores. They are aware of the consequences if they don't. The next time I go shopping, the perpetrator will have to stay home with Daddy. No tastes. No surprises. No treats. For those who've experienced that type of confinement, it's enough to keep them in line.

Sometimes I see parents with one or two children having a difficult time. Oh, yes, I remember those days well. It's harder to have fewer kids--for me, anyway (except when it comes to sleep deprivation). People frequently stop me to ask about the children. I feel the constant stares. And I tell the kids that they speak volumes about big families, without ever saying a word.

Our outings have given me the opportunity to perform an odd scientific experiment, of sorts. Whether I have five, six, or all seven children with me, strangers seem incapable of counting to more than four. I take this as a direct reflection on the sorry state of education in this country. "So, you have four?" I'm frequently asked. "No, I have seven--see? Five boys and two girls--seven. Five plus two equals seven. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven."

When I was pregnant with my fifth, a cashier surveyed the boys and asked what I was having. When I told her it was another boy, she spat, "OH! I feel so sorry for you!" I took one look at the boys' crestfallen faces and said, "Please don't. I'm the luckiest person in the world with all of these boys!" We left with big smiles because, regardless of what anyone says, my kids only really care about what I think.

When I had six, I was in the Wal-Mart toy department looking for a birthday present for a friend. My oldest sons were off in the electronics department (because there's nothing more to life than complicated electrical gadgets), so there were only four with me. I turned a corner with two in the basket and the other two hanging off the sides. It was heavy, so I had a hard time stopping it and almost ran directly into an older lady, who proclaimed, "Oh no! Do you think you have enough children?" I immediately replied, "I don't think you can ever have enough children." I find it difficult to explain to my kids why people make comments in front of them as though they can't hear.

The question people ask almost every time I'm in public with six of the kids is also my favorite. Never fail, someone will look at us and say, "Are they all yours?" (Yes, it's also the most inane question.) To which I ask, "You mean are these all my children?" When they nod, I tell them "No . . ." (they smile and give a great sigh of relief--as though they have to care for them) " . . . we have another one in college." I'm tempted to take my camera out and snap a picture of their facial expressions . . . but I would never dream of being that rude.