Saturday, November 11, 2017

What (not) to say at Costco

While my oldest three were at work today, I took the six younger kids (Miriam and down) to Costco. Trips to Costco are always fun!

Before I get into that, I need to back up to this morning. Boaz was playing in the front yard, when one of his sisters accidentally slammed his elbow into the concrete planter. It cut his skin, and bruised his elbow. I applied arnica and gave him an ice pack, and he soon forgot all about it. 

But back to Costco. As we were making our way around, we kept running into the same people, because everyone walks around the store in a similar order and speed. There was an older gentleman in the store whose right arm had been amputated at the shoulder. His shirt sleeve was hanging down empty. 

We had passed him several times and I was wondering if the little kids would comment on it, but was thankful that they didn't. Until they did. To be more specific, we had just rounded the corner from where the man was at when Stephen, loudly and in his squeaky voice, blurted out: "Mom, that man's arm broke off!" It was embarrassing, but funny - like he was some sort of Lego minifigure that had lost an arm. Thankfully we were probably out of earshot.

I leaned down to Stephen and quietly explained to him: "His arm did not break off. That's called an amputation. Sometimes, if you get hurt really bad, the doctors have to cut off one of your limbs to save your life. But it's not polite to stare, point, or loudly talk about it."

Boaz had overheard this. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then, with a worried look, declared: "Mom, my arm is feeling MUCH BETTER now!"

The girls and I all broke out laughing. I was crying laughing. I had forgotten all about his hurt elbow from earlier, but he must have gotten worried that it was hurt badly enough to possibly require amputation!!!

Sigh... kids! We were still laughing when the man rounded the corner again. I hope he didn't think we were laughing about him.

We were ourselves on the receiving end of stupid comments, too. 

Do you want to know what the #1 most irritating thing is that strangers in public say to me? I mean, I'm used to comments about my family size. It's understandable that my little troupe moving through a store solicits comments. I don't mind them. Usually they make me smile - except this one:

"You sure have your hands full!" Ugh - it's rude and lame!

But - it can be topped! Yes! Are you ready?

"You sure have your hands full today!"

Newsflash: either these are my kids, in which case they are my kids every day and I always 'have my hands full'. Or, I stopped by rent-a-kid on the way to Costco because it's so much fun bringing a half dozen kids that are not mine to Costco on a Saturday that also happens to be Veteran's Day. Fat chance, right? 

No, actually, my hands were NOT fuller than anyone else's. The two youngest were sitting up in the cart nicely and silently, the next two were holding on to the sides of the cart and walking along peacefully, and the two oldest girls were walking close by. The kids are not always angelic at the store, but they always are when people make this stupid comment. Because making snide remarks as a mom dealing with a toddler on meltdown is not ok by anyone's standards. 

Every single other person in Costco was also using both their hands to push the ginormous carts. Except for the gentleman with the amputated arm, but his hand was just as full as everyone's two hands. So by any standard, my hands were no fuller than anyone else's. It's an insult to the kids - like they are nuisance by default, even when they are silently trudging through the store.

My most polite response to this incredibly dull, redundant, and insulting comment is to look the person in the eye with a straight face, glare at them for a second, and walk by without otherwise responding. If they say it with any amount of snark in their voice, I smile really big and sweetly retort, "Oh, I have never heard that before!" 

Today called for the latter. The woman who said it was working at a vendor display for an indoor sky diving place. As part of that, she was wearing a ridiculously unflattering full-body suit. She looked at me with pity, when she looked much more pitiful. So yes, she got the the smiling "Oh you are so clever!" response. 

Imagine if I started confronting people in public about the lack of children with them. "Your hands sure are empty today!"

Ah, fun times! We ended on a high note when the cashier commented on how well behaved the kids were being. She asked me how many I had. I patted my belly and said, "This is number 10." "Ten babies! Holy cow! You have a ways to go, my grandma had 17." I told her I didn't know if I had it in me to have that many. 

Then she said the nicest thing to say to a mom of many, in case you are taking notes by now: "You look great!" Which is worlds nicer than the much more common, "You look great for having nine kids!"  That caveat sounds a bit too much like: You look like a hot mess, but all things considered, I guess you look ok." I know that's not what people mean (or at least I hope so), but the compliment without the caveat is definitely a lot nicer. 

So to recap what we learned at Costco today: If you see a busy mom at the store, don't add insult to injury by making her feel like a hot mess. And don't break down laughing near the disabled. 


  1. I get the comment "you sure have your hands full" ALL THE TIME and I only have 2 kids. For a while I thought it was because I wear the baby in a carrier, but it still makes no sense. I try to convince myself that people who say that are jealous... their hands and hearts must feel empty.

  2. Did you ever consider that maybe it was a friendly opener and that she wanted to offer to help you? You cannot always know that a person is evil after one remark. I usually give them another chance. I'm trying to ge Christian.

    1. To be a friendly opener, it would first need to be friendly.

      And no, I did not consider that someone who was at the store being paid to work was offering help to someone who didn't need help.

    2. The nicest thing a mom can say to another mom is, "you look great" or " you're doing an awesome job." Unfortunately, women are very hard on other women. I try to be that uplifting woman always. Much love to you, mom of many.

  3. I understand the frustration. When my three little ones went to the store people would ask me if they had the same father. Because my husband has dark brown hair, olive skin and green eyes. I have strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin and freckles. So I have a child with blonde hair, medium skin tone, one with brown hair and darker skin tone and one with red hair with fair skin. It always hurt my feelings and always caught me off guard. I wish they would have asked are they all yours instead.

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  5. Hahahah! What a funny story! I get the..."You look really good.....FOR having 6 kids." Thanks alot. �� ~Cassandra

  6. I give you a lot of credit to take 6 children 10 and under to a grocery store alone on a holiday weekend. While I took all of mine everywhere with me out of necessity, I probably didn't handle it with as much grace and humor as you do every day. We have 4 who are now young independent adults living on their own and we miss the happy noise that only comes with a houseful of children. The time goes so quickly so be sure to appreciate every single second. God bless you and your beautiful family.


  7. Costco can be an experience. A few months back we had one of the cashiers start drilling one of my daughter's on her multiplication facts when she found out we were homeschoolers. I had to step in and get the woman to back off.
    I was glad my husband was with us that day to witness the ridiculous things people say to homeschooled children.
    Really enjoy your blog!

  8. I have 3, ages 3, 2, and 6 months. I get all the same comments; more often I get "What aisle did you get the kids on? I want one too!" (I usually have all 3 in the cart) These comments don't phase me for some reason. People really don't get that offensive until you offer them a Gospel tract or ask them if they know Jesus. THEN you get all kinds of angry retorts about how Jesus and the apostles never shared the Gospel publicly, and you are brainwashing your kids!! ��

  9. My goodness! People have no idea how they sound sometimes! I get this even not and I'm just 20 weeks with my First! I have gotten "oh it's a boy ! you must be so happy that it's a boy", or the "oh you wanted a boy right?!". like having a girl would be any less exciting or even that we had a choice either way. I just answer with "it's a baby we wanted a baby and we are thrilled that we are having one". the response makes people feel a bit awkward sometimes but maybe it will make them think the next time. Oh an i always take a huge step back and put my hands up when they go to touch the belly. I always say woah there's nothing to feel thank you.

  10. "You sure have your hands full!" Ugh - it's rude and lame!

    How is that rude? For heaven's sakes! How very "Christian" of you to bash people who are trying to be friendly and make conversation with you.

    1. I agree it's rude & lame...since when is having an opinion make you less of a Christian. Her responses are perfectly Christian....if she had cussed em out, no...or went off on them, no..but to smile & walk away & vent/relay her frustration to other Christain Moms on how she responds...very Christian. By your standards, you must not be Christian...look how judgemental & rude you are!!

  11. My grandmother had 9 and she's always liked those comments. She'd always respond "Yes and I love it". Now she gets similar comments when people learn she has going on 20 great-grandchildren. I don't think she has ever thought to be offended, because she was always proud that her hands were full, because they were full with love. I suppose it's all in how you look at it.

  12. Often when I hear the comment made it is from an older parent whose kids are well beyond the stroller/cart/periodic head count age. I always say your right because I did. Most would follow up with an enjoy - these days are going to fly by. It is always important to set a good example for my children and respond with a kind caring heart. I am their best teacher on how to treat others. They learn the most by example. Have a veautuful Thanksgiving Zsu. May God bless your family during this holiday season

  13. Ah Costco! Without a doubt my favorite shopping experience!

  14. Col 4:3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
    4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
    5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
    6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

    I love your blog Zsuzsanna and admire how well you care for your family. I was, however, taken aback reading your response toward strangers questions which you take as insulting.
    I frequently get the "are they twins" question about my two boys whom are 2 years apart and have noticeably different body sizes. I also get tired of answering it, but realize they are genuinely curious. My answer is the same every time: "no, they're actually two years apart" with a polite smile. The devil would love nothing more than for soul-winners, not even a Sunday morning glory but a soul-winner, to shut those doors that Paul prayed to be opened. I'm not claiming to be perfect in taking every opportunity to give the gospel. I've had my share of missing low-hanging fruit and shutting doors I didn't realize were open. We all continue to grow in grace, right? I do want to encourage you, though, to not let those questions wear you down to where you're playing into the devil's hand and silently walking away from a lost soul. A potential gospel door-opening answer: "Psalm 127 in the Bible says they're like a quiver full of arrows. It's such a blessing to have strength in numbers. Would you be interested in visiting our family at church this Sunday?"

  15. Everyone will have to decide for themselves which comments they are okay with.

    The "your hands are full" is an insult to my kids, like they are a nuisance by default. It sounds too much like, "Wow, sucks to be you!" I have never heard this comment when the kids weren't being perfectly good. Nobody would accost a mom struggling at the store with that comment, it's only ever said when all is well. My kids hear it virtually every day. While the kids do plenty wrong and do need correction, it is not the responsibility of strangers to make them feel like a nuisance and a burden daily. I will not allow it.

    I wonder if all the sanctimommies who see this as an opportunity to minister the gospel would think it's okay to comment to every disabled person how difficult their life must be, and to show them such pity.

    1. As the only "sanctimommy" on here since your comment is obviously referencing my post, no I would not go up to any disabled person and say how difficult their life must be, because I know. I help take care of my unsaved bed-ridden dad who has repeatedly rejected the gospel and may not make it to Christmas. Every week I'm over there I see how much weaker he's gotten and how much suffering he goes through. Understandably children shouldn't be made to feel like a burden. As a sister in Christ I was hoping I could show a possibility to build them up by calling them blessings and strong while not shutting down someone who doesn't know any better. Your husband taught me from the Bible about politeness to strangers, even if they aren't to you. The scripture of coals of fire on their heads come to mind. Like I said, I'm not perfect and don't take every opportunity to witness to someone. However, if taking council from your husband's online preaching makes me sanctimonious, I don't know what to say. May God Bless your family this Christmas.

    2. Exactly. When I see a mom with more than me (I only have three), I ask how many (if it's natural...I don't just run up to people at the store) & then say..."Oh, you're so blessed! I hope I get to have that many!!" I hope other Mom's wouldn't find that offensive & it's true...I would like as many as the Lord would give me, but my husband only wants four.

  16. “Yes, I do have my hands full and each of these children are a blessing from the Lord”

    This has opened so many doors for me to share Christ and sometimes assured strangers that they do not want to talk further with me. ;)

  17. My my... Who knew the most innocent blog post could cause such a stir!

    It really does sound too much like, "Wouldn't want to be in your shoes!" (And along those lines..) I like that you pointed out how it must make the children feel.

    My two are 7 years apart (7 and 9 months) I of course get "oh why so far apart?" I'm sorry but why on earth is that any of your business?! I usually just respond with "That's just the way it's worked out so far!" then they find out the 7 year old his homeschooled... oh my, the pity that comes across their face!

    How about, "They are so well behaved!" Or "Aren't they cute!?"

    Hope you are feeling well! Have a great Thanksgiving!


  18. I understand completely where Mrs.Anderson is coming from. People now days like to trash talk kids. "My little monster" Shes naughty" "My monkies". Its refreshing to hear someone who respects their childrens feelings for once.

  19. I understand completely where Mrs.Anderson is coming from. Now days people trash talk their kids all the time. "My little brats" "My monkeys" my Monsters. Its refreshing to hear that someone actually cares about their Childs feelings for once.

  20. I have heard of incidents in which a religious person will approach a wheelchair-bound man or woman and insist if he or she repents of his or her "sins" than he or she will experience an immediate and miraculous cure!

    I totally agree that "People don't think before opening their mouths."

    It's not just secular people who are guilty of this, ladies!

  21. I agree that the "your hands are full" comment is rude. I try to always respond with "and I love it" or "I'm blessed to have them. I want to make sure my kids(6 of them) always hear love in my response because that statement no matter how intended is not loving. Our society treats children as such a burden and I don't ever want my children to feel that from me.
    Love reading about your beautiful family.


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