Wednesday, October 8, 2014

7 Things I Learned at Miss Issippi's

The Fam, plus Cousin Emily
By now, everyone knows the story of how when The Little Flower was very young she thought that The Husband's cousin Sandra was actually named Miss Issippi because we'd said so many times that we were going to Mississippi that she misunderstood. So, Sandra and James have ever since been Miss Issippi and Mr. Issippi. We drove the four shorties over to Miss Issippi's house for a visit.

Now, here are the interesting factoids:

Waiting on the circus to begin!

1) The Ississippi's are The Husband's relatives, but I am as close to them as he is, proving that birth is only part of the family equation. Time and purpose make up the other parts. The friendship between Sandra and me is every bit as strong as the bond of blood between Sandra and Steve.

Thou shalt not covet

Truth:  You don't have to be related to people for them to be your family. You just have to love them and be loved by them in return. Be quick to love and invite people into your personal space. They might just need family too. 

Holding all of her food so no one steals is.
Carter and Mr. Issippi (or Uncle James)
2) The Mississippi State Fair might have the best food in the whole world. When we were drawing "anticipation" art, the Little Flower drew the food first and the rides second. Chicken on a stick from Penn's (which is actually fried chicken/fried pickles/fried onion slices on a stick), rib-eye sandwiches from the Cattleman's Association, roasted corn on the cob, taffy from Malone's, Bop's snow cones, fried Snicker's, chocolate dipped strawberries, funnel cake, fresh lemonade, kettle corn, frozen, chocolate-dipped banana, and the list goes on.

We buy one item and share among the six of us, and then buy another when we are ready. Or not. Or we try something new around the corner. This way the kids all get to try something different and new and rate it, discuss it, make pronouncements "this is the best EVER" or "that sign totally lied--this stinks," share it "here, you can have the last piece," and just have a common experience.   
Truth: Sharing things (music, food, media, stories) bonds us to one another--common experiences are powerful and knit us together in one more layer.  It's the difference in knowing about someone and knowing someone. I don't want my children to just know about me. I want them to know me.

3.) Building traditions. That photo on the right there ---------->>>>>>
Well, the one on top was four years ago. The one on bottom was this year. Same girls, same pose. They have developed friendships in Mississippi with their cousin and her friends. How cool is that?

Truth: The Love of Christ allows us to have fellowship in so many places if we will open ourselves up to it! Look for things you have in common before the things that separate you and your friendship base will expand right before your eyes.

4) When we go to Miss Issippi's house, I get Uninterrupted Talking Time. Sandra and I sit in the living room and visit. We go to her brother's house and visit. We see her parents and visit. We wander through the fair grounds and watch the kids ride and talk about our churches, husbands, homes, work, friends. We move one level deeper at every sit down as we drift through the park, following (pretending not to follow) a respectable distance behind our teenagers.

Truth: They can pretend they don't want us following, but they sure do check in a lot for kids trying to avoid us. Your kids want to know that you care--if you don't check up on them, they believe you don't give a rip. Better to over care than to under care. They also want to sit on me the entire time I am visiting. Literally one gets off my lap, and the next one gets on. It's really quite amazing. They want attention in the down time too.

5) The best part about birthing your kids one right after another in quick succession is that they are all around the same age. The worst part: they are all around the same age.

A single child event--photos with a monkey
So, we sent the older ones off on their own with friends in the fair, and we spent lots of quality time alone with The Little Flower who got to ride things on her own, pet a monkey, actually play the huckster games (there isn't enough money for all of them to do so), and eat special treats by herself that she didn't have to share.

Sometimes it's hard in Johnsonville being the last. You have to sit through endless games of older siblings, go places where you don't have anything to do, and be patient more than you should have to be.

So, it was good that she got her own cotton candy, and we watched the fair circus together, and she got to ride whatever she wanted several times in a row if she liked.

Truth: There is something to be said for being a member in a large family versus being the only child. I have a feeling that The Little Flower can't wait for the Only Child Left in the Nest thing to come her way. But for now, riding and eating alone are rare treats. Remember to enjoy each of your children individually not just as a whole unit.

6) The Husband has developed some motion sickness as he has aged. That makes him Father of the Year for riding all the spinning rides with Lilly. :-)  Seriously, be sure you marry a man who puts the kids first in all things, because he will meet your needs as a result.  

what to do next?
Truth: Sometimes you have to be willing to vomit if you're going to raise kids in an active, involved way. And roll yards. And drive the get-away-car. And host sleepovers featuring 25 kids. And take the church bus to pick everyone up from school. And go to rock concerts. And wait in the rain for video game releases. And see movies that you think are stupid.  And drive 120 miles each way for ball games. And bring snacks. And bug spray. And an umbrella for the sitting-in-the-rain games. It's inconvenient and difficult, but do it anyway.
And this ride didn't cost anything.

7) Sometimes it is the little things that are the most fun. Like a tree swing. And visiting relatives. And being still for a few days without any real responsibility.

Truth: Everyone needs down time--time to just be without being perfect. Time to laugh and play and be completely free to just be. Especially your kids. Consider being unscheduled and off the grid for a few days to recharge. 

Spinning until sick
Other bonuses:

Sleeping with your spouse on a double bed again is an adventure and mandates snuggling.

Not having to cook or plan meals. (Praise Jesus, Hallelujah!)

Being able to eat what we want, not what's in the fridge. (Can I get an 'Amen'?)

Sad faces going home.
Having friends from church who love us enough to send extra money 'just because'. (We would have skipped the monkey photo without that extra funding for sure.)

Being healthy enough to roll ten hours at the fair. (Well, with some Ibuprofen.)

Having kids who said, "yes, ma'am" when it was finally time to go. (Okay, so they sighed deeply before saying it, but still.)

Tree swing. (Does that really need an explanation?)

It's an Artie Party. (Sorry, it's a Johnson Thing.)

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