Tell us about your kids. What are their ages and genders? What led you to have a large family? Do you think your family is complete?
We have two boys and three girls, ages 11, 9, 7, 4 and 1. Baby #6 is on the way in the spring. Honestly, I don't feel like 5 kids is all that many (most of the time) but the stares I get in the grocery store tell me otherwise.
I don't know that Phillip and I ever consciously decided we were going to have a big family, we just always felt like there was room for at least one more. I don't know if I'll ever have that "I'm done having babies" feeling. If it were up to me, I'd probably have a hundred. I love the life and interaction that each new person brings into the family.
I love your blog and your ability to constantly come up with new funny posts. Where do you get your sense of humor and how has it helped you as a mother?
So often as a mother, you have to either laugh or cry; I've decided it's usually better to laugh. Blogging about it helps me remember that life with kids truly is hilarious.
What is your favorite thing about having a large family?
If I imagined a perfect day, it would be sitting on the porch watching my kids in the yard playing with each other. Which happens quite a lot (well, sometimes I'm watching through the kitchen window over a mound of dirty dishes in the sink) so I consider myself pretty lucky. I love the layers of social interaction, seeing how each child plays with each of their siblings and especially watching those relationships evolve as they get older.
Sometimes I think there's a tendency for people who don't know our family well to look at us and assume that since they see a gigantic horde of children that it's all I must see, too. But I see my kids as such unique individuals, I usually forget we're a "big family" until I see a picture of all 7 of us together and think, "You know, that sort of is a lot of people!"
What do you consider the hardest part?
The mess! Some women can ignore it but I have a hard time doing that, most of the time. Five kids can really turn the place into a nuclear waste zone in a matter of minutes. Of course, when I look back at pictures from when we only had 2 children, there appear to be just as many toys and tiny socks scattered in the background, so maybe this isn't just a big family problem.
What tips do you have for managing a large family?
Our kids learn to do their own laundry and cook as soon as possible, and even the littlest ones are expected to clean up after themselves. I wish I could say it's because I'm extremely principled and want to teach them the value of work - which I do, but it's also a necessity when you have a big family. I could handle one or maybe two complete freeloaders, but definitely not five! Everybody's got to pitch in.
Sometimes I wonder if the lessons on working hard and taking responsibility are sinking in, but I recently overheard my 7-year-old telling his 4-year-old sister, "When you play a game, picking up the game afterward is part of it." In case you were wondering why you heard angels singing last Tuesday, that was it.
How do you and your husband keep your marriage strong?
Is it wrong to say I don't really know? Phillip and I were laughing about this just the other day: we don't feel like we're doing anything special, and we don't have (hardly) any common interests, so why are we so happy together? I think it boils down to the fact that we really like to spend time with each other and we talk about everything. We also work together well as a team - except when we're cleaning out the basement. Then we'll get into a fight about what to do with our 20-year-old CD collections from high school.
We've been married 12 years, but together since we were 15 and 16. Turning 30 was actually kind of exciting for me because that was the year I could say I'd been in love with this guy for over half of my life. But dry your eyes and don't let me get too carried away: some days, months, or even years have been hard. We've been through stressful seasons at school and work, years when we had a young family in grad school and money was tight, several moves, pregnancy losses, and a baby in the NICU. That, and just plain old life can be hard on a marriage. I think the most important thing is to stay optimistic and look forward to the time when it will get better. Patience is unfortunately not a virtue of mine, but I'm learning.
Besides the scriptures, what books have had a great influence on your life and your parenting?
I have a serious addiction to books on parenting and organization! Some of the ones that have influenced me most are:
- Getting Things Done by David Allen. I may be the only stay-at-home mom in the world with an inbox, but that and most of the other tips in this book are what keeps me sane.
- The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson. Aside from the numerous references to beer-drinking in this book, I really agree with a lot of what he has to say. I'm trying to be a more relaxed parent (without the beer.)
- The Parenting Breakthrough by Merilee Boyack. This book gave me such a long-term vision for what motherhood is: raising kids to be self-sufficient adults. It validated to me that it's okay to expect a lot of my kids; there are a lot of life skills they need to learn and I've only got so much time to teach them.
- So Sexy, So Soon by Diane Levin. Any parent of girls should read this!