My great big happy family

 
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Nine children probably isn’t enough to warrant having our own TV show, but it’s certainly enough to arouse people’s curiosity. And if I had a dollar for every time I’m asked “How do you do it?” I’d be very wealthy!

We never specifically set out to raise a large family. It was just a natural progression. We were so delighted with our firstborn that we decided to have another . . . and another . . . and another. And before we could blink, there were nine! You see, 20-something years ago, I married a wonderful man. And what an adventure it has been!

Today our children are ages 20, 18, 17, 13, 11, 8, 7, 22 months and 8 months—five boys and four girls—and they all still live at home. (And, no, we won’t be going for number 10.) Our front yard resembles a parking lot. Our shoe rack looks like an aisle from your favourite shoe store. When we get sick, our family room can resemble a hospital ward!

Our life is crazy, fun, chaotic, a tad overwhelming—and so much more. I can understand why people are just plain curious about our daily life. But there’s no secret formula to coping; we just do. Hubby and I just do what needs to be done each day. You see, we consider it an honour and a privilege to have been entrusted with so many of God’s children. We believe that a large family is a blessing from God. As Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”

Along with our big family come some unique challenges. We affectionately call them LFPs (large family problems). For starters there’s the 8 to 10 loads of washing I do daily; purchasing the truckload of food that I cook weekly; the inability to fit into even a people-mover car; that you’re never alone; the way homemade cakes rarely make it to the icing stage because they’re gobbled up while still warm; the constant noise; the lack of privacy and personal space; and the way a gallon of ice-cream can disappear so quickly! On the flip side, children from large families are often great communicators (and even better negotiators). They learn to share at a very young age, and they often grow up to be givers and helpers.

One of the hardest things is giving each child some individual attention every day. After all, it’s what they need and deserve. Attending to the needs of so many different age groups and personalities is no easy task. There’s always one with a need, and I like to think of it as, “If this were my only child, would I do this for him or her?” That’s how I approach each day. Also, I know I’m doing what God has put in my heart to do at this stage of my life. I’m certain that God graciously gives me the daily strength and patience to care for my children.

As they say of parenthood, “The days are long but the years are short.” I believe it’s our family’s belief in God and His goodness that gets us through. Before I gave my life to Him, my tendency was to jump to the worst possible conclusion and worry about things forever. I’m so glad I don’t have to worry or fret over my children now, because I have a God who loves them even more than I do! We’re acutely aware of how God cares for our family. Like the time we desperately needed a new fridge.

We’d looked at so many refrigerators over the course of a few weeks that we finally resigned ourselves to the reality that we couldn’t afford a new one, let alone a really nice stainless steel one. We prayed and window-shopped and prayed some more. Then we got a phone call from one of my husband’s coworkers who was going overseas, and would we like his almost brand new stainless steel fridge? And he said he’d throw in his new microwave, TV unit, pool table, and eight-seater dining table and chairs! We were so grateful to God—and humbled by His provision. We’ve had many similar stories over the years. As my husband and I have experienced God’s love and mercy toward us, it’s easy for us to extend love and mercy to our children.
 

My Great Big Happy Family 2

As a busy mum of nine, I’m always on the lookout for tips and tricks to make our home more efficient. For all the busy mums out there, I’ll share a few:

Get organised. I’m the queen of organisation. I have lists for my lists: Pack lunch-boxes and schoolbags the night before. Ask your children to set out their clothes for the next day. Do anything that will help the morning rush hour to be calmer.

Be mindful of interactions. When the children are fighting, bickering or just not getting along, divert their attention—give them age-appropriate chores to complete until they calm down or get over it.

Establish a routine. This is especially important for babies and toddlers. It’s good for all involved!

Exercise. I walk six kilometres with a double stroller every morning. Exercise and fresh air do wonders for my mental and emotional wellbeing. Even though the babies come along with me, walking gives me time-out from the cooking, cleaning and demands of small children (and teenagers). It’s probably the most peaceful part of my day.

Pray. Please take time to pray for yourself! We can do nothing on our own; we need heaven’s help. Pray for your children and with your children (and hubby). Each morning I talk to God. I unburden myself and unload all of my anxiety, wants, cares and worries onto Him. The result is that I feel at peace each morning, and then I can begin my day of housework with a happy heart.

Read God’s Word. The Bible contains many great practical verses about children and parenting. Not only does God command us to be fruitful and multiply, but in Deuteronomy 6 He explains that it’s our duty not just to bear children but to raise godly children. Following are some Bible texts that I’ve found very helpful: Psalm 127:3–5 and 139:13–16, and for advice on discipline, Proverbs 13:24 and 23:13, 14. Pray, listen, and read God’s Word.


How I handle nine kids at a time

Five of my favourite home tips and tricks:

Create a drawer filled with snacks (healthy and fun) that your children can choose from and allow them to pack their own lunch-box every morning. This is a real time-saver for me and teaches the kids to choose responsibly.

Get a sock bin. I don’t even bother putting socks in individual rooms anymore! Dump them together in a tub and put it in a spot that is accessible to everyone.

Be a fun mum. (Even I struggle with this on occasion.) Create fun fruit by sticking googly eyes to their fruit snack. They will get a real kick out of this at recess!

Clean absolutely everything with bi-carb soda and vinegar. This will make showers and sinks sparkle and this solution will even unclog blocked drains. Also a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar will clean any pesticide residue off fruit.

Start the day quietly (in prayer, worship and reflection)—get centred, then get busy!