So, What's Life Like...
With ALL - THOSE - KIDS?
There are days we forget that our 'normal' life as a big family
isn't necessarily 'normal'.
We still run into people who ask us if all those kids are ours. We still get looks and side glances where we see the curiosity stirring. And it's not until those moments that we realize that our daily life may be a bit of a mystery to some. We also asked the kids their perspectives: Their answers are at the very end.
Q: If you ask our kids: "So what's it like in your house?"
Okay, so let's talk volume. Several of our kids are naturally loud. Everything they do is about one million octaves louder than what is considered normal volume. They talk loud, walk loud, run loud, chew loud, breathe loud. . .you get my point. There is always (a.l.w.a.y.s) multiple kids talking at once. They have their own little community amongst themselves, however when they start to bring you into their conversations; when they all want to include you at the same time and you're trying to follow along (all day long), it eventually makes your mind tired from all the processing by the time the day ends.
(Did I mention that I'm about 98% introverted? - So Much Talking)!
Q: How much food do you have to buy?
Q: How often do you have to go to the grocery store?
Q: How many snacks do they eat?
A: A Lot!
We have completely altered the foods we purchase. I feel like I continually fail more and more in the meal prepping area the larger our family has gotten. It used to be so much easier when we were a smaller family unit. Cooking used to be one of my favorite things to do but, the more kids we have added the more time it takes to cook and clean up (times 3 meals a day plus snacks). I literally felt like I could live in the kitchen all day long and never see any other rooms in our house.
Groceries. We go grocery shopping every 3-4 days *on average. (I can't even ya'll. We got through so much food)! I can remember meal planning and getting groceries once a week. That was a lifetime ago! That does not even count the stops in between when we need another gallon of milk or several more loaves of bread to tie us over. We can easily go through a loaf of bread in one day.
Our stores of choice are Aldi and Sam's Club. Aldi offers a lot of healthy and very affordable options for our big family. We also set aside money and purchase a large amount of beef for our deep freezer that will last us about a year. We started doing this about three-four years ago.
Q: How much laundry do you have? How do you keep socks straight?
A: About 22 Outfits a day - plus work out clothes or soiled clothes that need changed.
No one (and I mean no one) EVER warned me about the loads of laundry that we would accumulate with all these kids! You would have thought that would have been an 'obvious' topic of conversation, right? Nope! Maybe when you go from only doing laundry about 2 designated days a week to needing to do 2 loads a day to even see the silver lining, it just doesn't cross your mind because you just assume you will always have "designated laundry days". Our designated laundry day is Every Day!
Oh, how I loathe socks! I bought a pack of socks about a month ago. There may possibly be one set that doesn't have a hole in it; maybe! The kids (especially Roman) will get so excited when he can find a matching pair!
"Mom...Look...matching!" (and he high-fives me)!
In our laundry room, we have square canvas totes with dividers. One is for boy's socks, one is for girls. (We also have totes for underwear). About twice a month we will dump all the socks out and match them. We all loath socks. Bribery is usually involved. Candy for the ones who match the most socks. Even a teenager may get involved if there's a prize for the effort.
Having clean pants and matching socks has always a problem! And there's no wearing the same pants twice in this house!
Q: They all must get along so well?!
A: (HA) It totally depends on the day and the moods they are in when they wake up!
They each have such dynamic personalities that you just never know what you're waking up to. And as they grow, their character traits begin to morph and sometimes these all happen in different phases and it's hard to mesh it all together.
Sofia, Keira and Roman are the youngest. If I were to have triplets (minus the infant stage) I would find this relatable. Those three have nick names. The Three Musketeers. The Tornado Trio. Partners in Crime. The 3 T's (Trouble Trouble and Trouble). BTW, Keira is usually the ringleader.
Riah and Brielle both have by birth order - first born traits. Have you read the Birth Order book by Kevin Leeman? Perfect read for big families. They consistently strive for the leadership role in nearly every situation. When the outcome doesn't go their way, their response is vastly different. One is drama. One is Sass. You may be able to figure this out on your own.
Koen is our kid who stays under the radar. The one that creates the least amount of chaos. The one who's most sensitive. The one who is the glue that keeps the little ones and the older ones 'linked' together. Every one of the kids naturally are drawn to him. I'd say he's the glue that holds us all together.
Q: Do they have a time limit in the bathroom?
A: YES! We have timed slots & baths are considered a luxury.
Gone are the days where we could throw all the little kids in the tub together for innocent baths.
You never know when the last time will be until you can't remember when the last time was. (sigh). Those were the days. I just realized that one of my "Mom Quotes" that I say multiple times a day is, "Turn it off, you're wasting water!" I even say this to Trevor. We use so much water. We have finally reached a point where we don't have to tell the teens to shower. (Thank you Jesus). We may have still have to ask them if they have soap stocked in their bathroom...but at least they are rinsing off, right? Please tell me this is progress!!!
I'm typing all this out and reading over it again, our life just sounds so funny. How did we get to this point? Oh yeah, Adoption! But this is our normal and we wouldn't trade it for anything!
The girls usually shower one night and the boys shower the next. This is so much easier in the winter season because they don't seem to get as sticky-sweaty, gross and dirty. We can possibly push it to every 2 days during the winter but that's a stretch. Warmer days, especially in the summer when the kids need nightly showers, that's tricky. We usually have a 3-minute timer for the little kids and closely monitor how long the water runs. I kid.you.not!
"Listen. Get in. Wash your hair. scrub everywhere, rinse off and get out. You have 3 minutes. Go! Hurry up."
Do you even know how many gallons of water it takes to fill up a bathtub? Not to mention how fast it will drain a hot water tank? Our little kids get baths if they are sick or just don't feel well and need a relaxing soak.
Q: Do the kids speak more than one language?
A: Yes! The teens (Sergei and Violetta) have been able to remain fluent in their cultural language.
About a month ago, Sergei started telling Koen what his sight words are in Russian. Hopefully his teacher is equally impressed when he tells her "again" in Russian is снова [SNOH-vuh]. The occasional "yes and no" in Russian still used quite frequently in our household along with our 'please and thank you's and 'I love you's.
Riah, Roman and Sofia - they only remember very basic words that we still use and are now one hundred percent fluent in English. There's a lot to be said about being fully immersed in a language and how amazingly complex the brain is to hold the capacity of language.
At one point I asked a fluent speaking family from Ukraine that now lives in the US how disheartened I was when our little kids began to loose their language. Their response was actually very reassuring. They said "They live in America now, they speak English. Nothing to worry about."
Hopefully one day the little kids will find their own desire to re-learn Russian language again.
Q: Which kids want to have big families when they grow up?
A: All in favor, raise your hands!
Watching the kids interact, observing how they have bonded, witnessing their disagreements, teaching them how to be selfless, I don't know if it would be easier to teach them all of these things if we were a smaller family unit. I'm not saying it's not possible by any means, we just have a lot of teaching moments all day long. Large families have the ability to mold kids and prep them for the big world of socialization as they become teens and young adults. One day they will have families of their own and we can only hope growing up with so many siblings will help shape their marriages and also when they become parents of their own.
Riah is our 'Little Mama'. She always talks about being a Mama and having kids. She will be the one in the know of everyone's whereabouts when they are all adults, grown and on their own. She will be the one who could also run our household and make sure all the rules are being followed.
With the teens, we really try to stress the importance of getting a higher education, landing a good job, waiting to start serious relationships and getting married FIRST before adding to the global population.
Prayers for the Eastern European Accent, Quiet Charm & a Mysterious Personality to be squelched by the time they all start dating unsupervised.
Curious about long travels and seating arrangements in our Spay Van? Definitely check out the blog post about this very thing. We do have assigned seats! We based this on their personalities and who meshes the best with least amount of annoyance and disagreements. (I'll link it here)!
Q: What's (Covid-19) Quarantine like with 9 kids - having no place to get away?
A: There's a lot of similarities between quarantine and our daily 'normal' life.
I know, right?!?! That puts things in perspective, doesn't it? I think we are all in some sort of an agreement that being quarantined has been very testing to everyone's patience level. We all feel cooped up and much more limited. We feel a little more edgy and our personal space bubble seems to have shrunk by 25%. One of the first things that I quickly realized is that this quarantine phase is similar to our normal (non-school) days during the winter season. We spend a lot of days at home. Not venturing out or making unnecessary trips to the store with the kids.
Home School. Oh My Word. 7 out of 9 kids actually really like school and are going absolutely crazy being home-schooled. They are social extroverts, love their teacher, miss their classmates and actually would prefer doing school work - at school. Not to mention, not every Mom is cut out to be a home-school Mama. Most of our kids are not self-learners. They want help with all-the-things. (like alllll-the-things). We have new learners, some with delays & special needs. Our schools have always provided additional educational support - some of our kids have extra teachers helping them overcome some of the challenges. So when mom's are now flying solo in this quarantine phase, it can me emotionally overwhelming because you don't want to see your kids slide backwards.
Find your Tribe of friends who can help you keep your head above the water. If that's sending funny texts, phone calls, Scriptures and quotes, or songs that will lift spirits, reach out. We are all in this crazy quarantine time together.
Next up. The awkward Q & A topic - Trevor's Cat!
Q: What's the roll of Trevor's CatWife Ariel?
A: The true queen of the Littleton household.
If anyone has followed us or known us long enough to remember Trevor's cat Amelia. If not, here's a re-cap. Amelia was hand raised by Trevor; birthed from a farel cat that wdas rescued from the humane society. Amelia was the cutest most adorable cat. That while still small would gladly hide in Shanna's purse when we'd go grocery shopping, go on McDonald's runs and even sit on Trevor's shoulder while preaching. Yes this actually happened once. She fit into his sermon series so it worked out well.
When we ate dinner, Amelia would sit beside Trevor at the dinner table. If I (Shanna) would sit next to Trevor or want to cuddle, she would literally growl at me with disapproval.
Amelia had failed kidney's at an early stage and died far too soon. Trevor was hopeful to find another cat to fit the role of Amelia. Enter Ariel The Ragdoll Cat. AKA - His CatWife.
Spoiled is an understatement thanks to Trevor training her to be a queen. She only drinks water from a running faucet. Sehe follows him around and has to sit on the bathroom counter when he gets ready for work. She shares meals with him. Steak is her favorite. He loves her. She loves him.
One day Brielle climbed into the van in the pick up line and shared a story from earlier that day while her and her friend were playing on the playground.
"Mom, my friend has a cat too. I told her about Dad's cat and that he loved his cat more than you . . . and that we call Ariel his Cat Wife!" I have no words for this. End of story.
We asked the kids the following Questions
Here are their answers. Majority ruled.
Who’s the loudest? Sofia
Who’s the Quietest? Braylon
Who talks the most? Riah
Who acts like a Queen? Brielle
Who has the littlest butt-crack? Keira (Question insert by Koen).
Who’s the wildest? Keira
Who’s takes the longest to get ready? Mom
Who is always in a hurry? Dad
Who hates chores? Violetta
Who is the most responsible? Sergei / Braylon
Who is the kindest? Sergei
Who’s the most helpful? Braylon & Riah
When you grow up and you’re a Mama or a Daddy, how many kids do you want?
Koen: I want 9 kids when I grow up.
Brielle: I want a small family – like 2 kids
Riah: I want 9 kids because they will all play with each other and be helpful.
Keira: I want 19 kids and 19 cats!
Roman: Ok, 2!
DO we have sock problems in our house:
Brielle: "yes but if you just pick mis-matched socks, it won’t be a big deal."
Do we have Picky Eaters in our household?
Koen: I’m a foodie…I love food.
Brielle: I’m picky - don’t like stuff mom cooks.
Riah: Mom and Dad are really good cooks! I like everything!
Keira: I just like corndogs.
Sofia: My favorite food is Candy and Salad!
What is your FAVORITE part about being in a Big Family?
Koen: We can make the best forts. We have a lot of people to play with - it's fun!
Brielle: When we play football outside there’s enough people to play with.
Riah: I like it because there’s more people to help with chores.
Keira: More people get me stuffed animals.
Sofia: We can play outside together and . . .that's it.
What is your least favorite part about being part of a big family?
Brielle: We argue. We get annoyed with each other too much.
Koen: When they are annoying to me and I can’t concentrate.
Keira: That there is whining.
Riah: We tattle on other people when you (mom) tells us not too and we don't listen.
Sofia: We are sassy? (giggles)
What are the things we always run out of?
Keira: Toilet Paper (prior pjromblen even before Covid-19) haha!
Brielle: Food & snacks!
Sofia: Milk and Cereal
Riah: Butter & napkins