Sometimes people are curious about what our days are like with such a large family. The following is a sample of a typical Saturday from my perspective – I don’t know exactly what Renee did all day – with the added excitement of a birthday (we have at least one family birthday in each month except April and October, and yes, we hope to fill those soon):
5:23 – I stumble out of bed after snoozing 4 times, kiss Renee, and head to the bathroom to make myself as beautiful as possible in 10 minutes or less.
5:32 (5:42) – On my way to wake Ben for his turn at Starbucks, which he’s especially excited about for his 10th birthday, I realize the clock I’ve been looking at has stopped and it’s actually 5:42. “Get up, Ben! Hurry! We’re late!”
5:45 – Out the door, after another goodbye kiss for Renee, and Ayda, as well, who has decided it’s a good time for she and her mother to get up and get started for the day.
5:48 – Ben and I stop in front of our friends’ house to pick up Mia. She has to be at her job in the bakery at Wal-Mart by 6:00, but their family car died a few weeks ago, so friends have been happily volunteering to get them where they need to be until a replacement can be found.
5:58 – The usual from McDonald’s drive-thru and Karen, our friend in the window.
6:09 – It’s good to see Jim waiting for us at Starbucks, and Luke and Melanie behind the counter. I decided to try a french press brew for the first time, then David had to copy me. Tony showed up late again, but by 6:30, we were on track with some great conversations about the culinary delights that are sausage mcmuffins, the incarnation of Jesus, the subtle spiritual dimensions that surround us and affect our lives, the pre-fall human nature vs. the redeemed human nature, and whether Jesus could still walk on water after the resurrection when he had holes in his feet.
8:35 – Off to Bittersweet park, where Ben waits eagerly in the car for me and counts my laps as I run around the path. 4 laps = 4.8 miles and lots of pain for an old man.
9:29 – Safeway stop to get bacon. Renee calls to say our friend, Aaron, is already at the house starting the biscuits and gravy for Ben’s breakfast, and to remind me that I need to hurry home.
9:50 – Back at home, and after a quick shower, I try to help Aaron and protect him from the swarm of children trying to “help” fry sausage and bacon, and stir the dough for biscuits. A total of 19 people with our family and two others, spends the next couple of hours cooking, eating, talking and herding children. Breakfast included 2 pounds of bacon, 2 pounds of sausage, 12 fried eggs, 15 scrambled eggs, about 4 dozen biscuits, 2 gallons of juice, muffins, crumb cake and a pot of coffee.
11:45 – Renee and I are leaving as our guests do, and going our separate ways. Renee’s headed to a friend’s son’s birthday party with our 5 smallest kids, while I take Ben and his brothers, Will and Noah, and pick up 4 other boys from 3 homes for an afternoon of birthday celebrating.
12:30 – 7 cold and wet boys strapped into rented skates go sliding, falling, skidding, skating, and laughing around the ice rink. On Renee’s orders, I’m the photographer for the day, which gives me a great excuse to stay off the ice. Charis, Renee’s younger sister, meets us at the rink to deliver a gift for Ben and visit.
1:30 – Packing 7 boys back into the van for a trip across town to drop Will at a friend’s house for another birthday party.
2:15 – Pizza slices and blue raspberry Icees to wash them down – a birthday meal fit for kings – served with smiles from our friend Amanda at the food court in the mall.
3:00 – 1 adult and 6 children for the matinee of Alvin and the Chipmunks. No popcorn or candy! Don’t even think about it! (Yes, the movie was fun – I actually laughed out loud several times – and those chipmunks are cute! Awwww!)
5:05 – Ben opens gifts as we drive around dropping off friends. We offer a rousing, noisy, completely off-tune rendition of “Happy Birthday” then discuss the reasons why we didn’t get to have birthday cake.
5:25 – Home for a few minutes where Renee reminds me that I have 20 minutes before I have to pick up 2 nephews and a niece and get them, along with 6 of our children and another nephew who is already with us, to church by 6:00. Renee’s picking up Will at 6:00 then meeting me at church with the rest of our kids. We have several minutes of tense discussion, narrowly avoiding an argument over the schedule and miscommunication, with our weary bodies playing a major role. Although I did manage to make Renee cry, again, a kiss and a hug before I left put the world back together and assured us both everything would be fine.
6:10 – With everybody but Ethan, our 3-year-old who would rather be with Dad, in their classes, and a cup of coffee in hand, we get to my favorite part of the day: a quiet hour and fifteen minutes in the back row of the church with good preaching, and doodles of tigers and lions.
7:05 – Renee joins us in the back row with Will, Ayda, and Meghan, who I gladly get to hold for the worship and singing. She claps and sings along in her own language.
7:30 – Renee and I go our separate ways again through the church to retrieve kids from their classes and visit with friends. As usual, we’re the last to leave, except for Jim – the same Starbucks Jim – who gets to lock the doors and spend a couple of hours getting the building ready for the following morning. Renee and I just figure that whoever is left in the building by that time must be ours, so we load them up and take them home.
8:30 – Renee takes 9 kids in the big bus, drops off 6 at our sister-in-law’s house for a sleepover. I take 4 kids and head for the barn. (By the way, if you’re counting, that’s nine of ours, and four cousins, and Katie, our oldest, was away with her youth group for the weekend. Yes, we count frequently. Yes, it’s hard.)
8:45 – Parked in front of our house, I yell at Ben, the birthday boy, because he isn’t being as diligent as I want him to be in trying to find Meghan’s socks, which I presume, as usual, she has just removed and thrown on the floor. Ben cries and tries harder. Then, I realize Meghan must not have been wearing socks. Outside the car, I give a weak apology to Ben, along with more lecture. He cries more and tries to understand. My heart finally takes over for my tired brain, and I give Ben a hug and real apology.
9:20 – Renee is home with the remainder of the bus load. PB&J and turkey sandwiches are dinner for whoever has a stomach while Ben finishes opening his gifts and lays them out for me to see.
10:10 – 7 kids brushed, washed, and changed for bed. Renee and I spend a few minutes “alone” with Meghan and Ayda, while watching part of a movie and having a late snack/dinner.
10:45 – I’m tucked into bed with Meghan snoozing next to me, and I fall asleep while trying to listen to Renee talk about the day, as she simultaneously tries to negotiate with Ayda regarding a reasonable night’s sleep.
1:00am – Renee and Ayda finally reach a sleepy agreement, but I’m entirely unaware.