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Are all these children yours, from one husband?

Yes I have been married to the same man all my life and all these ten children come from the two of us.

Are you not aware of things you could be doing?

We know what we are doing and we're thrilled we get results. We are aware of all the options available and have found this one to be the best cement to glue our relationship together. Each child that is born speaks loudly to the others that they are worth it. Each child is a reminder to my husband and I about how much we love each other. They make it incarnate.

Do you plan to have more children?

Although I find this to be a very personal question, it is still one that I am constantly asked by strangers, eventhough it is no one's business. Nevertheless, if it is on your mind, I'll fill you in. I started out wanting to have only one child, believe it or not. Time and exposure to great families and amazing insights opened me to the possibility of more. I see children as a great blessing. They enrich each other and us more than we know. I have been fortunate to have good pregnancies and deliveries. My husband and I constantly assess if we have any serious reason not to be having more children. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. We leave the door open. We have never had a number of children we are aiming for. We take one at a time (except for the twins) and trust God will take care of things along the way.We see our happiness coming from people more than things. If someone would have told me years ago I would have ten, I'd have told them to drop dead, no way. Time and experience have opened a world to me that was beyond my imagining. What's amazing is how keen my five teenagers have been for me to have another, even when I got to my forties. They argue it is the best thing we have ever given them.

You must be SO busy!!

I find that to be a funny statement. Of course we are busy, but probably not as busy as you! Long ago we decided that it's a privilege to be part of our family. We feel it is the place where our children learn some of the most important life skills and build the most important relationships. We all make it work and try to have as much time enjoying it. I don't do all the work, rather we all make it work. We choose to lead a simple life so we can max out family time, relax and enjoy. Basically our kids come home from school, play together, do piano, have supper, do homework, have a story and go to bed. I actually have more personal pursuits as a result and am a happier mom for it.

You must have a BIG house?!

Well right now we do, but we started off renting small apartments, then a semi and finally bought a small four bedroom home when we were up to seven children. The neat thing was the size of the house was not so critical to our happiness as people would think. For the longest time, all my boys bunked in one room. They loved it and didn't want to be split. What memories they cherish from those days!! As time has passed, God has provided a large house, but that was when we reached nine. My feelings are that kids don't need oodles of space, they need a lot of loving relationships.

You must have a ton of patience?

It depends – some days yes, other days when I don't get enough sleep or have too much happening, maybe not. I certainly am a woman who knows how to cry, scream, pull my hair out and breathe through tough moments. But at the same time, my tolerance level and approaches have greatly improved. I definitely had a big learning curve at the beginning of family life, where each stage and situation was new and often overwhelming. Definitely the first child always stretched me to new unchartered territory (toilet training, school, jobs, dating, university etc.) and still does. It actually gets easier with more children. I gain in coping strategies and knowledge of what is normal and realistic for the age and stage. As a result I am more relaxed, confident and happy. What was previously stressful, eventually becomes less so. Yes I am more patient; but I still have room for a lot more growth. The years ahead of children leaving home, making their own decisions, having grandchildren and growing old will offer more occasions to grow in patience and understanding. We never stop learning. Life's challenges have made me a more loving person and I definitely see them as being valuable moments of tremendous growth, eventhough I might have been pulling my hair out at the time. Patience is definitely a virtue and we'll never have enough of it.

Your husband must make a lot of money?

When we got married we made the decision to do whatever it took for me to be home to raise our kids. For three children, we lived off my husband's income as a student teaching assistant while he finished his university studies. We learned to stretch our penny as far as it would take us and became very resourceful. We made a decision that regardless of our finances, we would lead a simple life so that we would focus more on relationships than on things. Although we don't go out for family dinners often, nor shop till we drop, everyone looks terrific, has what they need and eats great home-cooked meals. Some might think we have sacrificed a lot. However we have never seen it to be that way. Neither do the kids. We are a happy, tight-knit family who knows how to enjoy life to the fullest without a lot of gismos and gadgets. As much as possible we stay debt-free. Our goals are clear: security, basic needs, common good and strong family values. We are just as happy with a little less than more. No complaints at this end.

Your grocery bill must be HUGE?

Well I guess with twelve mouths to feed it is definitely bigger than yours, but not at all what you would imagine. At a per person cost, it is quite low. With menu planning and one stop shopping, all our meals are home cooked from scratch. We cook with food basics and no frills (and that's where we shop) – very little convenience foods and no pre-cooked anything. No one starves at our place and we often have families over for supper. There's always enough to eat, great desserts and happy faces.

But how do you find individual time for the kids? Aren't you shortchanging them by having so many?

A single child has two parents to love them. Each of my children has 11 people to love them. Yes it is tricky for me to find one-on-one time with each and I have to constantly make it a priority, schedule it and seize the moments. They know I am always available and will drop everything when they really need me. Nevertheless they are greatly enriched by the other eleven and the demands on me to entertain and oversee are very little. With so many people to talk to and play with, the wide interchange of relationships sustains our children through all the difficult and easy stages of life. No one ever feels alone; each feels very much loved, needed and anchored in family.

You must be organized?

Yes, otherwise I would have been admitted to the psyche ward a long time ago. My first child presented a huge learning curve for me in parenting, homemaking and time management. The second child was much easier, but I really had to find creative ways to sleep and “split myself in half”. The third child taught me how little I had my act together and that life is not about entertaining children by splitting myself further into pieces. Instead I sought help from other moms to clarify my priorities, become more efficient with less effort and realistically accept family situations. I started taking steps to bring tools, skills and work habits into harmony. Plugging into the right resources (more experienced moms and amazing resources) catapulted me ahead. Now rather than always reacting to the situation, I am more proactive. I have greater confidence and a more thought-through approach. The rules of the game are in place, all the players know it and there are actually very little game suspensions. We are too busy having a good time.

You must have help – housekeeper, nanny, etc.

I get this question a lot. No I do not. Each child has helped me to improve my skills as a homemaker, to become more efficient and to set better priorities. I found when we had our third child, I felt quite stretched in managing all aspects of a family and home. I realized it was time to stop flipping out over it, and get a good handle on the situation. Studying the issues and finding solutions to laundry, schedules, cooking, cleaning, delegating, etc. became a top priority. Over time, adjustments were made and attitudes developed to heighten productivity and maintain sanity and cheerfulness. Unfortunately in today's society few women are given the tools, resources and support to make these adjustments. If we don't avidly look for them and apply them, we can feel we are getting no where. This being said, my house can still get messy, the kids are not always compliant, but we do work together to maintain, peace, order and a great sense of well-being.

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