This week we welcome the Blasdell family from the USA as our Large Family of the Week. Richard and Veronica have nine children (including triplets), plus one baby in heaven. Veronica shares her thoughts on raising a large family with us:
Introduce us to your family (names and ages & tell us a bit about yourselves):
Richard and I met at George Mason University in Farifax, Virginia. I was in my final semester and he was one of the campus police officers. Since I was a student and the campus police strongly discouraged the officers from dating students, we had to wait until I graduated to officially start dating. We were married about 18 months later in May 1987. Here we are nearly 27 years later.
In 1991, we welcomed our first-born child, Elizabeth. In 1994, Amanda joined the family. Then in 1998, our first son, Douglas, was born. According to society we had pushed the limit. Now that we had our boy we had to be done. I would say I honestly agreed with the sentiment at the time. I returned to work about six weeks after Douglas was born. We quickly realized having three children in daycare was expensive! My entire monthly salary and then some was going to cover the cost. Richard and I prayed and decided I would come home to take care of the children for the next few years. Once they were all in school I planned to re-enter the workforce. We decided I would go back to school and get my master’s degree once Douglas turned two and daycare rates went down significantly. We figured the new degree would cover up my time away from work.
Once I was home and taking care of my husband, my children and my home I realized I was enjoying myself, much to my surprise. I was a product of the feminist movement which led me to believe that I had to work to be fulfilled. I began to seriously consider that I may not want to return to the workforce at all. I was enjoying my children, and the overwhelming stress I had been feeling was gone. I realized I wanted another child and enjoy a pregnancy and the newborn period without the thought of having to return to work looming over my head. It is amazing how once you take yourself out of the world and do not listen to the mutterings of the people who say children are burdens, you become more open to them as blessings. Richard and I talked and prayed about the decision to have another child and decided we would welcome another addition into the family. In August of 1999, we were overjoyed to find out we were expecting a baby. Our first sonogram about a month later showed we were expecting triplets. God certainly has a sense of humor. We were expecting to have one and God decided to bless us with three. Talk about a shock. In February 2000, 10 weeks early, we welcomed Rebecca, Emma and Patrick.
With these blessings we figured were done. Six children in today’s world are “just too much for anyone to handle”. It wasn’t our fault that we had triplets, so it was somewhat acceptable for us to have six children. The comments of course started. “Are you done now?” “Are you getting fixed?” “Do you know what causes it?” We tended to agree we were done. But we all know God throws monkey wrenches into human plans. In August of 2004, we were surprised to find out we were once again expecting. Since this wasn’t a “planned” pregnancy, we both had some mixed feelings about becoming parents again. Comments began again about getting fixed, etc. How easy it would have been to just follow the world with these types of thoughts because of our feelings. Andrew was born at 25 weeks in January 2005. We had known he was going to have birth defects, but we were not aware of the severity of them. When we found out he was not going to “be perfect” we were encouraged to terminate the pregnancy for the good of the entire family. Of course we did not since we believe God controls the destiny of everyone’s life. Andrew’s overriding issue was an intestinal atresia (break) which left him with about four inches of small intestine, which is not enough for the body to absorb enough nutrition. Exclusive IV feedings cause liver failure, which led to his death in July 2005. The family now has a personal saint in heaven. This thought provided us with some comfort, but overall we were devastated.
We were left with empty arms and hearts with huge holes. Richard and I once again talked and prayed. We decided to remain totally open to life. We were blessed to find out in April 2006 on Good Friday I was expecting. Two weeks later we found out we were once again expecting triplets. Talk about total shock! We never figured on another triplet pregnancy. Liz looked up the odds of two triplet pregnancies. She said the odds were 1 in 64,000,000,000. Thankfully this second triplet pregnancy was a little easier than the first, since we knew what to expect. Abigail, Margaret and Marian entered into the world in October 2006, again 10 weeks early.
The comments continue to this day about being done. We tell people we are totally open to life and would accept any child God would choose to send to us. Once we lost a child, we realized how much of a miracle each child happens to be. We have not been blessed with any more children as of now, but you never know when or if God will choose to bless the family.
Here is our family:
Donna (48) I am a homemaker and homeschool the youngest seven of my children.
Richard (55) Richard spent over 30 years as a firefighter. He retired in 2012 and has spent the past three years being at home and helping to homeschool (he is passionate making sure accurate history is taught).
Liz (22) Liz graduated from high school in 2009 and went to college. While in her second semester she developed a condition called idiopathic intercranial hypertension. This is a severe increase in pressure within the skull. This pressure can lead to damage of the optic nerve. Unfortunately her condition was not discovered in time, so she lost her vision. Thankfully she was transferred to a major hospital and through the intervention of some great doctors and a lot of prayers, she has regained a good portion of her sight. She returned to college and is finishing up her degree in biology.
Amanda (19) Amanda graduated from high school in 2012. She is attending the local community college and will have her degree in political science in May of 2014. She plans to transfer to a local university to complete a double major in political science and chemistry.
Douglas (15) Douglas is a 9th grader. He is Boy Scout and who has just completed his Eagle Project. He loves math and history and plans on taking courses next year at the community college for a couple of classes.
Rebecca (13) Rebecca is an 8th grader. She loves science and math and all types of animals and wants to become a veterinarian.
Emma (13) Emma is also an 8th grader. She has developed a love for crocheting and is enjoying herself learning all the stiches and trying out new techniques. She is still figuring out what she would like to do in the future.
Patrick (13) Patrick is our third 8th grader. He is still trying to decide he would like to be when he grows up. Patrick is also a Boy Scout and is working his way up the ranks. He is current rank is First Class Scout. He enjoys history like his father.
Do you consider your family to be large? If not, what do you think is the magic number which turns an average sized family into a large one?
We do consider our family a large family. This is definitely played out with current American culture so we do get the looks and remarks on a regular basis. In this culture I think 4 children crosses the mark to large family, especially in America.
Did you ever think you would have a large family?
No, I never thought I would have a large family. I was dyed in the wool feminist and thought IF I had any children there would be no more than 1, possibly 2.
What is your best moneysaving tip?
Stock a pantry with the food your family will use and plan your menus for at least a week in advance, if not a month or more. Also make sure to keep the ingredients for several quick meals in the pantry. This stops those impulsive trips to the store or fast food restaurant, which saves money. I advocate having at least three months of food in the pantry. This provides a type of insurance in case of disasters or loss of income. We personally keep 6 months of food in our pantry. If I had the space, I would keep 12 months of food on hand.
We also make most of our food from scratch. We feel this both cheaper and healthier for the family.
What is your best tip for organisation?
Less is more. Limit the about of “stuff” you have keeping only the things you use and love. For toys I use clear bins to keep like toys together (cars in one, play kitchen things in one, etc. If the bins get full it is time to purge them. Board games go into large (2 gallon) zipper bags or into 14 x 14 square plastic cases. Any games having a large number of missing pieces is thrown out.
Clothing is kept to minimum. Since we do laundry daily we keep the everyday/play clothes down to a week’s worth for each child. For Sunday best clothing, the children will have up 3 depending on the season. Each of the children have 3 pairs of shoes: “good” tennis shoes, “old” tennis shoes for doing things that will get messy (like yard work) and pair of dress shoes. The boys also have hiking boots since they are very involved in scouting.
What is your favourite recipe?
One of the easiest and flavourful meals is Beefy Mac Casserole
1 lb ground beef (you can substitute ground chicken, turkey, etc)
10 oz Macaroni noodles
2 8 oz tomato sauce
½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tablespoon Italian Seasoning
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp pepper
Salt to taste
Shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown and drain the ground beef and drain off any fat. In a large saucepan, prepare macaroni as directed. Drain the noodles, put the noodles back in the pan and add the beef, and then the rest of ingredients. Place into greased 9×13 pan. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until heated through. Top with shredded cheese and put back in oven for 5 minutes until cheese is melted.
Serve with a tossed salad and garlic bread.
Do you cook the same meal for everyone or cater for different tastes?
We cook the same meal for everyone, however if it is someone really does hate the meal, they can fix themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I find catering to all the different tastes to be a major stressor and no longer will do it.
What is the best thing about having a large family?
The best thing about having a large family is there is never a dull or boring moment. One or more of the children is always working on something: an art project, building something with blocks or Legos, playing with each other or reading out loud to others.
And what is the most difficult?
Being able to manage the budget. Having a large family and living on a retirement income is hard, but manageable if you pay attention to the bottom line.
Another thing I find difficult is the stares and comments from others, especially with the triplets. I often get are they natural or how did that happen questions.
If you could offer one piece of advice to parents, what would it be?
Enjoy the ride. Believe it or not this is the best time of your life and it does not last long.
Don’t you have a television?
We do, just not in the bedroom. J
Do you know what causes it?
We do, and obviously we are very good at it. J
And finally, will you have any more children?!
We leave that totally up to the will of God.
You can keep up with the Blasdell family at Donna’s blog over at Managing Mayhem and Multiples. Before you go over there, please leave a message here to welcome Donna and her family as our Large Family of the Week.