Hi, Jen. One point in the article is that you try out systems and solutions and are fastidious about implementing them when you find one that works. What are some of your most out-of-the-box systems/solutions? Which do you find so simple you find yourself often recommending them to friends?
I am going to first of all recommend lotofkids.com. I found it a few days ago. It has some great suggestions. I am also a " laundry Nazi". So, I have a system that works for us. There is a laundry bin in the bathroom upstairs and one by the washing maching downstairs. All the laundry gets pu in here. (no laundry on floors). I have bins to put the folded laundry right near the machines....so ideally no pile up. Also, if anyone cares, we keep toys in the toy room...very few, if any, upstairs.
While I think love is much more important than material wealth, I'm wondering how you would provide special opportunities for your children who want/need them? Suppose you had children who wanted piano lessons or ballet lessons or wanted to play youth ice hockey or figure skate? Would you just say, "We can't afford it" knowing that it might break their hearts. Suppose one of them is very talented at ballet or music, for example. What then? I have three children and was able to provide any opportunity they wanted. While I wish I had had one more, I feel that we were able to raise them to be their best.
That is a very good question. It is true that we have not been able to provide all they want or need. However, piano lessons or ballet could come later if the opportunity arises. Be that as it may, we always allow them to play one sport a season, since sports is very important to my husband and myself. So, we do have to stretch a bit to make that work. It is great that you are able to provide these special opportunities for your kids. Of course the best gift you have given them is their life. Give them a big hug from me!
How similar or different do you raise your children from how your parents raised you?
Great question! I remember not having many means as kids. But, it didn't really matter at the time. There seems to be more stress now on having things (Ipods, Game Boys, Wii, etc). But, the thing that I want to always follow my parents is their faith and hardwork. I grew up on a small farm and learned how to work. I think today this is also a missing factor in many children's lives. They often get things the easy way. Thanks for the question!
Jen, your family is beautiful. You seem really calm and organized. I'm guessing this comes from some kind of inner strength. Have you always been this way? If you had to work on some of this, what helped you attain this level of peace and organization with a large family? I'd like to have all of the above, with a large family.
I think I am not as calm and organized as it may seem. As I am writing, I am a nervous Nellie! I was organized until I had kids. Then I was tested and have failed many times. But, the key thing is to get up and try again perhaps with another tactic. I have been "bruised" many times! As far as having a big family, go for it! It's a blast!
There is a giant, father-shaped hole in that story. One lonely little sentence about painting houses and running sports camps. Other than that, the father of these children isn't even mentioned. Where is he while his wife is crushed under a workload that would kill anyone without her faith? What is he doing that a woman who gets up at 5 a.m. needs a nap at 9 p.m. *before she works for a few more hours*? What is he doing that neither wife nor child nor reporter even mentions the man at all?
I am glad you asked that question. One of the key factors in this whole family is my husband. He is hard-working, funny and level headed. He was not mentioned simply because the reporter spent the day with me. She did not see that he was out of the house by 6:00 am painting a house. He is also much better at discipling the kids. In a calm but firm way, he can get the kids to respond. He is a great husband. Thank you for bringing this up. He is the backbone that gets unnoticed because I am the one making the noise!
I am curious if/when you see spanking as necessary. We ordinarily use time outs, but when this is not possible I wonder whether a quick spank is an appropriate deterrent.
This is a great question. I want to remind you that I am not expert just because I have many kids. Sometimes a quick spank can break a certain behavior. But, as I reflect on my experiences, a spank is more therapy for the spanker than a good tool. But, overall, I am not opposed to spanking. I think it just needs some reflection before it is used. Perhaps it is not really necessary in the long run. Thanks for asking this question.
How do you deal with the lack of sleep? Assuming that most kids do not sleep through the night consistently until six months, and your kids are so close in age, you must have been getting up at night for 12 years! How do you manage naps for the little ones while having to pick up and do things for the older ones?
SOmehow God helped me get through this time. Right now, since my youngest is 15 months, I am feeling very restful. But, I used to try to nap when the big kids were in school and the little ones napped. Of course, not everyone napped. So, sometimes I would fall asleep for 5 minutes in the toyroom on the floor while the kids climbed on me. I know that sounds horrific. But, it worked. But, you are right, 7 hours of sleep is very important for a parent. Good advice!
In the 1970's I lived in Takoma Park and knew a lovely Sapienza family living in Silver Spring whose mother was Theresa. We worked in pro life together. Are you her daughter or possibly married to one of her sons? Great article!
I am the daughter and proud membr of the lovely sapienza family. Mom said she would love to hear from you. If you email me, I can connect you. thanks for writing. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just think of the carbon footprint left by your family! To each his own I guess, but having so many kids seems almost irresponsible in this era.
Thank you for sharing your opinion. I think you are right when you say: to each his own.
Have you found the children have formed a secret alliance to work against the parents? I recall a friend who was from a large family and one of the children would deliberately get in trouble so that while the parents where scolding or disciplining that child, this was in fact a diversion so the other children would be able to accomplish something behind their parents' backs. I sometimes think children of large families would make the best intelligence agents.
Great idea! Perhaps I should encourage that trade! Actually, we have really great kids. I have not seen the espionage tactic yet. But, call me in a few years when they are all teenagers! Actually, I may promote this....since tattling on your siblings during social events may be helpful to our parenting!!!
Hi, Jen. I was wondering how do you break up your kids when they are fighting with one another? And how do you make sure they each have their own personal space at home?
Great question! I physically separate them. Usually, I have to send one upstairs. My kids have found way for pesonal space upstairs. The little ones generally stay upstairs. So, it is clear for the older ones. But, if they share rooms, I sometimes offer my room as an outlet for those who want to be alone....this does not happen much. But, certainly it is a concern and an important factor with lots of people. Thanks!
Have you managed to form relationships with store owners to get their food that is about to expire or be taken off the shelves? I often wonder if they gift it to big families or charities instead of just throwing it away. In general what have you found to be the most successful way to feed such a large family on a small budget?
Sometimes I have relatives that get me bruised fruit from a grocery store. That has helped a lot since we eat a lot of applesauce! I also frequent Entenmann's outlet for bread. It's a great deal!
Did Jen study to be a teacher? In the past, did she offer tutoring in math? If yes, I think she tutored a few years back. Interesting to note that Jen makes daily mass devotion a priority. Whether mass, meditation, or some other firm commitment to personal development seem to be part of successful persons' routine.
Yes, Jen was a math teacher for ten years before she had children.
Do you have any houehold rules on what activities (or how many) the kids can participate in? I know in the article you mentioned soccer camp for some of the older ones, but is there any difficulty in chosing different sports or activities, since it seems impossible to manage 12 kids each with different practice schedules?
I have to tell you that in the fall, 8 of the kids play soccer. The field is right down the street and my husband coaches many of them. So, as far as conflicts, we are grateful to our many friends who help with car pooling. So far, so good.....But, a great question!
I am one of 13 children. My mum and dad did very well. They also drove a 15-passenger van. They shopped every three weeks for groceries at about $300.00. They never had any outside help or handouts.
Thanks for sharing your personal experience. When word got out that I was looking for a local family with lots of children, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of emails and calls I received. There are so many families in the area with 10+ children. And based on my conversations with those I spoke to, they all appear to be thriving and having fun.
I see that you had your last three children when you were 40 or over and your husband was in his late 40s. Did you have any additional complications during these pregnancies? Do the both of you find your energy levels to be comparable as with your prior children? Did you ever ask family or friends to stay with you and help out during any of these periods? Thanks.
Thank you for your question. Luckily, I did not have many complications. I, of course, will not be signing up for any fashion shows (vericose veins!). But, in the long run, no big problems. My Mom from Boston usually comes down for a week to help out. Thank goodness for family!
How do you afford it?
Good question. I don't really have an answer to it. Somehow God has provided in difficult times. As it states in the article, we have been blessed with many generous friends. I grew up with the same attitude that if you are generous with God, He will be generous with you. Of course, we need to be smart and responsible. So, it is important that you and your spouse are on the same page.....sometime we are in the same book and it takes a while to reach this page! Good question.
I don't think you really answered the question about where is dad in all this. You said he's the disciplinarian and that he works hard, but what does he do in the home to help raise all these kids?
Dad was definitely there, and definitely working hard, when I was with the family, but his work was outside the house earning extra income for the family. As I mentioned in my story, Larry runs a series of sports camps and paints houses (lots of houses) during the summer for extra money. He was there helping with dinner, telling stories and making the kids laugh. I spent most of my time with Jen while Larry was working, which is a large part of why the story is mostly about her.
Hi! I consider myself a faithful practicing Catholic and very open to God's will and his plan for me -- for us. I will be marrying my best friend and love of my life this October and we're very excited about out life together. We are currently taking classes to learn about Natural Family Planning. Did you two ever consider NFP? I think it's important to be open, for sure, but praying and discerning God's will and weather emotionally, spiritually, financially a couple is able to have more children is important. What do you think? Also, did you breast feed your children? If so, for how long? God bless you and your family.
Wow! Great question! I think NFP is the perfect answer to concerns regarding my last question. I do not breast feed for several reasons. First, when we got married, my husband is super social. He did not want me feeding the baby in public places. Secondly, I was not breast fed so was very nervous about the whole idea. Of course, it is the way nature was set up by the creator. So, I am in full support of those who do. I was just uncomfortable. Thirdly, I tried with my sixth (silly idea) and was so tired that I ended up dropping the baby because I fell asleep....he was trying to eat 24/7. So, after that, I decided it was not in the cards for me. Congratualtions on your wedding! Good luck withthe classes. I would just suggest that you do not use NFP in a calculating way...so as to control. But, certainly if you need space and time, great!
In a world full of Octomom, "Kates" (of +8 infamy) and other reality TV garbage, it's nice to know there's a real person behind the scenes of this large family and that you have problems just like the rest of us. Keep doing what you're doing and you are well on the road to raising wonderful children.
Thank you so much for your comments! I have heard some strong and unfortunately nasty comments today. Please pray for the "team".
Terri, great article! I love reading about the Kilmer family. They are an inspiration to all families of what is really important in life. Thanks for sharing.
Hi. Thanks for writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I think the Kilmers are inspirational, too. Spending time with them always gave me lots to think about. And hanging out with all of those cute (and very sweet) kids was fun, too!
So there's a source of income you don't want to tell us about? Or your husband doesn't let you see the bank balance? Come on, any adult KNOWS where their money comes from and goes!
Come on now. There's no reason to be hostile. This is family chat, people!
It seems that the more kids a family has, the happier that family is, especially when it's a whole bunch! Do you agree and do you think this is due to there simply not being enough time for kids (and parents) to be distracted from the important things like teamwork and sacrifice, or is it something else? Also, how can a stranger get a gift card or check to the family just as a way of saying "keep up the good work"?
Thank you for your kind words and support! Sometimes the negative comments can be a heavy weight to carry. You acn e-mail the writer email@example.com. But, please do not concern yourself with us. We are very happy and thankful for your kind words and support! Keep suporting the large families! You make us stronger!
How did growing up in a big family help with raising your own family?
My family was also very close in age and faith was very important to us. My parents are rocks and a great example to the rest of my family. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, a great testament today. We lso had a great home and property outside of Boston with a small farm. This tool was a great way for them to teach us teammwork and physical labor. I am very grateful to them. Thank you for this question. It has helped me.
Congratulations on your beautiful family! I will say that your comment about "the best gift you can give a child is a sibling" rankled me (an only child and parent of an only child) quite a bit. I do hope you recognize that there are many reasons people choose to have just one child, among them fertility issues, divorce, if the child has special needs that overwhlem, etc. The sterotype of choosing to have one child for selfish reasons is as overblown as the sterotypes you likely face as the parents of a large family. Thank you.
To offer an opposing view, I, too, have only one child and Jen's comment didn't bother me one bit. In fact, I thought it was very sweet. And, it was her opinion, which you can agree or disagree with. I think we all have thoughts on the best gift you can give a child and not everyone has to agree with them.
Don't the Catholic schools discount tuition for siblings, so that maybe just the first one is full price and the others are considerably less? What about high school? Are you planning to send them to Catholic high schools?
Yes, fortunately, the Archdiocese and St Jude have been very helpful to us. It has been a great oportunity which I am very gateful for.
I do not believe you should get discouted food for a personal lifestyle choice. There are responsible families with reasonable family sizes who ARE Needy and should get discounted food. You just chose to have more than you can pay for.
If I can step in here, Jen and Larry CAN pay for the needs of their children. The gifts and/or help they receive from others are never solicited. They absolutely take their own responsibilty for their children and would without any help, too.
Do your older children take a large role in caring for the younger children? Do you ever worry that you're putting too much of a burden on them, and that they might grow to resent it when they're an adult?
I do worry about that fact. However, it is also a good tool for teaching the kids responsibility in a large family. However, when the opportunities arise, I try to let the older kids participate in fun events. Right now, three of the girls are participating in an overnight camp. It has been great for them! I had a great "mother moment" on Tuesday. My son Tommy had a birthday. The girls all called and had their cabin mates sing him happy birthday! It was so sweet! So, far, they all are enjoying the big family. I am aware, however, that this might become more difficult as they reach puberty....Pray for us!!!
Jen, do you stagger bedtimes or is everyone to bed around the same time?
There are two bedtimes: 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.. The older ones (12 down to 8) go to bed later. This gives me some time withe just the younger ones and makes the older ones feed like they are special. (Although don't tell them they should go to bed later!) It works for us!
I don't have a question. I just want to say that as a mom of three busy kids, I am very impressed by the Kilmer family. It's hard enough trying to raise three kids. I can't imagine parenting 11! It is wonderful to see how loving your kids are to each other, how they share and help out. This story just goes to show you that even when you think "there is no possible way" God will make a way.
I know! I only have a 19-month-old at home and sometimes I think I just can't handle everything that comes at me and everything that needs organizing. Jen and Larry really have their game on here, and it is very impressive.
Can you tell us more about the beliefs that led you to be open to having as many children as God sent you and your husband? What's the religious teaching that you are following? Do you know other similar-minded families?
My husand and I are Cahtolic and were brought up with a strong faith experience. Of course, I know many similar minded families. They are our support when things seems overwhelmingly negative. Thank you!
I read some of the comments to the article and am surprised at how negative they are. Do you have this kind of reaction all the time? How do you respond? By the way, KUDOS on such a lovely family!
Usually, I can ignore the comments. It's the usual "Don't you have a tv?" "Do you know what causes this?" "When are you going to stop". I thought I could say "We'll stop when we get an ugly one." But, then I realized that might not be good for the child....and the person might already think we should have stopped. In any case, a smile is often the only response. Or yes, we are blessed. I don;t have good zingers. But, sometimes, it's tempting to use one!
I think I will remember you and your family when I am feeling overwhelmed with my job, husband, and ONE toddler. I have no more excuses for not being organized and efficient!
I hear you! I am in your same boat and always left the Kilmer house feeling like a wimp for feeling overwhelmed by my life sometimes.
Hi, Jen. With just one child I find that my husband and I often get into arguments over things simply because we're juggling a lot of stuff (two careers and a child, etc). How do you find the time to resolve arguments with your husband when the kids are not around? And do you go out on date nights, etc. to get alone time with each other?
Date nights are great! I would often times rather saty at home. But, my husband gets me out of the house. It's often a great remedy 1) You are giving one-on-one time with your spouse and having conversation without interruption and 2) You are away from the often-times chaos and all that it entails. As a very wise person told me, never go to bed angry. A great rule of thumb!
Hi, Jen. Would you ever consider having your family participate in a reality television show?
Actually, we were asked today. I am scared out of my mind! Perhaps it will be more of a comedy!
IS selfish when there are so many who need food. So many starving babies who were born before you decided to bring 11 more children into the world.
So, should I also feel guilty about bringing my one daughter into the world when I could have just used my resources to help someone else instead?
Do you have any friends with large families? If so, do you ever all get together?
We have many friends with large families. My husband teaches at The Heights School which has many large families. So, when there are school events, we see many of them. We also know many in the neighborhood. SO, we often see them at our local pool. It's great for friendships to be cultivated.
I had the same reaction to this comment. People seem to act as if I'm doing my child a disservice by not having another child, and that he'll turn out to be some sort of selfish freak. I'm an only child, my husband is an only child, and we both turned out just fine. I think that the best gift you can give your child is a stable, loving home. Good luck with your family. You all look like a lively bunch!
I think the reaction to Jen's quote is so interesting because I felt so differently upon hearing it. But, like I said, and like you illustrate, everyone has their own, personal thoughts about the best gift you can give a child and we should all be respectful of the differences in opinion.
Jen, I have seen some shockingly nasty comments in the Comments section of the article. Maybe it is easier for people to be like that online (since it is anonymous), but how do people tend to react to your family when they see you all together in public? (And it is so obvious that they are all siblings. Good looking crew, by the way!)
Mostly, I have people with their eyes popping out of their heads. My kids are now noticing this and are getting a big kick out of it. We had a funny event in Boston in June. We were able to go to a restaurant and the waitress said, "What do we have here? A camp? A daycare? A school? What do we got? ...then when I said a family, she said "No!....are the tv cameras gonna be comin in here? I not ready for the tv cameras!" We got a big kick out of that one!
Silly question, maybe, but how how do you sort all those socks?
Not a silly question at all - I asked it myself during the interview. Jen told me she doesn't sort socks; they all go in a single drawer in the playroom.
What do you say to families who are leaving Catholic school with just a couple of kids saying that they can't afford it? I am struggling with this as I look at declining enrollment in our local Catholic school; most families state tuition when choosing not to return. I have one child in Catholic school and one starting college and I work nearly full-time outside of the house so its not a big struggle for us; How do you manage it?
Honestly, I do not manage it very well. This is a great question and a big concern. We are going to do all we can to make it work this year...and next year, etc. I need to quote my mother. She always used to say "You need to get your kids into Heaven, not Harvard." So, with this in mind, if you can do this with public school education, fine. I find it more helpful to have the kids learning the faith at school and within the different subjects. But, if we cannot afford to feed them, then this will change and we will do all we can to teach them the faith at home.
I have two kids, and I remember the GYN recommending to take at least a year between pregnancy to give your body time to recover. Also, they don't know if they can make it on their own because they get donations and help with car pools.
Well, a doctor can make a recommendation to a patient, then the patient decides to take that recommendation or not. Simple as that.
It sounds like your giant family works for you. So, more power to you, I guess! It certainly isn't a life for everyone. Obviously you have made a decision to send your kids to Catholic schools. Do you think they might be better served by sending them to public schools and saving all of that tuition money for higher education? But I suspect that they are all learning a lot of responsibility and will be able to work their way through school when the time comes...
We are trying to help them with a Catholic education now. Hopefully, it will sreve them well in the future. But, you have made a very good point. We have told the kids that they probably will go to MC for the basic requirements and work. Then, they can specialize. I hope it works. Great question.
Hi, Jen. Thank you very much for your openness to God's gift of children. As a father of two young children I find you and your husband to be an inspiration. Thanks for your witness and sharing the fruits of your experience. Though I know it is for the good, I am someone who struggles to thank God for the challenges in family life as they are happening. How do you remain grateful in those super busy, even overwhelming moments? P.S. For what it's worth, thank you for your carbon footprint! ;)
Gratitude for the good, the bad, the lack of funds, the scrapes, the bruises....and the crying. It's all to be thanked for. Thank you for such a great reminder!
Hi! I know it's expensive to live out on the eastern coast of the the United States. I was wondering if you have ever considered moving the "team" to the Midwest, for example, where your money may stretch a little farther.
I know the author of this comment....Not a chance (ha ha)
Mrs. Kilmer, it's sad to hear that you have received some nasty comments today when your main focus is on your family and doing your best to support them. I know that you are a great mother and do anything to keep your kids safe and happy. I'm not sure if I can say my name on here, but I am one of Mr. Kilmer's "Rattlesnakes" and I remember little Joe and Christina coming to practice and since then you two have been fully devoted parents and do anything for your kids! It's hard to hear that some people out there are saying bad things towards your family when they really do not have much of an idea of who you all are about. Hope everything is well (sounds like it is) and good luck! It was so nice seeing you guys at my sister's wedding last summer!! Hope to see you again soon!!!
WOW! Thanks for the comment! I will certainly pass it on to Larry. A big hug!
No. Having a family is a natural imperative. Having more than you can handle (she admitted she takes charity to help out) is irresponsible and unfair to the people who donate from their hard-earned money. You had the choice.
But who is to say how many is more than the Kilmer's can handle? For some, one child is even more than they can handle. When someone gifts me with a giftcard to a baby or kids's store or my parents pick-up the tab on things for us just because, is it unfair or irresponsible for me to accept their kindness and generosity? It's a gift. And the choice to give a gift is made by the giver, not the receiver.
How do you handle 11 kids and finicky food choices? Do you have several go-to meals? Do you ever have leftovers or is each dinner a big production? How long does it take to get dinner for 13 together?
I have to admit, I hate cooking. But, as with any great job, there are parts that are more cahllenging. For those of you who know me, my maiden name is Cook. My friends used to tell me my middle name was "Can't". So, be that as it may, I need a good hour to make dinner. I have about 7 - 10 meals that I know the famiy likes. My motto is "you get what you get and you don't get upset". But, if I have aperson who doesn't want to eat, I usually ask them how old they are. This tells them how many boites thay have to take. Usually, it gets them eating. Otherwise, I might sneak them a pb & j later, if they do not eat....So much for sticking to the rules!
Having many children myself, one thing I enjoy is watching how Our Lord clearly multiplies the fishes and the loaves!! I was wondering how the children participate in helping make meals? And are they surprised how much one can make with so few ingredients?
I recently started making soup. It seems to spread the meat and the kids like it. I cannot say it would have worked a few years ago, however. Again, I would also like to point people to the website: lotsofkids.com. It has some great tips! Thanks for the question!
I'm not sure if the above poster is hostile, but I think many people are curious about the monetary situation - for two reasons. 1) We ALL need help balancing our family budgets and stretching every dollar. The Kilmers surely must have some good lessons for us. And 2) If the Kilmers are using public funds, that certainly provides some valuable insights into how they support all their children, and can be a lesson to those of us who are considering having large families but want to make sure we don't require public money to do so. Thank you.
I would suggest that you go to the website lotsofkids.com. It has some great tips!
I don't have a question, but just wanted to say thank you, to you both. It has been tough to read the paper lately, with all the economic troubles, the horrific helecopter crash in Afghanistan, and all the rest. It was aweseom to read about the Kilmer family today. Folks like you give me hope for the future of this country.
Thanks for the nice comment. I thought the story was a nice break from the rest of the bad news, to
I earlier was going to ask if you face a lot of negative comments, as though parenting a large family is selfish or reckless, but viewing the chat I have my answer already. It is so disturbing how the modern culture views children. My question is a bit specific to Catholic/Christians, but do your young kids go with you to daily Mass? What tricks do you employ to keep them relatively calm and quiet?
For us, we go to Mass on Sunday with the older kids. We have decided that once a child is 6 in our house, they go to Sunday Mass. The younger ones stay at home with a babysitter. This may not work for your family. But, in this way, we can pray better and can focus on the Mass (or service). The younger ones know that Mass is special. However, since they have not reached the age of reason, they cannot really understand what is going on. besides, I can get really flusteres and nervous about keeping them quiet instead of focusing on what is happening. I hope this helps.
Do your kids get allowances or any type of spending money? If so, at what age does it start?
No. We do nt do allowances. I do not think I could keep track of it. Besides, I think sometimes allowances make the kids think they should get rewards for their teamwork.
In the article, the only chores we read the kids doing is "cleanup" at 3 p.m. and after dinner, and putting their clothes away. Yet mom is still doing the dishes, laundry, etc. Uh, really? C'mon, the kids have to be doing more ?
Of course they are doing more. You are right. I am constantly asking for their help. I am no super mom. But, I have super kids!
Do you have pets?
No, not yet.
Do you ever laugh at other people when they tell you just how BUSY they are? I realize life is not a contest, but does it strike you as funny when someone complains about how hectic their life is?
Usually, I do not address this fact. I just keep quiet. They can figure it out in a short time ....a few pauses.
Ms. Kilmer, you haven't mentioned returning to teaching as an option to address financial issues. Is that in the cards at all as the kids get older and the older kids can watch the younger ones?
My plan is to return to teaching. This is one thing I love to do!!!!