When David and I started talking, we would make jokes about the size our family would be if we ended up together.
I heard stories of his family walking by him and just whispering, “SEVEN!”
I would talk to people and get that blank stare after the question, “Does he have kids too?” was answered.
When we became serious about our relationship, we would still joke about what life would look like, but with a level of seriousness as we began to absorb the reality of such a life.
We had both always wanted and planned (there is that word again) on having a big family, but the almost instantaneous part was unexpected.
Still, with all the talking about it ourselves, reminders from other people, and reality checks in all forms, we still had many moments of shock as the process of becoming blended started!
Pretty much everyone in the world loves moving, so it makes sense that moving week was one of our favorite experiences together! Be careful not to slip in the dripping sarcasm. Pre-move, things had moved semi-smoothly: David was hired for a job that fit his criteria, the girls’ schools got changed, childcare was figured out, timeline was planned. It also just so happened that all of these things lined right up: moving week, both sets of our children gone on vacation, David having nearly a week between jobs, and me spending my first week as no longer being a full time working mom. We had all the time in the world. No reason to feel rushed or stressed. This would be a breeze! Right? Right?? The original plan was to spend the whole week moving and preparing the small space to efficiently house us all without feeling cramped. Then, surprise!, the plan changed. First, David found out he had to work one last day at his old job in Palm Coast the first Sunday after they moved here. Then, it became necessary to take his three girls to Virginia by car and since that is a long hard drive alone, I joined him. Then, we found out my kids came home on Friday, not Saturday. Goodbye to most of that extra time we thought we had! It was nice to momentarily be teased by the luxury of taking our time. Good thing extra time would no longer rob us of the excitement a good time crunch can bring. We regrouped and began the move!
Wednesday-Thursday before the move: David and I are talking on Facetime in the evening and he is telling me about how he will pick up the U-haul on Friday morning, spend the day loading it and then he and the girls will drive and be here by that evening. Sounded good until it hit me, “Where will the girls ride?” If you don’t know this about me, I am a stickler for car seat safety. Kind of like a super hero (but not really at all): I can annoy easily with a single factoid! I looked up what U-haul recommends for passenger safety and replanning began again. I wouldn’t have my kids the next morning (Thursday), but I did have to be at work at 10am. Plan: I would get up at 5am, drive to Palm Coast, get the youngest two girls, drive to the bakery with them, and arrive before 10am. They would hang out there quietly and without complaints of boredom…….until the babysitter picked them up by noon. Easy!
Friday: I work my last day at the bakery (forcing myself not to run down a long rabbit trail here about how emotionally taxing this part of the day was). David loads his mini-van (also know as Voyager) with things that he won’t need for a few days (or so he thought-seems some important things ended up in there. Good thing Grace and I are the same size?) David, Grace, and David’s dad spend the day dropping the Voyager at the hospital where David works, acquiring the U-haul (they upgraded him free of charge to make room on the lot-it’s like they knew the mission lay ahead for this truck), loading his storage unit into it, and loading what remained at his parents’ house. David and Grace then make the drive to Melbourne. They arrive in the evening and park the truck in the driveway for the night (I wish i could convey what an event this was. I’ll just say two things: there were 9 people lined up across the front balcony watching mesmerized and David is a rock star). Unloading would have to wait until tomorrow. At this point, sleeping arrangements are still indoor camping style.
Saturday: we wake up early and begin the process of unloading the U-haul. We start at the house and unload the necessities before we head to the storage unit to unload the rest. A week before we had rented a unit together and moved my stuff from a unit I shared with my mom into it. When we arrive today, we quickly realize that if we don’t rework what it already in there, we may not fit everything being added. Solution: unload everything from inside the unit and line it along the wall outside, unload the truck (which I remind you is the biggest U-haul they make and is filled to the brim) and put it all outside as well, then fill the unit strategically to make it all fit. Let’s call this Life Tetris: Storage Unit Edition. Somehow we accomplished the task (or you could say we won the game. Makes it a little more exciting!), but it took all day. Cue Rocky theme song. We then go home to spend some time with my four kids before they get picked up that evening for their vacation.
Sunday: David and I and his three girls wake up before the sun. That makes it sound to easy-allow me to try again. David and I drag our tired, sore, suddenly older feeling bodies out of our beds and meet up at the Kuerig for some life giving elixer. We split up to drag children out of their beds; children who do not appreciate their young, not sore, and able to wake up without coffee bodies and seem to think it is harder for them to get up than for us! There, that was a more accurate description. And why did we do this to ourselves? See, David drove the U-haul Friday to Melbourne, so his van is still parked at the hospital in Palm Coast. He has to be at work at 9 and we need to drive him. After we drop off David, the girls and I make the trek back. We spend the day getting them packed for their trip and making an appearance at a New Years Day gathering. After work, David is able to get the van to Melbourne. It arrives….fully loaded. We work late unloading his van into the garage and preparing for the drive to Virginia.
Monday: Up before the sun again! I’ll spare you the long description this time. We leave for Virginia around 6am and drive all day to drop the girls off.
Tuesday: We drive back to Florida.
Wednesday: Time to work fast! We head to the store first thing in the morning. We needed to buy 3 more mattresses. We had acquired 6 mattresses, yet needed 3 more—>whoa moments. We were determined that the girls not start school while still “camping”. The rest of the day is spent moving a lot of big heavy furniture that belonged to my Mawmaw downstairs and then getting the bedrooms put together. We moved up (and assembled) bunk beds, dressers, and needed things. We were thankful to have a little extra muscle help out this day!
Thursday: David works on a few projects that must be done. One set of bunk beds has no guard rail on the top so he has to build one. We were pretty sure whatever child ended up there would appreciate that. The bedrooms need doorknobs-currently, both doors sported holes where doorknobs used to be. During my days as a single mom, sometimes it was easier to just remove things that caused me stress, and yes, door knobs caused me stress. My children liked to do this adorable thing where they would turn the locks and then close the doors. I loved hearing “Moooooooom, the door is locked again!” Funny, no one ever seemed to know who did it. There were no keys for the doors and the knobs were so old that tricks that usually work for those kinds of locks did not work. I would have all the kids sit in time out and watch as I used a screw driver to remove the doorknob, open the door, and replace the doorknob. One Sunday morning, while half crazed, I removed the doorknob that had been locked and didn’t put it back on. I then went and removed the other bedroom doorknob. I almost removed the bathroom doorknob too but then I remembered that was my one place to hide…I better keep it. Anyway, it was time for new doorknobs because poor Grace (David’s oldest) didn’t appreciate the giant peepholes when she was changing. While David works on projects, I work on getting the kids’ dressers loaded and ready and empty the closets of the rest of my Mawmaw’s things so that we can fit everyone’s clothes. We work hard to get as much done as we can because we have now realized that Friday has a task of its own. While talking about the kids starting school on Monday, we realize that our plan of driving two separate vans for a while will no longer work. For me to be able to do school drop off and pick up, I need to be able to get 5 car seats in a vehicle and neither of our vans could fit that safely. After thinking out all the options we realize we need to do the bigger vehicle now.
Friday: We head to Orlando to look at a van that seems to be the best deal we can find online. It’s a Ford E-350, or as many like to call it: a church van. I was originally not too excited about this. I was worried it would be hard to drive. I was worried it wouldn’t be equipped for many car seats. And I was worried about what other people would think as we rolled up in our “church van”. We found a silver one which made me feel a little better (Is it just me or does silver over white make it seem a little less ridiculous? Just me? Ok). Then I drove it, and to my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined. Perhaps I was born to Pilot such a vessel. And it has a back up cam-win! I don’t know if that is considered a bell or a whistle, but I am pretty excited about it! We made the decision and traded my van for the E-350. On the way home, I got more and more excited about our new van. I was seeing possibilities and ease and efficiency! Not to mention we could now all travel together. This was necessary and worth it. We named the van The Enterprise. I remind you David is a Trekkie. He is raising Trekkies. I am having fun sharing this interest with him and having fun with it. Since David was already driving around in “Voyager”, Enterprise pretty much named itself! I now drive the Enterprise around most days and David takes his “little red sports car” to work! Compared to the the big van-that is fitting! When we all ride in it together, we don’t move until the following takes place:
“We’re looking for a go/no go for flight”
“Grace” “Go flight!”
“Hope” “Go flight!”
“Madalyn” “Go flight!”
“Meredith” “Go flight!”
“Josiah” “Go flight!”
“Charlotte” “Go flight!”
“Faith” “Go flight!”
“Mommy” “Go flight!”
“Daddy” “Go flight!”
“We are a go for launch!”
This is how we know everyone is buckled and ready to go! You are laughing at us aren’t you? Don’t be jealous.
Saturday: My kids had come home the night before so today was the day we were going to pick up David’s girls from the airport. Unfortunately, a snowstorm had cancelled most flights and after many reschedules, they weren’t going to come in until Sunday. Regroup again! Today became a garage day. Ohhhhhh the boxes. We also worked in David’s room downstairs. We had spent so much time focused on getting things ready for the kids, there was still a lot to do to get that ready for him to live in.
Sunday: We make the drive to Orlando in the Enterprise and get the whole family together in the big van for the first time. I wish I had a picture of the girls’ faces when we rolled up to the pick up lane at the airport in it. Priceless. We get home that afternoon and spend time showing everyone their new spaces, going through boxes, preparing for school and work, and just settling in. All 9 of us!
Monday: we are officially becoming blended!
There was no easing in either! Monday was filled with excitement. David had his orientation at his new job and we had run into some schedule conflicts. Hope started school at 8am, two of my kids had a dentist appointment at 8:45am, Grace started school at 9:30am, and my girls would have to go to school late. This meant I had to take Hope to her school to finish getting registered at 7:45 (and have 4 kids in tow). We were there until 9. I called the dentist to see if they still wanted us to come and surprisingly they said to come. The remainder of us headed to the dentist across town. After the appointment we drove back to where we started to register Grace at her school. We left there at 10:45. I then took the two kids still with me home traded one for another and drove the twins to school. I was home at 11:45am and then off again at 2pm to start pickups! First Hope, then the twins, then Grace. After this day, I became very thankful for the bus system! What a beautiful thing!
After acquiring the bunk beds, the dressers, and the van, we thought we were set for a while when it came to larger family purchases…until we realized at dinner Monday night that David was spending every meal holding up his end of the table because it had become weak on the ends as it spent many years in service. We were going to need a table big enough and strong enough for us! David found a custom builder who gave us a fantastic price on a beautiful custom farm table with benches. It’s beautiful, and we fit, and David can put his arms on the table rather than under it.
We had it now-everything we needed to make this work was in place! (We hoped!)
Shock factor complete.
….until we started to learn how much it took to sustain 9 people.