By Astrid Van Den Broek
with files from Robin Stevenson
It’s easy to spot the Loupelle house. In the snowbank lining the walkway of their two-storey Barrie, Ont., home stand eight plastic children’s sleds, a wooden barrel filled with three dozen hockey sticks of various lengths, a surfboard, a bench, two chairs and two jogging strollers (one a double). Add in the 10-passenger Dodge one-ton van in the driveway and the six-foot tall shelving unit outside the front door that’s jammed with dozens of pairs of shoes and boots, and anyone who didn’t know the Loupelles could be excused for assuming the couple was running a home daycare.
With their soon-to-be-eight offspring, the Loupelles blow well past the national average of
1.5 children per family, according to Statistics Canada. But to hear mom Kara explain it, they’re just a normal Jewish-Anglican/Catholic couple, with a brood of kids ranging from 17 years to a newborn (due at press time), who like having a big family.
To this day, Kara, who works part-time at a cosmetics counter at a local big-chain drugstore, and Craig, who works in property management, truly don’t know how they came to decide to have this many children — Carter (17), Connor (14), Kennedy (11), Cooper (10), Keaton (7), Kwynne (5) and Karsyn (3) and the newest addition. “Admittedly Craig is a baby of seven himself, but the fact he came from a big family didn’t influence our situation,” she says.
Kara, now 38, was 21 and still in university when she became pregnant with Carter. “We had Carter and, I guess if I think back about it, maybe it’s that we wanted to have a girl so we had another one and it was a boy. On the third try we got a girl and from there I really don’t know — maybe we lost our minds,” Kara says with a laugh.
Certainly having multiple children is an attention-grabber — sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Kara tells the story of how, when they moved into their current house while expecting Kwynne, now five, they received an envelope anonymously in their mailbox. In it was a public health brochure in which someone had taken the time to highlight several paragraphs on birth control. As Kara says, “We laughed about it and thought — what weirdo would send this?” They’ve also had a city inspector come by to look into a neighbour’s complaint about too many toys in the yard. “Sometimes it bugs me slightly when people say things,” says Kara, “but then I joke and say, “Which kid should I give back?’ But generally most people are pretty excited about hearing we have a big family, or they’re intrigued. That’s the usual response.”
As for the kids, they say they like being part of a big family. Despite the requisite arguments over toys, the younger ones play together constantly. Even the older ones, who tend to get along most of the time, have their moments of appreciation. (When CF visited the Loupelles, Conner, 14, was happy to tell us how well his sister, Kennedy, 11, keeps the younger girls organized.) And seven-year-old Keaton says she feels the addition of another child will be harder on her parents than on the kids. “There’s only two of them and they only have four eyes to watch the seven [not yet eight] of us,” she says as she gestures to her siblings.
However, the one area where the baby might trigger some household upheaval is space. “My husband always says we’re like a 300-pound man in a 200-pound man’s suit,” says Kara. “We only have three bedrooms upstairs, believe it or not — there’s ours and then Kennedy and Keaton share one room and Kwynne and Karsyn share another,” says Loupelle. “And the boys are a constant battle — there’s a rec room in the basement so Carter and Connor share a room down there but Cooper doesn’t share his. The baby will just stay in our room for a while and then we’ll figure it out. Hopefully we’ll move!”
But Kara maintains that the house thrives on bedlam. “We’re like Cheaper by the Dozen,” she says. “It’s total chaos — I can’t give it any better description than that.” That means they shop almost daily for groceries, and use a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants grocery list rather than careful, calculated savings strategies. “I can’t see the floor of my laundry room. Usually the pile is as high as the machines themselves — in fact, I haven’t seen the floor since I moved into this house six years ago,” she says. (When laundry gets too out of control, about twice a year, the family packs it up in the Dodge and trucks it over to a local laundromat, blowing $60 on 10 to 14 machines to get it all done at once.)
“People think I’m super-organized and have all the patience in the world and really love kids,” says Kara. “I always say to people — I love my kids but I don’t really love yours! It’s true — I don’t have a lot of patience for kids at the mall and stuff like that.”
For Craig, keeping perspective at any given time is crucial to how his family operates. “It really boils down to urgent versus important. They say you will very seldom find the urgent stuff written down in your day planner but it constantly fills our lives. Kara is the best at keeping the important in place.”
There is also, of course, the financial stress the family facesÂ to keep the kids in soccer, rep hockey and a number of other extra-curricular activities, as well as the sheer amount of food the family consumes. “It’s a strain but, again, we just make it happen as best as we can,” says Craig, who assures the benefits of a large family outweigh any challenges.
“All we have to do is sit at any, and I mean any, given time and watch the magic that these little and big guys have to offer,” he says. “From great report cards to the dumbest excuses you ever heard, they are all a form of fun-filled rewards for being so many. I know that may sound nuts. It’s not my line, but it is best summed up by Jimmy Buffet: “It’s all right to be crazy but just don’t let it drive you insane.’ So I guess one of the best rewards of being so many is that we are close to being certifiably crazy. It sure makes every day full of love and excitement.”
In sync with his dad, Carter, 17, says it best for his family. “It is crazy sometimes. But I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Toronto-based writer Astrid Van Den Broek, who’s expecting her second child, wasn’t so worried about how she’d manage two kids after interviewing the Loupelles.
We couldn’t help but ask the Loupelles for their tips and tricks on parenting their big brood.