Eight is enough

November 12, 2007

by Jennifer Gallus

Last weekend, I was honored to be entrusted with my sister’s six children while she and her husband attended a benefit auction for the adoption agency they used to bring home the three youngest members of their family.

So, it was my two boys, my sister’s six children, and me – for the whole weekend – at my sister’s house.

I admit I had some anxiety going into the weekend, especially since I was going from two children to eight.

When I arrived Friday with my hands full of bags, I announced to my 10-year-old niece, Maria, “Nanny McJenny is here!” She thought that was ridiculous! She laughed, “You’re not a nanny – you’re an aunt!”

I was soon greeted with the aroma of a dirty diaper from my very cute 2-year-old niece, Julia. I can’t remember the last time I changed a diaper! My 4-year-old nephew, Maxim, quickly fetched a diaper and wipes without me even asking. Julia promptly laid on her back as soon as she saw Max bring me the diaper, and I thought, “Hey, this is pretty nice – maybe this weekend won’t be too overwhelming!”

That first night, we all stayed up kind of late, and no one really got crabby. My 16-year-old niece, Erica, was visiting her boyfriend who had just gotten home from the hospital that day, and said she’d be home by midnight.

I got a good glimpse into my future worrying about teenagers out on the road at night. She came home on time, which I wasn’t worried about, but I felt better knowing she was home.

The next day was busy. I had preconceived ideas that I would bake with the kids, do lots of laundry for my sister, and vacuum. Most of those notions deflated throughout the day like a tire with a slow leak.

I managed to wash one load of laundry by 3 p.m. Saturday, and feed the kids with the help of the older kids. Otherwise the day had been filled with keeping the youngest two happy and refereeing an occasional fight. I was already exhausted by mid-Saturday.

My mind was preoccupied with so many things as I put the clothes in the dryer that I couldn’t figure out how to turn the thing on. That’s when Max, who has only been in the country and speaking English for six months, said, “You have to push the button, Zenny!” I couldn’t help but laugh. “I help you,” he said.

About this time, their grandpa stopped by to check on us. He asked me which Mass I was taking the kids to. That’s when I heard the sound of a screeching needle on a record in my head.

“Oh, yes, church! Umm, I hadn’t even thought of that yet!” I said with embarrassment.

Grandpa filled me in on the church schedule and offered to help me bring them to Mass. I didn’t even let him finish his sentence and took him up on his offer. We went to the 8 p.m. Mass Saturday night. They all acted like angels – it was a sight!

After church, some of the kids continued to play, the youngest two were put to bed, and I sat with Erica on the couch and we proceeded to talk about her friends and boyfriend, and buy new ring tones and answer tones for our cell phones.

Maria joined us later, and as she tried to get her blanket away from her older sister, a sibling fight broke out that actually made me laugh.

Here’s a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old fighting over a Hello Kitty blanket and pulling on it back and forth. Finally, Erica took possession of it, told Maria she could have it back, and proceeded to chuck it across the room in the opposite direction of her sister. That made me laugh so hard that I actually snorted!

They both looked at me, started laughing themselves, and I said, “That was a classic sibling fight!” Their age difference is roughly what my sister and I have, so it brought back some vivid memories.

Sunday morning started with bathing the two youngest, and I actually got a few more loads of laundry done, as well as some vacuuming.

By this time, I had a good picture of what my sister and her husband’s life is like. I don’t know how they do it – it’s wonderful, but it’s exhausting!

My boys and I were glad to spend time with my sister’s family. So many times when the cousins get together it’s only for a few hours at a time. My boys actually didn’t even want to leave after those three days. It was a bittersweet departure. I wanted to go home, but I already missed my nieces and nephews.


Some of my cautions are rubbing off on my boys. During church my 6-year-old whispered to me, “Would you ever light that many candles? They’re way too close to those flowers.”