By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Chrystine Ylitalo of Delano and her husband, Tom, can think of a dozen reasons why their family is special all they have to do is list the names of their 12 children, ranging in age from 7 to 22.
With more than quadruple the average number of children, the Ylitalo household is a busy yet warm and welcoming place to be.
“At times, it seems a little crazy, but, it’s a good crazy,” said Meghan, the oldest of the Ylitalo children.
“In the evening, when everyone is getting home from their day’s activities, whether it be work, school, or practice, we all hang out in the kitchen and talk over anything and everything,” said 21-year-old Brianna. “It’s fun to have that kind of comfort to look forward to at home.”
Chrystine works part time at the Buffalo High School, and Tom owns a lawn and snow care maintenance business. The children who are still in school enjoy participating in sports such as hockey, volleyball, baseball, and softball.
The Ylitalos live about four miles outside of Delano, which means Chrystine makes many trips into town to watch sporting events and pick up her children from practices.
“I think everyone knows my big white van,” she laughed. The 15-passenger van is also great for camping trips, she added.
For Meghan, family camping trips provided some of her best memories growing up.
“It always took about a week to pack everything,” she said. The family would attach a tent trailer to the van and strap everyone’s bikes on top with ropes.
“They don’t make 12-person bike racks,” Meghan laughed.
Christmastime is also another big event for the Ylitalos.
“The holidays are a blast,” Chrystine said. “You can imagine.”
Each person gets three or four presents, she said, and the whole room is full.
“Our kids love the holidays,” she said. “They love to celebrate.”
Meghan described Christmas Eve with her family as a “built-in party.”
“We don’t have to go anywhere,” she said. “It’s fun just to stay home.”
“I’m never bored when I’m at home,” she added. “There are all these people you know and love.”
Meghan said her sisters, Michelle, 20, and Brianna, are her best friends.
“What I truly enjoy most about having so many brothers and sisters is having many different stories, personalities, and life experiences all under one roof,” Brianna said.
Both Meghan and Brianna said they hope to have large families of their own someday.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of work,” Meghan said. “But, I look at my mom, and she has so much to enjoy. I’m like, I want that. I think it’s awesome.”
“Growing up in a large family, I see the many benefits, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Brianna added.
Meghan said she enjoys having several brothers and sisters around.
“You knew you had to be responsible and work, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have fun,” she said.
Both Tom and Chrystine grew up in large families, as well. Tom came from a family with 14 children, and Chrystine’s family had 11 children.
For Chrystine, being a mother has been very rewarding, she said.
“It’s hard to describe,” she said. “I love the whole thing of it.”
“There’s always something fun going on,” she added. “I always have a hard time sitting down and taking care of paperwork, like paying bills.”
The family also goes through food and laundry rather quickly, she laughed.
“We go through bananas really fast,” Chrystine said.
Chrystine said people often ask if their family eats at the same time, to which she replies, “We have a really big table.”
Family dinners don’t happen every day, Meghan added, but when they do, it’s a good time to catch up on how everyone’s day went.
Another common question people ask is, “How many bedrooms are in your house?”
The answer is five.
“Bunk beds are awesome,” Chrystine said.
The Ylitalos moved to Delano from New Hope in 1993.
“Delano is a great town to raise a family in,” she said.
Much of the time the Ylitalos spend together is at home, Chrystine said.
“A lot of times, we just hang out in the living room and talk,” Meghan said.
In the upcoming years, the Ylitalos will have several graduations, weddings, and eventually, grandchildren, to look forward to.
“It’s just a way of life,” Chrystine said.