Like the Brady Bunch: Big, Beautiful Families

As the children play ring around the rosy, Tim and Patty Trapp

Here’s the story of three lovely families. Who were bringing up
20 very lovely kids. All of them live right here in the South
Valley. The youngest one is Abella.
Though the average U.S. family size is 3.18 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a few South Valley families say bigger is better.

With no fewer than five children, these families face certain logistical challenges in addition to the normal day-to-day obstacles of the average, smaller family. Every day’s a bustle of activity and noise, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s what daily life is like for three large South Valley families.

The Lance Family of Gilroy

The early hours are like a tempest in the Lance household. Things start off slowly. Joanna and Justin, two of the family’s eight children are up before the sun and attending seminary at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Just before they come home at 6:45, another child, Janae, pads her way down the stairs. A shower comes on somewhere in the house. A dog barks. The energy builds.

Jan and Jonathan Lance, the heads of the family, take up their role as monitors. They start calling to the kids, making sure they’re up. They check in with each other.

“Have you seen Justin? Is he back yet?” Jan asks Jon, referring to their 17-year-old son who should have been back from dropping off his sisters, Joanna and Janae at choir practice. “He has class at eight.”

“No, he doesn’t have class until 11 today,” Jon answers. “He probably went to the gym.”

Two more children come down the stairs. And then a third. Jan and Jon successfully corral everyone downstairs for morning prayer.

Jan, a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher, then makes herself some eggs for breakfast, and makes sure her youngest children are on schedule with starting their breakfasts, too.

“What do you want for breakfast this morning?” she asks Joshua, 6. “And do you know what you feel like having?” she says to Julia, 8. The family buys 10 dozen eggs at Costco to last them a couple of weeks or so.

As Jon gets ready for work, Jan makes smoothies for the family in an industrial-size blender.

“Have you gotten your laundry together?” Jan asks Joshua and Julia. Jan estimates the family does about 25 loads of laundry a week, on average. “Laundry happens all the time around here.”

Janae is back from choir practice, and has come home to finish preparing for her day at school.

“Have you brushed your teeth yet?” Jon asks Jordan and Janae, both 13.

The storm builds.

“It’s pretty crazy,” says Justin, who has returned from the gym and is eating cereal in the kitchen. “There’s never a dull moment around here, which can be a good thing. But if you’re trying to have some peace and quiet, it’s a bad thing.”

Suddenly, it seems, the tempest erupts. Everyone in the house is steadily streaming through the kitchen and adjoining rooms. Julia has begun her violin practice, her steady music drifting down the stairs.

Joshua finishes feeding the cats and starts practicing piano. Jon finishes getting ready for work as a painting contractor as Justin and Jordan prepare for school. Janae is asking her dad for a ride to school because it’s raining, and normally she rides her bike.

The family dog, Jake, gets into a wrestling match with one of the family cats. Jon and Jan are double-checking that the kids have finished their chores and brushed their teeth. Everyone is cleaning up their breakfast dishes; cupboards are being opened and closed. Even with their oldest two children gone from the house – one married, the other on his mission for the church – and a third already in class at Gilroy High School, the noise level in the house is at a healthy din.

And then, as suddenly as it elevated, it stops. People have left for school and work. The dog has abandoned the cat. No one else needs to be checked on. Everyone is where they are supposed to be. The only sound left is the steady plunking of piano keys and a stream of violin music floating down the stairs.

The tempest has come and gone and all members of the Lance family have officially begun their day.

Meet the Lances

Jonathan and Jan Lance, parents

Jessica (Lance) Christian, 21

Jarom, 19

Justin, 17

Joanna, 15

Janae, almost 14

Jordan, almost 14

Julia, 8

Joshua, 6

(Janae and Jordan are twins)

The Navarro Family of Hollister

Five kids sit at the well-polished counter top, munching on Pringles. Eating the Pringles is important enough to warrant silence from the Navarro kids.

As they finish, one by one, the three oldest kids – Alanzo, 10, Alyssa, 9, and Angelo, 6 – get out their homework and begin doing math problems, studying for a spelling bee and practicing how to match shapes. They work without complaint, without too much dawdling and without distraction. When the second youngest – Amilio, 5 – finishes his chips, he turns on the television and begins riding around the family room on his big, plastic toy motorcycle. The baby in the family, Abella, 2, isn’t quite done with her snack. She reaches for the box of Cheez-Its sitting nearby and throws a handful of the orange crackers on the ground.

Outside, a big trampoline and swing set beckons. Game Cube video games lie waiting, tempting near the entertainment center.

And still, the other three siblings work.

“Sometimes when they come home, they get to play before doing homework, but some days, when they have after-school stuff going on, they know they have to come home and start right away on their homework. They’re quiet now, but that’s not how they usually are,” said Stefani, a hip-hop dance and kickboxing instructor. Her husband Jose is a microbiology lab technician at Watsonville Community Hospital.

And so, homework time continues in the Navarro home, with Alanzo, the oldest of the children, setting his best example for the younger family members. The best thing about having lots of siblings is “they all look up to me,” he said.

“I help Alyssa and Angelo with homework, and I share my stuff with them,” said Alanzo, 10, as he explained how his parents ask him to help out with his siblings.

None of the kids in their classes have as many siblings as they do, Alyssa and Alanzo said. But, the kids like to come over to their house because it’s never boring with so many kids around.

If they ever fight, it’s over unimportant things like the remote control or who gets to listen to what CD, said Alyssa, 9. But everyone pretty much watches out for everyone else, and they don’t fight often, she explained.

“Before, when I was the only girl, the boys used to pick on me more,” she said, “But now I play with (Abella) a lot, and it’s more even.”

The kids do errands with their parents, as well as participate in many after-school programs, such as dance, T-ball, baseball and guitar lessons.

“The hardest part is never resting,” Stefani said of her schedule and keeping up with five kids. “You wake up early, you go to bed late. Sometimes you don’t feel good, but, hey, you gotta get up. We’re lucky to be so close to our extended family, and they help us a lot. But even on the hard days, I couldn’t imagine having just one. We like the noise, and we like to be busy.”

Meet the Navarros

Jose and Stefani, parents

Alanzo, 10

Alyssa, 9

Angelo, 6

Amilio, 5

Abella, 2

The Trapp Family of Morgan Hill

As Patty Trapp empties a Costco bulk-size jar of Prego spaghetti sauce into a large pot, a volleyball flies through the air in the next room, bouncing off the wall. In another corner, two tow-headed little girls play Ring Around the Rosy.

Someone yells.

“You need to apologize to your sister,” Patty says, without turning around, apparently using the proverbial eyes in the back of her head to spot a minor tiff between two of her seven children.

“I couldn’t imagine being from a small family,” said Jason, 18, who is the fourth child. “I love my family. It’s great…”

Jason is interrupted by his youngest sibling and the only other boy in the family, 5-year-old Nathan, who needs help with something.

Patty steps around a toddler who is standing at her side, holding up a pair of pink rhinestone sunglasses. The toddler is Aiva, 2, Patty and her husband Tim’s granddaughter. Aiva lives next door with her mom Krista, dad Neil and sister Allie, 1. So, even though two of Patty’s children are away at college, Aiva and Allie often bring the kid count back to seven.

Tim, a self-employed cabinet-maker, is searching through the cabinets for something. The phone is ringing, and all the kids are chattering.

A bowl crashes to the floor.

There is total silence for about two and a half seconds as everyone stops at the sound. The whole house seems to stand still.

Someone jokingly calls “Timber!” and a voice from the other room asks “What broke?” just as Tim says “Oh, well.”

Then everyone goes back to playing and laughing, chatting and cooking.

Kyla, 13, and Jamie, 7, set the table after Tim and Patty double-check how many people are home for dinner tonight.

Along with the spaghetti on the menu, Patty, a stay-at-home mom and administrator for a homeschool co-op, is making steamed broccoli, tossed salad and garlic bread. Almost everyone drinks milk with dinner.

“We go through about a gallon of milk a day, and we eat a lot of chicken, ground beef or whatever meat is on sale,” Patty said. “Even though it’s more work to chop up all the stuff for our salads, we do it anyway because it saves us money. Prepackaged salads are more expensive.”

The Trapp kids have their fair share of arguments, but they don’t last long said Kyla.

“We’ll fight about stuff for about five seconds, and then we’re done,” she said. “A lot of times we know it’s pointless to fight. Like if we all want to sit in the front seat when we drive somewhere, and we start to fight, my mom will make us all sit in the back seat.”

The hardest part of having so many brothers and sisters is having to share a room, the Trapp kids said. But despite shared sleeping quarters, everyone said they wouldn’t trade their large family for the world.

“Every child is a blessing,” Patty said, just before sitting down with everyone to eat. “I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful family. I couldn’t have done it without a supportive husband and an awesome God. It’s an unbeatable combination.”

Meet the Trapps

Tim and Patty Trapp, parents

Krista (Trapp) Joiner, 25

Julie, 23

Stacey, almost 21

Jason, 18

Kyla, 13

Jamie, 7

Nathan, 5

Big Family Dynamics

Having a big family can mean facing big challenges, but it also means you have more minds thinking creatively to solve those problems. Here are a few of the creative coping methods of the Trapp, Lance and Navarro family.

– The Trapp family places two chocolate chips next to everyone’s dinner plate. Throughout the meal, if someone misbehaves or isn’t polite, they get one chip taken away. If they get both taken away, they don’t get dessert.

– The Trapp and Lance families both described their trash compactors as “a must-have” and “a life-saver.” Extra large families mean tremendous amounts of trash. With the compactor, the families don’t have to take the garbage out as often, and they can fit more trash into the garbage cans they put out at the curb. This way, they don’t have to pay for more than one pick-up.

– When the Navarro family goes to Disneyland, they all wear the same color T-shirts. It’s easier to keep track of everyone that way. On other outings, even ones to the grocery store, everyone must either be in the grocery cart, holding on to the grocery cart or standing within a few feet of the grocery cart.

– The Trapp and Lance families both post a list of chores everyone is responsible for doing in the kitchen. In the Navarro house, if someone’s bedroom isn’t clean and tidy by Friday, that child won’t be allowed to have friends over during the weekend.

– The Trapp family theory is that shared rooms build character. Even if there was enough space for each child to have his or her own bedroom, they would have to share rooms anyway.

– All three families shop at Costco for bulk-size products.

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