Fulton’s biggest family grows
The 2-week-old drifts in and out of sleep in her mother’s arms without making a peep as nine of her siblings climb behind and around her to pose for a family photo.
Make that 10. During a rare lull in the chatter, the group hears singing upstairs. Eli, 2, has woken from his nap, and someone dashes up to get him for the picture.
Meanwhile, Henry, 3; Natalie, 5; Maria, 7; Annabelle, 8; Cecelia, 9; Nick, 11; Olivia, 13; Lucas, 14; and Rachel, 17, gather around Lucy and their mother, 41-year-old Patti Langer.
This isn’t even the whole family. Keith, 18, is at a friend’s house, and Molly, 15, is baby-sitting. Dad, otherwise known as David Langer, 47, is at his carpentry job.
That’s 13 kids and two parents (for those of you keeping count), but Lucy is actually David and Patti’s 14th child. Their oldest child, Adam, died of cancer in 2001.
Actually, it’s rare to see the entire family together, Patti says. Someone is always at school or practice or work or a friend’s house. The family currently is taking a short breather between fall and winter sports, and everyone has off of school today for the state teacher convention.
Two of Patti’s nieces, Shelley Wick and Leanne Colosovsky, both 30, are in town from Milwaukee to see the new baby. They watch the photo session from the staircase, marveling at Patti’s poise and organization.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Shelley says. “It’s exhausting being here for the day.”
Patti describes her life like it’s no big deal. To make dinner for 15, she just doubles or triples a recipe. If the kids don’t want hot lunch at school, they make their own.
This year, Patti instituted a “staggered” wakeup system to try to make sure everyone gets in the family’s one bathroom in time to get to school. Four kids catch a bus to Edgerton at 7:10—Natalie, the kindergartener, to go to Community Elementary School, and three others to go to Edgerton Middle School. Three others catch a 7:40 bus to Yahara Elementary.
Rachel drives herself, Molly and Lucas to Edgerton High School.
Life has gotten easier since Rachel and Keith got licenses and their own cars, Patti admits. The two oldest help transport the younger ones.
In fact, the older children naturally care for the little ones. Rachel and Olivia gently encourage the others to sit up and smile for the camera.
Just as Eli finally looks at the camera, Henry starts slouching beside his mom.
Young Henry is at the clowning age, issuing a running commentary on the process that only gets louder and sillier the more everyone laughs at him.
“They have so much personality, it’s hilarious,” Shelley says.
Patti clearly sees each child as distinct, casually rattling off this one’s eating habits or that one’s habits as a baby.
She thinks it’s good for the children to grow up with so many siblings.
“They learn that there’s more to the world than themselves,” she says.
The children seem to agree, although, when asked if they want to have 14 children, most shake their heads “no.”
Cecelia plans to have a small family. As the photo shoot ends, she holds up a spread hand showing five little fingers.
“That’s all I want,” she says.
Langer Family Facts by the numbers
1: gallons of milk and loaves of bread the family goes through in a day.
4: family vehicles (one van and three cars).
6: loads of laundry Patti does each day.
18: boxes of cereal in the family pantry.
280: total number of baby teeth the children will lose.
$300: the family’s weekly grocery budget.
65,000: approximate number of diapers family will go through after 14 kids.