Friday, January 10, 2014

The unexpected hidden cost of a large family

It all started because it was too cold and I needed to find the feather bed to help keep K. warm. This meant rummaging around in the blanket chest where it lives, under years' worth of photo albums. It being night and me being tired meant that I left the piles of photo albums on a couch... for several days. Yesterday, I decided that I must reclaim the couch and do something with with photo albums to keep them safe from little fingers. The trouble was that at the same time little fingers were interested in them, older children were really enjoying seeing them again.

In our old house (the charming, too-small one), the photo albums were more accessible and were often looked at. When we moved into the Big Ugly House, there didn't seem to be a convenient place to store them, and so at some point they ended up in the blanket chest. And since the blanket chest is often the pedestal on which our Harris Loan Program animals live, it is often difficult to get inside.

These are all the thoughts that went through my head yesterday as I pondered the massive pile of photo albums. I wanted to keep them out, yet I wanted to protect them at the same time. As I looked around, I finally decided to err on the side of practicality rather than charming decorating. The spot in the back living room above the glass-fronted book case seemed perfect, but it would mean that it looked a little 'decorated'. (It is the same spot I displayed the gingerbread houses a year ago.)

As I was putting them in order upon the shelves, I realized something. The first couple of albums covered 2-3 years of photos. The most recent albums were doing well if a full year was covered, and they were bigger. As I flipped through them, I realized it was a matter of number of children. While we didn't take any fewer pictures of the children when we just had one or two (in fact, we might have taken more), I could cover major events in fewer pages. One or two children carving pumpkins only takes a few pictures to adequately document the event. Taking pictures of 10 children carving pumpkins takes several pages' worth of pictures to cover it. I am always sure that I have a photo of each child when we do something; I don't want anyone to look back at the family pictures and ask why they aren't there. For a child who avoids the camera, this becomes challenging. Interestingly, they are always happy to find themselves in the pictures after the fact.

So this is my unexpected hidden cost of having many children. (You were wondering when I was going to come to it, weren't you?) Documenting our life is just more expensive and takes more room. I was reminded of this when I did my photo book for 2009 and had dozens of extra pages, and when I was ordering prints to finally finish 2008 in a more traditional album. At least I don't have to pay for film and processing any more! I try to be honest about the pluses and minuses of having a large family. I find the general criticisms about having many children to not hold much water in actual experience, so when I do find a possible difficulty I like to share. Sorry if it isn't quite as earth-shattering as some of you may have hoped.

Speaking of photos, here are two from Romeo and Juliet which opens tonight. Come see the show if you are in the area.

That's D. on the right.

A. is in the pink jacket and skirt.

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