A Septuplet Celebration: The Septuplets at 9
Even with all that the McCaugheys have received, they've had to economize carefully to get by. "We don't buy all of our groceries at one store," says Bobbi. She comparison shops at several stores in order to find the lowest prices and always purchases meat on sale. "When I find hamburger with a date that's about to expire, for example, I'll buy a bunch and freeze it. That way, if nothing's on clearance later on, I'm not hurting."
She plants a vegetable garden each year as well, but in 2006 there was a bumper crop of rabbits in Carlisle, and she lost most of her peas and beans to the furry intruders. Fortunately, they turned up their twitching noses at her 30 tomato plants, so she was able to can approximately 40 quarts of salsa. The family enjoys it with eggs in the morning and as a dip with chips.
Sewing some of the kids' clothes herself is another way to save, Bobbi says, indicating the green gingham dress Kelsey is wearing. Kelsey jumps up to model it, and Alexis points out the contrasting green patch Bobbi stitched over a spot where the skirt had gotten torn. Placed at an angle, the patch adds a rakish decorative touch. "Because the kids are different sizes, they also hand down clothes," Bobbi says. "Of the four girls, Mikayla's the biggest, Alexis is the littlest, and the other two are in the middle. So we can use clothes for a few years."
Kenny Sr. has found ways to pinch pennies as well. He's carefully maintained the large white van that Chevrolet gave the family after the septuplets were born. "I have to," he says wryly. "We've come up with so many ways to save, it's hard to figure out where else we might consider cutting back expenses." He uses a motorcycle to ride the 15 miles each way to and from work. "I can save gas that way. Of course, during the cold weather, I have to switch back to the pickup truck. And we use the van mainly when we take the entire family somewhere, like school or church."
Church is an essential part of the family's life. Both Kenny Sr.'s and Bobbi's parents are devout Christians, and her late father was a preacher. "It's not just about the service, though, or rules to follow," says Bobbi. "It's about building the relationship with God. We want the children to understand that this is very important, with the goal being that someday they realize their own need for that relationship. And in bringing them up, we want them to know that when we say something is wrong, it's not just us but God who's saying you shouldn't do it."
Sunday at Willow Creek Baptist Church, a modern tan-brick church surmounted by a simple, stylized cross and situated next to a cornfield, starts with Sunday school for children and adults. The subject in the adult class is a creationist view of geology and the earth's history. The children are reading Bible stories.
The service that follows includes a lot of hymn singing, and the practice the McCaughey children have in raising a joyful sound stands them in good stead two days later, when Bobbi loads them into the van and drives them back to church to record Christmas carols in the sanctuary at Ladies' Home Journal's request. The kids' rehearsals at home pay off as they make their way through old favorites.
The McCaugheys will play the CD on Christmas Day, when Kenny Sr. will read the Christmas Story to the children. "I always choose the version from the second chapter of Luke," Kenny says of their longstanding tradition. "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Augustus Caesar that all the world should be registered...," he'll read. After he finishes the story, the McCaugheys will begin a series of visits to relatives in Carlisle and Des Moines. By retelling that favorite story, exchanging gifts, and reiterating the bonds of family and community, the McCaugheys will begin the new year filled with the love and grace that has sustained them thus far.