Thursday, July 30, 2009

regarding the transportation complication

Having recently given birth to our fifth child, we field many "how do you manage it?"-type questions. Sometimes people will ask us what the hardest part about having 5 kids. That is what this post is about.

If we've been to your house, chances are we rolled up in this:

This has been our primary mode of transportation for about 6 years. This 2003 Honda Odyssey is [finally] paid for and we have enjoyed the vast majority of the just under 70k it shows on the odometer. It suited our family of four very well.

Family of five? Not so much.

And for a very simple reason.

Our government requires kids to be in a car seat of some sort until they are just shy of their 19th birthday. This is fine if you have only a few kids or even a lot of kids far apart. It's also fine if you own an 11 passenger van.

I like our minivan. And though I think someones going to come take away my man-card for saying that, I'm not ready to part with it yet.

But those car seats make for quite a tight fit.

Tight but it works.

But the "fit" is only the beginning of the problem. Let's remind you of who sits in the back of this van.

First we have Justus. This whole problem is pretty much on him.

Ava is also a significant contributor to the problem due to the girth of the car seat that her undersized frame requires.

Ethan is sort of in between a full booster seat and the kind without a back. At least he can use a normal seat belt. And even buckle it himself. Except for the times when he can't.

Luke is on the cusp of being tall enough to ditch the booster, but since he's only 6 the law says he's got to be in it. Now, we consider ourselves to be upstanding, law-abiding citizens, but considering that I rode on the center "hump" between the front and back seats in my mom's Ford Pinto all through my childhood (and survived) we'd be okay with letting Luke slide a bit on the booster.

He'll have none of that. Not even for a trip to the store.

Aidan is an adult in the eyes of the law when it comes to seat belts. This is a good thing. But he still adds in a fair amount of complication to the seating chart.

In case you're not up to speed on the form of car seat required for children of various ages, here is a handy reference.

Later on, you can cut out these pictures and use them as game pieces to help solve the minivan conundrum. But I'm getting head of myself. You first need to understand the rules to such a game.

First remember, it's cramped in there.

You can hopefully imagine that only certain combinations of seats will fit together. For instance, there's no way you're putting 3 of our seats across the back. One is fine. Two can work, but having two crammed in there makes it difficult for everyone back there to be able to buckle themselves in. Remember, we need to fit, but we also want to maximize efficiency. It already takes us a minimum of a half hour to get out of the house. We need to save every minute.

Of course there are other complications as well.

Though almost irresistibly cute, this pairing does not work in the car. Justus' seat really does not fit in the way-back seat. This means that the person who sits next to Justus not only needs to be capable of handling his binky and adjusting the baby-view mirror but must also be able to handle passing food, water and other things to the back row. So this combo is out.

For largely the same reason as above, this combo doesn't work so well. Ebo is just a little bit too unpredictable to be Justus' car-bound chaperon. And when he passes things back, they spill at least a third of the time. This is a great ratio of you're hitting baseballs, but not so much if you are trying to keep our van clean.

This pairing has relational challenges. Physically it works fine. When they are together in the back you have to be careful that Ebo can still do his own seat belt. It really sets him off when he can't do it. But even after the logistics, these two are just a little to good at pushing each others' buttons. Sure, we could be all-star parents and employ smart, calm and consistent discipline to solve this problem but executing such a philosophy is difficult at 65 miles per hour. We'd rather nip this one in the bud via strategic seating assignments.

These two get along great. No issues there. They require no booster and the smallest booster seat, so space is not an issue. But they need to be separated. They are our two best players and we need them on separate teams. One needs to be in back, one in front. Aidan does great riding next to Justus, but we listen to a lot of audiobooks and the sound is better in the way back. When we put Aidan in that middle row, the chorus of "please turn it up" requests drones on unceasingly. So him in the way back is better.

So are you getting how complicated this is? It reminds me of one of those logic puzzles where you have to figure out when all these guys can go to the doctor, but Joe can only go on Tuesday or Thursday but only after Jim goes and Jeff has to go between when Joe and Jim goes, etc...

No one tells you about this kind of thing when you are pregnant with your 5th child. But I wanted to put it out there. I think we've more or less figured it out, but our arrangement is far from perfect. I figure time will eventually sort this all out.


Stacy said...

I loved this post, Mike!

"Our government requires kids to be in a car seat of some sort until they are just shy of their 19th birthday."


The photos on this one did me in, though. That picture of Justus? ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE. And the one of Ava is probably one of my favorite pictures of her, ever. Her eyes are beautiful, her hair is all cute and flippy, and her expression is so happy-Ava. And the three big boys, too: so handsome! It's really fun to see close ups of all your kids like that with the same color backdrop (chalkboard? I was trying to figure out where it was.) It really makes their features and personality stand out. Love it.

As if that wasn't enough, then you did the whole mini-pictures next to their corresponding carseats. And then the little combo shots.

GREAT description of the thought it requires to get everyone in the van, because you are SO right about needing to have the right child next to the baby and all the other scenarios.

Ours is easier because there's just no way I'm reaching into the very-back seat every time I need to get either Adelia or Audra in or out, so they're in the middle seat.

It does create the problem of passing things back, though... but thankfully God has gifted Ella with really long arms. :) Which works really well except for the fact that Adelia tries to intercept things on the way back. [Like yesterday, when I handed my phone back to Ella and asked her to call daddy. I felt fingers grab the phone, and thought all was well and good until I realized they were Adelia's fingers, and now I had to drive AND pry the phone away from her. (The phone is her very favorite thing.)]

We've had the same conversations about big-kids needing to be in the back to hear the music better, and certain kids doing better with certain siblings beside them versus others.

Fun post.

This is my most long-winded comment YET on your blog, I fear.

Anonymous said...

Your best post EVER! LOVE it!!

KE said...

The perfect post to read while eating an Anthony's breakfast taco and waiting for the next flight. Well done!

Jodi said...

Okay, this was just too funny. My favorite part was the man-card comment.

And we can SO relate. Relational pairings have to be considered, strategically placing our most helpful man, making sure we can reach everyone we need to reach. Hilarious. And I really enjoyed the photos too. :)

Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae said...

Okay, so I don't even know if this would help your situation because my brain cells are too worn out from solving our own mini-van woes, but I can tell you this: Sunshine Kids makes a carseat that will hold up to 100 pounds but is thin enough to fit in the backseat with two other Britax carseats. We've now graduated to 2 radians and one britax in the back and it works. We put the littlest people in the two captains chairs closest to us. The guys are on their own in the back. I have no idea what we're going to do when they get bigger and actually take up a whole seat. I guess they'll just sit close and LIKE IT.

Rebecca M said...

Very good post, Mike. But it's making me a little nervous.

We've been blissfully assuming that we'll just chuck another carseat in the back when our number 5 comes along in a month or so.

I'm not about to go out to the car in the 100 degree weather to see if Josiah's narrow-based-but-wide-other parts car seat will fit between Daniel and Michael's booster in the way back.

But that's where we are planning on putting it.

That leaves Mercy and New Baby in the middle section. Where she can't reach New Baby or anyone else and where New Baby can be easily placed into or removed from the car.

Now, about your man-card. Does owning a pink bb gun affect your standing in this area?

Stacy said...

I keep coming back here to look at these pictures. Justus is SO stinking cute!!!

Anonymous said...

Mike, I think you need to publish a book! Excellent reading and anecdotes!


Mike said...

Thanks for the kind words all. It's a story that I've shared with several people when they've asked, "wow, 5 kids, what's that like?"

See when the people I meet through work don't really care how life is going with 5 kids, they just get flustered making small talk and that question comes out. I don't blame them, but I would always share about the car seat and it makes for a fun story to tell.

But I think it's one of those thing that growing families may not consider and it has been sort of a struggle.

Stacy, yes it was the chalkboard. I told them to make a funny face so they all chose those faces. The chalkboard has really good light which is the main reason I chose it but I like the way the shots turned out too. Natural light is great that way. Plus that 85 1.2 lens renders colors so well. Same lens I used for your dedication pictures.

But yeah it was kind of an exuse to show people who don't get to see our kids every week how they look right now.

I'll admit that I've clicked on this post a couple times too just to see the pictures again. My babies sure are growing up.

Lora, good to know there's an option. We're making due right now letting Ebo take the middle next to J-Bear. On the way home from a walk he sang him a nice little song that bascially recounted all the details of the day and went on for about 10 minutes. He did this while holding his binky in. It was a great moment for him.

Anonymous said...

Wow Mike! So impressed with this. So much fun to read through and look at these beautiful pictures. I love their different personalities just jumping out. And Justus is seriously adorable. Can't wait to meet him. Have you managed to get Mom on here to see this? I will do what I can from my end...

-Aunt Helen

Al said...

our kids are 22, 20, 19, 17 and (somewhere around) 14, and other than the car seat thing we face pretty much the same challenges the odd time we have cram everyone into our van to go somewhere... So get used to it Mike...

Jeff Timberwolf said...

Everything Stacy said--classic. What gets me laughing a bit more is how much time you must have put in to writing everything just right, then to add the pictures. It does remind me of one of those horrible math problems that made my mind spin.

Quick question: I remember reading on a firestation that it said 12 and under needed a booster...what is the law?


Mike said...


I think it's actually 8. Read that somewhere. Online I think.

And it making the pictures didn't take all that much time. I can't do much to make a photo better in photoshop, but I can crop and combine.

Oh, and since the blogspot software is so lame, I always upload all my pictures to the post FIRST and THEN I just write whatever comes to mind after that. I have a rough idea but adding pictures to a block of text in blogspot software means spending 3 hours reformating and re-reformatting the text to make it looks like you kinda sorta knew what you were doing.

Colleen said...

Okay, on the one hand, as a mother of of five, I do sympathize. I parted with my lovely Audi sedan, and then my lovely Acura MDX, in order to accomodate our posse of boys. And I never fooled myself into thinking a mini-van would do the trick for a family of seven athletic people. Nope. I cut to the chase and am saddled with my carbon footprint-enlarging truck of a Suburban. Nasty thing, but definitely more room than a van. But until such time as you make the jump, let me give you a word of advice: Stop worrying about rules & regulations. Works for Hans & me. ;-D

Carolynn said...

As a mother of 7 this post totally cracked me up. I actually went to babies r us and bought 23 carseats to try out in our then mini van to see what combos worked. I am sure I looked hilarious in the parking lot. Then I returned all the ones that did not work. Now, with a 12 passenger van the logistics are just as confusing. We still need an able body person to pass water and such but not harass the baby. Oh, and I discovered that you can disipline from the front seat, a really good squirt gun reaches the naughty child in the back and shapes them up quickly!

Cutzi said...

Mike - You're hilarious. Always. I've been trying to come up with a funny comment but nothing's happening .... so. This was a great post. I loved it.

Joyce said...

That was such a fun AND educational post! Best of all were the close up photos of each of the children. <3

Vintage Dutch Girl said...

Love it :)

We (Lance, Emmy in a rearfacing, and I) recently took my sister and her newborn baby girl (rearfacing) to the airport to pick up her husband and newly adopted son and bring them home.

That was 4 adults and 3 rearfacing carseats. We JUST fit. Barely.

Hen Jen said...

I so loved this post! I only have 4, but usually have an extra tagging along..and I totally get the car seat thing, and the seating arrangement thing. To complicate things, my van does not have a button to turn off the air bag in the front passenger seat, so I can't sit an older but problem child up front for divine parental intervention..

I loved the visual pairings, it helped the story along. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post and a beautiful family.

C said...

As a mama who has too frequently lost several layers of skin while trying to buckle people into those crammed together carseats, and having now passed out of that stage... There is hope. Your options will increase, the finger tissues regrow.

In the meantime, great post, and best of luck. ;o)

Joe and Carrie said...

Mike - Daddy of 5 to Daddy of 5. I love my mini-van too brother.
Keep me posted on your next vehicle. Here's our email:

Our Samuel is 5 months, Liz is 2 years, Tom is 4, Abbie is 6 and Jonathan is 8.

I'd love to keep up with your story and who breaks down for the big van first.

Joe Hinrichs

Mama Hen said...

We have four children at present and drive a 2002 Honda Odyssey (paid for!) and we are adopting a fifth child. I have spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out the car seat situation. Great post!

Christy O said...

We gave up and went to the big van when we got to five - and they were all bigger (8 to 13 - we adopted to add to the family), but carrying guitars, backpacks, snacks, groceries, etc, just made a minivan an exercise in frustration - not for the same reason as your frustration though. We broke down and went right to the 15 passenger as we live on a small farm and the extra space and towing power was needed. Now we are a family of ten between 8 and 15, so at least we aren't having to change vans, again! But I feel your pain after having three in car seats at once and then three plus one not in a seat. And we did make a seating chart! With a rotation for special events.

Do whatever works!

Cathy said...

We can SO relate to this post!! We love our Mazda MVP mini-van (paid for of course!), but with baby number 5 - YIKES! It no longer works! Our oldest is six you see. We finally broke down and bought a used 15 passenger van (WOW, what a difference!). I'll admit, we kept the zippy little Mazda...I just couldn't part with it!

Kelly said...

First off, I just have to say you have BEAUTIFUL kids!

As a mother of 6 - I could have written this post. We moved up to a 15 passenger van last December hoping to make everything easier, but alas, we still have many issues.

Michelle said...

I can't solve your problem, but you have absolutely beautiful children!

~Angie, CPS Tech said...

Great, funny post! I had to laugh at feeling the same way with puzzling kids in. It really can be quite a challenge. Seeing the humor in it can make it easier to deal with on a daily basis.

JSYK, Sunshine Kids makes a narrow car seat that works great for tight places. It's called the Radian (comes in three styles). Works great in my Saturn where I need three seats in a row.

Please check out the 5 step test at It'll show you when kids no longer need a booster. I'm all for following the law (which is a bare minimum), but the 5 step test really is the only way to know when kids can fit properly in a regular seat belt. Remember seat belts were designed for men, not kids. We're working on getting them better designed for kids, but you know govt- s.l.o.w.

Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of kids. Gotta buckle 'em up properly everytime, mom and dad too. If you ever need any car seat or booster help pop over to There's always someone there to help.

You have super cute kids, btw. How blessed you are!

Vicki said...

Ug!!! We are right there! The exact same configuration of car seats as well! Our solution? The solution... Um we put our 4yo in the high back booster next to the baby and with in knee knockin room (he he he.. for when he cant control the urge to irritate baby!) and then put the un car seated 8yo in the seat closets to the "walkway" so that she can unbuckle and hand stuff around in a drive thru. We also tried duct taping seat belt dealies to the side of seats.. That didnt work......... Oh and seat belt extenders for the circumferencely challenged...not a good plan. So instead we bribe the olders to buckle the youngers...LOL....GReat post

Anonymous said...

congrats on a new baby! i love your post- now try being a mom of 7 !!!!!

Brandy Lynn said...

Someone shared this with me on MOMYS. First, your dc are all beautiful. Secondly, we JUST did this with our family upon the arrival of our newest blessing mid-July... the five carseats squashed in the minivan... and the trying to figure out who could go along with who! I loved your post! Thank you for sharing... I commiserate with you! LOL! Best of Luck! (I'm still not sure we have it figured out!)

Martha A. said...

I can so relate.....I laugh sometimes at the safety laws seeing as when I was born, my parents were given a car seat they put in the car and never buckled me in it. Scary!!
But also the 100 pound rule that some parents put on....well...I would be in a booster seat and I can't reach the pedals then! = )

Great post!!! I have 3 boosters/carseats in a mini van and it would be a tight fit to add one more and figure out the arrangement with children!

Anonymous said...

Too cute!!! You don't know us but I found your blog through We have triplets and an older daughter. We managed three infant seats across the back of our Honda O and three Britax Marathons when the time came. It can be done. Though we did use seat belts, LATCH, and Army issue ratchet straps LOL. Gotta love those soldiers and their toys. Our oldest is still in a five point seat because I'm paranoid (case in point ratchet straps on top of seatbelts and LATCH)

BTW we went to the full size and LOVE IT. Now each child has their own row if they want and the dog has room to turn around in. Not an inch spared in the Honda O.

Melissa Stover said...

that is the funniest post i've ever read because every parent has mentally gone through this puzzle in their mind as they prepare for the next baby.

Johannah said...

New reader here. A friend sent me the link to this post with a note that said; "this made me think of you guys..." We just had our fifth baby July 29th and have a mini-van packed to the max. We completely understand the dilemma. Unfortunatley, the only way we could make it work was to have the three oldest in the back and the two youngest in the middle. {I'm worried baby #5 will be the victim of jealous pokes from child #4} Not ideal, but the only way for now...

Here is our family blog:
We will keep reading.


Amy@GrowingLikeTrees said...

Right there with you -- just had kid #5 and are currently working on the logistics in our own Odyssey, which we also just paid off. Dynamics are similar, but the oldest is still only six. yeah. Good stuff.

Hayes said...

We recently added our 6th child to our family. The oldest is 10 years old. WE bought a Dodge Sprinter, which holds TEN passengers plus two big grown up folks in front, and has room for a stroller and luggage. It is a TRUE life-saver.

Anonymous said...

Your link was posted on MOMYS (moms of many young siblings), so I came to read it. We have six children, all still in car seats. We've had them all in a minivan, though we also now have a larger van. I agree, figuring out the right configuration is challenging. My oldest can't wait until he reach 4'9" and doesn't need to be in a car seat any more! Only two inches to go! LOL

Melanie said...

new to your blog but boy o' boy I'm certainly going to follow it. This post had me laughing so hard. The writing, the photos to go along with it, what a hoot!

Emily said...

What a great post! We have only four ourselves, but there are always extras and we have driven both cars many times. Ours range from 7(booster only) to 18(6 ft 4 in) now - the bad news is that as you gradually outgrow the car seats, you rapidly add long legged boys! We have the same van (2002 model) and the last two summers we have driven 9 hours to the beach with our four plus our eldest's best friend, who is thankfully not quite as tall. (Not to mention beach chairs, pop-up canopy, boogie boards, a giant cooler, and groceries and misc small appliances - we always rent a house, and nobody in their right mind eats in restaurants with four parents and nine kids. We have littles who complain about waiting and then don't eat, as well as bigs who we can't afford to feed and who want to stop for a snack on the way back from dinner.) So now we have one of those giant Sears toppers on the van. Anyway, guess who gets to sit it the middle of the back with the little girls? That's right, Mom, who is now the 3rd smallest passenger! And you are right, the sound system is much louder in back. Plus sound all shifts to the rear of the vehicle just like all the luggage and McDonalds wrappers.

Diet Pepsi Mom said...

Oh. My. Goodness. The blog post was hilarious, but the kids! The kids are BEAUTFUL. Simply adorable.

moey said...

We have same car, same number of kids, same problem. I have the solution. Conceive number six. Now, we either have to buy a bigger van or take both the Odyssey and the Camry. Either which way, we have more room. See? Easy.

Adeena said...

Your kids are gorgeous! :D

My sister sent me the link to your post - we had #5 on July 28th. So far, our Astro holds all of us just fine - with room left for a stroller and all the other baby/kid stuff that we seem to have to pack every time we go somewhere. ;)

Laurel said...

Just found your blog ...

This is Hilarious!

We bought a brand-new Honda Civic when we had 3 little kids (the 3 car seats barely fit across the backseat). Then ... we immediately got pregnant with twins. Oops!

We then bought a Toyota mini-van, which barely held the 5 carseats for the 5 children under 5 years old. Then ... we got pregnant with #6 in 6 years.

Should we buy the 12 passenger or the 15 passenger. Hubby wanted the 12 ... I wanted the 15, so that we could haul children and both of the double-strollers, groceries, camping gear, etc...

Bought 15 passenger van ... ended up filling it up with 13 children. Yep ... I'm a mama of 13. So, you'd better watch out if you buy a bigger van. Just warning you ...

mama of 13

Stacy said...


Yes, this was a cool post and all, but seriously.

Time for a new one, don't you think?

I miss the Hollister posts! Update us on your goings-ons! [Or, what? Now that Aunt Helen is back you're no longer motivated to share the goods with the rest of us?]