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Chaos = Love

Some background: My dad is one of 4 children, my mom is one of 8 children, and our whole family is incredibly close. I've spent my whole life flying to the Philippines for the Christmas/New Years holiday and it's always one big party. 1995. I'm 11 years old, have one brother and have 10 cousins on my mom's side (hey, hey, I'm forth from the top - pretty sweet). My mom's parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary and decide they want to go to Disney! So we drive my dad nuts by housing the whole family in our 3 bedroom house, with 2 families at the local Ho-Jos.

2011. I'm 26 years old, have one brother and 20 cousins on my mom's side, 2 nephews and a niece! With my grandmother, her 8 kids, 8 kids-in-law, 21 grandkids and 3 great grand kids, that's 39 relatives on my mom's side of the family. And in March 2011, 24 of them decided they want to come visit the US. And stay in my parents 4 bedroom house. For a month. Just for kicks.

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Point of fact - my family travels in packs. Usually, when one of my aunts or uncles or my grandmother decides to go somewhere. inevitably, a handful of relatives decide to tag along. We have a Google group dedicated to our family (which means I have a LOT of emails to catch up with every morning), and someone is always announcing their trip somewhere. We're very cosmopolitan.

How did my parents end up with 26 people in their house? Well. For starters, back in the day, my grandmother decided that she would take each of her grandchildren on an international trip at the age of 11 (it used to be that age 11 was the oldest you could be and still get kid's priced airfare). So in March 2011, 3 of my cousins were 11. So that's my grandma, plus 3. (Total: 4).

My cousin had just moved to a shoebox sized apartment in NYC, and her sister was one of the 11-year-olds, so their mother and 2 brothers decided to tag along (but they stay with us in CT rather than in NYC. Total: 8).

At the same time, my mom's oldest sister is celebrating her 30th anniversary, so their whole family (mom, dad, 5 kids, 2 kids-in-law, 3 grandkids, and one boyfriend) decide they want to come to the US too! Why not? (Total: 21).

Then my mom's younger brother (one of them), decides he wants to come since he's daughter is one of the 11 year olds, and totes along his wife and and older son (Total: 24).

Plus my parents in their own house! 26! Throw me into the mix and that's 27 (I had to sleep one of the unused couches).

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Every unused space in the house was converted to sleeping area. For a month before the first wave arrived, I helped my mom hunt down futons, roll-up mattresses, inflatable mattresses, and dozens of blankets and pillows to boot. My cousin above is sitting in what's usually my brother's study. You can see the extra dresser we procured in the right of the frame. Below is usually the upstairs TV room. We housed 6 boys there (in accordance with Filipino chivalry tradition, the boys were relegated sleeping backs, which they slept in for a month). Obviously, there's no way to keep a house clean with a dozen kids running around, no matter how much you clean. Candy on the floor is typical. Easier for small hands and short arms to reach. My two nephews: And my niece. Everyone says she looks like me when I was small, but I don't think I ever wore a bucket on my head. She's a little nuts - but so cute. Obviously, dad is not paying attention to what his daughter is doing - too busy playing Veggie Samurai. Speaking of, what's with this generation? Every one of them is glued to their iPads and iPhones. When I was 11 I wasn't even allowed to have a Gameboy. The most expensive thing I was allowed to play with was... I don't know. Well, probably my American Girl Doll. But at least she was made for kids, and didn't have to come with a warranty. When I was young (listen to this old timer talking) we always played tag in the yard (Shark, to be exact) or cards. Gin rummy, go fish, old maid, hearts, war, speed, even a Filipino version of poker. None of these fancy pants gadgets. But we are trying to instill some of our creative play in the younger generation :) Of course, having so many really little ones around means no activity goes uninterrupted for very long. And when one get's going, all of them do. It's a smushy kind of love. And so much craziness leads to tired babies. This is my cousin, Gin, and her youngest, Milo. Lots of mommy love. The trip was also used to teach the kids - ta da! - self-sufficiency. The extreme class system in the Philippines means most households have a cook, a couple maids and a driver - so none of the kids really know what the word "chores" means. But it's never too old to learn!Twenty-four people also means a lot of dishes. I convinced my mom not to use paper plates (26 people x at least 3 paper plates a day x 30 days = 2340 plates TRASHED!), so instead, we bought a bundle of those heavy-duty plastic plates and cups, and everyone was assigned to wash their own plateware after every meal. To distinguish, all plates and cups were labeled.

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Obviously, labeling had some leeway to it... More kids playing. The 12 hour time difference meant lots of naps. And the weather held out beautifully, so lots of trips to the park! The older ones enjoyed it more than the babies did. No hands!This is the baby baby of the family - Milo. Two years old, so cute and so naughty. 

Welcome to a slice of life with the Bautista family clan! :)