'It’s crazy, but it’s a lot of fun'

Matt DeYoung • May 12, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Chris and Kristi Streng always wanted a large family. With seven children — all under the age of 17 — they’ve got one, and there’s rarely a dull moment at their home.

Being the mother of seven is a labor of love for the former Kristi Bolitho.

“I had four kids in my family — I’m the oldest of four,” she said, “and Chris is one of 11.”

Kristi gets a lot of looks — and a lot of questions — when people learn she’s the mom of seven children.

“’How do you do it?’ That’s the biggest one,” she said. “I hear that all the time. You’d be surprised at how many reactions I get —  rude, kind and in between. Nothing surprises me anymore.”

The Streng children — Madelynn, 16; Lauren, 15; Ashley, 12; Delaney, 10; Julia, 8; Ellianna, 6; and Michael, 4 — are involved in countless activities, from soccer to school musicals. How does Kristi keep track of it all?

“Google Calendar,” she said. “That’s the only way I’m on time anywhere. I set my phone to have alarms to tell me when I need to leave, who has what going on. The calendar yells at me when I have something coming up. If I need to bring snacks to school, I put it on the calendar so I can remember.”

Getting them somewhere is one challenge; fitting everyone into one vehicle is another. The Strengs outgrew their minivan after their sixth child. Now they drive a 12-person van around town.

“There aren’t many options for us,” Kristi said. “We were driving two vehicles if we all had to go someplace. We finally said, ‘This is it, we need a bigger car.’ It works great for trips. And everyone knows me driving it around town — they all wave.”

At home, things get complicated when it’s time to get ready for church on Sunday morning — they only have 1.5 bathrooms in their house (another bathroom is in the works).

“It’s an assembly line,” Kristi said. “You’ve got to get your time slot and stick with it. You want to be first in line because you want the hot water. And you’re not allowed to do your hair in the bathroom — you need to do that downstairs.”

In addition to their sports and school activities, the Streng children are feverishly involved in various community projects. They raised money to save the catwalk and are now helping with the Reimagine Project. They’ll be stationed around Grand Haven today (Saturday) as part of the “Amazing Race” fundraiser.

They also conduct various fundraisers to raise money for kids in Haiti.

“They’re always working on something for the community,” Kristi said of her children.

As she prepares to celebrate another Mother’s Day surrounded by her children, what advice would Kristi give to a new mom?

“Organize, and constantly reorganize, because everything’s always changing,” she said. “Practice times change. Pick-up times change. Someone needs different shoes because practice is now indoors instead of outside.

“And make sure you prioritize to keep family first,” she added. “Take time to be together and enjoy your time. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday business. We have a slogan in the Streng house — ‘Live intentional.’ You have to focus on what’s important and put those things first.”

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