Lots of kids; lots of love, little sleep

BY PAM DROOG JONES, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Sheryl Coulter always knew she wanted to have a big family, and now she does, with six children and three stepchildren. “It’s kind of crazy but a lot of fun,” she says.

Actually the St. Louis-born Coulter says after she had her first child, Kyle, now 15, she thought, “This is enough.” However, in 1995, after she and her first husband had been divorced, she met Richard Coulter. “We met in April, had our first date in May, got engaged in September and married in November,” she says. “We just fell in love and started having kids.” They are Brian, 9; Blake, 7; Maddie, 5; and twins Dane and Quinn, 3. Richard has three children from a previous marriage. “I think if I asked my husband if he wanted more he’d say yes,” Coulter says.

Coulter’s husband puts in long hours as a home-rehabbing contractor and working at Home Depot. She is a safety supervisor at UPS on the 9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. shift. “I love it. The hours are not great, but I like the job and I know when I leave the house the kids are getting bathed and ready for bed,” she says. “Our 15-year-old watches them until my husband gets home at 10:15.” Coulter arrives home at 4 a.m. and sleeps until 8 a.m. “I could use more sleep, but I figure when the kids are gone I’ll sleep. I would never tell them, ‘I’m too tired.'”

In the meantime Coulter depends on the children to help themselves and one another. “For the most part they get along,” she says. “Of course there’s always, ‘He touched me!’ or ‘He’s in my chair!’ But they are good sharers and very independent. The 3-year-olds even get themselves dressed and make their own breakfast.” She admits housekeeping is not a top priority. “I’ve lowered my standards. There are shoes in the living room, but it’s not a big deal,” Coulter says.

A big splurge for the family is going out for pizza. “Right now we’re in the full swing of baseball season with three kids on teams, so we eat a lot of meals on the run,” Coulter says. “When we actually go into McDonald’s to eat it’s a big deal. Everyone cheers!”

The family (minus Richard, who had to work) took a rare vacation to Panama City, Fla., over winter break. Coulter had purchased a week at the Marriott Yacht Club for $500 on eBay.

The Coulters live cozily in a three-bedroom, two-bath home. “My husband has been remodeling the basement to create more bedrooms,” Coulter says. “It’s partway done. But working on that is the last thing he wants to do when he gets home.”

The couple try to “reconnect” on Saturday nights, visiting friends or going out to listen to music. “We can’t go to the movies, because I just fall asleep,” Coulter says. About once a month they have a “date” at the coin laundry, where they’ll do about 40 loads. “We have a washer and dryer, but it’s hard to keep up,” Coulter says. “Actually it’s nice. We just sit at a picnic table and talk.”

Coulter says she caters to her kids but they’re not spoiled. “At home they can play and be noisy, but when we’re out they’re pretty good,” she says. “We get compliments at restaurants and the mall.” In fact, every trip to the mall is predictable, Coulter says. “Strangers always ask the same three questions: ‘Are all these kids yours, is she the only girl, and are these boys twins?’ Kyle suggested we get T-shirts printed that say Yes, Yes, Yes.”

The family belongs to Temple Israel. “All the kids relate to Judaism,” she says. “My husband also attended the Introduction to Judaism class and hopes to pursue it.” Coulter volunteers there and at the kids’ schools when she can. “I also love to read, although it takes forever to get through a book,” she says.

Looking ahead, when all the kids are in school Coulter hopes to take advantage of UPS’ tuition reimbursement program and go to college. “I left high school at 17 because I was ready to get out into the world,” she says. She always wanted to be a mortician. “Maybe because my house is so chaotic, the quietness of that appeals to me.” But she’s not complaining. “It’s a mitzvah to have all these children,” Coulter says. “They’re all healthy and good. It’s hectic, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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