“The thing I like about my mom,” said Ynice’s sister, Nya, 9, “is that when I’m frustrated, she’s always there to help with my work, and she’s nice and cooperative.”
Mom in this case is Lenise Bostic, who will get a ton of hugs and kisses this Sunday in honor of Mother’s Day along with the annual children-produced family talent show.
Bostic, 35, and her husband, Cory, 34, of Lithonia are the parents of eight children ranging in age from 13 years to 9 months old.
Bostic explains her large brood in “myeightkids,” her humorous blog on wordpress
“I am not Octomom, or Kate Plus 8, or even the old woman in the shoe,” she wrote last summer in her inaugural blog. “I am simply a pregaholic! I wear it proudly! I love being pregnant and having children.”
Now that she is no longer pregnant, Bostic dubbed herself “a recovering pregaholic” who has moved into “momaholic.”
In this day and economic age, most people are choosing to have no more than two or three children.
The average preferred number of children in U.S. families is 2.5, according to a Gallup Poll released last summer.
But Bostic and her husband are not your average parents.
Not only do they have an extra-large family, both parents work. She is an elementary school teacher and Cory is a musician.
Renee Shackelford of Stone Mountain, Bostic’s mother, says her daughter has always been “a people kind of person.”
“She loves children,” says Shackelford, “not only in her personal life, but at school as well.”
After helping to get her own kids’ day started, Bostic heads out before 7 a.m. to spend the day with even more children in her third-grade classroom at Atlanta’s Toomer Elementary School.
Meanwhile, Cory, a freelance musician and traveling elementary band teacher, makes sure everyone is ready to land where they need to go – either to day care; walking to Browns Mill Elementary School or to the bus stop; or riding to Chapel Hill Middle School.
When after-school activities are done, it’s dinner by 6:30 or 7.
One recent evening, Ynice, who’s best at putting away everyone’s shoes, was busy at her job. Raekwan made the rice that would go with the peas and her father’s curry chicken. Nya practiced her trumpet. Cori was outside with her dad to practice basketball, and the younger children were nestled together on the couch to watch “The Lion King.”
It was a scene so calm that it was easy to forget there were actually eight kids around.
Financially managing a family so large takes “a lot of prayer,” Bostic said. “Every dollar counts.”
She said she learned to stretch a dollar from her own mother.
“You pay for things that are extremely important – food, shelter and car note – and budget everything else,” she said. “If it doesn’t fit in the budget, don’t do it.”
Bostic said that managing her family “doesn’t take a lot of money but that it does take a lot of love.”
“We’ve got plenty of that,” she said last week.
Bostic and her husband are a couple who were meant to be.
They were high school sweethearts who knew even back at Redan High in Stone Mountain that they each wanted to have a large family, though neither of them came from one.
Bostic has a brother and a sister. Cory grew up as an only child but now has three siblings under the age of 15.
The two started dating in the 10th grade. In senior year, Cory asked Lenise how many children she wanted.
“I went out on a limb and said, ‘nine,’ ” she said. “He said, ‘Me too!’”
They married in 1999 at the age of 20 and the Bostic baby assembly line went into full production.
“I have an awesome husband, and he just loves the kids,” Bostic said. “I wouldn’t even think about doing this with anybody else on this earth.”
The feeling is mutual for Cory.
“I still don’t think ‘mother,’” he said. “I think best friend. We’ve known each other a very long time and it just happened that we had some of the same goals. … This journey with the children – we just got to enjoy it together.”
Their brood consists of seven girls and a boy – George, 6 years old, who is one of their only set of twins.
The older girls – Cori Renee, 13; Raekwan, 12; Nya, 9; Jada, 8; and Ynice, 6 – enjoy doing each other’s hair, which helps Mom tremendously.
The youngest girls are Sandy, 2, and Bobbi Willo, 9 months.
Will they get to that number nine someday?
Bostic laughs and adds that they are “really happy” right now.
“But if we get blessed with another one,” she said, “we’ll welcome them, too.”
She probably wouldn’t get any grief from her mother, who said she is happy with her daughter’s choice to have a large family.
“I love it because they’re all beautiful and they behave so well,” Shackelford said.
Big sister Cori says her brother and sisters get on her nerves sometimes.
“But I really love them,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”
She also is aware that they model her behavior.
“I have a goal of all A’s,” she said, “so all of a sudden everybody else in the house wants to get all A’s.”
Many helping hands
The Bostics lead their family with lots of give-and-take among themselves.
Cory handles the voluminous laundry, for example.
“I haven’t washed a load of clothes in over 10 years,” Bostic said. “He hates mopping.”
So that’s her job and the job of some of her girls.
Life works for them, but Bostic is quick to say that she and Cory aren’t doing it on their own.
“It takes a village,” she said.
Her sister, Dionne, who has no children, comes by to visit every other weekend.
Her brother, Andre, who also has no children, picks the kids up on Sundays for junior usher board duty at Saint Philip AME. Cori is president of the board.
Lenise’s father, William Shackelford, helps out by shuttling kids to after-school activities, and the grandmothers on both sides of the family stand ready to take on the whole bunch whenever they come for visits.
Friends and relatives have been generous with clothing. Her husband’s music gigs with his band, Grand Prize Winners From Last Year, help stretch his income. Bostic also teaches flute lessons to bring in extra money.
She catches a break from it all from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sundays when she’s in Marietta for Flute Choir of Atlanta practice. She calls her time performing with the group her “sanctuary.”
But what she lives for is her super-sized household, where every day, she says, is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Bostic plans for her time with her children.
“I talk to them and then listen,” she said. “I take time to listen to each one and to be generally interested in what they’re into. I see them all as individuals.”
Bostic said her own mother is the same way.
“I feel like I’m the only one in the world to her, and I know that my siblings and my kids feel the same way,” she said.
Her mother-in-law, Cassandra Adams of Conyers, is much the same, Lenise said. “We can just talk.”
A family this size never goes unnoticed.
“The whole neighborhood knows the kids and keeps an eye out,” Lenise said. “Our families, the schools, the teachers at the schools, a lot of people care about our family and they look out for us.”
Sometimes, though, strangers observe this extra-large family with disapproving eyes, especially when Lenise is by herself with all of the kids or when the family sits down together at a restaurant or a movie.
She said she knows what some folks may be thinking – either of a stereotype or that this large group will be unruly and ruin their outing.
But she loves to watch attitudes change when people see that her children are so well-behaved.
“The way to dispel stereotypes is to keep on living and don’t let anyone steal your joy,” Lenise said.
Compliments from strangers are frequent. Once, during a rare outing to a Red Lobster restaurant, a couple near the Bostics were so impressed with the family that they bought a $50 gift card for them and had it delivered by the waiter as they slipped out.
One of the family’s greatest moments to date was their 2009 trip to Washington for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
The story of the trip made against all odds is chronicled in Bostic’s September 2011 blog posting, which includes a link to news video about the family’s plan: http://www2.wsav
The video first aired locally on 11Alive but made its way quickly across the Internet.
Bostic was determined that her then six children would be in D.C. to see history made. They had rented a bus, rented a house and had no tickets to the inauguration, but they were stunned to receive tickets from U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson two days before they were scheduled to leave.
As the kids celebrate their mother on May 13, big sister Cori sums it up best. She says her mom knows when to be a mom and when to be a friend.
“Sometimes you don’t want to hear all that ‘Mom’ stuff,” she said. “When I don’t know what to do, I have a plethora of people to call, but I call her first.”