Mum-of-10 opens up about her crazy daily life in a blended family – with £275 weekly food shops and 4.45am wake ups
A MUM with a blended family of 10 kids has opened up about the "beautiful chaos" of her life – including 4.45am wake ups.
When Tracee Simpson, 32, met weapons disposal expert Justin Schaeffer, 38, in 2015 through mutual friends, she already had six kids – Delilah, 12, Beau, 11, Scarlett, nine, Wyatt, seven, and twins Rhett and Rhiggs, six.
Justin was already dad to Ryan, 10, and Scarlett, seven, who lived with him, and in November 2015 the pair decided to combine their families in a six-bed in Yuma, Arizona, USA.
Brand promoter Tracee loved their big, happy family so much that she then had two more children with Justin – Remy, four, and Austin, 18 months – bringing their blended brood to 10.
And they even have two Scarletts, after both choosing the name for their daughters from previous relationship.
Tracee admits being part of a clan-of-12 and birth mother to eight children was never her plan, adding: "Quite honestly I never expected to have a big family – let alone 10 kids.
"I'm so thrilled it ended up this way, though, our previous relationships didn’t work out, but now Justin and I couldn’t be happier.
"When we moved our families in together, we were a little nervous, but the children got on brilliantly and now we're just one big happy family.
"It was meant to be – we all fitted together perfectly.
"Then, when we had two more kids, we finally felt as though our family was complete.
"It's chaos, constantly manic and hard work – but it's beautiful chaos with loads of loving and I wouldn't have it any other way."
In fact, things are so busy that Tracee now wakes at 4.45am – to do an hour of chores like making breakfast and laundry before the kids get up.
Despite having so many children under one roof – the couple, who they drive a 12 passenger Nissan NV van, encourage their individuality and love watching their personalities develop.
Tracee, who spends $350 (£275) every week on food, said: “The kids are all completely different, each and every one of them.
"Delilah is very bossy, but I think that comes with the territory of being the oldest.
"Beau is the comedian of the group and loves making everyone laugh, while Ryan is the sweetest of all the kids and just wants to help everyone.”
Tracee's morning routine
4.45 am – Wake up
5.00 am – Do morning chores like prepare outfits for the kids, and prepare breakfast
6.00 am – Wake the children up
6.30 am – Breakfast time for everyone
7.00 am – Get the children ready
8.00 am – Do the school run
9.00 am–2pm – Do housework like laundry, look after the little ones and try and do some work
3.00 pm – Pick kids up from school
5.00 pm – Start making dinner
6.00 pm – Dinner time for everyone
7.00pm – Get kids in bed
8.00pm – Relax on the sofa with Justin
9.00pm – Bedtime
While the couple have two children called Scarlett – a coincidence that they’d named their daughters from previous relationships the same – they are also very different.
"The older Scarlett is an utter genius and takes her schooling very seriously, while the younger Scarlett, who we call Tootie, is a tomboy through and through – she gets on with everyone,” Tracee continued.
"Wyatt is the goofball and just always so animated. The twins – Rhett and Rhiggs – are the total opposite and have been since they came out of the womb.
"Rhett is very meticulous, he hates anything out of place, while Rhiggs is the tough kid and never cries.
"Remy is still trying to figure things out, but he's at the, 'I'm four so now I'm a big boy,' stage and Austin is just the cutest baby ever."
The fact they were both parents when they met only confirmed their love for each other.
"We started off as just friends," she said. “But quickly our feelings for each other grew and I always think, 'When you know, you know'.
"I just loved the way he was with his children, he was such a kind, gentle man."
After moving in together in November 2015, the couple – who practice gentle parenting, characterised by empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries – soon had their hands full.
Tracee said: "I thought six children was a handful, but suddenly having eight kids under one roof, I became very aware that we adults were outnumbered. We just had to adapt to it!"
Luckily, the blended family mixed perfect.
"It was great to watch our kids come together as siblings. Wyatt and Justin's Scarlett are best friends – they're literally inseparable," she said.
"All the kids play together. Sometimes the girls play school and the boys play monsters – but they all love hockey.
"We're a huge hockey family and the kids and Justin play whenever they get the chance."
Tracee's weekly food shop
Each week, the family get through…
Three loaves of bread
Two gallons of milk
Three boxes of cereal
A 5lb bag of pancake mix – for one serving
4lbs of meat for every roast meal
20 pork chops – so the older kids can have two each
Total cost: £275
The couple love their big family so much that they decided to add to it – having Remy in June 2016 and Austin in December 2018.
Tracee said: "We knew we wanted to have at least one more baby for us and our love – but then we ended up with two beautiful boys."
Now with 10 kids, the couple – who tied the knot in February this year – stick to a strict schedule, kicking off with a breakfast of cinnamon rolls, cereal or oatmeal.
“On weekdays we make sure breakfast is a quick, but hot and hearty meal,” Tracee said.
“On weekends, it’s usually eggs or Justin’s speciality is pancakes, which we usually have on Sundays.
“We have several Amazon Alexa voice activation devices scattered around the house, so I start making announcements on to them, like, 'Time for everyone to get up'.
"We all go down for breakfast and then the kids all go and get ready.
"A must, with so many boys in the house, is to give the boys their own bathroom.
"Boys can be so gross and, luckily, we have enough space for the boys and girls to have separate bathrooms.
"We make sure only guests use the girls' toilet, too!
“Once we're all ready, we usually have enough time left over for them all to play a game.
"Having 10 children has taught me that having a routine and a schedule is the number one priority!"
Tracee is equally strict when it comes to mealtimes – making sure all 10 children eat the same food.
She said: "We all eat the same meal – otherwise I'd be in the kitchen cooking all day.
"I try and make sure I make everyone's favourite every few weeks.
"Ryan loves spaghetti meatballs and Rhiggs is a big fan of beef stroganoff, while Delilah will eat basically anything put in front of her."
As it is, feeding 12 sees Tracee plans out breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks for the whole week before heading to the supermarket to buy only those specific items.
“Usually, every week we go through three loaves of bread, two gallons of milk, three boxes of cereal,” she said.
“For pancakes, we buy a 5lb bag of pancake mix.
“And if we’re having dinner, like a roast, we usually need 4lbs of meat.
“Or for pork chops, we usually buy around 20, so the older kids can have at least two each.”
Laundry also can take up a lot of Tracee’s time.
“I do the laundry in different groups,” she said. “The boys, the girls, and then the twins and then the babies’ and our clothes.
“Then every group is responsible for putting their own clothes away.”
Meanwhile, to keep costs down, the family make use of the hand-me-down clothes.
“Having so much children can be difficult to manage the budget,” Tracee said.
“With clothes we usually wear hand-me-downs and with toys, the children all share.”
And to keep things running smoothly, there can be no slacking in their routine – even at weekends.
"We wake up early, have breakfast and then the kids each have to tidy their rooms," said Tracee.
"We knock out the chores early on a Saturday. The kids do everything quickly as they know they've got something to look forward to in the afternoon.
"We'll go and do a fun activity once the chores are done like go and play hockey, swimming or playing board games."
While the family spend the summer holidays exploring the desert near their home, swimming and playing hockey, they celebrate Christmas Day at their six bedroom house.
"As we had more and more kids, we really had to reign in how much we were spending," she added.
"The older kids have adapted really well. There was a time when they could get whatever they wanted.
"Now there are more children to consider, it's a little more limited – but they don't bat an eyelid.
"We get each of them something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read for Christmas.
"Then Santa brings the girls a group present, and does the same for the boys, who get things like board games. Then the twins might have a game to share and the two little ones have something between them, too.
"Christmas can be quite expensive and it is complete insanity, but we love it!"
Tracee's top tips
1) Remember the difference between little deals and big deals – someone spilling a cup of juice at dinner is a little deal. You can't let little issues become big annoyances because then that's where you'll go wrong
2) Always have a designated area for shoes otherwise they will disappear, and no one will ever see them again
3) Make sure the children know they're responsible for their own stuff, for example we trust them to keep their own room tidy
4) Make sure you’re organised and stick to a schedule, if you don’t things can become hard work
5) Enjoy the chaos, it’s the biggest joy having a home with 10 children running around laughing, being silly and just having fun
The couple also say that having such a large family means nobody has any time to themselves.
The three older girls are in one room and the three older boys in another, while the twins, the two babies and Mum and Dad each have their own rooms.
This leaves one room spare, which they have as a guest bedroom.
"There's no time for any of the kids to go off and do their own thing, which is actually the biggest blessing," said Tracee.
"The children are so close – they're like best friends – and they all know how to share.
"Everyone uses everything, including my stuff. Things are only off limits if the kids have a special cushion or a baby blanket that they love."
Time as a couple is also a rarity. "I can't remember the last time we went on a date night," Tracee laughed.
"But in the evenings, after the kids go to bed at around 8pm, we have some time to ourselves to unwind and watch a show.
"We’ve stuck to our promise that, no matter how many kids we had, we would always make each other a priority because if we're not okay then our family isn't okay.
"So we do try and make sure we have some time together as us, so we’re not always being Mum and Dad. "
Tracee, who works from home, would not have her life any other way.
"As a family, we have an unbreakable bond," she said.
“Our kids have nine other people who they can rely on and be supported by throughout the rest of their lives.
"Yes, it can be tough, and laundry is an absolute nightmare, but the joy of the chaos is the best thing and I wouldn't change it for the world."
Yesterday, one mum-of-four revealed her HUGE lockdown laundry pile that built up over two months – after she couldn’t be bothered to fold clothes.
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