Family of 14 counts blessings

December 18, 2002 11:00 pm

By LENORE RUTHERFORD

Steve and Kelli Sanders have a small, precious window of time with all of their dozen children still living under the same roof.

The kids range in age from Ami, 17, to Noah, 11 months, and Stephen and Kelli count each one as a blessing.

The others are Michael, 16, David, 15, Jonathan, 13, Sara, 12, Rachel, 11, Timothy, who will be 9 on Monday, Joshua, 7, Hannah, 5-1/2, Andrew, 4, and Matthew, 3.

"We won't have any more," said Stephen, "so this is the only time we will have all 12 children living together."

Ami is in the top 10 percent scholastically of her senior class at Sonora High School and has applied at several colleges. She also works at Baskin-Robbins and Mervyn's and volunteers with her church.

"I try not to think about Ami leaving home," Kelli Sanders said. "I'm excited for her that she will be starting a new phase of her life, but I won't have all my kids here. They will leave fast after that, it seems."

The Sanderses married Feb. 17, 1985. They met three months earlier at a mutual friend's Thanksgiving party while both were attending University of Texas at Arlington.

When they married, the two, each one of four siblings, had no idea they would produce a dozen children.

"There was no decision making or planning," said Stephen, 42. "It just happened."

Kelli, 39, said she knew she wanted at least four, and six was not out of the question.

"I thought anything more than that would be a blessing," she said, "but I never imagined I would have 12."

She said the fact that she had easy pregnancies and deliveries might have played a part in her wanting more children.

"My first labor was just two hours and 45 minutes," she said. "Even now, though I don't plan to have more, I get a little twinge once in a while wishing for just one more little baby to hold."

Her desire for a large family is strengthened because Stephen is a such loving, supportive father, she said.

"I couldn't do it without him," she said. "He changes as many diapers as I, and he cleans house and bathes children. The only thing he doesn't do is cook — unless he has to — or do dishes."

The children do dishes.