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Posted April 6, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Parentes to eight: Couple share tips for saving on Web site

parente family
The Parente family likes to gather for a weekly activity of games. Doug pets the family golden retriever, Einstein, as his wife, Liz, holds the family's newest addition, Anthony, 3 months. The other children pictured are, clockwise from left, Annabella, 4; Gianna, 3; Shannon, 8; Sean, 9; Dante 11; and Vincent, 6. Nora, 11/2 naps in another room. Rich Cooley/Daily

Shannon shares her bedroom
Shannon shares her bedroom with her younger sisters, including Annabella, at right. Rich Cooley/Daily

Mrs. Parente's youngest son Anthony
Mrs. Parente holds her youngest son, Anthony, while Annabella looks on. Rich Cooley/Daily

Parente holds Nora
Parente holds Nora in his lap, while she naps. Rich Cooley/Daily

children store their clothes
The Parente children store their clothes in the laundry room. Rich Cooley/Daily

Parente home school room
The school room inside the Parente home in Woodstock where the children are home schooled. Gianna, 3, center, draws with a coloring pencil while Sean,9, and Dante,11, Vincent, 6, Shannon,8, and Annabella, 4, take their places. Rich Cooley/Daily

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By Jessica Wiant -- jwiant@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- You come to realize certain things when you are part of a family of 10.

For instance, 35-year-old Doug Parente and his wife, Liz, 36, say one of the biggest transitions was going from two children to three: "Because at that point you're outnumbered," Parente says.

And as the oldest boys in the family will testify, it's nice to always have someone to pick on, but with that comes lots of noise.

"The house is pretty much never quiet," Parente says.

Someone is always hungry, and you wear through household items a little -- or a lot -- faster.

"We look for stuff with lifetime warranties," he says.

For the Parentes, having eight children (that's eight pregnancies and eight deliveries -- no quints or even twins), has led them to learn perhaps more than the average parents about being efficient with both their time and their money.

That's why they decided to start their own Web site both sharing their own parenting tips and accepting them from visitors.

They launched www.howdoyoumatesocks.com in January, listing some of their tried and true money -- and sanity -- saving advice, as well as links to other Web sites they like.

The name for the site came from one of the most frequent inquiries the Parentes get when they are out with the whole family.

"People always ask us, 'How do you mate socks?' -- which is a weird question," Mrs. Parente says.

They answer it on the Web site though: Colored toes make it easier, and it's sandals all summer.

The main theme of the site, and of the Parente family's strategy, seems to be that you don't have to spend large sums of money on raising a family -- an idea that's probably welcome considering the current economic climate. Children were raised during the Great Depression and turned out OK, Parente says.

"I don't think the kids are missing out," he says, and Mrs. Parente adds that it's not always good to get everything you want anyway.

To feed themselves and their eight children -- ages 11, 9, 8, 6, 4, 3, 11/2, and 3 months -- the Parentes spend about $1,000 a month on groceries, they say.

They try to feed the children foods that will keep them full, like eggs, oats or French toast instead of cold cereal, Mrs. Parente explains. Home cooking makes groceries cheaper too, and while they do go out to eat sometimes, it isn't something they do with frequency.

"We would probably overwhelm a lot of restaurants," Parente says.

Planned menus that stay consistent also take some of the thought out of shopping to make things more efficient, Mrs. Parente says.

They get around to activities like play practice, Little League and soccer in a 15-passenger van, and, no, they have never left anyone behind. But Mrs. Parente says she can see how it could happen.

They assign seats to ensure everyone is in place, and the bigger children help buckle in the little ones.

And, of course, "We have to count a lot," Parente says.

The Parentes never necessarily planned on having an extra-large family.

"I told her like two or three," Parente says, and then they just took them as they came, naming each child after a family member with either an Irish (that's Mrs. Parente's heritage) or Italian (Parente's) name.

First came Dante, he's 11. Next was Sean, who is 9. Then Shannon was born, and she's 8. Vincent is 6, Annabella is 4, and Gianna is 3. Nora is 11/2, and the newest, Anthony, was born in January.

Will there be more?

"We'll see how it goes," Mrs. Parente says.

"We don't have much seats left," says Shannon, the oldest girl.

One of the keys to keeping the household running smoothly is controlling what comes into the house, Mrs. Parente says. When something comes in, including toys, they try to send two more items packing.

"We're learning organization," she says.

To clean the house, they go with a "divide and conquer" strategy: Each child has a chore to do. They rotate chores on a weekly basis.

"They really rise to the occasion all the time," Mrs. Parente says.

They even have a strategy for birthday parties, which, there are a lot of in a household of 10. They combine parties for those whose dates fall close together, and stick to parties at home.

Laundry is a major chore. While hand-me-downs from friends and family keep clothing expenses to a minimum, the Parentes still must go through 10 to 14 loads a week.

Another way they stay efficient is by putting all the children's laundry away in cubbyholes in the laundry room rather than lugging clothes back to their rooms every time.

As far as rooms go, the girls share one room and the boys share another, but there seems to be plenty of space for them all.

"Bedtime can be crazy," Parente says, but "routine helps," his wife adds.

Routines play a big role in the Parente household. They try to schedule family time to play board games together, and you'll never find the Parentes lounging around watching TV -- the family doesn't subscribe to cable.

Both parents have their own roles to play in the family's routine.

"It's something that neither of us could do alone," Parente says.

He travels to his job as a consultant at a software company in Northern Virginia every day and is in charge of the grocery shopping. Mrs. Parente home schools the children.

"I have the easier job," Parente says.

Faith and community also play a part in raising their large family, Parente says. The family attends St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Woodstock.

And physical fitness is also important, including eating right and trying to be healthy.

As for the children, the boys seem to be on the shy side and the girls are much more outgoing -- but each one is unique and brings something different to the family, Mrs. Parente says.

Right now, the children are going through the process of each individually getting to pick something special to do with just their father, such as attending a Redskins game and going ice skating.

The children have never been jealous, Mrs. Parente says.

"We enjoy it. Every meal is a party. We go through a lot of ice cream, there's always someone to play with," she says.

While the Web site is still in development, it's already had about 600 visitors, the Parentes say. In the future they hope to add more information about recipes, family fitness and family vacations. It can be viewed online at www.howdoyoumatesocks.com.

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