OUR SUR­PRISE HELP­ING HAND

The strug­gling fam­ily’s won­der­ful windfall

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Real Life -

With nine chil­dren un­der nine and four sets of twins, mak­ing ends meet is a con­stant strug­gle for Auck­land cou­ple Emma and Loma Uhila. “We’re ba­si­cally liv­ing pay to pay,” ad­mits the proud fa­ther.

He and his wife have sac­ri­ficed a lot for their kids – Micah, eight, Ava and Lily, both seven, Isla and Eden, both six, Emme and Indie, both three and two-year-olds Mia and Levi. It’s been an ex­pen­sive un­der­tak­ing.

“Banks won’t even look at us,” Emma, 34, tells us. “We tried to get just a small credit card, but they have their own cal­cu­la­tions and nine de­pen­dents is not a draw­card.” So when the TVNZ 1 se­ries

Home­made sur­prised the fam­ily with a new laun­dry and out­door play­ground, Emma and Loma were al­most brought to tears. “We never would have been able to do this with­out them, not in our wildest dreams,” says high­school teacher Loma, 38.

Each week, the show gives one fam­ily in need a room makeover and gar­den up­grade – and it’s been a god­send for the Uhi­las. Be­fore her laun­dry up­grade, Emma was do­ing at least four loads of wash­ing ev­ery day – now she has been able to cut that in half.

“It’s amaz­ing what you put up with for so long,” she smiles. “It’s great not hav­ing to have the washer and dryer run­ning all day.”

Hav­ing four sets of twins is a rare, one-in-24 mil­lion

oc­cur­rence and though they are lucky to have Emma’s par­ents liv­ing next door, for the most part, she and Loma are on their own.

Emma ad­mits, “It’s about putting the kids’ needs first. We’d love to be do­ing lots of other things, but we can’t.”

Ear­lier this year, the whanau had to miss a fam­ily fu­neral be­cause Emma and two of the kids fell ill, throw­ing their house­hold into chaos. “It was a re­ally im­por­tant day, but we couldn’t go be­cause the ba­bies were sick,” ex­plains Loma.

Emma adds, “It sucks, but you’ve got to do it – there’s no other way.”

When the chil­dren were younger – what Loma refers to as “the zom­bie phase” – fam­ily life re­volved around their sleep­ing sched­ule.

“We still went out and did things, but the kids came first,” ex­plains Emma. “And if that meant stay­ing home for a nap, then we did it. Es­pe­cially be­cause there’s so many of them, it’s not just one baby who can sleep in the car – it’s four go­ing down for that mid­day sleep.”

When Woman’s Day vis­its the full-on house­hold at their West Auck­land home, they’re set­tling in for lunch. It’s a well-oiled ma­chine, with Dad churn­ing out peanut but­ter sand­wiches for ev­ery lit­tle hand that comes his way. Big brother Micah boasts, “We use two tubs of peanut but­ter a week!”

There’s a brief mo­ment of si­lence af­ter Loma man­ages to get all nine kids at the ta­ble eat­ing. But it’s not long be­fore the youngest twins are cry­ing to get out of their chairs and the chaos starts all over again.

Now that five of her nine kids are in school and two are in kin­der­garten, life is a lit­tle eas­ier for Emma – com­pared to when we vis­ited the fam­ily last year for Mia and Levi’s first birth­day party. Well, as easy as life can get for a busy mother-of-nine!

“We go out quite a bit and I’ll take them gro­cery shop­ping, as op­posed to be­fore, when I’d only ever or­der on­line,” tells Emma. “Now I’m ac­tu­ally able to en­joy them again.”

Party of nine (from left) Micah, Ava, Lily, Isla, Eden, Emme, Indie, Levi and Mia.

It’s no walk in the park with such a big brood, but ded­i­cated par­ents Emma and Loma wouldn’t have it any other way now.

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