For a family of 12, tight schedules and budget
Stars and Stripes June 17, 2007
Pacific edition, Sunday, June 17, 2007
SEOUL — Lowell and Kiu Travis make running a household of 12 look easy.
Their 10 children wake up at 6 a.m. and eat breakfast by 6:30, and the family leaves the apartment by 7:12. The kids, ages 3 through 15, dress and feed themselves.
“It’s much easier than when they were younger,” said Kiu, who stays at home with the youngest two.
She sends the kids to buy milk at the Hannam Village commissary every day. On regular trips to the grocery store, her two-page list includes toilet paper, laundry detergent, ramen noodles — one of the kids’ favorite meals — and plenty of juice and snacks. Their monthly grocery bill usually totals $1,400 to $1,600.
The family isn’t rich, they say, but they aren’t poor, either. The kids don’t play sports or take private lessons. Their oldest child, Lowell Jr., skateboards, but they do everything else as a family — from playing softball to swimming to going to church.
“You just have to do cheap things, anything that’s free,” Kiu said.
Lowell and Kiu said they can help with college expenses, but they encourage the children to study and get scholarships. Otherwise, the kids know they’ll have to take out student loans.
The family probably won’t visit the United States before they go back to Minnesota in about two years, but they plan to take vacations in Southeast Asia.
“We’re only in Korea one time, so we’re going to enjoy the time here,” Lowell said.
The couple has a date night once a month, usually trying out a new restaurant, and they have several hours to themselves at night after the children go to bed.
The boys wear hand-me-downs. Chynna uses her baby-sitting money to buy new clothes. The two younger girls get new clothes because of the age gap between them and their older sister, and because it helps cut down on how much the family ships during their frequent moves.
The Travises have lived in at least six cities or military bases, and bought a house — now empty and waiting for them — during their last stop in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
But, Lowell said of his kids: “Home is wherever they are.”