Family holds a different meaning for everyone, but for Doug and Grace Aldridge, it is chaos, unconditional love, and everything in between.

With six kids and more than 13 pets, Doug and Grace have their hands full.

“It definitely didn’t start off with six, or it never started off with the idea, I don’t think,” Doug said.

The couple married young, and went on to expand their family very soon after. Fe, who is 11, was their first biological child, followed by Tripp, 10, and twins Emory and Liam, who are 8.

“After we had those four children, I knew we weren’t finished, and it took a little while for us to get on the same page in that,” Grace said.

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They adopted Libby Gray, 4, as an infant, and the others instantly welcomed her. Two years ago, the couple added their eighth member to the family. Grace and Doug met 20-year-old Monzavia, and he instantly won their hearts. Adding him to the family felt natural because they already loved him like their own. According to Monzavia, also called “Monzy,” it was a pretty easy adjustment for him as well.

“The only difference [from a group home] is that these are all mine. They’re the ones I know I can always come home to. And every time I see their faces, they just light up and I know that I’m home,” he said.

Like many kids, the Aldridges have a lot of energy. In order to stay active, Grace and Doug have them on busy schedules with guitar lessons, swimming lessons, dance classes, and more. One of their favorite things to do is to go skateboarding with big brother Monzy, who they say is “basically a professional.”

With a family of eight comes eight mouths to feed, not to mention eight sets of dishes to wash. According to Grace, the kids are extremely helpful around the house. They know how to help unload the dishwasher, do laundry, clean the guinea pig cages, and make their beds.

“Grace is very strong and Grace is definitely the driving force behind the family, but I will say she runs a very tight ship, and I don’t think you can do it any other way with six kids,” Doug said.

Of course, siblings will always argue. Grace’s resolution? Hugging it out. The kids’ best way to avoid a forced hug? Save the arguing for when mom’s not around.

“Family is kind of a big mess of love and relationships and growth and change. We are all different beings and we’re not connected by any bloodline that’s tangible. We’re connected as family because we stay together. I do a lot better without the finite definition. To me, family is who we are, and that doesn’t change no matter what. This is it,” Grace said.

Lawson Burrows is a video intern with Rare. She attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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