By Katrina Genereux / Associate Editor, OND
Karlstad, Minn. – “Sometimes it is difficult to imagine something unless you live it,” said Lynette Cudnik. “I could never have imagined that I would be a mother of eight kids with two sets of twins.”
Dave and Lynette Cudnik, parishioners of St. Edward, Karlstad, live just outside town. Their first four children were born over seven years. The first set of twins arrived in 2016 and the second set followed 21 months later. The lively, boisterous household is filled with symbols of the Catholic faith – from the children’s names to images of the Blessed Mother – and conversation about the “big twins” and “little twins”. In a world often hostile to embracing life, the Cudniks have found grace and joy in the challenges of raising their family.
In 2002, friends introduced Dave and Lynette while they were students at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Lynette graduated in 2003 and began working as a youth minister at Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks. Dave graduated in 2004 and moved to Grand Forks. During this time the couple began seriously considering marriage. A key aspect of their discernment was a weekly hour of Eucharistic Adoration. The couple married July 9, 2005 and continued this practice through the first year of their marriage.
In 2006, shortly after the birth of their oldest, they moved to Texas where Dave went to graduate school. Seven years ago, they came back to the area. Dave now works at Central Boiler and Lynette stays home raising and schooling the children.
“We’ve always been open to life and our families have always been supportive,” Lynette said. She comes from a family of six children and expected they would have a large family. Dave never had a specific family size in mind but hoped they would have some children.
“In a way, having a large family doesn’t seem like its large from the inside out I suppose because we’ve seen it develop from one up to eight,” Dave said. “We can understand how it looks big from the outside in.”
Dave said after their first set of twins, they found out many people have twins in their families. Lynette said since the birth of the second set of twins they have already met two people who also have two sets of twins.
“I guess if you have one set of fraternal twins, your chances of having another set of twins is four times greater,” Lynette said. “Now that I’ve had two sets of twins, my chance of having twins again is even greater than it was the second time.”
The Cudniks remain open to life and have used Natural Family Planning throughout their marriage.
“We haven’t always had an easy time conceiving,” Lynette said. NFP helped the couple figure out what might be causing problems when conception was delayed. They tried for a year before conceiving the first set of twins and they said the second set of twins was their only “surprise” pregnancy. “Everybody is at least two years apart, but the sets of twins are 21 months apart,” Lynette said.
Now the couple is using NFP to postpone pregnancy for the time being.
“People say ‘Oh, I can’t imagine life like that,’ and I don’t know if I could have either, but now it’s just our reality,” Lynette said. “It is busy, it’s chaotic and it’s overwhelming sometimes, but we always try to remember that it’s not always going to be like this.”
Routines, teamwork, and schedules for everything from chores to who’s turn it is to hold a baby during morning rosary keep the household running smoothly.
“Lynette is very organized. I don’t think she could do what she does on a daily basis … without having a very organized mind,” he said.
Lynette’s mother helps one day a week, as does her sister-in-law and a couple ladies from the parish. Lynette said having help with the youngest four children makes it possible for her to home school the older four.
Francis, 12, and Rose, 10, are old enough to do a lot of schoolwork on their own. Lynette teaches Teresa, 7, and Kateri, 5, in the mornings while helpers watch twins Kolbe and Gianna, 2; and Ignatius and Xavier, 10 months.
After the second set of twins, the family was supported through meals made by family and friends in the area.
“I think there was about six weeks where I didn’t have to cook. We would pull something out of the freezer,” Lynette said.
“I feel like this is a really grace-filled time in our lives because it really is a lot,” Lynette said. “Somebody needs a question answered over here and somebody needs something over there and somebody is screwing off and jumping on the couch over there so, yes, it’s overwhelming, but we know there is going to be an end to this time and just trust in God to give what is needed.”
She added that where grace is needed, is where it abounds.
“I feel like this time in my life, since they [the second set of twins] have been born, I ask for something and God answers it right away,” Lynette said.
For any parent feeling challenged – whether by their first baby or subsequent children – the Cudniks said it helps to take things one day at a time.
“If you take things one day at a time, even one moment or one situation at a time … the difficult times don’t last forever,” Dave said. “The baby won’t be crying through the night forever … the young years won’t come back once they are gone. Each stage has its own beauty.”
“There are times that I remind God that he gave me all of these children to take care of and now he needs to give me the patience, wisdom, time, energy or whatever it is I am in need of at that moment, and faithfully he does provide. His grace is abundant, and we feel it very active in our life right now,” Lynette said. “For those that feel overwhelmed with whatever life has given them, know that God’s grace will meet you where you need it most; we just need to ask for it.”