07/28/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT
Jennifer Hammond was halfway through her fifth pregnancy when her doctor told her and her husband, Michael, they were having twin girls, giving them six kids under age 8. "I was smiling but in disbelief," Jennifer, 35, recalls. "Mike looked like he was in shock." Soon after, the northwest Arkansas couple bought a Chevy Suburban and bunked kids three-to-a-room. Now 19-month-old twins Anne and Evelyn have meshed well with older sibs Elizabeth, 8, Jack, 7, Rebekah, 4, and Natalie, 3. "The challenge is making the everyday routine work," says Michael, 38, a University of Arkansas Ph.D. student. Laundry grew to its current 15 loads per week and grocery shopping is always a two-parent job, since the clan goes through eight gallons of milk and four loaves of bread a week. With no nannies in sight, Mom and Dad constantly run interference. "A lot happens at mealtime," says Michael—like the time Rebekah tried to get watermelon juice off her hands by "wiping them in Anne and Evelyn's hair." While they wouldn't trade any of that, it does make their monthly date night special. "We go to dinner and it's nice to finish a conversation," says Jennifer, "but we almost always end up at Target with a shopping list."