Keeping my LARGE family organized

As a working Mom of a large family there are a few things I do to keep my sanity. Often people ask how I do it all and honestly, I don’t know. I just do it. I usually reply with, “I don’t know,” or “I do what I can when I can.” I don’t claim to be supermom or anything like that. I just do the best I can with the time, tools, & talents and Lord has blessed me with. Could I be better? Of course! I try to improve all of the time and seem to find tricks here and there to help me out along the way.

A year ago a relative asked me for advice on how to balance work and home and although I was really excited to share and honored that she would think ask me I was a bit shy about admitting to some of the things I do to keep my big family organized. Running a house with 7 people is a tough job sometimes and I don’t as much sleep as I would like….but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

So, on with the confessions of a working Mom.

photo(9)  1. Locker System: This keeps everyone’s stuff’ in one spot. Assuming they each put their items away that is. Each child has their own locker with 1 shelf, 4 hooks, a drawer and a spot for their shoes. We keep their Bibles, lunch boxes, helmets, & diaper bags on the shelf. They hang backpacks, coats, etc. on the hooks. Their shoes, boots, and flip-flops on the ledge and their drawers are filled with hats, mittens, scarves, etc. We cut an outdoor rug to go on the ledge to keep the wet shoes and boots from ruining the wood. We also put a long roll of that same outdoor carpet in front of the drawers so they can walk into the house without making a big mess on the floors. photo(11)I’ll admit it took some training to get the kids to each put their stuff away but now they’ve got it.

2. Morning Message & Chore Chart: At school the kids get a morning message every day and they seemed to get accustomed to knowing the date, day of the week, and what’s for dinner type of things so upon their request I added this to the dry erase board which already included a chore chart. Every night I look at what the next day has in store and include that in the morning message so when the kids are going off to the bus they can see what to expect. (It also helps me to remember what is coming up as well). The chore chart came about after deciding making copies of a chore chart was wasting paper. The kids liked how visible the chore chart was as well as the ability to keep tabs on how well they were doing for the week. All it takes is a large dry erase board and some electrical tape and you can make one really easily.

3. Cork cork boardsBoards: Every child seems to have their own calendar of events, newsletters from school, & appointment cards. In order to keep it straight who has what and when I picked up these cork boards from Hobby Lobby so each child could have their own board. The younger kids boards are filled with well baby check ups, notes about when their teeth come in or where they should be developmentally based on their age. The older kids boards have their school lunch calendar, homework reminders, invitations for parties, etc. At times these have been a life-saver for my sanity.

4. Desk Space: With so many kids and some of them sharing room there isn’t a ton of deskspace in their bedrooms for a desk and frankly, we don’t like the idea of the kids working on homework in their rooms. We would much prefer they use computers and the internet in a common area where there are others around to help them when they need and keep them focused on the issue at hand. With so many people using the same desk we needed storage space for their paperwork, folders, pens, etc. Again-Ikea to the rescue. My hubby installed the shelf and other storage items allowing each child to have their own space. I love the chalk circles for notes & reminders as well. I am pretty sure we got those from Target. The giant desk calendar seems a bit much but works great to have a master calendar of our families events & appointments. (I would LOVE for it to be a giant computer monitor or digital frame to show our Google calendar or sync with it but I have yet to find such a product). We also added some plastic storage bins below for art supplies, craft supplies and play-doh. 🙂

5. Laundry: Doing laundry for 7 people can be overwhelming but thanks to the layout of our house the laundry room is on the second level slaundryo it’s much easier to keep up with it. The kids helped me label baskets (Found on clearance at Lowe’s)  so even if they can’t read, they know that the one with the picture of the light-bulb on it is ‘lights’ and so on so they help out by sorting their own laundry. Being the room is so close they frequently help me switch loads when I ask them. The biggest challenge is putting it all away. I have a nice long counter in the laundry room which is lined with bins (again-one for each child) and an equally long rod for hanging their clothes on. Once a week (or when the bins are full) the kids are each given their bins and clothes and we put them away together. I am working hard on getting the older ones trained to put theirs away without just stuffing it in their drawers all willy-nilly.

Yes, I am a control freak and crazy about organization but hey-it works for me. This is by no means the right answer for any other household. After getting over my embarrassment regarding these organizational quirks I decide it’s worth sharing if it might help someone else. I hope this post helps you in some way. 🙂

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Kids and the Comments…

I haven’t had a chance to keep up on the cute and funny things my kids have been saying. Amazing how life gets in the way. 😉

My three-year-old sneezed recently aMy Kidsnd then in a panic waving his arms and stomping his feet began to yell and scream at whoever would listen as he demanded a ‘Bless you.’ I was kind of confused but I said, “bless you honey. Would you like a Kleenex?” He got upset and told me, “NO! I need a bless you!!” I explained to him I just gave him one after which he stomped off to the bathroom and got a Kleenex. After a bit of a discussion I figured out the tissue vs Kleenex debate combined with the common phrase of ‘bless you’ after sneezing had really got him confused. When someone sneezes we usually say “Bless you,” and then they get a Kleenex. Sometimes they are referLaurenred to as a tissue which he felt sounded the same as ‘Bless you.’ I got a good laugh out of that one! Too funny.

It must be something about that age because that is the same age my daughter was when she thought I was going to cut up pretty flowers and put them in my mixing bowl when we were baking cookies. I said we needed flour and she was terrified I was going to put a nice flower in there. Now that she is 7 I love to tell her that story.

Things my kids say 2.0

They never stop amazing me or quite frankly, making me laugh. Ok so I don’t laugh them, just smile and giggle when they walk away. My little girl is just so darn creative and funny. She says things like agent beetles & bathtisms and can even explain them.

Living in the midwest we have those lovely Asian Beetles which seem to take over buildings in the Fall. At first she thought they were lady bugs and was thrilled that they were around the doors, windows, etc. Then one ‘bit her’ and she was done with them. My husband and I have told her they are not lady bugs but Asian Beetles and although she seemed to understand she refers to them as agent beetles. Why? Well one could theorize she didn’t listen all that well but that is only half of it. She has decided they are just like agent P on Phineas and Ferb and they plot things like taking over our windows and biting 7 year old girls who try to play with them.

With the birth of our 5th child we are planning his baptism. Now this word alone is an interesting one but once again our daughter and 2 of our sons has created their own word from it, ‘bathtism.’ Why? Well because they get a bath in front of the church of course? There is a small ‘bath tub’ and water…so in their young minds they put that image and the word (as they heard it) together to make ‘bathtism.’

It’s truly amazing to see the world though the eyes of a child. They have such an interesting and innocent perspective.

Faith in the fast lane…

We are all so busy these days. Whether it’s career, family, or just life in general it seems we are going 100mph in 3 directions all at once.  If you are anything like me finding time for yourself can be challenging. As a mother of 5 between family, work, and volunteering it can be very difficult to squeeze in time to nurture my faith. No matter how fast are lives go I feel it is still very important to find time for faith. If you can’t find time, then you’ll just have to make time.

So how do we find or make time for faith in a fast-paced life? I don’t claim to have the perfect solution but this is what has been working well for me.

  1. A devotional. I have seen devotionals in bookstores and have even received one as a gift but didn’t pick them up right away. After cracking one open I soon learned it was a great way for me to get my daily dose of the bible as well as a practical example or message for me to think about throughout my day. I’ve tried reading right before bed, or first thing in the morning.  I gave up trying to have a routine and have since gone with whenever I have time in the day. My devotional has put on many miles being tossed into my purse or briefcase so I am ready whenever I have a few minutes to read. Rather than check my facebook or twitter I simply read the scripture on my smartphone and 1-page devotional message for that day. There are many different devotionals out there. I am recently finished one for women by Jill Briscoe and love it. Now my husband and I are reading a couples devotional book together each evening. I am confident you can find a devotional that works for you.
  1. Prayer beads*. I was raised Catholic but never learned how to use a rosary so when this concept of prayer beads was first presented to me I was skeptical. After trying it out I discovered how easy it was and how helpful it was for me to structure my prayer. I have 2 of these; 1 is meant for adults and 1 for children. I tend to use the children’s version. I have them on a key-chain ring and they hang in my car. Rather than listening to the radio or talking on the phone I hold my prayer beads and pray on my way to work each morning.
  1. Schedule Bible Time. It doesn’t always work well with our schedule but I try very hard to fit in bible time in the evenings with the kids. We usually do a “bath, book, bedtime” type of routine so one evening a week I replace book with bible. This has worked very well with the kids especially after they each got their own bible and bible case to carry it in. They love gathering on the floor with me to read together. Although they each have their own bible appropriate for their age we are still able to all read and discuss the same stories. It is so much fun to hear the kids explain to one another the various stories and talk about what they feel the bible is telling them.

*Prayer Beads: You can find beads to make this at your local craft store. I cannot take credit for this as I learned all about it from a pastor at a local church.

Happy Face Bead-This bead prompts you to talk with God about the joys of our lives, the things we love about God and the things we are thankful for that make us happy.

Blue Bead-This bead represents the things in life that make us sad or things we wish we hadn’t done. A time to talk to God for forgiveness.

Flower or Animal Bead-This bead represents the amazing natural world God created. The plants, animals, etc that we love.

Star Bead-This bead is for the ‘star person’ in our prayer life for the day. If you told someone you’d pray for them or someone you feel needs prayers that day.

Heart Bead-This bead is for the people we love…friends, family, teachers, coaches…and even the people in the world we haven’t met yet.

Things my kids say continued….

The “eeyaa’s”

We’ve all been there. Kids are sleeping soundly, you’ve had a little time to get some things done and now you are off to dreamland yourself. All of the sudden you are awake and hearing “Mommy” or “Daddy!”

We may hear “Moooom” or “Daaaaaaaaaaad.”  Sometimes even “Mommy” or “Daddy.” At some point our oldest decided he couldn’t holler loud enough and he put his own spin on “Mom” or “Dad.” He started bellowing  “Dadddeeeyaaaaa.” Occasionally we’d hear a “Mommmeeeeya.” (for whatever reason the kids seem to want Daddy at night).

We caught onto the “ee-ya” addition but didn’t think too much of it. We asked why he does it and he said “Mom and Dad are just too short to yell. I need a longer name and adding “ee-ya” works well.”

Now that our youngest is in the ‘chatty-patty’ phase of life I have noticed he too has adopted this “ee-ya” stuff. He now yells any and all of his siblings names with the ‘eeya’ ending. At 22 months he’s already figured out that it’s effective In getting the work out.

The End & Amen

My youngest 2 seem to really catch on to prayers and as soon as they could speak said, “Amen” at the end of prayers. So much so and so loudly that at gatherings such as a recent beautiful wedding they say it so loud that everyone can hear them. It’s not a bad thing, just funny when a 22 month old can out “Amen” an adult. The funny part is they have understood it to mean closure to something so when we finish reading books at storytime they both end books with a boasting “Amen” rather than “The End.” A funny and cute trait they’ve picked up along the way.

Pimple in Your Eye

I just love to listen to my older 2 converse about all kinds of things. The other day they were talking about how their bodies work and one said to the other, “What is that dot in your eye?” The response was very matter-of-fact, “It’s your pimple silly!” I had to laugh and clear up their confusion and let them know it’s a pupil not a pimple.

My Life at 100mp

While talking with a few friends recently the statement: “There is no grass growing under your feet” was directed at me. I laughed and said, “No.” I really didn’t think much of it at the time but as I was driving home I pondered how fast-pasted my life really is. Why it is that way and how in the world I keep up with the break-neck pace.

My husband and I have ALWAYS lived our lives (or at least our life together) at 100mph. We seemed to have taken the multi-tasking idea to another level, either that or we are practically nuts and want to test the limits of our sanity. We’ve never really done things one at a time. Maybe that is where I get my “go big or go home” attitude….so does that mean I can blame the craziness on my husband then? LOL. Nah, I have always subscribed to the philosophy of “why put off tomorrow what you can do today.” Abe Lincoln I think….

So back to the topic of this post. Why so fast? Not really sure. Why just get married or just graduate? Why not graduate, get married, fix-up a house and have a baby all at the same time? Probably because it IS as challenging as it sounds. Every year when I compose our annual Christmas letter we reflect upon the past year’s events and it always seems like a crazy amount. I guess we have become accustomed to it. In the past 10 years: 5 moves, 3 college degrees, 4 babies, 2 homes built, numerous jobs, races, triathlons, and of course the many activities of the children. Yeesh!

Somehow in there we manage to squeeze in family time, church, family bible time, time for hobbies (golf, scrapping, photography, sewing, running, rollerblading, biking, fast-pitch). How we do it all is beyond me. Well, I guess I might have at least a clue.

  1. Faith. I have faith in myelf, my husband and our family. With God all things are possible. There is no task to large to tackle.
  2. Less sleep. I never sleep-in like in my early 20’s and don’t have time for naps.
  3. Lists. Who doesn’t love lists..ok, so maybe just me. But writing it down makes me feel soo much more at-ease and organized about it all. (And who doesn’t love crossing things out on a to do list???)
  4. Motivation & Persistence. Having the motivation to get started and the persistence to keep it going is imperative.
  5. Realistic expectations. Being realistic about our expectations for taking on such crazy tasks. We understand and accept we cannot do it all or at least not all in one day. (I admit that I have the supermom or superwoman complex. I prefer to do it myself rather than ask for help but knowing that there is help and being able to ask for it is a good plan and something I am working on.)

My grandmother who walked very fast even at the end of her years said she did so because she was afraid she’d tip over if she slowed down. That may be the same for me. If I slow down I may nap, fall asleep and miss the life I have been blessed with.

I plan to continue to keep running after my dreams, chasing my giggling children, walking hand-in-hand with my husband and doing everything I can do still get the daily chores done.

So Yes, grass doesn’t grow under these feet and I wouldn’t have it any other way.