As we have been navigating our way through this whole "large family" business, I have discovered some interesting tips and tricks that I otherwise would have never thought of being a smaller family...but now using such tips, I am thinking these would be beneficial for any size family... plus, I want a post that I can direct my kids to when they're going through counseling--at least they can point their blame here for their lack of personal space.
That being said...a list of discoveries.
Some genius, some gross, some quirky, some practical.
Note that these photos of Sissy Lulu have nothing to do with the post, but she hasn't made an appearance on here lately, and she's getting quite big, you see. And beautiful. And funny. And bossy.
-Cups: I used to have a Sigg cup for each kid and myself... then it just got ridiculous carrying around a ton of filled bottles, only for some to spill, others to not be consumed, some to be lost, etc... Now we use one giant Sigg for all of us. This would fall under the "Gross" category for some, but reality is, germs and sickness are plastered through our home throughout the year, sipping out of the same bottle is not going to heighten the chances of sickness. Backwash, yes, but I died to that years ago. Also, we follow the sharing cup rule in the house too. Not a fan of dishes, this helps eliminate a gazillion glasses on the counter top. One for me, one for Jason, and the kids share the same glass. We also don't do sippies... since the kids aren't allowed to drink or eat anywhere other than the kitchen table, there really is no purpose for these in our home. Plus they are ugly and have a ton of parts and are plastic (obviously not a huge fan of the sippy).
-Shoes: Winter is a separate topic, but when we're Summering, each child usually only has one pair of shoes. Flip flops or sandals. When we head anywhere where the shoes will be immediately removed and not worn, we leave the shoes at home. I am not about to lose a pair of shoes for no purpose. That would be wasteful. Same with shirts. The only downside to this is that on occasion, a child may go to church without shoes or to the store without shoes out of sheer habit. It has been done. Oops on my end. Better that than losing them. :-)
-Towels: Another mom shared this genius tip. One beach towel. How simple! Why bring five when you can bring one and share? Less laundry, less packing, less hassle. Sold. One towel it is. (although I must admit, I have only gotten down to two...it seems a lot of tears and shivers are involved when all three littles are wet and cold.)
-Helping Hands: This may seem to be a given, but sometimes when you are used to busting babies out one after another, you forget to teach the others to grow up. By teaching the older ones to help (and rewarding them when appropriate), this makes the job a lot easier. We do not have a van, but we do have a third row seat. It's not easy climbing back there, but the two older boys take turns buckling and unbuckling Lulu. This was something they learned to do before the babies were born. They also are required to carry gear wherever we go--even if they don't neccessarily need to, it's a great habit to have. They assist in helping washing hands, feeding babies, and playing with babies. Sometimes rewards are given, but other times it's a matter of teamwork, which is something that must happen in order to live in a big family! We often discuss the joy of having siblings as friends and the responsabilities that come with that role. This helps the kids realize why more may be expected from them than other children.
-Napping: Don't let go of the naps! This is only going to hurt you! While some kids outgrow naps sooner, there is no reason they shouldn't be required to rest or have quiet time. Kid is 6 and is still required to lay in bed for an hour. He may sleep on occasion when he's tired, but usually he reads or rests. This is my time to gather my thoughts, work, run, or read. Five kids + silence mid-day=sanity.
-Manners: Although this isn't much of a "trick", for me, it's a priority for having so many little ones with so many needs. The demands can be quite overwhelming. They're always hungry, thirsty, and need assistance with a lot of things throughout the day. If they're demanding and not requesting, it can be pretty darn irritating. Manners will become the key to lovingly responding to such needs. Somehow, it's a constant process and my kids still at times don't realize my reaction is much different when they demand rather than request nicely. :-)
-Schedule: We are on a pretty set-yet flexible routine. This helps the sanity as well. The kids know they can't have a snack until 10:30, so if they are bored, they know better than to ask for a snack at 9am... also, they are aware of the series of events with lunch, nap, screen time, and room time. All are very flexible because we like to do things, but these are the day to days and they thrive on routine.
-Simplicity: One would think with a lot of kids requires a lot of activities and toys, quite the contrary, friends... I tend to thrive on peace and simplicity, so we do as few toys and games as possible. Pens and paper will work for crafts and some blocks will do for toys. Mind you, we have plenty to do around here, but the home certainly does not look like a toy store. Rarely is there a complaint on not having enough toys. Usually they just come up with more creative ways to play with their current toys. I am constantly reminded that the more traditional, open-ended toys tend to last the longest and are very age & gender-neutral. Our family's toy selection? A basket of weapons (naturally), Legos, blocks, a basket of animals, a chest of dress-up attire, a kitchen & few dollies for Lulu. All of those are used daily, multiple times, for multiple reasons. We have pens and crayons on the table at all times. The kids have a craft drawer filled with paper and workbooks as well, which get used throughout the day.
-Laundry (or lack-thereof): This will fall within the gross category as well, but it saves me from doing what I detest the most...laundry. Soon the kids will learn to do this on their own, but for now, it all falls on me, so I will make it as simple as possible. We re-wear clothes as long as we can. Even if they have a tiny spot or some dirt on them, brush it off, kiddos, it can be worn again tomorrow. We don't purchase a lot of clothes. I tend to only buy things I like that are very timeless and simple (as you never know when you capture a photo-wrap-worthy photo of your children). When they are simple, it's not as noticeable when your child wears the same shirt to church three times in one month.
Storage: Shoes, backpacks and jackets go in the kids' designated locker space in our entry. Those are what come on and off the most, so they don't need to be brought in and out of their rooms. We don't do shoes in the house, simply because that's a lot of traffic for a small little house. Which means a lot of sweeping. And a lot of shoes. The kids have their own space for their own dishes, which they put away when clean and take out for meal times. They have their own plastic organizers in their closets and are expected to put away their clothes accordingly. Everett struggles the most with this. That kid...
and last but not least, the very important...
Imaginary "Sedative": This is relatively new to the household. My friends and I joke often about this discovery. It happened this summer, after a horrific morning of tantrums, broken glasses, lost coffee, teething babies, and disaster after disaster. I prayed for help, but also realized I needed to just take myself to a very calm and gentle place. Let it roll off my back. And like that, the imaginary sedative became a neccessary tool to being a peaceful mother. Please do laugh and roll the eyes, but do know this technique has gotten me through a lot of poop, puke, snot, spit, yelling, crying, whining, and pouting. It's a beautiful thing. Without a prescritpion.
Anyway, these are a few of our systems that we have to manage our family. I am always, always eager to learn more, so please do post any brilliant ideas you may have to help simplify our lives! Sanity is important in parenthood, and we all need to work together to achieve it!
ps-adorable hair bands c/o Birds of a Freckle. Check out her lovely store!
ps-adorable hair bands c/o Birds of a Freckle. Check out her lovely store!