Content Amidst the Chaos

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Manage-it Monday February 1, 2010

Filed under: Manage-It Monday — jps23 @ 10:10 pm

How do we manage bedtime with seven kids?  We try to have a regular routine, but we waver from it sometimes.  We Superman bathes the boys around 7:00 or 7:30.  This is usually the immediate step after dinner.  It keeps them from getting too riled up after they have had some quiet time (or at least our version of quiet).  If they do play any before bath, it has to be in their bedroom, where they are more contained.  The bigger house has been nice, and we love it when it is clean, but clean, open space is apparently an invitation to our boys for wild running around the house!  Once bathtime is finished, the boys go to their room with Superman to put on pajamas.  Earnhart has eczema, so he has a long cream and lotion routine to calm his skin.  They come in to give me kisses goodnight, sometimes taking a sneaky detour, but for the most part, the bedtime routine is pretty, well, routine at this point.  They lay down on Smiley’s bed, the bottom bunk of our cool IKEA bunk beds, and they tell stories.  They start “Once upon a time…” and end with “The End.”  Superman goes first, and then the two boys take their turns.  When Bulldozer finally starts conversing with us, I’m sure he’ll jump in, too!  What’s cute about this is the way Smiley first started telling his stories.  He would start with “Once upon a time…” and then completely lose it with giggles and smiles!  Now, he tells a story that includes everyone, a few monsters, and some cars or trains.  After stories, they sing a song or two, give kisses, and Superman leaves a noisemaker on to white noise and cracks the door.  Once they fall asleep, we close the door.  When they don’t fall asleep, and someone unnamed, yet incredibly cute, gets out of bed and protests at the door or from the hallway, we simply ignore him.  If he comes into the living room, we carry him back to his bed, over and over, if necessary.  This, however, has become a rare occasion, and has more to do with being overtired, having too full of a day, or experiencing a major change in routine.  Smiley doesn’t do this too much anymore, but he is a light sleeper and is usually the one that winds up in our bed in the middle of the night.  He and Earnhart are also teeth-grinders, which I can’t stand.  When that happens, I HAVE to leave the room!

Now that the girls are bigger, bedtime is a bit easier with them.  They take care of their baths or showers, depending on the time frame, and get pajamas on.  They usually hang out with us in the living room for a bit and then go down to their bedroom (a finished room in our basement).  They keep the light on and visit and talk while laying in their beds, and the light goes off at 9:00.  They usually talk a little longer to fall asleep, but they are usually out in this order: Mary Lou, Cowgirl, and then Picasso.  Picasso is a night owl, and she usually makes a few trips up the stairs with an issue or complaint, but I really think it’s just to get a few minutes alone with us where our attention is completely on her.  She has never complained about sharing us with so many, but her love language is time, and she loves getting that all to herself from anyone, especially her mom and dad.

That is how we manage bedtime.  Please understand that this works for us for now.  We have experienced many changes in sleeping patterns, habits, and physical arrangements.  With a new baby, I’m sure some of this could change.  We roll with it, and we feel like you have to do whatever you have to do to get sleep.  I’m not usually thrilled when a kid (or 3) wind up in the bed with us at night.  I love snuggling in the morning, but I don’t sleep well with them in the bed at night.  Some nights, I fight it, while other nights, I just swap beds with that kid.  When the guest bed is made up (who would want to be a guest here?), I crash there.  It’s the matresses my in-laws gave us our first Christmas after we married, and it’s my favorite bed!  Superman prefers the nice, big king sized bed over the full, but I like the little one best.  Most nights, I just sleep wherever I can.  Recliner- yep.  Couch- why not?  Bed- yes sir!


Manage-it Monday January 11, 2010

Filed under: Manage-It Monday,Our home — jps23 @ 9:34 am

Okay, I’m going to try and get back into the routine of my regular posting.  With the kids going to school and me on maternity leave, I actually have a little bit of spare time!  I must say that this time makes me a bit envious of all those stay-home moms that send their kids to school and get to stay home to clean and organize their homes instead of managing homeschool supplies and materials and learners on six different levels!  Don’t get me wrong.  I love homeschooling and I miss the more traditional form this year, as we are participating (and teaching) in a 1st grade homeschool co-op class at our church’s preschool.  I want us to be home.  We feel like God wants us to be home.  But I am not going to lie, homeschooling can be hard and overwhelming at times!  But I digress…

One of the most frequent comments we get as a large family with so many little ones is “I don’t know how you do it!”  Now, it is helpful to have systems and routines in place to make it work smoothly, but you can put those in place and if folks don’t follow them, then they don’t work!  Right now, with so many young learners that I am still in the process of training, the only answer I have for this is that my house doesn’t get managed.  If you don’t clean your house, you gain a lot of time in your day!  Now, we pick up from time to time and we sweep immediate messes, but I don’t get to really clean that often.  I am working on training the kids to help in that arena, but we aren’t quite there yet.  Most of the time, while you are cleaning one area, they are destroying messing up another one!  And, when you do get something clean, it gets undone way faster than it took you to clean it.  I’ve wanted to get a housecleaner, but you have to have all your stuff put away so they can actually clean, and we are rarely out of the house, and I just am leary about letting a stranger in my house while we aren’t here.  So, I’ve decided to manage my housecleaning by hiring my sister to clean it!  She could use the extra money, she’s awesome at cleaning up (which is funny because she used to hide old plates and cups under her bed!), and I really can’t manage this part of my life right now.  Now, if I couldn’t hire her, I would just let it go.  And here is why or how I am able to do that…

excuse this HOUSE

Some houses try to hide the fact that children shelter there;

Ours boasts of it quite openly, the signs are everywhere.

For smears are on the windows, little smudges on the doors;

I should apologize I guess, for toys strewn on the floor.

But I sat down with the children, and we played and laughed and read;

And if the door bell doesn’t shine, their eyes will shine instead.

For when at times I’m forced to choose the one job or the other;

I want to be a housewife…but first I’ll be a mother.

I don’t know who the author is of this little poem, but a dear friend and mom of six (three in college now) gave me this beautiful poem as a gift a while back.  She’s been there, done that, and the t-shirt is already fading, so I think she has some insight that might be beneficial to me.  Clean houses are nice, but the kids don’t care about that.  They want you, and I prefer that they have clean hearts and minds above a clean bedroom.  Now, I’m not criticizing any of you moms who are more particular about this.  I just struggle with managing it, and while that is the case, I’m going to choose kids over clean and pay my sister to do the rest!

How do you manage your households?  Please post, as something that you do may work for us, too!


Manage-it Monday December 1, 2009

Filed under: Manage-It Monday — jps23 @ 8:36 pm

Okay, so I am running behind in updates to the blog.  I used to think that was silly, that people can’t find time to sit down and make their entry.  Well, I’m not laughing now.  It’s so easy to let it slip by undone, especially when the demands of life get especially demanding!  For my post today, I thought I’d let you all in on how we manage clothes.  Now, our system isn’t perfect because we aren’t as diligent as we should be about keeping things moving through the laundry, but it’s the most effective system we have in place around here.  I came across many of the parts of our clothing routines on different blogs and websites, and we combined them and made them work for our family.

We started with a large, five-shelf set of wire shelves for laundry.  I believe I bought it at Target.  I then bought 6 round baskets to place on those shelves and a rectangular one, as well.  I labeled the shelves at first, and then after moving, I decided that labeling the baskets worked best for us.  Our loads are as follows:  towels (the rectangular basket), jeans, blues/greens, pinks/reds, lights/whites, darks, fancy/work.  In our new home, we have a laundry chute.  It’s in the bottom of the kitchen pantry, which makes no sense to me, but there it is.  The kids drop their clothes, most days, down the chute into a tall basket, which is then sorted into the smaller baskets on the shelves right next to the chute.  We wash them on an as needed basis.  We wash daily, skipping a day every now and then if we’re super busy (which we usually pay for later).  The more in the basket, the higher priority for washing.  Sometimes, it depends on what we’re short on or what is being highly requested.  I’ve tried a laundry schedule before, where you wash specific loads on specific days, but that just hasn’t worked for us in the past.  The girls usually sort the clothes for me, and all of the kids, except S6, will help move them from one machine to the other or from the dryer to a basket for me to fold.  They don’t fold neatly enough yet, which doesn’t matter to me in appearance as much as it does regarding the space it takes up when not folded tight and neat.

Now, for storing clothes…I learned in the old house that the girls cannot keep their clothes in their rooms.  They pull too many out, change too many times during the day, and use their clothes for dress up too much!  We had a wardrobe from IKEA in our room where we stored everyone’s clothes, and then at one time, sacrificed a room to make it a family closet (thank you, Duggar family).  However, we needed the room for people more than clothes, and when the clothes were in my room, I got pretty tired of looking at them.  When we moved into this house, I adapted an idea that I found on a website called Lots of Kids (  Go ahead and laugh, but we have lots of kids, so it makes sense to me!  This particular mom to lok had a closet built that spanned the wall, and she used baskets and crates to store her family’s clothes.  This house has built in shelves on the wall that the washer and dryer sits on in the basement.  Perfect!  And they are the depth of about an 18 gallon plastic container.  So, I bought five clear containers from Target, labeled them with each child’s name and size, and I store their clothes in these bins.  The two older boys share a bin because they can wear a lot of each others’ clothes, but everyone else has their own container.  I haven’t gone to the solid-colored polo shirts and denim jumpers/skirts like the Duggars, just yet, and I hope to not wind up there.  Yes, it would make laundry much easier, but I just can’t do it.  I may reevaluate one day, but for now, this is the way we do it.  The boys’ and girls’ pajamas and underpants are stored in the dresser/changing table that is in the boys’ room.  The socks, all Hanes for the girls and Fruit of the Loom for the boys (which are marked on the inside of the cuff with the size), are stored in baskets on top of our shoe bin, which sits by the back door (the only door we use).  The boys are in different sizes, and S4 has to wear special socks for his AFO’s, so they each have their own basket with their name on it, but the girls wear the same size, so they have a basket for socks and a basket for tights.  These are stackable, colored baskets from Target (green for boys, blue for girls) that match our playroom and aren’t even as big as a loaf of bread, so they don’t take up too much room.  Mine and Superman’s clothes get stored in our room, when I’m diligent enough, or just plain can find the energy, to carry the basket upstairs and put them away.  I’m still not sure what I will be doing with the baby’s clothes.  I’ll get back to you on that one.

Picking out clothes…the plan was to pick out clothes on Sunday night for the school week and store them in those days of the week sorters in the kids’ rooms.  I bought one for the boys, which hasn’t been mounted, and I haven’t gotten one for the girls yet because their room is right beside the unfinished basement where the laundry is housed.  However, for the purpose of order, I’m going to have to get them one, as well.  It’s part of the plan to fix up their room as part of their Christmas.  Not an absolute necessity, but I can justify it when I count it as part of a gift!  We’ll still try to get this implemented, but for now, I can go down and get everyone’s clothes, Superman usually can do it with success, and the girls can even go down to get their own clothes and an outfit for their buddy.  All of these work, but they add to our getting ready time in the morning, so I’d like to implement my original idea asap.  Once I upgrade my space on the blog, I’ll add photos.  I’ll also post more about ironing and other fabric issues later, like linens and clothing repairs.  That’s all extra.  The most important thing is getting clean clothes on everyone each day.  If you know us personally, you know that they don’t always have to match, either!  As long as the sensitive child is comfortable in her clothes, we are all happy!

And that’s how I manage laundry and clothes!


Manage-it Monday November 23, 2009

Filed under: Manage-It Monday,S4,The Siblings — jps23 @ 8:48 pm

So, how do you manage sibling rivalry?  It’s something that we have to deal with on a regular basis, seeing that there are so many siblings and they are so close in age.  I came across this tip on a few mom blogs a couple of years ago, and it has worked quite well for us.  They suggested having a kid of the week.  That child gets all the priviledges of the week, like going first (or last, if they prefer), being Mommy’s special helper, and sitting in the front of the bathtub, when sharing their bathtime (or maybe getting to take a bath alone).  However, they also are the ones that get asked for favors and special help sometimes, too.  In our family, the priviledge most desired is sitting in the front seat of the “mini” van.  It only seats seven, so when it is full of a parent plus all the kids, someone has to sit in the front.  This was a necessity before we got the “many” van, where we do not practice having a kid in the front seat because it isn’t necessary.  Fortunately, our “mini” van has a feature that shuts the airbag off when a certain minimal weight is picked up in the seat (like a child).  Before you report me, know that this is the only reason I will allow a child in the front seat.  I took this kid of the week concept and had a little fun with it.  I took the letters KOW and wrote them on a piece of construction paper.  I then found a blackline (coloring sheet) online of a cow and colored and cut it out.  I took the pictures of the three girls’ faces and cut them out, used velcro dots, and each week, we move the face onto the cow to remind us whose turn it is for the week.  Because of the front seat issue, you have to be five to be on the kow rotation in our house, and S4 even knows that when he turns five, he gets a chance to be the KOW!  This method greatly reduces our sibling rivalry issues.

In dealing with those issues, which we do in other areas now that the girls are older, I came across this idea.  We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s definitely in the toolbox.  When your child offends their sibling, saying or doing something hurtful or mean, send them to hammer a nail into a piece of wood.  Do this a few times until they seem to catch on to the connection between their offense and the nail.  Then tell them to go pull the nails out.  Discuss with them that although the nails are gone, the holes from the nails are still there and cannot be taken away.  This will help to illustrate the affects of their unkind words or actions on others, especially their siblings.  Of course, this wouldn’t work with my boys at this point because they are so young, but I think it’s something the girls would understand pretty quickly.  I think this idea was suggested by Kevin Lehman in one of his kid-raising books.

There are other tools and strategies, but that is the way we are managing it right now!


Manage-it Monday November 17, 2009

Filed under: Manage-It Monday,Uncategorized — jps23 @ 3:37 am

Okay, I didn’t manage anything very well today.  I did manage to blow the leaves off of the driveway, start making our homework stations, and paint a brown picture frame black, but the rest of the day was not so great.

Since I’ve had two friends Facebook me about sleep routines and habits, I thought I’d share how we manage it at bedtime.  First of all, S6 is the only napper right now.  I’d love it if S3, S4, and S5 would also nap, but if they do, they sleep too long and won’t go to bed at night.  If you wake them up after a short nap, it’s asking for trouble.  So, we skip them.  That is one of the down sides to having so many so close in age.  If the older ones do something a certain way, the younger ones are ready to jump on board, even if they aren’t really ready.  It makes the battle harder to fight.  I could go head to head with them, but there are many other battles to wage, so this is one I let slide.  Now, our bedtime is a routine.  Most nights is happens pretty on schedule, but the order is the key.  We have some type of dinner around 6:30 (another area I’m not managing well while pregnant, but it’s something I plan on correcting in a few weeks).  They finish up and the baths start.  Superman prefers bathing the boys together first and then the girls, sometimes after he puts the boys down.  My preference is bathing buddies together.  They don’t get as riled up that way.  (S1 with S4, S2 with S6, and S3 with S5- I’ll explain why on another post.)  Either way, the baths get done, pajamas get put on, and Superman heads off to the boys’ room with them for story time, songs, and a little snuggle time.  I didn’t mention that Superman pretty much handles bedtime on his own.  The kids are tired of me, they are thirsty for time with him, and especially while pregnant, I’m done by 7:00.  He leaves them awake in their beds to fall asleep, and as long as they stay in bed, we leave their door open.  The only tricky part is that the older two scream bloody murder with the door closed, but S6 prefers it to be that way.  So, he usually cries/whines while the other two doze off, and once they are asleep, we close the door to their room so S6 will be happy.  During the night, we open it in case they get up and need us.  If we don’t, they scream to wake us up and usually wake one another up in the process.  The goal time to implement this results in the boys being in bed by 8:00.  We will read with the girls upstairs sometimes during the boys’ routine or after, if they are asking for their Daddy.  The girls go downstairs to their bedroom by 8:30, 9:00 at the latest.  S1 is a night owl, so she is almost always awake at 10:00, no matter what time we put her to bed!  We have decided recently that she can come upstairs after her sisters fall asleep for some special quiet time with us.  I honestly would love to be done with kids by that time, but with so many, it’s hard to get the one-on-one time with them without making some sacrifices with my own time.  Not to mention, I enjoy it when I’m not exhausted.  The problem is that when I am pregnant, I could go to bed at 8:30 and be happy!

So, that’s our bedtime routine.  Most nights it works, some nights it doesn’t.  By the time I wrap up this post, the girls have come back upstairs because S1 and S2 are talking so much that S3 has a headache.  So S1 and S2 are now asleep in the guest room and S3 is in our bed, which isn’t a big deal since I am sleeping in the recliner for comfort right now, but it’s not a habit we want to start.  That’s just how it was managed tonight.


Manage-it Monday and Take-it-easy Tuesday November 10, 2009

Filed under: Manage-It Monday,Superman,Take-It-Easy Tuesday — jps23 @ 7:19 pm

I’ve been thinking about themes for my blog posts to keep me focused and on track with my posts.  I don’t want to use the same old stuff everyone else uses, but I do want practical topics that you all will be interested in.  I know that friends and family will want to keep up with the kids on here, but in all honesty, how many of you really want to hear every detail of my childrens’ lives on here?  Not many, I’m sure.  So I think Monday will be “Manage-it Monday”.  A day where I post how I managed a particular task or activity.  It may relate to my kids, but more than likely it will relate to the house, the job, or some other practical matter.  I missed posting yesterday because my husband’s computer adaptor died on us and my computer needed some repair.  Thankfully, my best friend is married to a computer whiz (that just sounds better than ‘nerd’), and he managed to fix my computer!  Yay!

Tuesday may not be as useful for you, but I love it!  It is the only day we have nothing to do after preschool/work.  I swore we’d never be one of those families, but it kind of crept up on us this year!  Monday is ballet for S1 and S2, Wednesday is church, Thursday is playgroup (which we may or may not always do) and gymnastics for S3, and although we have no school on Fridays, we have therapy for S4 and S5.  And technically, I’m supposed to be covering the hours my big girls don’t get at the preschool in their 1st grade homeschool co-op class on Fridays, but those hours are usually scattered throughout the week.  This Tuesday, we are chilling out inside due to the rain.  We certainly have plenty of cleaning to do, and I’m hoping to get some of it done before my brother-in-law comes over today.  I know his opinion shouldn’t matter, but I do want the house to be semi-presentable when he gets here.  He’s coming over for a bro-date with the hubby.  I tell him all the time that he needs to please, please, please take care of himself and do those man things from time to time so he doesn’t turn into Jon Gosselin.  One day, the man’s trugging through the hard  days, loving his kids and trying to keep the balance in his family, and then the next day he wakes up and decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore.  Now I know some people are Kate-haters and think she pushed him away, and you may be right.  I don’t really care.  I just know this life can be hard, and I don’t want it to overwhelm either of us to the point we just want to walk away.  So, after he had a hard day at work yesterday counting beans, I told him he needs to take a night off with someone.  If he just goes to the bookstore, he’ll make a list in his head of all the things he could be doing at home.  He needed someone to talk to and distract him from the business of life.  He and BIL don’t spend a whole lot of time together, and they live two very different lives, but they pick up right where they leave off when they are together and have a wonderful time.  So they are catching a movie and a bite to eat.  I also rely on BIL to go with hubby to all the movies I have no desire to see, like Paranormal Activity, and movies of the like.  So, I’m trying to chill a little today, pace myself for the evening, so that he can take-it-easy for once.  If you know my husband, he certainly is not the typical guy and does way more than any girl could hope or want in a family.  He’s my Superman.  I like that, so I’ll probably refer to him by that name from now on here in blogland.  If I gave you his real name, then once you really get to know him through here, you’d probably hunt him down and try to steal him!  I’m so blessed!