All my Littles in 2011. L-R, Samantha (5), Kendra (9), Patricia (5), Christian (5), John (4), Jayna (7), Madelyn (2)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Laundry: From Dirty to Put Away with the Littles Helping

Let me start by saying I do NOT enjoy laundry at all!  Over the years I have tried many processes in our home to make laundry easier or at least bareable.  I think I have finally found the thing that works for us.  We have been doing this for around a year now and have stayed caught up on laundry for the most part. 

All the kids are responsible for bringing their own clothes to the upstairs bathroom.  We have a large hamper in there and they bring all their clothes and put them in there.  EXCEPT their socks.  (I'll talk about socks in another post.)

The boys are responsible for carrying all the dirty clothes down to the laundry room.  They have their own basket to use to carry clothes down in.  They usualy have to make a couple trips each to get it all.  My boys are 4 & 5 and manage this job great.  I would probably assign this job to them even if they were 2 & 3 but just give them smaller baskets so they couldn't carry as much.  I firmly believe boys really are made for work.  That is why God gave them so much more energy. 

I wash and dry the clothes.  Then I put them in a large tote and bring them to the living room for sorting. 

All the girls sort the clean clothes into small baskets.  Each child has their own basket.  I labeled them with their picture (so the non-readers could help) and name.  I got the basket at the dollar store but anywhere will work.  They are about 12" square and stack together for easy storage.  You want to get something small enough for your littles to carry.

Each child is responsible for putting away their own laundry.  My 3-yr-old still nees some help but the others do just fine.  I do not require them to fold it.  I used to spend hours folding and putting away their clothes neatly, but it always looked like a bomb went off in there drawer after a day or two.  So now I just let it get wrinkled and if I need it wrinkle-free I mist it with water and toss it in the dryer for 10 minutes.

This works for us.  What works for you?   

14 kids in 10 years with 3 pregnancies...

**I'm told this is all very confusing with kids going and coming, so I included a timeline at the bottom to help.

I only wanted 2 children when I was a young mom.  In 2001, at the age of 20, I gave birth to Kendra.  I found parenting her so easy that I really never understood why everyone made such a big deal over it.  I was one of those young moms that really makes me a little crazy now.  I thought after one child I had it all figured out and offered advice to others freely.  I roll my eyes at myself now just thinking about how annoying I must have been.

In October 2003 I became pregnant with our 2nd child.  I was so convinced that I was having a boy that I referred to my baby bump as "him, he, his" often.  I got rid of all my girl baby clothes, and began to buy boy things.  I was so bummed at my 20 week ultrasound to find that my little guy was a little girl!  Now I could not imagine life with out my Jayna.  She was born June 3, 2004.  She was such a challenging toddler.  She kept me on my toes all the time & taught me that I didn't know quite as much about parenting as I thought!  To this day she is still my most mischievous child.

My husband and I really wanted a son.  In October of 2005 we began the journey of foster-adoptive care.  We choose this route because I "knew" I couldn't handle more than 3 children and this was a way to ensure that we would get a son.  This thought makes me literally laugh out loud now that I have parented over 14 children in my life.

On May 2, 2006 we became foster parents to Christian & Samantha at the age of 6 weeks old.  It was such a challenge having twins.  At the time I was still working full time and rarely got any sleep.  We ultimately got to adopt them in July 2008, which is so rare since they were our 1st placement, babies, & twins.  For this reason I am fearful to tell people this whole story about our foster/adoptive journey.  I don't want to get their hopes up into thinking we are the norm. 

Shortly after getting the twins (June 16, 2006 to be exact) we got a call asking us to take in the twins 3-yr-old sister, Olivia.  We said "What's one more?" and gladly accepted her into our home.  This gave us five kids, ages 4 and under with twin 6-wk-olds in the mix. Remember, I was still working full time at this point.  I think back on this time of my life I wonder how on Earth I did it.  I know if I can get through that crazy time of my life I can get manage most any thing!  The last time we saw Olivia was July of 2008, when she was 5. 

The next children to enter my life were brothers, Mathew (4) & Michael (3)  The M&M boys were unique challenge because they were the first toddler boys I had ever parented.  They were all boy, and were very rough and tough.  They came August 2007 when the twins were 18 months, Kendra was 5, Jayna was 4 (a very challenging age to parent her, LOL!), and Olivia had left us briefly during this time and was not around much.  The M&M brother's stay was short at our home and they left us in October that same year.

In December 2007 we decided that we would like to have another child biologically.  Madelyn was born September 23, 2008.  She was the easiest baby ever.  She was so calm and laid back.  God knew that with a house full of littles that I needed a easier kid.  LOL! 

Shortly after Madelyn was born we got a phone call for a foster placement of three siblings, Mikayla (9), Jordan (8), & Savanna (5).  They arrived October 29, 2008.  There placement in our home created a lot of chaos and was challenging on so many levels.  They were all very jealous of each other and my children.  Daily I learn things that happened behind closed doors with my kids that I wish I could take back.  However, I love them dearly and miss them often.  I have had so much personal growth as a parent since they were here.  I wish I could've been the parent I am now with them then.  The left us in the beginning of June 2009.

In August of 2010 we welcomed baby Trinity into our home.  She was 8-months-old and only stayed with us for a week but she will hold a special place in my heart forever.

On January 20 of this year we welcomed John into our home.  He was 3 and the time and a complete ball of energy.  He has been through so much in his little life that he is so grateful for all that he has here.  He tells me dozens of times a day how he "loves me so very, very much!"  He melts my heart!

On August 24th of this year we also welcomed John's sweet sister Patricia into our family.  She has been such a wonderful addition.  She has a very humble and sweet attitude to her.  I pray for and look forward to the day we are able to officially able to adopt them and make them ours forever!

**Timeline to ease confusion:
10/14/2001- Gave birth to Kendra
6/3/2004- Gave birth to Jayna
5/2/2006- Christain & Samantha arrived as foster placement
6/16/2006- Olivia arrived as a foster placement
8/12/2007- Matthew & Michael came as foster placement
10/2007- Matthew & Michael left
7/8/2008- Olivia left our home for good (had been coming and going for about a year)
7/18/2008- Adopted Christian & Samantha
9/23/2008- Gave birth to Madelyn
10/29/2008- Mikayla, Jordan, & Savanna came as foster placement
6/2009- Mikayla, Jordan, & Savanna left
8/2010- Trinity came to stay for 1 week as foster placement then left
1/20/2011- John came as a foster placement
8/24/2011- Patricia came as a foster placement

That is how I became a 30-year-old mom to 14 children with having given birth to the 1st one at 20.  I love every child that has entered my life and would take on more if the state would allow it, but our state limits the number of children allowed in your home.  We pray those rules change. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Quick LITTLE Tip: Cut Down on Ironing Time...

I never, EVER iron.  I am the only human on the planet that can iron something and when I'm done it will have more wrinkles.  My poor hubby loves all his clothes pressed.  He actually does all his own ironing. Eight years in the Army taught him how.  But I try to do my part to cut down on his ironing time.  Here are a few tips to cut the ironing time in half. 

  • Always try to take it fresh out of the dryer and hang it up.  I usually set my timer to try to remember to get to the dryer as soon as it is done. 
  • Spray it with water and stick back in the dryer if you don't get to it out in time.  Just a light mist all over and 15 min in the dryer will do the trick.  I have a small dryer that uses 110 power just for this purpose.  In my family our big dryer in constantly being used in the laundry cycle and is never empty to be used for getting wrinkles out.  This method is as "ironed" as my clothes get.
  • Always hang slacks upside-down.  The weight of the waistband will pull the wrinkles out or keep them for getting in there in the first place. 

I know this doesn't have anything to do with little kids, but it does with the logistics of managing a home.  It save mom (or dad) plenty of time so they will have more time to spend with those little ones.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just a Little "Type A"...

Before I go much further in this blog I should probably let y'all know who you are dealing with.  I am a Type A personality. 

Discovery Health defines Type A as:
"According to the scientific literature, the Type A Personality construct describes someone who is aggressively involved in a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time. The defining characteristics of the Type A Behavior Pattern (TABP) are a strong drive to succeed, hostility, competitiveness, perfectionism, a desire for recognition, wealth and advancement, difficulty talking about feelings, and a sense of urgency and impatience. More up-to-date research has found that there are actually two main types of behaviors in the TABP: Achievement Striving and Impatience-Irritability."

Wikipedia defines it as:
"The theory describes a Type A individual as ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence."

This doesn't completely define me but it comes close.  I am constantly struggling with myself to be a little less "Type A".  I have to fight within myself constantly to make myself be patient with my kids, to not be sooo rigid, and lower my expectations.  For years I expected perfection from myself and my family and would get upset when it was not achieved.  I have a very strong desire to get more done in less time and when I feel things slipping out of my control and tend to get very stressed out.  This is a very hard personality to have with so many little children.   

I just wanted to let you all know this about me because it will defiantly be reflected in my writings and household processes.   Just keep this in mind when you read something of mine and think to yourself "This lady is nuts!"  ;-)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A quick LITTLE tip: Handling Littles in Crowds

Putting all your littles in the same color shirt when going to a crowded place makes it easy to keep track of them all.  The header pic on this blog is my kids at the Columbus Zoo, all wearing the same color shirts.  Unique colored shirts are often cheaper at sales.  All mine were $1 each at Walmart on clearance.  We use our yellow shirts at crowded playgrounds, on vacation, and on field trips.  I wash them when we are done and keep them in the van in a bag so they are handy if needed when out.  I believe it also deters someone from trying to kidnap one of my kids.  One look and anyone can easily can tell that they are with us.  I would think if someone were looking for a kid to take they would take a less noticeable child, but I can't prove this (and pray I am never able to!)

Simple Routine Scheduling

The word "scheduling" to a mom with a bunch of littles might send her into a nervous twitch.  Most moms see it as something they are chained to & must fully complete or they are complete failures.  That was me a few years ago.  But it becomes a little less scary when you change your point of view a little.  To me a schedule is just a list of goals with times attached.  They should go along with your natural routine.  You cannot schedule that really yucky dirty diaper, scraped knee, or your headache.  Take breaks when you need to.
Step 1 - Figure out your natural routine.
Watch yourself for a day or two.  When do you get up? Do you like to get dressed or get coffee first?  What time do you like to start on lunch?  When do you need your littles to take a nap?
Most all of us have some kind of natural routine. 
  1. Wake-up
  2. Coffee
  3. Devotional
  4. Get Dressed
  5. Brush Teeth
  6. Cook Breakfast
  7. etc...
Don't add anything to your natural routine yet.  It's coming.

Step 2 - Assign a routine to your kids.
I like to say "Kid's Bounce".  If you are around me long you will here these words come out of my mouth.  This means kids can adapt quickly to changes.  They recover from change easily.  However, they flourish once a routine has been established.   Decide on a routine that works best for you and assign it to them. Notice I said "best for you" and not "best for them."  They will bounce into your routine over time, don't let them call the shots on this.  Once I get them in a good routine, I try not to make any big changes.  *** See "Babies" at the bottom.

Step 3 - Write it down.
A mom of littles is often a little lot scatterbrained.  You need to get your routine on paper.  Divide a notebook page into columns.  Assign one to you and one column for each kid.  Write your routines down.  Don't assign times yet.  This has become just a list of goals in order.
Step 4 - Just do it!
Pause here for awhile.  A week or two maybe.  Some mommies may choose to stay right here, and not assign times.  Maybe you will pause here for 6+ months then be ready for assigning times.  You need a little time to get that routine running smoothly. Do what works best for you family!

Step 5 - Assigning times.
Figure out how long and when to do an item on you routine (eat lunch, get dressed) and assign a time to it.  You can tweek this as time goes by.  I often have to tweek a new schedule quite a few times before getting it right.  NOTE- This step is optional.  There is nothing wrong with having a routine (list of goals) with no times attached.  Some mommies just do not like being tied to a clock.  It's up to you, you know what works best for your family.

Here is a picture of our schedule.  I did it in excell.  You can just keep yours on notebook paper if that works best for you.  But I like putting mine on the computer for easy little changes. 

Step 6 - Add and Subtract as necessary. 
When I first introduced a schedule to my littles I allowed alot of time for getting dressed, brushing teeth & brushing hair in the mornings.  As time went on my kids got a good handle on this task and were able to complete it in half the time.  Because of this, I decided to add a exercise time in, where we had never had one before.  As time goes on you will hopefully descover the kids (and mom too) getting better at getting things done and be able to add in new things.  Likewise, during the beginning when my kids were struggling with their chores (yes, even the littlest little can have chores) we had a extra time of training in the afternoons.  This was time I set aside to teach them how to feed the dogs, or put their clothes away.  Over time we were able to do away with that time and turn it into a play time. 

***A few side notes about scheduling with "littles."
Be Realistic
Right now as I type I have dirty dishes in my sink.  At least 2 more loads of clothes to do before I caught up and that doesn't count blankets & towels. And I am running about 30 minutes behind getting lunch on the table (it's in the oven cooking.)  There are probably more days that I fall short of getting it all done than days that I get it all done.  But I am a firm believer of the saying "If you aim for nothing you will hit it every time."  Aim for goals, but enjoy your kids!

Abort, abort!
If it is a rough day, or was a rough night, skip the schedule for a day.  Don't be so rigid you with sacrifice family time to make it happen.  I know some of you are thinking: DUH!  But this was also me a few years ago.  I thought I was a big fat zero if I just spent a day in my pj's on the couch watching cartoons with my kids.  Trust me, you are NEVER a big fat zero when you are doing what is best for you & your kids, even if that means doing nothing at all! 

Babies shouldn't be scheduled.
I used to be a firm believer in scheduling babies.  But then I saw how very dangerous this can be.  Babies have a natural clock and will most of the time feed and sleep around the same time.  It might look something like this: feed in the early morning then nap, feed again at lunch then want some play time, feed again in afternoon then 2nd nap, etc.  However babies should NEVER be put on a clock!  Please do not deny your child food because it isn't time for them to eat yet.  This is VERY dangerous!  I will talk more about this another day but I felt like I couldn't close this blog without at least mentioning it.

Happy scheduling! 

PS- My very favorite book on scheduling in Managers of their Homes.  I highly recommend it!