Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let the Ball Drop!

*** Cross-posted at all the Lotsofkids blogs. ***

It's New Year's Eve (at least in this part of the world). 2009 is almost gone and 2010 is standing before us. It was a difficult year for many people. Financial hardships and insecurity made the year a struggle for so many. That said, even though things were hard, the trials led so many back to focusing on what is important, such as family and friends, as well as simple living.

2009 was a difficult time for us over at Lotsofkids, as we had to focus our spare time on projects to help make money to pay the bills, including our server costs. Though things are not particularly better now, we are thankfully at a point where we can re-focus on the site and our blogs like we want to.

A big "thank you" to all of our followers here, as well as our wonderful Bloggers who have kept things going during this down time. We appreciate you all! We are looking forward to 2010 and hopes for better times. We are excited as the prospects and hopeful that in the coming weeks we'll be getting things back to normal with regular blog posts and new content.

In the meantime (and while there is still a couple days left in the "holiday" season), we leave you with a little visual/musical gift created by me and my husband. We hope you like it...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Handling Homework

I've had some Q&A sessions on my blog lately, and I thought this post about school and how to handle homework would be appropriate here as well.

Do you homeschool your children or send them to public school and why?

It's probably obvious by now that I don't homeschool my children. We live in an area with very good schools with great and dedicated teachers who have always done a great job nurturing and loving my children. I could see situations where I would want or need to homeschool and I think I could do it if necessary, but I'm grateful I don't need to. My children are getting a wonderful education and I'm very thrilled about it. I've mentioned before that they go to a charter school, which for us means homework, strong emphasis in academics, uniforms (eh -- not my favorite thing, but not so bad either), and lots of great programs. My daughter's been involved in early morning orchestra for three years, my son was able to do track after school, and in general, we love our school and we love our teachers.

Even if the charter school were not an option, I'd still send my kids to school. The local elementary schools are very good as well, and Lillian spent two years in our regular school before we moved her to the charter school. Our main reason for moving her was that she needed to be challenged more, and the only way to do that at the other school was to have her skip a grade. Our charter school allowed her to be challenged while remaining with her peers. For one thing, the whole school does math at the same time and the children are divided by ability, not grade. There are no slow math classes, just each child learning at his level. For another, the strong academic focus was a great fit.

Oooh- give me [homework] tips! We start Back to School next week, and I'm not ready for the Homework chaos! We have a snack after school, then they do homework. they used to sit together at the kitchen table, but then they started poking each other and writing on each other's papers, and,chatting instead of working. Now they each go to a separate room, and I rotate if they need any help. One of them still sat there for literally hours not getting it done!
Remember, I don't have five boys, but I do have five kids in school this year. This is how we've made homework work at our house:

* Homework is done right after school. To do it later is just not an option. This gives everyone an incentive to get it done in a decent amount of time. There are no battles about this, because we've had this as the rule ever since we had a child in school.

* Homework is done at the tables in the kitchen. This year, I added another table so the kids could spread out a bit and work.

* Kindergartners (I have two this year, can you believe it?) do their homework with the other kids. This way, they get to come home, put their things away and have some play time before focusing on school again. They also get to feel part of something, as they sit at the table doing homework with their older brothers and sister.

* Like Jacki, we give out "homework snacks." I think it's important that they be called "homework snacks" so that there is at least one positive thing associated with homework! I've been making a small batch of cookies a lot this year for snacks, or we have crackers, fruit, granola bars, or whatever they can find.

* As much as possible, my kids are responsible for their own homework. I don't hover and I don't help unless they absolutely need it. Unless I'm asked by one of them for help, I don't check over their math, I don't correct their spelling or grammer, and I don't concern myself with their grades being perfect. The teachers at our school are all really good at expecting the kids to be accountable, so I leave most things between my child and the teacher. For instance, if my child forgets their homework at school, they are responsible for figuring out a solution to the problem.

* Going along with the above, one of my gripes about homework is when the teacher expects the parent to do too much. Except in the early grades, when perhaps they'll need help reading the directions, or in the cases of a child struggling in a certain subject, I really think homework ought to be something that children can do independently. I'm still trying to figure out why I have to sign my fifth grade daughter's planner every day, but I guess that's a small annoyance, and since it's my daughter who finds me a pen and shoves the planner in my face every day, I guess it's still her doing the work.

* As for fighting and poking and gabbing, I don't really have that problem right now, so I don't have any advice for it.

Anyone else have some suggestions?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Organizing all our shoes--Works for ME Wednesday

A while back Lots of Kids showed a GREAT shoe organizing idea. As usual, I filed away the idea & hoped to find a way to incorporate it into our house. I haven't yet found the perfect place for that idea, but I did recently figure out a shoe organizing system that works for me!
I bought this 4 shelf wire rack at Target or Walmart on the organizing isle. It fits perfectly behind our front door & as an added bonus it keeps the kids from being able to slam the door into the wall. The kids are supposed to put their shoes on the rack as soon as they come inside, this doesn't always happen. Lucky for me, my 2 yr old & 4 yr old LOVE to go around the house finding everyones shoes & putting them in their "home".

For more Organizing Week Works for Me Wednesday visit We are THAT Family.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A really cool device for pantry organization....ENTER to win!!

I have become obsessed with winning things from blogs. I spend at least an hour each day looking through blogs & entering to win products. I consider this to be an hour that is well spent, so far I have won some REALLY great stuff & in the process I have also discovered some products that work well for my family that I had never heard of before entering the giveaway.

This organizer would be fantastic in my pantry!!! Actually I probably need several of them.

Go to Is that a Garage Door on my Ceiling? to learn more about this great product & if you hurry you can enter to win it....Giveaway ends Sept 1st!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Clothing Shuffle

(written in May 2009, crossposted from my blog, Hands Full & Loving It)

A few weeks ago, DH & I were at Payless Shoes during their BOGO sale. When we found a nice pair of all-brown gender-neutral shoes for less than six dollars, we began searching the shelves for the same shoe in other sizes (our school requires all brown or all black shoes). We were stacking the boxes five or six high when a sales lady came and gave us a funny look.

"We have seven kids," we said.

The light when on, and she began helping us look. Size 12, 13, 1, 2, 3, 4, how about 13 1/2?

We left the store with over ten pairs of shoes, two or three of which will be used now. The rest will be saved for next year, or the next, or the next. With seven kids, at some point, the shoes are bound to fit SOMEONE.

Here's where the shoes go, for now, lined up in order of size:

I've also got several boxes, not shown, of used-but-still-okay shoes, mostly sorted by size.

I like to buy early and buy on sale. I'm always looking for a clothing deal and I buy in advance. If I stay on top of it, our clothing budget stays reasonable and my kids always have clothes, shoes, and coats to wear. If I forget, like I did once in the fall when the weather turned cold and I realized I had five kids who had outgrown their coats, then I'm stuck paying whatever price the stores want to charge (that time? $150). I've since stocked up on coats ($5 or $6 each on clearance) and keep them lined up by size in the closet of our spare room.

In our old home, when we didn't have a storage space, I'd keep a box on the floor in each bedroom closet labeled, "Outgrown." In the boys' room, I had a box labeled, "Between Joey and Micheal," another labeled "For Joey to grow into," and a third for clothes outgrown by Michael. In the girls' room, I had four boxes, one of clothes the twins had outgrown and one for things they could grow into soon, and the same for Lillian. The box for outgrown clothes I kept fairly accessible so I could simply toss an item in anytime I found it no longer fit or was out of season and was going to be too small by the time it was in season again.

I don't save every item; my standard is if I wouldn't buy it if I saw it at a thrift shop, then I give it away.

At my current home, I'm blessed to have a nice storage room, with shelves for our outgrown clothes. Now I sort it all by size and by gender. I have three shelves. The top is for uniform clothes, the middle for girl clothes, the bottom for boy clothes. For gender neutral shorts and jeans, I try to just put the item in the gender of the child who will fit into it next. So, for instance, size 5 shorts Michael's outgrown go in the Girls 5T box.

It doesn't always look this nice, but since I just did the spring clothing shuffle, it's pretty organized.

How do you handle the clothing shuffle?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Can I Color, Mommy?"

I hear those words often at my house, and I don't know about you, but kids' art supplies can get SO messy. Crayons never quite make it back into their box, marker lids are easily lost, and kids are often raiding my stash of pens and pencils so that just when I need one, I can't find it.

We solved some of these problems a couple years ago by introducing each child to their own "art bin." We keep them in the office closet for them to pull out and bring to the kitchen table when they want to color. Inside is a notebook, some paper, coloring books, and a pencil box to hold their own art supplies. Every six months or so, when the bin gets overflowing and the crayons and colored pencils are mixed in with the layers of papers, we go through and purge a lot of the extra papers, and organize again the crayons, markers, and other supplies.

On my "to do" list all summer has been to re-organize the kids' art bins. Last week, I was happy I'd put it off, because I found these great baskets at our local Buy Low for 88 cents! I picked up seven of them and today some of the kids helped me set them up. And yes, I did make one for Harmony even though she's still too young to care. I figure that way, at least I will be able to find some supplies when I'm in quick need.

One of the problems with our old system is that the crayons and markers and such never ended up back in the pencil box. This will work better because there's no opening and closing or digging through to find things. Just a sweet little handle and everything's at their fingertips.

Everyone got crayons, kid scissors, colored pencils, a small pencil sharpener and watercolor paint in their bin. The older three kids also got glue and markers (I've found Sarah and Allison just will not put those lids back on, no matter how many reminders I give them).

Their old bins are still there, but they only have paper, stickers, and coloring books in them now.

How do you organize your coloring supplies?

Cross posted from my blog, Hands Full and Loving It

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's the biggest challenge of having a large family?

I recently asked readers of my blog if they had any questions for me. I got lots of them and I've been taking time to answer them the last two weeks. I thought this question was particularly interesting and I'd love to hear from other moms of large families about your biggest challenge -- is it the same as mine or do you find something else to be more difficult?

The question:

What is the biggest challenge you face with large family? I can imagine the logistics are daunting - finding cars big enough to fit everyone, figuring out how to get everyone where they need to be and when, cooking, cleaning, finding the time to get it all done, while still having a little time for yourself, too.

This is a hard one for me to answer. There's lots of challenges with having a large family, but which is the biggest?

I thought about writing about the loneliness I feel sometimes as a mother of a large family. I have a few close friends who also have their hands full, but otherwise, I usually feel I'm headed down a path with very few mentors to guide me. I know personally only a few women who have more children than I do. I sometimes wish I had a list of a dozen mothers who had done this before that I could call with my questions. But I've also discovered that I can learn from lots of amazing women who have all sorts of family dynamics, from single to childless to married with lots of children.

Then I thought about the logistics, but I don't think it's a big issue; a lot of the work of a family has to be done whether you have one child or a dozen -- a meal has to be made every night, for instance, and it really doesn't take much longer to cook larger portions. Grocery shopping has to be done and while we buy more fruit, for instance, we probably don't buy it more often than a smaller family. Many of our summer activities don't take much more time either. Sure, it might take a bit longer for everyone to find their swimming suits and pool toys and the sunscreen takes longer to lather on more bodies, but once we get to the pool, everyone's entertained. And it takes no more time to take seven kids to the movies or the museum than it does to take one.

The constant messes everywhere and the way the housework multiplies can be a big challenge, but part of that in our house is a function of having our children so close together and so young. As they get older, I fully anticipate that getting the dishes done and cleaning the house will get easier, and that those many hands really will make light work.

In the meantime, though, another challenge I could address is the struggle of teaching a lot of kids how to be responsible and how to work. There's just not enough of me to go around during our work periods sometimes and it is tough to take the individual time to train the younger children while simultaneously waging a battle with a certain older child who thinks that because he hates to work, he shouldn't have to. But even there, I find it can be done, not perfectly, but it's happening. I'm learning to be more creative and find new solutions to various problems. While that is an issue that is occupying a large bit of my emotional energy this summer, it probably isn't the biggest challenge.

A lot of people assume that the biggest challenge in a large family is finding individual time for each child, but I haven't found that to be very difficult at all. I'm home, available, and sensitive to the needs of each child, and my husband is also very involved. All of my children are loved and cherished. We are constantly telling each one why we love her or what a great kid he is. I thank my children for what they do for our family and I apologize when I make mistakes. I praise them each for the good things they do and I express my confidence in them. We pray for each of our children by name daily and try hard to be in tune to their needs. And frankly, my children get a lot of attention and love from each other. Harmony lights up when her sisters gather around her to talk to her and tickle her. Eliza loves tagging after the twins as they explore outside. Michael's reading improved tenfold the last half of first grade because an older brother took time to encourage and listen to him read every night. Lillian came over to me at the pool yesterday and asked me to take one of the twins down the waterslide, "so I can have an excuse to play with Harmony." My children are blessed to be loved by many siblings as well as their parents.

I've read criticisms of large families that divide up the hours in the day by the number of children and then say, "See, there's only x amount of minutes available in that family per child. That's not enough time." That kind of thinking is just plain wrong. Children are not an assembly line or a formula. You don't divide up your day and say, "Okay, child #4, it's now your turn for 'quality time!' " Being together, working, playing, or relaxing, nourishing relationships both individually and collectively, happens in all the hours in a day, whether you are focused on it or not. Most of the moments I cherish with my children happen while we are pursuing other goals; while we're outside pulling weeds and one comes over to show me their full bucket and grins as I exclaim over the size of those weeds and their intact roots, for instance, or when I find that one time this week when my son cleaned his zone without complaining and I praise him to the skies. I love listening to Lillian read the scriptures in the morning while I gather three little girls on my lap and whisper to them how lucky I am to have three special girls. Michael is a grouch in the mornings and lately, he hasn't wanted to come out. So my husband goes in, pulls him out upside-down by his feet and swings him around. He laughs and says, "Do it again, Daddy!" Lillian and Joey both love to go on walks with me in the evenings, and I love having them one of them all to myself for those forty minutes or so, hearing their thoughts and enjoying their individuality. Sometimes we've had really amazing conversations and other times we don't find much to talk about at all. The joys of mothering come in moments, and there are lots of unspectacular ones that add up to nourished children, children who feel securely loved by all of their family, not just their mom or dad.

Some of the other challenges I considered and discarded are carving out time for yourself, handling exhaustion and lack of sleep, dealing with challenging children, or developing the patience and unselfishness needed in a large family. But even these are not the hardest for me.

So what's left? What's harder than all of these? I might change my mind later, but I think the hardest thing for me right now is coming to peace with the fact that nothing will ever be done as well as I want it to be. It's probably a problem felt universally by mothers, but I feel it keenly. I have a good friend who has six children. Every so often, we call each other and cry out, "I'm drowning!" It's easy to get buried by the household tasks alone. I've been mopping my floors once a week for the last month, but if you walked in at any given moment, you'd probably think they hadn't been mopped in months. The piles of laundry that multiply on their own. The kitchen -- sometime I'd like to do a photo essay on how messy that room gets and how quickly. I feel like I could spend all day just cleaning the kitchen and still not have it up to my standards. On top of the cleaning, there's the hundreds of little things that have to be done to maintain the household. The lightbulbs to be switched, the repairman to be called, the bill that needs to be clarified. Then there's the important nurturing tasks of raising children. Reading to them, helping with homework, helping them to be responsible with chores, plus mundane things like making sure their fingernails are clipped and that there are enough socks in the house without holes in them. Realizing that almost every pair of pants one son owns has holes in the knees but that as it's January, it's neither warm enough for him to go to school in shorts nor the right time of year for school uniform pants to be on sale. The little frustrating things can add up to big feelings of failure if we allow them to. My friend Michelle, a mother of nine, wrote a great post on her blog about this very issue, entitled, "Good Enough," about how important it is to come to terms with not having the perfect, clean house you dream about.

Beyond the household, homemaking tasks are the many pursuits that have to be put aside for the time being. It's so easy for women, and it's almost become a cliche, to compare our weaknesses to one another's strengths. Even if you're good at something, there's always someone who is better. I have a long list of hobbies I really want to be good at, if only I had the time to pursue them, along with a list of friends who are much, much better at those things than me. There's blogging (Kacy), photography (Chalice, Toni), writing (Katie), exercise (Kelli), Photoshop (pretty much everyone who posts on the digiscrapping galleries I don't have time to frequent anymore), scrapbooking (Angie), and even birthing babies (Rachel). Then there's the intangible qualities I want to develop. My friend Rachel has a serenity, patience, and dedication to her children that I admire and seek to emulate. I admire Kelly for the way she makes everyone feel important and special. Meradith is really good at enjoying her marriage. Allison deals with tough challenges with grace and humor.

While it's good to admire and appreciate other's gifts and talents, it is wrong to discount our own and become discouraged. Part of my struggle with life is being content with my place at this point in time. Knowing intellectually and feeling deeply that the work I'm doing with my family is important helps me to be patient with myself and all the things I don't have time for right now. The closer I come to my Heavenly Father, the more I feel my own worth and the blessing of where I am and what I'm doing with my life. I know it sounds trite, but "bloom where you are planted," is a true principle -- that little spot of earth is the place you've been given. Thrive in it. If you can learn from other people things that help you, do so, but don't compare and get down on yourself. Be your own kind of person and be thankful for your own gifts.

So for me, my hardest challenge is constantly wanting to do and be more, but having to be content with less. Finding peace with "good enough," putting my priorities in proper order, and learning to be grateful for what I've been given while still striving towards perfection. And above all, reminding myself constantly that the unseen, simple work of nurturing that takes up the majority of my efforts is worth all that I can give it.

Anyone have any thoughts or ideas to add? What's the biggest challenge you face, whatever the size of your family?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Clearing the mental clutter one small step at a time

As of late, I have felt like I am drowning in house work, homeschooling, meal planning, cooking, diaper changing, nursing, laundry and such. I know other people have done this with many children (we currently have five kiddos ages 7 and under) and surely I can do it and not lose my mind in the process. One step towards this is setting up systems for the whole family to participate in, to run every aspect of the household. One such system is a chore system!

There is a semi-well known system called "Managers of Their Chores" by Steve and Teri Maxwell and that is what we're basing our system off of. My children have always been expected to participate in taking care of the house, but using this system I will no longer be having to remind them DAILY of things they should know to do without my reminding them. We have started today with just morning chores which involve making beds, brushing teeth, setting the table for breakfast, surface cleaning the bathroom vanities and toilets, clearing off and wiping the table, putting dishes in the dishwasher and putting pj's away. This morning ran smoothly because all I had to say to the children was "did you do all the chores on your chore cards?" and once they completed everything, I just did a quick check. Nothing was forgotten and I didn't have the stress of a nagging feeling that something was left undone.

We'll keep using just the morning chore cards for the next week and then add on afternoon cards and so on. One less item on my proverbial task list in my head. How wonderful! I highly recommend having a chore system and clean at least one more thing from your mental clutter list :D

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Trigger" Tasks

I was reading the blog over at Meagan Francis was talking about "must-dos" around the house. Basically, her assessment was that there are certain chores and/or areas around the house that a person finds particularly important, and when they are not done to liking, it can lead to a lot of stress.

Now, this is something I have realized about myself for years. It's something my husband is aware of (about me), since he has seen my mood turn from day to night in the course of a few minutes when my must-dos are not done. However, I found the timing of Meagan's particularly funny since I had just talked about this very thing with my daughter last week.

For me, it's not so much a "must-do" but a "trigger" (though Meagan does actually refer to them as such in her post). I guess the difference is that I don't necessarily need to do them myself. I'll admit, there was a point in time where I would obsess on how a certain task was done--I really wanted it done a particular way and would freak if it wasn't done right. However, for my own sanity, I have let go of a lot of that. There are still moments I will go and re-do a chore someone did because I want it done a certain way, but for the mostpart I'm okay with a noble effort. If something is not done at all, that's another thing, and definitely triggers me.

I work out of the home. With a husband out of work, I'm now the sole breadwinner. I'm simply not home during the day, and thus my house never reaches a state of clean I like it to be. That said, I have accepted the fact that I have 8 kids. I'm really okay with a home that looks "lived in." I have resigned myself to the fact there is always going to be a level of clutter. Dirty laundry, a sinkful of dishes, toys all over my bed...I can handle that. However, if I come home to a messy living room, watch out. On the flip side, the house can look like a tornado hit it, but if the living room is tidy, I'm all smiles...mostly.

Last week I came home to find another cyclone had breezed through the front room. As the kids were still cowering from my wrath, the conversation I had with my daughter was pretty funny. I simply said to her, "You know that I flip out over a dirty living room. You would think it would make YOUR life easier if you had it clean every day when I got home."

Tht next day it was clean when I came home. The following day it was a mess.

Another thing that bugs me are messy floors. I can live with clutter, as long as I can walk through a room. I mean, the bathroom is a prime example. I honestly don't care if the sink is messy, but I hate coming in to find clothes all over and empty toilet paper tubes strewn around. I mean, the hamper is right there and the garbage can is over there. No excuse. My problem is, I refuse to pick it up--I want my kids to. Unfortunately, that means me getting upset every time I go in there and still see it a mess. *sigh*

Despite the occasional blowing of my top, I have to admit things are getting easier around the homefront. My kids are getting older and they are better at cleaning independently. They don't mind (much) pitching in. Plus, they really are starting to figure out that doing a little to keep certain areas tidy can save a lot of stress--on both our parts--later.

So, do you have any household triggers? And on the flip-side, what part of the house can be a mess and it *doesn't* freak you out? For me, it's my bedroom. Why? Because it is always the catch-all and I am used to it being messy. In fact, I'm more surprised when it stays clean for any length of time!

***Edited to add: I don't know how it happened, but Blogger posted an older version of this entry where the last line was cut-off. Have to admit, I'm usually bad about proofing and typos. However, this time I really read and re-read to make sure it was clean, and then Blogger goes and does me in! Sorry!***

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Tough Time

When I heard that there was a new outbreak of the Swine Flu, I have to admit my response was more of weariness than concern. Now, I'm not downplaying the seriousness of the situation at all. It's a dangerous flu and people have died--that's not good at all. However, over the last couple of months my family has been wracked with one illness after another. Stomach bugs, flu bugs, and severe chest colds. There was one brutal week where literally everyone was so sick there was no one available to play nurse to the others. This culminated in me and 2 of my daughters getting pneumonia a few weeks ago. So, when the Swine Flu news hit, it was more of an "oh no, not more sickies" from me than anything else.

I am sharing this because I know this blog has been a bit slow over the last couple of months. It's been a hard time for my family, as well as some of our other bloggers. Juggling a large crew is difficult enough. Throw in illness and general economic woes and things get even more harried. So, please forgive the quietness around here. It wasn't intentional, and we don't mean it to be permanent. I'm hopeful that this current flu will not turn into the horror story that it could and that soon everyone will be enjoying warm summer weather and be healthy...and blogging again.

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog for your patience and continued support. We are working on getting things together and having more regular posts. We also hope to do a few interactive things with our readers--so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, remember to wash your hands and keep safe until this latest threat has passed.

***This message is cross-posted on the various LOK Blogs.***

P.S. I have to admit to avoiding a bit of talk about the LOK Household Challenge. It turned out a collosal failure. Many people indicated they would be joining in, but at the end, no one found time to do it. I am hopeful to try that challenge again in the warmer summer months. Until then, we're working on another one and will be posting it soon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Simplifying Bed Sheets

Washing and dealing with bedding can take a lot of time. To simplify things around here, we do the following:

1. Except for my oldest daughter, age 9, we only use fitted sheets and mattress pads plus blankets on our children's beds. It simplifies daily bed-making considerably, as all that's needed is to either spread the blanket over the bed or fold it and place it at the foot of the bed. It also takes up a lot less room in the washer to wash a child-sized quilt or blanket rather than a bulky comforter.

2. We wrap our mattresses like a cocoon, with layer after layer of waterproof mattress pad and fitted sheets. I stocked up on washable waterproof mattress pads last time they were 60% off at Shopko (make sure you buy the washable kind; I've had some that fell apart in the dryer, even on low heat), and recently bought lots of nice fitted sheets for $1.99. On one son's bed right now, I have 5 layers!

This way, when it's time to wash the sheets, I only have to peel off one fitted sheet and one pad to wash, leaving a new set underneath clean and ready to go. Believe me, when a child throws up in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to do is tussle around putting new sheets on their bed.

One mom I know swears by buying only white sheets for all her beds so that she can bleach them and make them last longer, but I've yet to try that tip!

Note: Cross-posted on my blog, Hands Full and Loving It (Mostly)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Housework Misery

Most moms I talk to hate laundry. The way it piles up, the way it's never done, the way it seems to multiply.

Me? I've never minded laundry much. I wash it all one day, let it pile up in baskets, then fold it the next. Folding laundry is about the only time I watch videos, so it's almost a treat to settle down for several hours and fold. I used to do all the laundry once a week, but the piles became too enormous and overwhelming, so now I wash on Mondays and Thursdays and fold on Tuesdays and Fridays. It always amazes me how many loads I can wash, though, even doing it twice a week. Yesterday, I folded 8 baskets of clothes. My thoughts started wandering towards speculating how much laundry there would be when we have six teenagers at home plus other children. I had to tell my mind to change the subject, as I began to feel a bit overwhelmed.

But while laundry is no big deal to me, what I really hate doing is cleaning my hard floors. I don't mind vacuuming, but mopping?

When we built our house, we put in a rather large kitchen area, with space for several tables when we have guests. We also put in lots of laminate flooring, which is fairly indestructible and fairly easy to clean. In addition to the kitchen, we have about five rooms with hard floors and over 1000 square feet of it. With seven messy kids wandering in and out, the floors get pretty dirty really quickly. I love everything about my big kitchen, until it comes time to clean the floors. I don't know why I hate it, but I do.

So what work do you hate the most?

Note: cross-posted at my blog, Hands Full & Loving It

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Phantom Post Returns!

Well, I knew I had posted a challenge about chores for January. However, when I went to comment on it recently, I saw it had disappeared, and I went around scratching my head thinking I must be crazy or something. Or rather, I thought Blogger ate it. Well, it didn't eat it, it just glitched it. When it posted, it gave it the year of 2008. Why it would do that, I don't know. But I have to extend a hearty thanks to my dear friend, Sally, for doing the detective work and finding it. Anyhow, in light of this faux pas, we're extending the challenge through February! So, get your kids and chore charts together and join us on this newest challenge!

The original post is reprinted below.


Everyone knows that laundry is a big deal in a large family household. However, there is a lot more to do than just clean dirty clothes. That usually means that everyone needs to pull their weight, including the kids. So the dreaded word comes up...CHORES! I have to admit, there are some families who do not struggle in this area. Their kids pitch in and their house is orderly and tidy most of the time. No, I'm not making that up! However, I am *not* among that group. Like most large families (and most small families from what I hear), motivating kids to pitch in regularly can be a challenge. And so for our newest Household Challenge, I felt a chore challange would be a good idea. This challenge is a bit different in that it doesn't endeavor for the players to create a chore system, but to look at the various chore systems out there and come up with a gameplan which will work for their family. That may mean using one system, taking pieces of different systems, or coming up with something all-together different.

Okay, and here's the twist. Mom (and/or Dad) play too. Meaning this is not simply a mission to get the kids on schedule, but the parents too! So, when making your chart, be sure to include whatever grown-ups will be playing.

The challenge will last from January 1st to January 31st. Ideally, players should plan to incorporate the system for at least 2 week and track your progress. However, if you can swing it for 1 week, that's fine too. You should note what system you are using, what kids are using it, and give an update of daily progress (an overview of the progress after the fact is acceptable). Any rewards, allowances, or incentives should be noted too.

We're also going to kick this up a notch by allowing a community vote of the winner.

If you are participating, please leave a note in the comments section or email us at lotsofkids123[at]

Good luck!

*Okay, I do have to apologize for posting this more than a week late, but the holidays really did get crazy around here. Hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/Whatever!* ~Mirz

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Challenge???

Well, this is one of those things that is either a bit of techno-glitch and a bit of scratch-your-head. I had posted over a month ago about the new Household Challenge...a chore challenge. And I KNOW I had it not only in my drafts, but posted it to this page.

And now it's gone....

And because of my crazy life these last few weeks, and being sick, I'm not sure how long it has been gone. So, I guess I'll have to have a do-over! I will post details of the challenge later today, as I have to reconstruct my notes.

Sorry about this folks. Hopefully we'll get some more people involved and have a great run through February.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Window and Door Coverings

As we shiver through an extended cold snap through most of the north in the U.S., people have been talking about how to stay warm. Cranking up the thermostat can lead to high gas bills, not to mention can be ineffective if you have sources for cold air to come into your house. We live in an old house and our windows (and some doors) can be a huge problem. In a perfect world we would go and buy new windows or do massive insulating to block any drafts. But, it's not a perfect world, and money and circumstances just don't warrant. So, for the past several years we have depended on the alternative: utilizing quilts and comforters as window coverings. Now, I realize this post might seem a bit late considering most of the U.S. is in the dead of winter, but honestly I ended up having to do this project again just last week as the temperatures dipped into the negative numbers and we found that one of our doors was literally pouring cold air into our house.

For this project, you can use any quilt or heavy covering. I've also done this using heavy flannel material I found at the fabric store. As we get into the post-holiday season and into January white sales, now is a good time to find inexpensive blankets. A few years back, I found down throws on sale after Christmas. They are smaller than regular quilts and were the perfect size for my windows, which meant I didn't have to do any cutting. Granted, the patterns are a bit wintery/holiday, which I admit does feel a bit odd when they are still hanging in March, but I did try to get something without Santa or anything.

To use quilts over your windows, you can simply throw them over a rod and secure with safety pins or clips. That was how I did things initially, but quickly found that my kids were apt to pull the coverings down. I also wanted something that looked more formal. So, I decided that since the quilts in question were going to be used yearly for the same purpose and nothing else, I would make them permanent by using grommets. I should note, when you are using grommets for window coverings, be sure to get the heavy-duty type. There are 2 types: ones that use a hand tool to secure the grommets and is meant for lighter fabric, and ones that utilizes a tool you pound with a hammer which is meant to be used for heavier fabric and layered fabric. The latter, extra-large grommets, is what I have used for these particular projects. I do want to note that you will probably see that I use grommets in a lot of my "curtain" projects. For curtains, a pocket can work just as well, but I like the smooth movement grommets give me, as well as the fact that I can take the curtain down for washing (or storage) without having to remove the rod.

Getting back to the project. As I mentioned, we had this door that was an add-on to our home when they converted it from a single family to a 2-flat (we actually converted the home back to a 1-family after we bought it). Since the door was not in the original design, it wasn't hung well. Because it was a structural design problem, simply hanging a new door would not help. There was the idea of actually sealing the door off with plastic, but we didn't like that because we do use the door. So, we decided to go with the same premise as the window coverings. I set out to get the most inexpensive quilt I could find. While I like quilts better for windows, I decided to go with a comforter for the door since it was thicker and would give better insulation when doubled over. The material was polyester and a bit scratchy--I wouldn't use this on one of our beds. But, since I was hanging it on the door, it was perfect...and the $20 price tag was within our budget.

The first step was to decide how to hang the quilt. Most people already have curtain rods hanging, but since we didn't, we made inexpensive ones using simple dowel rods hung on dollar store plastic coat hooks. We then used plastic shower curtain rings to hang them on the rod. This has worked out well. Quilts tend to be heavier than typical window coverings and thus can be harder to pull open. Using the grommets and rings allowed more free movement and helps us to easily pull them aside on those warm days when we want the sunlight and can open the window a crack. For the door, however, the rod wouldn't work. I still wanted to utilize the grommets, so we decided to use regular cup hooks and mount them above the door. Then using those hooks as measurement, I marked the quilt and attached the grommets. The quilt was deliberately purchased with the idea it would be doubled over. So, I made the marks on one half, attached the grommets, then folded the quilt over the mark and attach the second set. This assured proper spacing.

Now, I realize some people may not like the idea of putting hooks up into a door frame or wall. All I can say is that there are ways around it. You could mount the hooks on a board and then mount the board with 2 simple screws, over the top. The thing is, this project is about saving money, and sometimes that means foregoing beauty for function. In this case, the door we covered is in a utility hallway, thus the panelling and choppy paint. However, I have used this idea in our main foyer (with a heavy flannel blanket) and it not only works well, but can look nice too. Holes can be filled and painted over in the future if resale is a consideration. It's a small price to pay for the savings in heating dollars, as well as family comfort.

Window covering in my bedroom.

Hanging door quilt-side view.

Heavy duty grommet.

Hook mounting.


We've gotten a few emails from people about our current Household challenge. Because people are now just getting caught up from the holidays, they were asking if they could have additional time to participate in this month's "chore challenge." Since we would like everyone to join in as possible, we have extended the deadline to February 14 (Valentine's Day)! So, if you wanted to be a part of it but didn't think you had the time, now is your chance.

We also want to note that we have some announcements about the Lotsofkids sites. Be sure to check out this post over at our 4orMore blog for details.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Time for a new menu plan

It's the first of the year, and for me, that means making goals, revising chore charts, cleaning out junk, organizing, and in general, hoping that somehow, this year I can keep the chaos to a minimum. This is the year I plan on being the perfect wife, homemaker, mother, and friend. I'm going to exercise, stick to my own cleaning schedule, lose weight, serve healthy meals, keep a clean house, read scriptures daily, serve others, speak kindly, read with my kids more, and bring about world peace.

Of course, I won't actually be perfect at any of those things, but one can always try, right? My first plan of attack is revising my basic menu plan. I've used a system for several years now that I was introduced to by Marie Ricks. I've tried regular scheduled menus in the past, but her system was simpler and easier. As she put it at the beginning of the class, "Today I'm going to teach you how to know what to cook for the rest of your life." It was what I needed. Cooking is my least-favorite chore, but there's just no avoiding it when you're the mom of a big family -- unless, of course, you have a husband who likes to cook. Mine does, so he cooks on the weekends, leaving me just four or five days a week. He used to cook during the week more, way back when he had a low-stress job and we just had a couple of kids. But his job now is pretty intense and so it's best for me to do the weekly cooking.

My hardest problem used to be the panicked, crazy dinner hour, when I'd lean on the cupboard door wondering what in the world I should cook. Inevitably, I'd go back to one of my old stand-bys, something I'd made way too often. So this concept of knowing in advance and sticking to my plan worked wonders for me.

Marie's Menu Plan introduces a rotating four-week menu of meals. I'd done that before, but I found the key to success was that Marie suggests you have a one-week rotation of side dishes and that you have a consistent theme for each weekday. She does Mexican on Tuesdays, Quick Meals on Mondays, and then she suggests a fruit and a veggie for Tuesdays that goes with Mexican food, etc. I took that idea and ran with it, though I don't have a nightly theme for my menus. Mine, instead, are divided by how much time it takes to cook. In my old menu plan, I had 40-60 minute (from start to finish, including cooking time) meals on Mondays, 20-30 minute meals on Tuesdays, crockpot meals on Wednesdays, and so on. I chose the fruits and vegetables my family eats the most, though we do substitute other things now and then. It has been wonderful to have the side dishes planned, particularly as the two older kids (ages 9 and 8) are now old enough to help with meals. It's easy when you're working so hard on the main dish to forget about fruits and vegetables, but this introduces the concept to the kids that the meal isn't complete without a fruit and a vegetable. We also have a type of bread on the menu, but we usually only put that out once or twice a week (another thing to work on this year, right?).

I don't stick to the schedule rigorously -- if I know we'll be out all afternoon on Tuesday, for example, I might switch the Wednesday crockpot meal with the Tuesday meal. And every so often, I'll go to make the scheduled dinner and realize that we're out of sour cream or peppers and I need to make another change. Usually, I choose another meal from the four meals for that day.

I've used basically the same menu plan for the last two years, with some minor modifications. I'm finding lately, though, that several of the meals are just not getting made, whether because I get to that day and don't feel like making it, the ingredients are too expensive to keep on hand, or too many members of my family dislike it. So a few days ago, I tackled the menu plan, dropping some meals and adding some others, and changing crockpot day to Tuesdays.

Another thing that's made this system work for me is my recipe card file. I find there's no better way to keep my recipes organized. I have all the regular categories (Cookies, Cakes, Playdough, etc.), but I added 7 dividers at the beginning of the card file, one for each day of the week. In Monday's, I put the four cards for my Monday meals, Tuesdays hold my four Tuesday meals, and so on. When it's time to make dinner, I can either consult my calendar posted in the pantry or I can just grab the first card for that day's meals. When I'm done making the meal, I put the card to the back so the next week's meal is first in rotation.

So here's my new schedule. I ended up adding an extra week of meals because as I discussed the plan with DH, we kept coming up with meals we just couldn't do without. So later this week, I will be writing down a few new recipes and re-arranging my card files.






Seasonal Fruit


Green Beans




Seasonal Fruit






1 Hour

Sweet & Sour Chicken

Crockpot/1 Hour

Mexican Salad

30 Minutes

Spaghetti & Sausages

25 Minutes

Herbed Chicken & Potatoes

50 Minutes

Tater Tot Casserole


Fettuccine Alfredo

25 Minutes

Tortilla Soup

25 Minutes


1 Hour 15 Minutes

Taco Soup


Company Chicken

60 minutes


30 Minutes

Porcupine Balls

1 Hour

Creamy Cooker Chicken


Rice & Sausage Casserole

1 hour 30 minutes

Enchiladas or Tacos

30-60 Minutes

Chicken Curry with Rice

45 Minutes – use Precooked Chicken

Cowboy Casserole


Baked Potato Bar

60 minutes

Grilled Cheese & Soup

30 minutes

What have you found to make menu planning easier?

Edited to Add: Friday night is (*supposed to be*) date night, so either we have leftovers or something simple the babysitter can feed the kids. When DH & I don't go out, we'll either do leftovers, or DH will cook. I'll try to post my recipes later.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Resolutions

The new year is upon us, and with that comes resolutions. One of the main goals I have at is to get more organized. Yes, I know that seems to be a never-ending task, but it is something I am really committed to. Not only for the benefit of the site, but to ease my stress level.

That said, I have talked to a lot of people over the past year about this blog, and the overwhelming consensus is that people want to read more postings about organization, household management, and creating a peaceful household environment. We are taking those thoughts to heart and will be doing our best to give you more of what you are looking well as some other goodies.

All of us here at The Full House and wish you and your families a wonderful, peaceful, safe, and organized New Year!