Colleen and Kelly wrote posts about how they take care of their big families and several
friends suggested that I shouldn't let the bandwagon pass me by. So here I am, jumping on it. They used gifs because they're funny but I thought I'd use music videos because I have a theme song for everything.
Overall I think this post will probably make you feel better about yourself and your standards. Let's get started then, shall we?
A few basics to know:
We have 7 children under the age of 10. Our youngest is mostly breastfed. Two of our kids are in diapers. I am a stay at home mom and Travis, my husband, is a teacher and coach and a handyman. Five of our kids attend our parish's school, three full time, one dual enrolled at our public school, and one in the morning pre-k program. I don't really know if this information is going to enhance the rest but we'll just pretend it does.
The Feeding of the Multitudes
Generally every Monday I go grocery shopping for a week's worth of food and household products. I start by making a meal plan based on our week's activities. I then make a grocery list and try to stick to that as best as possible. I do all of this using the Blessed Is She planner, fyi. If a trip to Costco is needed (school lunch items, baking staples, bacon, alcohol) I will start there, otherwise I go to Aldi and purchase about 1/3 of our groceries and then head to Kroger for everything else.
We have food allergies - dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds - and so I have to buy specialty items at times. Those food allergies also mean I make 90% of our meals from scratch. Dinner is usually main dish, fruit (canned, fresh, or applesauce), frozen veg, and starch (pasta, rice, potato). We are slowly growing our garden in an effort to eat fresh veggies from our yard but that's a long time coming still.
One thing that really helps in the area of feeding everyone is a schedule: The kids tend to make their own breakfasts and they have be done making those by 8. Lunch is at 11...ish. Afternoon snack plate is put out around 3. Dinner is around 6. If they are hungry at any other time they can eat fruit or veggies. If they don't want to eat fruit and veggies then they are not that hungry. This way I feel like I am not denying growing kids but I also feel like we are not constantly snacking.
Also, I bake something almost every day. It may be for breakfast, after-school snack, dinner, or dessert. I have found that the combination of our budget + food allergies + mouths to feed + my love of baking means it makes a lot of sense for our family. It fills our bellies and makes us all happy.
Chores are AWESOME!
I love having a clean house but usually a tidy house will do. Since I am home during the days I am in charge of most of the cleaning. I vacuum or sweep every other day though the bedrooms probably only get swept once a month and the basement gets swept when my mom comes over and thinks it looks bad. I have boys with horrible aim and so I clean the main bathroom at least once every other day, usually once a day, sometimes sometimes more if needed. Mostly what I mean by this is that I wipe down the toilet and the floor around the toilet every day and the sink + counter every other. (What is up with the toothpaste all over the flippin sink, kids?!) Master bath and the main bath's tub get cleaned less frequently.
I dust, usually with wet wipes, once a week or bimonthly. The kitchen floor gets spot cleaned as needed and I scrub it on my hands and knees about once a month. Windows get cleaned as needed and every Holy Week.
We don't have set chores for the kids but at the end of every day the living and family rooms have to be tidied and they pick up the basement play room, their bedrooms, the living spaces, and the outside as directed. They also help with watching the baby, dusting, picking up, folding laundry, vacuuming, putting away the groceries, and unloading the dishwasher as directed. The kids help with collecting and taking out the garbage and Ben loves to help his dad with snow removal in the winter and mowing the rest of the year. The kids will do extra chores at times in exchange for additional screen time.
Laundry, My Nemesis
I feel lame saying this but I really hate laundry. I'm good with towels, and okay with adult clothing, but the kids clothes are just overwhelming. However, this past fall L and Ben both grew enough that they could reach the bottom of the washing machine and suddenly - wa-la! - I had less laundry to do! Now L is in charge of her and Resa's laundry, with Resa helping, and Ben is in charge of his and JF's laundry. I still wash all the whites and do the laundry for the youngest three kiddos. Probably one load gets done a day by someone in the house but there's no schedule. Oh, and sheets get washed when someone is sick or wets the bed.
The Glowing Screens
My kids watch too much tv. They also have permission to play certain games on the iPad and a retired phone. They take turns on those, setting the timer for ten minutes a pop. Television rules are as followed: PBS Kids only in the mornings once everyone is dressed and has eaten breakfast, brushed their teeth, and is ready to go for the day. The tv gets turned off at 8 (sometimes 8:30) and this is a year round rule. The tv gets turned back on at some point in the afternoon and usually is consumed for an hour. If the house is tidy, all chores are done, and everyone has been good the kids may be able to watch another 30-45 minutes of tv (Netflix or PBS Kids) before bed. Rainy days, super hot days, super cold days, sick days, and days when I have a crap ton to get done means the kids watch even more than what is listed above.
Right now our kids are not involved in a lot. The two older girls are in American Heritage Girls and Ben is a Boy Scout. JF has tutoring twice a week after school and Tee has speech therapy once a week mid afternoon. I've been attending a moms' group every Tuesday morning for eight years. We attend Sunday Mass and occasionally Thursday night adoration and various other parish activities. And otherwise our kids play with each other and neighborhood kids, spend time with their grandparents, and visit our neighbors who are like another set of grandparents. Next year L will join track and honestly I am not looking forward to it, but it is important to Travis and our kids look forward to joining school sports.
We're Part of an Exclusive Club
We have been driving an old Dodge mini van for years, squeezing kids in as best we could, but we were basically a two car family. My mom paid for our kids to ride the bus to and from school this year so that while Travis works I never have more kids in my care than seats in my van. But last month we used part of our tax refund + money we've been saving and bought a 12 passenger van. It's old and white and big but it fits our whole family and we paid with cash. While the kids are in school I am still mostly driving the mini van since it gets better mileage but this summer we will sell that for a few hundred dollars and rely solely on our new van, which we call Sally Ford.
Putting Paper in the Bag
This is an update to the original post. A friend asked me what we do to tackle the never-ending cycle of papers. This is what works for us:
Every day the kids empty their folders. I glance at each paper and recycle it. School forms and permission slips get filled out within the next 24 hours and are sent back almost immediately. If there is a piece of school or art work that I want to keep it usually sits on the counter for a week and then makes it down to the top of the dryer. Next time I am in the laundry / storage room I put it in the correct tote. If the kids have flash cards, spelling words lists, etc they put it in their pouch (a 31 Bags product I have hanging on the wall).
Mail is looked at immediately or by the end of the day. Bills and insurance statements go to my husband's desk for him to file or burn later. Junk mail gets recylced. Appointment reminders, invitations, and the like are put in my planner for me to process there. Once they are entered or the event is done that is pitched.
That said, we do usually have a small pile on my counter of stuff that needs to be dealt with (the bills to go to Trav's desk, the keepsake to go downstairs, the formerly lost and currently overdue library book). But it is manageable.
This song is the best summary of my life right now:
So that it's. That's how we set up the pins to knock them down. I'd love to hear how it compares to your own way of doing it and I'd be happy to answer any questions.