March 13, 2018

This Is How We Do It - Big Family Style

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.


Extra Curriculars


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.

37 comments:

  1. My comment is this...I will make the drive into DC to get discount alcohol at Costco (Virginia is ABC stores only). And I will stop complaining about caring for my one adult/one elderly dog household, even though said dog is very lazy and never helps with the chores :)

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    1. It is time that dog pulls his weight around the house. ;)

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  2. I love reading these posts, thanks for adding yours. We only have 2 kids right now but seeing how people do it with a lot of kids makes me feel like yes, I could do that, too! Oh, and Costco is the only place we buy alcohol too. (I don't know how people afford to buy it otherwise!)

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  3. Thanks for writing this Bonnie! You know this already but I love your family. I don’t have much to add to these big family posts because I feel we are in survival discombobulated mode at all times. I love the BIS planner, but I even forget to use it sometimes which means I forget things a lot. We don’t have a set grocery shopping schedule—I just got when we run out of milk or bread. So there are days my kids live in Water, crackers, and fruit snacks because those the only “staples” we have that day. Laundry is hodgepodge too and cleaning? Well—we clean the kitchen every night. Vacuuming and dusting happens before birthday parties. So- about 4 times a year it seems. I need to do better in this area. Our kids watch a lot of TV. And they eat almost zero vegetables. I make boxes Mac and cheese at least once a week. I’m a dietitian and I feel like meal planning and dealing with picky eating is overwhelming at times so you are a saint With all the food things you have to take into account with your family. I don’t know what else. I’m just waiting for Clark to turn 10. Lol. Love you and thanks for writing this!

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    1. There’s a lot of typos in my comment above. It’s a good representation of how my brain functions.

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    2. Mia, some seasons are SUPER hard and you ARE in survival mode. You may look around and think, "This should not be hard. We should be able to cook and eat veggies and vacuum once a week," but how you think things *should* be does not matter. What matters is how things are.

      I think food allergies force me to be on my game because I cannot just order pizza or cook a box of mac and cheese. It might sound crazy but I often am jealous of moms like you who can do that!

      And not that you want my advice, but I am going to give it to you. Getting the BIS planner and sitting down with it every Sunday (or sometimes first thing Monday morning) has been such a game changer. I leave it open in the desk area of my kitchen counter so I can jot down grocery items, check our schedule, etc. I block everything, even the things we do every day, like the kids getting on the bus. Cleaning and such will come later but meal planning and having a grocery list might be super helpful to you.

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    3. I always want your advice! Thanks! Love you. :)

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    4. I should say, the only consistent thing in my life right now is the fact that I wake up about one hour before everyone else in the house.—This means my alarm goes off at 4:45. This time is for me—I drink my coffee, pray, and read. I decided that I needed this time every day. Because I feel a little lost? If that makes sense if I don’t have this time. I need to be grounded and refreshed before the day really begins. This hour is the only thing I have made happen consistently in my life lately. But it has been a blessing. Because even though chores and shopping can feel hodgepodge, my relationship with God has improved and I’ve noticed a lot of improvement and relaxing in how I approach the hodgepodges. Also this time of silence in the morning has helped me know myself better. Sounds kinda weird. But praying and spiritual reading has opened my eyes to myself. Hopefully not in a prideful way, but more in just having the knowledge of who I am and who God wants me to be and I am much more at peace in my life because of that. Because I’ve realized that there will always be some kind of hodgepodges. I can’t keep waiting for one hodgepodge to end because I’m sure another one is waiting for me. What I need is to have peace in the mess of it all. And having that me time in the morning—as weird as it sounds—has made a huge difference. I still worry about my parenting decisions, and wonder if I’m screwing up my kids on a daily basis—-but I try not to dwell on too much of the negatives that swirl around in my brain. It’s super hard and I’m a work in progress. Some days it’s easy for me to let the guilt go and some days I feel like I am drowning in it. Which is why that hour of me time had to become a priority for me—to allow me to just stay grounded in God.

      Ok for the billionth time, I love you and am counting the days until I see you next month. :)

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  4. Thank you for sharing this! I didn't think I could love Sara Groves more, but her video is ADORABLE.

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    1. Isn't it such a good video?! I love Sara Groves.

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  5. Even with all the kids I have, we never bought a big 12 passenger van. My husband couldn't get over the gas mileage! We just didn't go anywhere as a family for a few years (once we hit 7 kids and couldn't fit all 9 of us into the minivan). We did Mass in shifts. A wonderful sister took some big kids on vacation, and we able to take the younger ones on a trip. And then we rented a car (and took van and car) for another trip. Then we gave in a bought a second car, and we use both for vacations. That became easier once the big kids were old enough to drive!
    I love Dodge minivans - we have one that is 20 years old and decrepit, but it still runs! My teens use it to learn to drive and to get to school. You might want to hold onto yours until your kids are old enough to drive. (If not, I might be willing to buy it!)

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    1. The gas mileage is hard. I totally get where your husband is coming from!

      I have thought about saving the van but we already have the van(s), a work truck, and Trav's car. We plan on eventually handing down the car to the kids and then getting a newer truck for my husband. His commute is short so that mileage won't be so bad.

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  6. My parents had 6 kids and bought a 11 seater van...it felt *AMAZING* to have the room!

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    1. My kids feel the same way. ALLLLLL the ROOOOOMMMMM!!!!

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  7. So cool!! Love these posts! I want to write one up too!!!

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  8. I am really trying to rein in our budget because we are drowning now that bebe 5 is here, both time and money wise (and omg formula. Never been down that road before but ouch. It's like a hella nice bottle of wine per can, lolol). I'm imagining it really helps to only grocery shop once a week? My question: do you have a bit of a stockpile in your pantry in terms of drygood staples, or a meat stash in the freezer? Or is it like from baseline zero every week? Right now we don't have a pantry and I feel like I am shopping constantly because I'm too lazy? Busy? to set up a pantry area in the basement and start building a Y2K arsenal of oatmeal. But I'm guessing that's the number one perp for busting our grocery budget every month because I'm running out for like, rice and then oops, I just spent $50 on random crap.

    Also, do you use processed/convenience foods in lunches, or do you bag everything up yourself? I'm only packing 3 lunches and it still feels like overwhelming amounts of prep work, and that's with packaged fruit leathers and applesauce pouches. I want a magic formula for cheap, easy pre-prepped lunch items. Help me, o wise one.

    (P.s. we have identical cleaning schedules and directionally challenged male offspring, save for the fact that I love laundry and do it constantly. Dishes, on the other hand...)

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    1. Jenny, we do not have a pantry in our kitchen but we do have some extra food in the basement. I buy 25lb bags of rice and flour which are stored downstairs (we refill smaller containers which we keep in the kitchen). I also buy crackers and juice boxes in bulk at Costco and those are stored down there, too. Maybe an odd ketchup bottle, canned tomato paste, and syrup, too.

      The other thing is we have a chest freezer. We buy 1/2 a cow from a local farmer each spring and that meat fills the freezer. I purchase frozen chicken breasts from Costco or Kroger (depending on price) but those bags usually stay in my kitchen freezer.

      My kids at the parochial school get free lunch. My son with food allergies takes a packed lunch every day. He wants and therefore gets (please don't judge me) a cold hotdog wrapped in a paper towel placed with potato chips in tupperware, bag of fruit snacks, applesauce pouch, Capri Sun, and either an Oreo, a homebaked cookie, or candy from the latest holiday.

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    2. I feel like this is not helpful. I will put a thing in my InstaStories to show you that it is NOTHING fancy downstairs. I have to go down anyways because I just remembered that my son wet the bed last night so I have to wash his sheets.

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    3. About lunches, there is no magic formula to make it go faster or easier! I give each child crackers (prepackaged pb crackers or bite sized tortilla chips or something like that) , gogurt, treat (a cookie or fun sized candy), and a drink. Mostly prepackaged, because I'm the one packing the lunch and it makes my life easier when I'm stumbling around in the morning. Don't worry about being fancy or the other parents packing Bento boxes. Just pick the foods your kids are likely to eat. I've seen too much food wasted in the school cafeteria to worry about doing elaborate lunches.
      I've tried doing lunches the night before, but where should they be stored overnight? I don't have room in the fridge - on the counter means you can't do the cold stuff yet. SO I just do it first thing while the kid start breakfast.
      You'll find your rhythm eventually!

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  9. I love this. My favorite part is "Sheets get washed when someone is sick or pees the bed." Amen, sister. Same here. Sometimes I wonder, could CPS be called because I haven't washed sheets in 4+ months? Probably not...

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    1. LOL! I would say you're lucky that no one has been sick or wet the bed in over four months! You're doing several things right!

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  10. This post made my day. You are an inspiration and a great momma!!! Thanks for the tips.

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  11. I love this post. Thanks for sharing. I also only have 2 kids so far and this helps me picture how we can do it if we are blessed with more.

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  12. This is so interesting to read! The peek into someone else's life and routines, you know? Thanks for sharing! Just wanted to say you sound like an awesome mom and your house sounds like such a loving, comforting, relaxing place to be. As a kid, I'd take that over super-clean-don't-touch-anything-rigid-museum-like house any day!

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  13. I wish so much that we had an Aldi. Thank you for sharing this!

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  14. I love this Bonnie! I think you do a great job! My toddler has terrible aim but hot damn, I can't manage to clean the toilet more than 3 times a week at best. 🤦‍♀️ And we watch a lot of tv too. I really want to get better about this. I'm thinking of maybe doing a family-wide tv fast for holy week. I knew it would be suicide to give it up for Lent, but I think we could hack one week maybe and then depending on how we do, maybe we could see where we can scale it back moving forward. I don't know. I know it's not the worst thing ever, but I know part of the reason why they watch so much tv is because I'm disorganized and waste time and then I get overwhelmed by the chaos and just need them to watch tv.

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    1. We have friends who give up secular tv for Lent and we plan to do that during Holy Week. So old school Veggie Tales, The Prince of Egypt, the CCC of America cartoons about saints, and the American Bible Challenge with Jeff Foxworthy will be the only things we watch. That's the plan anyways! We'll see what actually happens.

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  15. What am I supposed to clean with once the youngest child is no longer in diapers? Should I keep having Target drop the giant box of wipes on my doorstep so I can clean the toilets and the counters and all the things?

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    1. I have wondered the same thing. I guess I'll just use a rag like my mom always did????

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  16. I also meal plan on Sunday night and shop on Monday. Total game changer for us too. Impulse buying is at a minimum and our grocery bill is much more controlled. Which has allowed us to have splurge dinners out that we originally thought we were going to have to cut

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  17. Love it! Your life is very similar to ours: parochial school, food allergies, working dad, me at home, tight budget... I eagerly clicked on your "snack plate" link because with all my kids' allergies, I'm constantly begging God for inspiration for what to feed my kids for snack that has protein. I had to laugh because your snack plate is exactly the same as ours. Sometimes I add "trail mix" - sunflower seeds, raisins and dairy-free choc chips.
    Do you have a post somewhere for some of your dinner recipes? I feel like I'm making the same 8 allergen-free meals on repeat.

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  18. Bonnie, this isn’t exactly day-to-day, but how do you handle birthdays? Friends vs family parties, just cake vs meal and cake for lots of people, etc? We only have 2+1 in utero but I wanted to set nice low expectations as our family expands.

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