Friday, June 4, 2010

Finding time for it all

Often I forget that not everybody has 9 children. I know that sounds crazy- but having a big family just feels normal to me. We simply have more plates to set at the table, more laundry to wash and more laughter to be heard. I couldn't image life any other way.

So when I feel the stares and hear "Boy do you have your hands full" for the 300th time in a week- I guess I start to realize that maybe our life is not as normal as I thought. :D

Last week I had a reader email me and ask me to share what our everyday life was like. Share how we manage life with nine kids and get it all done- their schedules, household chores, time together as a couple, individual time with our kids, extra curricular activities, quiet time, grocery shopping, doctors appointments and even blogging.

First I want to start by saying that we by no means 'get it all done' like I wish we could. Often times there are more dust bunnies than I want to admit. Often times the laundry and stacks of papers pile up to an overwhelming amount. I guarantee that if you stopped by our house you would definitely find way less than perfection. And, I am okay with that. Because perfect people are over rated if you ask me- and it's no fun to be around them. ;0) Anyway, if having to have it all together and having to be perfect would mean we would adopt less- then I don't want anything to do with perfection.

There was a time where I would have measured my success in life the way the world does- a big house, new car, dinner on the table by 6:00, size 5 jeans, and being the very best at it all. But the Lord has taught me that those things were really all about 'me' and not at all about Him. He taught me that He doesn't need a perfect person for the job- because HE is perfect. He just needs someone who is willing (no matter how imperfect they may feel).

In all honesty, even when we had two children, I had days when I couldn't get it all done. Days were I forgot things and days where the dishes piled up. Days where I didn't know where I would fit a dentist appointment in- let alone time with the Lord. That is just a part of living. We try our best- but somehow we cannot seem to get it all done just the way we'd like.

I realize that I am not really answering the question of how we 'do' life as a big family- but I really wanted to remind other mommies that none of us have it all together all of the time- and that's okay. Remembering back to my childhood I can't remember if my mom always had the laundry caught up or if my dad always got his to do list done... what I remember are the times my mom spend reading Raggedy Ann and Andy to me snuggled in her bed. What I remember are the times that my dad took me up on top of the grain elevator in Illinois he managed and we would stand side by side and look at the world below. Those are the things that mattered- that I felt safe and loved.

Now to try to answer the question...

Over the years I have learned to say 'no' a lot. Even though there are LOTS of good things I could choose to do with my time- I have learned to stay focused on the things that God has for me. So while being involved in the PTO is a good thing- if it isn't what God has for me right now at this time in our lives, it is okay to say no- and not feel guilty.

Chore wise- at our house everyone is involved. I believe it is my job as a parent to teach my children to be responsible and teach them to have pride in their work. Every person, from the smallest to the tallest at our house has jobs they can do. We work together to make our home run smoothly. We do '25 thing pick up' often through out the day to keep the house uncluttered. I also think it's important to teach them how rewarding it is to serve one another. Makes for a good spouse one day as well. I think a lot of times parents believe if they 'give' their child everything and 'do' everything for their child that they are being 'good' parents. I believe that in reality we are just robbing our children of becoming self sufficient and teaching them that the whole world is there to serve them. Can you imagine being married to someone like that?

Another thing we keep to a minimum is extra curricular activities. While we all want our kids to discover their strengths and talents- I think that often times we go overboard. Our kids are run from soccer practice to singing lessons to boy scouts. This allows little time for family and for just being a kid. Families spend huge amounts of money each year on lesson and more lessons- and our kids are run ragged- while quality time with their parents is lost.

As for grocery shopping. We try to do the big once a month shopping- and use a monthly menu. You can see a sample here. In between we just do a quick stop when necessary for milk and fresh produce. We keep meals simple and everyone helps with the cooking and clean up. I also use the crock pot as often as I can.

Todd and I are also blessed with some amazing big kids who love to spend time with their younger siblings. We are able to occasionally get away for a quiet dinner together or even just a walk- although we try to never take advantage of that. Our big kids are just that- kids. And, it is our responsibility to be parents- we do not expect them to be constant baby sitters.

Another thing we have always done is have early bed times. On school nights the little kids are in their beds by 7:00 and can read (or look at books if they are too young to read) until 7:30- then lights out. That gives us time in the evening alone.

To ensure we have enough one on one time with our kid- we often have a different child stay up with us for that 30 minutes between 7 and 7:30 and we just spend time cuddling and talking with them. When Carson first moved into our family we did that a lot with him. We would rock him and sing to him and just tell him how much we loved him. While he loved his new siblings we really wanted him to get a lot of one on one time with just Todd and I. It really paid off and he has bonded like a champ.

All in all, we just do what works best for our family- and some time that changes. Some times we need to take a step back and reevaluate the way we are spending our time and ask God what He would have us do with our day. Ask Him to show us clearly what is most important to Him. With our oldest in college we know how quickly the times goes and we try to see the gift in each day we are given- even when we mess them up. ;0)

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Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog. You say what I think (did you know that?!).

We have 8 right now, 4 we've adopted and 4 siblings that we are fostering and unfortunately it looks like they may not be going back to their mom. I 'run' things very similar - our kids go to bed at 7 as well, they all have chores, and we can get away once in a while because we have a couple great early teen kids.

I love that someone else does the same things we do. Thanks for sharing.

Andrea Hill said...

Thanks for sharing this Amy. Often times people get so overwhelmed just looking at large families. I mean they get that big stresser look on their face. I only walk into church with 5 kids and people say, you got your hands full. I wouldn't change things either. Its seems like the more you have the more organized things get though. Yes, thing might not get picked up as much but once over that and realizing how important it is just be be together and be a family than we all got it going on. 2 kids alone can easily overwhelm you. I remember when I had just two kids and I was complaining way more than I am now. God is so good to us.

Anonymous said...

You really got it organized and all that. Well the more the marrier (don't know how to spell that) you have wonderful kids and you can just tell how they love to be with there family. Well just keep doing what you do and don't let anybody tell you what is right or what to do.

MyLinda said...

I SO agree that if perfection means less adoption then I don't want anything to do with perfection! I've found that since we've stopped fostering and there's only our two daughters that less gets done around here b/c I don't feel the urgency to stay on top of things. SO we will be adding (possibly a sib set of 3) to our family soon :-)

I would love if you would share some of your easy big family recipes! I menu plan once a week now but monthly planning may be in my near future!

Dardi said...

Size 5 Jeans??? Did you ever wear that size post-pregnancy b/c the last time I recall looking at size 5 was in the 6th grade, Chic jeans that my Gma splurged on for me. Oh, wait, I'm getting sidetracked... ;o) What are we supposed to be talking about??

Gabby(: said...

Okay, I wanna make a blog but when I was in the middle of making one it said what do u want to name it and I really don't know what to name it can u please help,

Amy said...

Hey Gabby- glad you started a blog. :0) How do I contact you to help you think of a name? ;0)

Gabby(: said...

Umm well I've already created it hehe but I just don't know what to put :( here it is:

Liz said...

Glad to hear I'm not the only person in the world who encourages my kids to go to bed early... would you help me with some details.. what does your evening routine look like.. could you backtrack. if you have to be in bed by 7pm, then when does dinner start, end, clean up, bathtime fit in... I find this to be the hardest part of my day - I'm tired, yet I have tons to do and I find I am shuttling them from one thing to next starting at 4pm. The neighbors think I'm weird. It's not so much fun, and I find I turn into a crankier mama.

Laurel said...

Great post! Sounds like your house runs VERY similar to our house. This week ... I have PILES that are overwhelming me. But, I know that I will get to the bottom of the paperwork and get back to a more organized state.

I so agree, that while having Big Kids available to watch the young ones is WONDERFUL, we were also always careful to not take advantage of it. I LOVE that two of my young adult daughters are working as full-time nannies. They LOVE kids, and we didn't "burn them out" with all of their little siblings. :)

It was funny when you mentioned having 9 kids, I thought, "They don't have that many." Then ... I realized that you've added two since we saw you last fall. Can't wait to meet them!


Laurel :)

"Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

Sounds so familiar :) I think we need to plan a road trip to visit :) We don't have big kids yet, but our employee who lives a few hundred feet from us counts - almost. Which is great!

TOTALLY LOVE your family- makes me feel more normal :)

The Heads said...

Thanks so much Amy for sharing! I can't imagine the comments that you probably get about having such a large family...I know that I get some interesting comments just when I mention that we are having a 3rd boy! I think that for so many young moms out there, the first few years (and then some more) are spent trying to figure out a balance of what is truly important and how to get it all done. And for me, personally, if I could just learn a small bit from each wiser, more experienced mom out there that I come in contact with...then it could save me some years of trial and error and maybe even heartache : ) So thank you so much for sharing!

Liz said...

Wow Amy, I'd like to add a follow-up comment to my previous one... If Kaden takes an afternoon nap, how do you manage the 7:30pm lights out? I struggle with the late afternoon routine, and with the feeling that my younger daughter 3.5yo doesn't get enough sleep because she doesn't take a nap and falls asleep around 8pm and wakes up bright and early between 6-7am like her older sister :( Would appreciate your help with this - if you have the time. Sincerely Liz

liv said...

Can I ask a logistical question though? How is your house set up to accomodate that big of a family? We have always felt that Americans these days seem to want huge houses for tiny families and so we bought an older home with character & acreage for our family. So now we have 2 boys in one room & two girls 9 years apart in another. How many of your children share rooms & how many in each? I hope you don't mind me asking I just wonder because if my heart twings to add someone into our 1700 sq ft home, where???
Thank you for the great post, so inspiring!!

Meehaa said...

I am new to this and happened to come across your blog and started to read it. I am so truly amazed by you and your family. It is so inspiring to hear your story. My husband and I have been contemplating fostering children and have even discussed adoption.(I was adopted also) Anyways, your story has really given me the strength to more forward in our decision and I hope one day I can make a positive change in so many kids lives.