Sunday, July 3, 2016

Large Family Practical How-To’s: Transportation, Birthdays, Hair cuts, 1-on-1's, & Laundry!

When people see our family of 11 people out and about doing life, they often tip their head to the side, get a puzzled look on their face, and ask, “…How do you do_____?”  This always makes us chuckle because we’re “just us”, and we’ve become the larger group of “just us” gradually, one person at a time, so we don’t often think about the every day things as being unusual these days... 

 (Eating lunch while we visited the Museum of Flight)

So these two posts just share some practical strategies for how we get stuff done with our 9 children.  I’ll share with you how we do:

- Laundry
- Transportation
- One-on-one time with the kids
- Birthdays
- Hair cuts

In part 2, I’ll share with you how we do bathing of kids, errands, meals, and even a large family professional photo.  *smile* 

“How do you do laundry?”

When we had only a couple of children I used to do laundry once a week.  Then those children grew to an age where they could be helping more with laundry.  Not just helping me move laundry from the washer to the dryer, or folding wash cloths, but really wanting to help by independently folding the whole basket and putting the clothes away.  So I needed to keep the size of the task to a moderate amount both for their sake and for mine.  We have just one washer and one dryer, and a very small laundry room, so laundry needs to be kept to those proportions.  

As the Lord continued adding children to our family, our laundry quantity began exceeding 1 load per week, so we moved to doing laundry two times per week to keep the job simple each time.  When laundry quantities continued to grow because we added people, and those people's clothes got larger, we moved to three times per week, and then eventually to four times per week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  

We have 2 dirty clothes hampers in our house, one in the master bedroom for our clothes and one in the single large family children's closet.  I keep a single dish tub on top of our dryer where we put clothes that are wet, or clothes that have been treated with stain remover and are awaiting the next laundry day.  This keeps wet or treated items off of the top of the washer or dryer, the tub is easily washable when necessary, and it keeps items out of sight and out of reach from younger children.  (If there is a large amount of wet items that don’t fit in the dish tub then I just wash a load.)  Each laundry day I gather both hampers. I sort the clothes into two piles of “lights” and “darks”, sometimes towels as an additional load, and I run them through the wash and dry cycles first thing in the morning.  

Since we had our 8th & 9th babies (twins) I've found that there's so much on my mind now and I'm usually in a hurry to rotate laundry, that I can easily forget to remove items from the washing machine that shouldn't go through the dryer; things that should be hung to dry instead (I try to have very, very few of these items, but there are some).  So I now keep a small tablet of paper and a pen on top of our washing machine where I write down any items in the lights or darks that shouldn't go to the dryer so that I remember to look for those things and hang them to dry.  When laundry is all washed and dried, two of our children each fold one full basket of laundry during and put the items away. 

They put away all of the children’s clothes in the children’s clothes closet, and they put Mommy & Daddy’s folded laundry on our bed for me to put away.  Laundry never sits around for days in dirty piles, or in clean ones – we choose to be time-efficient, and we don’t have room in our small house for piles anyway.  We get it out to be washed, rotate it through, fold it and put away.  Done.  And it’s then available for use immediately which means we don’t need to own and manage large quantities of clothes per person, either.

“How do you do transportation?”

We currently own a full-size, 12-passenger Ford Econoline van – which we love.  We even chose a license plate and rim that are a great ministry opportunity, and they make a statement for being on purpose about family.  The plate and rim are a great conversation starter; we’ve even had people ask to take a picture of it.  *smile*

Not only does it fit all of us, but the inside is spacious enough to move around in, older siblings can help little ones get situated and buckled, or we can eat a picnic lunch in it if necessary.  (We don’t eat in the car as a general rule as it makes the inside of the vehicle really gross and difficult to clean).  We like how we can all go out to the van and climb inside out of the rain, snow, or heat, and then get situated taking off coats or whatever.  We like how everyone enters the van on the same side so that we don’t have little ones out-of-sight on the other side of a vehicle in a busy parking lot, or walking all around behind the car unattended, or running out in to the street.  With so many kids it is so nice that they can go strait to the door and climb inside – no one is in danger, no one is wasting time running in to the cul-de-sac.  The task of getting 9 young children in to the car is time-efficient and safe. The van is full of car seats, however, and holds just 10 passenger children (we have 9 currently) so if the Lord chooses to bless us with more children then we’ll trade up for a 15-passenger.

When we need to go somewhere as a family, the older children all participate with making sure younger children have their coats and shoes on.  When the children were all very young we either send an older child down to the garage to get everyone’s socks and shoes and then bring them upstairs so we can get every one ready in the family room, or we just all head down to the garage as a group to get ready there.  We have turned ¼ of our 2-car garage in to a “mud room”, which is well-lit, carpeted (no pad, just carpet over cement), and organized for shoes and coats, so this is a very nice, large place for all of us to come and go from the van.  The carpet there also serves to capture all of the dirt, rain water, sand, or snow before the children all enter the house, greatly minimizing the amount of effort we need to put out to keep the house clean.  One of our favorite strategies when we had a lot of babies and which made the process of getting ready to go somewhere much easier, is to keep a pack-n-play open and available in the garage so that we have a clean, safe place to put a toddler or baby while we’re all getting ready.  *smile*

“How do you have one-on-one time with so many kids?”

Since we are homeschooling, we are actually together having quantity time all the time, but we still make a point of making sure the quality is there, too.  We love to be together as a group (most of the time *wink*), and the children learn to work together, enjoy each other, serve and care for each other, and include all ages of children in their activities (and it is a learned skill, but the fruit is priceless).  But one thing that doesn’t necessarily happen automatically is one-on-one time with children – we purpose to make this happen.  

We intentionally plan those times regularly during the week, and my husband and I also make a point to scoop them up here and there for additional individual one-on-one times.  I take just one of the girls with me to do the weekly shopping every Saturday (they rotate who’s turn it is), and we often share a soft pretzel or a sandwich while we’re out.  Daddy takes one of the boys at a time to do any errands he does, and they sometimes share a treat while they’re out as well.  (This also helps financially to be able to treat the kids without having to purchase treats for 11 people every single time.)  While at home, Bob and I make a point to draw an individual child in to snuggling on the couch, baking cookies, doing wood-working in the garage, playing a game, reading a story aloud, or just walking to the mailbox together (you can read about how we have time to do this in the posts, “Scheduling & Routinesparts 1 & 2, and “Productively Occupying Young Children).  And we schedule into our week, and encourage the spontaneity of our children having one-on-one time with each other as well.  

Another thing we work on with the children is making sure they’re able to have alone time for a while most days, with so many people in one house!  *chuckle*  Without needing to always be with someone for entertainment or interaction.

“How do you do birthday parties?”

We have chosen to make birthdays a wonderful celebration of each person’s life, while at the same time keeping it simple; not overwhelming, inexpensive, and not too self-focused.  In the past we had lots of children over for parties, but we found that once we purchased food, themed decorations, and gift bags for all of those people is was just too large of an expense for us to be doing several times a year.  In addition, we were also finding that other children’s birthdays were becoming more and more commercial, renting play facilities, renting party rooms, renting huge inflatable yard toys…and the expectation was growing to match that size of party for each of our children’s special days.  Not that party rooms or inflatable toys aren't fun or bad in and of themselves, but it can quickly amount to several hundred dollars for that one day, for us 11 times a year, every year!  With even moderately expensive parties our children were becoming increasingly discontent with what we provided – comparing their celebrations with other children’s – and the joy was lost, the expenses of what we were doing was not appreciated, and there was too much focus on me-me-me that day (or month!).  So, we decided to cut back on expense and commercialism, focus on celebrating their life, and just stick with our family and one additional family for each party (as well as having an extended-family party as well). 

We have enough people for a good-size party with just us, and 11 times a year at that. *smile*   Our children pool their money to buy one or a few inexpensive gifts for that person, together with something from Mommy & Daddy.  A package of 8 party supplies is perfect for our family size right now (the oldest children don't need all the stuff), so we go to the nearest party supply store and buy some themed decorations for that person, while still keeping it simple, and decorate our dining room while they’re sleeping the night before their birthday.  We buy lots of inexpensive crêpe-paper streamers for the ceiling, one package each of party blowers & hats, curly streamers to be thrown, and balloons from the dollar store.  The children color a “Happy Birthday” banner for the wall, make a happy birthday crown for the birthday person, and we have a special birthday plate made from one of those paint-your-own ceramic item places, which that child loves to use all day.  

The birthday person chooses what they’d like to have for dinner, and chooses their dessert.  We’ve had traditional desserts…and not so traditional. *laugh* After a while they get tired of cake...

And we make a point to take a few pictures of just that child with Mommy & Daddy for the scrapbook (here Bob is making a silly face *chuckle*). And I scrapbook those photos of the party to capture the memories.  *smile*

We usually all go to the park or the beach, or sometimes to Jungle Play Land (simple and fairly inexpensive) – but we go with just our immediate family which is not too overwhelming, and we keeps the expense to a minimum.  And the memory is impressed in that child’s mind that they are loved, and treasured, and very, very valuable.  The kids love their special day, anticipate it with great excitement, and appreciate the simple gifts, and the time and money spent for them.  

They also have memories of how people can do birthday parties no matter what their income is for when they have their own families some day.  There have been years when there has been more money than usual to spend on our family party.  There have been times when finances were tight and we’ve paired the party down to an even simpler event at home.  Either way the children are very celebrated, and that has become the focus and the joy instead of the amount of commercialism involved.

“How do you do so many kids’ hair cuts?”

Our oldest daughters have a hair cut every few months, but I take them to get it done one person at a time to spread out cash flow. Our youngest girls have straight hair to their mid-back, so that is easy for either our oldest daughter or myself to cut. Their hair can grow out 2-3 inches before they really need a cut again every 6 months or so.  I trim their bangs once a month or so if they have bangs.  

For our four boys, Daddy has learned to give them a nice “high and tight” clipper cut every couple of weeks at home in our garage.  He has purchased a clipper set from Wal-Mart or online for about $25, which includes the clippers, a few guards, a cape, scissors, clipper oil, clamps for the cape, a couple of combs, and a box.  There are great tutorials on You Tube for learning to do boys hair cuts! We just sit them up on the garbage can, put a cape on them, and have our very own barber shop for free! 

I am so appreciative that Bob has taken the time to learn to do this really well (it has been a learning curve, and we’ve had some great laughs over the years, but he does a great job now).  Keeping the children looking attractive, clean, and clean-cut is important to us, but with good strategies even with our 9 precious children so far it has been a very minimal expense.  *smile*

I hope these “how-to’s” have been helpful and/or interesting.  *smile* Please do share any additional ideas or strategies that you have for your own family! 

Blessings on your efforts for your family,

Some other “how-to” posts I’ve written that might interest you:
- How I manage my own time, parts 1 & 2 (to-do lists, bills, calendar, charts for the kids…)


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