Monday, February 27, 2012

what's working now- Wednesdays

Ok! Moving right along....

Wednesday is laundry day. As I've already said, I do laundry every day, and I take a crack at putting away every evening. But Wednesday is a day to try to really catch up. I said "try". Laundry is a monster. I've come very close a couple of times, but I have yet to really totally catch up! Wednesday is also a full day of school for Maria and Kain, but not for Jack...he has therapy again!

So, I start the morning by working in the laundry room until breakfast time. If we've followed our evening routine the night before, I should have all dirty laundry in there already. Probably in a huge pile with all the other accumulated dirty laundry. I boot the machines and start hanging and folding until breakfast time. I set timers for the machines and carry them with me so that I can get in there and reboot quickly. If I am blessed with extra time during the day, I will go in there and fold and hang some more. I will try to wipe down machines and spot clean the gets really gross, lots of little muddy hands on it!...and work on organizing the room if I can. It's a big job right now because I am reorganizing that whole room in general. I used to keep craft supplies in there and I am now moving those to another lots of shuffling and sorting going on.

At 7:30 I start moving through the morning routine as on Monday, and then some school work, only instead of taking Jack and Kain to therapy at 11:30, we head out the door for noon mass. After mass, we come home for lunch and rest time. Then I have Maria start rest time while I drop Jack off at therapy. His therapies are from 1:30-3:30 on Wednesdays. After rest time, Maria works on her school work, I finish school up with Kain, and leave at 3:15 to get Jack, come home and wrap up the afternoon and start dinner, etc. Our evening routine is like Mondays too, except every other Wednesday Jack and Kain have back to the church we go! On PSR nights, I will have the kids start a pick up while I am fixing dinner and we will skip baths for the littles. We will come home to do quick prayers and quick read alouds, just trying to get everyone to bed as close to on time as I can manage, though we won't quite make it since we don't even get home until 8:15.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

what's working now- Tuesdays

Ah, Tuesdays. Sigh. Tuesdays are errand days. For years I've managed to avoid taking little kids shopping. But I've given up. I need a predictable shopping day and John's schedule is too unpredictable. Maria really doesn't want to babysit anymore than she already does. So now we all go. It's not pretty. I organize my list very carefully, I know my store well, and we move quickly.

Our mornings start the same as Monday, except that instead of cleaning the kitchen I am getting ready to be gone all day. I load the diaper bag, pack lunches, gather library books. Dinner goes in the crock pot, or else something is planned that is extremely simple.

Same morning routine for the kids as Monday, except I keep breakfast simple and quick so they can help me load up and gather any missing library items. Maria skips PE though and just takes a shower and gets ready for dance class.

We try to leave by 9 and get to the library for 9:30 story time. Story time is such fun for the littles. Jack even enjoys it, though he will have nothing to do with the craft that follows. Since its a preschool story time, he's the oldest one there by far, but he's not really aware of that right now. I'm glad to see him participate, since when he *was* in preschool he just couldn't handle stuff like that. Tess loves it, and Henry, who was really shy and clingy at first, now really likes it and tries to participate. After story time, we finish gathering our books and such and check out.

Next up is dance class. We drop off Maria and if the weather is good we head up the street to the park. We break out our lunches there, or in the car afterwards. When dance class is over, we head to pick up groceries for the week.

And then we head home. Little kids have usually crashed at this point. We are all beat. I try to carry sleeping people in and keep them asleep. The big kids unload groceries while I put things away. Then I send everyone away from me for like an hour. lol. At least anyone I can get to cooperate with such at thing! Seriously, everyone scatters for an hour of rest time, taking their new library haul along, and that includes me. I take any awake littles upstairs with a new library dvd and rest. It's a loooong day. It's likely near time to start dinner at this point. After our rest, I spend maybe an hour total doing a bit of school...math with Kain, a half day with Jack, which is not really very long at all. Maria works on her own for a bit. I pull my easy dinner together and we follow our evening routine as we did on Monday.

And that is Tuesday. Long, long Tuesday. :) Usually the clean-ups and meal chores are easier because we haven't been home to make much mess. Everyone is ready to settle down and relax, and the littles have usually had stilted naps and are sleepy early.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What's working now- Mondays

I'm starting this post on a Monday...who knows when I'll actually be able to post it though?! Ah well...I really need a laptop. Really. Need a laptop.

One of the principles in the Large Family Logistics book that was new to me was assigning a certain work to each day of the week...a laundry day, a kitchen day, etc. When I first read the book, I dismissed it as not workable for us for a variety of reasons. But eventually I came around and decided to try it. It's working really well! I think one reason is that I can kind of hyperfocus on one particular set of chores each day and use those little moments that crop up here and there to work on them. And another reason is that it let's me assign more work-intensive chores to days that I am mostly home, which helps that kind of work to happen more easily, and save lighter/less crucial chores for days that need more flexibility.

So...Mondays...Monday is my kitchen day. I try to get an earlier start than the kids because mornings are my best opportunity to work fairly uninterrupted....on a good day! Today was not a good one...Henry and Tess have been sick for several days and woke up unhappy and wanting Momma on the couch. But I got done what I could. I get up, start some coffee, and transfer laundry around. Laundry goes on every day, whenever I can get in there and get another load going. Then I start that day's work, beginning with whatever is done best without company of children. On kitchen day, that means a good scrub of the floor. I damp mop every day, but its not enough, not for my floor. (Note to kitchen white tiles is a stupid choice for anyone with small children. Think gray. Or dirt colored. Or the color of petrified ketchup.) I despair of ever finding a good mop that can really clean a week's worth of grime off the floor, even when the worst has been daily swept and damp mopped...anyone try one of those steam mops? For now, I have taken to just getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing the floor. Yes, even while pregnant. It's not that hard. My kitchen is pretty small. The hard part is getting back up again! ha! Once done, I dry it with a couple of old prefold dipes and switch on the ceiling fan to get it dry quickly in case little feet appear. When the floor is.done and dry, I throw down clean rag rugs and check the time. If I have any time left, and if I am lucky enough that everyone is still asleep, or at least happy in front of an episode of Little Einsteins, I will take a crack at more chores. I start with the most important ones first. Any that don't get done in the morning will have to be fitted into small moments of time here and there during the day. Or they might get assigned to a child that needs a consequence assigned for something or other. :) If something towards the end doesn't get done, it's no biggie...they will keep until next time. The remaining kitchen chores are...
...check out the menu for the week and remove meat to defrost
...doing a good, soapy scrub of the counters, stove top, and small appliances the trashcan lid, and the trashcan/recycling can when needed the kitchen window (this can be done is over the sink and gets pretty splattery), a pantry shelf, a kitchen cabinet and drawer, and a shelf or drawer in the fridge.
...pre-cooking and freezing some ground beef for various recipes, and now hoping to make some freezer meals to have after baby arrives. I'm thinking this will probably not happen though. I will likely have to just plan a project day for this instead...

At 7:30, it's time to wake up any remaining sleepers (i.e., Maria and Kain). We have breakfast, Maria has her PE time followed by a shower, and the rest of us start moving through our morning lists...meal chores, getting dressed, straightening bathrooms and beds...this takes a good 45 minutes now. Kain needs a lot of prompting, and Jack needs almost as much help as Tess and Henry. I am actively trying to teach him to do these things more independently but it is slow-going.

Hopefully by 9, I can put Kain in charge of entertaining Tess and Henry in the playroom while I do math with Jack. This will be the only school for Jack on Mondays because he will also have two hours of therapy. Then, weather permitting, I send all the younger kids outside and meet with Maria for grammar/Latin, spelling, math corrections, and to make sure she knows where to go with the rest of her day. Then I do math with Kain while Maria takes charge of the little kids. Usually they are ready to come in by then and she will set them up at the table with some play dough or puzzles or whatever she feels like taking on. She will also give them a snack during this time.

At 11:30, it's time for therapy for both boys. I drop Jack off at noon, then Kain's appointment is in another clinic at 12:30. When Kain is done, we pick up Jack. Jack and Kain and I all eat lunch in the car while Maria feeds the littles at home and has rest time.

We get home by 2:30 and Maria goes off to finish her school work in her room. I work with Kain on anything else we need to do, then he does his independent work. Jack usually goes outside to unwind after therapy. Tess might be napping, or might not be...if not, she will at least lay on the couch and watch something. If she wanders to the table, then I will set her up with something to do there.

At 4, I need to be starting dinner. We eat early. Tess and Henry go outside when Henry is up. Jack will usually watch something or continue playing, and Kain will do the same when his work is done. We eat dinner at 5.

When dinner is done, I fill up a tub and put Tess and Henry in it. Then we all pitch in and clean up the main living areas of the house, including doing a quick sweep of the floors and cleaning up the kitchen. One of us, John (if he's home), myself, or Maria, will take charge of shampooing and dressing Tess and Henry in PJ's, joining in the cleaning while they are playing in the tub. Even Jack joins in the pick up, if briefly and in a very directed way. Half the time John is still at work during the evenings, so we need a flexible routine with big kids help so that we can function with or without him. But it's definitely easier with. :)

At 7, done or not, we stop. If the house is getting trashed, we may not have finished, but we've made a good improvement. Maria takes Tess into their bedroom and coaches her through any straightening that needs done there, and Kain does the same with Jack if Jack can tolerate it. We don't keep toys in the bedrooms, so pick ups there are quick. I fill up another tub and put Jack in it. Jack does not bathe with anyone else. Ever. lol... I help him wash and then go read aloud to Tess and Henry. Kain is taking his shower during this time. Then we gather back around the table for dessert and prayers, and if I have any gumption and time left, maybe a liturgical year read aloud.

Hopefully by 8 we have brushed teeth, Maria is free to do what she wants, the little kids are settled down on the couch with something relaxing to watch, and I read aloud to Kain and Jack. Once the boys are in bed, I wrap up my day. John, if he's worked, is home by now and will visit with the littles if they are still awake. They usually are! I check the calendar for the next day, pack John's lunch if he is working in the morning, make sure the animals got fed,,,I spend a good 45 minutes in the laundry room sorting the day's dirties, loading the machines up with them or maybe with a load of diapers, laying out clothes for everyone (except Maria and John) for the next day, and then working on putting clean laundry away until 9:30 or until some little person gets cranky. We keep no clothing in the bedrooms anymore. All of it is in the laundry room. Clean, dirty, all of it except the linens in the hall closet, it all lives in the laundry room, so it all gets washed, dried, and put away in the same place. Awesome system for big families!

At 9:30 I go upstairs to my room with Tess and Henry and tuck them in where they may or may not stay. I take a shower, have my prayer time and reading time, and basically just try to settle them down to sleep. This needs to change with the baby coming. Tess needs to start sleeping downstairs with Maria. We have a bed for her there. She is being resistant and I haven't had the evening energy to get serious about it, but it needs to happen very soon. Henry will stay upstairs for a while yet. I have a toddler bed up there, but mostly he will probably just sleep in our big king sized bed while the baby sleeps next to me in the co-sleeper.

Ok, that's Monday! I'm sure the rest of these posts will be much shorter now that I've laid out the whole day already. The early mornings and evenings usually stay the same. Finally finishing this post on Friday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 for mom?

It is nearly midnight. I'm laying here in bed posting with my nook. Henry is laying in my lap watching Holy Baby. He became hysterical a little bit ago, obviously in pain...probably an ear infection. . Now we are distracting him with a dvd and waiting for the ibuprofen to take effect. I am posting this because I have to stay sitting up or he'll start crying again, and I am just bone-tired.

Also, my lip is throbbing. Fifteen minutes ago, while Henry was crying and thrashing around in bed, he hit my mouth with his head and split my lip open. I yelled out and then started to cry a little, which really freaked him out. Sigh. This is not our first bed-sharing injury. Just a couple of months ago, I was laying down with both Tess and Henry. I badly needed a nap, so I put Maria in charge of the boys and put a dvd on in my bedroom for the littles. I woke up to white hot pain and blood pouring out of my face. Tess had flopped back and hit my nose full onwith her head. It was so shockingly painful, all I could do was cup my hands over my face and yell for Maria to bring a towel, then sit there for several minutes with the towel over my face, waiting for the pain fog to lift. I don't think it was broken. It didn't bruise. It was sure swollen though! And sore for weeks. I'd hate to feel what a broken one feels like.

Ah well,,,Henry has rolled of my lap. He has his eyes closed...dare I hope? I'm afraid to move, even though my leg is numb. Here's hoping for a peaceful night. No sleeping in though. We have an appointment bright and early with the pediatrician.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What's working now- a series

Hi there! I'm still here! I've heard from a few of you who have missed me, which is so sweet, God love ya. I have not wanted to blog because my camera cord is MIA...and my scanner is broken. I have ultrasound pics to post of our new little one and can't post them! And every time I think about posting, I think, well, that camera cord is surely going to show up any time I wait. And it never shows. I was going to scan the ultrasound pics, and when the scanner quit working, I had the brilliant idea of taking a picture of the pictures and posting *those*, and then I couldn't find the camera cord...sigh. And I haven't posted recent pictures of the kids in *so* long. I have a couple more places to dig in, and if that cord doesn't show itself there, I will have to just go get another one I guess.

Since we can't post the pictures yet, I will go ahead and just say it...we are expecting a little girl! We're very happy about it. Maria will be graduating high school a little more than three years (sniff), and it will be nice to have another girl in the house for Tessie to be all, you know, girly with.

Anyway, I thought I'd jump back in here with a series of posts about what life around here looks like now. I really feel like I'm getting better at this big family thing. Having a couple of big kids helps *a lot*...and I have worked hard this year to really learn what works for *us*. This book has been very helpful.

If you are struggling to figure out how to make it all work, I highly recommend it. If you don't struggle with organizing yourself, or if you grew up in a big homeschooling family, it might not teach you a lot of new things. But, if like me, you have experienced the pain of the learning curve...this will help.

So, I will start off by giving a few general tips that have helped us, and then I will talk about what each day looks like around here. Because for us, each day of the week is very different. Some days we have therapy, some days we have classes and errands, some days we attend daily mass, some days we are lucky enough to be home all day. Combine it all with a husband that works three 12 hour shifts a week (always on different days!),,,and let's not forget the ever-changing needs of babies, toddlers, and special needs kids...the ones that thrive on (haha) routine...I really needed to come to terms with it all and figure out what worked and toss what was not working.

So, some general thoughts....

1. Train your kids to work. For real. I don't mean just "make the bed and feed the dog work". I mean, a child over the age of 10 should be a working and actively contributing member of the household. A child over the age of two should be learning how to become one. A teenager can be trained to do anything you can do. My kids have heard me say more times than they want to remember that 200 years ago a boy Kain's age would be working on the farm every day, and a girl Maria's age would be married and raising kids of her own. Ironically, once they are old enough to be truly helpful, they start to act like boogers about it at times. I think this can be especially true of homeschooled kids because they tend to have more free time in general than public-schooled kids. If left too much to their own whims, say while Mom is too busy fighting the urge to vomit from the couch to keep up well with what chores and schoolwork is being done, things will slide fast. They will very quickly adjust to slacking off and fight having routine restored. When my kids complain about chores, I will often point out that they still have far more free time than I do, and they can't deny this. It is good for them. Truly. They will grow up to be adults who expect to work, and that is a good thing.

2. Play together. Expect them to work together, and then relax together. Work together to pick up the house at the end of the day, then sit for a dessert and read-aloud. Work together to do weekly cleaning chores one day a week, then pop some popcorn and have a family movie night. Observe Sunday as a day of rest as best you can. Let them see you relax on Sundays too. Enjoy the day together, and then point out that when God created one day a week as a day of rest, he also created the other six days as days of work. Man was created to work. And when they complain to me on a Friday, I will often say, "Fridays are not a day of rest. On Fridays, we work." But even during the week, have downtime built into their day, time to build forts and romp with the dog and build with legos.

3. Make work fun. Put on music, work together as a team. I have, in the past, sent the kids off to work alone. This doesn't work very well for me. I have more kids that need direct supervision than kids I can send off to do something satisfactorily alone. And no one likes to work alone. Work together, be encouraging, set a time limit so they know what to expect, and don't be a grump about it. Be someone *you* would like to work with.

4. Look around your house and your day with your brain on. Find the glitches in your day and fix them. Sometimes fixing the littlest thing can help a lot! I will use toothbrushes as an example. Toothbrushes were the bane of my existance. It's expensive, you know, to buy decent ones for a bunch of people. And then we would go through them five times faster than we should have because the little kids would cart them off and leave them on the floor for the dog to chew up, or I would find one in a hairy mess under the clawfoot tub, or one would disappear for days and then turn up in the laundry hamper after I grugingly gave up and bought another. Keeping up with whose toothbrush was whose was also an issue. The kids all have colors assigned for different things,,,towels, drinking cups, etc...but toothbrushes were the bugaboo. Consistently finding the right color was hard. And many little kids brushes are more than one color. And all it takes is one nifty new freebie toothbrush of their own picking from the dentist office to throw that whole system off completely. I found toothbrushes, name brand ones, at Dollar Tree. But those were even harder to find in the "right" colors. We tried labels (they peel off) and sharpies (they wear off too easily). Oh, the headaches! The woe! The gnashing of teeth! I finally came up with a solution. I bought some colored hair elastics from Dollar Tree, along with a dozen new toothbrushes. The hair elastics come in many colors. I took out the colors I needed for our toothbrush color-coding and put the rest with the hair stuff. Then I wrapped hair elastics around toothbrushes for each person in the house. White for me, black for John (because no one wants black or white!), purple for Maria, blue for Kain, green for Jack, pink for Tess, orange for Henry...the same colors as their towels and drinking cups. It's very easy to tell whose is whose, regardless of the color of the actual toothbrush. I have a stash of Dollar Tree toothbrushes and elastics in a cabinet, and when one goes missing it is a small matter to grab another. When the missing one turns up, it just joins the others...this is why Jack and Tess both have at least two toothbrushes right now.

5. Make some kind of schedule, or routine, and then learn to be flexible within it, but stick to the essential pegs of it. By this I mean, if you are "supposed" to do school from 9-12, and 12 comes and you haven't finished math, let it go. Move on and pick up where you left off next time. When it is time to start dinner, stop trying to finish up school and start dinner. Stop obsessing about making it through your "to-do" list to the point that family life suffers. Meals need to happen on time. Prayer time needs to happen. Outside time needs to happen. Bedtimes need to happen. Even when you are behind in your school work. Don't do school on Sundays. If you choose to do some school on Saturdays (we do), decide ahead of time how much and stick with it. Our days are *crazy* unpredictable. If you have special needs people in your house, flexibility is the name of the game. There are days where I spend all morning trying to get the boys through what should have been done by 9am. You do what you can do, and that's all you can do. Accepting this is essential to avoiding burn-out. And I've been burned-out. You are no good to anyone that way. Protect yourself from it. Build plenty of extra time into your school year to allow for this. We school year-round, always have, and this is why. There are 32 weeks in our syllabi, and 52 weeks in a year. I usually bank on 2 weeks of vacation at Christmas, 2 weeks at Easter (one this year because of the baby due near that time!), and 4 weeks over summer. That leaves 12 weeks of wiggle room...12 weeks of math starting late because of a lost book, 12 weeks of a child having a meltdown over grammar, 12 weeks of missing schooltime due to sickness, OB appointments, and visits to grandparents.

6. Read and see what works for others. But only fix your own life if it's broken. The blog-o-sphere is full of ideas, great ideas. It is tempting to constantly try out new systems, to read what someone else does and try it yourself even if what you are doing already is working just fine. What works great here may not work in your house at all. Heck, what works here now may not work here next week! This is just what's working now.

Ok, that's long enough. :) So we are doing better. Especially now that the nastiness of early pregnancy is behind us. Pregnancy years are terribly hard for me. I don't handle the first trimester well. I don't handle the last month well. I'm much happier and more functional once the baby arrives. I hesitate to post these kinds of things because, believe me, we still struggle *a lot* at times and things are far from well-ordered most of the time. But we have made a lot of progress. I feel much more at peace about adding a sixth child to our house than I did about adding a fourth or fifth. Weird, huh?

Next, I'll give a peek at each day of the week. This is for me...I always enjoy reading back and seeing what life was like when Jack was 7, and Tess was 3, etc.