Thursday, March 15, 2018

Raising of a Large Family


Bandwagon, anyone?  So I haven't posted in a really, really long time.  My poor neglected blog really needs an update.  BUT, I've enjoyed reading posts from Kelly, Colleen, and Bonnie on how they "set up the pins and knock them down" at their houses.  This post will just end up serving as a snapshot of our current life, I did a similiar post a number of years ago here, but that was when the kids were younger.  Here's what life looks like in our family now...

1.  Laundry
Gertie sneaking in a
photo op with a load of whites!

Uniforms
There's not a set schedule to this one, I usually do one to two loads per day.  The two oldest do their own (game changer).  I put the younger kids together, Doug and mine, Doug's dress/work clothes, and a load of whites (which include the bath towels, which are also white).  The kids who are in school have uniforms, which actually makes my life much easier.  I just make sure to throw a load of uniforms in over the weekend and they have school clothes to wear all week.


I don't sort colors (except I occasionally do a pink/red load).  Instead everything gets washed on warm or cold.  The load of whites is the only one I do with hot water and occasionally bleach.  I pretty much fold and put everything away myself, sometimes the younger kids help if they're home from school.  Sheets only get done if someone is sick or they look like they need it.  I hate ironing so all of Doug's work clothes are wrinkle free, which I've found means you can only wash 4 or 5 shirts at a time and have them come out of the dryer actually wrinkle free.  So once I have 4 shirts I throw them in a small load and hang them up right out of the dryer.  The summer is a bit different because we swim almost every day.  I usually hang the swimsuits in the bathroom to dry overnight and throw the towels in the dryer.  Otherwise we have wet swim clothes laying all over the house.

Teaching the older kids to do their own laundry was a game changer, before that I felt like I was always falling behind on laundry.  This was especially useful when the oldest started scouts and Civil Air Patrol (which have uniforms that need to look presentable all the time).  He's responsible for his own uniforms, I occasionally will remind him about the meetings but he stays on top of it.  He learned how to iron so now he can iron his dress blues, one less thing I need to worry about.  Seriously, laundry is a life skill, one I learned as a teenager when my mom twisted her ankle and ended up on crutches (and our washer was in the basement).  I took over laundry duties for a couple months and after that I did my own.  One less thing to learn when they move away from home.

2.  Meal Planning

Crockpot Carnitas
This has evolved over the years.  I hate shopping, but I used to do it weekly out of necessity and drag the then little kids with me.  Doug, on the other hand, enjoys doing the shopping but doesn't really have time to do it.  So the compromise is what we call "shopping dates", on payday I drive over and pick Doug up for lunch and we do the grocery shopping together on his lunch hour.  Then I drop him back off and head home to unload and put away all the food (the homeschooled teenagers help).  Bonus for the kids is I usually pick up fast food on my way home, so it's the two days a month they get Jack In the Box or Wendy's.  Knowing they're going to get fast food those days has kept the kids from asking for it every time we drive by.  Having a large family means sacrificing going out to eat, just going out to McDonald's can costs us over $30.  We make almost all our meals at home and most of them are from scratch.  I do keep frozen ravioli, frozen pizzas, and boxed mac and cheese on hand for the kids.  Doug and I have been doing a ketogenic diet since last year (we've lost a combined 80 lbs and really improved our cholesterol and blood pressure), but the kids eat normal.  I cook meals for Doug and I and then add side dishes for the kids or vice versa.

We shop at four different stores, Aldi's by far is where we get most of our stuff.  Their quality has gone way up over the years, if you haven't checked them out recently I highly recommend you try it (don't forget to bring a quarter for the cart).  We shop Wal-Mart for the stuff we can't get at Aldi's and have some specialty stuff we grab from Schnucks down the street (like my coffee and white popcorn for the air popper).  We also like shopping at Fresh Thyme, their peppered bacon is awesome.  My MIL told me years ago that to save money on the grocery bill you really need to make up your menu by what is on sale at the meat counter.  She is correct, we save a lot on our bills by making up our menu based on what meat is on sale.  This is not something I would have been able to implement years ago when I didn't have as much variation in our menu.  I was more in survival mode when raising babies but now I'm a more experienced cook and have had more time to experiment in the kitchen with different types and cuts of meat.  I have an Instant Pot, a Ninja blender/food processor, and a double oven which makes cooking on a large scale a bit more managable.  Plus I'm not nursing a baby (why do they always need to nurse during the 4:00 witching hour)?!  I remember many a meal made holding a fussy 1 year old on my hip, which makes stirring mac and cheese an Olympic event.

Now we make up weekly menus by looking at the ads and seeing what meat is on sale and what we have in our freezer.  Doug and I head over to Schnucks or Fresh Thyme and buy whatever looks good or is on sale.  We'll stock up in the freezer if it's a good special.  So when Boston Pork butts go on special we'll buy 4 or 5 of them and throw them in the freezer because we use them for a crock pot carnitas receipe.  If hamburger is on special we'll buy a ton, make half into hamburgers and freeze them with wax paper between them stacked four high.  The other half we freeze in 1.5 lb bags to use for tacos, meatloaf or chili.  Then I take them out to thaw (usually I thaw them in water an hour before I cook them).  We always have frozen chicken breasts on hand, and usually pork chops or pork steaks too.  Payday happens twice a month so we do two big shopping trips, but even with two refrigerators we can only hold so much.  Luckily Doug's office is right down the street from Aldi's so he will occasionally stop by after work and grab more milk or eggs if we need it.

3.  Dishes

Wine with groceries is
always a good combo...
All this cooking creates a lot of dishes!  Currently we have a chore chart that lists whose turn it is to do the dishes that day.  The older kids are paired with one of the younger and Doug and I take a turn on Sunday (although Doug states that this is unfair since we cook almost all the food we should be exempt from dish duty).  The way it stands today the kids are on dish duty every other day.  Now that the younger ones are old enough I'm getting ready to revise the dish duty chart so everyone takes one day by themselves and I'm thinking of leaving Doug and I and the youngest off the list.  Toddler Boy has the job of unloading the dishwasher.  Then the other four will rotate so you end up on dish duty about twice a week.  I really don't want to assign myself a day since I will be helping the younger ones on their day, but I haven't gotten it figured out yet.  We haven't implemented a really good dish system.  It used to be a consequence that if you didn't finish your dishes from the day before you got stuck on dish duty the following day.  But that led to arguments on whose dishes were whose and "when did we cook such and such" and it was a headache to enforce.  I like the idea of everyone having a certain day because we can schedule the teenagers' days around their work and activity schedule.  If I ever figure it out I'll have to report back, ideas welcome!

4.  General Cleaning

Everyone is responsible for their own rooms.  I take care of the master bath and the downstairs bathroom.  The living room, upstairs bathroom and hallway, entryway and stairs are assigned to the kids.  Sweeping the dining room and kitchen are assigned to the dish duty person.  I usually clean the bathrooms the same day I wash the towels, about once a week.  The other areas get swept weekly, sometime twice a week.  Firstborn takes care of the pets in the house, feeding and grooming.  He does this so well I don't ever have to think about it.  In fact, when he goes away on trips I have to write myself a note to feed the dogs or I might forget!  Soccer Boy mows the grass in the summer.  Firstborn or I will usually take over his inside area to compensate for the time he spends outside mowing.  Nobody gets paid for any of the maintence chores.  I do sometimes pay them money for extra stuff, like cleaning out the van or shoveling snow.  Both sets of grandparents live out in the country and usually have an abundance of outside work.  They often pay the kids to come help them out with their bigger jobs.

5.  Bill Paying

Here's the thing, I have a Bachelor's in Accounting and Doug has a Bachelor's in Finance plus an MBA and has worked in the banking industry for over two decades.  So if anyone should have their bills together it should be us.  I joke that all these degrees come in handy when filling out our taxes but taking control of your finances requires a fair amount of dicipline and communication (something which young newlyweds typically lack).  Many an argument we had over the bills, credit cards and balancing the checkbook!  Almost 20 years married has taught us a bit about how we manage our finances, and although there are some general rules (try to stay out of debt, pay your bills on time, etc), each couple is going to be unique on what system works for them.  When we were first married there was no internet banking, everything was paid by check.  So I kept a list when I paid the bills and went in every couple of weeks and balanced the checkbook and made sure everything cleared.  Now with online bill pay for virtually everything I write very few checks, it's all electronic.  Which makes balancing the checkbook a breese since so little is outstanding at any given time.  We usually sit down at the computer after putting the kids to bed and pay the bills together.  Then we can talk about that pay cycle, what extra expenses we might have coming up (birthdays, car oil changes, etc).  It used to be Doug or I doing the bills but by doing them together it keeps us both informed on what's going on with our finances.  That way if one of us is out of town the other person can easily pay the bills solo and nothing gets dropped or forgotten.  We've discovered when it's only one person's responsibility to pay the bills the other one quickly falls out of the loop.  Then it becomes difficult to discuss your finances together when the need arises to pay off or consolidate debt, the one taking the backseat has to play catch up.  If anything ever happened to one of us the other person is not left completely in the dark as to account balances, insurance policies, health insurance and the crazy amount of account numbers, login and password information you need to access anything.  Same idea for taxes, in the beginning of our marriage I did them, then when the oldest were babies Doug took over.  Now we do them together using TurboTax (I would like to point out when I did them it was all filled out by hand, multiple copies of everything because I had to file two state taxes, and mailed, ahem).

6.  Clothes

Still not got a handle on this one.  We used to shop yard sales and consignment when there were some good stores in the area.  But now we tend to shop the sales and buy ahead a season.  So we buy the kids' winter coats for next year when they go on sale in the Spring.  School uniforms are different, we buy those in the Fall right before school starts because that is when they are on sale.  When we had three little boys right in a row we kept stuff and passed it on to the next kid.  But I now find myself purging lots of clothes because there is just not enough room.  The boys are all different sizes and now that they are older they have different taste in clothes.  We always check out the sales racks to see what they have.  This is another area that Doug excels in, he loves finding deals (am I the only women alive who absolutely hates shopping)?  I love shopping solo at Target but hate getting drug around the Mall or Kohl's clothes shopping.  I avoid the Mall like the plague (although Macy's is there and they have really good deals too).  Old Navy isn't bad either.

7.  Scheduling

My happy place!
When I worked I kept multiple calendars, my work calendar at the office and our home calendar (which was a paper wall calendar).  Doug had his own work calendar and he would occasionally call and we would sync the stuff that needed it (like after hour business meetings and such).  As the kids have gotten older and we've added activities the calendar is what keeps the operation running.  A number of years ago when I was homeschooling all the kids I used a folder based calendar that I could carry around with me to work on in waiting rooms or at soccer practices.  I merged the homeschool assignments with my calendar to keep track of everything.  Now that I homeschool high schoolers they keep track of their own calendars (for the most part), I'm more hands off.  Now the calendar is more important for making sure people don't miss practices or meetings and I know who needs to go where, when.  I've started to make the switch to using a Google Calendar, so now I can use my phone to keep track and can access it when I'm on the go.  Bonus, it will send me push notification reminders so I don't forget important meetings.  I can also import other calendars (like my son's scout troop), so I know when campouts are being scheduled.  The younger kids in school are now being taught how to use agendas and calendars to keep track of their homework.  They start using agendas in 3rd grade.  I find this a bit odd, I don't remember being "taught" how to use a calendar in school.  But I recognize how important it is in today's fast paced society to know how to keep on top of your schedule.  The calendar also helps me block off free time, when I see the calendar starting to fill up I know that I need to start saying "no" to new items to keep from becoming overwhelmed.  The Mass I am going to attend is scheduled months in advance because I cantor and sing in the choir, so it is on the calendar (of course, it's not set in stone, if I need to I can trade days with someone).  I also schedule Reconciliation, Adoration and date nights, because if those things didn't make it on the calendar they might not happen.  I'm more intentional with my time and my calendar helps me prioritize what is important.  At the same time I try not to be a slave to my calendar.  I do have a lot of responsibilities and there are a lot of moving pieces with a larger than normal family, but I still want to leave room for God to operate in my life.  I strive to be God's instrument in this world and being a wife and mom is a part of that, but I would hope that if God had something He needed me to do I wouldn't ignore Him for the sake of the schedule!  The calendar is a tool to help me create the free space and quiet He needs to operate in my life.  Nothing more and nothing less.

There you have it, I'm linking up to Kelly on this not-so-quick post on how we do things around here.  Head over to her link up to find more Quick Takes...

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