How our Family of Ten is (hardly ever) Late

~1~

No, really!

Okay, the “hardly ever” is important. We’re late now and then (sorry, Becky). But we’ve developed a routine that seems to work for getting us most of the places most of the time. I can’t remember the last time we were late for church or a doctor’s appointment.

This is not from some personal virtue. It’s more because we all get cranky when we’re late, and we got tired of that, so we thought out a method and tried things till they worked.

~2~

Plan.

Ten people is something of a production to get out the door. If we are going to all have to be someplace in the morning hours, I need to know about it at least the night before or it’s not happening.

I take travel time, plus time to get in the car (at least 10 minutes), plus time to get myself and everyone else fed and ready, which varies depending on where we are going. Going to church? Time for dress clothes, fixing hair, scrubbing faces, buckling shoes, eating breakfast early enough before Mass…all that.

Going to the zoo? We’ll need to leave time to pack lunches, plus making sure kids are wearing sensible clothes and shoes.

Going to an early morning Irish dance thing? Don’t bother going to bed. Just start getting ready at 11 pm the night before. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I then add about 15 minutes into that time for shenanigans. It’s going to happen. Just plan on it.

That gives me our start time, which hopefully agrees with my waking time, or we’ll need even more time for an extra cup of coffee.

~3~

Prep.

The night before, I make sure everyone has clean clothes, and that they know where their shoes and coats are. If they don’t, now is the time to hunt some up. Not in the morning.

If it’s to be an early event, I will also make sure that any packing is done – diapers, dance equipment, stuff for church, whatever.

Alarm is set for whenever I have to get up to get the ball rolling, and older kids are reminded to set theirs too.

~4~

Have a morning routine.

At our house, we’ve established pretty much who does what when we are trying to get ready to go. Through trial and error, we’ve learned that unless I shower first thing when I get up, we’ll never make it anywhere without either being late, or being angry. Or, likely, both. I don’t know why, but it’s true. While I’m showering, Mark will get the kids breakfast. Then I get them dressed and iron out all the details while he showers.

During that time, the older kids attend to their own needs. When they are done, they pitch in with the breakfast cleanup, dealing with sibling mischief, and being an extra pair of hands.

~5~

Say no.

On a normal day, I am pretty laid back. I will usually take reasonable requests for breakfast, allow multiple clothing changes, not worry about little girls playing under blankets and messing up their hair. No problem.

On Sunday morning? Nope. We keep things streamlined, and since I’m looser on the days we stay home, I don’t even feel guilty about it. Which is an accomplishment all by itself.

“Can I have a dippy egg?”

No, we’re having cereal or yogurt.

“I don’t like this dress!”

Sorry, that’s what’s clean. Let’s try to find something different for next week.

“Can I build a mud fortress in the backyard?”

Not today, dear.

~6~

Have a loading routine.

When it’s time to go, I can just yell, “Time to get in the car!” a few times, and most kids will go out and get buckled in. This is also effective for lighting a fire under any dawdlers. It’s harder when it’s winter and I don’t want them to have to sit out in the cold; I usually will have the car warming up for that.

I have several older kids who can take the littlest ones out and get them buckled for me if time is getting tight. While they do that, I can lock up the house, grab some water, put on lipstick – whatever. I try to avoid roaming the house soaking up the peace and quiet and shoving cookies in my mouth when they are all out waiting in the car.

(But, sometimes it happens.)

~6~

Split up.

If there are two carloads going, sometimes if things are getting pinched, the first load will leave the second behind. That actually helps all of us get there faster. It shaves off precious minutes of entering and exiting house, car, and destination by letting some people do that while others are still getting ready or traveling.

And, if it’s one of those times when we just aren’t going to make it on time, at least some of us aren’t late.

~7~

Now, arriving?

We don’t have a routine for that. We just kind of all tumble out of the Tahoe and hope for the best.

It seems to work. Most of the time.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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33 Rainy Day Ideas For Bored Kids

Oi, the natives get restless when they are trapped inside!

My kids play outside. A lot. They have way too much energy to keep them locked up. Our typical homeschool day sees us taking care of the books in the morning hours, and then they get a lot of free time in the afternoon. If the weather’s nice, they play outside – we have a good yard with a fence, and big kids who can look out for little kids, so it’s a pretty smooth operation.

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Ah, the bygone days of warm summer rain.

Except when it isn’t. While I’m not at all opposed to playing in the rain and mud (I like them to be able enjoy the outdoors in any weather), it’s just a sad, sad fact that children can’t be expected (or allowed) to play outside much if it’s raining, windy, and 35 degrees. Or in a blizzard, or thunderstorms, or, possibly, hailing meatballs.

Never mind that last.

Outings

  1. Library. The best…what’s better than the library on a rainy day?? If only they let you have coffee.
  2. Small local bookstores often have a little children’s area to hang out in.
  3. A museum. We like to have memberships to some local fun museums for some getting-out fun when the weather’s bad.
  4. A mall. Lots of space, and most malls have a play area that is free as long as your kids know that you are cheap frugal and won’t put quarters in. Or that you only put quarters in once in a blue moon and absolutely never if they ask! 
  5. When it’s let up enough, splash in puddles and rescue worms.
  6. Invite a friend over. Preferably a kid friend AND a mom friend.

Creative

  1. Paint a picture.
  2. Draw with window markers.
  3. Make homemade play dough.
  4. Make slime. (I haven’t tried these recipes. If you have, leave a comment and let me know if they are any good? Please?)
  5. Roll out some easel paper across the room and let them go at it with crayons or markers – this is a big favorite.
  6. Teach a kid five or up to sew a little stuffed animal: My First Sewing Book by Winky Cherry. I’ve used this with five of the kids so far and they all love it, boys included. It usually takes them a few days to a week to finish it, depending on attention span.
  7. Make cookies. Or popcorn.
  8. Make a vinegar and baking soda volcano. (Bonus homeschool points if you get them to watch a You Tube video about volcanos, too.)
  9. If they are old enough to be responsible, let them use a tablet or video camera to make their own movie. These can be hilarious to watch. Or deadly boring. But, it kept them busy.
  10. Make crayon rubbings.

Tactile

  1. Break out the colored rice, pasta, or beans. I did the rice for my kiddos a few years ago, and they absolutely loved it. I would give them each some in a pie tin and some toys to go with, and it kept them busy for ages. It was kind of a pain, though, because it would get all over the floor and be pesky to clean up (and no fun to step on). When it eventually ran out, from being spilled and swept over and over, I decided not to make more and to try pasta or beans instead. That’s still in the works.
  2. Let older toddlers or preschoolers play in the sink. There’s invariably some spillage, but the fun is worth it. Unless you happen to have an ancient wooden floor badly in need of refinishing. Then it isn’t.
  3. Put baby or toddler in high chair with a little water and some cups and funnels.

Building

  1. There’s always the Legos.
  2. Lincoln Logs
  3. Fort out of couch cushions and sheets.
  4. House of cards. Jonathan used to spend a lot of time on this.
  5. Some kids really get a kick out of dismantling junk electronics and appliances. I will occasionally buy something in that vein at the thrift store. Jonathan is quite good at taking them apart and will be at it all day if I let him.
  6. Build houses out of craft sticks and glue.
  7. Build boats out of styrofoam egg cartons or meat trays.

Quiet Time

  1. Read a book.
  2. Work on schoolwork.
  3. Do chores (No? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said you were bored. Just tryin’ to help.)
  4. Draw a picture.
  5. Do a puzzle.
  6. Play a board game.
  7. Watch a movie. I’m not opposed to some good screen time, to be honest. I’m picky about content, and I wouldn’t let them watch all day (unless I’m sick, or they are, then, well…), but some PBS Kids, Wiggles, Veggie Tales, nature shows..that sort of thing.

That’s what I’ve got. Have something to add? Leave a comment!

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{SQT} Moving: the last two weeks in seven quick takes

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

So obviously I can’t move and blog…or move and sleep, or move and eat…or move and anything, really…at the same time. After subsisting on potato chips and Drumsticks for a couple of weeks (I don’t think this post gets a “fitness” tag), we loaded our truck on Saturday (with most of our friends out of town. It was awesome timing), and cleaned on Monday.

It takes so little time, sweat, and tears, to write that.

~2~

But, it’s over now, and we get a little hiatus at Mark’s folks’ house for a month or so while we work on buying a house. We’re first time homebuyers, hopefully, and it’s all a little scary, so prayers would be lovely. We originally intended to rent, but it appears that, as a family of 10 with 7 pets, we have maybe outgrown renting. No rentals to be found that we can fit into without sending the landlord into hysterics. It’s been a longtime dream of mine to buy a house, and life has just not cooperated – till, possibly, now. We’ve got one under contract, and wow. It is just as exciting and nerve wracking as everyone always says it is.

~3~

13442315_10209861757084438_4948868528322850170_nIn other moving related news, my daughter Becca, who is an Irish dancer, did great in her two recent competitions. She is really bummed to have to leave her school, teacher, and friends behind. It’s hard to watch her be sad about that. The closest school to our new town is a good 40 minutes away, and we are still trying to figure out what to do.13522026_10210019086057564_7519230255893922185_n

~4~

Miss Emily, 3, got a new haircut yesterday. The fact that I had time for this reflects that moving out is over, and I officially have a few minutes to breathe, here and there. She now has the shortest hair any of my girls have ever had. It’s adorable. And brushable. We had so many battles over brushing her hair, that when she said, “Mama! Please cut it off,” I said, “okay, baby.” And we did.

~5~

Summer prep for a new home school year is always a big deal – but toss an interstate move and a major church shift into the mix, and it’s big. Really big. Curriculum changes, state law changes, moving during the time when I need to be prepping, not to mention no place to have my curriculum mailed to. Hopefully, two months from now, I will have an amazing story of how I brilliantly pulled it all together (or how it all fell into my lap in spite of me. Or how it all went wrong and we managed anyway, more likely). For now, I’m reading Catholic Home Schooling. I started 3 months ago. Don’t rush me.

~6~

Paint colors! Is having a house under contract too soon to pick out paint colors?

Don’t answer that.

Answer this instead:

Mystic Sea or Grand Hotel Mackinac Blue for a kitchen with orangey-brown tile on the counters and a brick fireplace?

And, any recommendations for an interesting-but-relaxing master bedroom color?

~7~

This was the little girls when we got to church Sunday morning after moving out the day before:

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Pretty much sums it up.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

{SQT} 36 hours of panic in 7 quick takes

Seven Quick Takes

Or, how one mom and 8 kids cleaned the whole house in a day and a half, and lived to tell about it.

~1~

Panic

This is very important. Almost as important as an extra cup of coffee and the promise of a frappe when we’re done. Because when an untidy mom has to get ready for a rental inspection complete with realtor photos 2 1/2 weeks before moving out, and it looks like this, that’s the only answer. These are uncut, folks. You may want to scroll past if you are obsessively clean and/or have a weak heart.

Honestly, the pictures make it look pretty good comparatively. Only ample amounts of adrenaline could get us through.

~2~

Delegate

I took a sheet of paper, folded it, and unfolded it to make a grid from the creases. Then I put a kid’s name in each box. I went through the house, using a random housecleaning checklist from Pinterest. (Because I don’t have one of my own, clearly.) When I saw what all needed done, I sorted the jobs into the boxes of the kids who could accomplish each one.

My 16 year old deep cleaned the second bathroom, which gets neglected – and if you are a guest, you might be allowed to believe it doesn’t exist.

My 14 year old took over general operations, like dishes and laundry. The laundry was pretty behind, and she got it out of the way and kept the dishes from piling up.

~3~

Play

The middle kids weeded the front flowerbed, picked up their rooms, and did a “penny pickup.” (That’s a game. It’s fun. They run around and pick up, and keep track of how many items they pick up and put in the right place. I pay a penny per item. We don’t do it very often, but when the house is terrible and I’m strapped for time, it’s a miracle for only a few bucks.)

~4~

Stash

I couldn’t make the whole house perfect, and I didn’t need to. I moved some bigger junky looking things like empty rubbermaid bins and a broken dresser drawer awaiting repairs out to the garage.

~5~

Detail

Once the stuff was out of the way, I ran around doing whatever details I could see – wiping walls, swiping counters, straightening slipcovers, tacking up that dang piece of trim that keeps falling down. Like that.

~6~

Rescue

At T minus 15 minutes to the arrival of the realtor, my 3 year old woke up from her nap shrieking. She had several angry looking spider bites on her arm. So naturally I ripped her bed apart and even flipped it over trying to find that thing – to comfort her, to exact vengeance on the demon that robbed me of at least an hour of sleeping child, and to affirm that said demon wasn’t the poisonous variety, driven from some dark corner by the moving. Couldn’t find it, but there is a warrant out for its arrest. And Emily is fine.

~7~

Panic

Because I was going to spend that last 15 minutes straightening the kitchen, not hunting spiders. So I frantically called my teens back to help, which they did before vanishing out to go for a nice walk in the sweltering heat in full afternoon sun in order to not be around for the inspection.

Well, it worked out. Here’s what we came up with:

My house has never been that clean, ever. It’s kind of nice, but now I have to get back to packing, sooo…see ya, clean house. Maybe we’ll meet up again someday; some other house, some other time.

🙂

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

Breakfast for 10: Simple Tips to Feed a Crowd without Losing Your Mind

I love to cook. It’s really one of my favorite things to do.

And it seems a little ironic that now that I have so many people to cook for, I have so little time to do it. I’ve got 10 people eating most of their meals at home; I have to simplify.

Especially when you consider that Timothy is grumpy at all mealtimes. I don’t know if he hates the confinement of his chair, or wishes he could just live on ketchup. But that kid yells a lot at meals. Around here we call that “ambience.” 

So, while I have a killer whole wheat pancake recipe, and we love muffins and scones, these days breakfast is a little more slapdash than that. Sometimes I make a more involved meal, but…not real often.

Method 1: You’re on your own

What’s for breakfast?  Whatever you can find or fix yourself, that is healthy enough to count as a meal. Unless you are too little for that – which is under 4ish. If you are 4, you can get yourself cereal or talk a sibling into making you toast. Bigger kids know how to fry and scramble eggs, get themselves bagels, smoothies, etc. This strategy means that I am only feeding 2 kids breakfast – the littlest – instead of a mob. And it teaches them good skills. They can care for themselves, contribute, make choices, plan, and appreciate that food involves work. They are also anxious to learn how to make new things so they can increase their options for these days. Unless things (or people) are totally crazy, I’m happy to teach new skills upon request. If I try to plan a time to do that, it never happens.

Method 2: Have one big batch of something simple

Um, oatmeal. That is what that means. Or possibly overnight pancakes, where the batter was in the fridge and the griddle is out and ready to go. Or maybe eggs, but eggs is pushing it because if you give a kid eggs, he’s gonna want some toast. And bacon. And cheese. And more eggs. So we do that sometimes, but not if we want to keep it simple.

Method 3: The hybrid of methods 1 & 2

This is my favorite, and I do it often. I like to throw a skillet full of sausages on the stove first thing when I get up, and then I just leave them on a plate on the counter. As sleepy, p.j.-clad kids stumble in asking for breakfast, I tell them that there’s sausage. They get some, and fix themselves whatever else sounds good to complete things.

I also might do this with yogurt, or boiled eggs, etc. Anything that is easy to leave out for people to help themselves. I prefer to make it protein, because that is what they don’t tend to get for themselves as easily.

Bam. Done. Go play. 🙂

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