…and then there’s laundry!

Ok, so I guess I forgot probably the most important part, the part you were all wanting to know: how do you get all that laundry done??  This may be my most exciting post yet.

About twice a week (no, no specific weekly schedule like much more organized moms), when someone is running out of socks or I realize the laundry hampers are about to eat us, I decide to do laundry.  I have two hampers tucked away in a little nook in our upstairs hallway labeled “Lights” and “Darks.”  When the kids put in their dirty laundry, they sort them for me as they go into the hampers.  The standing rule is that they have to wear their jeans at least twice, sweatshirts at least twice, and shirts and undergarments ONCE.  If they are obviously dirty or stink (though I don’t have teens yet), they go in after one day.  I have the kids put their shirts in after one day because they have school germs all over them, even if there is no ketchup.  But I often wear mine more than once.  If it doesn’t have stink, baby snot, or mud from playing basketball in our mud pit behind the garage, then why does it need to go in the washer?  Just because I’m American and that’s what Americans do?  I’m trying very hard to avoid Americanism in much of what we do, as best I can.

Here are our laundry baskets.  (The above Scripture is more from Isa 43:1-7, along with the verses over the mantle that I mentioned in my previous post.  The Africa puzzle was our adoption fundraiser and has, on the back of the pieces, names of the people who graciously gave money to help bring our kids home.)

When it gets full, I carry overflowing baskets down two flights of stairs to the basement.  Yes, I know it is not efficient, and yes I am going to fall some day when I get old, but our house is 130 years old.  I am blessed to have a pretty large front loader and dryer and can get huge amounts of clothes done in a load, so I can usually fit it in 3 loads, once or twice a week.  I set the timer in the kitchen to remind me to switch the loads to the dryer and I go about my day.  Either that day, or the next…or the next, when I get tired of looking at the baskets of clean unfolded laundry filling up the den, and of picking up what Eva drug out, I declare to the kids that it’s time to fold laundry.  It’s not their favorite thing to do, but they are getting more used to it.  I used to let them watch TV while doing it, but I was constantly fussing at them to keep going.  So now I put on peppy music instead and things go much better!  They each find a spot in the den (TV room) and I start throwing clothes at them.  I can quickly pick out whose is whose and so to keep the arguing down, I toss them what is theirs and they fold it.  Then usually the boys fold Michael’s clothes, the girls fold Eva’s, and I FOLD MY OWN.  Yes, I have let go of the need to make sure all their stuff is not wrinkled and is organized properly, but I still want mine done RIGHT.  I send them up with their pile to put away, and it is gone!  No more waiting around to put it away till I discover I need the baskets again.  No more me sitting for 3 hours to fold everyone’s stuff neatly.  30 minutes and I don’t have to look at it anymore.  (Now I do get a little nauseous when I see inside some of their drawers, but I try to close it quickly and the feeling goes away.  When the kids start caring that they have wrinkles, then maybe they’ll do a better job.  I will say that at times, though, that some of their items get rejected with a “Not good enough” stamp, in true Dave Ramsey form.)

One thing I realize that God has gifted me with is a mind that likes to focus on efficiency. (Though it’s an obvious curse as well.  I have to work on my attitude when I think that my way is the best way of doing things.  Well, because it is.)  I have a degree in math.  I am very spatially oriented.  I can pack a ton of stuff in a small space though I am always seeking new ideas.  I love to parallel park.  I multitask, to a fault at times.  And so sometimes I am energized by the fact that I have 5 kids and we have to go somewhere— “I can do it!”  (Getting there is not always pretty though.)  So I wonder if being a mom of a lot of kids is more of what He had planned for me in using those gifts, even more than being called to do calculus….  I can count to 7.  And we all wear clean clothes.  Well, mostly clean.

A day in the life….

Well, several of you have asked, and so I concede. Our life seems pretty boring and normal (if I can say that!) to me, but I will attempt to record our lives in a concise blog post…. (haha!)

The morning begins with my alarm at 5:30 am. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’ve hit the snooze till 6 am, but I get up for some necessary quiet time in prayer and Bible reading to start the day. The kids are not allowed to get up until after 6:30 (7am for those with whom we’ve had “issues” the previous day) and can then watch Tivo’ed programs like “Wild Kratz” and “Electric Company” till 7:00—usually Maura and Aidan. Liam has started sleeping in a little more, but if he’s up, he is often reading his Bible. It may be that he likes checking off the Bible reading plan as much or more than the actual reading, but I am just so proud of him for doing it! Erin lays in bed till the last possible minute, but is always ready on time without any prompting. Eva is usually awake between 6 and 6:30, but I let her jabber till 7:00 when it is time for everyone to eat breakfast and get ready for school. Liam and Erin have early band on alternating days and are out of the house by 7:15, and the rest are walking with Dad to school about 8:15.  Michael then heads off to work, though some days his work is done here at home.

Twice a week, I take Maura (and Eva) to get her allergy shots, and then Eva and I often run our errands after I drop Maura off at school. Eva LOVES to go “out” and we have a delightful time together. At home, she plays well while I take care of home things, though she often comes to grab my finger and drag me off to “sit” by her and play. While she and I are having an early lunch, I try to get a start on dinner preparations. After lunch, I rock Eva to sleep (only takes less than 10 min now) and I have a couple hours to myself! This seems like the first semester in years that I didn’t feel like I had an urgent project to work on—it’s so nice! Don’t get me wrong, I have many projects to do, and I enjoy getting them done, but I also can choose to sit with some sweet tea and a book. I just finished Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis about how God led her to live in Uganda right after high school and now is 22 and has 14 adopted children living with her! Her testimony of God’s love and leading is inspiring and convicting. Now I am reading Interrupted by another adoptive mom and gifted speaker Jen Hatmaker. It is about how God interrupted their successful lives as pastors of a church, and opened their eyes to the people God wanted them to serve—the poor and abandoned. I love seeing God at work!  (Occasionally during this down time is when I realize I have yet to brush my teeth!)

After nap, we walk (stroller) to get the big kids from school. On the way home, I have learned to hear 4 different stories at the same time, while the kids are learning to take turns with Mommy and not cut into others’ conversations. We do snacks and homework when we get home, and I try my best to keep the peace with the kids who are wired and/or tired from school. I have convinced the older two introverts to go straight upstairs to their rooms after school to do their homework and practice their instruments where it is quiet and they can wind down. This has seemed to help with the bickering after school. I also try to spend some time with each of them playing or talking, which can get a little tricky (esp. when that involves shooting hoops out back and leaving the baby inside with the girls for a few minutes).

We have early dinners like 5 or 5:30, even 4:30 if someone has 5:30/6 activities (Liam with Boy Scouts, Maura with tumbling). Then we clean up after dinner and play some games and/or baths. We put kids down to bed mostly one at a time starting at 7:00 and going till 8:30/45 or so, depending on age and amount of sleep needed. Michael is usually home about 5:00 and is involved in the evenings’ activities. After the last one is to bed, Michael and I have some time to sit and chat and also get some work done. We usually stay up too late since this is our quiet time and regret it when the alarm clock goes off, but it still happens again the next night.

We don’t have the kids involved in very many extra-curriculars. I know that will happen soon enough as they get older, and I know they can learn a lot from sports and other activities, but for now we believe they will learn the most from spending time with family and learning to enjoy each other, as well as how to manage conflict. 🙂 Besides the above mentioned activities, Erin will try out for the Junior High play; Erin, Maura, and Aidan do kids choir at church on Sunday nights; and Erin does church on Wed nights. All four of the big kids are involved in the indoor soccer league at LCU on Saturdays, but it is nice because it is just one day a week for six weeks. No major commitment, besides the 5 hours on Saturdays, and a great way to spend winter Saturdays. Eva still enjoys taking naps in the Moby wrap I use during the games.  They are usually shorter naps but she is always good to go anyway!  Aidan is very physical and will be in organized sports soon enough, but we thought it best to hold off on that and focus on learning English and social skills first.

Friday nights we always look forward to movie night with pizza and popcorn, though it is occasionally usurped by another family activity. Saturday morning is chore day, which is not so looked-forward-to, but it is good nonetheless. We have a weekly rotating chore chart for four kids: 1) empty dishwasher, water plants, sweep front porch, 2) vacuum, 3) dust and trash, 4) sinks and tub.  And the boys each have a toilet to scrub since they are the ones who make the mess!  These are all accomplished Sat morn (which is tricky before soccer, but it happens!) except the dishwasher is all week, usually in the mornings or after school. They get paid to do these—not much, but it is a good learning tool on how to set apart money for church, spending, and saving. (Yes, our kids do the Dave Ramsey stuff too!) Sunday is church, of course, then play in the afternoon, and choir at night.

When we have extra days off school or no scheduled activities for the weekend, we sometimes go to a park or ride bikes, or out to Pizza Hut to use Book It coupons for a change in the week. It also seems to help keep the arguing at bay. Mix it up, keep ’em busy, and make good memories together—they are important for family harmony!

For those of you who see us at church and think we “have it all together,” let me put that assumption to rest right now. We have plenty of trials. We have 4 big kids with strong but quite different personalities learning to get along with each other and love, even when we don’t want to. Then throw in a loud but happy baby with nap schedules and an affinity for adventure, and it gets even more crazy! There are plenty of tears on any given day, and sometimes they are mine, but we also have meaningful discussions and hopefully grow from them. Our house may look clean if you stop by (on a good day), and mostly it is picked up because I can’t stand clutter and I keep on the kids to pick up after themselves (I’ve learned not to spend my only time to myself picking up after everyone—makes for a not-happy momma!). But don’t look too closely under the chairs or in the closets, and especially at my awful desk!  Oh, and there’s dog hair.  I don’t even notice it anymore, but you probably will.  There is one particular cobweb on the ceiling in the den that I am waiting to see how big it can get before my mom comes to visit and she takes care of it. You think I’m kidding.  Someone once spoke at a Mom’s Conference that I go to each year (Hearts at Home) of her “Ministry of Mediocrity.”  If we have perfectly clean houses and clothes and hair, then we often make others around us feel bad about themselves because they could never live up to that.  I am just trying to help ya’ll feel good about yourselves!

So you see how, even as tired as I am sometimes, I cannot afford to skip getting up early and kneeling before my Father God to beg His guidance in each of our lives. Remember that corny Winans song from the early 90’s— “I have to pray just to make it today”? Well, that is how I feel! But I also pray because I want to truly hear Him speaking to me through His Word, and I want to be aware of people and situations He may place in front of me that day because I don’t want to miss those opportunities of service to Him. It is my prayer everyday that our family is a blessing to others and an example of God’s grace and redemption. In fact, if you come to our house and miss it from the members of our household, at least, hopefully, you will be hit by it on our wall:

In the next few weeks, I would like to put up a post about each of our kids. So keep watching….