Since I already had questions that will be a LONG post, I decided to go ahead and post these now. Feel free to post more questions on this post or my Q&A post and I’ll answer those too :)
I'd love to hear your system for getting so many little people ready to go, serving food, doing bath time, etc. Would you describe how you get ready for church? Do you take all of the kids when you go to a doctor's appointment? How do you keep everyone busy and happy while you cook dinner? How do you bathe kids while making sure the other ones are safe/happy at the same time?
I'm from a big family so a lot of logistical stuff doesn't confuse me but I've always wondered how you do it with so many little ones. In our family the kids were spread out so the bigger ones helped with the little ones.
That’s a fun one! And, kind of 6 questions :). I’ll answer one at a time.
Getting the kids ready to go… it depends on whether it’s a first of the day getting-out or if it’s later in the day, but in general here’s how it goes. When the kids get up in the morning, if we’re leaving, then they all go straight to the changing table and/or potty then get dressed including socks and shoes (and orthotics). Then to the kitchen for breakfast. During breakfast we do medicines and usually while they’re still at the table we clean glasses and put them on as well as brush hair if it wasn’t done when getting dressed. We do baths at night time so we don’t have to incorporate that in unless someone was spitty or dirty overnight.
After breakfast the kids often wait for the last to be finished, unless the ‘quicker’ kids got to the table first, in which case we won’t make them sit there forever :). By the time they all get down from the table, we generally are corralling in the foyer/living/dining room area. I keep the front door LOCKED so no one decides to head out to the car on their own! I will pack the diaper bag or whatever we’re doing while the kids are eating breakfast and if I’m not done yet, then Mike will load the car while I finish getting things together.
I keep a wagon on our front porch since 3 of our kids aren’t “full time walkers” yet. James is really getting the hang of things, but going TO the car we’re more cautious about the kids being ‘loose’. Micah, Brianna, and Kristopher will walk out to the cars just fine and wait for us or K and B will get in on their own. I then keep the wagon in front of the garage or just inside it if it’s supposed to rain so that the wagon is available when we get home as well. With 3 walkers, one either by the hand or on my hip, and 2 in the wagon, and the diaper bag and purse on my shoulder or in the wagon with the kids… we can usually even make it to the car in just one trip!
Serving food… My kitchen is gated off from the family room and porch (which is enclosed and is a play room). There’s a 10’ opening with a long gate and a bar the other 10’ so the kitchen and family room are open air to each other completely. I cook and can see the family room and a majority of the porch, but it is childproof and only the swing is really something that can cause trouble (and, 7 kids… they can sometimes make their own trouble without any tools!). We have a table set for 8 and at the moment Lynae’s high chair is somewhat out to the side since there are 9 of us, but it works! I always prepare dinner and have it either ready to put on the table or already on the table before we ‘invite’ the kids to come in. No one is to come into the kitchen without asking.
That said, Kristopher and Brianna are allowed to play in the living room, because they can be trusted outside of my sight and they like to play with some things like Transformers for Kristopher or the play kitchen food for Brianna, that the little ones just aren’t able to handle (because of small parts or because they just throw it all over and don’t actually play with it). So those two are sometimes in and out of the kitchen when I’m cooking as well.
In the morning I make 3 bottles for Micah (thickened) and 3 for James (using 1 1/3 cans of Pediasure for each, so it makes sense to just set it all up first thing). I make babyfood for them and freeze it then defrost at each meal, or I have store-bought jars and containers as well. Occasionally I’ll just blend what we’re eating or chop it, depending. I’ve gone into more detail of actual diets and such before, but those two’s food being ‘ready’ before we plan to eat is a huge help!
Getting ready for church… This is pretty much like getting ready to go anywhere else! I pack one diaper bag and leave it with the youngest child that stays in the nursery. Emma’s area has an ‘emergency stash’ if she should need anything. If we’re going out after church then I put a separate bag together for that. I do label diapers for church, with an initial on each diaper so the right size ends up on the right kid. Otherwise, aside from having nicer clothes on, that morning is a lot like any morning that we’re headed out!
Doctor’s appointments… I generally do NOT take all the kids to the doctor’s! We are blessed to have two sets of grandparents and multiple other babysitters that we can leave a kid or two or three with so that I don’t have to do it. I also generally schedule doctor’s appointments when the kids are in school so I don’t have to juggle too much and don’t “miss” that free time with all the kids. I LOVE being home and having the kids home. So I’d rather “use up” free time of mine while the kids are in school by going to doctor’s appts and then really be HOME after school to spend that time with my kids then to have to keep running in the afternoons.
Now… when I say I don’t take all the kids to the doctor’s… I guess I should say that to me, taking 4 kids is really no big deal. As long as only 1 or 2 of them are being seen. If 3 or 4 have appointments, and 3 or 4 will be MAD by the end of the visit, then I bring someone with me, if possible. Some offices are also not ‘stroller friendly’ and I really have to bring someone else along because I can’t have all the kids in the room where the doctor will be.
Cooking dinner… As I mentioned above, I can see into the play area while I’m cooking, but I will admit that I am NOT someone that sits in the kitchen and spends an hour preparing dinner every night! One night a week we have ST at the house, and we always eat chicken nuggets or hot dogs that night because it’s quick and easy and there’s so much other activity (ST is 5-6pm at our home) that it’s just not worth it for me to try to cook! I also buy family size frozen dinners for 3 or 4 people and that will generally feed the family, I cook a lot of boneless skinless chicken breasts where the prep time is about 10 minutes and then it just cooks for 30, and we do a lot of pasta and that type of dinners. I love doing hams and pot roasts too that you just start them and walk away!
As far as the kids go, if they’re wanting to be in the kitchen, I have crayons and coloring books available and I’ll put them in their highchairs (whichever ones want to be in) and they can color, or they will sometimes just congregate at the gate. Sometimes during dinner prep is the time that one of the kids’ favorite TV shows is turned on (we just got Netflix for the TV and love having it, we’ve never had cable or any other TV network). So Barney or Little Einsteins sometimes helps pass the time as well. I have no issue letting the TV be on because my kids will use it as a “passing thing” and will go play and just when they come to bug me while I’m cooking will be redirected to Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes or a race with Rocket. I especially like the shows that encourage interaction!
Oh, and Lynae, not having that delayed gratification thing going on at ALL yet, will often sit and have some ‘puffs’ or Cheerios in her high chair while I cook. She’s still little enough to break the rules of WAIT :) (and, the kids all know to wait to start eating until everyone is there and we’ve prayed, so we all sit down together otherwise!)
Bathing kids… Mike and I generally do this together! The way our house is laid out is really a HUGE factor in life working well for us. The kids can play in the family room and playroom/porch without being far from us no matter what we’re doing. Our bathroom is in a little hallway, but you can see STRAIGHT down the porch, through the family room when in there. So, we fill the tub, and start putting kids in, washing them, pulling them out and dressing/diapering them, and the ones not in the tub are in the family room/ playroom. The playroom can also be closed off, so if it’s after dinner and time to wind down when we’re giving baths, we’ll close the sliding glass door and just let the kids hang out in the family room instead.
Generally one of us bathes and the other dresses the kids, and up to 3 or 4 kids might be in the tub at one time. It gets a little more crazy when Lynae is fussy, but other than that baths are generally pretty easy. When I do baths on my own I just put two in and take them both out, dress them, then do it again. We have a gate on the hall doorway just outside the bathroom so no one can get to the bath water while we dress the other kids. SAFETY IS BIG around here!
I definitely can see where having the kids more spread out, even with a large family, would be a much different dynamic. With us, Kristopher is only 6 and the only one that can really express any complete thoughts or concerns and is DEFINITELY not old enough or responsible enough to have much responsibility with the other kids. He can, however, stand at the side of the bathroom and every minute when I say “are they ok?” he can look at them and say “yes” if I need to run and grab towels or pj’s, or answer the phone, or whatever else. So he is a big helper! He can also investigate a crash or a cry if I’m cooking and can’t see that area of the porch. Generally, he made the crash or caused the cry so he can give us a pretty good assessment ;).
Having lots of little ones is BUSY, and yet so very rewarding at the same time!
I am just curious why we havent been able to see James yet :) Is it because the adoption is not final? Love reading your blog
Yes, it’s because the adoption is not final. He’s still in state protected custody right now, so we aren’t allowed to show photos of him publicly or put many personal details out there. Once the adoption is final, I promise that I’ll have plenty of pictures of James to share! And, I’ll likely un-password the other blog at that time and integrate them together :)
We're all looking forward to when you'll be allowed to share pictures of James! (Congratulations by the way! :-D ) What is the time frame for finalization of your adoption of James?
Thanks! :) We will have had James for the required 90 days before finalization on August 12th. His 4th birthday is August 14th! :) We are hoping to finalize shortly after that. We’re ready! :)
Did I read that you are coming to the conference in Orlando? Are you staying at the Coronado Springs Resort? I hope I get to see you there. I've been following your journey since the beginning & would love to meet you & your clan.
Yes! We will be there :) We’re not staying at that resort, but we’re staying in a timeshare nearby on Disney property. I hope if you see us that you’ll stop me and say ‘hi’! I love “real life” meetings and to put a face with names from the Internet! It will be Mike and I, our 6 kids, Patrick (for most of it at least), a friend that’s coming down and staying with us, our babysitter, possibly a friend of our babysitter’s, and Lyndi (Patrick’s mom) may be joining us near the end of the weekend when she flies home! I think it’s going to be a lot of fun in our hotel room :D
How did you start doing respite care for families? Why do the kids or families need respite? Are all the kids you do respite for adopted? I saw that the last family you did respite for is adopting again. I guess the child is home and doing great now? It must be a ood feeling to be able to help them that way.
We didn’t really “get into” doing respite necessarily, it just happened be be an area that we could serve hands-on in. Our first “respite” was for an extended family member that had no support system and was having another baby. We kept her 14 month old son for 5 weeks when Brianna was 2 months old and Kristopher had just turned 2. It’s been on our heart to provide a ‘safe haven’ for kids that need somewhere to go during major life-obstacles of their families.
When Michael was a young child his brother had cancer and he went to ‘respite’ type care for a short time so his mom could be with his brother out of state and his dad could continue working his 48 hour shifts at the fire department to provide for their family’s financial needs (at least that’s the way I understand it LOL). So all different families may need respite for all different reasons.
Respite is not just for adopted children, but the community we’re involved with right now means that all 3 of our last respite kids have been adopted previously and all 3 have some level of disability. As far as the reason for needing respite- some, like Michael as a child or Patrick that we have now, and Elijah that we had years ago, go to respite care because their family needs to take care of something else (generally another child) and it would be in the child’s best interest to go to a “babysitter” rather than have to endure what the parents are going through.
Other families ask for respite because their adoption is having difficulty or they are specifically struggling with the child. We have done those respite placements twice as well. Once the child went back home, the parents and child worked through things more, sought counseling, and really tried to make things work. We are very proud of them for trying, and in the end we are proud of them for determining that their child’s needs were greater than they could manage. That little one was adopted by a mutual friend of ours and is doing well in his new home. I do stay somewhat in contact with his ‘first family’ and it is definitely a good feeling to be able to have helped them by giving them time to make the decisions that they needed to make and for them to know that they explored all their options before making such a big decision.
The last family that we provided respite for is in fact adopting again. No, their child is not back in their care, though he’s no longer with us. I don’t know what the current status is there, but since you seem to be familiar with them, I would suggest you ask them directly.
When a family willingly participates in the child’s care and tries to ‘make things work’, respite is a great experience and a very fulfilling one. Sometimes, families don’t actually want the interaction with the child or with us, and see it as an ‘easy out’ from responsibilities. Finding out which are which before taking placement of a child is difficult. It’s definitely a fulfilling experience with those that are in it for the best of their child and family, though!
Feel free to ask any other questions you have, I’ll do a few Q&A’s that are shorter if more questions are posted rather than one LONG one, since this was really long already!