Sunday, October 30, 2011

How we make 8 kids work... in REAL life...

If I didn't edit well... this was written to post on a forum I'm a part of, and I'm reposting it here, because I think it's probably one of the things I'm asked the most... how do we do 'real life' with 8 kids??  So... here you go... :)

Our day starts the night before, and really, on Sunday evenings (like right now... what I SHOULD be doing...!).

Sunday nights I set out pill minders with everyone's vitamins and pills for the week, and that goes in to a bin with the liquid meds and inhalers, etc that are also done at the same time.  It takes 20 minutes one night and saves us 10 minutes searching it all out and double checking it every morning.  

I sort all the laundry I've done during the week on Sunday and put clothes for all 8 kids in to 8 hanging bins with 7 days worth of clothes.  Each night I set them out on the couch for each child so when they get up, they can go to the bathroom and get dressed, then eat breakfast, brush teeth, brush hair, put on glasses, jackets, backpacks, and out the door.  

I make lunches at night as well.  For the boys that are on 'smoothie' drinks, I make them every 3 days for the next 3 days and also freeze some for 'emergencies' (like tonight) when I don't feel like making any more :).  I ask teachers to leave the kids that use 'special cups' at school, and they wash them there.  Bibs too, I sent in wipe-able ones and I don't have to send them back and forth. 

I make a big batch of pasta once a week and put it in to small containers for 2-3 lunches for 4 of the kids during the week.  I blend up canned veggies and add it to the sauce, and anything else they may be needing.  Stick it in the fridge and it's easy to put in a lunch box that week (their class heats meals...).  I admit to buying the 'premade' PBJ sandwiches that are frozen, and Kris loves them!  We buy prepackaged snacks in bulk bc even when I package them myself, they tend to get stale before we use them if I package, so I went with the pre-packaged snack ones.  We shop at Sam's a lot!  BJs too :). 

I make our soy milk (some kids have allergies) and it's QUICK, EASY, and CHEAP!  I am trying to do it every 3 days or so, a gallon at a time (about an hour and a half to make, tho most of that time it's just doing its own thing!). I also freeze it if I have time.  Bought silicone deep muffin pans to freeze it in and it pops out easily then goes in to freezer bags :).  Keeps it handy again, in case I can't *ahem* don't want to... make some one day :)  They are roughly 6-8 oz portions that way!

We have one room of our house quite literally dedicated to clothes.  It has 6 dressers, a cabinet, and walls lined with rods for hanging clothes.  That lets us do laundry when the kids are in bed without disturbing them, and has been one of THE BEST things we've done as far as being able to better manage our home.  It also means clothes can pile up all week and no one sees them :D.  I wash all week... I put away on Sundays!

We have routines with toileting, first thing in the morning, on 'home' days they go before and after lunch, mid-afternoon/after school, before dinner, and before bed.  Though I have 5 in diapers, this keeps the dirty diapers to a minimum with many opportunities to go to the bathroom, and Micah is *so close!* to toilet training on this schedule :).  

We have hooks by our front door with initials of each child, and that's where their backpack, jacket, and lunch box goes.  Even Lynae (2) knows whose is whose and will hang them all up.  It's actually her and Brianna (5, Ds) job to empty lunch boxes at the end of the school day and put away ice packs and tupperware containers!  

We have a 'time out' timer which was costly ($25) but worth it.  It uses lights and vocals to count down the time.  Ours is set for 5 min.  It doesn't do anything the first 4 min, then does a 'tick tick tick tick' sound and turns to yellow when it has one minute left.  This is a reminder there's not much longer to sit, and if I hear it I remind them "one more minute!"  Then it turns to red and says "time's up!"  And they can get up.  It has a second timer I set to 2 min for my youngest 3.  All the others are 5-9 yrs and the 5 min is appropriate :).  This has helped us not to yell, etc nearly as often as we get in the 'habit' of doing, and the kids know to go SIT, and WAIT.  They'll even ask us to start the timer :).  They really do thrive on knowing what comes next...

We always pray before dinner, so the kids come to the table and know to sit and wait.  That way they're not 1/2 way done eating by the time everyone sits down.  If they sit and eat, they leave and go to time out.  Helps keep family time together and priorities with God first!   

We just started a chore chart for my 5 that are able to participate.  We wrote down their responsibilities on a page and their privileges on the bottom.  To get their privileges they have to keep up with their responsibilities.  They get a 'check' each day on the chart, and after a week with all checks, they get a 'one week' check.  Sometime that week we'll try to do something fun with the kids that 'earned' it.  There's also a 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and 1 month.  The goal isn't that it has to be consecutive, but it should encourage those that understand it to want to continue to keep up their responsibilities.  Responsibilities include behaving at school, being respectful, taking care of their things, and keeping to themselves.  Those are their personal responsibilities, then they have family responsibilities too, like putting new bags in the trash, taking care of lunch boxes, switching laundry, cleaning up toys, etc... based on the child's abilities.  Privileges could be playing with the neighborhood friends, staying up the extra time after other kids are in bed, getting to choose a video after school, getting to go to grandma's, etc... things that may not happen daily, but often enough and if they don't do their responsibilities, they know the answer will be NO when they ask to do one of the privileges.

We have a color assigned to each child.  Red, yellow, orange, dk blue, purple, green, lt blue, purple... and we have it posted on the bathroom mirror and our refrigerator with each child's name written in their color.  Those colors are the color of that child's toothbrush, bathroom towel, and 'silicone bracelet'.  The bracelet things we use around each child's cup to show whose is whose, so that we don't have to go through 32 cups in a day!!  We also use those colors of enamel paint (covered with clear nail polish so it doesn't wash off) on the tips of each child's glasses (6 wear glasses) so we know whose is whose... We use those colors on the caps of medications like antibiotics *ahem-- which 6 are currently on* in order to know whose is whose at a glance.

We have a drawer for shoes and everyone's shoes go in it.  A diaper pail next to the changing table and a hamper that holds 1 load of laundry there too.  Either gets full, and it's time to empty/wash!  Keeps the laundry from piling up (dirty anyway...) and helps us find everyone's shoes in the morning.  Glasses go in a drawer with hairbrushes, glass cleaner and cloth, and hair ties.  Keeps it easy to find...

At night there are no toys in the bedrooms except a few plush animals/dolls.  Closets are locked, lights are turned out at the ceiling fixture.  Kids that shouldn't be with others are out of reach of them (Aleksa is on a top bunk and doesn't climb down, Wesley is in an enclosed bed to protect him from his brothers... since he can't defend himself!).  We have baby monitors too, and the kids go down at 7/7:30 pm.  Boys in one room, girls in one room, except Kris that has his own room (since his toys would be eaten by siblings :) ).  We are all up at 6ish, so the early bed time isn't all that early!

I also have a dual alarm clock in my kitchen that goes off at 3 and 9pm.  Those are the times that Wesley needs one of his meds, aside from in the morning.  Those alarms make it possible for him to get them on time, because otherwise it would be 4, 5, 10... and that's not good for those particular meds.  We also give meds in the morning and at bedtime for other kids, but those follow routines more so than clocks.  That's a new addition for us (the alarm and the med) and is a HUGE help!!

My best thing... a treadmill!  In my bedroom... where I try to run 2x/week and get some ME time when the kids are occupied or, better yet, on one of the mornings they are ALL at school (only happens 6 hours a week...).  Between that and the evenings, we get some time to ourselves too :)

I'm sure I could go on and on, but those are some of the 'little things' that organizing them really helps our house to run better even with our "big family"!

We didn't just start all of this "all of a sudden", and when we had 2 and even 4 kids it wasn't necessary.  However... it began to 'evolve' at that time, and now it is a pretty easy working household as long as I don't go to a church festival all afternoon on a Sunday, then sit on the computer for 40 minutes, and oops, will be out of town the entire next day and can't make it up tomorrow due to a neurology appointment that will take all day :)

On that note... off to make lunches.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing, Meredith! AWESOME tips! We have started color coding things here too and it helps a lot. I could totally agree with what you said about how it wasn't necessary w/ 2 or even 4 kids. I get it! Since we've brought the boys home this year, it has become very obvious that the systems I had in place for 2,3,4 and even 5 kids now need some serious adjustment. I'm still working on it and this post will give me some extra inspiration too! Thanks!

  2. I love the color coding. We do that at our house, too. It helps with lots of things:)

  3. This is great to know. We only have 2 right now, but are adding #3 with big medical needs and it's handy to know how you keep track of everything.

  4. This is full of jems for any household! Thanks for sharing! :)

  5. a few weeks ago, I read your post about the med bins, and had a VOILA! moment. Yep, went out and got a couple clear bins with covers, some gallon ziplocs etc. after my surgeries, I had to go on vitamins to replace what my body couldnt maufacture anymore, and there are 5 different types, some everyday and some just on Fridays. So one baggie for me. Ciarra takes quite a few vitamins too, plus her regular meds and the ever presnt propylactic antibiotics. She has a bag. Jim has lots of vitamins and a heart med and meds for optic migraines, and a med for reflux,aspirin, plus sugar pills for when his sugar goes bonkers..he gets a baggie too. K&J dont have baggies yet, Im working on getting vitamins into them. All our baggies go into one bin, and I do like you, refill on sundays, it really works better, allows me to see ahead of time who might be running outta what. Another bin holds other meds, for coughs and colds etc, and extra vitamins that we have stocked up on. It REALLY helps. so thanks for your great idea, and Im really interested in the HOW you do it all, even though I know you CAN and are doing it, its pretty neat to see how and that you are doing just fine. You know I worry about you, but I also have complete faith that YOU know best what you can handle. Hope you will share this in a forum I share with you, it would be good for helping people get it a little better. Proud of you, Mer. AND...the THING one..2,3,4,5,6,7,and 8...awesome.

  6. The BEST thing we ever did with laundry is stop trying to get it all put away in bedrooms. Who made that rule anyway??? In our laundry room each person has a set of shelves that are just wide enough to keep folded laundry nicely stacked. As I pull clothes out of the dryer I turn around and put it on the appropriate shelf. No more baskets full of clean clothes that never get put away. I have hanging areas between sets of shelves which works really well, then another set of shelves for towels, then another for bedding. Its like a giant laundry/linen closet. LOL