Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kids' Papers

Need a better way of organizing your kids' papers? From art projects to cards to report cards, this is what has worked for me.

1. Invest in a horizonal filing system. I have one slot for each child. I use post-it notes folded over to label them. This one is chock-full of last year's papers because I haven't yet gotten to steps 4-6.


2. As papers come home, decide what's worth saving. I don't keep many of the math papers or coloring pages. I do keep every report card and a representation of their best artwork. If in doubt, I keep it, because I have another chance to purge it later.

3. As the year goes on, put the papers you are keeping in the horizontal file. Keep up with it all year long and it's not hard at all.

4. At the end of the year, pull out sheet protectors and a binder. Here's one I've made for Joey several years ago (at some point, I'll fancy it up with a nice title page, but for now, this is what it looks like. I have a divider for each year so they can be kept in one binder but stay separated).

5. Pull out the stack of papers you've saved the whole year long. Because you've been putting things in the pile all year long, they are in chronological order already. Just turn the pile upside down, and start putting everything in sheet protectors and into the binder. Now is also your chance to do a final purge of stuff you don't need to keep.

6. Enjoy looking through your child's papers or letting them look at their scrapbook from that year!


Notes like this make all this mothering stuff worthwhile:

Translation for those of you not up on kinderese: "I love you Mommy because you take me on rock hunting."

What do you do to manage your kids' papers and keepsakes?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fostering a Love of Learning (Favorites Friday)

On Fridays (not every Friday because hey, I've got eight kids!), I wanted to start sharing some of my favorite things, be they great articles, interesting books, or fun places to go, in real life or on the internet.

Today, I wanted to highlight a great post by my friend Lisa, a homeschooling momma of six who lives in sunny California. I loved her wisdom about Fostering a Love of Learning in Your Home. Her tips are great for all homes, not just those that homeschool.

Now go tell her you like it too.

(By the way, notice how I've posted every weekday this week? Wasn't that great? Don't get used to it. My goal is to do about two posts a week, because yeah, I've got eight kids and a full life to attend to besides this fascinating blog)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Q&A: Kids' Lunches

Today's question is from Maryanne:
How do you manage all those kids' school lunches? Do they all eat the same thing? Do you prepare them all the night before? This year year I'll have two (and on two days, three kids) needing lunches and I'm not sure how to run it. They all like different things and I foresee a royal pain.


My kids make their own lunches and have done so ever since they started school. It helps that Lillian, my ultra-organized, responsible child, came first, because the others just followed her lead.

Last year, we began allowing our kids to buy school lunch sometimes but they still brought lunches on the days they didn't like what the school was serving. I keep sandwich making supplies close at hand so the kids can easily pull them out. Luckily, all my kids like peanut butter and homemade jam, so there are no complaints there. I keep a basket of fruits on the counter and another large basket full of snacky foods they can add to their lunch. I've learned I have to keep that bin up higher, so while my school kids require a chair to reach it, my preschoolers aren't tall enough (toddlers and granola bars just don't mix well). It's full of fruit snacks (Michael's favorite; the others can't stand them), granola bars, Famous Amos cookies, and crackers. I also keep string cheese and carrots on hand in the fridge. We usually have enough to make everyone happy.

Of course, sometimes making their own sandwiches and lunch means I'm left with a sticky, jammy mess on the counter after they leave for school, but I'll gladly accept that in exchange for not having to make the lunches myself.

They pull from the same baskets for a snack after school while doing homework. My kids are in the habit of eating a lot of fruit and I have to be diligent to keep the fresh fruit basket full, but it's definitely worth it.

Questions?

I've decided to try to answer reader questions more regularly, probably on Thursdays. I have a few I've received lately (stay tuned later today for those answers). If you have a question, post it below or email me via gmail -- username is handsfullmom. It may be a while before I get to it, but I'd love to answer them!

Click here to see questions and answers I've been asked in the past.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Moments that Make me Smile (Wordless Wednesday)

When my husband and I got home from Boston, the kids surprised him with a birthday presents and cake. Here's how Michael decorated his present:


Our wonderful friend Alexis comes to our house every six weeks and cuts everyone's hair. Her kids play with mine, we have a great visit, and everyone looks much less shaggy after she's gone.
All of my kids together (well, minus Katie) weigh as much as two sheep. We won't tell you how much the scale moved when their mom got on with them:

Story time with dad. The older ones like to listen when he reads the stories because he adds his own variations to the story. Just a few minutes before, he'd been reading about Calliou's trip to the acupuncturist. Here he's explaining how spiders use their senses to escape from the twins.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a "YES!"

After Family Home Evening last Monday, Lillian noticed Tommy wasn't in his cage. We started looking everywhere for him. At first, we thought that Harmony had probably gotten him out without us noticing and that he'd be in the house somewhere. As we were looking, however, Allison remembered that Eliza had taken him outside earlier that day -- without asking, and without my knowing. They'd left him in the backyard. Tommy is small, not even the size of my fist, and ill-equipped to handle the colder weather coming in a few weeks.



We searched our yard and our neighbors' yards with no luck. We said several prayers. Sarah's was especially heartfelt. "Heavenly Father, we've lost Tommy. We love him so so SO much. He's been part of our family for years and years and years! Please help us find him." Eliza also said a lovely prayer. Despite that, we did not find Tommy that night or the next day. We continued to pray and search and I told the kids several times that I didn't know where Tommy was, but that Heavenly Father did and that He could help us find him. As time passed, I knew the likelihood of finding Tommy was slim and I started to wonder if I would have to explain to the kids that sometimes Heavenly Father doesn't answer prayers the way we want him to, but both DH and I felt that we needed to continue to exercise faith.

On Wednesday morning, I was walking back from the park (Eliza, uncharacteristically, had come and told me, "Mommy, I'm tired. Let's go home." after just a half hour there). When I crossed our driveway, there was Tommy, heading across the driveway towards the flowerbeds. If I had come just a few minutes later, he would have been safely hidden, but instead, I saw him and brought him inside, none the worse for wear. Everyone was thrilled with our miracle and thankful to Heavenly Father.

It was especially meaningful to me to find Tommy. Heavenly Father has said, "no," "not yet," and "be patient" to me about many things in the past year (for example, my prayers that Katie will sleep better), and it was a wonderful reminder that sometimes God answers me with a resounding, "YES!"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to School Organization

Five kids in school means five backpacks, lots of papers, dozens of pairs of shoes, lots of socks. Without a plan and some basic organization, that can mean a huge amount of mess every day. I'm lucky enough to have a mudroom to contain some of the stuff, and here's what I've found works well for us.

Last year, I bought these stacking bins to hold each child's backpack. After they do their homework, the backpack and lunch bag goes in their little spot. It was meant as a temporary solution until my husband had time to make more permanent lockers or cubbies or something, but a year later, it's worked so well we've kept it.

(It's mostly empty right now because I took the picture after the kids had left for school)

Recently, I decided our shoe organization needed some improvement. We've always kept all the kid's shoes and socks in our mudroom. We have these great slots underneath a bench that we've been using for nearly four years. We used one each for socks, school shoes, sandals, and closed toe shoes. The problem? Every day, the kids would pull out everyone else's shoes in order to find their own, leaving a big mess. We sort of solved that problem by assigning cleaning the mudroom as a zone to Michael every day. It worked, but I decided this year we needed something better. I originally hoped to find more of the stacking gray bins and to use one for each child's shoes. I couldn't find any like them anywhere. I scoured Lowe's and Home Depot with no luck.

So I improvised.

I found that four of these bins from Shopko (on sale last week for $5 each) fit perfectly on these wire shelves from Costco. Now I have eight bins, one for each child, and the shoe mess has lessened considerably, since the kids only have to pull out one pair of shoes for each of them.


The shelves fit nicely on the west wall of my mudroom, with room on top for my laundry basket and my recycling basket. One of the doors in the background leads to the entry way (and therefore, the front door); the other to the garage. I love where my mudroom is located.

And the slots where we kept the shoes? I found these bins fit perfectly inside them and now I have one for swimming gear, one for hats, one for gloves, and one for bags, and of course, still one for socks. We keep everyone's folded socks in one bin. It's simple for the kids to reach in and pull out a pair that fits them and I don't have to worry about sorting socks into eight separate piles.

Next week, I'll share how I handle all the school papers and kid's artwork.

What are your best back to school organization tips?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Milestones (Wordless Wednesday)

I haven't had the time I've wanted lately for this blog, but something tells me I might be writing more often in the coming weeks (see below for the reason!)

We've celebrated a few milestones lately:

#1  Katie is three months old!



#2 Harmony is two!




 #3 The first day of school!  
This year, I have one sixth-grader, one fourth-grader, one third-grader, and two first-graders.





(Is it just me, or does blogger's "new" photo uploader make the photos look more blurry than they should?  I think I'll switch back to the old way of doing it next time.)

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