Monday, March 11, 2013

Managing a Household with Nine Kids

Over the years, I've posted a lot about schedules, chores, and other details of "how I do it," but since we change our routines every so often, I thought I'd take a moment to write about how I'm managing our large and busy household right now.

Morning Routine
We start our day with scripture study at 6:30 or 6:45.  We read a section from the New Testament and from the Book of Mormon and discuss it briefly.  Then everyone except Lillian works for five minutes to clean up the family room and toy room.  If it's not very messy, we skip this.  After scriptures, DH showers and the younger kids clean their rooms while I do a yoga routine for 20 to 30 minutes.  Often, Katie (2), Harmony (4) and Cami (1) "join" me in this.  They all do pretty good downward dogs. 

The kids migrate upstairs after cleaning their rooms (or pretending to clean) and occasionally showering.  On Mondays and Thursdays, they are reminded to get their dirty clothes into the laundry room (on the same floor as all the bedrooms).  They get themselves breakfast.  Around about this time, Lillian heads off to high school (she's in an 8th-grade gifted magnet that meets at the high school).  My husband and the next door neighbor take turns driving her.

After breakfast and before the kids (6th grade, 5th, 3rd, and 3rd, Afternoon Kindergartner) head off to school, they are asked to do another five minutes of work in the kitchen.  One of them will make the sandwiches for their lunches and the others help clean up from breakfast.

My Morning Chores
If there's time, I'll shower before the kids leave; otherwise I shower soon after they go.  My younger four kids then play together while I clean the rest of the kitchen first thing, down to an empty sink, and swept floors.  I love having that room clean as a foundation for the rest of the day.  I like to listen to something uplifting while I clean, usually a conference talk followed by another good program.  Lately, I've really enjoyed listening to "Enduring it Well," a program that interviews people who have survived very difficult experiences, such as becoming paraplegic, the loss of a spouse or child, or dealing with children with disabilities.  Another favorite of mine is the interview program "Conversations".  I usually clean for about an hour every morning, moving from the kitchen to the main rooms.  On Mondays and Thursdays, I sort and start the laundry.  We are blessed to have two sets of washers and dryers, so it moves fairly quickly on those days.

I try to have one thing to accomplish every weekday for me.  Mondays is for blogging (though I skip it sometimes, as you can tell), Tuesdays is for library, Wednesdays is for errands, Thursdays is for catching up on my scrapbooking (chugging away right now on my 2010 book), and Fridays is for bread-making.

Lillian, who practices violin and piano in addition to a heavy school load, does not have an afternoon zone.  The others are all asked to do their zone after their homework and before play.  Joey cleans the great room, Michael the mudroom, Sarah and Eliza empty dishwashers, and Allison clears off the table in the kitchen.  In addition to that, every child is expected to do five minute madness in the family room, five minute madness in the kitchen in the morning, and five minutes of clean-up after dinner.

On Saturdays (or sometimes Friday afternoon/evenings), we clean the whole house for Family Work Day.   Sometimes we all work on the same floor of the house, sometimes we divide up into teams, and sometimes we simply assign out the jobs.

Lillian does her own laundry.  I do the laundry for the rest of the family on Mondays and Thursdays.  I usually spend the afternoon or evening folding it all while I watch videos and then the kids put it away as part of their five minutes the next morning.

After dinner, everyone is required to do five minutes of work to help clean up, then one person is assigned the rest of the clean-up.  It used to be each child was assigned a different night of the week, but we recently switched to having someone in charge for a whole week.  That individual is also the dinner helper and will help me set the table and do any of the cooking I ask of them.  I cook four days a week (Monday through Wednesday and Fridays), Lillian cooks one (Thursdays), and DH cooks on Saturday and Sundays).

I recently bought a white board calendar and organized my menu so I can easily rotate through it.  I don't stick to it religiously, as I will often modify what I'm making based on what's on sale or what leftovers need to be used up, but it's nice to have a plan.  On Mondays, I generally cook something with potatoes, Tuesdays I cook something to be served over rice, Wednesdays is Italian food, and Fridays I make soup and bread (see this post for some of my favorite bread recipes).

The name on the left-hand side each week is the person or person(s) assigned as dinner and dishes that week.  Eliza (6) is assigned with Lillian (13) because she's still in training.

I'm a total cheater on my grocery shopping and errand-running this year.  There's a wonderful homeschooled gal nearby who comes over for two hours once a week in the morning so I can go.  I'll often take Katie or Cami with me, but Eliza and Harmony are always thrilled to have Beth come and play with them.  They ask me all week, "When is Beth coming?"

I have a whiteboard in the kitchen where I keep a shopping list of the unusual things we need to buy (bread, milk and eggs are a weekly given).  On my way out the door, I just take a picture of it with my cell phone so I can refer to it at the store.  I typically hit two or three stores each week.

Eliza has kindergarten in the afternoon while Harmony has preschool three days a week at that same time.  Cami takes a nap every day during this time, sometimes as long as 3 hours.  Katie (3 in May) is at the point right now where if she takes a nap, she stays up until 9 or 10 at night.  She's a little crankier without one, but she falls asleep easily at 6:30 or 7 on those days.  So most days, I try to keep her up.  I let Katie (and Harmony, on the days she's home) watch videos in the afternoon for a quiet time.


I've been thrilled the last month to finally be feeling more energized during the day.  I still need naps about half the time because I'm up with kids at night (Katie has a habit of climbing into my bed in the middle of the night), but when I sleep through the night, I can skip naps.  It's awesome.  I've been using naptime to work out.  I do Pilates or Weight videos twice a week and run the other four days.  Lillian gets home an hour before my other kids, so though mid-afternoon wouldn't be my first choice of when to exercise, it's been a wonderful time to run three or four miles.  On Saturdays, I do a long run.  And as I said, I've been doing yoga for 20 to 30 minutes most weekdays.

Events & Activities
We don't have our kids involved in a lot of things right now, though I think some of them may start track again soon.  We've started horseback riding again once a week, and Lillian takes piano and violin lessons.  I try to take the younger kids to library storytime once a week (though usually it ends up being twice a month or whenever the books are due back).  We also have Church activities once a week for the oldest three and twice a month for Allison and Sarah.  Getting to and from activities is getting easier, even as there are more of them, now that I have three kids old enough to babysit.  There's almost always someone home who can watch the other kids while I run a child to an activity.

My husband and I go out on Thursday nights and then on Saturdays, we take one child each week out for lunch.

How do you handle your daily life and routines with your family?  Any questions about something I've left out?


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