Tour Da House…Kids’ Rooms

 I know.  I’m behind again.  So sad.  I’m still working hard.  As evidenced by this room.  The girls’ room.  I gave Zoe control over it when we unpacked.  But she soon realized that she needed a bit of help (okay, I told her she needed a bit of help).  I took a Saturday in October and we spent two hours in this room.  Two hours in one room…just organizing and rearranging.

We made it through though.

 Ceili Rain has the bottom bunk.  The girls’ bed was a Craigslist find.  Mark and a friend from church headed out the night we closed on the house and picked up the bed.  They took it to the new house in a down pour very similar to our move in day.  On the way home, they saw a guy on a bike.  He was trying to peddle home in the down pour.  They had room in the van for the guy and his bike because the seats were all out.  So, upon the suggestion of the friend, they picked him up.  Mark and our friend said that this guy would not stop talking the whole trip.  Apparently, his “motivation was in the tank” and he “used to be a cabby in Philadelphia” or somewhere like that.

And that has nothing to do with the girls’ room.  I just thought I’d share.

Ceili Rain stuffs things around her bed.  I have since scooted her bed to one side and will be getting a bookshelf for the other soon. 

I know.  I know.  She did her best with what she had.

This is a before of the closet.  The girls love American Girl dolls so having a walk-in closet was wonderful!  They now have a place for the girls to “live.”  And these girls typically live in a style of luxury.

 One of the “sold me” parts of the house was the walk-in closets in two of the bedrooms. 

This is the organized after picture.  Ceili Rain was showing me where the girls were sleeping.  We arranged it so they could get to each of the dolls.  I moved the bookshelf in to the closet so they have more space for something I’ll show tomorrow.

I’m keeping their bed linens in this small hang up place.

I repainted their dresser before we moved.  When we first purchased the dresser it was painted red.  I repainted it with a castle on the front drawers but I knew Zoe was getting too old for that and the white flat paint that we used as a base was getting dingy.  So, we found a bright pink, funky fabric, and pink spray paint.  I dipped the fabric in fabric softener and smushed it on the drawers.  The ends got frazzled and still are, so I hot glued ribbon around the edges.  It won’t stay but we can swap it out easily when the girls get tired of the fabric.

 I can see the floor!  And two adorable and beautiful little girls.

Jumping for joy!  Just had to throw this in there.

Boys walk-in closet.  We mainly hang up church clothes in both rooms but having the walk-ins allows them to have play space and, we’ll have plenty of room to hang up “real” clothes when they get older.  Josiah enjoys helping give tours.  Okay, he enjoys photobombing.

Ties, colonial costumes, and backpacks.  That’s what we store in the boys’ closet!
See.  Tour photobomber.  We have four boys in one room.  Malachi has a separate room that will eventually double as a guest bedroom.  For now, it’s all his until everyone comes in to play with his toys.  His bedroom does not have a walk-in closet, is not finished, and really only contains his crib.  Hence, I didn’t see a need to post the pictures right away.  I’ll do that later.

I purchased over the door shoe organizers for the boys’ and girls’ rooms.  This gives the girls plenty of space for their dolls and it keeps the boys’ shoes organized.  We only keep Sunday shoes in their rooms since the rest are in the mud room so that gives extra storage for whatevers.  The girls keep their few Barbie dolls in them and I’m not sure what else.  The boys’ still haven’t figured out what to do with theirs.  But Bryant was very upset this past Sunday when he couldn’t find his shoes (that were in the organizer).

You can head over to A Bowl Full of Lemons to see some better more organized kids’ spaces.  We are continually working to stay organized and clean and right now, my goal is to have a place for everything.  Making it look cute will come when I win the lottery that I don’t play later.

Pinterest Attacks…Again

It started with this inspiration from Pinterest.

Which turned into this:

 Since we create three menus each year and rotate them throughout the year each month (one for January, one for February, one for March), I knew I could make this menu board work for us.  I worked on it the last week in December and was able to finish it in a couple of days (that’s with many interruptions, etc).  FYI, the only place that had this kind of calendar with bulletin board on bottom was Target…don’t check Wal-Mart or OfficeMax!

The blog I found this on has a great tutorial with step by step pictures.  She even posted some of her recipes.  Here’s how I adjusted it.

I kept the order of different colors for different types of dishes.  Right now, I only have my dinner dishes for the year listed with hopes of putting up our favorite breakfast dishes, desserts, and appetizers (since we have mucho get togethers at church…we need lots of those…not that I’m complaining.  Food is yummy).  I also made a set of cards with the menus for each rotating month listed.  I also laminated the recipe cards and recipe names…we all know I’m not the neatest of cooks and need these suckers to last.  I put magnets on the back of each of the recipe names instead of just using magnets to hold the cards up.  Kids, me, and lots of activity means they wouldn’t stay in place and recipe names would have gotten lost.

This has worked out great, as we had a freezer cooking day the first of the month and I just pulled out the recipe names and listed them on the side along with writing in the meals already in the freezer.  When March comes, I’ll move them over to the appropriate place and pull things out of the freezer as needed!

Homeschooling Young ‘uns (4 and 5 years old)

Sorry it’s taken so long to get back on this.  It was a great, busy, and sickie Resurrection weekend.

Soooo, I’ve given you all the juicy details on how we school our little ones under four.

For the over four crowd we have two main goals:
1.  Teach them to read.
2.  Increase their critical thinking skills so that they can read easier and learn easier.

Here’s what we do.

We teach phonics.  Specifically, I’ve been successful (all of two times and now with the third) with Abeka phonics.  It’s structured (which I need) and it’s Christian (well, as Christian as it can be when it’s teaching a says “a” as in apple).  Oh, and it typically only takes 15 to 20 minutes a day to do.

I’ve found that it’s easier to wait and start phonics when my kids have learned to recognize all their letters.  Although, Abeka’s phonics does teach letter recognition.  I also look for readiness signs in things they do:  recognizing letters on signs, pretending to read a book, sitting with a book and actually turning the pages (not ripping them out), coloring in the lines, drawing bodies when drawing people (not just heads with arms and legs coming out of them).  And, I can usually see those things happening around 4.  So, we start up Abeka’s K4 phonics.

And I’m mean, since I always have someone who is coming up about to use it, I don’t let the kids write in the readers or other activities.  Which means, I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it.  So, there’s a money saving tip for ya!

If a child’s just not ready, we’ve experimented with other things.  I have flashcards that they use to recognize letters.  These can be done with an older sibling or with me cuddling up on the couch.  We work through letter craft sheets.  And we continue to work on our skills of listening and sitting and “doing school.”

Mark and I both feel that once our children learn to read, they are ready to learn just about anything.  Being that we have reading in our blood (my mom’s an English teacher, Mark’s mom’s been a librarian), reading is just that important to us.

We also see how important it is to develop the kids critical thinking skills.  It really is useful in problem solving and pretty much every activity known to man.   I love Developing the Early Learner to help us with that.  It’s a set of four workbooks that work on developing different fine and gross motor skills on a preschool level.  We’ve used it successfully with two kids.  Liam has gone through it, but may go through it again after a break or maybe not at all.  His brain is definitely wired differently than his older brother and sister so we’ll just wait and see.

Once our kids turn four or five we add in Saxon Math K.  It’s really written on a kindergarten level and the children seem to enjoy that time.  For math readiness, I look for a  lot of the reading skills as well as some number reasoning skills.  I also look to see if they can count past ten and recognizing numbers.  If they can do those things, then we’re good to go.  Liam started Math at four and has picked up on it quickly.  Ace started at four and Zoe started at five, so they are in the same math even though they are in two separate grades.  It’s awesome not having to teach a ton different maths although that may change in the future depending on how quickly or slowly they pick up on things.

All told, a four or five year old in our home spends about 30 to 45 minutes of their day “doing school.”  The rest is spent in constructive play and doing chores, etc. 

I read at breakfast and lunch and expect all the children to sit at the table while I’m reading.  It’s good practice for worship and when we need to sit still and listen.  I’m praying, they pick up on a thing or two while they sit!

Will this look different when Bryant comes on up and is four and five?  Probably!  Although, maybe not…it’s just a wait and see and the beauty of homeschooling is that I can change and adapt to the specific needs of my kids!

Homeschooling Young’uns (Birth to around 4)

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I’ve had several moms approach me recently to ask about homeschooling little ones.  So, here’s my “How We Do It?  Homeschooling Little Ones” blog post.

The short of it:  For any child under the age of four, we play.  That’s it.  That’s their curriculum.

That doesn’t mean I sit down with them all the time or that we just play with all sorts of gadgety toys.  No.  We play house activities, blocks, trios (which are sort of like legos but not really), dolls.  Some things they play by themselves and lots of things they play with their brothers and sisters.  And, some things are with mom.  We use play-doh, moon sand, and dirt.  On really fun days we break out the “oobleck” and have at it.  Typically up until they can actually communicate with more than two or three word sentences, my children stick close to mom and dad.  So, they get to “play” our chores, like cooking, washing dishes, laundry, etc. 

Oh and most importantly, we read.  And read.  And read some more.  Did I mention that we read???

 This would be our fiction side.  And not all the books are there.  We have books all over the house.  Bedrooms.  Check.  Bathrooms.  Check.  Living Room.  Check.  Kitchen.  Check.  Even in the van.

And this is our non-fiction side.  Oh, we keep board books on the bottoms of both sets of shelves for the little ones.

I read while they wander.  I read while they are sitting in my lap.  And now, with the big kids, we read at breakfast and at lunch.  From the time our kids breathe on their own, we are teaching them how to enjoy books!  Mainly because we enjoy them too.

And yes, by the time they are four they know their colors, shapes, and are starting to recognize numbers and letters.  I’ve actually noticed they do all that earlier with the more kids I’m teaching.

So, what happens after four?  Stay tuned…
In the meantime, I’d love to introduce you to my most favorite place to purchase fun stuff:
Timberdoodle!!!

Our latest favorites from them include:
Cuisenaire Rods (we haven’t gotten too much into using them but it’s coming soon)
Wedgits (a Ceili Rain and Zoe favorite)
miniLuk (the kids haven’t gotten too much into this, but I think it’s pretty neat)

So, How Do You Do It?

Want to learn more about how we do things with our “small” family of eight.  Leave a comment and let me know what you want to know about how things run in our home.  I’m thinking of doing a tour of our home.  But, I wanted to know if anyone wanted specifics on how we do things here!

AND…

If you got anything you want me to talk about concerning faith and family.  I can share that too.  Just leave a comment!

Blanket Time…

Since we’ve been attending a church where no one looks at us like we’ve lost our minds when we bring our children in to the service.  And since I don’t want to be running around with a newborn in my arm and chasing Ceili Rain during the service, we’ve started blanket training.

Blanket Training was a concept I’ve heard of a long time ago but learned a little more about by reading the Duggars book, 20 and Counting.  A couple of weeks ago, I researched a little more about how to do it.  Apparently there are various ways to do this.  This is how I did it.

First day, I sat her down for about five minutes with two to three toys on a blanket.  If she tried to get up, I told her, “No, it’s blanket time.” and sat her back down.  The second time she got up, I told her the same and disciplined her.  I actually don’t think I had to tell her twice the first couple of days.  Her attention span is pretty good so she got up to 10 minutes pretty quickly.  So…basically the goal is to increase the time she can sit on the blanket.  My goal is 30 minutes since that is a typical sermon (I haven’t “timed” our preacher but I’m just guesstimating).

She loved it from the beginning, and like I said, she sat on it for a long time for a 16 month old.  I’ve been impressed with her stamina.  I’ve also been able to walk out of the room for brief periods and she remains on the blanket.

The goal, however, is to do it consistently so that it becomes routine.

We tried it out at church on a Wednesday night after three days of working on it.  She did amazingly well.  Our Sunday worship was not as great…but I had not been consistent over the couple of days leading up to worship for her to do it correctly.

I’m  loving it though and hoping it will help not only with worship but also when I’m feeding Bryant!

You Want Me to Do What??

**Disclosure:  I did not receive this product to review for free but bought with my own moolah to help bring some sanity to my home**  This is mostly for my sister-in-law who is curious about how well the chore system works.

I think it’s no secret that I expect my children to do chores around the house.  It teaches them two things:
1.  They don’t live in a hotel and therefore must be able to clean up after themselves.
2.  They are preparing for when they have their own home and own children to do their chores for them with them.

However, getting organized and making sure chores, as well as basic housekeeping/grooming duties done has been…well, a chore.  Seriously, it took Liam 45 minutes on several different occasions to just get dress…it went like this:

Liam:  May I be excused please?
Me:  Yes, what do you need to do after you put your dishes away?
Liam:  Get dressed.
Me:  Please do it.
Liam:  Yes ma’am.

Every time I would actually believe he would go get dressed…however, I’d see him run through the kitchen to the playroom (on the other end of the house).

Me:  Liam, what are you supposed to be doing?
Liam:  Getting dressed.
Me:  What are you doing?
Liam:  Uh, uh, getting dressed (or playing or fighting or something else)

And then discipline would ensue and we’d discuss, again, what he needed to be doing.  Same cycle over and over and over again.  Not to mention trying to make sure that Zoe and Ace were staying on task and getting everything done that was in my brain but not written out for them.

So, I had heard about the ChorePacks put out by the Maxwell Family.  The Duggars use them so I knew they were good but still wasn’t convinced that they would work.  When we attended their conference in September, I was sold.  Teri Maxwell even talked about the “distractable” child and clipping the chorepack on their nose shirt sleeve so that it would distract them and remind them of what to do. 

It took me about three weeks to get our chores (which we were already doing) typed up and printed off.  I used their recommended program, Choreware, because it was easier than trying to write out and figure out what everyone needed to do.

My problem came in  that we had various chores on various days.  I like that routine as all kids get to help me and learn basic skills (mainly in the kitchen) but it was a pain to get all that organized.  So I came up with this:

Each child has a “color” associated with them and I used large construction paper and taped envelopes to it with each day of the week/morn/afternoon/evening labeled on it.  I flip open the cubbard pull out the chores for that time or day of the week and plop them in their chore packs.  It still needs some tweaking but I’m gettiing there.
 It looks nice and organized, but does it really work?
The first day of chore packs:
Me:  Put your chorepacks on.
Liam:  What does this say? (by the way, most of the choreware has pictures for prereaders but some don’t…he has amixture of both)
Me:  It has clothes on it, so what do you think you need to do?
Liam:  Get dressed.
Me:  Okay, go do your chores.
Ten seconds later, out comes a fully clothed (although not coordinated…sweater and shorts) Liam.  And it happened again, and again, and again.
Our biggest struggle is getting them to keep the chorepacks on instead of flinging them around or laying them down somewhere.  If that happens, they get disciplined automatically for that.
I have a feeling next week is going to be tough since we have been inconsistent with the illnesses going on.
Last thing, the goal is to have them work their way out of needing a chore pack as it teaches responsiblity.  a goal of mine is to teach Zoe how to cook/help in the kitchen and I included that in her chorepack.  After one week of using the chorepacks, before I could request that they be put on, Zoe was in the kitchen at mealtimes asking how she could help.  Of course, she’s also the first born/responsible one to begin with.  But it helps me to prioritize and organize and get done what needs to be accomplished.

So, How Do You Do It? Part 3 (Meals)

I’m still here. Very busy with swim lessons and planning parties (Josiah, Mark, Ace all in the span of a month…not to mention Ge, Granddaddy and cousin J…along with Papa & Grandmere’s anniversary and cousins N & TJ…but those I don’t have to plan parties for) and getting geared up for VBS.

So, while I gather my wits about me, I’ll do a quick blog on meal planning.

I started menu planning before kids. It kept my brain organized and kept us poor college student and social worker from eating out too much. It also helped to keep us on budget. So, I’ll break down how we plan.

Breakfast: We used to do just cereal but recently I noticed that my big ol’ boys are downing a bag of generic cheerios in less than a week, so it was getting pretty expensive. Besides, aside from needing buttermilk, I can make biscuits pretty quickly. I always have flour on hand since we make our own, so it wasn’t that big of a switch to hot meals. The kids enjoy them too. So, for now, I get up in the morning and make what I feel like or have on hand…to include oatmeal, biscuits, eggs, toast. Don’t think I’m superwoman…really, biscuits are quick and cook fast. And I usually make eggs while the biscuits are cooking.

Lunch: Sandwiches, short, plan and quick. About once a week, I throw in hot dogs (kosher, because they’re just plain healthier than those others) or chicken nuggets (did you know Tyson makes all natural, no antibiotics, no hormones chicken nuggest?? Yummy and quick)

Supper (or in the south, Dinner): Now here’s where the major planning comes in. Each year I make out three meal lists of ten meals each. I then put those in a folder with the recipes. I have the notebooks labeled by month (four months per notebook). Each month I pull out the corresponding notebook and a calendar that I keep posted in the kitchen. I mark out days I know we’ll be out or out of town and then proceed to fill in using my menu lists for suppers. I typically do not cook on Sundays and Fridays are pizza days (which of late means take out or frozen but hopefull as soon as little miss’s schedule rounds out we’ll be doing more homemade…and as soon as I fine a good homemade pizza dough recipe…any help??).

I use Advantage Cooking software to plug in the recipes I’m using (and any special recipes) and it puts together my shopping list. I also print out a recipe inventory. I love that program. I’ll also say, though, that recipezaar.com and others will allow you to keep a “recipe box” which will help you print out shopping lists as well.

Now, a word about freezer cooking! Love it!! Because I did some freezer cooking, I was able to put back almost two months worth of meals before Ceili Rain was born. Way back when I had just two children, I would cook once a month and freeze the meals then pull them out. I haven’t been able to do that lately, but hopefully will get back in the routine before we start back to school…which will allow more time for instruction and less for cooking. For more information about freezer cooking you can go to 30 Day Gourmet. That was the best resource and book that helped me get started. And, I do not cook casseroles all the time. We’ll have steak or grilled chicken or baked chicken or stir fry, all from the freezer. Not to mention, enchiladas or some kind of tacos.

Menu planning is a great way to stick to your budget or help you create one. I’ll work on getting a post done about shopping.

So, How Do You Do It? Part 2

Since I can’t get my computer to cooperate with pictures for now, I’ll post this.

I must confess that I did not learn how to wash clothes until I was living on my own, three months before I got married. Mark, actually, had to come over and teach me at my apartment coin drop machines! So, laundry expert I’m not.

Here’s how it goes down at my house…my secret tools…the kids! Zoe learned how to load a washing machine when she was about 18 months old. She also showed interest in loading the dryer which was great, since I was pregnant with Ace and couldn’t bend very well, so I handed her the clothes and she put them in the dryer. Now, Ace can operate the washing machine. Zoe can run the washing machine and is learning how to use the dryer. Ace and Zoe can sort clothes. Liam is learning via Zoe’s teaching (the older teach the young is a great method, although Liam requires a little more supervision as he’s a little more strong willed). The only thing I (or Mark…whoever gets to it first) has to do is fold the clothes and if I can get my act in gear, Zoe will be learning this as well.

I have tubs labeled with their names that I put their clothes in. They take the clothes to their room and I put the younger ones clothes away. Ace is learning where his clothes go and Zoe can put her own away including hanging most of them.

Now, here’s how we do it. In a typical week, I wash clothes (including sheets and towels) twice. Our laundry days are Tuesdays and Fridays. Of course, we adjust as needed when we go out of town, etc. I wash towels every Tuesday and sheets are washed every other Friday, unless there’s an accident or someone was sick (which can sometimes happen). On laundry days we typically do three to four loads…that’s it. I don’t have a super duper large washing machine nor do I have two of them. Somehow, it always works out. Sometimes, especially in the summer, we only have two loads on a wash day. I guess mostly because if the kids get their clothes dirty, I don’t rush out and change them right away. I will change them if they are dirty enough or if we’re going somewhere, but that is not typical for us. Mark, also, doesn’t throw every single thing he wears in the dirty clothes basket. That may be gross but if he’s wearing his house pants, it’s only for a few hours a day as opposed to his work clothes which are on 9 plus hours.

For stained clothes, I typically do those with the wash about once a week, or when I remember. We were having such a problem with stained clothes being mixed with regular clothes without getting treated. I tried everything but the best solution for us is to have a plastic tub labeled “Stained Clothes” in the boys’ bathroom. Mark gives the boys’ a bath each night so when they take off stained clothes he throws them in the tub (if he remembers). I can then treat them before they’re washed and we’re good. Still, we have clothes that miss and get thrown in with the regular wash before being treated and I have lost a few cute things to that.

So, that’s a week of laundry for us. Anyone want to include their ideas and what works for them…just leave a comment.

So, How Do You Do It? Part 1

I’m going to do a real series of blog posts. They are probably going to sporadic, but I’ll do my best to keep up. I get the comment, from the title a lot. Either they think I’m a freak or they are just curious how in the world I manage a home with four children under the age of six with one on the way and homeschool and work on adoption (which now that just involves waiting). I know I’m not the only mom who has more than 2.5 children, but my friends that have that many or less have been curious…especially my friends who are new moms. I’m not tooting my own horn, I just want them to see that I’m a real mom who makes sacrifices in some areas and works hard in others.

So, how do I do it? Really??? Well, to start these posts off, I’ll have to say I don’t! My house was last cleaned…to my satisfaction before I had children. To the satisfaction that my mother-in-law wouldn’t freak out when she brought the kids over while we were in Canada…the night before we left for Canada. Oh, I did finally clean the toilets and dust the bedrooms last week because, I didn’t want my kids using the bathroom in gray toilets…call me crazy!?!

Cleaning is not my strong suit and still a struggle for me to maintain on top of everything else.

As I said earlier, I don’t do it all, all of the time. I just can’t. So some things we sacrifice…like a cleaning routine for now. Somedays we sacrifice supper for my sanity. Mark just prefers sanity over a hot meal.

So for my mom friends who try to figure out how to do it all and you may just have a newbie…stop trying to figure it out. Concentrate on your family and meet those needs first…then as you get comfortable work from there.

And point number two, unfortunately, there is no set formula for how to manage a household. What works for some, doesn’t work for others. So, this series is just full of ideas. Take what you think might work and try it. If it doesn’t work then chunk it or adjust it to fit your family and your needs. I have been very blessed to have several women at church who have more children than the “average American.” I love to listen to them talk about how they manage their homes. I also am addicted to the Duggars series and the Gosselins series on TLC and get a lot of ideas from them. My sister-in-law is also fun to be around because I can see how she does things differently. Some ideas from all of these families I take and can apply to my home and my personality…some, I just smile and am glad it works for them. And some, I try and readjust and make work for my family. So, if you aren’t doing something the way I am, either you’ve found a way that works for you or you can use my ideas and apply them to your family.

Now some of things I want to share about in this series includes household stuff like laundry, cooking, (not cleaning), organizing and home schooling. The homeschooling one should be fun since there are some people, who don’t read my blog, who seem pretty skeptical that I actually get any schooling done with two to three little ones running underfoot…just watch…it can be done (and again, sometimes it’s just not). I have proof too…ask Zoe to read any book up to 3rd grade level and she’ll outread almost any kid! Tada!

So enjoy, or just know when to skip a day reading. I’m labeling these posts Family Management for easy access. Offer your tips too when you have them. I know some moms would enjoy reading them. I know I do!