Welcome to my wonderfully crazy life!

Homeschooling 6 blessings (so far) is teaching me a few things about grace, passion, patience, mercy, love and home management. I want to share these things! While some people love reading my long chatty emails, others insist that email should be done in memo form. Spoilsports! To save the sanity of those lovely folk, I will blog. I hope you will follow us on the amazing adventure the Lord has set before us.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Because You Should!

No time to blog, so this one will not be edited.  I was sitting here, wasting time I should spend some other way, E came up and told me he wiped all the counters off and the kitchen was ready for me to make biscuits. I told him, "Thank you!  I knew I loved you for some good reason!" and put my hand out to catch his 'five'.  This began a game of 'slap catch'.  You know the game, you try to catch the person's hand when they are giving you five and they try to not be caught.  He was really good, so I finally looked at him and was smiling at the look of sheer determination on his face.  He was determined to not be caught by my hand.  I was not even close to catching him.  He started just sticking his finger on my hand and then he suddenly pulled back.  He got this funny, kinda wicked look on his face.  Then, suddenly, he threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug and held on.  I wrapped my arms around him and held on until HE was ready to let go.

Why is it so important I wait until HE is ready to let go?  Well, how many of those impromptu, unsolicited hugs from my Fabulous Firstborn will be coming my way in the near future?  He is getting so big, 10 years old, tall enough to make people think he is way older, hands starting to look like little man hands, and his feet are doing the same.  It won't be long before he may not want to hug me as much, then he won't be around as much and then, before I know it, I will blink and my firstborn will be out on his own.  I will blink again and he will be introducing me to a young woman he is interested in.  Another blink and he will be presenting me with beautiful red headed grand babies.  Just a blink and he will be off in his own life.

When the opportunity is presented, I hold on, tight, so tight.  I thank him for the hug and I tell him I love him.  In my brain, it is a moment of worship, not of my E, though he is amazing, no, it is a moment to worship God, who created this amazing kid!  All I could think was "Oh, thank you God!  Thank you!  We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I know this full well.  Thank you for giving me this boy.  I know he is yours and you could have given him to any woman on the planet.  You let me be his mom and I am soo blessed to have him.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"  One little hug and I have tears in my eyes and my breath taken away.  This is what moms need to know.  One little hug can change your whole day. 

So, hug your kids, not just the little sideways obligatory hugs!  Scoop them up, squeeze them, love them, tell them they are wonderful and that you are so glad they are your kiddos!  Don't blink when you don't have to.  Hug them when they want to be hugged, not just because you should, but because someday you will want to and they won't be as easy to get a hold of.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Celebrating 10 Years

As of yesterday, I have been at this parenting gig ten years.  Here is what I have learned, in no particular order.

Labor is labor.
No matter how long or short, it is hard work.

When your baby is born, it is as if a piece of your heart is now outside of your body and oh so vulnerable!

You don't know what love is until you hold your baby.

My pre-parenting self and my current self are two totally different people and I like them both!

You can not hold a baby too much.

It is okay to put your baby down and go breathe for a minute, if necessary.

Babywearing is amazing!

It is okay to do things differently than everyone else.

Toddlers are too much fun to be considered scary, so celebrate those first steps! You now have someone to help you with housework!

The 'terrible twos' are rather terrific, but watch out for the Frightening Fours!

Your children can lose teeth and you don't have to reward them for it!

Six and seven year olds know the rules better than you do and they know who is breaking them.

Six and seven year olds are not required to follow those rules, so they think.

Children can do way more than you think.

Children should contribute to the world around them and to their family's well being.

You can never have too many children.

You will not love one child the same way you love the others and that is okay.

The amazing thing about having children is that the love grows and multiplies and becomes like a web holding the whole family up.

Each child will need to be disciplined and raised differently, because each child IS different.  Treating them all the same would be truly unfair.

Lots of moms have favorites, the good ones make sure their children never know.

There is enough busyness in my house that visitors don't notice a little mess!

I know the difference between good noise and bad noise.

I can spot a hungry baby at 30 paces and it hurts when the mama won't feed the baby.

You should never yell at a mama for not feeding her baby, you don't want to make motherhood any harder for her than it already is and she probably thinks she can't feed her baby right now.

A kind word spoken to a mother blesses her and all of her children, thus brightening a handful of lives!

I would kill for my kids and part of me would die if they were seriously hurt.

I can't do this job perfectly, no matter how hard I try.

Watching my children converse intelligibly with each other was a milestone nobody told me to watch for, but it is amazing!

There are days I dread getting up, but one little smile can turn it all around.

Children are stealthy and creative, pray they don't combine these two traits.

I don't have to cook foods that everyone likes all the time, they will not starve overnight.

It is incredibly important that my children learn to obey and respect me when they are young. If they can't do it then, when will they? If they can't obey and respect the woman who gave birth to them (and is loving to them) who will they obey and respect?

Every mom truly does think her child/ren are the cutest, smartest, sweetest, etc.

Most moms are smart enough not to tell you they think their child is better than yours.

Surround yourself with the kind of mom you want to be and it will be an easier goal to acheive.

People who call their kids names when they are calm and the kids are not around are not people I want to spend time with.

Babies really do grow up far too fast, but if you study them while they sleep, you will see the baby is still there, until they are about 6.

Even ten-year-olds sometimes need their mommy to come and hold them.

When your biggest kid needs a hug or wants to cuddle DO IT, NOW, no matter what.

Hugs and cuddles expire without warning.

The days and nights are long, but the years go by quickly.

I would do anything for my kids, but sometimes the best thing I can do for them is nothing, that is hard.

Ten-year-olds smell funny, act funny, talk funny, walk funny, look funny and yet you love them.

Children convict you of your own habits and bad behaviors better than anything on this planet.

Motherhood is the hardest and most important job I will ever do.

Sadly, while many people pay lip service to the idea of motherhood being important, the
actions of society as a whole say that if a woman makes childrearing the focus of her adult life she is wasting her time, talents and energy.

Make sure you set aside every little positive comment you receive about your children, cherish and be thankful for each one. Someday, they may be difficult and you will need to remember those positive comments!

Moms can not quit on their children, not ever.

I see more beauty around me and enjoy life more, now that I have children.

Knowing what I know now, all the pain, exhaustion, hard labor, long nights, hugs, kisses, firsts and joys experienced in the past ten years, if given the chance, I would go back and do it all over again, no hesitation!

Children really are a blessing and I praise God for letting me be a mom!

Happy Birthday to my Polar Bear, Chug Bug, Big E, E-man, Little Guy, The Puker, Sir Barfs-a-Lot, First Sweet, Gangly Guy, Little Dude, hot tempered, sweet souled, on fire first born! Who knew one little baby could make so many changes?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reuse Those Old Duds, Darlin'

I love giving my clothes, and whatever else I no longer need, to people who can use them.  However, there comes a time when an item, no matter how lovely, cute or useful it once was, must die.  I consider myself to be the place where old baby clothes come to die.  If I receive a hand-me-down item of baby clothing with stains on it, I will treat and wash it once, if the stain does not come out, it is retired to my fabric pile and made useful.  I will not throw an item out if I can come up with a use for it, but I will not pass stained or ripped stuff on. 

I feel guilty buying fabric to make things when so many things have fabric that I can use long after the original garment will no longer work.  A stain on the shoulder of a t-shirt means it really can not be worn out of the house, but the rest of the fabric is fine and can be used.  Think back a hundred years.  When a garment was no longer good for it's original use, the fabric was repurposed and if nothing else it was put in the rag bag or might be made into a quilt.  This is my version of the same.

In no particular order, here are things I have done or heard of being done with various items that have outlived their original use. In some cases a serger or sewing machine make these projects easier or things last longer, but in other cases a pair of scissors is all you need.

Towels When they raggedy or worn thin in spots you can -

Cut them down and use them for dirtier jobs, bleach jobs, etc.

Cut down, serge on the sides and use as wash cloths, diaper wipes, face wipes. These are good to have in a bag in the car for cleaning messy faces. I keep a bottle of water in the car, get one at a time wet as I need them and scrub away. They get the job done and don't leave stickiness or a funky smell in their wake.

Use a big bath towel that has gotten raggedy on the edges to make a pillow case for your throw pillows. I am planning to do this so that I can easily cover the pillows when a child is sick and spending time on the couch. That way the pillow case is absorbent and washable and maybe it will save your nice couch pillows from the possible yuck.

We also have simply cut off the strings and retired towels to the rag drawer for catching spills in the kitchen and wiping dirty paws and feet. 

Wedding Dresses and Other Fancy, Never Going To Wear Again, Duds

I know, in some cases a daughter or daughter-in-law may want to wear a wedding dress. Then again, in many cases the size is not going to work and can not be made to work and sometimes a dress is...errrr....not timeless.  Here are some other ways to save the sentimental items.

Use the material from a wedding dress to make a baptism gown, first communion gown, or ring pillow. These items can then be passed around for generations and be heirlooms.

Use some material to make a fancy cover for a wedding album.

Beads could be restrung and given as a gift to a young girl when she reaches a certain age. Even if they are not pricey, they hold sentimental value.

Lace can be saved to be used on a future wedding dress.

Lining material can be made into a playsilk, or play skirt for a little girl, or as a slip or liner for another dress.

Or, you could follow my mother's upcycling technique and let your dog sleep on your wedding dress.  Ahem.  :)


Cut into 2 inch wide strips, braid three of these strips together, as you get close to the end of one strip, you sew another on to the end (adding length) and continue braiding until you have a long coil of braid. Once you have lots of braid coiled up (you can use lots of color shirts and add on as tees wear out) you stitch them together in a circle, heart, oval, square, whatever and you have a throw rug.  Some people do this with their white undershirts and sorta tie dye the braid before sewing.  Pretty cool.

Make fitted diapers out of them - yes really, there are tutorials online here www.naturalviolet.blogspot.com/2009/04/recycled-t-shirt-diaper.html  and here you can just use the t-shirt as a diaper, not cutting needed, cool!  www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL7ZF3jlVgc

Use a serger to make them into face cloths, diaper wipes, etc.

Of course, soft tees make great dust cloths.

A little creative cutting and ribbon makes a super cute dress for a little girl look online for t-shirt made into dress tutorials.  Ohhh, I can't find the tutorial!  This one is complex, but great!  www.indietutes.blogspot.com/2007/06/adult-tee-to-childs-dress-recon.html  What I did was more like this pillow case tutorial, I just cut the sleeves off an old shirt of mine.  www.everythingsewing.net/pillowcase_dress_how_to.htm


Cut offs, really, you knew that already, right?  I have serged, rolled and put a few quick stitches in to make for nicer denim shorts.  Not the most stylish things, but my boys really do not care.

Make a pair of jeans into a skirt using an online tutorial.  www.savvyseams.com/clothing/jeanskirt.php

What about when the tear is in the crotch (hard to repair) and what about the fabric you cut off below that nasty knee tear? AHA!

Save these scraps and unuseable denim pants. Cut the good fabric on them into 6" or 8" squares, you can incorporate any fancy trim or pockets for a funky look. Sew them together with flannel squares on the back. Leave the edges raw so they fray and you have a great picnic quilt.  I got this idea from the amazing Deb of Diapers by Deb at http://www.madebymama.com/.  Here is a tutorial I found  www.patchwork-and-quilting.com/rag-quilt.html  I am working on one of these this winter and will post pictures when I finish it. 

You can also save the long bits that are left over after you cut the squares off the legs and give them the same treatment we gave the t-shirts. That's right, make a braided rug. However, sewing these bad boys is not for the faint of heart!  www.craftown.com/instruction/rugs.htm

What about the butt part? Make a cute purse. You could even make the straps by braiding denim strips together. Suggested by Liz.  I would leave the lining out, but I guess that does make it nicer.  www.threadbanger.com/post/2642/how-to-turn-old-jeans-into-a-sweet-new-purse

Children's pants

Dress pants with tattered knees get the cut off treatment, serged, rolled and stitched to make dressy shorts.

Sweat pants with tattered knees get the cut off treatment.

The legs of those sweats are cut open to lay flat, anything hard (elastic or a seam) is cut off.  Then, I cut the fabric into appropriate lengths to use as diaper liners.  The fabric is thick enough to keep diaper rash cream away from your diapers!  After a use or two I don't feel bad throwing these away (the rash cream never completely washes out and WILL affect the absorbency of your diapers, so DO NOT wash liners with diapers!)

Other odds and ends

When flannel shirts are past their prime they are often soft. If that is the case, I will cut them into handkerchiefs for the kids. These are not necessarily pretty, but they get the job done and don't rub little faces raw. Also, flannel scraps are used to make the back of the denim quilt above!

I replaced the fabric on my dining room chairs and used the old fabric to make dish cloths. The fabric is really nubby and does a GREAT job of scrubbing.

Just about any material can be made into a diaper. If you have thought about switching to cloth diapers, but cringed at the cost, consider making your own from worn out clothing you already have or can find at thrift stores. I would reccomend using hemp, microfiber or at least flannel for the absorbent inner parts, but that would still make for a really cheap, just as effective diaper and leave you only purchasing the PUL covers.  You could also go to the thrift store, buy old wool sweaters and make those into covers!

A friend recently used parts of old favorite pants to make a cute skirt. The waist was a waistband from a comfy pair of pants and she used legs from pants to create panels. Enough panels sewn together and sewn to the waist band and voila, a cute, free and comfy skirt! I would totally do this with pants that I no longer can wear, if I still love the pattern.

I know not all of these ideas would be appealing to everyone, but I hope this will make you think twice before you throw away an item of clothing that looks like it is beyond redemption.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I could never homeschool" (The How)

"Better you than me!" or "I can hardly stand having my kids around on the weekends."  and "What about socialization?"  Nearly every time I tell a non-homeschooler that I homeschool my children, I get some kind of comment along those lines.  For the most part, these people are either truly impressed or they think I am nuts (if they knew me better, they would be certain I am nuts, but that happened way before I had children.)  They also wonder how and why I do it. 
Let me start with the less important part, how do I do it?  I think this question is addressing two separate issues.  First, what does homeschooling look like in my home and, second, how do I get everything done around the house and school the kids?  Well, the pictures here show what homeschooling looks like in our house.  We build things together. 
 We do experiments using simple things. In the picture to the right, my husband is showing the children how having a wider base lowers your center of balance, thus making it harder to be pushed over.  It's simple physics.  Wow, the boys really needed a haircut!

We take our lessons outside whenever we can.  Here we were practicing our skip counting by skipping.........while we counted.  For the record, writing all those numbers in sidewalk chalk was a great work out for my glutes and abs.  Who knew?
We do a little bit of the sit and work stuff too.

We also do a lot of this.  Yes, my oldest is reading to his two sisters.  Do you see how one sister is just adoring her big brother and baby sister?  They bring dogs into schools for kids to read to.  How much better is it to read to an adoring sibling?  Do you see the love?  We do a LOT of loving.  Hugging, playing, snuggling, wrestling, laughing and lots of loving.  All with our favorite people in the world.  That is what homeschooling looks like in my family.

Now, what about all the housework?  Well, I am no great housekeeper.  I will admit, I would rather spend time playing and learning with my kids than scrubbing floors.  However, cleaning does need to happen because it is no fun to play when you end up covered in cheerios and other less tasty things.  Also, it is comforting to have a house that people can pop into and you will not be embarrassed.  I don't quite have that, yet.  If you pop into my house, you will likely find a pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded, a few dishes waiting to be washed and dirty floors.  The door to the office is closed because it is downright frightening (hopefully we will fix that this weekend, FINALLY!) The downstairs bathroom shows signs of vandalism and is not always sparkling.  The vandalism thing is a long potty training story and I don't want to tell it right now.  Just making sure you understand, my home would cause Martha Stewart to have a conniption fit.

We teach our children to help out around the house and we will soon institute a chore chart.  I do think it is important for people to take care of their homes.  There is no reason why one of us should do all the cleaning for 7 people.  Children need to be taught how to care for their home, clothes, vehicles and selves.  We call it being a good steward of the blessings God has given us.  I have a weekly group meeting at our house and that has been a great way to make sure the weekly chores get done consistently.  My scientist husband calls it a "forcing function."  I like that.

Oh, I also don't sign up every child for every activity under the sun.  I am a homeschooler, not an out-of-the-house-all-day-schooler.  I should warn you, it will only take one comment or question about socialization to open a can of worms.  Fear not, we are not Socialists ;)  We attend church, have a small group that meets at our house for bible study, go to the Y for Homeschool PE and are part of a homeschool co-op type thing.  Oh, and there are two homeschool families in our neighborhood with children around the same age as mine.  So, lots of chances to accumulate lots of different friends.  Yes, almost all of them homeschool.  If you think that means they are all the same you don't know homeschoolers! 
That is the hows of homeschooling.  Next up, the whys.  I have some 'splainin' to do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wuv, twue wuv

Lately, I find myself thinking of love and marriage.  This is all Denise's fault.  ;)  My favorite cousin Denise has found a great guy to marry.  The other Nate is smart, as evidenced by the fact he knows Denise is a keeper.  He likes to play games, likes my kids, and he is not creepy, all points in his favor.  He has a quirky sense of humor and being quirky myself, I appreciate that.  See, I like the guy.  As I told my other favorite cousin, Tom, a few years ago, "If you don't keep this one, we will keep this one and get rid of you."  Not a threat.

Anytime someone I love is embarking on this amazing, stunning, scary journey, there are so many things I want to say.  I don't have enough time chatting with Denise (and I miss her!) and I am the younger cousin and she probably does not want to hear it all anyway.  Instead, you my beloved readers (all three of you) will get to hear my thoughts on love and marriage.  I have only been married 12 years (God willing, that will be no more than 1/6 of the total time my husband and I will be together) but I have learned a few things that have saved my butt and my marriage.   I will also tell you a few things I should be doing, but I may not tell you which is which.

First, there is nothing and nobody more important than your spouse.  Seriously, after God himself, nothing and nobody should be swaying your thoughts, feelings or desires except your husband or wife.  If you find yourself sharing more of yourself with anyone or anything than with your spouse, you are chipping away at your marriage.  I call this a mental affair.  This does not just happen with the opposite sex either.  I caught myself spending more time chatting with my online friends than I spent chatting with my husband.  Ehh, innocent enough, I suppose, even beneficial, since these are all lovely, intelligent women, great moms and a few Titus 2 women mixed in.  Except, it was this little crack starting in my marriage relationship because I would forget to tell him things that I had told my friends.  I could see how easy it would be to alienate myself from my husband.  If I can not tell my husband about my worries and concerns, I am closing off a part of myself to him.  It was also indicative of a little relationship rot.  I mean, something is sick and needs to be fixed, if I am not trusting my spouse with my whole self.  Ditto on the things.  If you can make time to go golfing, fishing, gaming, swimming, whatever, you can find time to spend with your spouse at least once a week.  It is about priorities.  Now, with five homeschooled kiddos and a sick Dad, I don't always find time to spend with my husband once a week, just him and I.  I need to work on that, even if it is time spent together after the kids go to bed.  Oh, and time spent washing the dishes while I fold the clothes does NOT count!

Second, don't keep secrets from your spouse.  I mean, no secrets beyond surprises.  If you don't know where the line is, you are moving your line too often.  Let me spell it out.  You may keep to yourself what you are buying your husband for his birthday, or other holidays.   You may keep from your spouse that you are planning a surprise for him.  You may not keep anything else from him.  I know, that sounds so black and white and harsh.  I don't mean that you have to give your spouse a blow by blow account of every day of your life, present receipts and allow him to check your online history and phone records.  Nah, anyone who wants that much detail about every day of your life has problems (and you may not want to marry him!)  However, if you find yourself wanting to keep information from your spouse, there is a little crack in your relationship and it needs to be tended.  It is the things you don't want to tell your spouse that you most likely really need to tell.  It may seem like such a little thing, but if your spouse knows you are always open and honest with the little things, it is easier to trust you when the big things come along.

Third, give a little, compromise, be thoughtful; to speak all Christiany, die to yourself.  You are not the center of this marriage.  I heard my friend Elijah Ward's dad put it best at Elijah's wedding.  He said a good marriage was not a 50/50 partnership, but rather a 60/60 partnership.  Each person in the marriage should be trying to do a little more than the other is doing.  You could also say you should become a servant to your spouse.  I mean that in the way Christ was a servant, dying to present the church as His bride, perfect and holy to His Father.  In real world terms, that means little things like letting the toilet paper hang the way your spouse wants it, eating food you don't like every once in a while because your spouse cooked it or loves it, painting a couple rooms of the house in your spouse's favorite color.  It may also mean some bigger things, giving up some "me time", quitting your great job and moving so that your spouse can pursue that dream, having sex when you don't want to or not having sex when you really do want it.  Of course, in a marriage where both are dying to self, the little and big sacrifices balance out and nobody feels like they are the one giving everything up.  Although, season to season the giving up may be lopsided, it all comes out in the wash.

Don't let the sun go down on your anger.  This is huge.  Anger is a poisonous weed.  If you leave it to grow, it multiplies quickly, sending up little shoots of anger into every aspect of your marriage and it makes you sick.  You don't have to work out your difference of opinion and get to the point where you agree that  night.  You do have to stop arguing about it and admit that both of you have a valid view point.  You do have to remind yourself that you love this person, that you think they are smart, kind, loving, etc.  You need to check back in on what made you marry this person and turn to him or her and say "I love you and we need to talk about this, but it deserves more thought and a good night's sleep and I don't want to go to bed angry.  Please forgive me for what I have said and let's talk about it again later?"  Okay, you don't have to use that script, but the gist is necessary.  You may not be sorry about your viewpoint, but if you are not already, you will be sorry about rude or unloving words.  It also helps to put some distance to the argument, sometimes what seemed really important one day seems somewhat silly the next.  I also like praying and asking my spouse to pray over an issue. I can't tell you how many times, after praying, we have found ourselves completely on the same page when we weren't even in the same book before! 

Love is a verb.  Too many people think it is something you feel or fall into.  You may very well feel love for your spouse quite often and you may feel that you have fallen in love with your spouse and that is fantastic!  Just remember to make love a verb in your marriage.  Act on those feelings and love your spouse even when you don't feel those feelings.  Yeah, that is the hard part, the unnatural part, the mature part and the important part.  It is also amazing.  When I hit those times when I really want to hate my husband, if I choose to actively love him, I start to feel love for him again.  So, lets say he has failed to take the trash out to the road some animal comes along and rips into it spreading nastiness all over the yard.  I have a choice here.  I can fume, curse and talk about what an idiot he is and call him up at work and yell at him.  I can also take about a hundred deep breaths, remind myself of how much my husband loves me, how great he is with our kids, how goofy and funny he is and I can go out, clean up the trash and, when he gets home, nicely ask him to please take it to the dump on his way to work tomorrow.  I can also make it part of my week's work to put a note on the door the day before trash is to be picked up.  That is not so hard and it is certainly easier than doing it myself.  In short, I can choose to love my husband and be sweet to him. 

I wish I did all of these things all the time.  I wish I did some of them even some of the time.  I also know I have not covered everything (laughing, playing, eating and working together as often as possible and taking an interest in each other's hobbies, etc.) but this is just lessons learned from the first 12 years.  God willing, I will have many more years to learn so much more and I know that every moment I am given to live as my husband's wife, I am learning. 

I learned something a couple weeks ago that shocked me.  One evening, my husband was sick and napping on the couch.  I woke him up, so we could go up to bed.  He blinked his eyes, stared at me with this look of amazement, and in an awe filled voice he said "You're beautiful. You are so amazingly beautiful."  I looked behind me thinking "Oh my gosh, he is seeing something, maybe he was sicker than I thought." Then, I realized, he was looking at me and he really meant it.  He had no time to think up a compliment, I was hearing his immediate reaction upon waking to my face near his.  He always tells me I am beautiful, but I thought he was just saying it.  That night, I realized, he really means it.  I also realized, every woman should have a husband who truly thinks she is naturally and absolutely beautiful. 

So, as I get ready to haul my lovely large family up the coast line (just ahead of a hurricane!) I wanted to say something to Denise, who I hope will read this.  The best times are ahead of you.  You have had good times and bad times before this, but these will be the best because you have someone to share them with, the good, the bad and everything in between.  I know you will have a strong, fun, beautiful marriage and if Nate does not treat you well, I'll get in line to take my turn with him.  Nate, I really do like you lots, but, ya know, she's my big sister!  You are a brave man entering this family.  ;)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Clothing Management part 2

Another issue to attack in a large family is how to handle hand-me-downs. I am blessed to have a basement in my home which has one area devoted to storage. I no longer loan out clothes because too many times the clothes were returned full of holes and stains, or were not returned at all. Yes, I am hoarding children's clothes, sorta. Here is the process I go through with each child, about twice a year.

First, I catch up on laundry (if you have many children you are laughing hard, we will wait while you go pee.....*whistling*..... Oh, good you're back.) Then, I go up to the clothing room with a plastic storage box and two trash bags. I like an opaque box with handles that lock the lid in place, about 72 qt seems to work well. The transparent boxes get brittle and break easily and without locking handles the lid pops off. Since I do not store coats, shoes or cloth diapers in the box with the other clothes, this size works fine.

I start with the littlest child and pull everything out of all their drawers and the closet. As I pull each item out, I assess the quality of the item. I check to see what size it is, whether it is true to size (change the label if necessary), is the elastic in good shape (if you tug on it and hear a dry ripping noise, it is useless), do the snaps still snap, are all the buttons there, are there any tears, stains or worn areas and did I actually like using this clothing item? Those things that I want to save for the next kiddo get folded neatly and placed in one pile. Things that are worn beyond use go in one bag (the cast-off bag) and things that are still good, but I no longer want, go in a second bag (the blessing bag.)

Once I have culled the items that are not going to be saved for one reason or another, I look at how much of each item I have left. I match tops to bottoms to make appropriate outfits. I make note of anything that really needs replacing. For instance, this year, I noticed that every pair of khaki shorts my 3 year old wore was noticeably stained. I watch end of season and clearance sales in stores and online for those things that we need to replace. I also check to see if I have too much of any item.

Once I determine how much of each item I really need to have around, I put the extras in the blessing bag. All of the clothes I am keeping are folded neatly and placed in the storage bin. If the bin is not already labeled, I make 3 labels out of scratch paper for it. Each label states gender and size.So, this year as I am packing up Isaac's clothes, I will make three labels that say "Boy 3t." One is taped on the top of the box, one on the side and one on the end. That way, if the box is stacked I can see what is in it, no matter which way the stacks are facing.

The blessing bag is a wonderful thing. I often have too many bits of clothing that I don't like or can not use. I bag them up neatly and label the bag with size and gender the clothing works for. Then, if there is a crisis in our area, say a house fire or someone finds themselves parenting unexpectedly, I can check my bag piles and bless them with decent clothes in the appropriate size. I never put stained, torn or way out of date clothes in this bag. A child who has been through a trauma does not need to be given ugly clothes.

So, what about that cast-off bag. This is the bag of garbage, right? If you are the kind of person who does not know how to fix a button, rip, etc. or if you know how, but you know you will never get around to it, yes, throw this bag in the garbage. So many people ask me how I do it all. The answer is, I don't do it all. I am crafty, frugal and creative with some things, but with other things, I cut myself some slack. God has yet to give me real superpowers, until then, there will be things I can not do. The same holds true for you. I give you permission to cut yourself some slack and toss that bag in the garbage. I promise I will not think less of you for knowing your own abilities and limitations. If you are of a mind to use that bag of cast-off clothing, check in later and I will give you some of my ideas for these items. :)

That is it. When I next have a child who needs that size of clothing, I can wander into the basement, bring up the appropriate box and it will contain appropriate clothing for that size. No extras, no surprises when the clothes are the wrong size, torn, stained or mismatched. A little work now saves work and money later.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Clothing management pt 1

Our growing family has found that the traditional American way of handling a family's clothes does not work. When there are seven people living in a four bedroom home, sharing bedrooms is a fact of life. I have no problem with this. I think sharing bedrooms is a good thing, but it does lead to a few problems. One of those problems is clothing. I can trust my 9, 7, and 5-year-old not to play in their dressers, but the 3 year old is a whole different story. It is just far too fun to pull all the clothes out of a dresser and roll around on them while you are supposed to be napping. As long as you are quiet, mommy will not even know what you are doing until the mess is made. Oh and if you have access to THREE dressers, ahhh, bliss. Except, what mother wants to spend the end of every single nap time cleaning up such a humongous mess? Yes, I can discipline for this behavior, but it tends to be one that lasts about a year and then is outgrown. Not so awful, unless you have many kids and face the possibility of returning to that one year of life over and over and over and over again. (I feel a little hysterical just typing that sentence!) One of my general mommyhood rules of thumb is - "Sometimes you need to change the behavior, sometimes you need to change the circumstances." This is a perfect example of changing the circumstances.

I read the Duggars book and thought Michelle had a fantastic idea. The Duggars have a family closet right off the laundry room. Clothing is folded and or hung and taken straight to the family closet. Wow, no more taking one basket of clothes to one room and one to another, accidentally putting clothes in the wrong room, or not having access to a room that holds a sleeping toddler! Yes, great idea...except...I don't have any rooms near the laundry room that would work for that purpose. Thus, we adapted the idea to suit our situation.

My husband took shelves from our master bedroom closet and hung them in the laundry room (a room that is a tiny bit bigger than a half bath.) That means, I have the original set of shelves, just over the washer and now a set of shelves across from it. Yes, I have to be very careful how I stand up, so as to avoid bashing my head or bottom into a shelf. I have adapted and have not had a bonk on either end in over a year. The shelves across from the washer hold a bin for every child in the family and one for socks. As I pull clothes out of the dryer, I sort them straight into these bins. Adult clothes, sheets, towels and the like go into a basket at my feet. Each child is responsible for folding their clothes each day. Some days that means a lot of folding, some days just a little. I have found this VERY helpful in discouraging my 7-year-old's tendency to wear 3-4 outfits a day! The younger the child is, the more help they get from either a parent or an older sibling. So far, this system has been a big help. Renovating my laundry room this way cost us about $14, the cost of 5 bins and a couple molly bolts (two of the support beams for the shelves lined up nicely with studs in the wall, but the middle one did not) and 2 hours of measuring, hanging, fuming, muttering about the confusion of being taught two systems of measurement and rehanging the shelves.

The next part of our laundry renovation was literally life changing for us. In our home, Mommy, Daddy and baby share the master bedroom. The boys have one room and the girls have another. The fourth room is the clothing room. This is a good sized room, about 10'x12'. There is enough space for 5 dressers, a futon and a three bin hamper. This room is also our guest room. It is not spacious, but it works. When clothes are folded, no matter what time, day or night, they can be put away immediately. No more laundry diving, digging through piles and piles of clean clothes in search of that one pink sock. No more sneaking into a sleeping toddlers room and oh so quietly opening the drawers. Less chance of a busy one year old pulling down stack of neatly folded laundry that is sitting on the couch waiting to be put away. When we need to pack for a trip, we put everyone to bed and then haul the suitcases into the Clothing Room. It is so easy to accomplish the task! When it is time to sort outgrown clothes and make a shopping list, I spend a couple hours in one fairly tidy room sorting things. YAY!!!!

Okay, for those of you who have actually set foot in my home recently, yes, I admit, sometimes the system fails and there are still piles of laundry to fold. I am, most assuredly, not perfect. However, when we follow the system, life is easier.