Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So, how DO we wash clothes for so many children?

Laundry stinks.  I hate laundry.  The truth is, I don't actually do laundry, y'all.  I assigned the task to the children.  Ha!  That's how we wash clothes for so many children!!  Now before anyone goes off and screams child abuse, it's not really that way at all.  It's team work!

One of our dear ones has the job of sorting the laundry.  He's really good at it, too.  And he's little, so he needs a job he's really good at.  Builds confidence and all, and I don't have to hear him say, "I gots no jobs", a million times a day.  There's ALWAYS a load of laundry he can sort if he gots no jobs!!

Another precious angel puts the loads in the washer and starts that bad boy up.  She's one of the bigs.  You need one of the bigs for this part, otherwise there will be homemade laundry soap and vinegar (used for fabric softener) everywhere and who knows which buttons will get pushed.  When the timer goes off, one of the middles moves the laundry to the dryer and presses go.  Don't feel sorry for my little Lauren.  She's happy and well-adjusted. Besides, the dryer really does all the work anyway.  I know it would save money and be more in line with farming if we hung our clothes out to dry, but I'm just not there quite yet.  Maybe one day.  For now, everything goes in the dryer.

When the little bell goes "ding", still another sweet child sorts the load into baskets where the laundry sits and is never, ever folded.  That's where it stops, folks.  Laundry baskets line the back wall of our family room, arranged from youngest to oldest and with clothes spilling over the sides in excess.  There is no plan to move the baskets.  There is no plan to fold the clothes inside the baskets.  That is just the way it is.  

This is why I hate laundry.  It's always there, piling up and spilling over and causing wars between pre-teen girls that lay claim to their sisters' sparkly tank tops that land by happenstance in their baskets.  The crazy thing about all of this is no one ever seems to be able to find anything to wear at all.  It's insane!

Not long ago, I tripped over our display of excess and decided that enough is enough.  That's right, we have enough.  We have more than enough.  So, I sorted through our cleverly-developed system for storing that which we do not actually treasure, and we pared down our possessions.   After two long weeks of sorting, each person has 5 outfits - three for play, one for town and one for church.  They also have three pair of shoes, three more than so many children in this world- one for play, one for town and one for church. When you see our children wearing the same thing out and about week after week, do not be alarmed.  We are not struggling to keep them in clothes.  In fact, if you saw the INSANE amount of clothes I've weeded out the past two weeks, you would think we were hoarders.  I should post a picture.

This has made our lives so much easier.  The children no longer challenge each other to timed races up to the top of Mount Laundry.  We collect and sort dirty laundry every morning, wash it, dry it and sort it back into their baskets where it sits until the next time they wear it.  We still have no plan to fold the laundry or put the laundry away, but it won't sit and never, ever be folded because it's going to be worn again in a day or two.

Well, thats all she wrote, the how-to on laundry for a large family.  The moral of the story is "Have less laundry and many hands make light work."

Up next, how do we school so many children...

Monday, October 8, 2012

So, how DO we feed so many children?

When it comes to answering "how" questions, food is always a hard one.  The simple answer is God provides!  Without a doubt, He provides!  We eat abundantly, y'all.  It's truly AMAZING!!!  There is no way we should be able to eat this well with the number of people living under our roof.  I can't recall even one time that a person around here has gone hungry out of necessity.  Praise Him!

While we've never gone hungry, we haven't always eaten exactly what we'd like to eat for every single meal.   And that's the hard part, because we Robinsons LOVE to like what we eat.  And we LOVE it to look nice on the table before we eat it, too.  Presentation is important here....or was important here....before we had so many children.  I used to spend countless amounts of time preparing menus and spreadsheeting very neatly organized shopping lists.  I had a system of spreading our favorite recipes throughout the monthly menu calendar in a way that made us all feel satisfied and happy.  Now that I think about it, my little menu-planning and shopping list habits might have been a slight bit over the top.  Ah-ha moment here.

Well, it just so happens that we added a few children and my satisfied and happy little family began to ask for seconds, only to gaze into an empty pot and look up at me in despair. So, I doubled the recipes.  And then we added a few more children.  So I tripled the recipes.  Our grocery spending went through the roof, and yet we always felt like we never had anything in the pantry (that we wanted to eat).  We felt dissatisfied, and we complained....a lot.  God didn't leave us there, though.  When we took our dissatisfied, complaining selves to Him, He drew us closer in, filled us with the Truth and gave us hearts of gratitude.

With hearts of gratitude, we began to explore less expensive and healthier ways of eating.  You are what you eat, you know?  And when food is less expensive, you can afford to feed more people with it than you could before.  The time that I spent before planning menus and organizing my grocery lists, I began to spend reaching out to other mothers feeding large gaggles of children.   We bought a wheat grinder, raised up some free-range chickens and joined a cult.  Just kidding!!!  About the cult anyway.  We really did buy a wheat grinder, a bread machine and 12 chickens.  We began to eat a much more simple, much more staple-based diet, and we began to feel more satisfied with every meal.  I think the key here is gratitude.  A grateful heart is a happy heart, and that is the Truth!

Preparation is more time-consuming now;  I won't deny that.  Making three meals each day from scratch could take the entire day if I didn't have the right approach.  Our meals are simple.  They're nothing fancy.  This change was hard for me.  I love to cook amazing and elaborate dinners, I like the table to look nice, and I want everyone gathered around with happy faces and sweet conversations.  Yeah, meal times don't always look like that here, not everyday anyway.  On a typical day, there's a lot of Mommy and Daddy serving the littles, filling their bellies and clearing them from the table so the bigs can eat.  One of these days we'll get a bigger table, but for now we enjoy our happy family time right after dinner where Daddy demonstrates WWE moves on the family room rug.  It works for us, and our special dinner nights are that much more special.  We love that the food has become less of the focus in our meal time, while fellowship and family have become more of a priority.  We are incredibly blessed because of it.  

So what does this look like in action?  First of all, we don't buy boxed food often at all.  We eat a lot of whole foods that can be prepared in large portions.  We buy beans, oatmeal, rice, sugar, milk, wheat and other staples in bulk.  We raise chickens for eggs, make our own bread and eat produce that is in season.  Oh my word, we do look like a cult!!!!  I promise we are not!!!  Check out today's good eats:

Breakfast:  scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast and apple butter
Lunch:       PBJs, apples from Ellijay and garden salad
Dinner:      Northern beans, whole wheat rolls and ham (center cut slices, even)

The whole kit and caboodle was less than $25 for a family our size.  I've heard so many people say that eating healthier is more expensive, but truthfully it is not.  Boxed and prepared foods are VERY expensive.  Every month we get better at making good choices in our food purchases and that makes me a happy momma with a gaggle of well-fed little chickadees.

Well, folks.  It's time to go do the dishes.  Up next, how do we wash clothes for so many children?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

So how DO we do it?

At least once each day I am asked, "How do you do it?"   Most of the time I just shrug my shoulders and don't really know what to say.  "It" is such a general word.  It could mean so many things -  "have so many children" or "feed so many children" or "wash clothes for so many children" or "school so many children" or "work while you have so many children".  I could go on and on, but I'm pretty certain that we have a common denominator to work with here - SO MANY CHILDREN.

To be honest with you, the children are the easy part.  As Mother Teresa once said, "How can there be too many children?  That is like saying there are too many flowers." She was johnny-on-the-spot with that one.  I love their laughter, their questions, their love for me and their father, their love for God and others.  I simply LOVE having so many children to love.  So if I answer the question, "How do you have so many children?" from my heart, the answer is "We say 'yes' when God sends children to us." We have a heart for the fatherless, the vulnerable, the poor, the oppressed.  And we are incredibly blessed because of it.

As we're preparing to bring home one more Robinson, Dean and I have been reflecting on the other meanings of "it".  Okay, I've been reflecting.  Dean humors me and listens to all of my reflections while we sit together in the quiet of the early morning folding socks.  Feeding, washing, schooling, working....these are things that can be overwhelmingly difficult for a family our size if we do not strategize.  The reality of the situation here is that we cannot do it all and have so many children.  Our lives look so much different today than they did 10 years ago, or even 3 years ago really.  From what we eat to what we do with our time, almost everything has changed.  And we are incredibly blessed because of it.

As God shapes us and molds us and equips us to this life He has called us to, He is allowing us to be apart of His incredible work!  And that's AMAZING, folks!!  If we only did what we thought we could accomplish with what money we have left in our bank account, what time we have left in our our day, and what strength we have left over after living our ordinary lives , we Robinsons would have missed out on SO many blessings!!!

As we reflect and grow, God is showing us how to do it - how to have so many children, how to feed so many children, how to wash clothes for so many children - how to school so many children - how to work with so many children.  And we are incredibly blessed because of it.

Now I know, I never really did say "how" we do anything.  I will soon.  I promise.  But right now, I have to go.  So many children are wanting my attention, and what a blessing is that?!?  So, stay tuned, folks.  Up next....how do we feed so many children?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Problem Chicken

In an effort to be more green and farmer-ish, we have been free ranging our chickens for the past few months.  It was hard for me to let them out of the pen at first, but I did.  They're free as the wind and loving life.  None of my great fears have come to pass - until today anyway.....and to be honest, this is one fear I never even had before today.

We have this one chicken.  There's always one, right?  Well, she likes to climb in cars....and trucks....and vans.  She sees a car door open and she beelines her way across the yard in hopes of scoring a goldfish from the floorboard in front of Riley's seat.  Maybe if I was a free-ranged chicken living on a diet of yard bugs, I too would risk it all for the slimy discards of a four-year-old boy.  Who knows?  

Until today, this strange chicken behavior hasn't been a problem - annoying but not really a problem.

I was at my parent's, cooling off my little people in the pool, when Dean called from Highway 78 in Stone Mountain.  We're chit-chatting away about the day when Dean pauses and says, "I think I saw a chicken in my rear view mirror."  That's odd.  He's two hours from home, out in the big city. As the truck rolled to a stop in traffic, our conversation went something like this:

Dean (with a calm voice): "Brownie is in the back of the truck.  She's roosting up on the side of the truck right now, flapping her wings like she's going to fly off."

Brownie is our goldfish thief, the automobile invader and apparently now a hitchhiker.

Me (with a not-so-calm voice): "Stop the truck and catch her, Dean!"

"What am I going to do with her once I catch her", questioned my love.

"Put her in the cab, Dean!"

"I'm not putting a chicken in the cab of my truck!" (That doesn't sound like a very farmer-ish thing to say, my love).

So....my love drove to my parent's house with a chicken riding shotgun in the cab of his truck, because....well,  that's just the kind of guy he is!

(Notice the chewed up rear view mirror.  A big thank you goes out to Jethro, our bloodhound, for personalizing the truck!)

When he got to my mom and dad's he popped that sweet chicken into the back yard to feast on the fare there, thinking we could just pick her up when it came time to go home.  The thing is, we forgot about the whole roosting thing.  It got dark.  She roosted.  We couldn't find her.  We had to go.

There were chicken sighting for days in their neighborhood before my daddy caught her and caged her.  Dean made a special trip to bring her home to us because he's just that kind of guy.

Alls well that ends well, I suppose.  We'll get this farming thing right, eventually!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sweet Baby Wyatt

We began the adoption process again in February.  Team Robinson is growing again!!  Why, you ask?  Well, we felt like someone was missing, and we filled out the application.  I'm forever counting and asking myself and my peeps "Who did I miss?" Dean every now and then dishes up an extra plate.  I never fail to see him do that, and so I pipe up, "It's a sign there's one more Robinson!" He smiles at me.  I take that as a "yes" and start calling agencies to ask them where the greatest need might be.

Long story short, we're adopting internationally. The enormity of the need makes me catch my breath, but that's not why we're adopting.  There will always be need.  The truth is the love that we have for God is bubbling over.  I can hear the precious voices singing with my young ones when I say that.  "Jesus' love is a bubblin' over."  It is, indeed!  It's gotta go somewhere.

I really thought we'd be heading to Africa.  I'm pretty sure Dean spends long hours contemplating how to keep me out of Africa, though.  He's afraid if I so much as touch one big toe on the soil of that continent, he'll end up living there with 8 children in a thatched-roof hut.  I love Africa.  But we're not going to Africa.  After much prayer, Team Robinson is headed to CHINA!  I'm so excited I could scream!!

The home study happened.  We're all approved - for TWO even!!  Don't fall out of your seats, folks.  It's just the way we roll.  9 kids is not that big of a deal really, is it?  There are folks out there with WAY more.   We had barely finished the study when we saw his picture, read his story, and knew he was our son.  We signed on the dotted line and sent our LOI (letter of intent) off to China.  Today, we received our PA for sweet baby Wyatt.  PA stands for provisional approval.  It's what starts the ball rolling.  Wyatt is months just away from a family of his very own, and we are beyond excited!

Without further adieu.....

James Wyatt

I know!  I know!  He's the most beautiful little boy in ALL of China!!  I made a blog for him.  It's called While Wyatt Waits.  Feel free to follow along on our journey to bring home Robinson baby #8!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Black Gold, Texas Tea

Riding around in our big white van can be interesting at times.  Sometimes it's loud and wild; other times everyone is cranky and whiny; then there are times where it's a whole lot of fun.  Every now and then there's a happenin' worthy of writing down.  I store up the CRAZY on purpose so that when a rough day rolls around we can scroll through and laugh and laugh until we feel better.

Some days the laughter keeps me from crying.....seriously!

I'm not sure if we're funny to other people or we're just funny to ourselves, but today the funny helped get me through the day.

Back to the big white van and today's ride to and fro....We're rolling along the highway this afternoon when Dean and one of our offspring get to talking about some new show called Bayou Billionaires. This sparked a vehicle-wide convo about what we'd do with a billion dollars.  I'm only half-listening by this point because I've recently begun using all of my riding to and fro time trying to beat Dean's high score in Bejeweled Blitz.

This is important, y'all!  You have no idea how crazy I can get about the high score!

I vaguely remember someone asking Dean if he knew any billionaires, but my attention didn't really leave the game until I noticed that Dean's words began to rhyme. He wasn't singing, y'all, just talking in a regular voice, with normal story-telling inflection, explaining about the only billionaire he knew.  Ummmm.  Huh?  We don't know any billionaires!  I almost said something, but then I did it - 178,850!!! NEW HIGH SCORE!!  Attention back to the game!

I almost missed the hilarity around me.  I have no idea how he kept a straight face because by the time I heard "black gold, Texas tea" I was making snorting noises, rolling side to side and trying not to wet my pants.  It wasn't until he got to the line "Californy is the place you ought to be" that somebody caught on, which is not surprising since the BEVERLY HILLBILLIES is about a billion years old.  Within seconds I pulled up a You Tube video of the theme song and we were all singing along.  Ah, joy!  Thank you, God, for a husband that makes me laugh without even trying!