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?