Saturday, January 16, 2010

ReRun: Scheduling with Lots of Kids

We recently had a couple rough weeks in the Peterson Household. Eric had issues with the aircraft at work. I had issues with getting our taxes filed (first had a demon possessed computer, then couldn’t find the baby’s social security number), I lost my post for Happy to be at Home several times without saving (Yes, I learned my lesson), and we were dealing with insurance to try to cover some experimental treatment we were trying to get for Mercy. The treatment was supposed to start last Monday morning, and insurance denied it at 4:00 on the Friday afternoon before, to much wailing and gnashing of teeth. (We did get the approval last week and will start these treatments this coming week.)

In the meantime, the children continued to need to eat (didn’t they just do that yesterday?), the house continued to need to stay relatively clean (there are 11 of us living here… and clean is a relative word…) and school still needed to run.

How did all this happen when Mom and Dad were pretty much taken out of the picture due to spending hours on the phone tracking things down? You got it — the dreaded “S” word.


Many people start twitching when they hear the word Schedule. It will make their faces turn green and their eyes roll in their heads. They will start foaming at the mouth and spitting nails when you tell them they would get more done with a Schedule.

I get a lot of questions and comments about how I get it all done. I am quick to say that I never get it all done, and only rarely do I get much done well! However, I do have some tricks to get more done than otherwise.

1. Develop a Routine

The first thing is our routine. We don’t schedule as far as lots of time frames, but we do have a routine though — an order to our days which helps us all to know what should be coming next. And then the children can continue on even though I am not around. This has been helpful in times of illness, business, or again this week when I will be in the hospital with Mercy for several days. Our life will go on relatively smoothly.

In the mornings we try to get up at 6:30. Sometimes it is later. If so, the routine starts at wake up time, whatever that is. For one hour we read the Bible, get dressed, make beds and straighten bedrooms and do the morning chores. At that point we sit down and eat breakfast. We try to be starting school 90 minutes after everyone is up.

This is flexible, but it is our goal. I have assigned the morning chores so no one should spend more than 15 minutes doing them, but if that is all the cleaning we get done, it is fine. Everyone picks up one room, plus has a quick cleaning thing. The main rooms get vacuumed, the toilets and sinks get washed, the dishwasher gets emptied, animals get fed, etc. When assigning these, I tried to think of what needed to be done on a regular basis to keep the house looking neat.

In my house, I am not real good at getting things done in the afternoon. I try to get important things done in the mornings. My parts of school, baking, and organizing projects are much more successful in the mornings.

2. Prioritize

Another thing I did each day was to figure out what I really wanted to do each day, and assign the amount of time needed to do it. So if reading out loud for an hour a day is important to you, write that down with an hour blocked off. I was surprised when I did this — I had 29 hours of things I wanted to do each day, and only 24 hours to do it in! No wonder I always felt like nothing got accomplished. Be realistic. Figure out what is really important — make sure you make time for the things which HAVE to be done, then add in the things you really want to get done. Have a list of things which you would do if there is the time, but know that there will rarely be time for those.

3. Have a Place and Time for Everything

Have a place for everyone to be. Don’t forget to schedule places for the preschoolers so they don’t sabotage the rest of the children’s day.

4. Avoid Schedule Slavery

One last thing — although I could go on for a long, long time — remember that the schedule is your tool. It works for you. You are not the slave of the schedule. People are more important than things. If your schedule causes you to resent your husband taking the day off, or a friend wanting to stop by to visit, something is wrong. If you are yelling at the children because you are “supposed” to be doing math and they are still doing spelling, priorities are out of whack. A schedule is a goal to try to get the most of your days, not a slave master to make you all stressed out and miserable.

If you want to read a great how-to book on scheduling, Managers of Their Homes at is well worth the money.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ReRun: Teaching Kids To Cook

I shared before how I think that if someone else can do the job, I should pass it on to them. After all, I have more to do each day then I have time for. You can read more about it here if you missed it.

Something I didn’t mention is the constant attempt to remember to use the youngest child able to do the job. If the 7-year-old or the 5-year-old could both do it, I try to train the 5-year-old. This doesn’t always happen, but I try to keep this principle in mind.

Last year I had a really hard pregnancy. I threw up all the time. I couldn’t even grocery shop, not to mention cook all that food. So by necessity, the children learned to be responsible. I assigned breakfast to the 8-year-old, lunch to the 11-year-old, and dinner to the 15-year-old. It worked nicely! So nicely, in fact, that although I make dinner sometimes, it has stayed this way even though the baby is now 7 months old. After all, if someone else can do it, I have plenty of things to do that they cannot.

My oldest daughter is getting older…and busier. And the next two girls, Anna (9) and Emma (7) have been wanting to learn to cook. I figure that the more they can do, the more they can take off Angela’s shoulders. So a couple weeks ago we opened the “Peterson Culinary Institute.” The little girls are so excited! Every day they have a cooking assignment as part of school. It may be making muffins, coffeecake, hot chocolate mix, chopping veges for soup or salads, whatever.

After they successfully make a recipe, I ask that Anna write the recipe on a piece of paper and we put it in a page protector in a notebook. They are creating their own cookbook out of the recipes they know how to make.

Most of the things are going well. Yesterday they made pancakes from scratch, all by themselves. When I got up in the morning, there were two plates of pancakes warming up in the oven. Today it was French toast. Last week they got a great recipe for chili out of the Taste of Home magazine. Emma also made “Valentine Buttons” for snack yesterday.

Valentine Buttons

There have been some failures too — like the chocolate pudding. It was so nasty, you wouldn’t believe it. When we went over the recipe to find out where they went wrong, I asked them if they seperated the eggs since they were supposed to only use the egg whites. Anna gasped, and looked at me with huge eyes. “Mama! I thought they meant white eggs!” This is a reasonable mistake since we bring in brown, white, and blue eggs from our hen house. Oh, have we been laughing about this! I can imagine the reunions they will have long after Eric and I are gone…still cackling over white eggs in the pudding.

French Toast

They are loving it, they are learning valuable skills they will need in the future, and they are building memories. What better thing can you spend your time on? Go ahead — open a Culinary Institute in your home! Soon you will be out of the main chef job.

Culinary Institute

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ReRun: A Place for Everyone

When we moved here to rural Kentucky five years ago, we had six children ages 11 to 8 months. They were pretty small.

Fast forward four years, and I have nine children ages 15 (almost 16) to 4 months. There are more of them, they are bigger, and they are noisier.

I have never been able to handle the noise very well. (Ironic that God gave me nine children and sensitive ears, isn’t it?!) They also stay up later, so I have people around me from the minute I wake up in the morning until the minute I go to sleep at night. We were needing some serious re-visiting of where everyone is in the house when we homeschool. For the sake of my sanity, you know. Those in-patient treatment facilities are way out of the budget.

Sometimes it just works out that you need to re-think the flow of your day and how you are going to run everything. Where will everyone be? Will there be traffic jams? Can you anticipate trouble areas?

Thinking fresh sometimes finds a solution you didn’t see before.

Anyone who knows me at all knows I love to move furniture. Every few months I get this gleam in my eye, and anyone who can be found is trapped into hauling furniture from one place to another.

One day I asked Eric if he could help me a little…that it meant thinking outside the box. His response? “Every time I think outside the box, I end up moving furniture.”

They all roll their eyes and humor me. For I am my mother’s daughter after all. She does the same thing. I come by it honestly.

Eric always lets the boys know that they are getting plenty of practice for when they are married, when their wives ask them to do this very same thing. He also spends much time reminding them that many times their wives will ask them to do things which don’t make sense, but men just do them so they can love their wives. He begs Angela to remember this when she is married and wanting a change of living room arrangement. She smiles while rubbing her shoulder muscles.

The boys groan when I ask for things to be moved in yet another arrangement. I pretend not to hear a bit of it since I am mentally trying to figure out how to get our current furniture to work better in a room which still has the same awkward dimensions.

I was in desperate need of figuring out new places for everyone. I have five independent scholars, a kindergartner, and the three-and-under crowd (three of them). Having them all in the same area was just too chaotic. So we rearranged. Now the three girls are in the rooms upstairs, each in their own spaces so they don’t bother each other. The two boys are each in their rooms. The kindergartner is at the table with me, and I am able to work on keeping the three-and-under crowd under control, which is not as easy as it sounds.

This has really helped. I have not felt I am ready to lose my mind even once recently.

So here’s my take home tidbit for you…find a place for everyone. Train them to stay there! Train them to work without you watching them every minute of the day.

I often get asked how I “Do It All.” Anyone who knows me in real life knows I don’t even try to “Do It All,” and much of what I do try fails miserably. And what works in my family won’t necessarily work in yours. So rather than specifics, I hope to share principles which will help you.

1. Everyone has a place.
2. Everyone stays there unless called by Mama.

Let me know if this works for you! I’d love to hear from you either via e-mail OR comments! Happy planning!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ReRun: Who are You?

I'm preaching to myself in this one... glad I found it when moving posts.


Who are you when the pot boils over?

boiling water 300x199 Who are you when the pot boils over?

We have had Trouble in the Peterson Household over the last week to ten days. Last Friday was really, really cold. We had dripped the faucets overnight, but I forgot to run them when we left for a 4-H meeting. By the time we returned home, they were frozen. We have the pipes run somehow that we would still have water in one bathroom even if all the other pipes froze. By Saturday, even that pipe was frozen. My wonderful husband had taken the day off to go to a gun show with a buddy of his, [I'm perfectly glad to have him do this since it means he lets me go to the homeschool convention with my friends in the spring...], so he was around to help with the current fiasco.

My wonderful husband gave up his gun day to help us thaw out our pipes. When they did thaw, they burst, and we almost burned out our water heater. Thankfully we caught it very fast.

We also had the faucet break in the kitchen, a toilet break, the dryer belt shred, and the vacuum break. Oh yeah — our heater needs to be replaced, too, so we were FREEZING here! When my husband got up on Saturday morning it was only 56 degrees in the house!

In case it sounds like I am whining, I’m really not. Mostly because it is all fixed now. But even if it hadn’t been, I had the chance to prove who I really am. Because you are not the person you show all the time. You are the person you show when the pot boils over. When the children are all clamoring for your attention, the dinner is burning, and the baby is crying and needs a diaper change.

I am not always good when the pot boils over. When the preschoolers are destroying the house while I am trying to give spelling tests and the phone is ringing, I am not always sweet and patient. When I am pregnant — which is most of the time — I am rarely ever sweet and patient. When I haven’t slept the night through in what feels like a decade, it is very hard to be patient.

Other times I have failed. I am sure I will fail again. This time I did not. I am working on my self-control when everything seems to be louder and crazier. Because I have come to a conclusion…

The image we have in our heads of the children sweetly getting along and doing their work without reminders…all the beautiful little heads bowed over their schoolwork, with their hair in pigtails and all wearing matching homemade dresses, and the mother sweetly correcting the toddlers gathered about her knee…GUESS WHAT?!?! That’s fake.

Reality is the baby having a poopy diaper, the toddler flushing the toilet paper, and the school kids bickering and losing their math books.

I am not the sweet mother in the paintings. Just in case you thought I have it all together. I am a human. Thankfully I am a human saved by God’s grace… and infused with HIS Spirit. The FRUIT of that Spirit… the things which should be common in my life (yes, even when the pot is boiling over…) is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

So I ask again — who are we when the pot boils over? Are we ruled by love, joy, peace, and all those things? Or do we lash out at the nearest person just because they are there?

When we fail — ask forgiveness. Both from God and from those who were on the receiving end of our failure. Start again… slowly but surely we’ll get better. And there will come the day when everything happens bad, and you can plow through it with a smile on your face, and the Peace that passes Understanding in your hearts.

Keep on Keepin’ on Mamas. You can do it.