Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Your Questions Answered, Part 2

I'm just full of answers, aren't I?

A few of you asked about what life is really like with 5 children.

Loukia said...
I DO want to know how to manage to get things down with five children!
SuzyQpon said...
Maybe you don't experience this but how do you handle the dinner time rush? Everyday I wonder if I will make it! I get home from work, rush to make dinner while everyone is whining about starving, the dog is barking (b/c he's starving too!), the cat is meowing (oh yeah, she's starving too!). We have to eat, clean up, get homework done by Thing 1 and try to straighten up our house (HA HA). Then we begin Thing 2's bath/bedtime routine. All while trying to talk to each other and get in some quality time with the Things. It's so stressful cramming everything into that 2-3 hour window! How the heck do you do it with 5?!?!
Now, let me start by saying, think back to what life was like before you had children. Did you think, "la dee dah. I have SO much extra time on my hands. Life is SO boring!" No, of course not. You filled up your time with whatever you had to do. Life's funny that way, no matter how much we cram in a day, there's only those same 24 hours.

After you had 1 or 2 kids or whatever, you probably let a few things go because you had someONE more important to take care of. Maybe it was Girls' Night Out. Maybe it was your regular tennis game. Maybe it was laundry. Whatever, you make due.

Well, that's kind-of what it's been like for me. When I had one child, I thought, "Man I had it EASY when I didn't have kids!" Then when #2 came along I thought having one kid was a piece of cake. Then 3 makes 2 look easy, and so on.

Having 5 children is a lot of managed chaos, but only because I'm me. Some women have unmanageable chaos with one child. Some women totally have their sh*t together with 19 children. I like to believe I fall somewhere on the spectrum between Hoarders and Heloise. On any given day you will find a minimum of two baskets of laundry, either folded or unfolded, sitting in a corner of the living room. Our shoe basket, located near the front door, is a home to more shoes than each person's closet. I steam clean the carpets when they start to look disgusting, which is about once a month. I have a box of papers to file that's at least 6 months deep. And I have a vague number in my head about the balance of my checkbook, but I haven't actually kept a register in about 2 years.

Like I said, managed chaos.

I don't really like to cook. Actually, that's not true. I DO like to cook for people who like to eat. But when 5 little faces turn up their noses or sigh or pout or run away from the table, I lose my cooking mojo. Plus Texan Papa has quit eating pork (it bothered him after contracting Lyme's Disease) and he also avoids spicy foods, fried foods, and tomatoes (which bother him after getting his gall bladder removed about 7 years ago). That doesn't leave a lot of options. So, dinnertime is usually 2-3 regular meals each week, 2-3 meals of leftovers, and 2 meals of quick food (sandwich, pizza, mac 'n cheese, etc.) I have tried to have a meal plan and when I do it, it really does work! But I don't get myself in the habit of doing it.

Another thing about having 5 kids, you have to remember, is that by the time you have #4 and #5, then #1 and likely #2 are getting old enough to do a lot of things for themselves. My oldest was 10 when my youngest was born. The older 3 are very self-sufficient - not in the way that we are absent parents or anything. But more like, I don't bathe them or brush their teeth. They can get breakfast for themselves. They can play outside without supervision. Stuff like that. So caring for 5 kids isn't like caring for quintuplets. Please shoot me for ever suggesting it would be fun to have twins.

Suzy asked about how we do the afternoon rush... that's a good question. I think, actually, that's the most organized part of my day because it has come to be that way. My kids get home around 3:45. I try to have something for them to eat for a snack, like crackers & cheese or a yogurt or some chips & salsa, something like that. While they get to work on their homework, I will give the baby & toddler a snack too. While everyone is snacking, I get started on dinner. Once the older kids are done with homework & snack, I tell them to take the toddler & baby and play with them, or else I get out some toys for the toddler & baby and they play nearby (it's usually pots & pans or my spice drawer. HUGE mess.) 5 out of the 7 days my husband is home at dinner time so he can help entertain the kids too. After dinner is when it gets sticky... I am exhausted & like to wind down but often the kitchen is a mess & needs attention. Some days I get to it, some days it looks like a tornado until the next morning.

I've just really gotten to the point that I've let some things go... things that I didn't want to let go but I've had to. I used to scrapbook like crazy and it was awesome. I haven't worked on them in almost 2 years. I also used to sew, but not anymore. But now I blog & shoot photographs. Just changing interests, I guess.

And as far as getting things done, weeellll..... I make a lot of lists, which I promptly lose. Then I send myself a text message. Then I write it on something I won't lose, like the calendar. I have had to forgive myself on more than one occasion for paying a bill late or forgetting a playdate with a friend. It happens. But it could just as easily happen with 1 child or 19 children.

More of your questions coming soon!

Texan Mama


Gigi said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one out there who makes lists and then loses them. I also send myself emails and voicemails....whatever works.

April said...

I find this so fascinating! Five kids...I can't even imagine! You get BIG kudos from me!

Jennifer said...

So basically the Tim Gunn approach, "make it work." Which is pretty much what we all have to do.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

Every mom of five I know said they really stopped letting go of things at three. Once they had three, it didn't matter how many more they had.

I can say this...as a teacher of anywhere from 20-29 kids, there is a lot more they CAN do on their own by the time they are 7 or 8(this isn't directed at you, because they do it at school.

I had a friend who used to empty her kids' backpacks, and as I watched her do this many times, I finally said,"Who do you thinks organizes their school things at school?" She was struck by that, realizing she could have allowed more independence with her two, giving up "her" jobs to "them."

It can be done!

Blessings to you Mom of 5, my favorite mom ever was one too!

nicole said...

I think you did an excellent job giving insight into raising lots of kids in this post. I always tell people that once you have one kid it is really just details. Everyone has to figure out what has to be done and what can slide, and it is different for each of us. And yes, people tend to think five babies, rather than five kids, when they hear a number. It is so different having older kids when you have a baby. And it is great.

Foursons said...

Thank you for being honest and transparent. Things around my house don't get done either and I am now going to let go of the guilt for having a sink full of dishes and enjoy reading blogs for a while.

Denise said...

What an awesome post... an honest look into parenting.

Life's funny that way, no matter how much we cram in a day, there's only those same 24 hours.

SO TRUE. I regularly look back at days long past and go, "Man, how did I do all that and stay sane and actually get it ALL done?" But it's like you said, you learn to sacrifice things for those things (people) most important to you in that moment.

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow! I am so impressed! I have like 6 loads of laundry to fold and I only have 1 kid. You are amazing Gretchen!

tz said...

wow, I'm so going to stop complaining about how busy I am...you kinda rock.

Melani said...

I am behind on my reading...but, you do whatever you can. I have a schedule and try to follow it daily, but there are times when nothing goes as planned! Great post!