"When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven" -- Saint Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized October 18, 2015 along with her husband St. Louis Martin.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Be Ready For Christmas List

I know it's too late to apply this year, but I like to try to track my method in getting ready for the holiday parties.  I am sure that not everyone has 8 children under the age of 13, all of whom are home schooled.  And I am sure that most of you are better at housekeeping than I, so my house is probably far worse than yours on any given day.  You can take that into account and cut out the tasks that do not apply.
I just whipped this list up off of the top of my head, I think it's roughly the path I followed today and yesterday.

Phase One (that is, going into the holiday)

1) Do laundry.

Because it is all too tempting to let the hidden daily chores sit while you are busy baking and decking halls and shopping.  When the laundry backs up, panic strikes the heart of the large-family Mother.  So for heaven's sake keep the laundry going!

2) Keep doing dishes.

This one you will probably have less choice on.  Baking cookies and candies and serving ten people three meals a day will pretty much force you to do dishes on a constant basis.  Still, I say do them.  Because I am the first one to know about those stray pots and pans…or that stew that's still sitting in the crock pot…ew.  Just do the dishes.

3) Vacuum.  Or tell a kid to.  Because it sucks dirt and things off of your floor, it raises the base-line before you begin.  Especially because there is usually some picking-up that has to be done in order to vacuum, so, more progress by one simple request.

Phase Two

This is when the work gets a bit harder, but you can bring in the kids to help on this phase.

1)  They're excited about the influx of presents that is about to happen.  Capitalize upon that and tell them that if they want to get new toys, they need to make room for them.  (Advent and Lent are great times for purging the home of old toys, but this list is focusing more on the last-minute efforts).  All stray toys in bedrooms and main floor areas are to be gathered and banished to basements or toy rooms or personal storage bins/shelves/closets.  The main living area needs to be TOY FREE! (Other than a possible small basket for a)the baby and b)as a catch-all for stray toys that are discovered as you clean…which comes next).

2)  Throw in slip covers or throw pillow covers if this applies to you.  My children are like herding cats when it comes to PB&J covered hands or leaky juice cups.  I know there are supposed to be rules about these things…I do try.  But look, if your couches look like mine, you don't want company having to sit on them.  Either spot clean them or throw the covers in the wash. It's work, but Christmas only comes once a year (thank Heavens!).  Now get out your vacuum and since the couch is torn apart, vacuum it out.
[We're morphing into phase three here, which is the deep clean, but go ahead and get the couch done while you're at it.]

3)  Make everyone put everything away.  Dirty clothes down laundry chute (and make someone keep the loads rolling), clean clothes away, stray hats/socks/baseball mitts--away!!  This part can be the worst, but if you tell the kids that anything you find you have the right to throw away, it is very motivating to the children to help put things in the right place.

Phase Three

Ok, now you absolutely must have help, because time's a ticking and there's SO MUCH to do!

1) send someone to the play room if you have one and tell them to organize it.   If this is just their bedrooms again, have them make them bomb-proof from little cousins who may be visiting (that, too, can be motivating).  Now realize, these are children you are using to help you, so you'll probably have to glance at their efforts to make sure the job is acceptable.  I prefer to send my husband, because if I get started on the toy room, I may never leave.  If he's able to vacuum while he's down there, he earns extra bonus points.  (I don't know what the reward is?!  But he totally gets the points).

2) Put the slip covers/ pillow cases back on the couches as they come out of the wash.  And tell someone to do more laundry (here's looking at you, Miss 13 year old!);)

3) Move all couches (if you have time, if the company is due in just hours, skip this part and do more surface efforts) and vacuum or sweep (if you have hard wood floors--and if you're really ambitious, mop!) under them all, grabbing a wet rag for the window sills to hit the winter dust/cobwebs and possibly some window cleaner if you have windows that are hard to reach while the couches are in place.  Yes, now you're multi-tasking, so focus, because you're getting back to the floors after this.

*You can get help on ALL windows at this point (thank you, 11-year-old-Son), but at least hit the front door if there's a glass storm door on.

**While you're getting help, send someone out with a stiff broom to blast the winter mud/grime off of the front stoop and door mat.  Tell them to make it nice for the guests as they arrive.

4) Keep vacuuming/cleaning the floors if you have hard wood and feel like actually washing them, picking up as you go, moving away from the couches and out of the corners of the room, because there are always things on the floor and now you're moving the coffee tables too, and vacuuming under them as well, and clearing out any detritus that has accumulated.

4) Now dust all flat surfaces, clearing off everything that has piled on every table, desk and counter.  Oh it can be terrible! Err on the side of TOSSING odds and ends if you can.  You can do without a stray rubber band or broken crayon.  This is not time to be a perfectionist.  If you're as late on this part as I am, you'll start shoving things randomly in drawers, and that's OK!! Because Spring cleaning is just around the corner and you'll get to those drawers then.  Right now we need to move on!

5) Make someone else scour the bathrooms, you're doing the kitchen last.  Tell them to make sure the mirror and sink is shining and there are hand towels and bathroom tissues aplenty!

While you're asking for help, shout at some dear soul to haul out the trash that is accumulating from all of this. (And thank them kindly).

6) Start that final load of dishes.  Hand wash whatever doesn't fit and put it away.  Scrub the counters (after clearing them as completely as possible)  and stove.  Clear off the table and wipe it down.  Sweep and mop the floor.

8) Set the tables.

You're ready!

Oh, are you in charge of cooking?  Ok, that's something I did NOT have to do this year since my Mom brought the dinner.

In that case, you must do the bulk of this in days prior to Christmas.  I, on the other hand, was sweating and in my sweats as my sister arrived.  I dashed upstairs, changed, and joined in the party. (Told you I was late).

How long did this take me?   7 hours of non-stop, hard, fast labor, with my husband and about 4 able-bodied children assisting (my big girls were out for a few hours).

Christmas was awesome.  I. am. tired.  Tired, and very happy.  So worth it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

O Christmas Tree!

 Taking 8 children to pick out a Christmas tree is a delightful prospect in theory.

The day was clear and cold.  We arrived at the lot and piled out of our 12 passenger van with high spirits.  Within moments we were surveying rows of green trees, all of them quite lovely.  My husband pointed at the closest tree on the end of the closest row: "how about this one?"  Oh how I wish I had said "yes!", grabbed the tree, and run!  But no, I had to dash off down a row to see if I liked anything better.  Unfortunately, my 8 children followed my example.  Well, I held the baby, and my husband had Legolas, so only 6 children ran hither and yon, pointing here, shouting there.

At one point I had three girls hugging a tree. I turned to see my three sons looking somewhere between unamused and nauseated.  They wanted a big one.  Galadriel burst into tears at their choice.  Arwen was heavily in favor of a compromise tree, a compromise which the others were unwilling to accept.

Did I mention it was cold?  Pain set into my ears.  The baby grew unhappy.  The man working at the lot was…watching.  We picked one.  The kids dashed off to the store to pay.  Arwen had tears rolling down her face.  Thinking quickly, I promised her that she, and only she, could pick out a new tree skirt (I have NO idea where our old one vanished to!).  Satisfied, we came home, strung lights and let the kids hang the ornaments.  The children were ready to celebrate. I breathed a sigh of relief!  Here's how I found poor Eowyn moments after setting her down upon arrival home--I think that says it all!

the "new tree skirt"

anyone surprised that it has "bling"? (Arwen did just turn 13);)

St. Nick's: Sweet and Sour

 Since it is Christmas time and I have no time for posting, but wish to capture some moments from our Advent season, I am posting a little highlight from St. Nicholas morning.  My Mom always made popcorn balls for our stockings, and now, with 17 grandchildren, she still drops bags off at each of our homes the night before St. Nick.  She is the real Mrs. Claus!

Here is Eowyn with her first St. Nick's popcorn ball and orange!

And now for the orange!
still sweet

I could have stopped her, but instead I snapped more pics!