Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Laundry Logistics

I remember it well.
We brought home our third baby and the laundry seemed to quadruple overnight.

I was so naive.

Enter the fourth, fifth-seventh, and eighth- twelfth children and...
the laundry fiasco consumes my life.

Kids pile clothes in gender-specific baskets by the washer and dryer, teens not included (they do their own laundry). I wash clothes multiple times per day, dry, take them out of the dryer and put into a basket to be folded. Lots of times I bring the baskets to the living room and declare it a "folding party" and get all the kids to help fold clothes really quickly, which means I find girls jeans in the boys piles and boys pajamas mixed into the pink silky stuff. These piles get sorted by bedroom and I either put them away myself or delegate that to the kids, which results in multiple mornings of "moooommmmm.... I can't find jeannnnnssssss!!" when I know they are clean, but not put away correctly. This part makes me insane. When you have 3 boys in a 8-10 and they share a closet, you'd think it would be easier to find ONE pair of jeans that fit one of them. You would be wrong.

So... one day, I had asked the kids to clean their play room ONE TOO MANY TIMES which resulted in a version of "clean" that looked like this:

Clearly not okay.

I mean, I'm not the most organized person on the planet... (dear husband: stop laughing.)
but I had organized bins and labeled containers for everything to get put away in the right place. 
I had made this easy on them - they CHOOSE to be lazy and not do it the right way.

So... I did what any logical, calm, thinking person would do.

I totally flipped out and pulled EVERYLASTSINGLESTINKINGTOY out of the playroom into the entry and started bagging them up like garbage.

Uh huh. I do that too. Oh, you thought it was just you? Nope. I have the patent on freaking-out-mommy-ism.

Then I decided I was repossessing this room. They can't have it and not take care of it... space is at a MAJOR premium in this house and I'm not dealing with THAT kind of mess on the main level, right by the front door. Nope. Done.

So I went around and assessed the clothing situation. 
Again, for your viewing pleasure...

 I'm so not kidding. These were all taken in a matter of 10 minutes. This was not staged for some dramatic blog purpose. These are actual rooms/hallways/closets IN MY HOUSE! I can't physically stay on top of this mess. It's impossible for one person. Not possible. IMpossible. I have other things to do besides laundry... like cooking for 14 people multiple times a day. Sheesh.

So... my social worker and I were talking that day (not about laundry specifically) and she said "you know, your complaints are never about the kids, or about behaviors, or about the noise... it's always the mess. You need a helper."

Well, I thought about that... and since I'm a major introvert/private type person and the thought of having someone come help me clean up my house causes me to break out in hives with a rapid heart rate and breathing abnormalities... I decided instead that I'm TAKING MY HOUSE BACK, dadgummit!!

So... the logical conclusion was to move ALLLLLLLLLL those baskets of clothes into the play room, ahem... "kids closet"... and begin to sort, box up wrong sizes and wrong seasons, and put things into size order by child - not by number. I have a 6 year old who can wear the same size as our 4 year old, and two 7/8 year old boys who wear basically the same size except one has more trunk space than the other and therefore the same jeans don't work with both of them. 

More pictures:

I had found some shelves up in the attic that were previously in the closets and above the laundry area before my husband did his awesome built-in cubbies. I used those and had to buy one more long shelf and some brackets... which was not very much expense for the whole project.
Dremels are awesome. 

Level. Uh huh. Awesomeness.

Half of the room... bookshelf that still has toy-room remnants. That was quickly fixed.
View of the center of the room - windows. I added benches for shoe-application.

Right side of the room... boy's side.

 After I put up these shelves, I spent a day just admiring the cleanness of the room. No chaos, no piles of junk, no stepping on Legos... it was nice. The next morning... that came to an abrupt halt.

I brought ALLLLLLL the clothes to the room and bought every child-size hanger at the Everything's-a-dollar store. Every. Single. Hanger. 

I wish I had a better size comparison for this. Some sort of scale.

This pic is a little better. The red bin is a large storage rubbermaid tote.

 So, I started sorting. A pile for "out-of-season", a pile for "won't fit anyone next season" and a pile for "stained to embarrassing levels" and two piles of "keep-wearing now", one on the boys side of the room, the other on the girls side. This was fast. It was furious. It was decisive and cleansing.

After that was done, I started sorting the girl piles. One for the younger girls (who thankfully wear the same size) and one for the older girls (who also wear the same size). I sorted them into full outfits - skirt/leggings/top, pants/turtleneck/sweater, dress/leggings. I left some jeans by themselves and some tops by themselves for those days they want to choose an outfit for themselves. I put the outfits on the top hanging rod and the single items below. I sorted and folded pajama sets together. I put undies into two bins - 4T and 6X. I made a bin of socks and I put things I think they may grow into very quickly on the top shelf. DONE!

I moved to the boys clothes piles and did the same thing, except I didn't make "outfits". I sorted pants from tops, divided by size and type, and put everything on hangers. I have two small open dish pans for t-shirts, one for athletic pants, and one for dress pants that they ALWAYS try to wear to school. (That one went up high.)

I bought more dollar-store dish pans for shoes. They slide right in under the boys' clothes racks and I labeled them by person. I have yet to hear "I can't find my shoes" at 7:58 on a school day since.

Here are some mostly-complete version photos:

girl side taken at night... weird lighting.

Boy side - it was dark when I took this, too.

You can sort of see the bins in these last two pictures. The bins on the middle shelf above on the left are extra leggings and tights by size. On the bottom are dressy shoes, but those got moved up high and pajamas took those bottom two shelves. The undies are in the blue buckets. 

My next problem was that those french doors to this room... well, they don't exactly help me hide my new organizational heaven from those who come to visit and who might not understand the decor.

So... my friend Shauna reminded me of these french doors I had seen online covered with maps... and I just happened to have a giant stack of old National Geographic maps...
so I used a few of the less-popular ones and covered the windows! Now there's privacy, cute design, and I can shut the doors when we have company and not worry about them wondering why I have 9 kids worth of clothing in what used to be the office (that turned into the playroom).

The picture on the left, you can see bags...those are gone now. I was unpacking from our trip!  

Oh, and I left the TV in there...
so I can still use this room as a quiet retreat for a few littles if need be!

P.S - what happened to their toys? Well, the room I created in their bedrooms by removing all the clothes left nice cubbies and organized spaces to put crates of toys! Now the boys can sit in their bedroom and play legos or the girls can go build their doll house and play tea party in their bedrooms without bumping into each other and dragging the tiny parts all over the entry way and into the dining and living rooms. Amen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

That three-question thingy

(this post isn't funny. there are no pictures. it's not about my kids. sorry.)

I am fairly certain I've written before about my three-question test to try to determine if a path you are considering is God's Will for your life.
It's presumptuous, I know...
but I think when you're dealing with something like free-will and you're a Jesus-loving person trying to discern God's Will when it's not spelled out to the letter in Scripture... you need some kind of road map.

Thus was born...the Three-Question Test.

 (a recap for those who missed that post... and since I can't find it...)

Before you get all legalistic on me... I'm talking about big decisions in your life... the ones you pray about and spend hours pondering, make pro's and con's lists about, the ones that keep you up at night. These are the things we are talking about here... not "which flavored syrup to add to my latte". Got it? Okay.

1. Do I have scripture to back it up one way or the other? I believe that this forces you to open up your Bible, check the concordance, read scripture, allow it to permeate your soul, and breathe deeply the Word of God the Father.

2. When I pray about it, do I feel peace?
The Holy Spirit inhabits the very inner workings of Christ-followers.
He can NOT lead you astray and like the song says:
Kickin' it OLD SCHOOL with Newsboys....                                                         "It's just a spirit thing
It's just a holy nudge
It's like a circuit judge in the brain
It's just a spirit thing
It's here to guard my heart
It's just a little hard to explain
It pushes when I quit

It smells a counterfeit
Sometimes it works a bit like a teleprompter..."

 3. Would it PLEASE God? This requires you to know the heart of God through Jesus. I imagine myself sitting at His feet... going over choices and decisions with Him and I look up with exasperation in my eyes and say "but... would this please YOU, Lord?"
And if my answer is YES... well... what else is there?

My Three Questions always stopped there. 
I had my answer. 

Then recently I began to be bothered by something.

I think there should be an over-arching fourth question.

Now... hang with me. 
This is where my train of thought smashes a lazy cow standing in the middle of the tracks and keeps on going. Thump. Moo.

The fourth question... maybe a final thought on these big decision moments... 
What would bring God the MOST glory?
Maybe the answer isn't what you'd think. 
Maybe what would bring God the most glory would not make sense otherwise.

Sometimes God allows weirdness to take place to draw attention to us... to bring Him glory. 
(see family picture above)

Sometimes... we presume we know God's will, but we have not really considered what brings Him glory. 
Sometimes what brings Him the most glory alienates us from the common-sense crowd.
Sometimes He points us down a path that seems absurd... 
just so He can say "but do you TRUST me?"

I don't know if anyone needed to read this... or if it's just for ME... but I know that whenever I/we have had to try to make a big decision, this method of figuring things out has really helped bring me/us peace! 


Okay, I lied... one quick picture.
This makes me smile:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Words < Photos

Sorry... I know it's been nearly a month since I posted anything
(to the three of you who come to see if there's anything new to see here).

I do have things to say...
but at this time, I'm not sure how to say them.
I'm spending the month in daily thankfulness on Facebook...
so that's a nice way to keep my heart squared up nicely.
I'll combine those thoughts a week at a time and post them here to save them.

So... until I put some things into words... 
here is a quick snippet of what's going on around here!



which led to the death of
Sir Mix-a-Lot.

    Very sad.

One day my husband was cooking while I was not home and had trouble finding cinnamon. 
I wasn't thrilled.

So I spent some time reorganizing and did this:
Look at THAT! Cinnamon: row two, far right.

Last week, our 16-year-old got his license...
And ever since,
I've been handing over my keys.
However, if your kid can take and pass his driver's exam in a 15-passenger van...
I think he's a pretty well-qualified driver.
And super cool.
Way cooler than most other 16-year-old boys.

 This is leaving the DMV:

 And later that day...taking his sister out for free taco day at the 'Bell:

note terrified look on daughter's face.

Double checking... they thought I'd cry. Nope.  Pick up some TP on the way home.   

And I'm now officially old. Commence grey hair and dinner before 5pm.

 We spent a LOT of time at soccer...

 These boys make me smile:

 And we watched a lot of football:

And we watched soccer some more...

 And I found this Wonder Woman cape at a thrift store...I love it...

These two turned FOUR...

We played at the park...

and we acted all super-cool.

So, that's pretty much our October! 
I'll post something more thought-provoking soon... just organizing my words in my brain!
Happy November!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Finish line

That magical moment during the day when otherwise exhausted children suddenly decide to drop their deepest, most troubling thoughts or memories at your worn-out feet and look up at you with giant brown eyes that say "okay, lady, now what are you going to do with this?"

Bedtime sometimes leaves me speechless.
Like last night when I was doing my nightly whack-a-mole routine trying to get 5 boys into bunk beds, prayed up, tucked in, laying down, and staying in that position when out of the blue...
"Mom, Ethiopia is very, very hard."
And so it begins.
The snowball effect of three precious boys recalling events, retelling stories, acting out behaviors, and asking for confirmation that THIS place is where they will stay forever.

"Mom, I don't want to go back to Ethiopia. There's mean, mean people there. I want to stay here."

It is out of this hard place that my previous post on the Jesus who is the warrior, defender of the weak, reigning world champion comes in and holds me up from falling over into a puddle on the floor as I reach for that sweet boy and squeeze him tight and whisper in his ear
"Baby, you stay with ME. I'M your Mommy and I love you. NO ONE is allowed to hurt you here."

It was at that magical hour one night when I could see the hurt in our son's eyes and I came up with this little affirming statement for them that they repeat after me. I kneel down to their level and look at those gorgeous chocolate eyes and say
"I am my Mommy's baby.
My mommy LOVES me.
I am a treasure."

Yes...It gets me every time, too.

Sometimes it's mundane.
Sometimes I'm just over it and I wish they'd all just get in the bed and go to sleep by themselves.
But, I would have missed it when our former-youngest-child suddenly stood up for his brothers and said "when I get big, I'm going to go to Ethiopia and PUNCH them TWICE. In the FACE!" and inside my spirit did this giant "YEAH!!" shout of success and I couldn't help but smile and think... wow, he's protective of them. We've come a long way, baby! That's progress. That's bonding. That's brotherly love and that's a watering hole in the desert of attachment.

Oh, bedtime.
Mine needs to be earlier for sure... but the silence and the rest I feel in those few hours of quiet are at least as refreshing for my brain as the extra hour or two of sleep. I need that time to unpack my day, re-think things I said or did, compose myself for tomorrow and go over my mental checklists. I just need that little space between the days for myself.

Bedtime - it's the finish line for the day. It's the end of the "stuff" and it's the pause before the next "stuff" hits. It's one last hug and kiss, one more drink of water, prayers for stuff only kids think of, and walking out of the room with a deep exhale that says "see? you made it after all."

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I'm in a Wednesday night small group/Bible study right now that's really been good for my soul. We are studying Revelation in parallel with our Sunday morning lessons in church and it is slowly opening my eyes and confirming to me why it is that my entire Bible-reading life, I tend to turn to Revelation when I don't know what else to read. I'm always confused when people say they don't like this particular book, or don't think it belongs, or that it scares them... I'm in the "intrigued" camp.

Here's what I'm slowly realizing.

I've been taught what's in the Bible.

Don't skip that. Don't skim right over it.

I've been taught. We teach our kids to tie their shoes, to clear the table after a meal, to walk on the sidewalk on the way to school and to drive a car. We teach our dog to sit/down/stay. We teach our children multiplication and how to color inside the lines neatly.
I was taught the Bible by my family, the world, cliches, sound bites and 80-something credits of college Bible courses. 

But I'd submit to you that the Bible - the Word of God - needs to be LEARNED. It needs to be absorbed slowly, intentionally, and often. You need to put down your commentaries, put down your favorite lady-teacher Bible study books, put down your motivational poster quotation snippets and plaques above your door and actually READ the WORDS for yourself. Let them seep into your soul. Each word is there intentionally - so ask why it's there! You should be so familiar with the words and stories that when you hear a phrase, your mind immediately jumps to the words you've read. When a friend is struggling, you have an idea where to go for encouragement because you've read that encouragement yourself.

Last night in Bible study we were asked "What is your mental picture of Heaven?", and how our view may have been skewed over the years. I've thought more about my own answer last night and more about my own ideas that I was taught over the years (if you ever need to be entertained, be in a Bible study with me. I'm not famous for my "Sunday School answers").

The idea of sitting on a cloud for all of eternity strumming a harp is not exciting.
It's not even desirable.
Okay, some days I'd take a cloud-sitting break in a heartbeat because the silence might be nice for a while. But for ETERNITY?? No thanks. So is it any wonder that when we try to "sell" salvation via eternity in this kind of fabricated, cartooned, movie version of Heaven - we lose the attention of those we hope will hear?

And what of the Jesus we offer to the broken and hurting?

The idea of an Omni-Omni Jesus  (yes, I made that term up, unless someone else has already said it...) who looks like that Sunday School Bible story Jesus sitting on a rock holding a lamb while the little kids gaze up at him... frankly... He would be GREAT for story time at my house, or maybe in a particularly quiet time he could lead some little songs or hold someone's hand while I go get an ice pack. But strong enough to lift me up out of my deepest despair? Mighty enough to come rushing the gates of Hell to save me from myself? Umm... no offense, but I wouldn't want him to hurt himself rushing to my rescue.

Now, I'm not saying Jesus isn't big enough to be both... but there's a particular brand of effeminate Jesus that I just find distasteful by the standards I read in MY Bible. Mark Driscoll once said "I cannot worship a guy I can beat up." By the artists' interpretations of Jesus over the years, they have stripped him of all masculinity and reduced him to some sad, tame, metrosexual version of the lanky unpopular kid in high school. I mean this with ZERO disrespect to the Christ of the Gospels... but really people??? Is that YOUR Jesus?

I need the Jesus of Revelation and Daniel and Ezekiel.
I need the Jesus who storms in with lightening and thunder and brightness that knocks the strongest men on their faces in awe, fear and reverence.
I need the sword-wielding Jesus on a white horse who says "You are MINE and NO ONE will take you from MY hand."
I need the Jesus that inspires worship - spontaneous, genuine, heart felt, I-have-no-other-option-in-my-being-but-to-worship WORSHIP. Not some half-hearted, lip synced song on Sunday mornings.
I need the Jesus who fights for injustice.
I need the Jesus who says "I SEE where you are. I KNOW how hard this is. I struggled too and I'm WITH you in this."
The Jesus who grabs your face, turns it to his and looks right in your eyes and says with authority "I know the life are living right now is CRAP, but hold on because I've got you and WITH ME you CAN do this. I'm right with you."
For my friends who are dealing with horrible stuff and wonder where Jesus is... they need the warrior Jesus clearing the path for them, holding them up when they fall and strengthening them when they can't do it for one more minute.
For my daughters, I need the Jesus who says "unless I hold his heart- he's not the one for you." 
For my sons, I need the Jesus who says "Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with Me and lead your family in that same path." 
For my daily routine I need the Jesus who puts my busy hands in His and says "You are the mommy/woman/wife/friend/sister/daughter that I love! Your love is your worship. Loving them is loving Me! Quiet your heart and know that I am strong enough for all of this."
This is not what I hear coming from the mouth of pacifist 60's "Peace, Love and Lambs" Jesus in my kids' illustrated story book Bible.

To my non-believing friends, maybe your picture of Jesus was drawn by stained glass windows, felt boards and illustrated children's books.
Maybe you were hurt and someone said something like "This is God's Will!"
Maybe you blame Him for not being stronger.
Maybe you need someone to stand up for you, too - to toss some people out of your life, flip over some tables and show them who's the boss.
Maybe you need the Jesus we find in Revelation.
After all, it's the same Jesus from Genesis who crushes the heads of serpents.

He loves fiercely. He is strong enough. He knows. He feels. He protects and He saves.
He's the conquering King, I tell you.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Moose cupcakes

This is not a food blog.
There are places you can go to read about food,
recipes, ingredients, and stuff like that...
this is typically not that place.
I made these cupcakes that I think are cute,
and since I couldn't find instructions online when *I* wanted to make them...
here ya go!
One of our daughters birthday fell on Labor Day this year. 
This meant I got an extra few days to send in her
"my happiness as a child in this class and ultimately my success in making friends and having good self-esteem depends on what birthday snack I bring in" birthday cupcakes.
Okay, so it's not quite that bad.
(yes it is.)
I emailed the teacher and found out they were reading the "If you give a Moose/Mouse/Pig..." series at school that week...
so a Google search was born.
This is what I came up with:

I made some cupcakes and some chocolate mouse frosting.
(hindsight -When you make these - use regular frosting. Don't go fancy. Keep reading for why.)

While they were cooling, I free-hand drew some moose antlers on plastic wrap.
(hind-sight - make some going in the opposite direction or you have one bumpy antler, one smooth antler. Also, make 20% more antlers than you think you need.)

Then, I had those large rolls of tootsie roll stuff - the ones that look like a Lincoln log.
I cut them into pieces and used my rolling pin to flatten them into a moose head shape.
Having never seen a moose in person, this was up to my interpretation.
Use a decorating marker to draw a moose-ish face on each one. I used a dab of white chocolate with a smaller dab of dark chocolate to make the eyes. I was going for non-creepy, cartoon-ish eyes.

Then, assemble your moose. (plural)

Okay. I have the world's most awesome cupcake carrier.
It holds 36 cupcakes and it's the sweetest shade of blue!
It was a gift - so no, you can't go buy one.

Moose Lodge. (hahahaha!)

Final note...

And if you happen to have leftovers that travel home in the Moose Lodge with their newly-7-year-old captor...
they may look like this when they get home: