The first day of C4C 2014 has been a big one. We have laughed, cried, and loved playing "I spy," looking for other mamas with our countries' flags on their name tags. Right off the stinking bat, The Captain swept me off my feet with some major sweetness when I picked up my stuff from the registration table and found a sweet little encouraging note he had sent on ahead of time. I know, right?! I stood right there at the table and cried all my makeup right off.
Personally, I started out at the first timers' session, even though I'm technically a second-timer. Lucky for me, nobody was checking C4C past attendance at the door. It was really helpful in decoding the mysterious letters and numbers on the back of my name tag, which would totally have prevented a bit of confusion over such things last year if I had arrived in time to attend it then.
Though I'd long since forgotten what sessions I signed up for, Breakout Session 1 on my list was called "Staying Sane While Raising a Large Family." I wasn't sure I qualified, with just the three chitlins, but again, nobody asked any questions so I went right on in. Though there were plenty of other great topics from which to choose, I was drawn to this session because: a) the presenter (Mary Ostyn) has 10 kids and has written quite a lot about raising and managing large families, and b) there are certain aspects of our life that are simply out of control at the present. The laundry, for instance. We are stuck in this endless cycle of washing only what we need for tomorrow, only to realize tomorrow night that we don't have what we need for the next days so we wash only what we need for the next day, and on and on...
Mary Ostyn is a wonderful speaker and has gobs of personal experience from which to draw her advice. She cleared my conscience at declaring any family with 3 or more kids as a "large family," because it is then that you are outnumbered. Preach it, sister.
Then she basically continued on reading my mind by sharing some practical tips to address the very issues I've been fretting over lately at the Casa de Wilson. She addressed several elements in her area of home management, including:
1. Involving your children. Yes, even the 2 year old can help do something. No, they won't be very efficient and no, it won't be exactly perfect but they need to help out around the home and we need to let them. Little bitties (2-3) can help with things like unloading the dishwasher, with sharp items removed beforehand and with supervision and sorting silverware. Preschoolers can be learning how to fold towels, and their own clothes. Younger elementary aged kids can unload that dishwasher completely and even put it all away. They can also learn to fold their own clothes and put those away as well. The older you go, the more that kids can handle...by 10, they can wash their own clothes and clean the bathroom. Inspection is an essential piece of this, but only as an opportunity to praise your kiddos for what they've done well.
I'm still rolling all that around to apply it to Sassafras, Sweet Love, and Pearl, but I do think they will truly love being involved in these small ways.
2. Make a "Must Do It List." To expect that every part of your house will be clean at all times is unrealistic. You're setting the tone for failure if you expect this from yourself, with all these kids/work/whatever pulling at your time. Everybody has their own non-negotiables as to what they need clean and orderly in order to function. For some, it's that the floors have to be mopped daily. For us, it's having our kitchen clean and at least one load of laundry done each day. Ostyn recommends having your "Must Do It" list as short and reasonable as possible, and advocates this as a way to make a purposeful choice for the things in life that matter,..which is nurturing relationships with our children.
3. Streamline meal planning by buying groceries once a week, purchasing ingredients for 5 meals. There are plenty of free printables out there, but the template she recommends are: a soup (double batch), a casserole (double batch), vegetarian or almost vegetarian dish, a meat dish, and a chicken dish. The flexibility comes in that you can still make whatever you want based in how the day is going or what time you have to prepare dinner, but with this plan comes the constant assurance of 7 meals for the week and plenty of opportunities for leftovers. She also recommends prepping meat as soon as you get home (browning hamburger, sautéing chicken, etc.) and freezing it for later use, as that gives you a 20 or more minute head start on meal preparations.
4. It will always be a challenge, but there are ways to tame the laundry dragon. Some ideas she gave were assigning each child a day of the week on which they are to wash their clothes. Sassafras washing her own clothes?! Can you even imagine??? Well, actually, she would probably love that and I should probably capitalize on that fact while it's still a novelty...
5. Mary rounded out the session with tips for moms on managing our time. She emphasized that while we have all these little bitties under our roofs, shepherding them is our top priority. Volunteer work, while wonderful, may have to wait for another season in life. Additionally, she shared that though we do want to nurture our kids' special interests, when considering whether or not to allow our children to participate in an activity there are numerous factors we should consider. One is the financial cost and whether or not this will fit within our current budget. Another is to consider the cost to the entire family. Will younger children have to spend extended time in the car/be up past their bedtime/etc. as a result of one child participating in an activity? Is that good for them? Likewise, can the entire family benefit from the activity? Maybe it involves being in a facility where multiple children can play. She also suggested that we think outside the box in this, and to consider arranging neighborhood activities in which the kids can participate but the whole family can join in, such as weekly soccer games with other families at the park.
6. One of the heaviest pieces of the session was the speaker's emphasis on relationships. She urged us as moms to take care of ourself (prayer and quiet time and rest, when we can get it) and to choose friendships wisely. Many of us are in the process of adding or have recently added children to our families, which is an incredible time of transition. Friends are important, but remember that you will not have energy for and should not focus on needy relationships at this time. It adds too much to an already stressed mom!
Good stuff, right?
From there we went to dinner, where we were seated by countries. The first main session included an intense and beautiful time of worship with Candi Pearson, and a really great introductory session by our main speaker, Beth Guckenberger.
Though I feel (so far) to be in a much better place emotionally than I was at this thing last year, I am still very much looking forward to a solid weekend with plenty of time to think.
And not have to wipe anybody's anything. :)