Top Ten: How I Do It

I must hear this line about ten times a week, “I just don’t know how you do it.”  My reply is usually, “Me either.”

Fortunately, God gave me each of my children one at a time.  We’ve added things along the way and we certainly weren’t this organized ten years ago when we first started this parenthood gig.  I thought I’d share some of the things we do to make it easier around here.  Big disclaimer:  Some days I am “Mom of the Year” other days (much more frequent), I am NOT her.  Eh, you win some, you lose more.  Hopefully, my kids therapy bills won’t be too high.  Here goes…


1.  Everything has a place, there’s a place for everything.  For reals, if we did not have “systems” in place, we would be covered up by that four-letter “c” word.  The kids have baskets for their shoes, hooks for their backpacks, holders for their coloring and workbooks, etc.  Find systems that work for you.  Before long, your kids will know that when you say, please pick up your “X”, they will not have to be told where it goes.  Ok, maybe not AS often.  Reality check.

2.  Citizen of the household (COH) duties.  Yes, we call them citizens of the household.  The playroom gets picked up by everyone not because everyone made a mess, but because we are all – say it with me – citizens of the household.  The same goes for taking out the trash and recycling, putting up laundry, clearing the table and on and on.  We work hard to get the “that’s not mine” out of their vocabulary.  We operate as a team.  Always.

3.  The older ones help the younger ones.  Will clearly helps more than the rest, but now that John Paul and Anna-Laura are in school, they have an amazing capacity to help and we encourage them to put it to work.  Lazy does not exist in our house.  Except during holiday breaks, summertime and the occasional weekend.

4.  Just like everything has a place, our household operates on a schedule.  If it’s not on the family calendar, it doesn’t happen.  I’m serious.  That thing is like the Holy Grail.  We have it up in our office and then enter all that data into our phones.  Scott and I sit down on Sunday nights and go over the week, day by day, so we’re clear on who’s doing what, when, where and with whom.

5.  As a spinoff to #4, we also do the same things every week.  Laundry is Monday, Friday night is family homemade pizza night, Saturday night is Mass (occasionally on Sunday morning if Saturday was crazy busy).  I’m not trying to make it sound like a military camp around here, but there are some things that are absolutes around here.  The rest of the week, we have plenty of time to spice it up.

6.  School (just as a sidenote, that could be a whole post in and of itself) can be any family’s downfall.  The mountain of email, papers, requests and projects that flow through our doors is just mind boggling.  And I only have three…in elementary school!!  The kids deposit their backpacks, shoes and coats in the same place (see #1), put their folders on the desk for me to sign and then we begin the “after school” routine.  Clothes changed, snack eaten, homework completed and checked, then playtime until dinner or an after-school activity.  Some nights the playtime just doesn’t happen because of our schedule.  Which leads me to #7

7.  We limit the kids to one activity per child, per season.  So, the boys did flag football this fall and now they’re involved in basketball.  The girls are enrolled in dance.  We don’t do Cub Scouts – we’re waiting until Boy Scouts.  The only exception we’ve made is for Will, who’s involved in 4-H.  That’s an activity where we can control his involvement so it’s not overwhelming and right now, that seems to be working.  For us, we’ve come to appreciate that kids need downtime.  When they’re running to a bazillion activities a week, that’s not “well-rounded” that’s insanity.  We don’t need any more of that around here, thankyouverymuch.

8.  The kids earn their screen time – which includes tv, Wii, iPhone games, computer and movies – it’s not just given to them.  And, if the weather is nice enough to send ’em out, they go outside and play.  Sometimes not very nicely, just ask my neighbors.  But I believe that kids need fresh air.  At our house, during the school year, screen time is limited to 30 minutes.  Now, if the weather is nasty, I amend that rule.  But earning it never gets amended.

9.  Recently, Will has been helping me cook dinner.  It’s part of his 4-H Food project.  He is loving it and so am I!  When he turns 10 (and this may be a new family tradition), I plan on giving him one night a week where he’s responsible for cooking dinner.  And I mean all of it.  I’ll shop for the ingredients, but he has to pick out the receipe, get out the right tools, prepare it, plate it, serve it and clean it up.  It should be fun.

10.  The Internet and drive-thru’s are my friends.  I do a vast majority of my shopping online, I fill out forms online, bank online, pay bills online and request just about anything you can request (within legal limits, of course) online.  I do as many errands through the drive-thru as possible – post office, dry cleaners, etc.  When you have a large family, you either learn to be efficient or you get eaten by the wolves.  I’ve chosen the former.

I could probably list another 10 or 20 things we do, but that’s a start.  Some days are tough and I wonder if I’m cut out to be a mom of a big family.  But that’s just all part of keepin’ it real.  As I look around the dinner table each night, when the kids share their “best” and “worst” parts of the day, I am reminded of the MANY blessings we have in our midst.  And that gives me hope about tomorrow 🙂


  1. Lisa on January 6, 2011 at 1:11 am

    tell me how they earn their screen time. we're about to rock 3 little punks' world by dropping the hammer on some rules.

  2. Melissa Lyons on January 6, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Thanks for posting this! I have considered asking you how you handle all the paper in your household – I feel like I'm drowning with just the paperwork from Liz in kindergarten and Connor in preschool.

  3. Kathryn on January 6, 2011 at 3:53 am

    Lis, they earn it by being good "citizens of the household." Homework has to be completed, that's a given. They need to put up their plates and cups from breakfast and dinner, have their clothes laid out for the next day, etc. One other thing I do, is we have an egg timer that's put on the kitchen counter. I set it to 30 minutes and when it dings, they know there time is up. That way, I don't have to say "time is up" a billion times. And, they can't monkey with the timer, either!
    Melissa, I plan on posting how we manage school paperwork in a future post, very soon!

  4. Nicole on January 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    GREAT ideas, K! I always knew you were organized! Though our clan is smaller – we do some similar things as well… Especially with homeschooling – we need a schedule/routine and places for everything, too! 🙂 I've been using a timer since the kids were toddlers – and for the most part our home is TV-free during the week (M-F).

  5. Meggan on January 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    At what age did you start having them earn their screen time? I really like that idea.

  6. Verdina Louisa on January 7, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Thanks for posting, K! I'm still in awe… I only had two kids, and I don't think I could have carried it off. I'm sure part of it is in your genes!

  7. Kathryn on January 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Ok, definitely going to do another post on the schoolwork papers. Those are just insane.
    @Megan, they start earning screen time from age 4 and up. But to be honest, it's not really an issue before then. We aren't big tv watchers and I don't really offer Clare my iPhone or computer time just yet.

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