So much more than you ever wanted to know about me

Holy cow. You guys have come up with so many questions… even if I had the time to answer all of them, I am sure y’all would be bored to tears. So I’m going to try to keep it short and sweet, if possible.

I’ve added some pictures so you can see our closets, pantry and how I’ve organized some areas of our house that work for us. Then entryway houses baskets for shoes and books, hooks for backpacks. The closets aren’t crazy organized, for sure, but organized enough for me to know where everything is. The girls’ closet is borderline overflowing, but they have such a tiny closet and my girls NEED this stuff!! They’re girls!!! All these pics are ‘as is’, I figured if you were brave enough to read this post on our household, you deserved a peek into our closets as they really are.

One of the most common questions was about how I run our household. And honestly, it’s not something I’ve purposefully thought a lot about. But over the years it has evolved due to the fact that every year for the last 3 years, we’ve been adding one new child to our ever- growing family. Then throw moving every 2-3 years into the mix. So organization has become a necessity. I’m not an OCD type organizer, one who lines up condiments perfectly in the refrigerator or has an organizer in her junk drawer (although I did think about buying one) but I am continuously cleaning and organizing drawers, closets etc. I try to get the most function out of the smallest space (our home is barely 2500 sf) and we’ve got quite a bit to pack into it. Another thing I do is tackle the job when I think about it. Not wait for the perfect time, cuz that time isn’t gonna just fall out of the sky. When I have a lot to do, I make lists, but not often. I just try to knock it out instead of writing it down. Over the years I’ve surprised myself many times by how LITTLE time something takes me, something I’ve obsessed about in my mind for weeks or longer. When I do clean out a closet or a drawer, I do NOT hang onto a lot of ‘stuff’. I’ve had to become hard core and pitch, sell or give away things that I don’t LOVE or don’t have significant sentimental value. At first it was hard, but after a while I began to feel so liberated by not being tied down to so much ‘stuff’ that giving away or throwing away became much easier. So I’m always looking for ways to organize and properly care for what I do keep and then give away or throw away what I no longer use. Makes moving so often a WHOLE lot easier, too.

I find that I save a lot of time and energy by having a place for everything and I use a lot of storage containers and ziplocs for this purpose… games with lots of pieces, craft items, play doh and cookie cutters, paint… all go into storage boxes or ziplocs when not in use. I have baskets placed in the living room and computer room for the kids toys and we do have a play kitchen, but other than that, no kids toys are out. I just don’t want my house to look like a Chuck E. Cheese… it’s not soothing to me. Once I’ve established where everything goes, I make sure my kids know where everything goes. My kids HELP. They not only have daily chores, but I expect them to help whenever I ask. If we all pitch in, it can only take a few minutes to clean up a once- trashed living room floor. Even Isabelle has learned to help and if she can’t find the exact spot for something, I just ask her to ‘put it in the basket’ (which is simple enough for Jude, too). Sometimes they complain, no doubt, but not often. Sometimes we race, trying to beat the timer I’ve set. Sometimes I’ll award a ‘Best Helper’ award to whoever puts forth the most effort. And when all else fails and someone’s having a really bad day, I offer to call daddy and see if they want to tell daddy that they don’t want to help. Never had one take me up on that.

So chores: yes, the boys have daily chores, appropriate for their age. And each day it’s something different to keep things interesting. They are also in charge of putting away their own laundry and once weekly, clean and dust their room. But the chore chart doesn’t stop with the kids: I also have a chore chart :) I am one LAZY housecleaner and if it ain’t in writing, staring me in the face, I don’t do it until it gets bad. But I do really like a clean house, clean meaning ‘tidy’: no stuff on the floors, pillows put back on the couch, beds made, floors clean, not a lot of clutter. And I can’t stand a dirty bathroom. And I can wear out a vacuum if given the chance. I like to vacuum, like mowing a yard, it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. For that moment I can stand there and say, “I just DID something!” I hate to dust which isn’t so bad because my husband is a bit of a dust freak. Plus he’s tall so he can find dust no one else would ever notice. This mostly makes up for the fact that he refuses to mop and at least 75% of our house is hardwood or tile. He says it reminds him of when he was younger and he hated it. So he doesn’t mop. But he is a laundry fanatic. I know, I AM blessed. He does 90% of the laundry. He comes home usually about 7:00 but almost always runs a load and has it all folded and put away by the time we go to bed. He really enjoys it, I think, it’s his preferred way of helping out daily. I bathe the kids and have dinner ready before he gets home, so it’ something he can do and chill in front of the TV after the kids are in bed. We have a frontloader so we usually only run 7-10 loads/week. Thankfully the girls clothes are small.


Okay, so I’ve covered chores, laundry and organization. I do almost all the cooking and I never spend more than 30 minutes on dinner. Unless it’s someone’s birthday or a very special event. I just don’t have time. But I don’t like to cut corners and do the casserole ‘just add water’ thing either. Yuk. I grew up on good ol’ home cooking and by the looks of my kids and myself, we’re all eating pretty well ;) I go grocery shopping once week and try to avoid going in between. I have to buy for at least 4 meals as we go out on Sunday and usually have leftovers one night. I use the crockpot a lot and try new recipes that meet my tough criteria (ingredients must be something I’ve heard of, cannot include any meat other than chicken, beef or pork, must take less than 30 minutes to prepare, and must be kid friendly) On that note, we NEVER make our kids other food to eat in place of the meal I’ve prepared. If you don’t like it, you don’t eat. I try to serve a bread/pasta and veggie side so that if someone hates the main dish, they can eat the sides. Occasionally we’ll let them have a bowl of cereal in lieu of the meal, but try not to do it often, and if they do go the cereal route, then no dessert. Even though we don’t eat dessert often, just the idea of NOT being able to have it motivates them to try the food on their plate (kids… so simple minded) We DO eat dinner together every night. Honestly, every night unless Chris is away (then NOTHING goes according to schedule). It’s something I grew up doing and feel very strongly about, it bonds us as a family once a day. It gives us time to hear about each other and share what went on during our day. Isabelle is the official ‘picker’, deciding who prays that night since she is still not quite sure what to pray for ;) When someone is picked, they say their own prayer, not the standard “God is great…” We decided to do this long ago as a way of encouraging each of our children to THINK about what they wanted to pray about and you would not believe some of the sweet things that come out of their mouths!! I LOVE it!! Whoever prays also gets to start “Best, Worst and Grateful” in which we go around the table, each person having a turn to tell the best part of their day, the worst part of their day and what they were grateful for that day. My kids love doing it, but sometimes do get distracted. So we have fun trying to make sure everyone is listening (if you’re caught not listening, you might get stuck with clearing the table. This usually gets everyone’s attention) After dinner we sit at the table and do a family devotional, appropriate for kids. We read a bible verse and read the devotional that has a story related to that particular verse. We try to do it nightly, and if Chris or I forget, one of the kids almost always reminds us! Dinner usually lasts an hour, but it is the most well- spent hour of my day, other than my quiet time.
That moves us into bedtime. We really have no nighttime issues, thankfully! The girls are the first ‘set’ to go to bed, usually right after dinner. No fuss, no muss. We don’t have time for a long routine and the girls just don’t need that much time to wind down, they’re usually exhausted. Sometimes I’ll read a book, but most of the time it’s under the covers, stuffed animals and blankets just so, some night-night tickles, kisses and high-fives and lights out! While we rarely have trouble getting them to bed, Isabelle, until very recently, woke up many times a night. Nighttime is the time when mama is off- duty (think: taxi with ‘off duty’ on the top… that’s me ;)) Chris always get up. Unless vomit is involved, that’s a two man job. It really helps me stay sane as I am really one who needs sleep. At least 8 hours. I know, I’m a baby. But if I can get my 8 hours, you can call me a baby all you want and I won’t scratch your eyes out. See what no sleep can do to me? Yeah, like I said, I need at least 8 hours.

Next, the boys go to bed at 8:30, Chris reads to them before bed for about 15 minutes and then they say prayers. After prayers I come in for tuck ins and kisses and it’s lights out for them. I can’t say how we have managed to avoid a lot of night time hassles other than the fact that we just haven’t really indulged a lot of night time silliness. Not to say I would ever leave one of mine alone at night either frightened or upset. But we don’t jump through hoops trying to get them to go to bed. We have always expected it and I guess they just know that by now. Asher used to have horrible night terrors (horrible!) when he would scream, thrash and cry for HOURS at night. It was the worst. We didn’t know it at the time, but since then I’ve learned an option is putting the child in a warm bath to help them wake up and settle down. Hope I don’t ever have to use that tip.
Jude sleeps in our room and goes to bed about 9:30, that way he gets some mama time with no competition. Plus, he’s just fun to have around at night. He’ll hang out playing or sometimes wants to watch Max and Ruby and chill on our bed, but he gets some one-on-one time with both of us, which we all love. At 9:30, Chris puts on his boots/bar and tucks him into his little toddler bed which is just a few feet away from my side of the bed. I’ve found that if I do the tuck in he cries, but if Chris takes him, has him give me a goodnight kiss, and puts him to bed, he’s fine. He sleeps great and occasionally wakes up at night when he’s lost his beloved pillow, but I can usually reach it without having to get out of bed ;) In general, I’ve found that consistency really pays off. It’s very hard for me to have a set routine since I’m, at heart, a fly- by- the- seat- 0f- my- pants kinda girl. Really hard. But Chris is my polar opposite and he’s shown me that consistency in the PM routine is key to happy campers in the AM.

My gosh, does anyone really want me to answer any other questions after that painfully long discourse on running our household?!?

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Comments

  1. Don’t know if this is in “the rules” of the game…but I’d love to have some of your crock-pot recipes! The crock-pot ROCKS! Can you give a fave or two? :o) (wishing tonight was a crock-pot night…sigh).

  2. Michelle in MO says:

    I’m so glad to hear that you have your kids help out! We have 5 children and they are told that they are part of this family and we all help the family function. My oldest is 10-1/2 and youngest is 21 months. My 21 month-old even helps with unloading the dishwasher! She’s a riot! The older two are responsible for bathrooms once/week and they even mop the floors. They all help out with folding laundry (I actually enjoy doing laundry if someone else will put it all away). We homeschool so I just tell the kids whatever they don’t get done during the day, they have to do in the evening/weekend and that’s less time they get with Dad!

    Kudos to you! May God continue to bless you and your family!

  3. I want some more answers! I love hearing how families work. I think ten years of being an only child has made this so very interesting for me.

  4. Oh yes! Please tell us MORE! I love this peek into your amazing life. :) And besides, you didnt answer my pressing question…what on earth kind of car do you drive?? Is it a BUS? ;)

  5. MattandSara says:

    I am a long time “follower” of your family via myadoptionwebsites and now here. I have to say you are VERY inspiring. We are in the process of our first special needs adoption from China. We’re hoping to bring her home this spring. This post has really inspired me. I figure if you can do all those things with 7 kids at home then I can do it with my 2…soon to be 3. Isabelle’s website has been so helpful for me. My son is almost the same age as Isabelle and has almost identical “issues” as she does. He, too, is in OT/ST, PPCD programs, and has also had people try to label him as autistic…which he is NOT! Anywho, I guess I’m saying thank you for keeping this blog and the other websites. God is using you in a mighty way…in your family and in other areas too. Thanks!

  6. om my goodness, you have your stuff together.. I love that you are sharing your routine with all of us… Don’t mind if we mooch do ya?

    thanks for letting us “peek” into your day…

    I am hoping there will be a part 2… I am taking notes!

    :)
    Amie

  7. You guys ROCK. I wanna come have dinner and be picked by Belle to pray, and then get to share my best, worst, and most grateful :) And if my girl is giving grief, can I use Chris for the “dad” card? You know, “Do you want to call Uncle Chris and tell him you aren’t helping?”- that sort of thing?

    Reading this made me question again how I’ll handle momhood as a single. Then I remind myself I’m only adopting one, not raising 8!

  8. Michelle - Blessed Mother of Two says:

    Thanks for sharing “a day in the life of Stefanie” with us. I forgot that we used to do something similar to the “Best, Worst & Most Grateful” during dinner, but we have gotten away from it since Mia came home. Thanks for the reminder about how great that is. I plan on starting it up again this week and adding your “most grateful” idea to it. Thanks for the post!

  9. Kimbery and Rich says:

    Keep on sharing…this is better than Jon & Kate plus 8 ;-) I have one little boy and I can barely handle him! lol I need to read your upcoming book :-) ~Kimberly in MN

  10. I’m with Jenn — I’m so picky about my crockpot recipes too! If you have a few recipes that fit all your criteria (especially the one that requires it to be kid friendly), I’d be all ears! :)

  11. Can I ask what devotional you use at dinner time with the kids?

    Thanks
    Jen

  12. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing! Although you may think it’s boring, please know that it’s actually really helpful. I appreciate your time and willingness to share how your family ticks! If you’re up to more, I’m all ears!

  13. Mom to my China Posse says:

    After reading your daily routine, I am not worthy, lol……….. I am going to haev to get my act together, I have terrible sleepers and terrible eaters. lol…… Wish my hubby liked to do laundry because having 6 kids thats where I think I spend half of my waking hours. You have a amazing family and thanks for letting us take a peek into your life. Might have to borrow some of your routines to see if I can get some peace and harmony flowing here.

  14. Thanks so very much for all of the insight!!! We’d love to hear more from you but know you are busy! Share as you feel led….we will listen willingly!

  15. We are in the process of adopting from China and I’ve been following your story on the myadoption website and was excited to also come across this blog. I’m a mommy to 3, soon to be 4, and already I’m thinking of number 5!! I just love being a mommy so much that I wonder if I’ll know when it’s time to stop adding to the family. Do you think you’ll know when your family is complete? Will this be it?
    Thanks for a great blog…I enjoy reading it at the end of a busy day!

  16. Thanks so much for taking the time to share Stefanie! This post and your blog in general, has become like a page turner book for me! I’m going about my day and find myself being side tracked to the computer checking to see if I can just’read another page’:-)!

    I too would love a couple of your crock pot favorites….It’s right up my alley here in NH in February!!!

    Best,
    Tami

  17. Loved the post! I use my crock pot a lot! I am a big Paula Dean fan! My boys all went to bed so easy. It was night time and off they went. Then came our Livi. Not so easy but getting better. Thank Goodness our Addison (2 1/2) goes right to bed. I need my sleep too. I have a wonderful husband who gets up in the middle of the night when our Addison calls out. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does he is always the first one up. Your kids are all so adorable!
    Love the closet pictures!!! I’m not sure I would share my closet pictures : )

  18. Great Job Stephanie! Thanks for sharing.
    PS. I’m totally with you on the dinner thing…if you don’t like it…then I sorry..I’m not fixin another meal. ;0)

  19. Thank you Stefanie for taking time to write this post. I’m so glad that you touched on one of my questions…BEDTIME, but now I’m Jealous…LOL. I can say, this last week my girls have done better with going down.

    I can’t wait to do a few things you do with your kids.

    LIKE….

    Setting a timer during clean up.

    I’m going t start giving Ella some chore(s). She’ll be 5 on March 3rd, so I think it’s time…don’t you???

    Dinner time…Best, Worst, and Most Grateful.

    Putting children’s devotion into our day before Daddy goes to work.

    Your post was so helpful to me, and I know many others who follow your blog. Thanks for sharing a part of you with us. Feel free to share more if you want. I would love to know more.

  20. Sophie's Mom says:

    Phew, that was a mouthful! You’re making me want to clean out my pantry, and dig out my crockpot!

    Thanks for the motivation!
    Christine

  21. Chris & Deb says:

    The first word that came to my mind when I finished reading your post Stefanie was “AMAZING”! You guys ROCK!!! You are all so organized and so disciplined! No wonder you guys manager so well with 7 children already! Way to go Stafanie and Chris! Why stop at 8 with this organization? :)

  22. WOW, WOW, WOW!!! You truly ARE amazing! I couldn’t help but notice the shiny floor in the entry area. Where are all the scattered kid shoes? We seem to have them everywhere! I’m all for a crock-pot recipe exchange. I have some yummy, kid-friendly recipes I’d be happy to share with you. I, personally, would LOVE some more answers to all of the nosey questions…that is, when you have a few minutes. Can’t you tell we L-O-V-E you and are inspired by you?
    Blessings to your family,
    Kim (waiting for Sophie)

  23. Since being nosy seems to be ok here…I still want to know how old you are!!!!!

  24. Ah-Mazing! I loved reading your household discourse. I’m betting every reader found something to take away from that. I like that you tackle projects right when you see them. I should try that. Mine go on a list. And, your own chore list? I should definitely try that. As a single mom with young kids, there isn’t anyone holding me accountable for housework…..unless there’s company coming.
    It’s not being lazy, it’s taking time to enjoy your kids instead (of doing housework). I tell myself that daily as I play yet another game of candyland…=)
    Debby
    mom to Lindsi & Jami

  25. You guys are great! We are JR and Stratton from TX and have 2 sweet chinese girls, Claire and Jenna Kate(myadoption website)..we have followed your journey and are so in awe of how much love, time and patience you obviously have with such a large family! So here is my question…when do you and your husband have “together time?” That is a big priority with JR and I, but with just 2 that’s no problem!

  26. John & Michelle says:

    Many thanks from a mom to be! It is so helpful to hear different ways that people handle things on a daily basis!
    Michelle

  27. I just stumbled upon your blog via China Baby I think it was? Anyway, I was looking at the top pictures thinking you were a teacher and then I started reading! lol You have definitely got a calling to be a mom! I’m going to bookmark your blog so I can keep reading about your adventures. I adopted a dd from Taiwan in Aug and we also have a bio boy. I’d love to add a baby from China (I really want another boy and these sn cuties are melting my heart :) so who knows what I might talk my dh into in the future ;)?
    Anyway I love the blog and the tips for keeping everything together. I love the ‘want to call daddy and tell him you don’t want to help’ line. I may have to use that sometime… :)
    Andrea
    Miranda’s Mom

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