Friday, July 8, 2016

Large Family Practical How-To’s: Professional Photos, Meals, Errands, & Bathing Kids

We personally love to network with other large families for ideas that enable us to be more organized or more time efficient.  It’s encouraging, and it helps give vision for what large families can be like.  If some people are reading our blog only because they’re curious about what large families are like, then by sharing what our family is like we hope to dispense wrong assumptions, and give a beautiful inside view.  *smile*  Welcome to our family!


In “Large Family How-To’s, part 1, I shared how our family of 11 does five practical processes:  laundry, transportation, one-on-one time with kids, birthdays, and hair cuts.  In part 2, I’ll share how we do:

- Bathing kids
- Errands
- Meals
- Professional photos


“How do you go about bathing so many kids?”

The oldest children of course shower themselves daily.  When we had a lot of "littles", I bathed them two kids at a time when possible, and we did showers rather than baths for children 3-years-old and older.  With so many kids to bathe, and to preserve my energy to get them all done in one morning, I consider it an on-task time, not a play time.  

We do encourage the old-enough children to have “Play baths” during the week, during a time of day that they can just enjoy playing in the water for 30-60 minutes independently.  When they have play baths it’s always one child at a time, and in the upstairs bathroom near the family room and kitchen areas so that I can be close by to easily monitor them.  With only one child playing in the tub at a time I can make sure the water stays in the tub (a requirement if they’re going to be allowed to have play baths).  They also have room to lie down in the warm water, they can have bubbles, and have all the toys to themselves.  It’s a very soothing, quiet time, our children really love doing this as an activity, and it’s easy for me to set them up with.

During shower time I bathed a couple of our boys together, and I bathed our middle daughter by herself (for modesty).  A small space heater is used during the colder months so that kids are cozy warm, which always adds extra smiles throughout showers and baths.  I reach my arms into the shower and one person at a time, wash their hair thoroughly, then wash their ears & face with a wash cloth.  I use Johnson’s baby wash on the boy’s hair and bodies because I then don’t need to worry about shampoo getting in their eyes and stinging them.  Then they can just stand underneath the shower water to rinse freely – I’m keeping it as simple as possible.  

With our daughters I used Panteen shampoo on her hair because it’s longer and I like it to be shiny and silky and smooth.  After I’ve washed their hair and head, I put soap on a pouf ball, and they wash their whole body with that.  The whole shower for two kiddos takes about 7 minutes.  For our toddlers I would put 2 of them into the bath together and wash them both; one gets to play in the water with a few toys while I bathe the other.  And I bathed our infants one at a time on a bath sponge in the tub (no large bath tub to store).  

Our downstairs bathroom has a door to the laundry room adjacent to it, so on the back of the bathroom door and the laundry room door I have hanging towel racks where 4 towels can dry.  The oldest girls use a separate bathroom upstairs so their towels dry there.  Bathing the 7 youngest kids took about an hour and a half at the very most.


Here’s a valuable hair cleaning tip for older kids!  We found that when our two oldest girls began puberty, all of a sudden they were not able to get their hair clean!  They would scrub their hair, I would scrub their hair – we could not get the thick oil off their scalp!  *cringe!*  I was totally mystified and frustrated.  I finally called a friend of ours who owns his own hair salon and who was knowledgeable about these things.  He told me how to get the hair clean and then keep it clean!  Hallelujah!  

Here's how we did it. When our daughter’s hair was dry I mixed on to the top of her scalp where it was oily Paul Mitchel’s “Cleanse - Shampoo Three" (meant to strip chlorine or heavy oil out).  I then sprinkled a lot of baking soda on to her hair and scalp and massaged them in thoroughly.  She let it sit for 20 minutes and then washed it out.  And ta-da!  It was CLEAN!!!  Now at first we had to do this 3 times a week to keep it clean – ugh – what a hassle.  After a few weeks of this I called the same friend back and asked how long we might have to do this process.  He told me that all grocery store shampoos contain wax, which for our girls locked-in the hair oil.  We had to switch to a salon-quality shampoo and conditioner (we chose Paul Mitchel for the quality, but also because it goes on sale 50% off a couple of times a year for the large liter sizes), and although more expensive, we have had clean scalps ever since.  Looks nice; smells nice, shiny and fluffy.  *smile*  Aahh.  We’ve just had to consider it a necessary expense. 


“How do you get errands done?”

I always used to do the weekly shopping while having the children with me because I desired to get it done during the week, leaving the weekend then free of “have-to’s.”  I did this with up to 5 kids.  And I always kept them with me, never utilizing the “child care” center offered at some stores.  This was for safety reasons, but also to avoid sickness spread there, and to be able to train the children’s behavior enabling them to be enjoyable while shopping with me.  When I was expecting our 6th baby, and the older ones were all younger than 10-years-old, I could no longer lift little ones in and out of the cart or in and out of the car easily.  At this point I began doing the shopping with just one of the children at a time, and during a weekday evening or on a weekend when Daddy would be home with the others.  This also became a special one-on-one time for whichever child's turn it was and also a for me. (One on One Time)  If you would like much more detail on how I do this you can read my post, "Large Family Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping."


“What are meals like at your house?”

For years we had an average-sized table that seated 6, until we had folding chairs crowded around that and simply no longer fit.  So eventually we purchased a large dining room table that seats 10, which is a huge blessing to our family.  We do meals there, homeschooling, and table activities (More information about table activities).  

When we have another family over for dinner it still works well with a little forethought and a plan. We serve all of the youngest children at the table first while the adults and older children have hors d'oeuvres, then the younger children are cleaned up and the adults and older children eat next.  During the summer months when it is warm and dry outside, we serve all of the children out in the yard or on the deck on picnic blankets, and the adults eat either outside with lap trays or inside at the table.  One day we hope to have a larger house and another table this size to put end-to-end and seat 18 people all together, making better space for company.  

When we had toddlers and babies we did not use highchairs as we did not have room for them in our tiny house.  Instead we strapped booster seats (Space Savers), which we purchased used through craigslist.com, to already-existing dining room chairs.  This worked beautifully for us, and it enabled all of the children to be included at the table together.  We could also easily remove the booster seats and have more seating for adults when we desired.


We serve three plentiful meals at our house and two snack times:  breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, dinner, and a mid-afternoon snack (no sugar snacks such as fruit chews, or white-flour such as Ritz crackers which do not help children feel their best and behave their best all afternoon until dinner).  

We do not prepare different foods for children who say they don’t care for what is served; everyone eats the same meal.  They learn to eat whatever is prepared for them, and to be thankful for it.  *smile*  It also enables us to prepare one meal, serve it and clean it up, and then we all leave the kitchen together to move on to the next thing in our day.  I do not spend all day in the kitchen preparing foods according to who ever is hungry, whenever they feel like eating.  

We serve fruit with breakfast, and everyone eats the same type of fruit otherwise we would be spending a lot of time preparing several different kinds, catering to different people’s preferences.  We would also have to shop for many different types of fruit each week, rather than purchasing 2-3 types of fruit in large quantities and at low prices from Costco.  Instead we vary the type of fruit we purchase each week.  We also used a "Food Mill" to puree the same foods that every else is eating for babies who were not yet able to eat table foods.  So food preparation is done in larger quantities, but actually pretty simply.  

It is unnecessary to live and work in a kitchen that is a mess with food and dishes all day long, but I also cannot easily manage children’s behavior while cleaning-up.  Therefore all of the children stay at the table during a meal and during the clean-up of that meal for breakfast and lunch, especially when there was only one adult in the house, and therefore only one “manager” of everyone.  Much of the clean up, however, happens after everyone has been served and is eating, so it does not take very long to clean up the rest at the end.  We also utilize older-child booster seats (Cooshee Booster), too, to enable those children to stay on their bottoms during the meal or during homeschooling.  We’ve found that this greatly minimizes the amount of spilled food, it keeps children off of the table, and encourages good manners.

Before we had children old enough to help with food preparation and the serving of meals, I would plan time to prepare food for and feed the baby first at each meal, while other children were occupied with something specific (I could not gracefully manage children’s behavior and activities while feeding babies).  Then I would prepare food for all of the older children, and clean up the kitchen while they were all eating.  This took longer, but worked very smoothly.  *smile*


“How do you get such beautiful professional photos results with so many kids?”

This is a two-day process *smile*, but we have a successful plan that works for our family.  I first go online to The Picture People website to find what kind of coupons they have available, usually they have one for a FREE 10x13 or 8x10 (with no sitting fee)!  So once-a-year or so we would have free professional photos taken!  Yay!  (The Lord was adding children to our family at least once a year, sometimes twice, so our group is changing drastically all the time and we like a current photo on the wall.)  

If that coupon is not available then I’ve used their $30 coupon for a nice-size photo package, and we share the cost with grandparents who share in the package.  The Picture People have always done an excellent job for us, and they have very reasonable prices, however I do still always utilize one of their coupons.  The day before our appointment I make sure every one has clean clothes that match well (sometimes I make a trip to Value Village to pick up a denim shirt for one of the boys, so they’d all match), and clothes get ironed.  Everyone has baths, bang trims where appropriate, and boys have hair cuts if necessary.  Since the nearest Picture People location is 60 minutes away, on the day of the appointment we have just enough time to get everyone dressed, lunch & diaper bags packed when we used them, and travel down and back between baby feedings and naps when children were younger.  So everything else needed to be done in advance the day before.

The morning of our photo appointment we have breakfast with everyone still in their pj’s so that no food spills on their selected outfits.  *chuckle* *smile* One of our oldest children packs a picnic of healthy but clean-to-eat foods for lunch at the mall (The Picture People location) just after our photo appointment, so everyone is full and feeling their best before driving home.  With young children we packed string cheese, crackers, and apples (which satisfy thirst, but doesn’t cause lots of people to have to use the bathroom often); with older ones we pack protein bars (that are full of great protein and good fats), still apples and whole grain crackers, and a treat such as licorice.  I and our oldest children would stay in their pj's in the morning to feed the twin babies their bottles, so that if they spit up it won’t ruin our outfits, either. *laugh* Worked great. No stress.


When we had a 2-year-old we made sure they had a “onesie” undershirt on so that he could not access his diaper with his hands (not a good day to deal with that!).  While children were waiting to go to the car we have one of the older children read them stories on the couch (sitting for this has been trained on every other day of the week, so it’s enjoyable, and a regular occurrence which is easy to implement at other times as well.)  This way the children do not get out tons of toys just before we leave the house, which takes time to clean up or leaves a mess to come home to, and during stories they all stay quite and avoid getting wound-up.  If anyone has a cold we give them a decongestant so that they’re not goopy during the photo.  We grab an audio book to take with us on the long drive in the van (helps make sure everyone is still in a friendly mood when we arrive at the appointment, and not mad at a sibling for some reason), then everyone heads down to the mud room in the garage to get on shoes and coats.





With babies I would have the 2 little baby’s hats in my purse so they don’t get lost.  I would put two diapers for our 1-year-old and 2-year-old in to the 3-mo-old twins diaper bag so that I don’t have to bring in more than one diaper bag.  

In the van ride down south I write on a post-it note to myself things we need to remember to do just before the photo:  have people take their glasses off, put the baby’s hats on them, make sure the boys shirts are tucked in, wash anyone’s face who needs it with a baby wipe, and put chap stick on anyone who has white-dry lips.  Every day we strive to help the children learn self-control, following directions, sitting still some times, etc., so they have the skills to do things like have a family photo taken.  

If any of the real little children were having a hard time this day – being uncooperative or crying – and they were not responding to verbal directions as they usually would do pretty well, then I did have Tic-Tacs in my purse so they can suck on one, which brings a smile.  (Shhh *wink*). This is one of my all-time favorite secrets for getting a great photo! *laugh*  We train for obedience all the time, of course, but it is such a big deal to prepare all 11 of us to get a family photo taken, and is such a long drive to get there, this is not the day to be doing additional training during the photo shoot or have the photo ruined because a teething toddler is not feeling his best.  And our photo shoots are taken only once a year or every two years, so the littlest kids won’t remember that they were once given a tiny piece of candy to help them behave well.  *chuckle*


After the photo shoot, we have our picnic lunch in the mall while awaiting the development of the photos we just had taken.  The Picture People produce the finished results of our photo shoot while we wait!  Instant gratification – so fun – and we don’t have to make another trip to pick the photos up.  *chuckle* 


Then we head home, relieved, and pleased to be bringing home a wonderful family photo.  And the Picture People are usually so amazed that such a large group of children could have such a great photo shoot, that they usually ask us to sign a release to be able to use our family photo for advertising or in-store posters.  *smile*  We’re honored to comply. (click on photo below to enlarge and see closer up)


We’re not “super parents”, and we have normal, rambunctious children.  We just implement a good plan for how to prepare the family in advance and for how to enable the children to be successful and pleasant.  Because of homeschooling we have the time and opportunity to be training their character every day, and the fruit of that effort carries into every day life.  We do family photos, just like all other areas of life, on purpose.  *smile*


Blessings on your efforts!




Other “how-to” posts I’ve written that might interest you:
- How I manage my time, parts 1 & 2 (to-do lists, bills, calendar, charts for the kids…)

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