This week we celebrated our first official year together as a family of 10 [May 11, 2012]. In some ways, I can't believe a year has already passed. In other ways, I can't believe it's only been a year. It's like the first time we visited our parents after Asa was born, and we sat around wondering what IN THE WORLD did we talk about before he has born?! It's hard to remember what life was like before. In many way I feel like these kids have always been a part of my life. But it's important to remember that their perspective is much different. For them, there was life before. Good and bad. And for all of us I think it's good to remember where we've come from, what we can learn from it, and how it has prepared us for what's to come. So looking back at our first year as the Jester10, here are some things I remember....
Keep in mind our journey towards Mega_Family_Hood was somewhat staggered. We had a decent warming up period. Asa was born in 2005. Gretchen came almost two years later. We bought a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home and declared our family complete! A year later we became foster parents. Brittany moved in with us in July of 2009. Kristina and Matthew followed in October 2009. We had almost a year and a half of the seven of us (kids were 2, 2, 3, 4, and 5!) before Izzy, Sarah, and Jessica joined us in December 2010. Hands down the first year was the hardest! Three were in diapers. Two didn't sleep through the night. All needed help wiping their noses, wiping their bottoms, cutting their food, brushing their teeth, buckling their car seats, putting on shoes, etc etc etc. Exhausting!!! Still, even with the warming up period, I remember being very focused on large family logistics when the older 3 girls moved in. How would we shop? Cook? Do laundry? Carpool? I read books (The Duggers: 20 and Counting!, The Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family, and Large Family Logisitics were three of the most helpful). I read blogs. I soaked up all the knowledge I could from women who had large families and ran them like well-oiled machines.
About a month after the 3 oldest girls moved in with us, we left our little 3/2 home and moved into a 4/3. We needed more towels. More silverware. More lunch boxes. More bunk beds! More pillows. You get the idea. What works for 4 just doesn't work for 10. In an incredibly unselfish and gracious manner, the foster mom who the three older girls had lived with for almost two years, threw us a massive adoption shower. She loves these girls like crazy. This was NOT easy for her, or for them. It was Jesus in action. Seriously awesome. Combine that with an already amazing church family, and you get the picture below. Honestly, people, when I rounded the corner to arrive at her home, I seriously thought "Wow, the neighbors must be having a party also." Nope. I began to recognize the cars parked along that street. They were all there for our family.
I. LOST. IT.
They came with towels. And silverware. And lunch boxes. And bedding. And pillows.
I think about that day a lot. To say that it was humbling is a huge understatement. How in the world did we get so many wonderful friends???!!! A-mazing!
As a new OctoMom, I had two main logistical concerns. One of them was laundry. I researched this heavily and landed on the idea of a family closet. Basically, you do away with dressers in bedrooms and you centralize everyone's clothes, linens, etc. I LOVE this concept. Like you, I was skeptical at first. But it really works and I highly recommend it to anyone who has 5 or more children. I purchased 6 black wardrobes that you see below from IKEA for about $30 each. MUCH cheaper than buying several new dressers. And much more functional.
The family closet is also where I stock items we use often, such as toilet paper, baby wipes, paper towels, etc. The tubs contain all the wonderful hand me down clothes people give us, but the clothes are not currently in season or no one fits in them just yet. For example, one tub will contain all boys' clothes in size 4T.
My second major logistical concern was meal planning/cooking/budgeting. At first we had to eat in 2-3 different locations. Five at the table we had, three at the bar, two on the couch. I hated not being able to eat together as a family. Voila! In a crazy turn of events we had 10 solid wood chairs given to us by Olive Garden (they just happened to be getting rid of their old ones and replacing them with new). A friend from church gave us their large table, just big enough for the 10 of us.
This is our first meal together:)
I learned to buy and cook in bulk. On average we spend $3-4/day per person on food. No, we don't eat out much:) Makes me really have to think hard about that Caramel Macchiato (the voices in my head say something like "Jody, do you really want to spend your entire food budget for today on coffee?" Sometimes I do:)