Thursday, March 6, 2014

How We Do Things at The Rice Ranch

I've had quite a few requests recently, for a blogpost on how we run our household.

I've said this before, but I always hesitate a bit before writing "how-to" posts... because I don't feel like I'm an expert on most of what I write about.

I may have some things that have worked for our family in regards to parenting, marriage, housecleaning, homeschooling etc... but that's all I'm offering. I've read some really great books on all of these subjects, and listened to some fabulous sermons on lots of these issues (except homeschooling) as well. Those are the people you should really listen to: the experts.

Also, I hope this post doesn't feel too preachy, if you know what I mean. What works for our family on a day-to-day basis might look completely different than what works for yours. We have different dynamics here than a lot of families, and things even looked a lot different years ago for us, when all of my kids were under the age of ten.

And here's another all-purpose disclaimer on posts like this: we're a work in progress. We are constantly - and I do mean constantly- upgrading our system at The Rice Ranch. Tweaking things, adding things, calling a family meeting and completely overhauling things ... we have not arrived.

And we know it.

Soooooo, with all of those disclaimers (geeze louise I make a lot of them around here), here is my handy dandy post on How We Do Things at The Rice Ranch.

Are you ready ??

Let's go.

Most mornings here start like this.

Pretty slow, sometimes with a few early risers, and always with a lot of yawns.

I try to get up before the kids do, to get my prayer and Bible reading in before the day gets past me. This does not always happen- but it is my goal. I am such a scatterbrained kind of a person, that having that little window of time to fix my thoughts on God and give Him time to speak to my heart helps me so much. I'm also a big : worrier, procrastinator, and scatterbrain (did I say that already?) and I get distracted easily...I'm terrible at prioritizing too. (Gee, and maybe I struggle with a little bit of self loathing at times ?? ) So with all these great personality/character traits at work, I really, really, REALLY need the help of the Lord to run this ship.

I'm a wreck without it.

Typically before I come downstairs, Caleb delivers my tea to me. He is usually (but not always) one of the first kids up, and he has made my tea for me for years. I am not a coffee drinker, but I do need my tea. Read : you don't want to talk to me in the morning before my tea. Jesus, then tea, in that order, is the only way I can function in the morning. Take one of those away, and there will not be many pretty pictures to post here on A Perfect Lily. Trust me on this. World without end, amen.

Caleb, teaching Hayden how to high-five. Part of our homeschooling curriculum for 9 month olds.

Last summer we changed many things about the way we eat at The Rice Ranch. We still have a long way to go, because Sam and the kids would have revolted and ordered a new wife/mom if I implemented everything I want to do over night. (I know that by .. .ahem ... trial and error.) One of the Big Changes we've made has to do with cereal.

The reason I capitalized the B and C in those words, is because that is probably how you will hear my children refer to their lives when they are older. Before Cereal (BC) and after the Big Change.

"Oh yes, that was 2012 BC, when Captain Crunch and our family were on a first name basis."

That's what they will say, I'm sure.

So NOW  - 2014 AC -  breakfast has many components to it. And most of them involve preparation by yours truly. There may be yogurt and granola, fresh fruit, ham or bacon or sausage (organic and nitrate free when we can afford it!) ten grain pancakes, fruit and or/ vegetable smoothies, potatoes, oatmeal, or the occasional bag of bagels... but cereal is now a Treat. With a capital T.

More on the reasons why in a future post, but I said all that to say : breakfast is a big deal now, and I love it. I love spending time with my kids in the morning while I prepare things and they devour things, because it is a great opportunity for me to connect with them before our day gets too busy.

I mean, look at that adorable face right there. Who wouldn't want to spend an hour each morning conversing over the stove with a crazy little guy like that ? Better than Wheaties, I tell ya.

So after breakfast, we attack our Morning Chores. I chose to capitalize those words as well, because they are such a sacred part of our daily ritual, that they just deserves caps. We do not do anything else after breakfast before Morning Chores commence and end.

Here's just a glimpse into what Morning Chores look like :

Caleb, attacking his zone.

I realize right here that there will be those who assume I am a slave driver, as a parent.

You would be right in that assumption.

However... this is what works for us.

There are too many bodies living under one roof to let things go for a few days around here.

Take for instance, a pair of shoes left lying around. If every member of the family left a pair of shoes on the floor, instead of properly placing them on the shoe rack in the garage, there would be ELEVEN pairs of shoes scattered throughout the house. And if every person in our house left just three objects lying around - a pencil, a library book, a jacket, what have you - that would 33 items spread throughout our house on a given day. Left out over the course of a few days, we would have over one hundred items to step over, making for one giant MESS of a house.

I can't function like that.

Maybe you can, and that's your way of coping - having it all spread out in front of you, so that you actually see the jacket you need, lying carelessly on the couch, or the library book peeking out from under the chair in the corner, just waiting for you when you need it.

I'm just not like that.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. That's how we roll here at The Rice Ranch.

But lest you think this means a house that is spotless, one that is at all times free of any debris or dust or dirt, here's another disclaimer:

I just jumped up from the computer to finger-swipe the inside of Hayden's mouth, because he was choking on a leftover chocolate chip from this morning. (Hello, pancakes with chocolate chips! You are not much better than Captain Crunch for my children. BUT, at least you had some protein powder sprinkled in, to redeem you a teensy bit.)

Where was I ???

Oh yes... Morning Chores.

Here's the master plan for how things are supposed to go...

Make sure you read that correctly : the way things are supposed to go.

It is rare - RARE - that every single thing on that master plan is done. In fact, it's safe to say that hell might freeze over before we actually hit every goal we have for the day. But we have a goal. There will be looooots of deviations from that goal. Josiah might come over for an hour one morning to shoot hoops with the kids, because he works a lot, and it's one of the few times he can make it over here during the day. So we drop everything to give the kids some time with their older brother. Daddy might come home for breakfast, and we all take a bit longer to savor a rare morning with him home... or someone wakes up sick and a trip to the doctor throws the whole schedule off... or any number of things conspiring against The Master Plan...

But we do have a goal.

We aim, and lots of times we miss.

But having these guidelines hanging on a dry erase board in the laundry room for everyone to see, has helped us all to regain focus when we lose it, and at least have some general idea of what we need to get done each day.

Hayden, emptying the dishwasher. (Note: all silverware was removed from before he climbed in there. Promise.)

So here's the nitty gritty, for those of you who asked specifically for a blogpost about How We Do It.

Each child in our family has a zone that they are responsible for cleaning. We think of this as a "divide and conquer" strategy for getting our house in order. Rather than Mommy cleaning everything, which would mean zero time for teaching, cooking, showering, and breathing- we assign zones.

After breakfast, as I said above, every child attacks their zone. These were established during a family meeting, and everyone gave input as to what they felt they could reasonably handle. The younger children may need help with their zones, and most days I go check on what they've done and maybe help them finish their job completely. Or, I may give some pointers on how they can finish their zones themselves ( for example: telling Abbi to clean behind the toilet and not just in front of it, etc.) But for the most part, they each own their zone.

Our three teenagers are responsible for cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast. They empty the dishwasher, load it, wipe down counters, put food away, sweep the floor, and empty the trash if needed.

Jackson pushes in barstools, or straightens chairs at the table. He also organizes the shoe rack in the garage, makes his bed, brushes his teeth, puts his jammies away, and gets dressed for the day. At age seven, his responsibilities as far as Morning Chores go are minimum.

Abigail is in charge of cleaning the upstairs bathroom every day. She cleans the counters, mirrors, sink and floor, and makes sure towels are hung up nicely. On Saturdays she deep cleans everything, but throughout the week she maintains. She makes her bed, straightens up her room, and vacuums her bedroom floor.

(All children must make their beds, brush their teeth, get dressed for the day and put jammies away, etc.)

Noah is in charge of the downstairs bathroom, which is only a half bath. He also takes turns with Abbi sweeping the downstairs and swiffering it (hallway, bathroom, dining room and living room...we have all wood floors downstairs.) He vacuums the bedroom that he shares with his brothers. It's a gigantic room, and we have several sets of bunk beds, in case you wondered how we fit five boys in one room!

Tyler vacuums the area rug in the family room, as well as our bedroom ... Jonathan does the stairs in the front of the house... Caleb does the stairs at the back of the house... Abigail vacuums the landing upstairs ... yes, we are neurotic about vacuuming every day. It takes each child about five minutes, and it saves tons on carpet cleaning bills. And our carpets always look nice :)

After Morning Chores we homeschool (details on that in a future post) and then we break for lunch. The older kids help me clean up, and then the little ones go down for a nap.

Again  - this does not always go according to schedule. Sometimes Hayden falls asleep before lunch and doesn't need a second nap. Sometimes Lily wakes up late, and doesn't go down for a nap til 3:30 (she's waiting for me to put her down right now!) But at some point my two youngest take naps, and this happens sometime after breakfast and before dinner :)

Throughout the day we have regular "quick pick up" sessions, if it seems things are getting out of hand. In fact, my kids are generally the ones to enforce this. If they see things are getting messy, one of them will usually ask - "Mom, can we just do a quick pick up of the house ? I can't function when things are like this."

What can I say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I always have kids helping me in the kitchen for dinner - it's usually Caleb and Abigail, but all kids do help with dinner prep in one form or another. Whether that's setting the table or getting drinks for people, or moving food to the dining room - we're all doing something to help, so that we can sit down and have a nice dinner together.

Our lives are pretty busy with church, and jobs, and sports, and a million other things, so every night is different as far as what we're doing....

Wednesday nights we go to church !

 ...but at the end of each day we always put the house back in order. The nice thing is that because of all our quick pick up's throughout the day, this doesn't take much time. Tyler is in charge of making sure the garage (a big playroom/music room/wii room) gets picked up, and everyone else helps make sure clothes go in the hamper, teeth are brushed, and bedrooms are clean. I'm usually folding laundry and putting it away while the kids get ready for bed, and Daddy always prays with everyone before we go to sleep.

So there you have it.

Zones, a master plan, Morning Chores, quick pick ups.... this is How We Do Things at The Rice Ranch.

I'd love to hear how your family does things in the comment section... and if you've blogged about it in the past, leave a link !

Happy Thursday :)


Unknown said...

Wow! Thank you Patti! I am going to show this to my family because my house is always a mess and I cannot do it all! We do have chores but we don't always do them. I won't be having more kids, so each kid will have to do more work. Thank you again. What a fantastic family!

Donna said...

What a wonderful post, loved hearing about how a large family works. Your kids always look well dressed, and happy.

I would love to hear how the grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation goes.

Many blessings!

cara said...

I like how you do chores in the morning! :)

Your life looks a lot like ours when we are keeping to our schedule.

I also try to spend time with the Lord first before everyone gets up. I need this as well so that I am allowing His Spirit to work through me. Then I do Bible with Anna Rose and Mary. (my little girls) And then I do Bible with Logan, J.J., and Abigail. (the older kids) Benji and James get Bible both times with the older ones and littles. :) I know it seems strange to not just do Bible with all of them together, but the older kids and I get into deep conversations that are over the little girls' heads, so it has worked out better this way for us. And Jon can do Bible with the whole family together at night. We then eat breakfast. We also try to eat more wholesome and organic foods around here. From 8:30-10:00 a.m. is Math. From 10:00-12:00 p.m. is Writing, Reading, Grammar, English. The kids are able to go out and run and exercise at noon while I prepare lunch. Usually Abigail helps me with lunch. We read Proverbs at lunch and have fun discussions. I think lunch time is my favorite time of our school time because we all come together talking and enjoying one another. A child may bring a globe to the table and show everyone what he/she is learning in a lesson, etc. We talk deeply about the Lord, etc. From 1:00-3:00 are elective classes and co-op class work. We are now in a homeschool co-op on Thursdays. So, they have time each day to work on their work for those classes. We do chores at 3:00 p.m. I also assign different kids in charge of different areas. I like the term "zone." I may have to borrow that from you, ha. They do a deep clean on Monday, and then they keep up with it throughout the week. They also are all in charge of keeping their rooms clean, etc. They get free time at 4:00 p.m. Then dinner, daddy is home, Bible, cuddles, etc. etc. depending on if we are going somewhere that night. Of course, the little boys have naps in there. And I try to take time with them to read Scripture and work on flash cards, books, and skills they are learning.

This is our schedule when things are running smoothly and we are home. This week was crazy because I had to take kids to the dr., run to the social security office, and things like that that came up. I do not function great unless I have things in order. I also like order and everything in its place. Right now, our house may just look like the one you described with shoes out, backpacks out on the couch from co-op, clothes hanging over the railing, dvds on the floor, etc. Things just did not stay on schedule or run as smoothly as planned this week. But we are all snuggled in bed ready for organizing this weekend.

Thank you for sharing your life with us. I love learning from you. And your new home is beautiful and looks cheerful and bright! And I cannot get enough of that header of Lily! :) xoxo

Kelly Marin said...

Ugh I need to get a little more organized so I'm not stressed over the house! Yours looks awesome and can't wait to see it!

EN said...

I totally understand your hesitation to write posts like this but you absolutely must do it because the rest of us with smaller families are dying to know how a large family operates on a daily basis. As always, I love your take on parenting, chores, responsibility, personal accountability, faith, kindness, etc. And even though you don't claim to be an expert, your years experience as a wife and a mother lends significant credibility to your case (as do your lovely children of whom you should be SO proud) so please continue to share!

Kiara Buechler said...

Great post! Dane wants to come meet Lily and Hayden in person, photos just aren't good enough.

Grammi Faith said...

Oh come on Patti, I have lived with you and that is not exactly how your day unfolds. There is constant utter chaos, I trip over things, clean off a chair before I can sit in it, etc. You get the picture!! JUST KIDDING!!! I marvel at how The Rice Ranch is so organized, especially after the upbringing you had. I take no credit for your organizational skills. I take no credit for your parenting skills, patience,etc. This is my disclaimer.

PS cannot wait to be with you all again. I hope the escalator is working this time. (inside joke).

Mary Lou said...

"Those are the people you should really listen to: the experts.". {Not me.} I love your sense of humility!! ;-D
Everybody, I have observed, is a "work in progress". You never "graduate" from that!! ;)
I, too, am a scatterbrain!! I can get so distracted sometimes!! My excuse is that I have attention deficit disorder!! What is yours? Hee, hee, hee.... ;-D
Very good!! We all--no matter what our life journeys are--depend on God's grace, mercy and guidance to run any ship!! ;)
How sweet that Caleb makes you tea!! You're raising a gentleman in that one!! ;-D
"Oh yes, that was 2012 BC, when Captain Crunch and our family were on a first name basis.". Crack. Me. Up!! ;-D
Wow!! Yogurt and granola? Fresh fruit? Ham, bacon or sausage? Pancakes? Fruit and/or vegetable smoothies? Potatoes? Oatmeal? Bagels? That sounds like vacation to me!! ;)
I do not think of you as being a slave driver!! There may have only been four kids in my family, but I get it!! I. Get. It!! Besides, Mom also could never function well with a messy house over here!! Hmmm. Perhaps it is a "Mom thing"? ;-D
I love, love, love your picture of Hayden "emptying" the dishwasher!! As a writer {Unpublished. Because God said "Not yet".} I spend lots of time describing things. I have twain words for this picture. "Too. Cute." ;)
Well, I need to walk up to our nearby store with my Down syndrome brother. Because, apparently, one of his favorite films comes out on DVD today!! Let's hope the rain stays away!! ;-D

Patti said...

Mom, you taught me everything I know :) Especially when it comes to Saturday Morning Chores ! xoxox

Jo said...

Patti, thank you so much for this post! It gives me hope! Our fourth is due a few months after our oldest turns five, so I am sort of where I suppose you were 18-20 years ago. I love our family and I love this stage of having little ones, but there is chaos everywhere and I get to manage it mostly by myself. (Though my husband is super involved and helpful-- but unfortunately, for some reason, he has to go to work!) I am working to train my children to do little age-appropriate chores, but there isn't much pay-off yet… it takes more of my time to supervise them than to do it myself. I would LOVE a post with some tips on how you managed your household when all of your kids were little! (Consider that bold and highlighted in yellow!)

Krista said...

I see myself in so many aspects of this post. We are a family of 9 and our house is almost always in order because this momma can not work in a house that is a mess. We also really try and make breakfast an important part of our day and though to others it may seem like our kids have a lot of responsibilities I think it is just part of being part of a large family.

I blogged about "How We Do It" recently too after getting many questions from other moms.