Activities for children–cold and wet weather

I recently published a blogpost about activities for children during nice weather.  But the weather doesn’t always play along.

When the weather is cold or wet or both, there are still plenty of fun things to do with children.  Here’s a list of some of our favorites.

1) Family reading:  we love to read.  Frog and Toad books are perennial favorites of the children (and myself).  We read these to each other a lot.  When two little ones get into a fight, I put them on the couch next to each other and have them read Frog and Toad to each other.  You can also do quiet family reading time, Bible reading, or “Daddy reading”–I like to read a chapter of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, time permitting, each day.  J.R.R. Tolkien has such an incredible writing style, the tales are entertaining and adventurous, and he paints a setting like none other I have known.

2) Board games.  I have always loved board games, and I think the children take after me in this respect.  Board games are perfect training tools for how to deal with winning and losing in life, as well as being good sports, and learning to take calculated risks and not be afraid.  Whether you win or lose in board games a few things always hold when you are through:  1) you are still alive, 2) Mom and Dad still love you, 3) God still loves you.   Never forget that.

3)  Baking and making.  Whether it is simple dinner rolls, pancakes, or desserts, it is always fun to do some baking on a rainy day.

4) Clean up.  House chores can be fun with the right attitude, especially if everyone chips in and helps out.  Many hands make light work.  We like to put on some groovy tunes to keep the mood and motion peppy.

5) Help Mom with laundry.  Folding is a good thing for children (and Dads) to learn.  Doing it together makes it fun.

6) Story telling.  Children have the best imaginations and come up with the funniest things.  With all the reading we do, they also learn to create settings and give characters “voice”.

7) Making juice drinks or smoothies.  Frozen berries with yogurt become an easy treat and are fun to make on a rainy day.  If it is cold, warm it up and make hot cocoa or spiced cider instead!

8) Spa treatment for Mom.  This is one of the favorite things the little ones love to do!  A towel on the couch a few helpful children and a little lotion and Mommy gets one great foot and leg rub!  Throw in a hairbrush and an aspiring salon artist and Mommy gets a scalp massage and new hairdo at the same time!

9) If all else fails, wrestling always works.  Note:  for aging Dads and adolescent/preteen children–approach this with caution!  Once the youngsters reach 2/3 of your body weight it might be time to throw in the towel!  But while they are still small I like to cover the room with pillows, get on my knees, and play “Daddy takes on all comers”.  The couches are ‘safe zones’ for the kiddies, they can’t wrestle each other, and Daddy can call a time out when needed.

A Dad’s Thoughts on Laundry

Robyn had “a day away” recently, and the children and I managed the house while she was away.  Part of that included cycling several loads of laundry.  Now being a recovering engineer, I can understand the mechanics of laundry, and I even learned to separate lights from darks.

But I never have been good at folding.  Towels, OK, but mildly challenged by various shapes and sizes of shirts, trousers, jumpsuits, dresses, tights and the like.  And forget about fitted sheets.

Anyway I was reflecting a bit while folding this past week and here is something I discovered:

The children usually are in such rapid and random “Brownian” motion, they never hold still long enough for me to appreciate how small and perfect they really are at this very moment.  But the laundry holds pretty still when you are folding it (if not, I can usually wrestle it down into submission pretty well), and that is the time I get to realize that they are still so small and beautiful and absolutely perfect, with a perfectly balanced Swiss-timepiece of a heart in each little chest, and moods and emotions and feelings and all those great things that make us human.

I often pray that I learn to appreciate the here and now, since I am sinfully a “destination” person rather than a “journey” person. This was a little answer to my prayer with just a brief glimpse of enjoying the ride, even while doing a chore I normally find very challenging.

Thank you, God, for giving me a snapshot of stillness to appreciate the children as they are right now.  Thank you, Robyn, for giving me the opportunity to discover this blessing.

“A Day” for a hard-working Mom

In the beginning of the movie “Shrek 4-ever”, Shrek was in a rut.  He needed “a day” for himself, away from his normal routine and everyday cares and chores.  He cut a deal with Rumplestiltskin where he could have a day all to himself to do whatever he wanted and be the old ogre he was, without any other cares in the world.

We all need that sometimes.  Even SuperMoms.

Last week Robyn got one of those days as a Christmas gift, which was nice since she could schedule it ahead of time and we all could prepare for it.  She ‘disappeared’ for a day, taking her Bible and her laptop with her, and we managed as if she were away on a business trip.

The kids did remarkably well.  Realizing Dad was at the helm, and it was ‘crunch time’, they buckled down and we did splendidly.  We started out waking up–check.  After that it went sort of like so:

  • Get your body out of bed and get down stairs
  • Eat breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Brush your teeth if you’ve got em.
  • Four teams were made with one ‘big one’ and one ‘little one’ on each (and little Nick was a bonus helper for a team).  Each team had to clean one easy room (warm up), one challenging room, and one bathroom.  I am not sure how many bathrooms actually were touched but that was the plan.  The teams were carefully crafted by Dad based on personality mixes, and the rooms were in ship shape in no time.
  • Go down to the basement with school books.  We cleaned a little, did a little schoolwork.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  About a hundred times until all the Barbie stuff, LEGOs and various random implements of destruction were picked up and put away.  All homework was completed and Dad checked it over (which is an amazing feat in itself).  It helped that no one was able to go upstairs until it was all done.  And mercifully, we have a bathroom in the basement.

We had a break at about 12:30 – 2 PM for lunch.  Leftovers and pizza rolls are a blessing for Dads.

Afternoon was broken up for different groups:

  • big kids got computer time from 2-4:30PM,
  • medium and little guys got to play board games with Daddy,
  • help fold laundry (we were Mommy’s Laundry Fairies and blasted through 5 or 6 loads throughout the day***see my blog regarding “Thoughts on Laundry” coming up soon),
  • watched TV a while
  • Daddy had a 15 minute nap to recharge his batteries, accompanied by his littlest daughter.
Christmas Kids_a Moms Day away

Christmas Kids_a Moms Day away

Then it was up for dinner, then kitchen chores, and “1-2-3”, which means “jammies on, brush teeth, and use the potty”.  Finally Daddy read some stories to the little ones, we said prayers and they went to bed.

Mommy came home to a spotless house, sleeping children, and one tired but appreciative husband.



How I Do It…the Laundry, pt 2

Today’s “How I Do It” post is the part 2 post about how I do the laundry.  I mentioned most of my little tricks in the part 1 post, but today’s trick is the absolute best part of my laundry routine.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the most difficult part of the laundry is getting It put away.  I can wash, dry and even fold laundry cheerfully all throughout the day, but getting it put away is extremely difficult.  There are just too many places to take it all, I’d have to put on a brown suit and be the UPS deliverer to manage it all in our house!

But don’t worry about me…about two years ago, I fixed that problem!  A friend and her mom had stopped by for a visit.  We were discussing the laundry issue, probably because mine was all piled up (not put away) in my laundry room, and my friend’s mom mentioned that if she could do it over, she would build a large laundry room with a bathroom attached and have everyone just get dressed in the laundry room.  Later that day, as I stood amongst my piles of folded laundry, ding…ding…ding…the bells and lights went on!  I have a large laundry area with a bathroom sort of connected.  AND, my kids were already stripping there each morning as it is a “hub” bathroom next to the kitchen.  All I needed was a place to store their clothes and I would have the perfect laundry cycle!  Clothes would come off those cute little bodies, go directly into the dirty hamper, to the wash, then the dryer, folded as I pull them out of the dryer and then….DIRECTLY in to their dressers, then back on to those cute little bodies.  VOILA!!  Definitely, definitely has been one of the best household changes I ever made!  Because I wasn’t sure if it would work long term, I bought plastic storage drawer sets for the clothes and tucked them under a counter.  That is what I am still using today, though I may consider putting in permanent dressers one day.

Hotel laundry icon used courtesy of

If you have any capacity to do something similar, I highly recommend that you try it.  My older kids are now taking their own clothes upstairs and putting them away themselves.  They now prefer to dress in their rooms.  And, I didn’t really have enough space to have everyone’s clothes in my laundry area.

One other little trick that I did not mention is the folding thing.  I have always folded my laundry as I pull it out of the dryer, even before my new laundry method.  I have found that it saves me time and effort, I am much faster at getting it done and it takes out a few steps of rearranging folded piles.  It also forces me to get the clothes put away, instead of creating the dreaded Mt Laundry.

So, that’s it for my laundry techniques for now.  I am guessing that in a few years as my kids grow older, I will have a new method.   Maybe, just maybe…it will involve even less of me!

Note:  Hotel laundry icon used courtesy of

That’s Hilarious! Two 2 y/o’s and a laundry chute.

Oh, the collective minds of two year olds!  We are really in for some good months to come. 

Just as soon as our little boys both turned two, we got a glimpse of the capacity of the collective minds of two year olds.  One evening a few weeks ago, after a normal long day, I was going to do my normal nightly laundry routine.  I was particularly content that evening because I had just emptied the laundry chute and the hamper the day before.  I knew that I would only have one load and that there would only be a few pieces of clothes in the chute, just some of the stuff from that day.  Boy, was I in for a huge surprise!

I opened the doors to the laundry chute (the chute empties from the second floor into a double cabinet over the washer) and it was JAM PACKED FULL!!!  All the way to the TOP of the chute on the second floor!!!  Can you imagine?!  I was expecting an empty cabinet and instead it was fuller than I ever thought it could be.  I couldn’t even open both cabinet doors; it would have all come tumbling down on me. 

All the way up the chute!Laundry chute cabinet - jam, packed full!!

After the initial shock, I looked at the contents and realized that it was made up of blankets, sheets, pillows and towels.  And, they were mostly still folded.  Aahh Hahh – all clean stuff (one small sigh of relief!).  Then I realized that it looked a lot like the contents of the linen closet from upstairs.  Now, I had been home all day and I had been with the kids all day and I had put them to bed that night (same hallway as the linen closet).  After the discovery in the chute, I went upstairs to see what or how or whatever may have occurred and WHO had done it!  Nothing…no sign, no trace, no evidence.  There was not one piece of linen or clothing anywhere in the hallway, not even sticking out of the laundry chute – clean as a whistle.  Hummm???  The linen closet – EMPTY!!!  The entire contents of the bottom two/thirds of the double wide linen closet (at least 5 ft wide) were cleaned out!  (First clue…the high part was untouched?!)

I could only laugh!  And try not to cry….  And wait till the next morning.  All the kids were asleep, so I couldn’t ask anyone if they had done it or if they knew who did it.  And, the thought of tackling all that linen that late at night was completely out of the question.  I went to bed scared!  Who had done it?  Who was capable of doing it and not leaving any evidence?  When had they done it?  That was my main fear…how did I not know that it had happened.  What was I doing when all the dumping had occurred???

The next morning, I politely and unsuspectingly asked each of my older children if they knew ANYTHING about the incident.  No…no…no…no…no…no…OH NO!!  Six very innocent and clueless No’s.  That meant that my biggest fear of who had done it was TRUE.  My two little 2 y/o’s had done it!  All by themselves, no one around, no one instigating, no evidence left, and completely under my nose!!!  How did this happen?  It’s not like I left the house or took a nap or hid in the basement for any period of time.  Somehow, they had completely emptied as much of that closet as they could reach in complete stealth mode.  We are SOOO in for it! Up until then, whenever they got into anything or did something they considered fun, they would laugh and giggle.  They would laugh so much; you always wanted to join them in the mischief.  But not this time…No – they went stealth, incognito, and silently achieved the ultimate stunt.  Did I mention that we are SOOO in for it!!

I now know when they did it.  It had to be when I was cooking dinner and Daddy was upstairs in the bonus room.  I remember hearing them just a little, just enough to think that they were playing nicely and did not need to be watched.  Haa!  Got that one wrong!  The kitchen is just at the bottom of the stairs and the linen closet and the chute are just beside the top of the stairs, out of sight but still at the top.  It had happened right there, I was just “around the corner”.  They left no sign, no indication of the stunt, they did not even leave the chute door cracked open a little.  We are SOOO in for it!!!.

How I do…the Laundry! Part 1

With nine children, we have a tremendous amount of laundry.  Fortunately for me, doing the laundry is my favorite household chore.  For whatever insane reason, seeing all those cute little clothes and remembering how the kids looked or what they were doing in those little clothes is a treat for me.  However, I can not say that it is what I would prefer to be doing for so much of my time!

At the current time I am up to two loads of laundry a day.  I always forget how much extra laundry a baby generates.  Even though his clothes are so little, the spit-up always winds up on my clothes…and my towels, and his blankets, and the floors (but that is for another post).  My usual routine is to do some laundry at night and some in the morning.

So, over the years I have developed some great methods to ease the laundry load (pun intended!).

1. I have learned to not be too particular about the shape of the clothes when I put them in the wash.  I pre-treat very little.  This is not the “perfect” method, as some stains become permanent, but it does move the laundry along much faster.  I also do not pre-straighten the clothes.  Meaning that I do not put them all “right side out” each time.  Because I have so many little ones and I teach them to be independent as soon as possible, I wind up with lots of little inside-out clothes in the hamper.  Most of the time I just put them in as is, I have found that it is much more pleasant to put them right-side-out after they have been washed and dried and are smelling very fresh!

2. I separate only for light and dark loads.  I don’t have the time nor the space to save up for a bleach load, though I do try to do one every so often.

3. I have a Fischer & Pykel washer and dryer set – that I love!  The washer is energy efficient and spins most of the wetness out of the clothes.  This makes the dryer time much shorter.  The dryer takes only a little longer than a wash load.  I can really power through some laundry since they both finish almost at the same time.

4. The Fisher & Pykel set also has a delayed timer on the washer – love that too!  I can put a load in at night and time it to wash in the morning.  This has been so great for me in the cyling of the laundry.

Laundry icon is used courtesy of

5. My most recent laundry advancement has been to become a “stuffer”.  I was sooo not a ‘stuffer” just a few months ago, but then my mom (by marriage) came to visit one time when I had Mount Laundry erupting.  That lady turned six of my loads into three loads of laundry!  I couldn’t believe it, nor could I watch it at first.  I was initially shocked that she would stuff so much laundry in the wash.  I mean, didn’t she know that the clothes needed to slosh around in order to get clean?  Fortunately, I held my tongue and walked out of the laundry domain.  After some time of deep reflection and upon consulting a close friend (who was also a closet stuffer), I stepped past my skepticism and …  well… I started to “stuff”.  And I have been stuffing ever since.  I have not noticed any difference in the cleanliness of the clothes, so I just can’t stop!

My most treasured laundry secret is in the folding and the putting away realm.  I will post about that next!

And I couldn’t end this post without mentioning that I usually have several helpers.  My littlest kids (2-4 year olds) will hand me the laundry or help move it into the dryer.  My oldest kids (6-9) can load the washer and the dryer, but they can’t always reach the buttons!  Even though my kids are capable of doing the laundry, I don’t usually have them doing it.  As I mentioned earlier, the laundry is one of my favorite household chores, so I would rather have them be doing some other chore and save the laundry for me.  It is also working well that I do half at night and half in the morning, so they are usually sleeping or doing other chores.

Note:  Laundry icon is used courtesy of