Low Energy and Large Family Logistics

admin August 15th, 2011

As some of you may have heard, we got a call last week about (possibly) taking a group of five siblings – or possibly three or four of them.  It is not entirely clear that they will all come into care, or that we would be asked to take all or any of them.  It is also possible we would decline – five is more than we bargained for, the group is very, very young (ages 5 to newborn) and we don’t have enough information about them yet to make a decision. We probably won’t get that information until the county makes its decisions about what they will do, so we wait.

Still, the thought of going from four children to seven, eight or even nine has me curious about the logistics – how will all of this work for us?  Technically, I have a large family – in the US large families start at 3 or 4 kids.  I still remember, shortly after Isaiah (third child) was born, I went to a tea party held by a good friend for a group of women who had all had babies recently.  All of us had our second or third, and one woman, on her second, said to me “Well, you have all those children!”  I blinked, because it had never occurred to me that a family of three constituted “all those” but in fact it does.

Indeed, when I recently attended an event to receive an award in New York City, I was as much a curiosity as a three-headed bear because I was a professional writer of some minor note *with four children.*  In New York, where outside some ethnic and religious populations, one or two children is an absolute maximum, I found myself surrounded by women stunned that anyone could have multiple children and write books as well.  Everyone asked “how does she do it” as though accomplishment plus children were impossible – and perhaps it is if women have to do all the domestic work alone. I’m fortunate in that it is a shared project in our household.

But if mine is a technically large family (four kids, two adults, sometimes additional adults, as when Eric’s grandparents lived with us or our housemate Phil did), the shift from four to seven, eight or nine (probably in a matter of days)  is a pretty big one in this culture.  Ok, not just the culture – in our lives as well, and yes, I’m freaking out a little ;-) .   Besides that, however, there’s public perception too, however.  Despite the tv-show prominence of a few large families, most households in the US are 2.7 people – ours would be 11 if we took all five kids.

If four children is already a big family, what the heck is eight or nine kids?  As Melissa Fay Greene writes (she’s the bio and adoptive Mom of 9) in _No Biking in the House Without a Helmet_, that many kids marks you as weird and makes people put you in “…among the greats:  the Kennedys, the McCaughey septuplets, the von Trapp family singers and perhaps even Mrs. Vassilyev, who, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, gave birth to sixty-nine children in eighteenth century Russia.”  Now there’s a company I never thought to join.

Besides the fascination with sheer numbers,  everyone who writes and reads about large families is fascinated by the logistics – how many gallons of milk a week, how do they do the shopping, how much laundry and how many dishes?  I admit, I’m no different – I want to be able to envision how this all works, to try and have a set of strategies in my head that might make the transition doable if this – or some other – group of siblings joins my extant herd of boys.

So I googled – a bunch – about larger family logistics, and how do people do it.  Unfortunately, a lot of what I found didn’t really apply to us, in the same sense that a lot of standard american cultural assumptions don’t apply to us.  The advice offered to large families is centered on families that don’t seem terribly worried about their ecological impact.  Maybe they can’t worry about it, or maybe it isn’t part of their consciousness.

Whatever the reason, advice for parents of large families (ok, let’s actually admit it is almost always mothers of large families!) tends to emphasize big appliances at lots of them.  Get three fridges one family suggests – one just for the milk!  Two industrial washers and two matching industrial dryers as well – that’ll keep the laundry under control!  Use paper and plastic at every meal to minimize dishes!  Color code everything  - every kid gets a color, and everything they own – socks, underpants, towels, backpacks…it all comes in purple or green or puce (for the truly mega-families, what happens if you are the last kid and your color choices are puce and ashes-of-roses ;-) ).

I’m not sitting in judgement here – many of these families, particularly the large adoptive families with many kids with special needs, may simply not be able to add on energy reduction.  Indeed, for the families that keep large sibling groups from separation, or take in hard-to-place older and disabled kids, just giving the kids a family will probably reduce their energy and resource consumption considerably by reducing visitations, consolidating kids into one home instead of four, etc…, not to mention the other deep goods – the fact that kids get families.  My point isn’t that other families should do differently, but that it was hard to find role models, except by digging into the past.

I don’t have a working refrigerator – we use a small fridge as an icebox.  It is a side-by-side (inherited from Eric’s grandmother), so I might open up the other side, but I won’t be buying a plug-in model.  I will be buying milk when the kids come, because I’m not legally permitted to feed foster children our goat’s milk, but I don’t see myself with an infinite number of gallons of industrial milk in a fridge, as so many blog pictures show.

While when our present front loader washer meets its inevitable end, I do anticipate replacing it with a commercial model, that probably won’t be for quite a while –  who knows about things that far away?  My mother asked me recently if I would need to get a dryer to keep up with the laundry – my assumption is no, since generations of women raised large families without them, but I haven’t done the laundry for more than 7 people yet (although at one point I was doing laundry for a baby, a toddler and an autistic, non-toilet trained five years old, as we as an incontinent elder, plus others so I’ve got a faint sense of this).  The plastic and paper are not part of my plan, and where would I find that much color-matching stuff in my usual shopping haunts, Goodwill. Savers and various yard sales?  Besides, who wants to wear purple every day?

Some of the advice for large families is good – make lists, get organized, get rid of stuff you don’t need.  Organize the kids into buddies, with a bigger kid keeping an eye on a younger one.  Cook double and freeze.  Chore charts, calendars – all good advice.  Most of it is good advice for those of us with small-big families too, which is why a lot of it is already in place, and I have some doubts about my ability to do some of the other stuff.

Some things we are already doing – bulk purchasing, a large pantry, buying clothes for larger sizes in advance – I’ve just added girl things into the mix and am starting to accumulate a stash of clothing for potential daughters, if any. The kids already have chores.  I already have multiple calendars.  I’m just now sure how much new will be required of me as I scale up.

Then there’s the old-fashioned advice – wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, etc…  But I don’t iron, and I have to do laundry just about every day as it is – much of the year the limiting factor is drying space, so a “day” to wash is out.  I can imagine modifying it – preserve on Monday, bake on Tuesday, weed on Wednesday, mend on Thursday – but I haven’t quite pulled it together yet in my head, and I’m not clear that baking on Tuesday, rather than when we’re low on bread, will actually have me any time.

So those of you with large households, particularly trying to Riot or keep your energy use down in other ways, what do you do?  What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you for managing a large household?   How do you organize yourself? Keep up with the clothing and the washing, the cooking and shopping?  Do you use a full range of appliances?  Do without?  What’s worth having and what isn’t?  I want your advice!


45 Responses to “Low Energy and Large Family Logistics”

  1. JoAnna says:

    I’m not legally permitted to feed foster children our goat’s milk

    Dear lord.

  2. Adrienne says:

    I don’t really get this kids = massive quantities of milk thing. I grew up with two brothers and I hate milk. My brothers drank some but not a ton. Isn’t it possible for kids to just drink water, at least some of the time?

  3. What JoAnna said. The state of NY legally mandates you to serve a lower-quality, less nutritious, less fresh, higher carbon footprint milk to your foster children than you do to the children you birthed? <== Example of everything wrong with our society.

    Not being a mother of any stripe, I have no real advice for you. But the buddy system sounds like a winning strategy to me. It seems as though taking on a batch of kids beyond the toddler years is the way to go to make things easiER, though by no means do I imagine it will be easy. Older kids can presumably take on more chores and offset the extra work their presence will entail.

  4. Sharon says:

    The funny thing is that the goat’s milk thing doesn’t bother me that much – I can understand why they are concerned about listeriosis and other risks of raw milk. That’s not to say I agree, but I do grasp it. What’s funny to me is that the state will help pay for it – with WIC, but WIC doesn’t cover organic milk or anything but bulk generics.

    Adrienne, I’m not a big milk drinker myself (although I do love cheese) and my kids drink water at every meal. That said, Eli and Asher do drink milk as a snack, and I don’t discourage it. Still, we go through a fair bit just in cooking, baking and daily use – but the all milk fridge confuses me too.


  5. Nicole says:

    My Dad and my grandfather’s families were both quite large, very rural and poor and largely self-sustaining. I’ve talked to my grandpa quite a bit about his childhood in the 30′s. By the time you got to 3 or 4 kids, one of them was old enough to start seriously working and helping out. Not just weekends and after school, but anytime kids were needed for harvesting or big work school was either let out or the kids just didn’t go that week.

    Their resources being smaller, so were their “needs” — shoes weren’t worn until winter and entertainment was what they could devise among themselves and their neighbors. I know that my gr-grandmother foraged the fields and woods to supplement their food every day. (What I wouldn’t give to have her around to train me!) Washing was once a week, but when you only have two sets of clothes — work and church — laundry doesn’t become a huge pile.

    Working kids that hard would probably be called child abuse today. And their parents worked hard, too, from sunup to sundown. Given the toll labor can take on young bones and bodies, I don’t think it’s a lifestyle we should emulate if we can avoid it.

    @Adrienne – I just had one brother, but don’t recall us drinking that much milk either, although I do recall cooking with it. And somehow we survived with one fridge that was half the size of a modern french-door and one 40-mile trip to the grocery store every two weeks for the stuff we had to buy.

  6. Stephen B. says:

    Well now, I don’t have any kids of my own, but after being on staff of a residential school – myself working more in the dorm than in the school, usually with 14 to 20 teenaged boys in residence, I have a few ideas here.

    I’d label as many clothes as possible. A laundry pen with initials written on the labels is a big help. Our kids do their own laundry using our 3 washers and 3 dryers, but things do get mixed up and if even half of the clothes in a load are labeled, the particular pile can be identified and things in the laundry room can be kept moving. Not all clothes can be labeled as more and more clothes don’t have tagged labels (tee shirts especially – they use printed/embossed labels) and fashion conscious teens understandably don’t want their clothes visibly marked up. I would think labeling will work much better than color coding. Socks can be labeled too near the toe end, but markings wear off kind of quickly. Most all of our kids wear white socks anyhow and if a few get mixed around, it’s no big deal.

    We use regular residential front loader washers and dryers, that way we can have several machines rather than one big one. That way we always have some working machines. As it is, when one breaks down, and we are waiting a week for it to be fixed, things can back up. If we only had one *large* machine and it broke, that would be ugly. Prior to me being hired on, the house had one large dryer, and it caused problems. Front loader washers also wring the clothes out much better, and make for faster drying either on a line or in a machine.

    I of course line dry at home, and while I’d love to get more line drying instituted at work, the culture of the rest of the residential care workers and kids, makes such a dream an impossibility. If your incoming kids have a fairly high level of functioning, in your case, you and the rest of your pre-existing family might be able to coach them along on line drying, however. I have seen large families and schools do line drying. In particular, I recall visiting the Hawthorn Valley School – a Waldorf school and biodynamic teaching farm, not too far south of your location, where all the kids and in-resident staff had a *large* clothesline farm to use and were using it. I also am thinking of the large basements both of my grandparents’ houses had, (with large boilers contained within) that made large family line drying possible in wet weather as well.

    As for the goat milk, which I assume is legally off limits due to it coming from an unlicensed and/or unpasteurized source, I’m wondering – is the rest of your biological family going to continue drinking it, particularly your boys? I am left wondering how the foster kids are going to accept that. ‘Wish I had an answer there.

    Control the proliferation of Game Boys, Xboxes, and the like. Never even mind the energy considerations, managing a house full of electronics is a headache – one we more or less lost at work ourselves.

    A daily chore sheet, with a whole week of days on a page, works for us. Kids can pick a chore on sign up day, with a bit of forced rotation from the parents/adults if things bog down. We put the pay right on the chore row, and pay out a cash allowance, though I sometimes wish our compensation took some other, less worldly form. Our kids come into our program with various conceptions and misconceptions, but one thing they all seem to understand is the USD :-( . You might be able to get more creative here in your situation.

    Large families will enjoy energy economies of scale as does our residential program on things such as cooking and cleaning as well as space heating and that’s a very good thing. One thing I’ve learned, however, is that large families can also have different ideas as to where to set the heat, when to open and close the windows, how many lights to leave on in the living room, and so on. I am but a mere employee, one of over a dozen house staff where I work, so I don’t get as much say in such things. I’ve been there a decade now, however, and seniority counts a bit, but even still, we suffer from having too much of a diversity of opinions as to these kinds of domestic energy uses. I suspect you and Eric won’t have to answer to much of anybody and can set the rules yourself. Do expect, however, to have to be patient with incoming kids as it’s been my experience that foster and residential kids are particularly unskilled and inexperienced in making energy choices that you and I take for granted. In the end, the kids will be helpful and cooperative. Your licensing agency/agencies, however, may have all kinds of rules regarding lighting, thermostat settings, and so on, as they seem to have about the goat milk.

  7. Nicole says:

    @Sharon – Given the high price of milk, I wonder if a small, second-hand pasteurizer would be cost-effective? Or do you have to be licensed up there just to own one? If so, I wonder if a nearby small dairy would let you time-share theirs?

    They looks like they are available new online for $300.

    Assuming you have sufficient supply, of course.

  8. Stephen B. says:

    Your household will also have a more diverse age range of kids I would expect. Given that, I’d also second and endorse any kind of older/younger mentor/mentee buddy system you can work up.

    Older kids love to show off what they know and younger kids look up to and listen to older kids, in most cases, every bit as much as they listen to parents, as long as the kids aren’t paired too closely in age, which sometimes creates rivalry problems in my experience.

  9. Lise says:

    I only have one child, but do family child care, and so have up to 8 children in my care for most of five days a week. Because I don’t use paper, there’s a lot of laundry and dishes! A tiny piece of advice that works for me: the kids do each have a color, which I use to mark various things. For example, they each have washcloths and hand towels–they’re all white, but I’ve sewn on a loop of ribbon in each of their colors onto their cloths. The color thing is very useful for non-readers, especially if you’re required to have them use their own things (i.e. not share towels). I also buy juice glasses at thrift stores in small amounts (two or three of each type), so each day the kids have a glass that looks different from everyone else’s. It stays on the table all day, so they can keep using it. I also recommend rebus (words-and-pictures) charts that help kids remember routines (here, we use it for the after-lunch-cleanup-prepare-for-nap routine)–saves a lot of time and explaining for you!

    I’m in absolute awe at your decision and am so grateful for those children, who’ll be able to stay together due to you. Wow.

  10. Jess says:

    I was a nanny for a family of 5, and they did a lot of things that make sense to me and probably will to you:

    The kids wore their jeans several times before washing, and went barefoot when at home except in winter. They also slept in very minimal clothes, underwear and shirt, or just underwear.

    They used a dot system to keep track of clothes, one dot on the tag for the oldest kid, and another dot added for kid two, another for kid three. If you have temporary custody of kids I dunno how well that would work.

    Lunches were a free-for-all of whatever fruits, cheese, crackers, and leftovers were in the fridge.

    Each child had ONE cool cup and plate, think princess or racecar or whatever. Each child over 3 washed their own cup and plate every day.

    Twice a day, before lunch and before dinner, the kids cleaned up the whole entire house.

    thats all I can think of at the moment.. good luck!

  11. Grandma Misi says:

    Ditto to everyone with all the great comments! One quick way, similar to Lise’s comment, to mark clothing is a quick embroidered, single X in that child’s special color. All the clothes don’t have to be one color but it’s quick and easy to look at the neck or seam for the one color X. It only takes a second to put one in, and when/if the foster kids are moving on it’s easy to just pick it out.

    Also, my first thought was why use so much refrigerator room for milk? Remember in the old days (not really that old, but I guess you are too young Sharon) when our mothers were trying to pass of powdered milk on us? They would mix the powdered half and half with the regular milk. Then they would ratchet down the percentage of fluid milk, (needing cold) to powdered till we were drinking mostly powdered unawares. Ah ha! Tricky Mom! My thought here is that you would only have to store in the fridge half as much regular milk at a time. You could rotate the mixed batches into the fridge so that they would be kept cold and taste a lot better of course.

    I’m also with Adrienne that I don’t get the whole milk drinking thing… I understand the need for the calcium and the good nutrition et al, but as long as they are eating good wholesome foods (which they would at YOUR HOUSE) then this is not even necessary. Just lots of good hydrating water. As I’m sure you know there are a lot of folks that believe that drinking milk, at all, after weaning is not only unnecessary but unhealthy. I also realize though that you are under intense scrutiny in the foster care system (which is not a BAD thing).

    Since you’ve made it through the evaluation period, and I’m sure you didn’t hide who you are and what you believe in under a bushel basket, it appears that you can just continue what you do with your own family except for the legally mandated stuff like the raw milk. Some of those kids are going to think you’re weird no matter what you do or don’t do, ya know? But soon the love and hilarity will win out I’m sure!

    You and Eric and the boys are amazing!

  12. Rita Vail says:

    I have four daughters who are now grown. The first was born when we lived in a schoolbus – so no running water, etc. We traveled in Europe when she was 10 months old and cloth diapers never seemed a problem to me. I washed out clothes each night or day and hung them in the room to dry. On the train, I stuffed them into a bag.

    Second daughter was born on our farm with no running water. We grew vegetables to eat with our rice, beans, seaweed, and fresh ground flour products. I made tofu and taught cooking classes. We turned the barn into a wood shop. We hauled water from a nearby lake for the garden and drew it up from a well on the porch. I loved it, but it was hard work. I was about 30 yo. Eight and ten years later two more came along, so I had help with line drying and folding diapers, cooking and cleaning. We had chickens, but no fences for big animals. But there were fruit trees and a food cellar. For a while I had no fridge. The house was about 700 sq.ft.

    Sometimes we had extra kids. We pitched a tent in the summer. Every afternoon we went to the lake to swim/bathe.In the winter we heated and cooked with wood. The kids gathered kindling and carried firewood. We ate a lot of beans and grains and veggies. I cooked three big meals a day and worked at night in the shop. Most of that time we had no tv. I think if we had doubled the family we would have just slept in the living room and it would have been fine.

    Now I live alone and wash my clothes out in my bath water each night. I have no washer, dryer, range, or vacuum cleaner. I got rid of the big, heavy furniture so it is easy to sweep and mop. I turn off the fridge in the winter. I wish I had thought to teach the kids to wash their own clothes by hand each day.

    I suggest that the key is to not have too many clothes, or too much furniture, and few toys. Keep the kids outside in all kinds of weather. We had a big dairy barn with a wood stove in it and a big chicken house and 120 acres of woods. Often the kids were missing for hours. I grew up the same way and it was heaven. So did my mom and dad.

    I think when people wonder how you can manage it, they are thinking you have to watch them every minute. Sure. Some kids do get hurt. But they will do that even if you never take your eyes off of them. It may take a long time before some kids can handle this kind of freedom. First they have to learn how to doctor their own scrapes and not damage the property. Your older ones will teach them, but mostly they have to screw up. That’s how you learn.

  13. Rita Vail says:

    BTW – we didn’t drink milk and were really healthy. I guess it was all the greens we ate. Everyone knew which clothes were theirs. We did always have a lot of unpaired sox. Being girls, they would not just wear all white ones. We had every size ballet slipper, rubber boot, etc.

    It was all the driving to town for activities that proved too much for me. When the youngest was seven we moved to a nearby large town/small city with good schools and a university. They missed the farm but say now that they are glad we moved. Maybe it was the compost toilet. :)

  14. Stephen B. says:

    Grandma Misi said: “Some of those kids are going to think you’re weird no matter what you do or don’t do, ya know?”

    Shhhhhh! That was the surprise this whole escapade has waiting for Sharon and Eric.

  15. Tegan says:

    As one of two children, and not having any kids of my own, I have very little I can add to this. One thing that I don’t know if it will work is this:

    I believe the Duggins (I can’t believe I’m using them as an example) have a bin of clothes per size. Everyone just grabs something that fits them, but there isn’t necessarily one child per shirt. I think with foster care you’re not allowed to have such “disrespect” of belongings, but it’s a thought. I mean, it’s mostly teeshirts and jeans anyway. The number of mornings that I just grab anything that’s clean… it’s pretty much the same principle.

  16. jan says:

    I raised six kids and we had 22 foster kids move through our home over a 13 year period. Ages newborn to five are kids at a very needy age. I took on 4 under seven and added them to my 2 special needs long tern foster kids and could only manage for a month. Keeping them off the table, out of the street, fully clothed and managing their visits and telephone calls left us no time to be a family. hey moved to another home where there were no other kids and that family adopted them four years later.

  17. Cindy in FL says:

    I would think you could find locally produced, conventional, pasteurized milk, just don’t know if it has to be generic to be covered.
    Can you make cheese or baked goods with your goat milk and feed it to foster kids?
    I was curious to know if you are allowed to homeschool foster kids. Will the state require that kids of the appropriate age attend some kind of head start program?

    I’ve always liked the idea of each person having their own color. A cup, bowl and plate in one color for each person. So far the only color coding I do is with the calendar. Instead of writting a persons name and then the activity or appt, I just write it in the persons color. I clip a small binder clip to the bottom of the pencil, then the colored pencils hang from the top of the calendar by curtain hooks. I use a large blotter style calendar.

    Colored toothbrushes would help too.

  18. Jen says:

    I know you want to be low energy, but with kids those ages I think it would be wise to buy paper for the first week at least just to be get adjusted. Labeling laundry sounds very smart, but 5 kids under 5 are constantly getting clothes dirty. I can’t imagine much rewear happening. Batch cooking. Soups and casseroles and lots of bread. These kids are most likely NOT going to be used to your diet and the types of foods you eat. Lots of banans..i know not local…apples and cheese slice are big hits. I have 3 kids, but our church family has mostly family with 5 kids and up. You may need to get a cheap dryer. This is going to be insane…I recently kept 4 kids for a 48 hr period..so 7 kids and the ages 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, & 9. I was exhausted and had only one in diapers and I used paper and I didn’t have to wash their clothes. I didn’t have to deal with sleep issues and fear or RAD or that they didn’t know me from Adam.

    I think logistics will be very difficult to manage for awhile. Your oldest is what 10? Can Eli be partnered with anyone? These are also children who most likely have been parked in front of the TV so self entertainment might be lacking.

    I hate to sound so negative, but just getting them used to theway your family operates will be a huge endeavor.

  19. emmer says:

    when i did foster care (on a tiny farm), i sewed a ribbon loop into the sideseam of garments and marked the ribbon with the initial of the child who wore it. it could be marked out and relabeled when that kid outgrew it and another started wearing it.

  20. Brad K. says:

    @ Grandma Misi,

    I have been reading that much of the science behind the original government recommendations — and today’s regulations — about good nutrition is suspect, and also bought and paid for by the dairy industry.

    But the US Govt hasn’t incorporated any significant research or sound science in updating their information. And that has been 40-60 years, now.

    There is the milk thing, since we know that only people descended from northern European peoples have the enzymes to properly digest cow’s milk (that is grocery store milk, for those that aren’t familiar with the fact that, for the most part, commercial dairy means milk from cows). Yet everyone no matter the genetic heritage, is recommended to have their umpty-ump glasses of milk, to keep the commercial dairies, um, bones, strong. Like no one ever heard of eating Brussel’s sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.

    There is some rising interest in trans-fats, and whether there is science behind the ban, or mere marketing and incorrect urban legend.

    Unfortunately, state and local ordinances and requirements are based on the good old Federal standard, with little room for those with more to offer.

    @ Sharon,

    One thing to keep in mind while looking at advice from large families — spacing. Families with a child every year or four have an older child to help provide examples of discipline and dependable guardians before the number of children gets too large. In elder times when the large family was the rule, when the number of children got to eight or ten, the eldest might have been 16 or 22. That makes a big difference.

    In a way, Simon might be a wonderful factor working in your favor. Your other boys are used to noticing and reporting or intervening when they see incorrect or unsafe behavior. That may be important, in bringing children from a problem background into your home. The large pantry and garden, the livestock may seem wonderful assets — unless the five year old requires a “child proofed” home to keep him/her from damaging self, others, and property. A scratch on a table is one thing — several dozen broken jars in the pantry means something else.

    Um, be sure to address safe handling of broken glass, in the house and outside, with every foster child. Most homes have so little glass anymore, they may never have encountered safe procedures of any kind.

    As for discipline, you might prepare your sons for a change in discipline, just in case you have to tighten everything down to get any new additions into the program. And, yes, by discipline I do mean “will to complete a task”. Little things like picking berries for an hour and a half, that is three TV programs-worth of attention, in most homes, and a rarity in too many. And returning with berries to show for the time, again a sign of discipline and good character.

    Blessed be!

  21. Mitty says:

    I think first of all that you will have to greatly expand your clothes drying space, both outside and in. Get more racks and string more lines. Foster children can have bed-wetting problems while they are adjusting, so have good mattress covers on each bed (you probably know this) as well as extra sets of sheets. This also helps if a GI bug sweeps through the family. I would not disdain the color or pattern coding completely. Toothbrushes, towels, and bathroom or snack cups are good candidates for this. Have an individualized napkin ring for each child and make sure they are used at the end of each meal. Also have a line of hooks in the bathroom and hall or mudroom for towels/coats and have each child’s name or picture over each one. Teach the elder children to change their sheets and do their laundry (or fold collective laundry) if you haven’t already. Have a plan (which will probably have to be adjusted as you go along) for managing the morning routine. Can one parent handle farm chores while another changes/dresses littles and gets breakfast? Have a safety supervision plan for keeping littles out of danger (the creek, the hayloft, playing with pitchforks, etc.) You may find the fridge is worth it to save time messing with ice and melted water. Use a “hay cooker” for large pots of soup and oatmeal, etc. Best wishes in coming to a decision about this .

  22. Mitty says:

    Also, I found when managing group homes that individuals from impoverished or institutional backgrounds often had messed-up digestive systems. They could have trouble coping with fresh fruits and veggies at every meal, sometimes for extended periods of time. This may not be a problem for your kids, but be prepared for some possible GI discomfort and resistance to chard for breakfast. It’s not just that it’s unfamiliar, it can also be that it’s causing physical distress. We found that canned fruits and especially applesauce were helpful in making the transition where this was an issue.

  23. Denys Allen says:

    Wow Sharon – almost doubling your family is a huge deal. God’s will.

    My mom worked with a financial analyst in the 80′s who had 11 children, 2 years apart each. This was before warehouse stores and the internet obviously. They managed to work out bulk discounts with the grocery stores and she did go to the store every other day because they lived in a development and didn’t grow any food. However, she had phoned in her order ahead and just picked up. Moving through those crowded aisles with only 5 children would be a headache maker!

    The upside for mom was no one was ever bored and they never had to go anywhere for entertainment. You already have that part down though.

    Many Amish and Old Order Mennonite take in children in PA and their living situations are more farm than suburban, and they don’t have a problem. Maybe there is a way for them to make an except based on standards in a state next door.

    We are praying for you and thanks for the update!

  24. Sharon says:

    Thank you all for the replies – I really appreciate the advice. And yes, I suspect that if we do this, for a year or so, this is *all* we will accomplish – and I’m ok with that (that said, it is not at all definite that we would – besides needing to know more about the children’s issues, the big one for me is that I am not sure I want to take on a group of kids this little – I like babies, but I really prefer older kids – even if they come with more baggage, at least you can talk to them (although I admit I won’t mind having a tiny one if we do – babies are very sweet). If we did it, I’d have a disabled 11 year old who is functionally like a toddler, a 9 year old, a 7 year old, two 5 year olds, a 4 year old, a 3 year old, a 1 year old and a newborn. We were open to a group of four, but our age maximum was 8 and I was anticipating greater spacing – something like 8, 6, 4, 2. On the other hand, this group also has some things going for them – unforunately, I can’t talk too much about the details, but they are good things. But we would only do this if we were certain we could pull it off.

    The funny thing is that my parents had four foster kids at almost the same age spacing when I was a teenager – and I’m not convinced that having two teenage daughters was extra help – more like additional hindrance.

    Simon, Isaiah and Asher will all be fabulous help – even though Asher is only five, he’s *so* good with littler kids – and loves that role. Over the months leading up to this the kids have “put in their orders” for what they’d like in kids (with the caveat that they will get what they get ;-) ) – Simon wants a sister close to his age, Isaiah wants a brother close to his age, but Asher really just wants to be a big brother to someone. This would be a lot of someones ;-) .

    Brad, I think that’s why I’ve been looking more at the experiences of adoptive families – because they aren’t stuck to 9 month spacing – although *technically* I could conceivably have given birth to all these kids – it would have been tight, and thankfully, I didn’t have to ;-)

    I hadn’t even thought about using fabric markers or embroidery to color code – what a terrific idea – thank you all! And yes, toothbrushes and things definitely. I don’t think we’re legally prohibited from sharing towels, etc… but I don’t know. In large measure, my policy about our practices has been “well, the information is there on the web, the visuals are present in my home, but if they don’t ask, I’m not raising the issue.” So, for example, I don’t think they noticed that the food in my fridge was cooled by ice, not refrigeration, or that there’s no dryer. No one commented anyway. They did ask about the goats and tell us we couldn’t feed them the milk.

    Nicole, that’s a really good question – I did ask whether we could feed it if I home pasteurized it in a pot, but I didn’t ask whether an actual pasteurizer would make it ok. I will enquire.

    Misi, that’s a good point about the powdered milk too – I had actually forgotten about that, but my parents did do that, and I was fine with it. I don’t buy powdered milk because we have goats, so I forgot about that, but that is a very good thought.

    Cindy, we definitely can’t homeschool – that’s not permitted, and I do understand why. It isn’t concern about educational methods, but about safety for the kids – kids are more likely to be abused in foster homes than at home, so they want these kids to be seen every day.

    There’s a wonderful developmental preschool (1/2 kids with documented disabilities, 1/2 kids without) that Eli and Simon (because he really wanted to go to school like his big brother) attended about 10 minutes from our house – we know them really well, the director was Eli’s occupational therapist for years, and it is a wonderful place. Because the kids have been in daycare and preschool (depending on ages) more or less full time, we’d probably send all of those old enough to go at least some of the time, at least at first. That gives us a. a little space to give the babies some extra attention and b. a little space to give our three homeschooled boys an education, even if just a couple of days a week. Moving into an unstructured home after spending long days in daycare every day would be too challenging and overwhelming for the kids, I would think, plus it is, IMHO, good to give the older kids a little space. I think the oldest is headed to kindergarten this year, but am not sure about that.

    Mitty, I suspect that’s likely – we’re pretty comfortable making the dietary shift more gradually. I’m cool with buying some stuff for a while to make the transition – too many traumas to take away all familiar foods.

    I suspect if we were to buy an appliance, we’d get a fridge before we’d get a dryer, but I won’t say never. My basic feeling is that the first year they are there is going to be all about just survival and learning to be a family – after that we can expand into new activities.

    Stephen, I’m glad you kicked in – your experience sounds totally relevant to me. The good news is that the kids are little – so yes, the Game boys and X boxes will remain controlled. Total electronic toys here, other than a music cube that Eli loves two laptops (which the children can use for school or occasional play – and all the games are educational ;-) ), 1 13-inch tv that gets no reception and only plays videos, selected by us, and 1 1980s era electronic chess game ;-) . I’m guessing that will be a battle eventually (unless TEOTWAWKI gets me out of it ;-) ) but for now, we’re pretty safe.


  25. Diana says:

    Bless you, Sharon. I hope this all works out beautifully for you and the kids.

  26. Nicole says:

    Powdered milk is a great idea! It’s way better now than it was when I was a kid; I use it most of the time since I rarely use milk and quarts just go bad in my fridge.

    Regarding the color coding of dishware, this time of year you often see non-disposable plastic picnic-ware in rainbow packs on clearance in the discount stores. Cups, plates, the whole array. Usually I seem them only in 6-packs, but there may be bigger packs. Perhaps the older children get to graduate to real dishes if a family runs out of colors?

    While plastic is not my favorite thing, I have some I bought years and years ago that get used for bathroom cups, cat bowls, fermenting tomato seeds, extra plates for BBQ’s, etc. — it really lasts, doesn’t ding the floor or break when dropped and is recyclable when it reaches its end of life.

  27. AnnMarie Johnson says:

    Don’t have anything to add, just that my Mom is the oldest of 14 kids so I never think of anything under 8 as very large at all. I think my 1-kid family is tiny.

    My only concern on your behalf is how you will keep doing everything you do, with all the appointments foster children typically have. At least in both states I’ve lived plus my MIL’s, the foster parents do almost all the transportation–doctors, therapists, family visits, etc. With just one or two kids it can be overwhelming. With 5……? My MIL was lucky that most of the therapists did in-home visits for her infants & toddlers, but she still did a lot of driving around.

    And I just read all the comments and thought of something we do that could help: We don’t wash every dish after every meal. I use the same plate for breakfast for days–it just has a few bread crumbs on it after all. I use the same glass ditto (and I drink milk 2x a day!, always rinsed after each meal). My daughter generally makes a bigger mess, but she still reuses her glasses, and sometimes her plates if they aren’t sticky. Obviously, doesn’t help with the youngest eaters.

    I do understand the milk issue. All the food guidelines say something like 3 8-oz glasses a milk a day. I used to do that but got out of the habit when I lost weight a few years ago (I preferred to have a small piece of chocolate each day for dessert than a second glass of milk). But milk is all my daughter drinks with meals. Our family of 3 goes through at least 2 gallons a week (DH drinks more than we do, I think), so if that were tripled for a typical family of 9, that’s 6 gallons. Not counting cooking purposes or kids who drink more.

    I grew up on powdered milk. LOVED it!

  28. Denys Allen says:

    I forgot to mention this morning you might get some help from the Maxwell’s family website titus2.com They are a large family and the Duggar family with their 19 kids uses some of their systems.

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this…but you may want to ask for help and meals those first few weeks. That’s a lot of diapers and kids to get on new routines.

    You might not have time to blog, but you have to keep us updated!

  29. Rita Vail says:

    I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I wrote yesterday but now am more aware of the ages of your boys. Is it possible to have the domestic version of WOOFFers? You could just request that on your web sites. There are people looking for a way to travel around and learn homesteading. In exchange, they would do a lot of laundry and dish washing and so forth.

    My grand parents had a negro family for years and after that a hispanic one either lived nearby in a tenant house or a trailer, with a garden. Since slavery was no longer legal, I am assuming there were wages, but I don’t know that.

    These days, there are many different arrangements. But you will need help. I feel pretty sure of that.

    To reassure those who read my letter yesterday – we lived way off the road – no worries about anybody getting abducted.

    Some little tips:
    Thin towels wash and dry easier and cheaper.
    I liked baskets better for clothes. It works better than folding and putting in drawers.
    I liked to dry wet diapers if they had to wait a day to be washed, especially traveling. Liners save on laundry, too.
    I cooked in big batches, but not every day.
    We got more cleaning done together with rock and roll blaring. Some moms set a timer and race the clock.
    Even the little ones can clean baseboards.
    TV made everything harder. Life was better for me before the distraction.
    A big table near the kitchen is helpful to keep everyone under the thumb while you cook.
    Eat outside and hose them off in summer.
    Friends’ kids who ate different found something to eat. Maybe a whole jar of pickles or just bread and butter. They came around. I didn’t coddle.

    One thing is for sure- it will be interesting. If you have time to write, we will be hanging on every word.

  30. Hannah Elise says:

    I don’t have much input, as I was an only child and we currently have just a five-month-old son, BUT… you might want to cast around with your questions over at the DiaperSwappers forum. They are primarily a cloth diapering and parenting discussion fourm – and they have subforum discussions for Thrifty Families, Green Parenting, and Adoption and Foster Care. If you check out these subforums, yozu might be ale to get some more input. :)

  31. ctdaffodil says:

    I don’t get the issue with the goat milk at all – what do they say about eggs from your ducks or chickens – are those off limits too? Veggies grown in the garden or put up at home – does it all have to be canned from a store or in a plastic bag from the freezer section. I think that if you can prove to DCF/CPS that you make healthy balanced meals and have a warm safe place to sleep that should be enough, since sadly its likely the children placed with you were lacking some of that or you wouldn’t have them coming to stay.

  32. Sharon says:

    Daffodil, we are allowed to use our eggs and vegetables. I intentionally didn’t ask about home canned food. I suspect they are concerned about listeriosis. The reality is that there are just some stupid hoops we have to jump through, and I’m going to pick my battles here. The milk doesn’t bother me that much.

    The one that does bother me is that I could pretty easily re-lactate, I suspect, given that I only stopped nursing a few years ago, and they won’t let me nurse an infant. I admit, I’m going to kind of resent getting up to mix formula at 2am ;-) .


  33. erika says:

    i am so glad to read this. i just had my fifth child and the books and advice i have found so far i have not found as helpful as i had hoped for some of the reasons you stated: namely trying not to be so wasteful. i just can’t use plastic and paper and throw them out, and even though we might have space for a second refrigerator i am not sure i want to get one and use more electric. also i still work part time so alot of advice is not applicable (“wash on monday” is out if i am working that day).
    i don’t have multiple appliances. i have one refrigerator, a front load washer, a dryer (used mostly for socks, sheets and towels, the rest i hand on dryer racks, but we have so many drying racks now they take up quite a bit of space) and a dishwasher, which seems to be on its way out and i am not sure i am going to replace it, except that i keep hearing that an energy efficient model can use less water than handwashing.

    anyway here are some hints i have found useful for a large-ish family who wants to keep a bit of an eye on waste:

    1.My sister in law is one of 11 and i asked her mom how she did it. they didn’t have a large house, but she said to run it like a school where each kid has a “cubby” or basket or something in the hall. we put a little “cubby” system in our garage by the door to stow backpacks, diaper bags and shoes and it has helped. we also have a little cloth hanging cubby like thing in the closet with a little space for each child to put hats, mittens, scarves, sunglasses in which has helped too.
    2. we ditched paper towels and just using white washclothes and wash them with bleach. we were going through about 1 role per DAY of papertowels, but since switching to the washclothes we go thru about one roll of papertowels per week and its only 1 load of wash extra per week. they also clean better i think.
    3.we don’t have goats for goat milk but we do have a little farm down the street that sells local milk in glass bottles that can be returned and they clean them and reuse them so we aren’t recycling lots of milk cartons.
    3. we reduced the actual amount of clothes and shoes each child has. we still have probably more than we need and i will try to see if we can get by with less in the fall (the trouble is on the weeks i work i do get behind in laundry). we box then up and label them at the end of the season to be used again. we are lucky we have a basement to store the boxes in.
    4. on the advice of a friend i really went thru my kitchen and got rid of everything i didn’t use either “every day” or for the last holiday meal i cooked. i did this a few years ago and have not missed anything i got rid of. also, i learned as much as possible get things that stack to save space in cabinets. i no longer get sippy cups, cups or bowls that don’t stack and have much more space now because of it.
    the battles i still wrestle with are:
    1. socks. i hate socks. have tried multiple systems. tried to get them all the same for each kid so you never have unmatched socks, but seems like the stores are aware of this and once you get low and try to buy some more several months later you can’t find the same ones. also tried getting mesh bags for each kid to put their socks in so they would all stay together. that lasted about one week before they were strewn all over the house as usual.
    2.papers from school. each kid comes home with loads of school homework, memos, art etc. every single day. its overwhelming. i have resorted to taking pictures of their art work on the digital camera and then throwing away the original. this saves space, the digital image actually looks much better than the original 9 years later and i don’t have as much guilt over throwing out their art work. (i still have a large portfolio for each child with some original art work and mothers/fathers day cards in it).
    but the homework papers, school papers and memos still over run my kitchen island.
    i have to go, my little ones are up from nap. good luck to you!

  34. Nicole says:

    Erika, I think the “less water” thing only applies when they compare it to the way most people wash dishes — with the water running.

  35. erika says:

    thanks nicole. thats what i was wondering. i am not sure we are going to replace ours. it seems we use more dishes with a dishwasher than if we knew we had to wash them, and it seems like i spend so much time loading and unloading the dishwasher i might as well just wash them, and i have 2 kids who are definitely old enough to help!

  36. Sharon says:

    Erika, our house rule (which I stole from a larger family) is “if they are both socks, they are a pair. I buy white sweat socks and don’t care if they match ;-) . As for the school paper, we homeschool all but my oldest, but our policy is that each kid can pick one “best thing” that they did that week to go on the bulletin board. Everything else gets recycled. Next week, we put up a new best thing, and I (quietly) decide whether this week’s “best thing” is worth keeping in the file folder I have for each kid’s best art work. I figure a couple of dozen items in a lifetime are enough from each child, so let’s just say that most weeks, it isn’t ;-) .


  37. April says:

    We are a homesteading family of 10 with 8 adopted. We got a sibling group of 4 at once and they were all very young. Two pieces of advice – the buddy system and working together. The buddy can help show them the rules, help brush teeth, watch out for them, etc. My kids all have a buddy and years later it’s a special relationship. Secondly, involve the kids in what you are doing. If we are weeding, everyone is weeding. Two and under I put them in the wagon with a few toys. At 3 they can weed larger plant rows with Mom or a buddy. We all cleanup or fold laundry. It’s great for showing them to be part of the family team, but it will also cut down on the time spent keeping track of everyone.

    We have the standard number of appliances of major items but don’t use small appliances. We do most things by hand. I do use the clothes closet concept and it works great.

  38. The all-milk fridge does not confuse me in the least. most american kids don’t get enough calcium (though there are also problems as to calcium sources, because IMO getting a bit share of calcium from non-dairy sources is preferable). i prefer some of my kids’ calcium comes from non-dairy sources, and neither of the grown-ups in our house drinks milk except in cereal, but we still (ages 10 and 2) go through 2 gallons of milk a week and sometimes 3. toddlers need about 16 oz a day which is about a gallon a week. if my older foster son had his way he’d eat cereal for every meal like he did with his birth family, and fill the bowl all the way to its rim with milk. so even if we’re conservative and say we only go through 2 gallons of milk a week, that could come to 7 gallons a week for 7 kids. That doesn’t even count adults, so round it up to 8 gallons. A LOT of room required to store that milk unless you buy dry milk (which WIC does cover) and reconstitute it. Yuck. You can also use WIC to buy shelf-stable milk (UHT milk) which tastes pretty decent once refrigerated.

    For a family of 4, including a 10 y/o who’s a voracious eater, we fill one fridge and then some. We have a second fridge in our garage for Costco stuff and other groceries bought in bulk, since it saves time, money, trips to the store, and packaging. We try to cook in advance and stick stuff in the garage freezer, while the freezer in the house is for bread, pancakes, waffles, frozen fruit, frozen vegs, etc. Extra gallons of milk go in the fridge in the garage so that we can keep just two in the house and save the rest of the room for other food. If we had a functional root cellar we could probably save a lot of room because our fridge is mostly full of fruits and vegs at any given time.

    Curious if CPS know you don’t have a plug-in fridge. They have been known to ask to see the contents of your fridge when they make monthly visits, esp if there has been any allegation that the kids aren’t getting enough food (more common than you’d think). they may freak out if they know you don’t have plug-in refrigeration, though having a thermometer that shows that your food is all stored out of the temperature danger zone (41-130 F) may help. Sorry, don’t mean to make you paranoid, but checking fridges is fairly routine. Then again, there are Amish families who are foster families, so it’s not like you’re the first to do this – Though possibly the first in NY in a looong time :)

  39. P.S. I forgot to mention that we did get in trouble re: not heating/cooling the house enough for others’ tastes. First, our older foster son didn’t like that we wouldn’t entertain requests to turn the heat up until he put on socks and a sweatshirt and was STILL cold, so he would threaten to tell people we were freezing him. fortunately, he never did. however, we were on the phone with his birth mom during a cold spell in AUGUST (no joke… a cold spell in august may feel chilly but it sure as heck ain’t truly COLD) and she asked if we’d turned the heat on since it had gotten so cold. we told her we lived above a restaurant and their heat came up through our floors so we didn’t need to turn the heat on. she called CPS and told them that we didn’t have heat in our house and were “stealing heat” from someone else and they sent someone out to investigate! on the flip side, this summer we had an in-home therapist (just you wait… the in-home and out-of-home appointments are so time-consuming and sometimes invasive you will want to tear your hair out!) who mentioned it was hot in our house and didn’t we have air conditioning? I was concerned about getting reported (we use a ceiling fan and do indeed use our AC at times but in general just try to teach the kids and ourselves to tolerate a level of heat that i guess others find distasteful) so we started making sure we turned the AC on before in-home visits from child welfare professionals and therapists for the rest of the heat spell.

  40. Sharon says:

    They’ve seen the inside of our fridge – they just didn’t notice that it wasn’t plugged in. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the kids don’t notice either, at least for a long time. It isn’t that obvious.

    As for milk, even I, with my tendency towards bulk purchase wouldn’t buy a week’s worth of milk at once – milk just doesn’t stay good that long, and when pasteurized, it rots and gets that smell. Raw milk moves on microbially to other stages, but pasteurized milk does need to be bought fresh, I think – maybe I’m just sensitive to the smell, but I think most milk more than five days old is pretty awful and I wouldn’t feed it to my kids.


  41. Sharon says:

    Our county, btw, does not require a/c and it doesn’t require central heat – there’s actual policy on this – woodstove is sufficient. Now that doesn’t mean it might not come up as an issue, but it does have a formal policy, since we asked. The kids can be hot and the house can be cold, as long as they appropriately dressed. We know about the home appointments in some measure – Eli had tons of them when he was a baby, as all the therapy came into the home.

    Look, if eventually they require us to get a fridge, we’ll get a fridge. If we have to turn the damned heat on, we will. We’re willing to do the trade offs – but I don’t think they read my blog ;-) , and the department supervisor has pretty much explicitly said that she likes “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a policy for anything weird ;-) .


  42. I am very curious if there are actual policies where I live re: heat and A/C. I find that policies matter little because it’s up to the individual proclivities (often without any education to back it up) of the particular caseworker in question. But it would still be good to know. Also, that is awesome that they wouldn’t even know re: the fridge. I like “DADT” as a policy with CPS. Our little one’s CW is like that. The big one’s new CW? Not so much. I wish I knew how to find all the detailed policies re: foster homes in my state. I have the FP manual but it’s not so useful.

    As you can probably tell from my posts I am a little bitter and jaded about all things fostering-related lately. Partly because I’m steeling myself for a really long, awful ride with regards to the permanency plans for my boys. I am really very excited for you guys and think you’re in for a crazy and wonderful ride!

    I am so overwhelmed with my boys, it’s hard to imagine having to go out to buy milk more than once every 5-7 days. Then again I have health issues causing me chronic fatigue that makes doing anything besides the basics pretty rough these days. The pasteurized milk we get tastes the same when new as it does a week later, though. And it certainly never smells or tastes rotten until it’s been in the fridge quite a while. How milk spoils depends partly on whether the packaging has been opened. We never have milk around long enough for that to happen. Once opened a gallon of milk doesn’t last more than 2 days around here. But maybe my tastebuds aren’t fine-tuned to the subtleties in milk because I’ve always drank pasteurized? If we lived upstate I would certainly drink raw, since I know a farmer who sells it down the street from my folks.

  43. Sharon says:

    I don’t know how fortunate we will actually be in practice, but in some measure we had a positive experience because we had such a negative early experience in our homestudy. Some of you may recall we had a social worker totally freak out and demand changes that we just couldn’t make. We were very clear about what we could and could not do with her supervisor, who actually apologized for her and was on our side. The deal we made was that Patty, the homefinding supervisor would inspect our home directly, and any complaints or problems in the future would have her support and backup, because she personally signed off on us. She required us to make some changes that were totally acceptable to us, but then we discussed the issue of shifting standards, with the intent that all complaints about us (and we assume there may be some just because we live on a working farm, much less the other stuff) would be referred to her, and that she personally would do any investigation of us that was referred to her by someone else.

    Will it work that way in real life? I couldn’t tell you – but I’m somewhat optimistic – and I suspect the very fact that we’re willing to take a large sibling group makes them want to keep us. I’m not suggesting we won’t have to deal with plenty of stupid shit for our way of life, but we at least have some advance coverage on that regard.

    I don’t know if it will make things easier or not, but the reality is that we can mostly have me parenting full time, which I know you and your partner can’t do, we don’t have the health limitations (B’H) and we have a lot of experience parenting a seriously disabled kid. I’m not sure that makes life easier or that we’ll do well with what we’ve committed to, but
    at least we have some vague idea what we’re getting into. For example, we actually did have 4 kids, 5 and under, one seriously disabled for quite a while. I’ve had four kids in diapers, at least part of the time. I’ve done radical sleep deprivation. While I admit, none of these things are things I’m dying to do again ;-) , I know I can do them.


  44. Becca says:

    I’d suggest joining the MOMYS website (www.momys.com). MOMYS stands for mothers of many young siblings, and the site is by and for mothers who have or had 4 or more children under 8 at home at once. There are quite a few families who have working farms, who have families with both bio and foster or adopted children, and who don’t use much in the way of disposable products or electricity (often due to finances). The site is specifically aimed at Christians, but it’s not a requirement that you be a Christian to join. (I’m a member there and not a Christian.) Anyhow, there is a lot of great practical advice there if you can look past some things I’m sure you won’t agree with (e.g., some mentions of corporal punishment, anti-feminist attitudes).

  45. Natasha says:

    I see that it’s been a long time since anyone has replied, but I second what Becca said. The Momys website is an excellent resource, and most of the women on this website ( whether they mean to be or not) practice “green” living. When you have alot of kids ( I have 7) unless your very wealthy you have to be somewhat frugal ( cloth instead of paper, cloth diapers, homemade cleaning products, etc.)
    I had to laugh about the milk issue. We don’t drink that much milk, maybe 4 gallons a week, and I don’t buy it all at once. I wouldn’t stock up on milk unless it was very cheap. I would love to have a deep freeze , but right now I have one fridge, and that works. The only appliances I need 2 of are the washer and dryer, and they make the energy star kind.
    We’ve never done anything weird like color code. No matter what, having lots of little kids means lots of work. Being very organized helps, but you will be a busy lady!

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