My blogging friend Lisa is adding a third child to her family.  While her sweet new addition is not a newborn but rather a 6 year old niece, a third child is a big adjustment no matter how you slice it.  That would mean slicing of the situation, not the precious addition!  Just to clarify.  Lisa asked for tips and advice from those of us more-than-the-average-sized families.  And since I feel somewhat qualified to offer up some insane advice (Hubby and I have four wonderful additions to our family) I thought I’d add my two cents.  It has nothing to do with the fact she’s included a give-away… NOTHING… NOT. ONE. BIT. 

Just so we’re clear.

I think the biggest ONE thing that helps me get through the day is ROUTINE.  I know, I know.  We all fight it.  I still do on some days (like today for example… I’m still in my pjs and we’re about 30 minutes behind on everything).  But it really is our best friend.  Well, our best non-humanfriend.  And that’s just a really weird sentence.  It’s also the best thing for kids.  They thrive on knowing what comes next, on the security of not having surprises everywhere they turn.   So my first tip would be to create a schedule that works for your family.  Make it as detailed or undetailed as you like.  Just make something!  It could be as simple as set timesfor meals, naps and bedtimes.  Or as detailed as homework time, tv time, chore time, gardening time, shopping time, coming to my house and detailing my van time… 

Just making sure you’re paying attention.  But feel free to work that last one into your schedule.  

Important note: STICK to your schedule.  Obviously, things happen but I’m not talking about those crazy random days.  On normal days, work hard at not letting anything disrupt the routine you have put in place.  Otherwise, you’ll always be fighting to “get back on schedule” and that is no fun.  I speak from experience.  It’s what I’m battling today. 

Second tip:  Allow extra time.  Since Lisa’s addition comes potty-trained, self-dressing (not that that’s always a good thing) and doesn’t need to be carried around, there may not be such a big difference in getting out the door with three kids as it was with two.  But it might.  And for me, it was a HUGE difference.  For many months after Tiger (#3) was born, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong… it just took waaayyyy to long to actually get kids out the door, loaded up and buckled in.  And then I realized, there was nothing to be “fixed”.  It was, sadly, just how long it takes to get three little ones out the door.  Plain and simple.  So I had to make adjustments and allow more time for getting out the door so as not to be 30 minutes late to every single thing I did. 

Third tip:  Share the load.  Lisa can implement this right away.  Divvy up the chores.  Granted, a two year old can’t do much but my 7 year old loves to let him tag along and help her with her own chores.  Two birds with one stone… she gets help and he’s learning how to do the chore!  (She even created a sticker reward system for him when he helps her)  For example, here is what my three older ones help out with around the house in the morning on a daily basis (just know that the two year old shadows everyone and helps here out as allowed).

7 year old: Wipe down bathroom sinks (clorox wipes – LOVE ‘EM!), empty dishwasher, makes bed and tidies her room

5 year old: Wipes down toilets (Clorox wipes again!), all levels (very important if you want to keep that stale pee-smell at bay.  Sorry, it’s just things you learn with boys), helps unload dishwasher, makes is bed, tidies his room with his brothers and helps the 2 year old with his bed too.

(almost) 4 year old: Wipes down bathroom counters (say with me, “Clorox wipes!”), helps unload dishwasher, helps tidy his room with his brothers and makes his bed.

One thing to note, I monitor the wipes closely in the beginning.  Let’s face it, they aren’t cheap.  Even when bought at Sam’s Club.  So I give strict instructions on how many are to be used on each surface.  For instance, Monkey uses two per toilet.  One for top surfaces (handle, lid and then top of seat… in that order.  And the second is for the behind where the lid attaches, the underside of the seat and then the rim of the toilet… again, in that order.  Call me a control-freak but I just hate to see stuff go to waste.  Especially expensive stuff.  So I guess that makes me a tight-wad AND a control-freak.  Dang it!

Fourth tip:  And my husband will laugh at this because some areas of my house are VERY unorganized!  But some areas, like the bedrooms that siblings share, have to be organized.  We have Poppett in her own room and the three boys in another.  Obviously for gender reasons.  So the boys room is always a challenge.  It’s an average, small bedroom.  I’ve already written how the we have worked the bed situation out… for now.   We also have one dresser.  It’s one with six drawers so each boy has two drawers.  Hanging clothes are all separated by child and I have a different colored hanger for each child.  I think that is a key tip, at least it is for me.  Since all my boys are fairly close in size, it’s hard for them to know whose clothes are whose.  But they all know their color so they just have to look for the group of clothes hung on their color of hanger.  Second, when I’m hanging up the freshly cleaned clothes, I don’t have to look at clothes tags for sizes to know where that shirt needs to be hung.  I just have to look at the hanger and I know instantly who’s shirt it is.   

Toys… I have organized the group toys into stack-able bins that are kept in the boys closet.  Individually owned toys are put in each boy’s toy “box”.  For us, that means an old wooden ammo crate.  Unfortunately, we only have two and Lil Blue is starting to need his own box.  But we don’t have room to lay out another crate in the bedroom.  So I’m on the lookout for another military-type way to organize three different sets of toys.  I’m open to suggestions…  My tip to Lisa would be, however she decides to organize toys in the shared bedroom, the boundaries must be clear.  Make it easy to tell what toys are open to everyone and which ones aren’t.  The less squabbling the better.  

And there will be squabbling.

Oh! That reminds me.  One last tip regarding toys.  Our house rule is that if there is fighting over a toy, it automatically goes to the child who “owns” it.  If anyone else wants it, they have to ask the “owner” who has the right to share or not to share.  (of course we always encourage sharing but we want it to be a heart decision… not a coerced event)  If kids are fighting over a group toy (one with no particular owner), neither gets to play with it.  It’s called Share It or Lose It. 

Just don’t ask me share my candy stash.

I’m sure I’ve lost most of you after the first paragraph… this is a mighty lengthy post.  I apologize. 

Lisa?  Hope I helped.  Here are some more related posts that might help….

Hero Points

Summer Activity Ideas

Birthday Party Planning

Being Prepared for Crowded Situations