Thursday, July 28, 2011

In case you were wondering-

How do eight adults occupy fourteen little ones and still find time to visit?  The answer is fairly simple, though it does take a lot of work, consistency and.... a bit of planning.

The children are all raised on biblical principles.  They are expected to listen to and respect authority, they are expected to obey, they are expected to treat each other with kindness.  These expectations are not reserved for times such as our get-togethers, but are the expectations of everyday life.   

When we gather, the children are able to enjoy each other's company because they truly care for one another.  They are learning to be selfless.  The children at whose home we gather know that they are to be good hosts and share their things with their friends.  The host family sends out a list of house rules ahead of time and each family makes a point to go over these things before arriving.  This helps all the children to know what is expected of them before the 'vacation' begins.  The house rules are things specific to the host family's home.  For example, in our home there is white carpet throughout so we do not wear shoes nor do we eat anywhere except our dining room and kitchen, so as to not damage the carpet.

In addition to the fact that all the children are generally obedient, and when they are not they are reminded or disciplined appropriately, there is a bit of planning that takes place before hand.  Over email, the women plan an itinerary for the days we'll be together.  We plan family friendly, typically free, activities and outings.  One day is spent by a nearby lake swimming, another is spent at a playground.  This year we walked to our town common to attend a free children's concert, stopping for ice cream on our way.  

We plan for a rest time each afternoon, where ALL the children nap or read for a few hours, while we parents all take a deep breath, lounge back and enjoy each others company without the business of little ones.  Because the children are given rest times as a part of their normal routines, there is no argument from the children and this is a peaceful time.  This also recharges the children (and the adults too!) so that everyone is refreshed before sharing our evening meal.

We enjoy time together after all the children are put to bed at night.  Each family has trained their children to sleep at bedtime.  This allows for evenings that go quite smoothly, bathing 14 kids and getting them all tucked in and settled, typically by 8pm, giving us adults several hours of time together. 

We also throw in a few activities.  This year the older boys helped to freeze colored ice (water mixed with food coloring).  We made plenty and the children painted with the colored ice on an old white sheet laid out on the picnic table.  A cool, fun activity for a hot summer day.  
An even bigger hit was the ice treasure.  We froze water in a dishpan in layers.  In each layer we hid 'treasure'.  Plastic bugs, jewels, sea shells, colored ice cubes, small toys.  We gave the children the hose, paint brushes and a salt shaker to find the buried treasure.  Most of the children were quite engaged in this activity, and the dad's liked this one too ;)

While the planning is important and helpful, the key to a successful event such as this with the children is not the planning, but the day-to--day intentional training.  Sure, it's chaotic having an 1800 square foot house filled with 14 little ones, but we like to call it organized chaos ;)  The children are not perfect and there are bumps here and there - but all have been minor.  When the children do wrong, any adult can speak to them and the children always respond positively and respectfully, often asking forgiveness for their wrongdoing.  Forgiveness is always granted.  

These times together are a great joy, but are tiring too!  We speak often of the old college days, reminiscing over this or that.  We know though that these years with little ones will pass by quickly just as the college years did.  Before long we'll be surrounded with teens.  Then, one day, it may be just the 8 of us again and in one sense we'll miss the business of these years and will look back on these years with the same fondness we now look back at the pre-children years.

Fourteen blessings.  Each child unique.  Each one precious.  Each a gift.  What a joy to get to know these sweet little ones.  What a joy to see children being raised faithfully and being trained in the ways of the Lord.  What a pleasure to be in their company!

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