Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Big Family Closet in a Small House

When we designed the Barn House we knew that we wouldn't have much space for laundry. After all, the entire living quarters is only 1,600 square feet for 9 people. I had always wanted to try a family closet. In our situation it is a kids' closet. Our master bedroom has a closet and dressers for our clothes. We planned and measured our tight space and determined that we could fit 7 tall dressers side by side. These dressers are from Ikea. EJ secured them like kitchen cabinets. They are attached to one another and the wall.

He built a shelf with 8 different hanging areas. 7 for the children and one near the washer and dryer for whatever extra hanging space I might need. The shelf above holds baskets. Inside those baskets are keepsakes for the children. They each have a box with special items inside like the clothes they wore when they came home from the hospital (or in Mei Mei's case the clothing she wore the day we met her).

Their dressers have 5 drawers.
*Special Drawer (where they keep their special trinkets)

These small dressers require me to only keep the clothes that they wear. There is no room to keep more than that. I put their off season clothes in tubs for storage. I find that keeping minimal clothing also helps with the laundry situation.

We hang their nice clothes as well as anything that is too bulky for the drawers. This is obviously too high for the younger children to reach. That is on purpose.

Library books are kept on top of the dressers. This is a special place so they do not get mixed up with the numerous books we own.

We also store our games on top of the dresser. Honestly, we never have that many at a time. Little children are not known for keeping all the pieces together. 

We rotate boxes of toys. No matter how hard we try, we always wind up missing a few toys from the last box that is now located in storage. I try to put those items in this container until the next time one of us can access the box where it belongs. As you can see, this container also lives on top of the dresser.

The other side of laundry area is a command center for me. My keys are stored here as well as any paperwork I need to keep handy. My purses and bags hang on this wall along with our family calendar. There is also a handy bookshelf on that wall. My drying racks are located on that side as well.

Ideally, I would fold clothes directly out of the dryer and place them in their proper drawers. We have found that this is just not realistic. Our days are too busy for me to stop what I'm doing and tend to the laundry right away. However, we must keep laundry moving or we will be overrun with dirty clothes. We wash 1 or 2 loads per day. The children take turns emptying the clothes from the dryer into a basket and moving the load from the washer into the dryer. We stack the baskets of clean clothes on top of one another until we have time to fold and put clothes away. EJ does a separate load with all his dress shirts so they don't get thrown in a basket.

When it is time to fold and put clothes away we throw all the loads on the table and spread out the empty laundry baskets on the floor nearby. Then we all work together to toss the clothes into 5 baskets different baskets. The oldest three have their own baskets. They fold and put their clothes away. The little girls have one basket and the little boys have another. Sometimes I fold them and then let the little ones help me put them in their proper drawers. If time is running short, I just fold them and put them away.

There you have it! Our current laundry room and routine.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Learning Our Dance

It was eight months ago today that we brought our daughter home and began our life as a family of nine. I will never forget the day we met that little girl in the pink dress. The look on Mei Mei's face during those first moments together is etched in my memory. She was so brave and clearly intrigued by us. At the same time, she had the "blank look" I have come to recognize as a sign that she is overwhelmed and nervous.

You see, 8 months ago, we were total strangers. I was already in love with her or at least the idea of her. She had seen our photographs but could not be fully prepared for what was to come. We were instantly mommy and daughter, all the while still strangers to one another. The dance of attachment was beginning for us but we were nearly four years late to the party. I didn't know her cries, her looks or her needs. When you bring home a new baby from the hospital, you study them. You ask yourself countless times a day, what does she need? I found that the same was true for our little Mei Mei. I needed to become a student of her, study her sounds and her actions. I would love to tell you that I did this perfectly but I did not. There were times we were both in tears from sheer frustration. There were times I was not as patient as I should have been and lost sight of what was really important. I have had to apologize and ask her for forgiveness more times than I like to think about.

The beautiful thing about a family is that we just keep loving and moving forward. There have been countless victories in these eight months, reasons to celebrate and solidify the bond that we have created. We parent our seven children in a way that gives us the great gift of time. We home school so there is no need to rush off in separate directions each morning. Granted, Daddy has to go to work but we are all excited when he walks back through that door! Learning the rhythm of our family has been accelerated for Mei Mei as she watches the way I interact with all her siblings on a minute by minute basis. Giving her a solid foundation of what family means is our priority. We know that her little heart still has plenty of healing to do. A child who was abandoned at the approximate age of two certainly needs time to feel safe and secure. She asks me often, "Momma, gonna go bye bye?" I rarely leave the house without my children but the thought of being separated from Momma is still unnerving for our little girl. On the rare occasion that I leave the kids with Daddy or Grandparents, I remind Mei Mei, "Momma comes back. Momma always comes back." We have a little song we sing with these words. It is an important ritual for us. 

Naomi's big sister, Miss Ruthie, is just a few months older than her. Miss Ruthie was our only girl for four years. We had no idea how their bonding would go but we prayed fervently that they would be a gift to one another. Their relationship has exceeded our wildest hopes. I will never forget one of their first nights together, Miss Ruthie hugged Mei Mei tight, looked at me and said, "Mom, thank you so much for my sister!" They take great joy in spending time together. They are little mommas to their baby dolls. They love to color and make crafts together. They sit next to each other for every meal. They are taking a weekly ballet class together. The sight of them in their little tutus is more than this momma's heart can stand. They attend the same art class and story time class at our home school co-op. They are precious little shopping buddies and love it when we have girl dates. They often say, "girl power!" when they accomplish a difficult task. I am grateful to have a front row seat to watch their relationship develop. A sister is truly a gift.

We have been amazed by Mei Mei's patience and kindness with all her siblings. She has learned to stick up for herself when she needs to. We think this a terrific sign of how comfortable she has become in her family. Her adoption was our first experience with adopting out of birth order. Mei Mei is older than our two youngest sons. They were two years old when she arrived home and she was weeks away from turning four. We felt that Miss Ruthie would keep her identity as our oldest daughter and the little boys would keep their identity as our babies. We were right. The transition has been seamless.

Every night when I tuck Mei Mei in bed she says, "Momma, sing Jesus!" She snuggles her teddy bear and baby doll and settles in for this comforting nightly routine. I rub her back and sing this song, "Jesus loves Mei Mei this I know for the bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus love Mei Mei. Yes, Jesus loves Mei Mei. Yes, Jesus loves Mei Mei. The bible tells me so." Then I lay my hand still on her back and whisper a prayer in her ear to the King of Kings. I thank him for her life. I praise him for the restoration he has done and will continue to do. I ask him to continue to bind our hearts together. I pray for her best friend from the orphanage who is happily home with her family. If I forget this part, I am quickly reminded. I ask God to draw her heart to his. I pray that she will grow up to boldly walk in the calling he lays on her heart. I have no doubt his plans for her are great. When I say amen, I kiss her little face and tell both my girls, "Goodnight my princesses."

In the past eight months, there have been challenges to overcome, memories to make and milestones to celebrate. We are no longer strangers. We are well on our way to forever. Not only do we know the steps to our dance, we are tearing up the dance floor.