"The life of a blended family". Our Poly Life is written by any one of a poly-fi quad. Each month they will share with readers about issues they face as a blended and committed poly family with nine children still at home. You can read more about them at their website; Our Poly Life.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Syncing Up

In January we told you about a process our family is going through; a cleaning house of sorts. Last month, we intricately described our decision making process in the parenting department when creating and maintaining expectations for behavior. This month, Our Poly Life brings you a not so glamorous peek inside our calendars, charts, lists, and other methods of scheduled planning.

We are not just raising a blended poly family, we’re raising a LARGE family. With the national average of just under two children per household, we can safely assume most cohabitating poly families can have from 3-5 children. Our family has nine. Some people think I’m anal retentive with OCD tendencies because I like it this way; but not so. In our home, organization is not a luxury; it’s a requirement.

One thing was made evident immediately upon our decision to cohabitate. The amount of information that fluxed into our home every week was overwhelming. We needed a way to communicate all the events and requirements, the plans and the expectations. Temptress and I converted an unused wall space in the laundry/mud room into what we lovingly refer to as “The Communication Board.”

With six large bulletin cork boards adjoining, we’ve made sections for the following information: family calendar, school events and fieldtrips, social events and invitations, weekly menus, chores and charts, weather and current information. In the center of this monstrosity is a whiteboard for running lists and children’s needs: To Purchase - YM9 needs new socks (again), LM12 requires new jeans; To Do - get size 8 boy and 5 girl clothes down from the attic, reorganize shoe room, send extra children’s books to the preschool, etc. Following is a run down of the way we’ve organized the data involved in our household.

The Family Calendar
The most important step comes first. The adults sat down with all our lists and schedules and color coded the main family calendar; EVERYTHING goes on this calendar the minute we are aware. We used one of those extra large desk blot calendars and we bought a 12 pack of ultra fine tip Sharpie markers, assigning each family member a color (these colors also carry over to chore charts and the like.) Big’s work schedule and business trips, Fix’s daily and on call schedule, special functions that Temptress needs to attend with Big, school vacations, band concerts, extracurricular activities, sport practices, PTA performances, scout trips, family birthdays, doctor appointments, standing obligations, and summer camps – they all go on the calendar in the appropriate person’s color. We don’t take up space writing the person’s name, merely the engagement and time. Above this calendar we pin the appointment cards with the phone numbers and addresses. On the day of the appointment, we take the card with us in case we need to phone or clarify an address.

School Events and Field Trips
At the beginning of the school year, we are given the county calendar, band performance schedules, testing dates, and field trip information. We took all of these papers and transferred dates to the calendar. When the permission slips come home, we return the bottom signed and retain the top portion, marking who’s class and if they will need a disposable lunch from home on that day. All of these reminders are jaw clipped together in chronological order and placed on the school section of the board. Another thing you might find in our school section is any type of parent-teacher conference notices. In addition to that, LM4 and LM2 have preschool calendars that have more information than we can list: show & tell, wear green day, bring a bear to school day, and all manner of dress up occasions. These lists are also placed in the school section for daily review.

Social Events and Invitations
Our children don’t participate in a large number of extra activities simply because our sheer numbers negate the ability for “Mom’s Taxi” to be in more than one place at a time. When there is an event or invitation issued, those are tacked to the board in a particular place, and added to the family calendar. This serves as a reminder to purchase a gift (if needed) or arrange transportation around the family schedule. Once again, on the date of the function, the invitation is taken down and accompanies us to the event just in case.

Weekly Menus
This section is where I post all the menus and meal plans for the week (or, when I’m on the ball, monthly.) I print from my computer the monthly school menu. Then I assess what shelf stable items we still have in the pantry and use that to create a weekly breakfast and dinner menu. One thing that has worked exceptionally well for us was to type up a “family favorites” list. Temptress and I sat down individually and made a list of the top 40 or so dinner items our families prefer and about 45 breakfast choices. After deleting the duplicates, we managed to come up with a large list (about65 items) that our new combined family would most likely eat. Once we added in the bi-monthly favorites like burgers, tacos, and spaghetti, we had about three months worth of menu ideas. Most of those get cycled each quarter.

Chores and Charts
This is probably the most complicated section to describe, and to make the column more legible, I will not try to detail our exact methodology. Instead, I will say to make a list of the daily and weekly jobs that need to be completed in your household, then make another list of who is capable of doing each type of chore. How one goes about matching these lists will be different from family to family. Keep in mind age and maturity level of the people in your home, as well as other responsibilities and privileges they’ve been given. In our home we like the adage, “to whom much is given, much is required.” If you want to go the extra step (as we have) it is a good idea to make a working list of exactly what is expected to complete a task. For example, in our kitchen is a list of 21 steps that when followed make our kitchen sparkle. The same type of memo is posted in the bathrooms and laundry room.

Weather and Current Information
This space is simply a matter of connecting to the internet and leaving some open space. Every weekend, I log on to Weather.com and print out a 10 day forecast for our zip code. I pin this to the current events section of our board and we use this as a guide when laying out the children’s school clothes for the week. Most mornings YM8 will check this and give everyone a directive on what type of coat or jacket will be needed for the day’s forecast. The extra space is for anything that comes up last minute or requires a “home” for a short time.

Miscellaneous Organizing
The biggest obstacle to overcome when organizing a household of any size is to think before you act. Consider where the most time is wasted and then strive to make that one of your most efficient. If you want more info, I have a couple other references for further reading… try looking up FlyLady.net on the World Wide Web, or an amazing book by Denise Schofield entitled Confessions of an Organized Homemaker. My best ideas always came from someone else; they just have been personalized for our poly life.

Temptress & the Laundry Goddess, March 13, 2007

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