Come take a peek into our house a few years ago because in a family of eleven, everything is a Big Deal.
Imagine twenty-two pieces of bread lined up in two rows on the table. Each sandwich is made with a particular person in mind because I did want them to actually eat the sandwiches at school and work. Even peanut butter sandwiches were complicated because some were made with jam or not, with thick or thin peanut butter, with butter under the peanut butter or not. A component of this chore was often a survey of the crew to see who wanted what in their lunch.
If that procedure wasn’t daunting enough, I had to make sure that everyone had clean clothes and shoes to wear the next day. There were indoor and outdoor school shoes, decent runners and play runners, rain, barn and winter boots, skates, both play and good sandals, slippers, shoes to wear with dresses and dress shoe for the boys. This abbreviated list adds up to about TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR shoes with the potential to get lost, wet, dirty or become too small.
Of course it was an especially big deal when the seasons changed because we had to sort and put away the shoes that weren’t needed for a couple of moths and decide which shoes could be passed down or were still big enough for the current owner.
I can still hear Claire yelling, as she organized the shoes,
“Daniel, you really don’t want to keep these, do you?”
Daniel would protest,
“But Claire, they’re so comfortable. I like them.”
His big sister would retort,
“Fine, but if they get any worse looking, I am throwing them out.”
Sock were even a bigger nightmare because the only thing that will kill you as a mother of a large family is pairing socks. Although I used the toss and throw method of pairing, some mornings found us frantically searching for some appearance of a pair in my gigantic basket of unpaired socks. At times I had to literally toss the newly discovered pair over the upstairs railing. One of my kids, who already had their coat and school bag on their back, would catch them in mid-air. They quickly pulled on their socks, stuffed their feet into boots or shoes and flew out the door, barely making the school bus.
Then there was laundry, sometimes three or four loads a day because I used cloth diapers and had barn clothes to wash on top of regular clothes. I hung out at least two loads on the outside clothesline every day. Because a gully and pasture were on that side of the house, this line was visible from the road. Unbeknownst to me, my laundry was a subject of great interest and conversation.
” Oh my God, look at all that laundry.”
” There are two different loads on the line now”
“I have never seen that line empty”
“Stop the car, I simply must take a picture of the horse and pony with the laundry line in the background”
“This is hilarious; there is every size and style of clothing on that one line”
I sometimes I held folding marathons where I literally tossed each kid their clothes and we all folded together. Other days, I simply put a basket of clean, unfolded clothes in a basket in each room.
Yep life was messy and everything was a big deal but it was awfully funny because simple chores in a family of four became massive, logistic battles in a family of eleven, battles that often went horribly wrong. Case in point, bleach spotted coloured load and makeup or gum left in a pocket, staining all the clothes in the dryer. My personal favorite disaster was that load of mostly men’s white shirts that turned pink,not a subtle pink but a shockingly bright pink.
I still hear about that one!!