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The 10-Minute Company’s Coming Shuffle



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Do y’all get those phone calls? The ones from people who say stuff like “we’re in the neighborhood, mind if we drop by for a few minutes?” The ones that you always respond to with “sure, we’d love to see you. Come on over.” And then you look around your house and panic. We live in the South where drop in visits are the norm. Sometimes people don’t even give the courtesy of a phone call. You just hear a knock at the door and surprise!


I hate this.


I’m more of a call and we’ll schedule something a couple of weeks out so I have time to de-funk my house kind of a person. But this is the South. And tradition rules. So we paste a big happy smile on our faces, open the door wide, and say “come on in, don’t mind the mess” while dying a little bit inside as our guests have to step over 18 pairs of shoes at the door and a 4 foot tall lego sculpture. If we’re lucky we remembered to start the dishwasher so there are clean cups and if we’re really lucky we have some chilled sweet tea in the fridge, or even lemonade in a pinch. Some days it’s just water in a glass with a few ice cubes and a splash of lemon juice. And whatever cookies my kids haven’t already consumed tossed on a plate and presented with a sheepish smile and a shrug. 


Have I mentioned that I hate this? Because I really hate this.


I am an introvert by nature. I like being in my house with my family and not having to entertain people and be on my best behavior. See, I have no internal filter. Whatever pops into my mind usually flows out of my mouth. So being around people for an extended amount of time is exhausting for me as I am constantly on guard not to say something inappropriate. What can I say? My brain is a challenge. 


Anyway, I’ve lost the point of this post which should surprise nobody. The 10 minute company’s coming shuffle. For those times when our guests give us an advanced warning of the impending arrival I have devised a system for making the house look marginally presentable. It takes all the kids pitching in to make it work but we can have the whole downstairs looking surface clean in 10 minutes.


I assigned each kid an area. Zoey is in charge of throwing all the shoes, jackets, bags, sports equipment, and dog toys into the front closet and closing the door. Mase is in charge of taking one of the small laundry baskets I bought for just this occasion and gathering up everything on the floor in the playroom. Maia does the same in the family room, kitchen & nook. Then they take the full baskets upstairs and hide them in one of the bedrooms. Ty is in charge of the kitchen- which means the mail and paper clutter gets swept into the silverware drawer, the dirty dishes get hidden in the oven, and the counters get swiped quickly with the clorox spray. Matt takes the bathroom- straighten the hand towels, close the laundry area curtains, wipe down the sink, and clean the toilet. I walk around and do anything else- including spraying Febreeze in every room and running the vacuum. 


It takes 10 minutes to make the downstairs presentable. It’s a team effort. 


And for your information, there is no amount of Febreeze that can eliminate the odor of burned plastic that happens later that night when the guests have left and you turn on the oven to cook onion rings without remembering to take out the dirty dishes first. That smell lingers for days.


I hate this. 



7 Ways I Organize The Morning Rush




Having four kids in three different schools makes the mornings a challenge. Having a child who struggles with ADHD, even though it’s mild and well managed, makes that challenge near impossible some mornings. Over the years, I’ve developed my own tricks to making sure we are out the door on time every morning with a minimum of upset, fuss, or hassle. I’ve noticed my kids have a much smoother day with fewer issues if I can keep the morning routine running efficiently. Routine and a schedule are the most important things I can give my kids to help them succeed during their school day.



7 Ways I Organize Our Morning Rush

1. I put all the after-school stuff in the car the night before. All uniforms are washed, cleats are cleaned, and snacks are packed in each child’s bag, then put in the trunk for the next day. This way, there is no panic the next morning when one child suddenly remembers a dirty uniform.


2. I lay out all the kids’ outfits the night before — complete with socks, shoes, and hair accessories. There are no deviations once the lights go out for bedtime. My kid with ADHD seems to have the most trouble deciding on an outfit. This takes all the stress out of getting dressed in the morning. The kids all get up and can be dressed and ready to go in five minutes.


3. I get breakfast ready the night before. I lay out bowls of cereal in small Tupperware containers and put individual cups of milk in the fridge for them to add to their bowls. They can eat while I’m in the shower, and I don’t have to worry that one of my boys will get distracted and forget to eat.


4. I make sure all book bags are packed the night before, including all papers that need to be signed. In the morning rush, the only thing my kids have to do on the way out the door is grab a bag off the hook and get in the car. I also make sure I personally go through every child’s book bag and folder every single night. It’s the only way to be confident I won’t be running out to the store at 11 pm to grab supplies to make a 3D world map the night before it’s due. True story.


5. I implemented a shower/bath schedule. With four kids sharing one bathroom, time is at a premium. Ty showers in the mornings now, because it seems to help him relax and get his mind focused for the school day. Mase showers immediately after dinner, and Maia showers right after him. I give Zoey a bath during the day while the big kids are at school.


6. I set the alarm clocks for a half hour earlier than necessary. I’ve found that we need the buffer to make sure there is no rush. The absolute worst thing in the world for my child who struggles with ADHD is having to rush. It creates a chaotic environment, and they struggle all day to refocus.


7. I do not allow any technology in the mornings. The television stays off; no video games allowed; all phones are put away. The only thing they focus on is getting ready for the school day. I limit technology anyway, because it seems to create stress for the kids, but during the morning rush it is imperative to have a calm, quiet, and focused morning.





Those are just a few of the ways I make our mornings run smoothly in this house. My day goes so much better when I don’t have to rush around in the morning and I know all of my kids, not just the one who has ADHD, have a much more productive day at school when our mornings are calm and stress-free.


How do you organize your morning rush?


How To Have A Successful Trip To The Pool

We are lucky that our pool is within walking distance from our house. But that also means I can’t take along a bunch of stuff- only what we can carry. I used to take a wagon but it just got to be too much to drag a wagon and keep track of 3 kids while walking to the pool. We spend a lot of time at the pool during the summer- 4 to 5 afternoons and sometimes even twice a day when we go swimming again after dinner. I’ve discovered what works for me so I can make sure we all have a good time and stay safe while swimming.

Tips For a Successful Trip to the Pool

1. Pack more than one pool bag. It’s too difficult to find stuff when you cram everything into one huge bag. I take 3 bags. The main pool bag holds all the towels, the extra swim diapers, the sunscreen, my cellphone, and the pool pass. The second bag holds all the pool toys. It’s nylon mesh so all the water just drips right out and lets the toys dry so they don’t get moldy. The third bag is actually an insulated cooler bag. I use it for all the drinks and snacks. It’s easy to find what I need quickly because I know exactly where it is and which bag it’s inside. On the way to the pool I carry the main bag and the cooler bag, Mase carries the pool toys, and Maia carries the floats. Everyone has a job.

2. Buy quality floats and vests. Especially if you have a couple of non-swimmers or not-so-strong swimmers. I don’t worry about Maia, she tends to stay where she can stand up even though she can swim. But Mase wears a life vest- a real, Coast Guard Approved Life Vest. He can move all over the pool and I don’t have to worry. He likes to jump in and do cannonballs and I never have to worry that he will get in trouble. Zoey is at the stage where she likes to sit on the stairs and splash around so I need to be able to sit with her. Mase wearing a life vest means I don’t have to split my attention the whole time. I’m going to get Zoey a Puddle Jumper this weekend and see if I can coax her into the pool.

3. Use the spray sunscreen. I used to spend what seemed like 10 minutes per child spreading on thick sunscreen. Have you ever tried to rub in that thick kids sunscreen on a squirming toddler? It’s like dressing a wet and slippery octopus. So I switched to the spray sunscreen. I also buy the one that is made for wet skin so I don’t have to wait for them to dry at the pool before reapplying it.

4. Time your breaks. Our pool has adult swim for the last 10 minutes of every hour. I take advantage of this 10 minute break. Everyone goes to the potty, everyone gets a drink and a snack, everyone gets sunscreen reapplied. Then we are good for another hour and I don’t have to worry about leaving a kid unsupervised in the pool when one has to potty. Our pool has lifeguards but there are a lot of kids and I like to have eyes on my kids while they swim.

5. Label your pool toys. Or else you’ll be buying new ones every few weeks. I learned this lesson years ago. Every pool toy and float has our initials on it. I also keep a count of how many/what type of pool toys we have in our bag. It makes it easier to keep track of what is ours.

6. Know the pool schedule. Our pool opens at 10am and closes at 9pm. You might think that the pool is less busy right at opening but not at our pool. There are a lot of moms with young kids that go to the pool right at opening, which means they are packed on to the stairs like sardines and the kiddie pool looks like a daycare center. But by noon, they have all gone home to have lunch and take naps. So we eat an early lunch and head to the pool around 12ish. It’s usually pretty empty- only 4 or 5 families are there. We spend 2-3 hours swimming and then head home before the afternoon rush shows up. Some nights we also go back to the pool  with Matt around 6 after dinner. It’s typically pretty empty until around 7:30 when the teens show up.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re taking kids to the pool but it can be really fun for everyone if done right. It just takes planning and organization. Plus, kids who play in the pool for a few hours sleep really well! Consider that a perk.


5 Ways to Make Your Morning Easier



It’s well established that I am not a morning person. Not even a little bit. If I had my choice I would not even crack open an eyelid until well after 10am. Unfortunately that is not an option. We are always on a time crunch in the mornings so I’ve had to find ways to save time and still make sure everyone is ready to go.



5 Ways to Make Your Morning Easier

1. Have outfits laid out beforehand. I lay out clothes for the week, not just the next day. Every Sunday I pick out clothes for the entire week- and not just for the kids. I lay my clothes out too. This saves me so much time in the mornings! I don’t have to scramble to find something clean to wear or battle with Maia over her outfit.



2. Gather supplies the night before. Every night I go through the kids backpacks and make sure they have everything they need. I check homework, sign agendas and permission slips, return forms, etc the night before so I know I’m not missing something in the morning rush. Backpacks are placed on the hooks in the front closet along with jackets and shoes are on the shelf below. We can just grab and go in the morning.



3. Set a lunch schedule. Maia likes to take her lunch to school a couple of times a week and Mase has to take his lunch to preschool 3 days a week. I put them on alternating schedules. Mase takes his lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Maia takes her lunch Tuesday and Friday. When I’m doing my weekly menu plan I also plan lunches. That way there is no scrambling for lunch materials in the morning. Lunch items are grouped together in the fridge and anything non-perishable is packed the night before.



4. Give a time warning. I give the kids a 10 minute warning and then a 3 minute warning every morning. The 10 minute warning means they need to start wrapping up what they are doing and brush their teeth, put shoes on, use the restroom, and be ready to go. The 3 minute warning means we are leaving in 3 minutes so you better be heading for the van.



5. Limit distractions. There is no TV, no iPods, no video games in the morning. Period. It’s too easy for the kids to get distracted and then they move slower than molasses! So we just don’t turn those things on and it’s not an issue. This is the first year we have employed this rule and I cannot even tell you how much easier our morning are this school year.




Organizing Life in a Large Family

I get asked a lot how I can possibly keep our family organized. Sometimes people are asking out of genuine curiosity and sometimes they are asking with that sarcastic tone in their voice that makes me smile sweetly and unleash a barrage of Southern “bless your heart” charm with a raised eyebrow. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. So today I thought I would share a few of the ways I organize our daily life.

1- The Master Calendar

This is vital to the management of our household. Everything goes on the calendar- Matt’s work commitments, the kids school schedule and after school activities, Mase’s pre-school and speech therapy schedule, doctors appointments….everything. It hangs across from our fridge where it is highly visible. I can take one look at the calendar and know exactly what is going on that week and where I need to be.

2- The Pocket Planner

I bought a wall calendar that came with a pocket planner to keep in my purse. I make a lot of appointments on the go while I’m waiting in the car rider line, or waiting for dance to be over, so I need to have access to the master calendar. Every appointment that goes on the master calendar goes into my pocket planner as well.

3- The Weekly Calendar

I found this awesome notepad in the Target Dollar Section awhile back and bought 8 of them. What can I say? I get excited and giddy about new organizational products. It’s a sickness really, I call it Type A Syndrome. I fill out 2 weeks at a time and hang them on the fridge. I write anything happening that week- appointments, parties, school stuff to remember, etc on the top part. At the bottom of each day I write what I’m making for dinner that night. It’s perfect because as I’m planning my weekly menu I can see what days I need to plan a fast and easy meal or plan to start a crockpot dinner early in the day.

4- The Dry Erase Board

I have several of these dry erase boards and I love them. The one that hangs on the front of the fridge is the main one I use every day. On Sundays I write out my to-do list for the week- all the things that must get done that I might forget about when I get busy. Below my master to-do list I also have a daily to-go list where I list the things from the master list that I plan to do on that particular day. Once they are done, I erase them off both lists. I also use this dry erase board to keep track of the kids medications. Zoey is cutting her 2 year old molars and Maia has an ear infection so I need to keep track of what times they’ve had medicine so they don’t end up with a double dose. The last thing on the board is the kids daily chores. Each day I fill in what chores the kids need to do before bedtime. They come home from school, do their homework, and check the chore chart.

5- The Meal Planning

I have been working on organizing my recipes into a system that works for the way I do my meal plans. I’m using the website Key Ingredient because it allows me to make separate cookbooks and also has an app that I can use on my iPhone, handy when I need to double check an ingredient while at the grocery store. I’ve been transferring my favorite recipes over for the past week. I had recipes saved on pinterest, in my bookmarks, on pocket….they were just scattered everywhere and it was taking me forever to sort through them all each week. I am separating my recipes into main categories to make it easy for me to pick meals for the week. My categories include Chicken: Crockpot, Chicken: Bake, Beef: Crockpot, Beef: Bake, Pasta: Crockpot, Pasta: Bake, Seafood, Pork, Soups, Fast & Easy, and Kid Approved. I’m sure I’ll add more as I go along but for now these are the main categories I use each week.

I hope that answers a few questions on how I organize life in our large family. In the past I have shared how I organize our household files, how I cut the kitchen paper clutter, and how I organized the front entryway closet.

How do you organize your family?