"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.

Our Very Full Fall

As we move from summer into the autumn season, I am always amused when people make comments that insinuate our schedules and responsibilities become easier and less hectic when “all those kids go back to school.”

I suppose I can see the logic in mistaken statements such as that, but the truth is we become ever so much busier as the weather cools and the leaves change color. For years I have spoken of the “back to school” time being full of activity, but now that our family numbers have doubled, this time of year necessitates the most effort, organization, and cooperation four parents and nine children can muster.

As Temptress and I sat down to look at the family calendar recently, I realized just how packed our days have become. Between the end of August and the end of December we celebrate six family birthdays, two wedding anniversaries, and double up on both Christian and Pagan holidays. That means Halloween/Samhain, Thanksgiving, and Yule/Christmas – all require a pretty major amount of planning, preparing, and the successful pulling off of those traditions that make memories.

At the beginning of the season we have to endure the “back to school” rigors. Between our 9 kids, they have thirty seven teachers with whom we have to be acquainted and thusly correspond. The kids are in five different schools, have four different bus routes/drivers that meet at four different locations, and have separate before and after school academic, civic, and social extracurricular commitments. Before you presume our kids are in “too many” activities, understand outside of school and religious affiliation, our children have only one outside activity each – some are year long, others are seasonal.

In the month of September we’ve had the following meetings: School Open Houses (four schools); Daisy, Brownie, Cub, Webelo, and Boy Scout meetings; Fall football beginning pot luck, Magnet school Parents Meet & Greet BBQ, JROTC Family Picnic at the lake, Color Guard raffle ticket sales, Football fund raiser, Boy Scout popcorn sales, Marching Band booster club meeting, JROTC booster club meeting, and some extraneous fairs, festivals, parades, and games.

October brings parent/teacher conferences, all six fall family birthdays (five children, one parent – that’s 1.5 birthdays a week), the completion of the football/marching season, a few weekend competition events, and our family’s annual Halloween/Samhain “spooktaular” extravaganza. Sometime between October and November the parents (in some form or fashion) try to sneak off for a weekend away just to keep our sanity. Then in November we try to calm things down by focusing on schoolwork and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday which is always a large extended family assemblage.

Our December starts the weekend after Thanksgiving, whether the calendar agrees or not. We have a searching-for-the-perfect-tree tradition, exchanging of the fall-for-winter décor, the much anticipated holiday baking, and the beginning of the “season of secrets” when there is much whispering and meetings behind closed doors. The entire house becomes positively giddy with anticipation and the social invitations begin taking a first come, first serve place on the calendar.

So as not to think we get to slow down come the New Year, during the eight weeks following we have four children’s birthdays plus those of two near living grandmothers, Imbolc, St Valentine’s Day, along with the preparations for Easter/Ostara and Spring Break. We don’t really get to ease up until early spring. This column isn’t simply an exercise in listing our taxed to do list, but a platform for underscoring the importance of prioritizing, communication, and a solid adherence to our schedules.

When it comes to priorities, it’s all about choosing wisely. No one can do everything. At our house a lot of things can, and do, slip by the wayside. During this time of the year, the house gets less attention, the laundry tends to accumulate, and the bigger projects are pushed off until spring or summer. We enjoy fewer friends over, spontaneous excursions, and superfluous indulgences to make resources available for gifts and activity fees. We eat from a more rigid menu and our food budget includes fewer meals out. The parents don’t attend all the meetings, and the kids miss some individual activities in lieu of maximizing what precious little “all together” family time we discover in between the mandatory mayhem that tries to pull us in different directions.

Communication and Scheduling come into play when we are proactive about discussing obligations and opportunities beforehand. Temptress and I sit down with the family calendar and coordinate what is and is not going to be worthy of our valuable time. We are not gung-ho to do everything that is offered to us or our clan. We consider work needs, school and academic requirements, and civic commitments before accepting things like play dates and birthday parties. Once something is on the calendar (and the Daddies have been informed) rarely will a new engagement overturn an older one. It’s about making a plan and then sticking to the plan. Everyone knows what is expected of them, and everyone knows what is coming up.

I can imagine from the outside looking in, at times we must appear like a jumbled mess, but from the inside it’s relatively organized chaos. There is no way in the world our group of 13 can run as seamlessly as a two, three, or four person family. Our size alone affords us more opportunities for crossed signals and mixed messages. We’re not perfect and some days mere imperfection looks a long way off. However, we are a work in progress and with a little determination we find we’re getting better everyday.

~the Laundry Goddess, September 13, 2007

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