Large Family Hacks – Play Shoes Crate

When you have a lot of kiddos, you have a lot of shoes!  They are everywhere all over the house, yet the crazy thing is it is next to impossible to find a matching pair when you need them!

Enter our newest organizational tool…the Play Shoes Crate!Large Family Hack - Play Shoe Crate to keep shoes contained and easily found! | RaisingArrows.net

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Back when we used to do Workboxes, I purchased several black milk crates to house the files we were using for a modified workbox system.  However, years later, the milk crates were just taking up space in storage.  (Funny how I have storage items IN storage!)

With all these little boys, we end up with a lot of play shoes and no great place to put them – especially when they are muddy.  So, I decided to pull 2 of the crates out (black was definitely a good color choice!), and put one by each of the most used doors.

Large Family Hack - Play Shoe Crate | RaisingArrows.net

Piling the shoes into the crate is easy work for any one of the children, and it keeps the floors by the doors free of shoe clutter and the shoes easy to find.  On really muddy days, I’ll put a junk towel by the back door to line the shoes on and get them dry before putting them in the crate, but for the most part, when you come in from playing, your shoes go in the crate – thank you very much!

Large Family Hacks - learn the little things that make their homes run smoother! | RaisingArrows.net

Find all the Large Family Hacks here!

Birthday Treats for Our Dog (and his human family!)

Our dog, Kip, turned one year old a few weeks ago. Because everything in this household is cause for celebration, we decided to make him “Kip”cakes we could ALL enjoy!

Celebrate your dog's birthday with cupcakes they can eat and you can too! | RaisingArrows.net

After searching through several recipes – some of which were said to be downright gross! – we settled on one that we tweaked a bit to make the perfect birthday treat for Kip AND the rest of the family!  It contains banana, carrot, honey and peanut butter – what’s not to love?!  I posted this photo of our yummy creations on Instagram:

“Kip”cakes for Kip the Dog’s Birthday!

A photo posted by Amy Arrows (@amyarrows) on

 

Doggy Cupcakes (aka “KIP”cakes)

1/4 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350°, and prepare a large mini-muffin pan. (We like this muffin pan.) In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla.   Stir in the shredded carrot. Add the flour and baking soda into the bowl and fold into the wet dough. Spoon the batter into the mini-muffin pan, filling about 3/4 of the way, and bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the muffins pull away from the sides and are nicely browned.

Let cool and then serve them up to your family and your family dog!

Cupcake treats for you AND your dog! | RaisingArrows.netThe cupcakes were VERY peanut buttery, and they did taste like something a dog would love (which he did).  We added a bit extra for the humans by frosting them with cream cheese frosting.  One recipe we found said the dog could have the cream cheese frosting too, but we decided this probably wasn’t the best idea.

Because Kip is a hunting dog – a Tri-Color French Brittany to be exact – we keep him in sporting shape.  That means NO CREAM CHEESE FROSTING!  We do give him these treats: And for his birthday, he received this toy to put his treats in (KONG toys are AWESOME!  Kip can chew through anything, but NOT these!  The color of the KONG toy tells you how tough it is – black being the strongest.):

 

I have to admit, when we first got a dog I was pregnant with our 9th child, and I wasn’t real sure how I’d feel about having a dog.  I have toddlers – who needs a dog?!  But, he’s growing on me.  He’s pretty well behaved, and he has brought a lot of joy (and pheasants) to our family.

Happy 1st Birthday, Kip! A photo posted by Amy Arrows (@amyarrows) on

Large Family Photos

Large Family Photos - they can be stressful, comical, and downright crazy !  How to get a large family photo you love! | RaisingArrows.net

You’ve decided it is time to get all of your children in one photo, dressed in matching clothes, looking the same direction and smiling.

Good luck with that.

Large family photos aren’t just an exercise in patience and perseverance, they tend toward insanity on a whole new level.  (Herding cats ring a bell? )  It’s time to find a better way!  This post isn’t your typical “what to wear” or “be sure you feed them beforehand” advice.  It’s full of fresh outside-the-box ideas to fit your fun outside-the-box family!

Click here to learn more about the photography bundle sale going on right now!

First, let me address the million dollar question –

Should you hire a professional photographer?

Large Family Photos - they can be stressful, comical, and downright crazy!  How to get a large family photo you love! | RaisingArrows.net

The photo above was taken by our bank as a free print (with the option to buy a whole package).  We chose to take our free print and run (thank you very much).  But, I use this photo as an example to help you make a wise decision about what kind of professional photographer to use and if it truly is necessary for your family.

I’m happy we got this photo.  I spent a lot of time choosing clothing and trying not to look fat 2 months after giving birth to our 7th child.  Notice, not everyone is smiling in the photo, and our usually bubbly little girl has a weird look on her face.  Oh, and notice the toddler?  Terrified comes to mind.

Choosing to go with a professional photographer has it’s pros and cons, especially if you are choosing someone who either doesn’t know your family or someone who is in a hurry.  This photographer needed to take the photo in our time slot and move on.  He didn’t know us, and it showed.  It’s also a very “stock” photo with a boring background and the usual “family pose” – ramped up to fit our family size.

Not all professional photos are like this (and some would argue this doesn’t even count as a “professional” photo), but the more frills you want, the more it is going to cost you.  If you have a family friend who does professional photos, then by all means, go for it.  But if you don’t, don’t worry that you will never have anything decent to share with grandparents and friends.  There are ways of getting great shots that are share-worthy!
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How to get great photos of your large family

My first suggestion is to let go of the notion of the average family photo.  I’m going to talk more about this in a moment, but some of my favorite photos of our family would fall into the category of “Lifestyle” photography.  They are shots of us living life, acting naturally, and showing much more of our individual personalities than a stock photo could ever manage.

So, now that you are ready to think outside the box…

Idea #1:  Grouping method

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.net

Rather than trying to get ALL of the children in one shot, try grouping a few together at a time to get nice photos that really show their personalities.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.net

Idea #2:  Lifestyle Photos

As I mentioned above, these are my favorites, and they are super popular right now!  Simply put, these are photos of your family living life.  They are candid shots that cannot be duplicated, thus making them signature pieces unique to your family.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.net

Lifestyle photos are particularly beautiful done in black and white, and lend themselves to being used as “art” around your home.

ty and amy

Idea #3:  Take advantage of holidays and special outings

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.net

Typically, when we go out for field trips, vacations, or holidays, the kids are dressed in outfits that either match or are well put together (don’t ask me to do this any other day, please!)  Take advantage of those days!

You can use these special outings to capture a set of lifestyle-type photos or to do a more “formal” family photo.  The photo above was taken while on a field trip.  The weather was gorgeous, the lighting just right, and the kids looked presentable!

If you want to get in on the photo as well, ask someone nearby to use your camera to take the photo.  Set the camera up for them (when in doubt, set it to Auto) and ask them to take several shots so you have plenty to choose from.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.net

This Easter, we asked my mom to take a photo of us in her living room after church.  My oldest daughter set the camera up, and handed it to Grandma.  No, it isn’t professional-grade, but it is all of us together!

Idea #4:  Take Individual photos

We have started taking individual photos of all the kids every year.  I feel like this really shows their growth and captures more of their personalities.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.netThese can easily be put into a collage (more on that in a moment), or displayed separately.

Idea #5:  Raise a photographer

Ideas for Large Families to get great photos without breaking the bank | RaisingArrows.net

Ideas for getting large family photos without breaking the bank | RaisingArrows.net

There is nothing better than having a photographer in the house!  All of our family memories are preserved on Megan’s external hard drive.  At the end of the year, we pay her to put them into an album to be printed through Walgreens or Mixbook.

The only downside to having a photographer in the family is that she’s not in a lot of the lifestyle type photos because she’s the one taking them!  The best thing to do in this case is either learn to use a timer so your child can jump in on the shots, or have her set the specs for the photo and then hand the camera off to you (as we did in the photo below!).

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.net

You can see more of her work here –> Diverse Reflections

How to display your large family photos

Idea #1:  Photo collage

This is something we started doing several years ago.  We would take individual photos of the children and then put them into an 8×10 collage on Walgreens‘ site or via PicMonkey.  I am even able to add in Emily’s photo, making it a collage of ALL of the children.  Daddy keeps one on his desk and we hand out the rest to grandparents.  They are reasonably priced either through Walgreens or by putting it together yourself and printing on your own photo paper at home.  It is also a very compact way to display your photos.

Idea #2:  Photo Wall, Shelf, or Frame

Another great way to display photos for a large family is via a photo wall or shelf.  I especially like this idea for lifestyle photos.  You can mix and match sizes, colors, and frames to create a very unique display that fits the decor of your home.  (Check out this post for more ideas on creating stunning photo walls.)

You can also purchase frames that create a photo wall effect for you.  For Christmas, my mother-in-law bought us a photo frame with plenty of spaces for individual photos.  Here are a couple of examples from Amazon:

You are able to get a lot of photos in a small space.  It is also easy to snap a photo with your phone to share with family and friends like I did on Instagram. (you can follow me here –> @amyarrows)

These are my people! #2to1conf

A photo posted by Amy Arrows (@amyarrows) on

Idea #3:  Flip Book or Album

I used to scrapbook, but I simply do not have the time anymore.  I’ve found it to be just as fun and rewarding for the family to have a flip book or family album to look at.  My daughter and I keep our photos catalogued and then at the end of the year, put the photos into an album created on Walgreens or Mixbook.  (I actually pay my daughter to put this together for our family since she is the one with most of the photos.)

A flip book is a great idea for grandparents or to keep in your diaper bag!

Idea #4:  Canvas Print

This is a really fun way to display your family photo!  If you get a good one (be sure the pixels are plenty big!), you can order a canvas print from Walgreens!  This makes for a great focal point for a room!

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas to get started with!  I also have some large family photography ideas on my Large Family Living board on Pinterest, if you’d like to peruse it!

And perhaps you (or your budding photographer) are wanting to learn how to take better photos (even with your iPhone!).  Now is the time to grab some great resources to learn from!  Check out the Photography Bundle going on right now.  It is for a limited time only so HURRY!

We decided to buy the big “Business” package as a school investment for our 14 year old.  I’m so glad we did – my daughter is loving it and learning so much!






Is Your Plate Too Full {or is it something else?}

There have been times in my life when everything feels chaotic and overwhelming, and the only answer I can think of is to run away.  (In the Fight or Flight Model, I’m a Flight – all the way.)  My sense of duty and propriety keep me from it, and I continue to muddle through, finding the other side of the mess eventually.

Because this has been “one of those years”, I’ve found myself often considering those feelings of being overwhelmed and mulling over how they came about.  One thing I have arrived upon is that you can’t always trust the thought that your plate is too full.

Is Your Plate Too Full? {or is it something else} | RaisingArrows.net

When things were at their worst earlier this year, I listed out everything I had to do (or felt I had to do).  The list wasn’t huge, and it certainly could fit into a 24 hour day.  Even with a new house and new baby, I knew what I was feeling could not possibly be due to what was on my plate.  Nothing that was on my plate was outside my domain.  Nothing that was on my plate was outside what the Lord had handed me.  I knew there was more to this, and I had to stop blaming the plate.

Do you feel like there is too much to do in a day, yet, you cannot figure out where to carve out any more time or how to get rid of any responsibilities?  Perhaps it isn't the stuff on the plate that is causing the problem... | RaisingArrows.net

Is it hormones?

I really hate it when people make excuses for what you are feeling with the word “hormones,” but I must admit, sometimes it truly IS hormones.  I don’t consider myself a hormonal person.  Most people describe me as even-keel.  However, I have noticed the times I feel the most overwhelmed are after having a baby and before my monthly cycle.  Hmmmm….

If the plate feels too full because of hormones, there are a couple of things you can do.

1.  Wait it out and take it easy while you do.  Sometimes all you need is a little time.  For instance, after having a baby, it is crazy to expect life to normalize the day you get home from the hospital.  What you should really do is bring your life down to the bare minimum, and give it time.  The key here is to be able to RECOGNIZE what is going on, and not freak out over what you are feeling.

2.  Fix what needs fixing.  If time is not fixing things, then you need to explore options.  I’m not going to tell you what you need to do, but I can tell you that you will know when you find the answer.  I do not believe God intends for us to do nothing if something hormonal can be helped.  He created us and expects us to care for His temple to the best of our ability.  You can read about what I did to help balance my hormones HERE.

Is it a lack of rest?

This is literal and figurative.  Literally speaking, we can become easily overwhelmed when we are not getting enough sleep at night or when we push too hard for too long.  You simply cannot handle all life throws at you when you are tired.  Get more sleep at night or take a nap if you can.  Force yourself to do this one thing, and you will find your outlook on life greatly improved.

And don’t forget to take a Sabbath rest.  Work hard, rest well.  God put this cycle in place for a reason.  Don’t ignore it.

Need help finding rest?  Read THIS POST.

Figuratively speaking, are you running through your day in a frenzy?  Are you breathing at all?  Do you spend most of the day in a frantic pace, afraid everything will fall apart if you stop moving?

“Be still and know that I am God…”
Psalm 46:10a

Psalm 46 closes with those words, but it opens with something even more telling…

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
Psalm 46:1-3

If you are overwhelmed by your day, remember on whose strength you must rely.  Slow you pace, so your can see Him work.  Things may feel overwhelming, but God is still Lord of all.

Is there something on the horizon?

Sometimes those overwhelmed and anxious feelings come from upcoming events that are in your subconscious, but haven’t managed to make their way to the surface as yet.  Perhaps you have a difficult family member coming for a visit, or a difficult holiday is coming up.  Maybe you are nervous about an upcoming event or afraid you won’t be prepared.  You may not consciously KNOW why you are feeling overwhelmed, but your mind is an amazing place, and often sends out distress signals long before you are fully aware of what is causing the distress.

I have learned to be in the habit of thinking through what I am feeling (especially if it is a sudden onslaught of emotions), and considering what might be on the horizon that is making me feel as if I have too much on my plate.  This is simply a matter of learning to be aware of how your emotions are linked to your circumstances.  Learning to deal with both your circumstances and your emotions are a whole different can of worms!

Is it expectations?

Often, this one is inextricably linked to the previous question.  Is there someone in your life who has placed certain expectations on you, and you are dreadfully afraid you won’t live up to them?  Are they coming for a visit or have you been spending too much time with them?

Or perhaps, YOU are the one who has placed unattainable expectations on yourself.  (Read my post on how unrealistic homeschool moms can be.)  I want so badly for my home to be perfectly decorated and cleaned and orderly at all times, but that is completely unrealistic.  I know my home can be company ready in 15 minutes (or so), but still, I have a standard that tends to stress me out.  And when I am stressed, I tend to be a rather UNfun mom.  As our friend Dan says,

“I was having a bad day…until I lowered my expectations.”

Is it sensory issues?

While a lot of factors go into sensory issues in moms (read more about that HERE), when it pertains to “too much on your plate,” it is usually noise that is the thing that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.  It’s the toddler screaming, the boys laughing as they run in the house, the 6 year old saying Mommy over and over and over.  Your plate may not actually be too full, it may just be too loud.  Before you throw the plate out the window, step outside (or wherever it isn’t as noisy), and take a breath.

Is it priorities and stewardship?

Here’s where I hit a nerve…mine to be exact.  Sadly, more often than not I feel overwhelmed because I have not been a good steward of the things on my plate.  I have chosen to give priority to the wrong things.  My blog cannot be my priority.  The internet cannot be my priority.  Projects and hobbies cannot be my priority.  They can be a PART of my life, but they cannot trump my main responsibilities.

If it is stewardship and prioritizing that is your issue, it might help to actually write out IN ORDER your priorities and post it in your kitchen, near your computer, or wherever you need a little reminder.  Put the stuff on your plate in the proper order, and you will be surprised how much you actually get done in a day!

Is your plate too full or is it something else? | RaisingArrows.net

What if your plate really is too full?

Truthfully, there are times when you have bitten off more than you can chew.  The too-full plate is real, and if this is you, then need to address the truth.

Can you let go of something?

If yes, then just do it!  A few years ago for me it was a mass email delete.  I was on information overload and had put upon myself a need to read every email that came to my inbox.  I could not do it.  I needed to start over…even if I missed something.  *gasp*

More recently, it was saying “no” to a very worthy project.  It was blog related and would have been a great fit for the Raising Arrows audience, but I was maxed out.  And when I’m maxed out, all of my readers can feel it.  It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to you.  So, I said no.

What if you can’t let go of something?

Sometimes you just don’t have the option to let something go.  Either you need to fully complete a commitment or the massive amount of things you have on your plate are something you must deal with for a season.  For instance, you need to ramp up a home business while your husband goes back to college or you need to take in your sister’s children while she walks through a messy divorce.  When this is the case, the answer is to do things that help you handle the stuff on the plate with as much grace and joy as possible.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

1.  Pray your way through it – Let a prayer always be on your breath.  Put on the praise music.  Keep your Bible at the ready.  And cry out to the Lord!  And don’t forget to thank Him when He answers!  Be grateful for the trials, the tears, the big and small answers, the mercy, and the love beyond comprehension.

2.  Take short breaks – You may not be able to fit in a lengthy rest, but do what you can to catch short breaks here and there.  (Read my post on creating a place to relax.)

3.  Exercise – When you are in a flight or fight situation, your adrenaline kicks into high gear.  You NEED a release for that pent-up adrenaline or you WILL go into adrenal fatigue.  Exercising will help you avoid this.  And when I say exercising, I do not mean a 2 mile run or an hour on the elliptical.  I mean exerting more energy for a longer period of time than your normal every day activity.  It might be playing tag in the backyard with the kids or doing several sets of lunges in your living room.  Don’t get hung up on the word.  It’s not as bad as you think it is.

4.  Eat right – Yeah, I know – you are busy and food is about the last thing on your mind.  Well, I hate to say it, but when your plate is over-full, you will need to do your very best to not give in to the ease of eating junk.  No, you don’t have to soak your grains and buy only organic, but you will need to reduce the sugar and eat as much REAL FOOD as you can.  Don’t make it hard, but do make it nourishing.

5.  Drink plenty of water – When your plate is full, you tend to run on caffeine and sugar.  Don’t.  Get a bag of ice, a sack of lemons, a pretty cup – whatever it takes to make the water appealing.

6.  Guard your time – Try not to add anything to your plate.  When the pastor’s wife calls and asks you to do the music for VBS, say, “I’m sorry – I can’t this year.”  Remember, this is a season.  You can add things to your plate (as the Lord leads) later.

Also, try not to tackle the major things on your plate that require your concentration in a time slot that will only frustrate you.  Making business phone calls while your toddler is in 4 o’clock crazy mode is NOT a good idea.  Put a time management plan in place that makes sense and won’t make you feel like you are living one big emergency.

7.  Surrender  – Give the entire plate over to God.  You should be doing this no matter how full the plate is, but when the plate is overflowing, there won’t be any possibility of doing this in your own strength.  Let go of the notion that YOU are going to have to do this, and let God take over.  His strength will become yours if you remember to let Him handle the plate.

So, is your plate really too full?  Or is it something else?

Large Family Hacks – Homemade Toothbrush Holder for Traveling

Our family travels a lot.  A couple of weeks ago we were in Arkansas visiting friends, and I was reminded just how handy our homemade travel toothbrush holder has been.

Homemade Toothbrush Holder - great large family hack for traveling families! | RaisingArrows.net

For years, we have used this nifty holder to house our toothbrushes in a way that keeps them tidy, compact, and dry.  The holder can fit all our toothbrushes plus toothpaste, dental floss, and a travel size mouthwash.  It rolls up and ties so we can easily slip it into a suitcase or diaper bag.

When I posted the original tutorial, I had a reader mention that I should turn all our toothbrushes bristle-down for sanitary reasons, so you will notice in the photo above as compared to the ones in the tutorial that we now do that.  (LOVE IT when I learn something from my readers!)

Click here to learn how to make your own Travel Toothbrush Holder!

Large Family Hacks - learn the little things that make their homes run smoother! | RaisingArrows.netFind all the Large Family Hacks here!

 

Large Family Hacks – Built In Step Stool

Our family spent the evening with another large family (12 children) we’ve been friends with for many years.  I am always inspired when I visit their home, not only by their faith and joy, but by the little tips and tricks they have put into place to make their home run smoother.  It made me realize there are many things large families do that are a matter of efficiency and survival that would be great to share with others, no matter their family size.

So, I decided to start a series here on Raising Arrows entitled Large Family Hacks for that very purpose!

Large Family Hacks - learn the little things that make their homes run smoother! | RaisingArrows.net

Today’s Hack is from last week’s visit with our friends.  Over the years, they have been slowly building their home debt free, adding to it a little at a time.  One thing they added in the bathroom was a built-in step stool that is the perfect hack for a large family!

Built-In Step Stool {Large Family Hacks} | RaisingArrows.net

This step stool can hold up to 150 pounds!  It is housed underneath their bathroom sink on a metal track.

The reason this is so great for a large family is because there are so many ages and stages in a large family.  You might have teenagers and toddlers and everything in between trying to use the same sink.  Having a step stool you can slide under the sink eliminates the “kick the stool out of the way” game.

Additionally, large families need even their littlest ones as self-sufficient as possible.  Having an easy way to reach the sink to brush teeth or wash hands is a great way to give little people something they can do on their own!

It would even be a great addition for fixing little girls’ hair so you don’t have to bend down so far!

Built-In Step Stool {Large Family Hacks} | RaisingArrows.net

There are a lot of different plans out there for this type of thing.  This one from Ana White calls for making use of the toekick at the bottom of the vanity.  This one I found on a woodworking forum has some extra perks built in.  This one has storage space inside the stool!  (I’m always looking for more storage space!)  No matter how you build it, it would be a great addition to any bathroom you want to make small child friendly!

Large Family Hacks - learn the little things that make their homes run smoother! | RaisingArrows.net

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The Large Family Living Pinterest Board

Large Family Living Home Page