Aug. 3, 2012
I am the proud aunt of 21 beautiful nieces and nephews, ages 15 to due-in-December, all of whom live in Katy, outside of Houston. Since we’re the only members of our family who don’t live within 15 minutes of each other, it’s a pretty big deal for the nieces and nephews to visit us in Austin, and we try to host as many of them as we can each summer.
We started these summer trips as soon as we bought our house. Though we had the kiddos over prior to that, having the space our house provides has made it a lot easier, especially as the number of children has grown. Nonetheless, I sometimes think that a 5,000-square-foot warehouse wouldn’t be enough to contain these kids and all their stuff.
Like a blinding flash, my tidy house becomes covered in discarded clothes, pool floaties, piles of shoes, and more toys, books, and video games than I thought possible. I’ve also never seen my pantry so empty.
Fortunately, I revel in that sort of chaos and over the years, I’ve adopted a few strategies that I’ll share with you to ensure our time with the kids is fun … and doesn’t send us running for the funny farm.
Before the “storm” arrives, I always prepare the house. That means stocking the pantry with goodies I know the kids will love and planning all the meals in advance, because I have faced six hungry kids at one time with no plan for dinner. It wasn’t pretty. Save yourself and make a plan.
Early on, I thought I could just let the mess pile up and clean it after everyone was gone. Of course, the kids ran out of clothes on the first day, stuff was broken, and I was finding kids’ socks, shoes, and backpacks for months afterward. These days, kids over the age of four are responsible for keeping track of their own stuff (with only a little nagging from Aunt Stacy). In addition, towels are washed each night, paper plates are the dinnerware of choice, and no one gets dessert until the dishes are done. It’s a good system to keep everyone happy.
We usually start the weekend with a long list of fun activities and big ideas about what we’ll do. Often, we end the weekend having spent most of the time swimming in the pool or watching movies in the air conditioning. That used to disappoint me, but I’ve come to realize that just spending the time together – no matter what we do – is special and I’ve learned to enjoy it. So whether our day involves roller coasters at Six Flags or chocolate sundaes in the backyard, we find ways to have fun.
I wouldn’t trade my time with the nieces and nephews for anything in the world. I hope your summer is as chaotic and enjoyable as mine!