Chronicles of our family: loving on our 6 kids, homeschooling, homecooking, homemaking. . . hopefully for the Lord's glory. (with some fun quips, fun photos, and fun recipes thrown in!)

Calli is a winner of Top 25 Moms With Big Families - 2013

What has having a big family taught you about motherhood?

Oh, haven't you heard that you know everything UNTIL you are a mother?!

I thought I was a great mother when I had one child. When we had our second child, I thought that things were still pretty easy and I gave myself a lot of credit. With our third child, I acknowledged that some children were definitely more challenging and I still thought I was up for the task (given time and grace!).

Now, with six children, I know that I hardly know anything. And what I did know, I'm forgetting (which is why I blog), or has proven wrong! I'm realizing that motherhood is more about GRACE than anything else.

My tendency is to try to control things. I tried to control my children's behavior and my responses and our environment. This seemed to work well eleven years ago. Now, my children are growing up and there are more of them and I'm learning how to shepherd their hearts. I'm seeing that to really love them well I need to know them and embrace the mess and let GRACE come in and cover up the hurts and the fears and the embarrassment. I'm HUMBLED to have this privilege of sharing life with these precious people and I am trying to humbly rely on Our Savior.

Motherhood is more about shepherding than it is about directing or controlling. (That's just an illusion of control, anyway!) This job of mothering is really a job of service and pouring out my life for others. I have an innate distaste for service and yet I'm seeing that God can change my heart so that I delight to serve and love. From conception, I gave myself for my children (my body, my time, my energy...) and even now, daily, I give myself for their benefit. That is more than I can do on my own, naturally. I'm seeing that I need supernatural strength to mother well.

What tips do you have for meal planning?

Planning meals is much easier than winging it, because a hungry, grumpy mama will be especially challenged by hungry, grumpy children. I try to plan a weekly schedule of meals, leaving one day blank to use up any leftovers.

There are standbys that are just good to always have on hand (and so I like to buy these in bulk): oats (for breakfasts, granola, and granola bars), tortillas and cheese (both of these can go in the freezer), many varieties of beans (cook them in big pots and freeze in 2 cup portions), and rice.

We tend to find a couple great meals that most of us like and then alternate them. Breakfasts are usually eggs or oats/cereal or pancakes/muffins. There are some easy recipes on our blog for soaked grains! Fresh fruit for breakfast is important to us.

Lunches include crudites and dips, broccoli-rice, butternut macaroni, and simple soups. We love fresh bread, too! Easy things like baked potatoes are always good.

At dinner time we serve a huge salad and try to eat lots of veggies. We do eat the infamous beans and rice in many variations, and we really do enjoy it! Plus, it helps to have things on hand. We buy an entire beef (from my farmer Dad!) and have it in the freezer. When organic chicken is on sale, we try to buy as many as we can fit in the freezer. (We have a separate, upright freezer.)

How do you get your children involved with chores? Please share what age these tips are appropriate for.

We call "chores" by another name: "acts of service." These are ways we serve and show love for our family!

We use chore packs for our children's chores. After breakfast the children (age 11 to 3) put on a lanyard with a clear holder for their chores. They take their chore cards from the wall (a plastic baseball card holder is labeled for each day of the week) and need to wear the lanyard until all of their acts of service are completed and checked. On an "Acts of Service" chart they receive a check mark when they have completed their tasks. At the end of the week, The Lawyer (Daddy) will pay them for each check.

In order to have breakfast, everyone (11, 9, 8, 5, 3) needs to make their bed, get dressed, and put away their bedtime things (pajamas and books).

The 3 year old can set the table and put away the clean silverware from the dishwasher. He can transfer clean laundry to my bed for folding and also put away his own clean clothes. He's great at watering plants and can help with most any task as long as he is supervised!

The four older children take turns as the "Dinner Chef," which is a job they all relish (ha ha). Not only is it fun to help in the kitchen one night a week, but that night they have the special reward of having an extra 15 minutes alone with just Dad and Mom (usually playing a board game).

They also unload and load the dishwasher, and as partners they clean up the dining room and kitchen after meals. Each day someone helps with starting, switching, and folding the laundry. The kids water plants, tend our TowerGarden, and each day they have special "Acts of Service" for the Zone we are in. (For example, on Mondays we all work in the main living area; on Tuesdays we have tasks in the kitchen.) The zone chores include vacuuming and dusting, organizing and mopping and washing windows. We've found that these "Acts of Service" are really easy (and actually kind of fun!) with our Norwex cloths.