Anyway, I thought I'd share a few tips on packing for a big family without losing your cool. Not that I've ever lost my cool.
But enough about me.
#1. Invest in a suitcase for each child.
They don't have to be expensive, but it helps so much if each kid has their own "space." Now we have done short trips where I combined two kids' clothes into one suitcase, but that always ends up in confusion and crazy messy hotel rooms as they dig through each other's stuff in an attempt to find their own. Having their own bag helps contain the explosion...somewhat.
#2. Teach them to pack themselves.
DJ and Katie are packing pros and I am still working on fostering that skill in my youngest three. If I call out a list ("6 pairs of pants, 6 shirts, toothbrush, etc.) to the younger ones I may or may not get out of the house with their necessities. I once made them mistake of letting Drew pack on his own because he really, really wanted to. After he pronounced the packing "done" I checked his bag, and it's a good thing I did! He had 5 pair of socks, 1 pair of underwear, and 3 shirts. I'm not kidding.
This time, instead of having to repack their packing attempts I had them bring their suitcases down to me one child at a time. Then I sent them upstairs for one type of clothing at a time. It went like this: "Drew, bring me 6 pair of long pants. LONG pants, not shorts. It's going to be cold." Up he went. A few minutes later he came down with the 6 pair of pants. I showed him how to roll them and we put them in the bag. "Ok, now go get 6 shirts...socks...underwear...etc." One item at at time. It required several trips upstairs for him, but isn't every parent's goal to tire their kids out? Especially in winter?
I went through the same process with Mari and Gracie and it worked perfectly. They got the thrill of "packing themselves" just like their older siblings, but mama kept control of the inventory.
#3. Realize you will forget something.
You will. You just will. No matter how much I check and double check something always slips by and we end up at a remote gas station in Nowhereville, TN paying too much for a pair of socks or underwear. It's just part of the adventure.
#4. Don't worry about coordinated outfits.
Ok, let's be real. I used to plan out all my kids outfits for the perfect public presentation and they were just so cute and put-together. Now? I am lucky if their laundry is clean. Seriously. I had to get over it and let them choose their stuff (within reason...I do have veto power) to keep from stressing out. A mama can only control so much. Their clothes are what they are, mismatched and stained, and I'm ok with the fact that they will grow up and wish they had listened to me when I advised them not to wear the turquoise jeans with the red sequin top.
#5. Have fun.
I admit it is easy to forget this one. I can get so focused on the task at hand that I lose sight of why we are doing all of this. In their excitement my kids can get wild. Then my voice begins to raise and then they are all banished from the room and told to JUST. CALM. DOWN this is not a zoo and since when is it ok to run through the house screaming and making your sister cry??
They are excited for a reason. We are going to have a lot of fun! So bring them in close and talk about what your are going to do when you get there. Dream a little. Laugh a lot. Take a break and look them in the eye and smile because once you are on the road the hard part is behind and you can enjoy their happy chatter (or the blessed silence if you have a DVD player in your vehicle) and look forward to a few days of downtime and fewer distractions....and food. Thanksgiving food in all it's glory.
Yes, my friends, keep your eye on the prize!