Tips for Doing Volunteer Work with Your Supersized Family

If you are like me, you desperately want to be actively serving Jesus. Yes, I know…being a mom is serving Jesus. I get it. But you want to do something more than wipe boogers and hineys. You know…be that crazy “loving-the-world” person your 20-year-old-unmarried-self imagined you’d become.

But if you are like me, you find yourself homeschooling (which is an amazing feat for anyone) and making everyone “come see” the stairs that you just finished wet/dry vaccing because they look AWESOME.

But then you read verses like:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

And I think…well…at least I keep myself from being polluted.

And honestly, I don’t know if that is even true. I did just watch the very first episode of “Breaking Bad.” Whatever. (Editor Note: After forcing myself to watch the second episode of Season 1 and feeling utterly disgusted, I will not be watching it again…thank you very much.)

But I wanted to show what my life looks like serving outside the home. It is possible. But I’m not going to lie. It ain’t easy. Some days, I come home crying because I figure I might as well join the crowd of children surrounding me who are pitching a fit left and right. Sometimes, I wonder if this is even what Jesus really wants me to do. C’mon now, I do have five kids. Maybe he cuts us mothers some slack. (Which I am positive he does).

But after the smoke clears and I’ve had a glass of wine…maybe two, I still want to serve others for Jesus. I still want to push through the craziness of toting around five children in order to love on other people.

Why?

Well…

  • I love Jesus.
  • The Bible says so.
  • I want my children to develop a heart of service…even when it isn’t easy.
  • To bless others.

5 Tips for Serving with Kids in Tow

So, without further ado…here is a photojournalism day in the life of serving with five children. We serve at a local nursing home once a month…and believe me that is often enough for my family.

We were scheduled on a Tuesday morning at 10am.

Tip 1: Keep it Close to Home

Our family is notoriously late…for everything. We call it “Mingus-Time.”

We stole that term from the Duggar Family who are on “Duggar-Time,” which is roughly 90 minutes later than they are supposed to be anywhere. Considering we only have five (compared to their 19), our expected arrival time is about 30 minutes late.

So keeping it close to home is an absolute necessity for us. The nursing home is less than 2 miles from our house…so close I have jogged passed it. You know…when I actually have TIME to get out by myself and jog.

We didn’t do too bad this particular morning. Everyone was loaded in the car 19 minutes before 10am.

SCORE 1 for the Mingus Family!

It's 19 minutes and counting until we need to be in place at the nursing home

It’s 19 minutes and counting until we need to be in place at the nursing home. Yes, that is a dirty pan from the night before.

As I left the house, I snapped a picture of my sink. I wanted to show that I had to forgo all my natural instincts to “come home to a clean house” and opt for actually being on time for once! I’m not a type-A personality…but sometimes I do get a little “tic” when I see my house messy.

Don't worry...the dirty dishes will be there when we get back.

Don’t worry…the dirty dishes will be there when we get back.

Everyone's loaded in.

Everyone’s loaded in.

No one is crying as we are leaving.

SCORE 2 for the Mingus Family!

We are on a roll. And see that little nifty bottle thing the baby is holding. THAT, my friends, is how we feed our baby his baby food. It is called an infant feeder. Life-saver extraordinaire! You should buy one. Ours is Sassy Infant Feeder which I bought at H-E-B, but I can’t find the same one for sale online. Here is the closest I got: Nuby Infant Feeder.

Extra Tip 1: If you are going ANYWHERE with young children. ALWAYS bring food/drinks. We didn’t on this trip, but we were lucky…this time.

Sexy husband had to bring in the garbage...Ghetto fabulous!

Sexy husband had to bring in the garbage…Ghetto fabulous!

My husband had to move his vehicle since we have tandem parking on our long driveway. He decided to get the garbage while he was at it. I have told him time and time again that we don’t live in South Austin anymore and that this is the suburbs. My neighbors probably aren’t thrilled at his hairy chest hairs wafting in the wind, taunting them. But ah…whatev. He’s doing chores!

SCORE 3 for the Mingus Family!

Any coolness factor here is soley the doing of cool sunglasses...which I'm only wearing because I am not wearing any makeup

Any coolness factor here is solely the doing of cool sunglasses…which I’m only wearing because I am not wearing any makeup

Note: Did you notice the photo-bomber in the back of this photo? Sexy beast.

Here I am, looking all glamorous. NOT! Those big sunglasses disguise that I have absolutely no makeup on. Those ladies at the nursing home can get pretty dolled up. I’ll have to do better next time. But I did brush my teeth!

SCORE 4 For the Mingus Family.

No matter the time...we all have to wait for the bikers.

No matter the time…we all have to wait for the bikers.

Lucky for us (okay…luck…God’s grace…you get my drift), we had enough time to wait for the pack of cyclists that spun their mojo in front of us and not be late.

Extra Tip 2: Expect Delays.

Something always comes up. All the lights are red on your way someplace. You have to trudge past unexpected construction. Cyclists at 20 miles a hour find their way in front of your car. Delays happen. Plan cushion time. (So, I totally don’t do this…I will have to learn to practice what I preach.)

And...I'm on empty. Unfortunately...so is our bank account.

And…I’m on empty. Unfortunately…so is our bank account.

I didn’t stop for gas because it was such a super short drive, but if it had been a longer drive the stop-over for gas would have caused us to be late. Another reason to leave cushion time for delays like this.

Yes, my car has 119K miles. Yes, we just bought it. Tis the real life of a family with five children.

And see that red stick-thing. That’s some broken sunglasses I’m gonna fix…one day.

Six minutes...tip #1 - don't volunteer somewhere too far from home if you are like me and are NEVER on time

Six minutes…Don’t volunteer somewhere too far from home if you are like me and are NEVER on time

It only took us 6 minutes to get there.

We still had enough time to spare to grab a quick photo in front of the nursing home.

SCORE 5 for the Mingus Family.

I tried to get a good smiling photo, but this is all I got. Fairly typical, especially of the one sticking out her tongue.

I tried to get a photo in front of the signage...EPIC FAIL

I tried to get a photo in front of the signage…EPIC FAIL

If you were wondering where the fifth child was...he's strapped to me

If you were wondering where the fifth child was…he’s strapped to me

Don’t forget I have five. I’m wearing the little booger. And so I’ll just do another shout-out to my sister for letting me perma-borrow this fabulous little baby-wearing number called a Ergo Baby Carrier. It is amazing. Super comfy. (Read more about the hows, whys & benefits of baby wearing here.)

I had this cheap “Snugli” for four of my babies, by the fifth kid one the snaps broke. The Snugli served its purpose (though my sister tells me they are bad for baby’s back), but if I had to do it all over again I would invest in one of these suckers!

Tip 2: Keep it Kid-Friendly.

We hand out fly swatters to the "Grandfriends" who will be swatting balloons first with their swatters and then their hands

We hand out fly swatters to the “Grandfriends” who will be swatting balloons first with their swatters and then their hands

We volunteer on “Balloon Swat” day. Kids in general love balloons. Mine are no exception. We toss balloons to the “GrandFriends” (as we call them…better than “old farts” which is what my husband calls any elderly person.)

Pretty helper

Pretty helper

Before we start the “games,” the volunteer coordinator, Maryanne, gives fly swatters to my children to pass out. At first, the “GrandFriends” use the swatters to reach for the balloons, but after a while they use just their hands. The “GrandFriends” are encouraged to use alternating hands.

Balloon Swat exercises their arms. And to tell you the truth, it exercises our arms too!

Extra Tip 3: If the children get tired, I let them rest.

I want this to be an enjoyable experience. They don’t have my stamina for this type of thing.

Ben's close up...he likes balloons but they are in my face!

Ben’s close up…the “GrandFriends” love to squeeze his fat legs!

Sometimes even I get tired, I can take this opportunity to let the children continue tossing the balloons while I show off the baby to these veteran mamas! They love to squeeze a baby’s hand and touch their little heads.

My BIGGEST helper of all...I'd die without her!

My BIGGEST helper of all…I’d die without her!

There is a lady that speaks only Spanish, she goes on and on about how “precioso” the children are and how “bonita” the girls are.

Children are such a blessing to these grandmas and grandpas!

Can we go home, yet?

Can we go home, yet?

About half-way (okay…maybe 10 minutes in) I will get the occasional, “Can we go home, yet?” or “Are we almost finished?” Most of the time I just say “no” and go back to tossing the balloon. They usually follow suit, but sometimes I have to bend down and tell them how important their job is to play with the “GrandFriends”…they don’t always “get it.”

MY BALLOON...I don't want to throw it!

MY BALLOON…I don’t want to throw it!

Extra Tip 4: Don’t expect them to serve “perfectly.”

Between my children’s aim and the aim of the “GrandFriends” there is a lot of balloon chasing for the children to do.

The littler ones don’t always get that the balloon isn’t just for them to hold, so I can encourage the two year old to throw it. Sometimes that idea is met with resistance. I usually just let her do her thing and she will eventually copy big sister.

Peer pressure is a powerful ally in a larger family!

Handing them out is followed by picking them back up.

Handing them out is followed by picking them back up.

My children aren’t super old yet, so I don’t have TONS of experience. (And as a mom of five, the more I have the more I realize I’m completely clueless to how this whole mothering thing works.)

BUT, I notice all the training I have done to be helpful has finally paid off as they get a little older. Even in the last year, my six year old will do random acts of helpfulness. So, if you are a mom of a toddler, hang in there!

Tip 3: Expect Meltdowns

Meltdown-o-rama

Meltdown-o-rama

I knew this meltdown was coming.

I just have to breathe with her through it. Mind you, I still have a baby strapped to me. So, my angel-of-a-nine-year-old daughter took the baby so I could hold my two year old. Having that older one to help is such a blessing.

Ben started to fuss so I gave him a bottle

Ben started to fuss so I gave him a bottle.

Mrs. Maryanne is the volunteer coordinator who doesn't mind taking a break from her service to hold one of my babies

Mrs. Maryanne is the volunteer coordinator who doesn’t mind taking a break from her service to hold one of my babies

But eventually, Ben wanted his mama (or bottle). And Mrs. Maryanne took Lena and cuddled a little bit. I love it when other people get to love on my children.

d our way out of the maze!

Found our way out of the maze!

Time to go!

We say our good byes and have to navigate down the maze of hallways to the front lobby. If we are feeling especially spunky, we will stay and talk to “GrandFriends.”

No real reason for this shot, just thought it would look cool.

No real reason for this shot, just thought it would look cool.

When we do have time (and energy) to do this, I try to set the example of touching the hands and faces of these beautiful people. Sometimes the elderly have dark bruises and age spots that are scary for little ones (and for me if I’m being totally honest). But I want my children to see me touching them. My mom always says:

The Human Touch is So Important.

And I agree. Watch this amazing video here about how the elderly respond to touch.

Why are you crying?...come one, let's go home!

Why are you crying?…Come one, let’s go home!

Another meltdown before we left. I don’t know what was the deal, but I told her to come on. She started to cry. Then, she let go of her balloon. I told to it would pop if it found its way onto the grass. And it did. And POP!!! Here is the photo session of that lovely incident.

Why did you let it go? Hurry, go get it before it pops!

Why did you let it go? Hurry, go get it before it pops!

I told you not to let go of the balloon...now it's gonna pop

I told you not to let go of the balloon…now it’s gonna pop

Yep...It did pop and I'm still that mom that takes photos of her crying children instead of comforting them

Yep…It did pop and I’m still that mom that takes photos of her crying children instead of comforting them

All is forgiven...we have a new balloon

All is forgiven…we have a new balloon

Patience can’t take a back seat yet. As we load in the car, I still have to encourage my little helpers. They like to take turns starting my van. All this helping one day will (hopefully) make us work faster. But for now, I just have to be patient.

They take turns "helping mommy" start the car...*engine screech

They take turns “helping mommy” start the car…*engine screech

Apparently, we got some knitting done as well.

Apparently, we got some knitting done as well.

The drive home...the nine year old wanted to look at the photos...guess she is my little budding photojournalist as well

The drive home…the nine year old wanted to look at the photos…guess she is my little budding photojournalist as well

Tip 4: Keep it Short

Almost an hour exactly...not too bad. Can we not tarry one hour?

Almost an hour exactly…not too bad. Can we not tarry one hour?

This little trip took us less than an hour. Short and sweet. Neither my children, nor I are any worse for the wear. I always remember this book in our bookshelf when I was a kid. It was a devotional my mom had that said “Can You Not Tarry One Hour?” The phrase is based on the Bible verse where Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying and his disciples continued to fall asleep. He asked them, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour.”

I think my family can handle this one hour, once a month. I wish it was more, but I don’t think my real life can handle more at this juncture.

Tip 5: Smile, They Are Watching You!

See...I told you I wasn't wearing any makeup! Eeek!

See…I told you I wasn’t wearing any makeup! Eeek!

Lastly, remember to smile. Your children are watching you. If you dread going to serve and have a sour-puss attitude about it, they will notice and follow your lead. We all have our moments, but for the most part SMILE!

Terry Maxwell says she wishes she could have a mirror attached to her children’s foreheads so she could always see her reflection and change it if it was sour-looking.

Someone forgot to put their cereal in the sink...probably because it was too full...ah well.

Someone forgot to put their cereal in the sink…probably because it was too full…ah well. Choretime! But only after RewardTime!

Yep...dishes are still there.

Yep…dishes are still there.

Extra Tip 5: Don’t forget that children need rewards.

They just did a great job, even if they didn’t measure up to our expectations.

I want my children to know they are rewarded here and in heaven for their job well done.

Candy is the currency of childhood, so I pay them with that. But whatever works for your family. And don’t forget to reward yourself.

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:23)

It's always a good idea to reward the kids in the currency they understand..candy

It’s always a good idea to reward the kids in the currency they understand..candy

Still deciding (Jeopardy Theme Song)

Still deciding (Jeopardy Theme Song)

Ahh...finally we decided.

Ahh…finally we decided.

Don't worry I didn't forget myself - Mommy need sustenance too!

Don’t worry I didn’t forget myself – Mommy need sustenance too!

 

Too Many Kids? Too Many Chores? Too Little Time? Me, too.

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