Simple Hospitality // How to host a large family and not lose your mind

I am pleased to welcome Jenny from jennycupido.com as a special guest blogger in our Simple Hospitality series today. I am always inspired by Jenny's blog and her beautiful family and knew she would be the perfect person to share some wisdom on hosting larger families. She has posted more about hospitality on her blog so please do head over and check it out.

Hi there!  I'm Jenny and I'm going to be sharing about how to host for large families and feed them all and leave your house standing at the end of it all.  I am so grateful to Rachel for inviting me to share here on her wonderful blog.  I thought it would be a good idea to share a little bit about me before I dive in so you can get a picture of where I'm coming from.  

I have four children who are right now 6, 5, 3 and 2.  I live in a house in the country with my parents and for the past 3 years with my brother and his family of four.  So if you do the math that's…12 people, 6 adults and 6 kids in our house .  We spent the first year eating every dinner together and doing intense meal planning, kitchen duty scheduling and so on.  And being part of a local church we open our doors to as many people as we can, and have a lot of guests stay for weekends and even holidays. So it can be done!  But it does take some practice and a few practical tips to get started.  

So I wanted to share a few things that I've learned in hosting large families with children.  Having a group of adults is completely different to hosing families with babies and children.  Here's where to start: 

1. Share your home - make your home their home.  If you're precious about something then put it away behind closed doors before they come round.  If you see a toddler reaching for your heirloom crystal and it sends you into cardiac arrest as you jump up shouting NOOOOOOOOO - your reaction will only make your guests uncomfortable and nervous about being in your home (as well as worried about your mental state of being).  Whatever is out should be fair play. 

2. Close doors to create boundaries - Toddlers are naturally very curious and we've even lost toddlers in our home because they've walked into a bedroom and climbed right into bed completely unnoticed.  I keep all bedroom doors closed except the children's.   I will always find at least one child in a room doing something they're not supposed to.  I simply tell them this is not a play room and tell them to go play in another area and then shut the door behind them.  Don't be afraid to create boundaries in your own home.  

3. Be prepared to work - When you have one friend and their baby round for a nice cuppa and a chat you get to do exactly that.  But when you're outnumbered you'll find yourself ferrying between the lounge and kitchen with drinks and plates, showing kids the toilet, removing the tea and coffee as soon as it is consumed and periodically doing a house scan to see what any stray children are up to.  You probably won't get the chance to sit down and drink a hot cup of tea or have a good chat with all the guests, so just keep that in mind so you don't end up disappointed when they leave. 

4. Clean once they're gone - If you see biscuits crumbled into the floor, dribble on the couch and finger prints on your telly wait until your guests have left to get cleaning.  Just let them relax in whatever space they're in and just take care of it all once they're gone.  Again, cleaning while they're there makes them feel guilty that you're working and they're not.

5. Keep the food simple but tasty - it's always best to just keep things as simple as possible.  If you're feeding dinner to a crowd stick to one pot meals like shepherds pie or lasagne (ready made works well too!).  The more elaborate the food the less likely the kids will be interested and the more you'll be setting yourself up for a stressful evening.  

6.  Accept any help you can get - if a mum just can't help herself and wants to do the dishes, let her!  It makes them feel useful and is a great help to you.  If they offer to bring some food or drink when they come, say yes!  Don't make it any harder on yourself than it needs to be.  It's not a competition or a test, it's about enjoying your time together.   


Hyperemesis, Worry and Joy

For the last seven years I have loved recording and sharing our lives on this blog, but every so often something crops up that I cannot share publically and yet it is so all consuming that I cannot bring myself to continue posting as if nothing was going on. The last couple of months have been such a time and it’s only now that I can explain my silence.

The truth is…I’m pregnant again! We are so excited to be welcoming another little baby into our family next April, but not all has gone smoothly with the pregnancy so far and the last couple of months have been quite stressful.

Unfortunately at our dating scan it was found that the baby had a high level of fluid at the back of its neck and also a possible cyst which can be a symptom of chromosomal, developmental or heart problems. We were referred to specialists in Cardiff and had to wait a nail-biting week for more tests. I can’t really explain how we have felt over the last little while; we knew we would love our baby whatever happened but at the same time every parent longs for their child to be happy and healthy. Although a lot of tears were shed I can honestly say that I felt God’s presence and peace through it all too. 

We had more in-depth scans on Tuesday and were overjoyed that the fluid had reduced to a level that was considered safe. The fluid is still “prominent” so we will continue to have regular checks and scans in Cardiff, but for now the doctors have stopped mentioning scary sounding terms and tests.

For the last seven weeks or so I have also been suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is an extreme form of pregnancy sickness characterised by 24/7 nausea and vomiting, severe exhaustion and a sense of smell to rival any blood hound. I’m loathed to complain about any part of pregnancy as it’s such a blessing but I must admit this has been horrible. For the last three weeks or so I have barely been able to eat or drink anything and was admitted into hospital this week to spend a few days on an IV drip and sickness medication. 

I have returned home today feeling drained, but much better than I have for weeks and it is a joy to be able to eat something again. I’m just praying that from now on I am able to control the nausea and continue to tolerate food and drink.  

Josh has been absolutely amazing over the last few weeks and has juggled working full time and looking after me, Ivy and the house. We’ve also been so grateful to family and friends for their prayers, support and practical kindness at this difficult time. We’ve felt loved.

I really hope this is the beginning of the end of a difficult few months and that I can begin to enjoy this pregnancy soon!