At 4 a.m., the alarm sounds. It's the beginning of another busy day in the Roberts household.
Mom and Dad get up and shower, and by 5 a.m. it's time to start waking the kids.
With five children ranging from 14 months to 15 years old, Christina and Barry Roberts of Beaufort have little time to spare in the mornings. He has to be out the door by 5:30. Between then and 7:15, Christina must make sure all five kids are dressed, fed and headed to the car.
And that's no easy feat.
To get the job done, Christina has no choice but to run a tight ship. She said the best advice she ever received was from her mother after their first child, Olivia Anne, was born.
"Being a first-time mom, I listened to the doctors," Christina said. "And they said, 'Babies don't know when they're hungry, so you have to wake them up every two hours to feed them.' And so I did exactly what the doctors said."
Two weeks after the baby was born, Christina said she called her mom, desperate for help. She was going crazy from the lack of sleep.
Her mom quickly set her straight. She told Christina she should put her child on a schedule, not let her child put her on a schedule.
"And she was right," Christina said. "It rings true. My kids can come downstairs in the morning and know exactly what they're supposed to do and when they're supposed to do it."
Because the girls -- Olivia Anne, 15, and Dakota, 7 -- take a little extra time to get ready in the morning, they have to get up by 5 a.m. They are expected to be downstairs and ready for breakfast by 5:30.
The boys wake up at that point and begin getting themselves ready for the day.
The three oldest children -- ages 15, 10 and 7 -- are responsible for getting dressed, feeding themselves, brushing their teeth, cleaning up their breakfast dishes and gathering their school supplies. Olivia Anne has the added responsibility of helping out with the little ones, Jackson, 3, and Christopher, 14 months, when needed.
"We have a strict schedule in the morning because we have to," Christina said.
On most days, Christina and all five kids are in the car at 7:15, headed to their first stop -- Beaufort High School. Then it's off to Mossy Oaks Elementary School. And by 8:30 a.m., Christina and the little guys are at Beaufort Memorial Hospital for either physical therapy or speech therapy.
After therapy they're either grocery shopping, heading home or going to a playgroup. Then it's home for lunch and a nap.
But there's no rest for the weary. While the boys nap, Christina said she cleans the house, works on laundry and gets dinner started. By 2:30 p.m., it's back to the schools for pickup and an afternoon full of extracurricular activities. And there is a long list of activities. There's Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, dance classes and cheer practice. Christina uses hanging calendars and white boards to keep up with it all.
"I have very good kids that run their own schedule," Christina said. "And I think that's because we have put them on a schedule."
After all the activities are done, it's time for homework, dinner and baths. And finally bedtime.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
With a father in the Marine Corps and a mother in the U.S. Navy, Christina said there was always order in her home as a child.
"Everything always had a place, was always in order," she said.
That upbringing, and the fact that she is married to a Marine, might be why Christina is able to keep her house -- and her family -- so organized.
One thing she said she's really big on is using clear, plastic bins to organize. The toys in the playroom are kept in bins on shelves, with labels for the various categories of toys -- cars in one box, animals in another. She even has separate boxes for light-haired Barbies and dark-haired ones. Each bin has two labels, one for the front and one for the top. They are labeled with words and pictures.
She said the labels are not only good for keeping things in their places, but they also help the children with their spelling and picture/word association.
"And it's easy when the kids have their friends over because they can't say, 'Well, I don't know where this goes,'<2009>" Christina said. "Well, find the picture, put it with the picture and put it in the box."
In order to keep the playroom organized, the kids are responsible for putting away their toys when they are finished playing with them. They can only take out one bin at a time.
She suggests parents make cleanup time a game.
"Whoever can pick up the fastest can order the slushies," she said.
Christina's organization doesn't stop with the toys. Dealing with the laundry of seven family members requires a system of its own.
To combat the never-ending task, Christina washes certain people's laundry on certain days of the week. Mondays are for Christopher, Tuesdays for Jackson and Wednesdays for Dakota.
The two oldest children do their own laundry on Saturdays, and the adults do theirs on Sundays.
The kids each have their own laundry hampers in their rooms. The rule is when the hamper is full, it goes downstairs to be washed.
The children sort their whitescolors into tubs before washing them.
After the laundry is washed and dried, Christina folds it. But instead of loading it all into baskets, she puts the laundry in reusable totes and lines them up in the hallway. Each family member has his or her own tote, and each, with the exception of the baby, is responsible for carrying that tote upstairs and putting away its contents.
As for hanging clothes, Christina puts them on a rack downstairs in order of age. Each child has their own color hanger that matches their rooms.
After the children take their totes upstairs and put away their folded clothes, they take their hanging clothes up to their closets.
It doesn't stop there.
"Their drawers are so organized that a blind person could put their clothes away," Christina said. "They're organized by color and by item."
One stack of red shirts, one stack of pink. They're also organized by how you wear the clothes on your body -- shirts go in the top drawer, pants on the bottom.
"I know sometimes they hate the timetable, and they hate the fact that their clothes are color-coordinated, and they hate that there's labels everywhere," Christina said. "But I'm hoping down the road this will help them be more organized when they leave this house."