4 Moms Q& A: estimating food quantities, whining, talking about sex

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A

Today is Q&A with the 4 Moms, and like last week we are all taking questions from the 4 Moms facebook page.  Here are the ones I chose to answer today.

From Elizabeth:

This may sound silly, but how do you know how much food to make to feed everyone?

I don’t think it’s a silly question at all!  Answering that question is both an art and a science.  It’s an art because it’s always changing and depends on how everyone feels at the moment.  It’s a science because if you get it wrong, you’re likely to end up wasting money.

I start by looking at the number of servings a recipe claims to make, but that’s only a starting point.  Then I ask myself how much we will enjoy what I’m making, how hungry people are likely to be today, and which would be worse: running short or making too much?  For us, that largely depends on how many leftovers I already have in the fridge.

For our family of 12, I usually aim for about 16 servings.  Some of us are small, but we’re hearty eaters on the whole.  The baby doesn’t eat solid food at all, but I eat extra for him.   Twelve servings would probably be enough for us, but we depend heavily on leftovers for lunches and snacks, so I’d much rather have too much than not enough – but not so much that it goes bad in the fridge waiting for its turn.

From Sarah:

Do any of you have kids that whine excessively? No matter what I do or try to take away or reason, my 6(almost 7)year old whines about EVERYTHING. Doing school, chores, eating, etc. he knows whining will not get him the results he wants. He seems to be fine with that as long as he can whine. We even instituted a zero tolerance no whine policy. If he whines for something it is automatically denied. If he whines about doing something we make him start again minus the whine. Is this just a phase?? Any ideas?? Help!!

Sarah, I think you’re on the right track with the Automatic No policy.  How long have you been responding that way, and have you been doing it consistently?  There is a learning curve, so maybe he’s still testing your resolve.

I would also make him memorize some verses about complaining and grumbling (because that’s what whining is), and have him recite them whenever he is guilty.  Here’s one to get you started:

Philippians 2:14-15

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

One last thing: The whiniest children I know all have mothers who speak to them in high pitched voices, as though they were whining themselves to the children.  Of course that’s not what the mother intends, but I can’t help think it encourages the child to use a similar high pitched voice, especially when unhappy, which certainly sounds like whining to the rest of us.  If the shoe fits, wear it.  Or rather, if you look down and see that you’re wearing the shoe, kick it off!

From Maryjo:

How do you talk about abstinence and preparing your children for that time when they marry?

Sex is a bit of an open topic in our home.  We’re anything but prudes, and when you listen to the news, breed animals, read the Bible as a family, or even study history in any sort of depth,  it’s nearly impossible to avoid the topic.  The younger ones don’t understand the details, but they have all witnessed animals breeding, and anyone old enough to add can put two and two together.

When it comes to talking of abstinence and fornication, I often refer to sex as “acting like you’re married” when I’m talking to very young ones.  They understand that this is a scandalous, sinful thing.  They know that Dad likes to kiss me (Not just any kiss: honeymoon kisses), and it would be grossly inappropriate for any other man to do so.  They know that adults do other things behind closed doors, and that the Bible says only married people should do those things.

Having married my childhood sweetheart and also being the parent of a married daughter, I can tell you that unmarried people don’t need all the details of this particular sport before they play the game.  It comes pretty naturally, and it’s a fun one to learn together.  🙂

 From Donna:

I have one daughter. I would love more kids, but my husband isn’t as enthusiastic. We have had 2 miscarriages one before and one after our daughter. Since my husband doesn’t really want more kids (and it gets harder to imagine starting over since my daughter is 6.5) fertility doctors etc is not going to happen. Have any of you had difficulty getting pregnant? Has your husband ever wanted to stop having kids before you were ready? And a questions that may be hard for you to answer, but i get comments about the fact that I have only one (kinda like your comments about too many) and I don’t want to explain all the above, but the comments are hurtful. Any great response. I usually say that she is all God blessed us with, but I still feel hurt in the end.

Donna, I’m just going to tackle your last question. You seem to recognize that you are in a similar boat to us moms of many, and I think that’s a great way to look at it.  We could easily be hurt by many of the questions and comments we receive, but what good would that do?  I know it isn’t always easy, but I would say you need to work on being less easily offended.  You give a great answer: She is all God blessed you with.  You could even add, “I would love to have more, but it didn’t happen for me.”  There’s no need to share all the details, but stopping at one was not your decision and I think it’s important to tell this to people who inquire.

Children simply are not valued in our society, and when people assume that a mother of one didn’t want more, they are right 99% of the time.  The fact that you wanted more is an important witness to those around you.  Try to welcome the questions and comments as a chance to give glory to God.  You don’t have a large entourage of children to proclaim what a blessing they are, so use your mouth to do it!

From Jenny:

What do you do for lodging on long trips? Are there other options besides two hotel rooms? We’re getting ready to take our family of 10 on a 1200 mile trip to see family. Last time we made this trip we had 7 in the family and were able to find select hotels with rooms that had 3 double beds and then we put the baby in the pack ‘n play. Now the only options I can find have a limit of 8 people at the most.

Jenny, we rarely do hotels on our own dime, but this has occasionally been a problem for us in the past.  We have no problem squeezing a couple of extra small people into adult accomodations (e.g. 3 or 4 little ones in a full size bed) but many hotels specifically forbid having more than 6 people checked into a room.  Back when we had 5 children 6yo and under, we were forced to rent two rooms, then let one stand empty because we didn’t want to split up at night in a hotel.  So frustrating!

For us, it comes down to a decision of ethics: what does the form say when you check in?  If it’s worded so that I can sign it in clear conscience, we make do with what we feel we need.  If the restrictions are clear and unambiguous, we follow the rules.

How would you answer the questions above?


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  1. As an adoptive Mom I get rude and annoying questions. We have a few pat answers for the persistent. I think my absolute favorite is my daughters response to “where are you from?” When the person won’t accept Texas and persists she responds with “I’ll tell you if you pay me 10$.” Said with humor. I think people forget they are asking about a hugely tender subject of secondary infertility. I might respond with “Do really want to know? Because this is a painful subject to me and I don’t talk about it in public.” Don’t be afraid of the awkward moment that follows. God can do great things with it. People have no idea the amount of grief these questions bring.

  2. On Hotels, don’t assume that because a website limits a room that it is a legal limit or a hotel limit, always call. On bigger rooms we found that Holiday Inn Express has suites that are really big and affordable. We stayed there on a recent trip and while we where only 6 no where did I see a limit listed. I did see lots of Highschool sports teams:D

  3. Shannon Mallory says:

    We have 6 children but we typical travel with my hubby’s parents. So that makes 10 and we have found it much easier to search on VRBO.com for a place to stay. This is for vacations anyway- a lot of places require a 2-3 night minimum stay. Anyway we have stayed in a cabin in Pigeon Forge, TN twice now for $100 a night. And we have 3 king beds, 2 pullout couches, a futon, two fold out COZY twin beds, a dining table that fits all of us, a full kitchen, hot tub, the works! So no eating out every meal, no sneaking, no squishing! We stayed in a condo in Orlando once for $125 night. That’s basically a hotel price, but with room to move and a place to cook!

  4. First of all, I would like to assure you that I do not have a high-pitched or whiny tone of voice. I would also like to say that we have been trying this method of zero-tolerance with pretty good consistency for close to about six months now. I have also had him memorize one of the Scriptures that you mentioned. I often have him recited when he is in one of his whining modes. I guess I just keep on keeping on. Thank you, ladies.

    • Sarah, it sounds like you’re doing everything right. I hope you can help him to overcome this soon, as I’m sure it’s frustrating for everyone!

      • I liked your “whiny voice” advice. I don’t whine, but I have a high-pitched voice, and it really does make a difference. I’ve decided to Captain Janeway my kids into not whining from now on. If you watch Star Trek: Voyager, you’ll notice the caption has a whiskey-and-cigarettes voice. That’s all well and good, but the weaker female actors inevitably start lowering their voice and imitating her after a few shows together. It’s hilarious! They just can’t help it! I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason they killed off Kess was because she couldn’t talk normally anymore and her throat was getting sore. 😉

  5. Heather Wawa says:


    Our family of 9 just got back from a 1800 mile, week-long road trip and we stayed in hotels the whole time.

    There was one shady looking motel that wouldn’t allow us all to be in one room (we passed on that one and stayed elsewhere) but we didn’t have issues anywhere else. My husband would go in to rent the room. Sometimes they’d ask “How many adults?” and not inquire about children or they’d ask for a child count and simply smile without question when my husband answered “a handful”.

    For sleeping arrangements, my husband and I got spots on a bed and then the kids would take turns each night sleeping on the other bed. For everyone else, we laid down large comforters on the floor and the kids slept in sleeping bags on those. No one complained and it seemed to work well.

  6. Good advice, as usual!! I do have one small (semantics) disagreement with the advice you gave to Donna: responding, “She is what God has blessed us with” is absolutely perfect and I agree with you there. I do NOT think it necessary or even that judicious to add how you wanted more…it makes it seem to the outside observer like there is something wrong with small families and it makes it seem to the outside observer that in a perfect world, everyone would have lots and lots of kids, which is patently and blatantly untrue. As the parent of three (and yes, of course we would have been happy with more but it was not to be) who associates mostly in circles where three children is at the absolute LOW end of ‘normal’, I constantly feel as though I have to justify myself and the way our family looks to those who think that ‘doing God’s will’ means everyone has 14 kiddos. Just my humble $.02.

    • Teresa, I understand your point, but I think that you might be missing an opportunity to witness. There are far more people who see a problem with large families than small ones, and leaving them with the impression that you took measures to prevent more than one child (or 3) doesn’t make them think about the novel idea that God opens and closes the womb, and some families welcome as many children as He chooses to send.
      I realize that not everyone will automatically wind up with a dozen children, and I agree that if God blesses a family with one child then they should be happy with exactly one child. I don’t want to give the impression that I think there is something wrong with small families. My objection is to the reasons and methods that so many people employ to purposely achieve that limit.

  7. I think if I were the mom getting the rude question about her “only” one, I’d turn it on the questioner with “What? You don’t like him?” Seriously rude. Every child is a complete blessing, all by himself. No siblings necessary to make things legitimate.

    I feel bad for those who have none who get questioned on that, too. We’d been “trying” (OK, not not-trying, anyway) for 4 years when my uncle asked me when I thought we’d have a baby. Just made me sad. I’ve never been one to worry about what others are thinking of me, but it was kind of a sore spot I’d rather not have discussed at that point. Who knows why God chooses His timing the way He does? I answered “Whenever God gives us one.” and then God gave us one, so that was nice.

    Now that I have five, though, and I blog about things generally that affect a lot of people specifically, I often find myself on the receiving end of a lot of unprovoked bitterness from women who assume I’m going to comment on their number of children before I ever open my mouth. I am not counting your children unless I’m trying to figure out how many pies to bring. Honest.

  8. To Donna – My husband and I have rarely been on the same page at the same time about having children – or more children. We only “planned” one of our 5 children. We are blessed to have every single one of them. God knows the desires of your heart. Take it to Him. God has given you and will give you exactly what he purposes for you. Rest in that. I know – easier said than done.

  9. Donna—I feel your pain, because I was raised as an only child. My mother taught me a great answer for when people ask me how many siblings I have. I told them, “I am an only child here on earth, but I have siblings in heaven.” Many people have been blessed by that response, which puts the attention on what God has already provided (even though they are not here in our arms).
    My mom—Renee Ellison, speaker at statewide homeschooling conventions—also wrote two ebooks on these topics that might be an encouragement to you. One is “Raising an Only Child for the Glory of God” and the other is “Miscarriage” (about how it is a “work done unto the Lord”). You can find both at by clicking my name above (that will take you to the website).
    May God fill you with His peace today and the knowledge that He sees the desire of your heart and treasures every tear (see Exodus 2:24-25).

  10. Kim, I was reading these questions and answers and thinking, “She really has a grace to answering questions. I’d answer the questions the same but never as gracefully.” What a gift!

    On the accommodation issue: we crossed the country twice with my husband and I, three girls (17-20yrs old), two boys (13-15yrs old), my mother, and two golden retrievers. My husband had to call ahead mainly because of the dogs. Not every place takes them. Two places turned out to be total dives and we didn’t stay but kept going to the next town. God provided. We needed two rooms with two queens in each room: boys, dogs, husband and I in one room. Don’t try to sneak extra people (we didn’t) or pets because God will not approve! You will get busted! Be careful of television in hotel rooms unsupervised!!!!! There are xxx-rated channels right next to Animal Planet for example.

  11. Our family has discovered the joy of state park cabins. We live in the Southeast and most every state park around here has cabins for rent. They usually run the same price as a mid-range hotel room, but you get a fully stocked house!

  12. Where we live, we’ve come across hotels that limit the capacity to 4 occupants, limiting our options for a family of 5.

  13. On the lodging, why not look for a condo or something on VRBO? Although our family is not large, we have used that service several times and it’s been very good for us. We like doing it because you get a kitchen, which saves us money, and the cost of the condos have been comparable to that of a hotel. Having not ever looked into it, I don’t know if there are maximums or not, but it might be another thing to look at.

  14. Stephanie says:

    On the hotel room question– although, we don’t have that large of a family, we found it best to look for smaller mom and pop type motels and call or email (not use the reservations sytem) to find the best deals. Also, if you look at campgrounds in the area, sometimes they have cabins that are inexpensive to stay in.

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