4 Moms Q&A: Do you know what causes all those kids?

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q& A

Hadley posted several questions on the 4 Moms 35 Kids facebook page, and I’m going to tackle them all at once.  Here goes!

What is your response to “Do you know what causes all those kids?” I had my first total stranger ask me that, and I only have 4 so far!

I’ve only had this question a few times, but I think it opens up all kinds of possibilities, most of which should embarrass the inquirer far more than their intended victim.

“Of course.  Don’t you?”

“Yes, we enjoy it!”

“No, do you?”

“Well, that’s why we got married.”

Perry likes to answer, “Yes, I keep telling her not to wash our underwear together but she keeps forgetting!”

Where do you keep all the toys? Even keeping them pretty well pared down (we only have “sets” like cars, blocks, trains, dolls, polly pocket, etc. and one small basket of “misc” with things like a doctor kit, binoculars, and other random things), but we can destroy a whole house!

We special in household destruction, but we’re getting better.  As the average age of our household occupants increases, we have less and less toys, and nobody complains or acts deprived.  Ours are currently sorted into sets and most are restricted to a single room.  That room is usually a mess, but it’s fast and easy to put it back in order since everything is still within a few feet of where it belongs.  A few special toys live in bedrooms, like dolls and other items that the owner doesn’t want to share with the general public.

If you still feel it’s too much, you might want to start rotating sets.  For example, have just one or two bins accessible at a time, with the rest out of sight and mind.  Switch them out every week or month to keep things interesting.  Or cut down on the number of pieces in each set.  Our boys have about 40 Hot Wheels cars, but can’t play with more than 2 or 3 at a time, so I suspect 25 could disappear and never be missed!

Those of you with all girls and just one boy, does the boy have his own room? At what age do you think they are too old to share rooms with the opposite sex?

Our boys have a separate room now, but in our previous house 6yo Perry shared with his sisters.  I think the answer depends on too many factors to list, but I’ll tell you some of the questions I would ask myself:

  1. Do any of the children feel awkward about it?
  2. Can they dress privately?  Ours used the bathroom, laundry room, or locked the bedroom door.
  3. Do any of the children have a history of inappropriate behavior or excessive curiosity?
  4. Has the boy reached puberty yet?

Ultimately it’s a judgment call, but if you have misgivings don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  A single boy in a house full of girls could sleep on a comfy sofa or futon in the living room, in a room too small to be a “real” bedroom, or in a tent on the back porch.  I’m just kidding about that last bit – unless your son loves the idea.  Then I’m totally serious.

How do you keep homeschool stuff from overtaking your house?

I keep very little paperwork from years past.  Some things are preserved digitally rather than in hard copy, and we make a fun ritual of allowing the kids to shred (and occasionally burn) finished workbooks, etc.

When it comes to curricula, I try to purge anything we’re not using or planning to use soon.  Anything that can be sold used online can also be bought used online: the main difference is money in my pocket and space on my shelves – plus the option to change course.  I do regret selling my old copy of Five In A Row volume 1, because it’s now a high-priced collector’s item.  Rats.

Do your kids have their own little spaces for doing their independent school work? My 3rd grader can’t deal with a lot of commotion while she’s doing work that requires concentration.

My kids don’t each have their own special place, but they do have some options when they need quiet.  I try to keep the main living areas serene during school time, so little ones and other loud people are either outside or in the sun room.  If someone is having a particularly hard time concentrating, they are sometimes allowed to listen to music with both earbuds (a special privilege in our house) as long as they make good progress while doing so.  They can also go work in their bedroom, though they might have to share it with another occupant who is also seeking solace.  I have also been known to allow kids to do school in my bedroom, and that is the standard place for reading lessons.

It’s worth mentioning that if the same person is consistently complaining about minor commotion and low-level disturbances, I remind her that she is a member of a large family and needs to learn to operate with some noise in the background.  This is a valuable real-world skill that those poor public schoolers miss out on.  🙂

Do you serve snacks? When and what?

We have tightened up our food policy considerably since we moved into our new house.  The goal is not to starve our children, but to keep food where it belongs (in the eating areas) and to have beginnings and endings to eating sessions so that the mess can actually be cleaned up in between times.  This is a lofty goal in a house of 12, but it’s working quite nicely.

I usually serve an afternoon snack to anyone who is hungry, which may or may not be everyone in the house.  Much depends on how hearty our lunch was.  The snack is usually the same for everyone, but this is not a hard fast rule.  Snacks may be any of the following:

  • leftovers
  • a piece of fruit
  • carrot sticks w/ranch dressing
  • peanut butter and jelly rollups (tortillas) or cheese quesadillas
  • banana bread w/pb or other healthy treats baked ahead of time
  • fresh baked bread that we intended to serve with dinner
  • animal crackers and peanut butter
  • a great idea that just occurred to someone on the spur of the moment (“Hey, let’s make a coffee cake out of the leftover oatmeal!”)
  • a craving that overpowered someone (“I NEEEEED brownies!”)
  • that last bit of dessert from last night, divided 10 ways

I mentioned that we’re not aiming to starve our children, and you’re probably wondering what we do about kids who are hungry between meals and snack time.  My answer is twofold:

  1. If you’re hungry already, you probably didn’t eat enough at the last meal.  Next time remember to ask for more!
  2. Drink some milk.  It has protein, fat and carbohydrates.  It’s food and drink at the same time!  Don’t want milk?  You’re probably not as hungry as you think you are.  (This works in our house because everyone likes milk. YMMV)


How would you answer the questions above?

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  1. Cracking up at the “do you know what causes that” answers!

    In our house, if you’re hungry between meals you’re welcome to eat something God made, ie a vegetable or a fruit. Milk works too! Other food is for mealtimes.

  2. In my experience, the very best response to question one (which I have never been asked specifically, since I don’t have any children yet–but I’ve certainly been asked my share of inappropriate questions by strangers…it seems that etiquette is a lost art… ) is “that is not an appropriate question,” as calmly and politely as you can muster. It totally stops people in their tracks, and they usually realize, “oh, yeah, it’s not…” even if they’re a little ticked at you for pointing it out.

  3. Love all the responses to the first question. I will store them away for later. Hopefully we will need them some day. For now our average family of 3 kids go’s unnoticed.

    Erik: really love that list. That I will steal right now. My kids often ask for food between meals and it gets old trying to figure out what they can have. A list on the frig will narrow it down and make it much easier later when there are lots more kids asking that question.

  4. I love Perry’s rejoinder! Now I have a child with audio processing issues. Just telling her she needs to deal and it’s a life skill was not at all effective. What was effective was a set of molded ear plugs from the ENT. Yes they cost 55$ but they blocked out distraction and helped her to be far less anxious. Reducing her anxiety and reducing the sound burden made a huge difference in her abilities. After 2 years she set them down never to pick them up again. Once her brain and ears matured enough she no longer needed them.

  5. Sheila Mom to Seven says:

    “Don’t you know what causes that?” I simply reply, “Obviously.” 🙂

  6. One of our friends always says: “well, everybody’s gotta be good at something” when they get those comments. ha.

  7. We have 8 kids and have gotten the “you know what causes that” question many times.

    My husband’s favorite response at work (he and I are both engineers) is something on the lines of “It has been shown that you don’t really understand a phenomenon until you have tested it repeatedly. So yes, we understand what causes it.” That works for the engineering/scientific people who ask us that question :-).

  8. THANK YOU so much for answering my questions! I appreciate you taking the time – lots of good stuff here!

  9. After getting tired of being asked for snacks, we finally made a list and put it on the fridge. Well, four lists actually:

    Things you can have whenever you want: water, veggies, certain fruits, etc.
    Things you can have one per day: a serving of yogurt, a serving of animal crackers, etc.
    Things you can make yourself for a do-it-yourself meal time: bp sandwich, bowl of cereal, etc.
    Don’t even ask, wait until offered: cookies, ice cream, etc.

    Oh, and, “we stopped keeping our toothbrushes in the same cup, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference”.

  10. I love getting the “don’t you know what causes that?” question! I’ve made many people turn quite red by answering with very similar responses to yours (and saying “Yes, we enjoy it” catches most people off guard, so it it’s usually my go-to response)! Maybe it’s cruel of me to enjoy embarrassing people though? 🙂

Don't just think it: say it!

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