4 Moms Q&A: On the 1st anniversary of our move to the big city

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&AThis isn’t really a 4 Moms topic, but it’s a Q&A: I have had several people ask how we feel about living in the city after so many years in the country, so here are my thoughts on the change.

When we left our Ohio small-town 10 years ago, we were excited to finally move to the country.  We had said for many years that when our children got older we would do this, and now it was happening.  We moved to a rocky hillside 50 miles from San Antonio, 22 miles from WalMart, and 8 miles from the nearest gas station.  We were half a mile from a paved road, but we could see three counties, ten deer and a roadrunner from our front deck almost any time we stepped outside.  It was a good trade-off.

But after nine years, the 52 mile commute was wearing us down.  Perry lost nearly 3 hours of his day just driving to and from work.  Since town was so far away, he often ran errands for me after work.  As a result, it was normal for him to be gone 12 hours or more every day.  Sometimes the little ones didn’t see him at all before they went to bed.

It was hard on family life, and all the gas were burning was hard on the budget as well.

So we moved.  At first I didn’t want to.  Weren’t we going the wrong direction?  Aren’t we all supposed to be doing our best to get out of the city?  But this was important to Perry, and even though I cringed at the thought, I knew he was right.  I resolved to be happy where God put our family, even if that was – ugh! – in the 7th largest city in the US.

And much to my surprise, I was quickly as excited about the prospect as Perry was.  Househunting was more fun than I ever dreamed, and living in our new neighborhood is even better.

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I had envisioned living in a crackerbox neighborhood where every house looked the same, with neighbors 4 feet to either side of us.  I had imagined that our neighbors would be nosy, suspicious and intolerant of us and our failure to blend with society at large, with our 11 children, our homeschooling, our 15 passenger van.  I thought they would dislike us for our own noise and our dog’s noise and our friends’ noise.  I thought they would give us dirty looks when they saw our dented, scratched, older vehicles.  I thought they would call the police every time our dog slipped out the front door, and CPS every time one of my children cried or skinned a knee.

Instead, we landed in the perfect neighborhood.  We are surrounded by quiet families and friendly retirees.  They say we are quiet.  We think they might need to check the batteries in their hearing aids, but we are glad we’re not disturbing them.

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They bring us tomatoes from their garden, and eggs from their backyard hens.  They understand when our dog gets loose, and they thank us for catching their dogs when the same happens to them.  Houses here are nice, but many of the vehicles are modest.  The houses are far enough apart that I don’t feel claustrophobic, and yards are imperfect enough to make us feel comfortable.

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We are less than 7 miles from everything: WalMart, Costco, the airport, downtown, church, work, 3 Goodwills, Deanna & Tyler, and many of our friends.  We are less than 5 minutes from a library, a gym, too many restaurants for our own good, and one fantastic little coffee shop that roasts its own beans.

We are within walking distance of a super grocery store, our bank, our dentist, a big park, a McDonald’s with a huge indoor playland.

I am close enough to jump on a good Craigslist deal.

I like to say that we live in “the wood between the worlds.”  If you’ve read The Magician’s Nephew (from the Chronicles of Narnia), you know what I mean.  We can be anywhere in just a few moments.

I’m almost ashamed to admit it to my country dwelling friends, but I love city living.

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And guess what? We even have a nice view, if the older girls let us out on their second-storey deck.

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Want to read about our househunting process, which culminated in our move exactly a year ago today?
Star the 6 part series here: Househunting

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4 Moms: Why we don’t always wear skirts

4moms35kids 4 Moms on clothes and silliness

 

Lately I’ve had more than one reader ask why we started wearing pants and shorts.

The short answer is, we always did.  You just see it more now.

Our policy was generally stated, “We wear mostly skirts, most of the time.”  We nearly always wore skirts when we left the house for two reasons:

  1. We wanted to make a cultural statement: Men’s fashions and women’s fashions should look distinctly different.  Until just a couple of decades ago, this meant that men and boys wore pants, while women and girls wore skirts/dresses.  We chose to show our objection to our culture’s tendency to blur gender lines by adopting fashions that were indisputably gender specific.
  2. We wanted to dress modestly, and in our opinion, skirts/dresses make that easier.  Yes, of course they can be immodest.  But it’s relatively easy to find a modest skirt or dress.  It takes a lot of work to find modest shorts or pants.

So what changed?  Everything, and nothing.

Our convictions softened.  The question as to whether pants can be feminine attire was answered long ago, and we decided to stop fighting a battle that had already been lost.  Yes, pants can be distinctly feminine.  Skinny pants on men are proof that.  Skirts can even be masculine.  Exhibit A: the kilt.

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But as a wise 3yo old once told me, it’s only boy clothes in Scotland.  When they wear them here, it looks like a skirt.

I still have a very hard time finding a pair of pants that doesn’t show the entire shape of one’s bottom – which isn’t very modest – or fall down – which wouldn’t be very modest either.  If you wear pants, I would love to hear your input on finding and choosing a modest cut and style.  I have two pairs right now.  I like one because they’re fairly modest, although I don’t like way they make me look.  I like the other pair because I do like the way they make me look, but I’m not convinced they’re modest.  I feel like Paul lamenting how his spirit wars against his flesh.

Our children grew up.  Of course we still lay down some ground rules and exert influence over what our children wear, but the older and wiser they get, the more freedom they enjoy.  They are choosing to wear less skirts now, but as long as they are dressing in a way that glorifies God, we’re ok with that.

Our circumstances changed.  We used to wear pants and shorts regularly around the house, but never to town.  That was for a variety of reasons, some of which changed with our move to town.  One example: when we lived 50 miles away, a trip to town took the entire day and nearly always included a visit to Vision Forum, where we wear skirts out of respect for the convictions of others.  Now, a 15 minute trip to the grocery store doesn’t necessarily warrant a change of wardrobe.

Our habits changed.  I started exercising recently, and since I can do it in my air-conditioned home now, I don’t have to change clothes afterward, especially if I intend to exercise more later.  I also prefer not to take walks or ride a bicycle in a skirt.  And – surprise!  When I don’t wear a skirt every day, my girls are less likely to wear skirts as well.

I have to confess I have moved farther away from daily skirts than I like, and I want to go back to wearing them regularly, even if I don’t wear them every day.  It’s a balance I am still trying to find.

Do you wear skirts, pants, or a combination?


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4 Moms on clothes and silliness

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A
Laura wants to know,

Any methods for how much clothing you allow per child? Does it vary by gender/age?  [I have] 4 kids, one boy that is five, three girls, ages 3, 19 months, and 4 months.

Laura,

I wish I was that organized, because it would sure simplify our lives!  Much depends on how well you do at keeping up with laundry.  If you are right on top of things, you can make do with very few outfits.  The bedroom floor will be clean, the laundry room will be room, and your budget will be happy – until the washer breaks and laundry reaches Red Alert levels in 48 hours because that’s all the clothes your kids have.  Sometimes it’s nice to have two week’s worth of clothes in everyone’s closets – but not on the laundry room floor.  That’s not nice at all.

I do know that boys need more clothes than girls because apparently they consume them.  Socks, underwear, and whole outfits mysteriously disappear – or just turn up with big holes, like somebody got hungry and took a bite out of them.  For your 5yo boy, just plan on buying new socks and pants every 6 weeks.

Oh, and be suspicious if you never see his underwear in the laundry.  I’ve explained how things work in civilized nations, but he just doesn’t believe me.  An underwear quote from my own boy: “Mom, should I just these back in the drawer since I only wore them two days?”  Another quote: “Parker!  Don’t put those in the laundry!  You just put them on yesterday!”

In our house, younger ones need more clothes than older ones because they stain them more often.  There is a solution: If we were better with bibs, we’d be better with clothes too.

In my experience, very little ones don’t need many clothes at all.  If your diapers are doing their job, there shouldn’t be many stains from one end, and breastfeeding babies don’t generate a lot of stains from the other end.  Besides, my summer babies just live in onesies at home, and winter babies live in pj’s.  Like little rednecks, they only get fully dressed when they go to church.

From Amy:

How much silliness do you allow from a kindergartner at school time? Things like intentionally answering incorrectly to be funny? I’m not sure if it is her that needs to be more disciplined or me needing to be more patient… Or some of both.

Amy,

I think this is largely a matter of personal opinion and toleration.  How much silliness are you willing to tolerate?  When does it become disruptive and counterproductive?  Does your daughter understand that there is a time and a place for silliness, or does this silliness feed into other areas?

We do a lot of laughing in our house, but when I feel that silliness is turning into foolishness or idleness, that’s when I put an end to it.  If we can laugh while we learn, why not?  But if we’re just wasting our time on nonsense, it’s time to redirect.  If our children start acting silly during church, it may be time to set firmer boundaries.  But if it’s working, then you and your little girl are making good memories together while she learns.

 Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?


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4 Moms on drama, space, and Bible translations

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&AKristine asked,

What to do about a 3 yo child who wails and screams with minor injuries (like falling down onto his hands while running…no blood or scrapes)? Everything sounds like an emergency.  At this point, I respond to everything calmly and briefly, almost dismissively, but I do need to find a way to curb his response. I want to be able to tell when I really should be running to help him. Anyone have any previous posts, experience, or wisdom to contribute? Thank you!

Kristine,

I respond much like you describe, with one addition: if the injury is minor, I admonish him not to overreact.  For a 3yo, I might say,

“No, this isn’t a reason to cry.  Hush.  I see a tiny spot of blood color but there’s no blood coming out.  You’re ok.  Go play.”

Once he gets a little older, I would use a firmer voice and be more blunt about it:

“You need to control yourself.  This does not hurt badly enough for you to cry.”

I might even add,

“You’re acting like you are very badly hurt, but that’s not true.  That’s like lying.”

If I can tell that it’s not serious, I also make a point of correcting the behavior before I closely inspect the injury.  “No, first stop crying so you can tell me what happened.  I’m sorry; I can’t understand you when you’re crying.”

Terresa asked,

Perhaps you ladies have addressed this before… We are a family of almost 8 living in a 1200 sq ft, 3 bedroom home… one for Mom & Dad, one for girls, and one for boys. We have no playroom for toy storage… HOW do we store toys/games in way that easy to keep organized and is difficult for kids to pull out and dump ALL over the bedroom??? We’ve already culled the toys several times and we are careful about what does come into the home…

We were a family of 9 in a house exactly that size…then 10…then 11…then 12.  With so many people in the bedrooms, we thought it best to keep toys of there.  Instead, we opted to keep our small collection of toys in a corner of the living area.  We sometimes rotated toys, putting whole groups of toys into storage for a while, then swapping them out to make everything new and exciting.

Games were kept in a cabinet, off limits to anyone too little to clean up his own mess.

It was not a perfect system, but I think it worked well as long as we worked on it.  The instant we stopped paying attention, it was a huge mess.  The nice thing about small houses is that while they can be utterly trashed in the blink of an eye, they are also quick to clean up. :)

Gencie asked,

What Bible translation do you use: For personal reading, for study, for reading to the kids?

Our church uses the ESV so we sometimes use that, especially when we’re doing church related reading or study.

 I’m also really fond of reading the Psalms and other poetic passages in the old King James.

But for most uses, we prefer the NKJ because it reads so much better.  It retains much of the poetic rhythm of the old King James version, but is just a little easier to understand. I especially like it for reading aloud because it sounds so much better than more modern translations.  I think the formal language helps to remind us that we are reading holy words, while the slightly updated wording makes it easy enough for most people to comprehend.

Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?

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4 Moms on noise

4moms35kids

The question that sparked this week’s topic:

While I am accustomed to the noise that my children produce (which I don’t
consider excessive), my family often makes comments about it and
seems annoyed by them after a short period of time. How do you deal with
your children’s noise, especially when company is over?

When it comes to noise levels, I am trapped between two worlds.  I come from a very soft-spoken family.  If we have something to say, we wait our turn and say it softly.  If we have nothing to say, we enjoy each other’s company in complete silence.  Yes, it makes for awkward phone calls but it’s relaxing, friendly and peaceful in real life.

I married a man who is descended from a long line of preachers on one side, and talkers on the other.  My husband is a well-balanced individual, but his siblings got his mom’s chatty gene and his dad’s lungs.  It’s fun and crazy and I love them all dearly, but I would NEVER use the word peaceful when his family is on the premises.

My kids?  Like curly hair, dark skin and detached ear lobes, NOISY is a dominant gene.  They have their quiet moments, but most of my children really enjoy a little chaos and some excessive decibel levels in their daily lives in a way that my sibs and I didn’t, even as children.  Coghlans bring life wherever they go, and it turns out life is loud.

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Like the questioner above, I suspect my own side of the family doesn’t always love us for our lungs.  What could I do about it?  What should I do about it?

I tried for many years to keep a tight rein on the noise level in our house, but ultimately I realized that I was not just fighting the gene pool.  I was pushing against my husband’s personality and heritage.  He does not enjoy chaos, but he instigated much of the noise I was trying to control.  I was creating two distinct sets of behavior for our children when it came to noise: Dad is Home VS. Dad is Gone.  This is doable, but harder on everyone involved and was frustrating me since I felt constantly undermined.

Finally, I let go.  I decided to let my husband lead the noise level in our home.  Surprisingly, I quickly found out that he was not oblivious to the noise level.  His tolerance we only a little higher than mine.  When I let him set the standard, it really wasn’t too far outside my comfort zone.  A little, but not bad.  I adapted.  Now we were on the same page.

Now what about the family and friends who shared my own sensibilities?

Because of my struggle and our children’s divided heritage, they are aware that some people are less tolerant of high noise levels.  We have tried to teach them not to just shut up, but to evaluate and adapt to the situation.  This is partly a matter of courtesy.  It is also a skill that seems to increase with maturity, one that comes more easily to some than to others.  I know that we are sometimes very loud, but we try to limit it to times when we are around other loud people.  Whether we are in our home or not, if I suspect the noise level is bothering anyone else besides myself, I am quick to correct and our children are generally responsive – because we have trained them this way and also because in spite of how they sound, they do actually have that recessive QUIET gene hidden somewhere in their DNA.

It’s a simplistic answer, and I know that it’s more easily said than done, but that’s often the truth in life.  I know how I want to handle the situation, and so I do my best at it, knowing that my best won’t always be a great job.  Sometimes our noise level will annoy or offend.  Sometimes it will be because our noise is excessive, and sometimes it will be because somebody else has unreasonable expectations or a migraine.  Either way, we do our best to love our children and the quieter people around us at the same time, while trying to make it easy for them to love us.

How would you answer this question?  See what questions the other moms have to say about noise levels today:

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4 Moms on irrational fears, bedrooms, and getting projects done with little ones around

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A
 From Missy: How do you deal with irrational fears? – my 5 year old is extremely afraid of mummies. It kinda goes with the dark…He thinks they are going to get him if a room is dark. he saw one on an episode of duck tales and its now been several months of this fear and we don’t know how to over come it.

 I feel sure we 4 Moms tackled this question in the past, but I’m having trouble finding the post.  If anyone else stumbles across it and can provide a link, I’ll give you a virtual hug.

In the meantime, I’ll have to search my physical brain since searching my blog brain failed, because I know that we have dealt with this problem many times over the years.  Like, now.

Whether my kids are afraid of the dark, the possibility that a troll might emerge from the closet, a scary scene from a movie, or a bug with no piercing/biting/stinging parts, they all get pretty much the same talking points from me.  It goes like this:

I know you’re scared, but you know that this isn’t a good thing to be scared of, right?  Is it real?  Can it really hurt you?  (Did God make trolls that can hide in your closet?)  We all have foolish fears sometimes, and even though it’s hard we need to make sure we don’t let those fears rule us.  I’m scared of _____ and they make me want to scream and run, but I know they can’t really hurt me so I work very hard to control myself.  This is good practice for us to learn to control our fear, so that when we face something truly dangerous our fear won’t overpower us.

Of course that’s just the beginning of the conversation, and it may sound a little different depending on the child’s age and the circumstances, but you get the gist of it.

From Hadley: Some of you (I know Smockity) have all girls and one boy. What age does he get his own room?

 We have more than one boy now and we have a separate boys’ room for them, so this no longer applies.  However, until recently we lived in a far smaller home where it simply wasn’t practical to give the boy his own room, and we didn’t feel that it was a problem.

Part of the reason is because the girls were able to dress in private, either by asking others (or just the boy) to leave, or by dressing in the bathroom, laundry room, or any other private area they could find.

Another reason is because we discourage our kids from using bedrooms for much more than sleeping.  They are not private retreats in which to hide.  Rather, they are bed rooms: sleeping areas, which may also hold clothes and private possessions.

Having said all this, I would have very much wanted our boys to be segregated by the time they reached puberty…or when natural curiosity became a problem.  I’m not sure how or when that would have happened, but we kept an eye out for indications that it was time for change.

another from Hadley: How much time do your kids actually spend in their rooms? Ours spend very little, but it’s aggravating when they need something from their room when their young roommate is sleeping (shoes, coat, purse, etc.).

As I mentioned above, we try generally try to limit bedroom use to sleeping and changing clothes.  This is not a hard fast rule, but more of a pattern we have worked to establish.  We want to spend our waking time living with each other.  Like, in the living areas.  We try to keep the living areas orderly and restful, limiting chaos to outdoors and the sunroom, so that we don’t get tired of each other during the course of the day.  :)

When it comes to the kids needing something from their room when someone is sleeping, we don’t generally have a problem sneaking in and out without waking the sleeper – unless the sleeper was already half awake.  Then I either tell him/her to go back to sleep (or just stay in bed a little longer) because it’s not time to get up, or let them get up.  I know it’s nicer when they sleep longer, but it’s really not a big deal either way.

From Denise: I have a 2.5 year old & a nursing 8 month old….How do you get kitchen things done? I need to can tomatoes & put up corn for the freezer etc but these big projects scare me with tiny people in the house who need attention & to eat (& I know there’s only 2 but still!)

Denise, you might not like this answer but when I had projects that simply couldn’t be done with little ones underfoot, I did them late into the night.  We had early bedtimes back then for the little ones, so some of my most productive hours were between 8 PM and midnight.

Yes, I lost some sleep that I probably needed desperately.  But since they were all little, I was able to nap when they did or go to bed early the next night.  And I was able to do a 4 hour job in 4 quiet, peaceful hours instead of 9 hectic and frustrating hours.

 

Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?

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4 Moms on life with littles

4moms35kids I hope you’ll excuse my absence last Thursday.  I was with my sweetheart, celebrating our 21st anniversary.  He was able to take the day off, so we enjoyed a leisurely, low-key day together.  Among other things, we visited the church where we said “I do” half a lifetime ago.

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We ate a light lunch at Pei Wei (my favorite source for fresh, inexpensive Asian food!), then spent hours at the McNay Art Museum, where we visited and shared a picnic lunch during our honeymoon.

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Before heading home, we had some of the best pizza in town, from Florios.  The people behind the counter spoke with Brooklyn/Italian accents, which made the pizza taste even better.

anniversary art

But I’m back for this week’s edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids.  This time we are talking about those long-ago days when we had only little ones – not quite as long ago as our honeymoon, but closer to that time period than this one. This is a question that comes up time and again, because those can be difficult times.  Not surprisingly, I’ve posted about those days before.  Here are two of my favorite posts:

If you’re asking the question, you probably already know that those are tired times.  I’m struggling now to get enough sleep for a variety of reasons, but back then I just resigned myself to operating on a sleep deficit.  It sounds discouraging when I say it that way, but you know what?  I don’t remember it being so bad.  I was young and energetic, and my body was able to adjust.  I whine much more about sleep now than I did back then.  I napped when the little ones did if at all possible, and muddled through the days that I couldn’t, but we all made it.  We now have healthy, happy well-adjusted teens – plus some children who still infringe upon my Constitutional right to sleep.

Those days with all little ones are also busy days.  I remember struggling just to keep up on cooking, dishes, and laundry.  Never mind about dusting, mopping, daily baths, and three hot meals made from scratch every day.  I pared down my daily duties to the bare essentials, and tried not to stress when I just couldn’t get everything done.

We focused on teaching first time obedience, especially before a new baby arrived.  It was so much easier for me to sit and nurse a newborn if I didn’t have to get up every few minutes to deal with an unruly toddler who didn’t believe me when I gave a verbal command.

I often used nursing time to read stories aloud to the other little ones, feeding their minds while entertaining them and keeping them out of trouble.

I enlisted their “help” as often as I could.  Even though they slowed me down, it was good to know they weren’t off discovering new methods of chaos and destruction.  And of course we were making memories together!

It was a fun, crazy, sleepless time, with some days (and nights) stretching into infinity while others slipped by entirely unnoticed, leaving me staring at the calendar dazed and confused.  I’m thankful to be past that season of life now, but oddly enough that description fits this season of life just as well.  Maybe that’s just life?

How would you answer this question?  See what the other moms are saying today:

About 4 Moms, including a list of past topics

4 Moms on Fairness, Cheerful obedience, Exercise for Mom, Toddler arguments, Low milk supply…

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A
1. From Shannon:

I’m wondering about hotels with large families. What do you do since their room policy is 4/5max?

Shannon, that limit was a huge frustration to use back when we had all little ones.  I remember at least once leaving an entire room empty, because Perry and I didn’t want to split up and we didn’t want to leave any of our young children alone in a hotel room for the night.  Ugh!

To begin with, we very rarely use (or used) hotels on our own dime.  But occasionally it has become necessary, so we do the best we can.  First, we look for hotels with a limit of 6/room instead of 4 or 5, so that we can fit in 2 rooms now.  Depending on the circumstances, we sometimes follow a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.  If the limit isn’t clearly posted and nobody asks, we don’t volunteer the info that we had ___ little ones.  If you do ask, you might be surprised to find that they sometimes aren’t concerned about an extra couple of young ones.

Of course we don’t try to cram all 12 of our family into a single room now, but 2 might be enough – and if we’re not scarfing down an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the hotel’s expense or requesting 11 more bottles of shampoo and conditioner, then we don’t feel bad about it.  When there is food or other consumables involved, I think we need to stick to the limits.

This is largely a matter of conscience and many people will have strong beliefs about it, so whatever you decide to do, be clear in your conscience.

2. From Mae:

I was reading about another mother who trains her children to obey joyfully. I train mine to obey immediately, thoroughly, and without actually grumbling/complaining, but how to get to the cheerfully/joyfully? And is that realistic?

Mae, I think it is very realistic, although I haven’t been faithful to train my children that way.  My sister-in-law deals with a bad attitude by disciplining, then reenacting the scene.  Not only does this give the child a do-over, it often provides a good laugh and ends the incident on a happy note.  Your question reminds me that I need to do the same with

3. From Jenna:

How do we teach our Children that life isn’t always about being fair? I would like to see them grow to be more selfless, and less selfish!

Jenna, we have a saying in our family: If life were fair, we would all go to hell.  Aren’t you glad life isn’t fair?

The first way is to model selflessness.  I’m sure you are doing that already, and I’m saying it mainly to encourage you.  I also think that for children, it is important to do it in a way that instructs them but doesn’t make you sound prideful or like a martyr.  This can be a difficult balance to strike.  If they are oblivious to your service, they will learn to take you (and others) for granted, rather than learning to serve as you do.

It is also important to fill their heads and hearts with Christ.  Remind them of His selfless service at every opportunity: both when praising a child for being selfless, and also when correcting selfishness.  We are commanded to be like Him, so we need to keep the example in front of us.

Be sure to remind them that acts of kindness are not just for the benefit of others, but are our service to God.  We please HIM when we love others above ourselves.  HE loves us far more than we deserve, and we show HIM how thankful we are when we give others more than we think they deserve. sucker

One more thing – many times, children are willing but just don’t know how to start.  Gentle suggestions can go a long way.  Give children specific ideas of how to be kind and selfless, rather than waiting for selfishness to rear its ugly head.  The more you can get them to think about it, the faster they learn.

Jenna, if this answer wasn’t quite what you were asking about, you might like these posts better: Life Isn’t Fair or 7 Kids, 1 Sucker. Now What?

4. From Amy:

Do you still not use shampoo and how is it going?

Amy, I’m a quitter.

Our water was so hard that we eventually quit fighting it and went back to more traditional hair care.  However, my scalp is far healthier because of that experiment!  I used to shampoo a minimum of every 24 hours just to try to keep the oil under control.  I knew frequent shampooing was making it worse but didn’t know how to get off the hamster wheel.  I also had a lot of dandruff if I tried to go more than a day.  Yuck!

Now I can shampoo every 3-5 days and my hair looks and feels clean in between.  I’m sure it’s much healthier, too.  Our 15yo Megan also spent a lot of time experimenting and learned that the best way to care for her hair type did not involve shampoo.  Now instead of coarse, dry waves, she has soft shiny ringlets.

So even though we didn’t stick with that particular method, I do think the whole experience was good for us and for our hair.

5. From Sarah:

different tolerance levels between the sexes for crying babies? how to handle it?

Sarah, in our family tolerance levels for crying babies don’t seem to be gender-related.  Still, differing levels have to be addressed.  Basically, the amount of crying the baby does is largely determined by who is in charge at the moment.  I don’t let them cry much at all; the rest of the family says I’m getting soft.  :)  This means I either spend a lot of time with The Fat Tyrant (his official nickname) on my hip or I recruit help.  Others are content to let him fuss, but eventually the noise level forces the person with the lowest tolerance to bow to his wishes.

So…how to handle it?  I guess it’s a little like a game of chicken.  Who’s going to break and pick him up first?  Don’t feel bad for him; with so many people in the house, it never takes long.

6. From (a different) Amy:

How do you psyche yourself up for preparing for a new year of (home) school? (Can you tell I am dragging my feet?) P.S. I asked Smockity this question too.

Over the years, I have tried many different approaches to find what works best for our family.  I now use a combination of several methods: unschooling, year-round school, denial and procrastination.

Seriously, we don’t finish up a year all at the same time, so I don’t have to plan an entire year for every child all at the same time.  They work mostly independently, taking as much time as they need on each course, and when they finish we start a new one.

7. From Amanda:

What are each of you, respectively, doing for fitness or exercise right now? What about when you had 3-4 smalls and no bigs?

I’m so glad you asked this.  After years of hating exercise, I have just begun to love it again!  So much, in fact, that Perry heeded my heavy hinting and bought me a weight bench (Craigslist special) as an early anniversary gift!  I am fitting in quick sets of push-ups, pull-ups (can only do 2), squats, and various weightlifting as I am able throughout the day.

I have a membership at a nearby gym for just $10/month, and Perry and I sneak off for a gym date a couple of times/week.  I am also taking Krav Maga class with Perry and three of the older girls three days/week.  This is often quite strenuous, and I usually have an assortment of bruises to hide – or show off.  :)

Perry and the girls got me a bicycle this year for Mother’s Day, so I am also sneaking off for rides when I can.  I recently picked up a double bike trailer from Craigslist that will allow me to pull two of the little ones behind me when I go, for a better workout and a fun outing for them as well.  We live near a big city park with extensive trails and lots of wildlife, so they will never tire of rides.  Bonus: getting the little ones out of the house makes it easier for the rest of the kids to do their school.  :)

When I had lots of littles and no bigs, I did it differently.  I actually had a bicycle and trailer years ago, and also an infant seat.  This let me take 3 little ones on bike rides and gave me a great workout in the process.  I also used a double stroller and baby carrier to get a good workout on foot, sometimes piling 3 kids in the stroller and taking a quick walk to the library or park.

Another way I got exercise back in the old days was by volunteering for heavy duty.  I cut our grass instead of letting Perry do it.  When we mowed other lawns for extra income, I asked him to let me do it while he stayed home in the evenings with the kids.  I got paid to exercise while he had some quality time with the kids!

It’s often easy to include kids in exercise.  Just be prepared for interruptions!  Some of my young ones can already do full pushups, and they love to try to copy some of the other exercises we do.  I also find that kids are handy weights for lifting.  Last week, I did several sets of squats with progressively heavier children on my shoulders, maxing out at 105 lbs.  I may go for 135 lbs soon if the appropriate child will cooperate.  :)

Of course we’re more likely to get the exercise we need when it’s easy and pleasant, but there are always options if we’re creative and determined.

8. From (a different) Amanda:

How to deal with low milk supply when nursing?

Amanda, you probably know that diet and hydration are very important to milk supply, but I have also found that rest plays a huge role.  I was once hospitalized for 2 days and 2 nights and was not allowed anything at all by mouth.  For some reason, they didn’t give me an IV either.  Nonetheless, I was able to nurse without interruption, presumably because I was able to do very little besides rest.

When your supply needs a little help, it is also crucial to nurse as often as possible.  This gives your body the message that baby needs more milk, so that supply can be increased to meet demand.  Supplementing may help get over a temporary difficulty, but can make supply issues worse in the long run, so do it carefully if at all.  Nobody wants a baby to go hungry, but a hungry baby is exactly the stimulus your body needs, so find your balance carefully.

Remember that your baby will be especially hungry during growth spurts, and may seem dissatisfied and insatiable for several days at a time.  Don’t panic.  This is completely normal, and your body will adjust to the new normal as your baby’s appetite grows.  This is a good reason to hold off on supplementing for at least a few days when you think you don’t have enough milk, because baby’s growth will slow again soon and your milk will increase as the two of you will find the right balance.  Growth spurts can vary, but big ones commonly happen at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months.

And if for some reason you just don’t have enough milk, there is no shame in bottle feeding!  Breastfeeding is a big job, and sometimes our bodies just aren’t up to the job for one reason or another.  Just please don’t give up too easily if this is important to you.  Like c-sections for moms who want to deliver naturally, I think bottle-feeding is too often avoidable for moms who want to breastfeed; the key is sticking with it and finding the help you need.

9. From Lauren:

Arguments. How do you handle them? Silly, toddler arguments, like:

Boy #1: “I’m tired.”
Boy #2: “No, you’re not.”
Boy #1: “Yes, I am.” 
Boy #2: “No, you’re not.”
Boy #1: “Yes, I am.” 
Boy #2: “No, you’re not.”
Boy #1: “Yes, I am.” 
Boy #2: “No, you’re not.”
Boy #1: “Yes, I am.” 
Boy #2: “No, you’re not.”
Boy #1: “Yes, I am.” 

Yeah … that kind. ;D

Lauren, I have to confess that unless tempers are flaring I usually stay out of those conversations.  If they get angry or impatient I remind them to speak kindly and tell them this isn’t a good reason to be mad or cry (“Did he sin against you?”).  If there is sin or offense involved, I moderate.  If not, I assume they are both enjoying the discussion and chalk it up to immature conversational skills.  I guess I’m a pretty low-key mama.  :)

 

Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?

See what questions the other moms are answering today:

4 Moms Q&A: Me time, and This is why we can’t have nice things

4 Moms 35 KidsFrom Elizabeth:

What do you ladies think of “me time”?  I know there are certain degrees to this idea from the necessity (take a shower, do a workout) to the frivolous (girl’s night out weekly.) My husband *wants* me to work out, lose weight, be healthy, but I really just don’t have the time, or ability to set aside 3 or more times a week just to work out. How do I support my husband as a helpmeet, put my goals as a Mother to my 4 blessings first, but still find the time to meet weight loss and health goals? We did consider a treadmill at one point, but there is no room in our cramped home.

Elizabeth,

If exercise is important to you and your husband, I don’t think it counts as “me time.”  This is not a case of wanting to pamper yourself; this is a matter of being a good steward of the body God has given you, one that bears His own image.  You are also honoring your husband’s wishes, and in encouraging you he is working to protect you and your health.  These are all good goals!

When it comes to making time for a workout, I know it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to do it.  I don’t always find time for the things I ought to do, but I usually find time for the things I really want to do.  That’s a harsh way to put it, and I hope you’ll understand that I’m saying it tongue in cheek, but it’s also true more often than I’d like to admit.

There are three actions that help me to fit something important into my schedule:

  1. As I said, just do it.  Other things will get pushed later than I wanted or put off until another day, but that often happens due to circumstances outside my control anyway.  At least in this case, it’s for a good reason.
  2. Take time to write it into my schedule.  I’m terrible at following a schedule, but I know I’ll never hit the target if I don’t even know where to aim.  A schedule shows me where I can plausibly fit a workout into my day, and gives me the freedom to do it without guilt even when I haven’t done everything else I should have done today.
  3. If I truly feel I can’t fit a workout into my day, I can talk to my husband about priorities.  Together we can decide where I can and should spend less time so that I have time to exercise.   Maybe I’m carrying a burden that isn’t important to my family, and I can free up some time by dropping another activity.

Another thing to consider is that exercise can include the kids, and it’s just as good for them as it is for you.  This may slow you down and make it more difficult to stick with a routine, but it may be the best you can do.  You do some great workouts using only your own bodyweight.  Babies and toddlers love to be hoisted instead of weights for many exercises, and my little ones can do a mean push-up!  When I had only little ones, I used to pile 3 in a double stroller, put the baby in a carrier, and take a walk.  Now that was a workout!

There are lots of options that require no extra money or equipment, and some of them keep your kids occupied while you exercise.

From Jessica:

How do you teach respect for personal property and others things? And how would you handle an older child who doesn’t show enough responsibility to play with age appropriate toys, but plays too rough and inappropriately with younger toys? We have a 7yo who we’ve been struggling with this for awhile…he is the oldest of four. He has scratched designs into his desk, his bunk bed and dresser with various objects, I found gum stuck in the back of the van where he sits, he used to have a car organizer in the van with activities to do but wouldn’t keep them picked up and put away so I removed it, just to mention a few things. His younger brothers are 3 and under so they play with toddler toys, which is what he usually ends up playing with too because he is soooo irresponsible with older kid toys like legos and marbles. He leaves them lying around when asked to pick them up and puts things in the wrong place when they are found later. I don’t think he is overprivileged and is hardly ever left unattended. Today I sat in the back of the van and found that he had colored with crayon on the back of the seat and wall!!!! He said “I didn’t think before I did it” We’ve talked numerous times about respecting other people’s property and taking care of the things that are yours….but honestly it seems like every word I say goes in one ear and out the other.

Jessica,

Have you ever heard the saying, “This is why we can’t have nice things”?  Well, that learning curve during the childrearing years is the reason.  Those people you birthed will be kids for a long time before they are adults, and the Bible says that foolishness is wrapped up in the heart of a child.

Seriously, teaching kids to respect property and take care of possessions is a long process, and most of the teachable moments come right after you discover another instance of wanton destruction.  I don’t think the examples you give are out of the ordinary for a 7yo, especially for an oldest child.  He doesn’t have the advantage of hearing you correct others for all the things that foolish little kids will do; he is the trailblazer, trying each new idea as it occurs to him.  His younger siblings might learn a little faster just because they have witnessed the aftermath as he tried all the dumb ideas himself.  Most of the problems you listed sound like immaturity, and it’s simply going to take time for your son to develop better judgment.  I’ve heard it often happens a little later for boys than girls.  In the meantime, God is building your patience.  :)

You’re not alone in your frustration, waiting for your son to use the brain God gave him.  Bill Cosby observed a similar phenomenon.

I could add a few stories if it makes you feel better.  There’s the one about crayons in the back seat of the rental car…A child’s name scratched with a rock into the side of a mini-van…Helpful children knocking ice off Dad’s car with a hammer…unauthorized haircuts, clothing alterations, dangerous stunts that I have blocked from memory, etc.  Not every child will try everything, but if you have a large family you can bet they’ll do a fair job of covering all the bases over time.

I’m not excusing foolish behavior in children; I’m only saying that we shouldn’t despair.  We need to correct them gently but firmly, doing our best to differentiate  between sin and immaturity.  Sometimes they really do know better, and sometimes they really don’t – even though we think they should.

4 Moms on nursing babies

4moms35kids This week we have a set of questions related to getting things done while breastfeeding.  Here is another Q&A we did on the topic of breastfeeding.

How do you nurse and get everything else done around the home without having older children or family around to help?

I have 4 teens in the house now plus a few younger ones who are able and eager to help, but I do occasionally find myself with just a baby or two and no helpers.  Of course many moons ago, this was the standard description of my day!

When I find myself in that situation, I have to force myself to prioritize and do what I can, letting go of the guilt and stress over what I cannot fit into my day. This might mean Perry and the older children come home to a messy house and a one-course dinner, and we do laundry after the dishes are done.  In the old days, it meant that I rushed through housework during the baby’s naps – or napped when baby did and spent a few hours cleaning up before I went to bed.

If there are toddlers or other children who need attention while I’m nursing the baby, all of us get some training in the process: the baby learns that sometimes nursing is interrupted, and the milk will still be there in 2 minutes.  The toddler and preschooler learn that all of the usual rules apply, even when Mommy is nursing the baby.  I learn that consistency is more important than ever, or chaos will break loose and every boundary will be tested Every Single Time I Sit Down To Feed The Baby.  Dad learns that the household standard of living must relax a little unless he is willing and able to help out a lot.

At the end of the day, we are all a little farther along that road of sanctification.

Do you have a method for nursing and walking around? If so could you describe how?

Not I, though I know many moms do nurse on the go with a good quality carrier.  They say it’s not hard with an Ergo, a wrap, or a sling.  I never tried to master the skill because I felt it would slow me down too much.  I wanted to sit and nurse, then do my work with free hands.  With a baby plastered to my front, I was never convinced that empty hands = free hands. I do often move from room to room while nursing, keeping the baby latched as I go.  This is helpful when directing and instructing other little ones, as below.

Any other suggestions for multitasking?

A good attention span and well trained toddlers/preschoolers.  Even very little ones can be helpful while you are nursing.  You can sit in the children’s bedroom to nurse, and direct them as they clean up, item by item.  You can read aloud to the other little ones while nursing.  You can follow the other little ones from room to room, providing adult supervision so that the house doesn’t catch fire when they decide to cook their own lunch.  It all depends on how you define multitasking.

Do you nurse while writing?

Well, the computer chair used to be known as the booby chair.  Does that answer your question?

How would you answer these questions?  See what questions the other moms are answering today:

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