4 Moms Q&A: overwhelmed, clingy toddlers, TV syndrome, co-sleeping, ovarian guilt

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A
My real-life friend Lori asked, 

How do you keep from getting overwhelmed? I have 5 and feel like I’m constantly being pulled in 5 different directions… someone needs help with a toy, someone needs a snack, someone is smearing poop on the wall, etc all while I’m trying to load the dishwasher. My stress quickly elevates and I end up yelling. I have 2 bigs that are very helpful but I feel really guilty when I’m constantly asking them to assist me. How do you manage the chaos and keep your sanity?

Lori, parenting a big family is hard.  Sometimes it’s all happiness and lollipops, and some days you really do want Calgon to take you away.  Usually I have enough big helpers to keep things under control these days, but it hasn’t always been that way.  Even now, my Bigs often go five different directions in the morning so it’s just like old times – just me and the teeming hordes of Little People.

When it seems like everything is falling apart at once and I can’t put out the fires fast enough, I sometimes just put everyone on a brief impromptu quiet time.  I tell them, “This is not punishment or naptime; we just need to be quiet for a few minutes because our attitudes (or mom’s attitude) is suffering.  Everyone get ONE BOOK if you want it, pick a place, and plant your bottom.  Don’t sit near anyone else, and no talking until the timer beeps.”

While the little ones are neutralized, I either enjoy the quiet or use the time to get ahead of the messes.  I might even enlist the help of one or two willing and able-bodied volunteers who want to feel big by avoiding quiet time.

About getting help from your bigger children: I used to feel guilty, but I have realized two things over the years:

  1. They don’t feel oppressed when we require them to help unless somebody tells them they are oppressed.  That is to say, our own feelings of guilt may lead to a bad attitude in our children.  If it’s clear that I am asking for help when I don’t feel I should, they are likely to agree and resent having to help.  Be clear in your conscience.  Is it sinful to require the amount of help that you do from your older children?  Unless you’re watching soap operas while they do all the housework, I don’t think so.  If you are watching soaps while the kids do the work, then maybe the guilt is appropriate.  🙂   If you are being a good steward of your time and theirs, don’t feel guilty.
  2. Children like to feel valued, and being able to help is one way to do it.  Make sure you praise them lavishly and openly, and they will enjoy helping.  You are teaching them valuable skills for later in life and building good memories right now.  Someday they’ll be thankful for the skills and work ethic you are instilling right now during these busy days, and others will praise them too.

And above all, remember: this season in life is short.  It may feel long today, but one day you’ll blink and find that you are 20 years older and your little ones are grown.  I don’t know how it happens, but it does.  And those poop stories will finally be funny.

Trisha asked, 

My twins are turning 2 this week. One of them wants to be held ALL THE TIME! He has never been clingy in the past. I’m going crazy. Should I indulge him – does he just need some extra love and attention right now? Or, should I not indulge him so he can get over it. Please help!

Trisha, I don’t know your children or your parenting style, so I can only guess.  My first guess is this: teething.  Is he getting his 2yo molars?  Teething can make children just uncomfortable enough to be not quite themselves: extra whiny, clingy, ornery, etc.  I try to remember to check for new teeth whenever one of my younger ones gets especially difficult for no particular reason.

My next guess is illness.  You didn’t say how long his clinginess has been going on, but if it’s only been a few days or even a week, it could simply be a mild illness.  My younger ones often act up for a week or more after a bug, and while I don’t tolerate bad behavior, I do remind myself that they still may not feel well and extra naps may be in order.

If it’s not a physical issue and it’s been going on long enough that you don’t expect it to stop, I would definitely give some extra love and attention, but not always on his terms.  When my toddler does this, I might hold him for a minute or two, give him a hug and a kiss, and set him down.  If he complains, I gently tell him, “No, I love you but your holding turn is over.”

When they want to be carried around, I often laugh at my toddlers as though they are pretending to be babies and tell them, “You have legs.  Use them!”  When he asks to be held too much, I might make a game of it and cradle him like an infant, cooing at him and offering to nurse him.  More often than not, he gets the point and squirms away on his own.

You know your son, and I’m sure you can improvise.  In all of these examples, the idea is to encourage him to be just a little more independent without making him feel rejected.

Heather asked,

While I was recently pregnant I was extremely tired due to repeated episodes of false labor during the last two months. My coping skills were next to nothing, and as it was the middle of winter, my kids couldn’t go outside. I resorted to A LOT of TV, just to be able to get naps so I could have enough energy to stay on top of dinner and laundry. Now that my baby is almost 5 months old, my oldest two kids have gone back to their normal activities, but for my two year old TV IS his normal activity. I have tried everything to get him to stop asking for television, but that is all he ever wants to do. Almost all of the time I say no, and then he follows me around whining. Getting rid of the tv is not possible (wish it was) because my husband uses it in his work. What can I do to break this horrible habit of his?

Heather, it’s hard to break a firmly ingrained habit, and 6 months is a long time in the life of a 2yo.  He probably doesn’t know what to do or how to entertain himself without the TV, and he’s going to need help to form new habits.  I see this on a smaller scale every time we have a virus in our home and let the little ones watch videos to pass the time.  Once they feel better I have to keep reminding them: No, today is not a movie day.  They know the answer even before they hear it, and eventually they stop asking.

I think you are on the right track by consistently saying no about TV, but you’ll need to invest some extra time and energy (because new moms have plenty of that, right?) in teaching him to play without the TV, because right now his to-do list looks like this:

Playtime Options:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Ask Mom if I can watch TV

Why don’t you make a list of things he can do, and spend a little time working and playing with him?  You don’t need to play with him every moment of the day, but you could spend a few minutes to help him get interested in an activity.  Definitely enlist your two older children to help!

And since you are raising a future adult, make sure to give him plenty of “work.”  He can follow you or his siblings around, helping with whatever you are currently working on.  Have him fold washcloths as you sort laundry, put away silverware or “organize” a cabinet while you do dishes, carry the dustpan around for you while you sweep, hold the baby’s hand out of the way while you change a diaper…you get the idea, right?  Now he needs to get the idea.

Karen asked,

My youngest of four is 4 months old. The older three were swaddled in a cradle and slept well through the night early on, but this one had lots of feeding problems, so I have kept him with me at night to increase his feeding opportunities, skin-to-skin, etc. Now we love co-sleeping and will continue at least until baby is robust and gaining weight well. How do you make co-sleeping “work” with your husband (kwim)? My husband is supportive, but this is our first time having a baby stay with us.

Karen,  co-sleeping doesn’t work well for me because I don’t sleep well that way.  Nonetheless, I often fall asleep while nursing in bed and end up co-sleeping by accident. The way to make it work – if I understand the gist of your question – is just to let the baby sleep in his own bed for the first shift.  Then when he wakes to eat, let him stay with you for the rest of the night.  This way he’s not in your bed the entire night.  If he has trouble falling asleep in his own bed at night, try having him nap there during the day to make it a more familiar and comfortable place.

Diana asked,

How do you handle/combat ‘ovarian guilt’? My boy was sick this last week and I just felt so guilty! He is almost never sick and my husband kept reminding me that getting sick is just part of life, but I couldn’t shake the blame and worry. I also struggle with feeling torn between spending time with him (our son) and other things that need done (housework etc.).  While I’m doing one I feel guilty about not doing the other.

I’m hoping this will balance when we have our second (due in 4 weeks), but I’m afraid it will get worse.

Diana, I understand how you feel and I think it’s very common, but I’m afraid my answer is going to sound a little like this.  Don’t be offended – it’s a running joke in our house!  For some reasons we moms are prone to feel guilty about things that are not within our control.  I think there must be sin buried somewhere in that feeling.  Is it lack of faith on our part, because we are worrying about things that are not within our power?  Is it pride, in thinking that we should be able to control things that are not within our control?  At any rate, we just need to stop.  We need to pray for discernment to use our time wisely, do the best that we can, and trust God for the outcome.

To answer your question more personally, the way I handle it is by making a joke of it.  If I don’t make a joke of it, my family steps in and does it for me.  🙂 Yes, I sometimes feel guilty about things outside my control, or for not being able to simultaneously appear in two places at once, or for not possessing 6 arms.  But I know it’s silly of me to feel this way, and I laugh at myself for it, and don’t let myself dwell on it.  I’m a mom.  Guilt is what we do, but it shouldn’t be who we are.

Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?

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4 Moms Q&A: sportsmanship; relationships between widely spaced children; kids who think babies are too much work

Corrie asked, How do you get kids to like games and not be too competitive?

4moms35kids 4 Moms on tattlingCorrie, I’m putting your question front and center because we have the same problem and I would love to hear the input of others.

Until recently, we really didn’t play many games, and now we have found that some of the kids – especially the younger ones – are prone to poor sportsmanship.  Since the older ones don’t seem to have the same problem, I’m very hopeful that this is a symptom of immaturity that will disappear with more character training opportunities.  In the meantime, we just address the problem whenever it rears its ugly head.

If I hear somebody being a poor loser, I admonish him (why is it nearly always a boy?) to be happy for the winner and offer congratulations.  To be a poor sport is to covet another person’s victory.  Most of the time they shape right up and change their attitude.  If not, they are not allowed to play again until they are ready to do it with a good attitude.

If somebody wants to quit because they are losing (but the game isn’t over yet), they are usually allowed to graciously cede the game, realizing that this is an automatic loss.  If they are not being gracious about it, see above.

But if by “too competitive” you mean “really, really wants to win,” I don’t necessarily see a problem.  I want my children to do their very best at whatever they set their hands to, and playing a game is no different – unless they are kindly letting a much younger player have a rare taste of victory.  Then it’s nice to do a little less than their best.  But in general, I think wanting to win is a good thing.  The problem is when they have a sinful attitude toward others – pride, gloating, hurtful trash talk, and other types of unkindness.  Then we address the sin in the attitude, not the desire to win.

Inga Marie asks, How do you develop a sibling relationship between an adult child who has left home, and a new baby? I have a 22 yo, who is married with kids of her own, and a 20 mo old.

Kim C, I know you have been on both sides of this. How do you help Deanna have a sisterly relationship with Calvin, and how did you develop a sibling relationship with children who were either very young when you left home, or not born yet?


 What does a family with 14 children look like?Inga Marie, this question is a little painful for me.  That’s because I don’t think I found the answer for myself.  I was geographically separated from my family for 11 years, while 4 of my siblings were born and the younger ones grew from babies and toddlers into young adults.  Of course we visited when we could, but in my family it just wasn’t enough to create and keep strong connections, and I never felt like the younger ones considered me “one of the gang.”  I was more like an aunt.

I still remember the time we drove 1,400 miles to visit when the twins were toddlers.  Somebody told them I was their sister,  and they grinned at the silliness of the claim.  “No she’s not!” they shouted and giggled.  Since I have children the same ages as my four youngest siblings, it seems more natural to be an aunt than a sister.  It makes me a little sad, but maybe that’s just the way it is.

On the bright side, as we all get older and the age gaps seem to shrink, I think we do begin to feel closer.  It’s hard to feel close to a 9 year old you’ve only met a handful of times, but over the years those small meetings begin to add up and an age difference of 10 or 20 years can melt away in the presence of stronger bonds – like blood, family culture, and worldview.

I’m still not as close as I would like to be with most of my siblings but I think our relationships are still growing and changing, and I feel as much of a bond with the younger ones as with those I grew up with.

In Deanna’s case, she and her husband are geographically close and attend the same church as we do, so she is still very much a part of our lives.  I don’t think she will face the same struggle I did just to stay connected.  She has also been very good about reaching out and maintaining connections, even during that first year of marriage when it’s so easy to let relationships go while you focus on your new married life.

Heather is wondering, At what point do you allow your teen that is learning to drive, to drive the car with your little ones in it?


But fortunately Perry is less of a worrier than I am.  So far our teens have been been able to start out on quiet country roads with just Dad in the car.  Once he feels confident enough to let them drive in traffic, I think he also feels confident enough to let them drive with children in the car.

Notice I said, “I think.”  That’s because I don’t know, which is because I don’t ask.  I know that I worry too much about new drivers, so I find it easiest to live in blissful ignorance while Dad takes care of the driving lessons.  So far nobody has died and the cars are only slightly worse for the wear, so my plan seems to be working.

Amanda and Kimberly both want to know, How do you determine how closely to supervise small kids (preschool-ish) when at playdates? When it isn’t a safety issue, but a coaching-in-correct responses issue…When we’re at home I watch my boys like a hawk because I see many teachable issues and want to catch them. But I don’t want to be hovering, especially with other moms I respect whose kids are also well-behaved. Guidelines to share?

Oh, great question!  Can I just sit back and let wiser moms answer?  I have to confess that I get so caught up in chatting with my friends I often don’t pay enough attention to how the children are interacting.

I don’t recommend this, but if you find yourself in the same boat it is helpful to debrief your children afterward.  While you won’t be able to walk them through situations as they arise, at least you can pinpoint trouble areas to practice for and guard against next time.

Elizabeth asked, How do you handle things like make-up, heels, etc with your littler girls? My girls are (soon to be) 7, 5, 2. I have been lax with standards. I generally encourage modesty, by allowing the girls to follow their natural inclination to cover up. (One told me once that something I found perfectly acceptable made her feel “naked” I didn’t discourage her response! I let her cover to her heart’s content!) But they always want to wear make up out of the house, and frequently ask relatives to buy them high heels, and my oldest said it was because “Well, YOU wear it Mom!” Granted nobody sells inappropriate shoes in their sizes, but I wonder how I should handle their hurry to “look like a grown up!” I want them to be lovely, feminine, and put together. But I don’t want to encourage vanity, or the idea that they need to meet cultural ideals of beauty. But I do not want to discourage femininity either.
It doesn’t help that a lot of relatives say comments around them like “wait til their teenagers! Ha ha! Then you’ll REALLY be in trouble!

Elizabeth, I love that you didn’t discourage your daughter from covering more even though you felt she was sufficiently covered!  In general, I just tell our girls it isn’t modest for a young girl to try to look like a grown woman.  It’s a way of drawing undue attention to oneself, like heavy makeup, ostentatious behavior, or revealing clothes.  She can be beautiful in ways that are appropriate to her age, and her time as a grown-up will come soon enough.

Also from Elizabeth: how do you encourage your girls to value Biblical womanhood? My oldest says stuff all the time about how “Babies are hard work! I hope we don’t have TOO many! Ugh! When I grow up I’m NOT having ANY babies! I’ll be a Dentist instead!” I don’t want to respond with a punitive nature to these selfish statements, and cause her to carry more resentment, but I do want to emphasize the beauty and blessing that every child is. She is aware of our choice to allow God to choose our family size, and our anticipation of more babies. I know she isn’t hearing these statements from me, I’m very careful to model a love for children and babies, and a willingness to cheerfully parent each child I’m given, but this attitude persists. I don’t know if it is due to the fact, that as the oldest, she helps a lot. Just walk me through how you encourage a joyful love for Biblical Womanhood.

wpid IMAG1815 Snapshot : pool time!Elizabeth, occasionally one of my younger ones will say something like this.  I often answer with disbelief and a question: “What?! You don’t think Calvin is worth the work?  He is a lot of work, but I’m so glad we have him!  Would you rather we didn’t?”

Have you thought about asking your daughter why she feels that way?  Maybe a gentle line of questioning will help you understand better where these thoughts are coming from and why she feels this way.  Maybe she doesn’t really feel this way at all, but only complains to make conversation.  Maybe she does feel this way, but would respond readily to a reminder that each of these future potential babies would be as beloved as the younger sisters she already has.  Does she wish they were never born?  Remind her how sad and lonely you would be if you didn’t have her.

Do you have disapproving friends or family who might be planting these ideas, knowingly or unknowingly?  This is important to be aware of!

And I know you’re already doing your best to model a good attitude, but it never hurts to ask yourself again if there’s any chance she picked it up from you.  Do you  complain just a little?  Are you a silent martyr, suffering nobly for all to see?  (I sometimes am!)  Maybe your good attitude isn’t as obvious on the outside as you think, and you can be more vocal in your joyful parenting. wpid IMAG1810 Snapshot: at the park


How would you answer these questions?  See what questions the other moms have to say this week:

About 4 Moms, including a list of past topics

4 Moms on tattling


Personally, I think tattling gets a bad rap.  I rely heavily on snitches to help me keep order and maintain accountability among the masses.

But of course there are some situations where it’s not appropriate, helpful or loving for the kids to come to me with this sort of info.  There are two questions here: Where do I draw the line, and how do I explain that line to the kids?

Here’s how: Teaching kids the difference between telling and tattling.  Be sure to read the comments for Theresa’s very helpful STOP idea.

At its root, I think this is a heart issue.  Is the informer acting out of love and concern, or just trying to get someone in trouble?

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

About 4 Moms, including a complete list of all past topics

4 Moms Q&A: the Coghlan family FAQ, part 1

4moms35kidsFor a fun change in the 4 Moms Q&A posts, I’m going to start putting together a lighthearted list of the questions I have received over the years – most of them many, many times – along with the answers I give…or the answers I wish I had thought to give at the time…or the answers I plan to give from now on.

These are not meant to be complete and comprehensive answers, but are the sort I offer to someone I’ve just met or a stranger making conversation in line at the grocery store.  I consider many of the answers a sort of “bait,” and am thrilled if my questioner takes the bait so we can delve deeper into a subject.

Are they all yours?

[Looking around carefully] Yes, I think so. Wait – that one’s not mine.  But the rest are mine, and so are those three over there.  Yes, it really happens, especially in our new neighborhood.  Sometimes I check on my kids while they are playing outside and find extras that I may or may not recognize.

calvineyeballHow many kids do you have?!

Ten – no, eleven, I think.  We’re just going on memory these day… they never stand still long enough for us to count them…

Do you work?

[long pause, as I alternately eye my questioner and my children]

Why do you have so many kids?  Are you Catholic or Mormon, or crazy?

No, we’re just Christians, and the Bible teaches that children are a blessing, so we are happy to have them.

Don’t you know what causes that?

Don’t you?

Don’t you believe in birth control?

Most kinds of birth control work at least partly by causing very early abortions.  But even if they didn’t, I can’t think of a good reason to try to keep God from blessing us.

You need a TV in your bedroom!

Why? [awkward pause]

How many more are you going to have?

As many as God gives us.

So you’re trying to have as many kids as you can?

No, we just think God knows better than we do how many kids we should have.

So you think I should have as many kids as I can?

How many do you think you should have?  Why?


 Your turn: How would you answer these questions?  What questions do you hear over and over?

See what questions the other Moms are answering:

About 4 Moms, including a complete list of all past topics

4 Moms Q&A: problems with friends’ children; child-rearing criticism

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&AFrom Helen:

Hi, I’m interested in your financial goals or hopes for your kids as they enter marriage. There are a lot of variables but do you help them save towards it?


We’re not in a position to give our children major cash gifts (unless you count the cost of the wedding itself), but we hope we have helped by teaching them to manage money and requiring them to save a portion of their income.  For many years, we have required all of our children to first tithe, then divide their income between spending money and savings.  As they get older and their opportunities for income increase, they also begin to contribute to the household.

Savings is normally used only to fund a business endeavor or to invest, so their savings grows steadily over the years and they feel a growing sense of accomplishment as their balance grows.

We have also instilled in them a horror of consumer debt,  acting as both the good and bad examples throughout our married life.  🙂

From Missy:

What do you do when your friends kids (ages 2 and 4) put EVERYTHING in their mouths — and not just in their mouths but chewing things up. when they come over books get ruined, play cars get the paint taken off of them. my son has a mickey mouse sword from disney land and one of the kids chewed the end of it up. I’ve tried saying “you don’t want to have that dirty toy in your mouth. there is so many yucky germs on it” and things like that in front of the mom, but she doesn’t seem to care about germs or the fact that her kids are ruining my kids toys.


We have a lot of company in our home, and when you invite families with children it’s almost inevitable that some of them will behave badly some of the time.  I have learned – and am still learning – to balance the role of a gracious hostess with that of a good friend.  I don’t want my friends to feel awkward and self-conscious about being in my home, always afraid that their children will misbehave.  But I also don’t want them to feel so relaxed that the kids think it’s OK to do gymnastics on the furniture, color on the walls and break things.

Here is what I have learned: You have to speak up.

I am finding that the approach has to vary with the parents.  Some will get the hint when you are subtle, like you tried to be.  But others need a frank approach.  The good thing is, if they don’t pick up on subtle hints they probably aren’t the sort to be offended by a more frank approach.  In your example, I would ask the mom not to let the toddler chew on the toy because it’s not designed to withstand that sort of play.  I would not offer a reason outside my primary concern, because that can send a confusing message.  If she’s not worried about germs, then she might very reasonably ignore the warning.  Worrying about germs is his mom’s business, but destruction of property is yours.

If the parents consistently don’t respond to your requests, you’ll need to step up the security a little: when they visit, put away toys that pose special concerns and verbally correct visiting children if their parents don’t do it.   “No, don’t chew on that.  You might break it or make it ugly.”  Eventually either the parents will understand and step in, or you will succeed in setting boundaries for your friend’s children without her help.

Another from Missy:

How do you deal with kids that are bad influences on your kids when they are people that you cannot separate yourself from? — we go to church with this family as well as they are mine and my husband’s best friends, but their children are very violent, misbehaved, potty mouthed kids  and it is effecting my children’s actions (my kids are 5 and 2 1/2).

I am so terribly lost right now and very saddened by the entire situation… but I am at my wits end and praying one of you ladies have some words of wisdom.


Here is socialization at its best!  Rather than sending your kids to school where they have unsupervised interaction with bad influences, you have complete control over how and when they interact with your friends’ less-than-perfect children.

There are a lot of potential answers here, so I’m only going to scratch the surface.

  • If you are deeply concerned about the behavior of your friends’ children, then you need to limit their contact with your own.
  • Keep your kids near you, or at least within your line of sight.  Be quick to intervene if you see or suspect trouble.
  • Express some of your concerns to your friends; these are best friends, so surely you can broach the subject?  Talk to your friends about how to deal with bad behavior that crosses family lines, being open to the possibility that it runs both ways.  In many cases, one child makes a potty joke and another takes it further.
  • Don’t be afraid to “tattle,” bringing valid concerns to the attention of your friends in a grown-up way.  It may be that your friends know there is a problem and will appreciate some extra help policing the crowds.
  • Maintain firm standards for your children’s behavior, reminding them that they are not allowed to do/say ___ even though their friend does.  This is crucial!  A 5yo can understand that he should not follow a bad example, and a 2.5 yo can understand that it’s bad to grab toys or strike out in anger, even if his friend does it.

You say these are your best friends.  That means it is important to get this problem out in the open, because it has the potential to cause a lot of offense and damage your friendship.  It’s not easy, but it is important.  You can do this.

From Kelsey:

I have a big question that I’m struggling with right now. How do you deal with criticism in child-raising practices? We believe, I think, like you – in the biblical form of discipline. And we are BY FAR in the minority. How do you deal with it when nearly everyone around you thinks that you “go too far” or “expect too much”? HELP!

Kelsey, first make sure you are surrounding yourself with Christians who take God’s Word seriously.

Now for the hard part: If those are the people that are criticizing you, stop and prayerfully ask yourself a difficult question: are they right?  Do they object to your form of discipline or just the way you do it?  It could be that they see a harshness in the way you deal with your children.  Please don’t be offended at the suggestion; I don’t know you or your family, and I don’t know those who criticize you.  This is a question you and your husband need to answer for yourselves.

Now, if you are confident that you are disciplining in a loving and Biblical way, you can engage your Christian brothers and sisters in a Biblical debate about child-raising.  Ask them to state their criticism within a Biblical context, and be sure you can answer within the same framework.  Be open-minded and willing to learn within this context, especially if you are dealing with parents of adult Christian children.

If you are receiving criticism from non-Christians or nominal Christians who don’t look to the Bible as their standard for life, then just remember that Christ warned us the world would hate us.  Oh – and it’s not a bad idea to join Heritage Defense.

From Diana:

For those of you who have had home births, how did you come to that decision? Were any of them VBACs? How did you deal with any health fears for you and baby? With well meaning but openly skeptical family members? We are exploring this option for the first time, it is my second baby but our first culminated in an unplanned C-section and we are hoping for a VBAC this time. After our first C-section and feeling like control was simply taken away in the hospital I’m honestly afraid to try that setting again, but I also want to be sure both Baby and I are healthy.
Having children at home was an easy decision for us because my parents had already taken that jump many years earlier.  I had seen 9 of my siblings born at home already and felt far more comfortable with the idea of birthing at home than in a hospital.  Perry was reassured to learn that CDC statistics at the time showed it to be a safer option for both mother and child than a hospital birth, and he happily consented to my wishes.
First, pray for wisdom and God’s help in making a good decision and finding the right caregiver.
Second, you have the power of the internet to research birth options.  You can use it to reassure skeptical family members and to assure yourself and your husband that you are making a wise and responsible decision.  Stay away from anecdotal scare stories (“The doctor said my baby would have DIED if we had decided to have him at home!”) because many times a serious problem is the culmination of the domino-effect of unnecessary interventions.  Instead, try to learn about the relative risks of both choices.  Look at overall statistics for similar groups.
I also recommend seeking out a midwife that both you and your husband like and trust.  The extent of their medical training, experience, and background can vary, so schedule consultations with more than one candidate and go armed with a list of questions.
Your turn: How would you answer the questions above?

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4 Moms: kids behind in school; encouragement

4moms35kidsFrom Julia:
For kids that share rooms…at night, do you let them talk quietly? Do you have a point where they have to be silent? How do you enforce not talking? I have one child that will talk for hours and keeps her sister awake.
We have always allowed ours to talk quietly as long as they are staying in bed and not keeping others awake.  If others begin to complain, then it becomes an issue.  I have found it to be relatively easy to enforce once they start complaining, since the listener can just stop answering.  Under normal circumstances this might be considered rude, but when Mom said to stop talking, it’s just obedience.
Is your talker keeping her listener awake, or a third child?  If I have two willing participants and others in the room are complaining, I tell the complainers that if they are truly tired and their sisters are talking softly, they will be able to sleep.  I keep a close ear out for excessive noise and try to correct quickly if I feel the volume has risen to discourteous levels.
From CrazyHair MamaBear:
I have a 6yr girl and an almost 5yr boy that we homeschool. They play together and squabble together in typical sibling fashion. When we get together with other homeschool families to play, everything is fine. My daughter is getting older and is now playing with friends in the neighborhood. I’ve been noticing that when she has friends over in the yard (boys or girls) that her and her friend(s) tend to leave John out or run away from him which makes him upset and then he chases them of course. You get the picture.
I’ve explained that a sibling is a friend for life while other friends will come and go. What I’m wondering is if they are all in the back yard playing, should I be expecting that they play nice with my son or should I be teaching my son that when she has friends over, to leave them alone and play by himself?
Obviously if she has a girlfriend over and they are playing barbies, I would expect him to leave them alone but if she has boys/girl friends in the yard and they are playing tag, Frisbee, swinging I think they should be able to play as a group. Tips on how to deal would be super appreciated!!
I love your name!
Like you, I try to emphasize that siblings are lifelong friends and ought to be valued above the friends that come and go in life.  In our family, kids are strongly admonished not to exclude siblings from play.  This is a matter of love and courtesy.  Our company manners should not be better than the way that we treat our own family.
That’s not to say that a child and her friend should be subject to constant bombardment from pesky siblings, though.  We just do our best to make sure that good manners run in all directions and everyone is being loving.
I gave an example of how a visit might go here, so you can see how we handle interactions.
From Julie:
Homeschooling question: how do you handle children who are below “grade level”?  Not just one child but several.
This is a very broad and loaded question.  I’ll tell you how I would handle it, but I know nothing about your situation so please take it for what it’s worth.
First, to get a better picture of the situation I would ask myself several questions.
  • How do I know that they are below grade level?
  • Is the scale/test fair and accurate?
  • Who am I comparing them to?
  • Do we have the same priorities, or do my children excel in other areas that are more important to me?
  • Are these areas where a large variation is normal or acceptable, or subjects that I am teaching in a different order/style than others, so that my children would score poorly on a test written for a particular scope & sequence?
  • Are they behind in just one subject or several?
  • Are all of the children struggling in the same areas?
I say “I,” but all of these questions would be a discussion between my husband and me.
If we decided there really was a problem, we would take a look at the children individually and collectively and decide where the problem(s) is.
  • Do we need different curriculum or teaching plan?
  • Are we trying to do too much?
  • Do we need to cut out some extra activities and focus on more structured school time?
  • Do we need to schedule more reading or read alouds?
  • Are they wasting too much time on TV, video games, etc?
  • Are there character issues or learning disabilities that need to be addressed?

I can’t make your list of questions for you, but this is where I would start.

From Alicia:
How do you handle different kids that need different kinds of discipline for the same actions? For example 1 child is very sensitive and respond well to us talking to or a timeout but another is very strong willed and bull headed and need more than that.
Alicia, since you seem to understand that children respond differently to discipline and it’s appropriate for parents to deal with them differently, I’m going to assume that you are most concerned with how to explain the apparent double standard to your children.
We have differences like this among our children, and I am very frank with them, as with most subjects.  Depending on the circumstances and attitude of the child in question, I might say:
I’m correcting you in a way that will help you remember to obey next time.
Your sister obeyed when I talked to her about it.  You got a swat for this because when I talked to you about it the first time, you still didn’t obey.
Your sister’s sin is not your business right now.  Did you disobey?  [Yes]  Do you understand why you were punished? [Yes]  Then make sure you are obeying.
From Amanda:
Encouragement question: I have three sons age 3, 23mo, and 8 weeks; I am SO amazed at how gracious the Lord is and how I myself am learning and growing! But…I am really tired. My husband helps as much as work allows (he’s in the military). We keep things–EVERYthing– simple. I myself am the oldest of 9 homeschooled kids, so I know the little-kid drill well, which helps. That said…what encouragement can you all give? I feel like I can’t, or shouldn’t? voice my feelings of frustration, fatigue, overwhelmed-ness (…I don’t even know what to call it exactly) to folks even in our church who don’t share our convictions about letting the Lord grow our family or how we plan to educate them. I frankly think we’re both becoming afraid of having more kids! Please give me some perspective and any other recommendations??
Amanda, I understand your hesitation to talk about the difficulties of your convictions around those who don’t share your convictions.  I think it’s probably wise.  We don’t want to present a false face to those around us, but it’s probably not helpful or constructive to discuss our problems with people who won’t be able to help or offer encouragement.
 Is your family supportive?  Are you and your husband sure that you are in the right church, if they are not supportive of your strongly held convictions?  Can you seek out people who do share your convictions, either in real life or online?  Just one or two good friends can make a world of difference!
As for perspective, having a new baby is a huge factor: You are only 8 weeks postpartum.  You are exhausted, and everything seems harder.  Everything is harder, but it will get better.  Your new little one will settle into a schedule, you will get more sleep (or learn to function on less), you and the kids will figure out the new normal, and you will feel better.
In the meantime, get as much rest as you can, let things slide a little more, and give yourself a little more time to recover.  You may feel fully recovered, but it really does take longer than 8 weeks, especially if you jumped back into life too soon.  Your hormones take at least 6 months to normalize, and in the meantime you just might be on an emotional rollercoaster.  Just take comfort in the fact that it’s probably not as bad as it seems right nowand someday you’ll look back on these busy times with fondness.  The memories of being overwhelmed will fade like memories of labor, and you’ll be able to treasure the good memories.
From Rebecca:
What have been your all time favorite family read-alouds? And how do you organize your school year?
Did you just ask me a question about organization and time management?  Have you met me?  Let’s just say one of my strong points is flexibility when it comes to scheduling.  Translation: I have the ability to live with no schedule at all.  On the downside, I find it very difficult to create and stick to a schedule.  I like to blame the fact that our daily life is often unpredictable in ways that are outside my control, but it could also be that I’m just very bad at scheduling.  🙂
Really, we just do school year round in a relaxed sort of way, taking days off when the need arises or the fancy strikes us.  My children are very intelligent and articulate until a well-meaning stranger asks what grade they are in.  Then they stare blankly, stammer, and look helplessly at me.
But I can take a stab at your other question.  Some of our favorite read-alouds:
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Little House on the Prairie series
  • Ramona books
  • Ten Peas in a Pod
  • Boxcar Children series (the first 10-20 books)
  • The Hobbit (currently being read as a bedtime story to the boys by big sister Megan)

There have been many more, and if my children read this post I’m sure they’ll remind me of what I have forgotten so I can update the list.

From Traci:
We adopted a sibling group of three seven years ago. (they are now 12, 12 and 11) We just started another home study so that we can adopt another sibling group… soon we hope. Possibly a group of five that are ages 2-16.
We see a 15 passenger van on our horizon possibly. What other sage advise would you offer knowing we will soon be a “large” family?
Traci, congratulations on your growing family!  I love to hear about Christians adopting children because it is such a beautiful picture of our own adoption as God’s children.
I would definitely skip the 12 passenger van and go straight for the 15 as you said.  I think gas mileage is very similar, and cargo space is infinitely better since you can take a bench out of the 15 passenger van and still have plenty of seating left.
When I am expecting a new baby, I try to work hard on behavior problems that I see creeping up in the other children so that I don’t have everyone testing boundaries at once while we already so busy adjusting to the new normal.
Similarly, I try to make sure we have well-established household routines so that we’re not dealing with more changes than necessary during the adjustment period.  The postpartum period is not the time to try that exciting new curriculum, chore system, or any other big change.  I’m guessing the post-adoption period is also not the best time to tackle big changes like these.
How would you answer the questions above?

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Question: finding appropriate reading material for kids

Diana asked the 4 Moms a great question on facebook.  I don’t have a good answer for her, but I’m hoping somebody does.  Can you help?

 I have a 15 year old sister who is struggling to find appropriate reading material. I’ve run out of ideas and my mom is struggling because she doesn’t feel like she has adequate time to preview books before my sister gets them. Any suggestions that would be appropriate, specifically avoiding “romance”? Do you have a trustworthy reference that my mom could use to give her the scoop on a new book without having to read the whole thing?

What do you think?  Does such a resource exist?  It sounds like ScreenIt.com for books instead of movies.  We find it useful because rather than just saying that a movie is safe for kids, it gives a very detailed list of all the scenes, topics, and expletives that viewers might find objectionable, even touching on worldviews.  This is useful to us because we are far more concerned about sex scenes or implied sexual relationships than we are about rough language or alcohol, for example.  I would love to know if such a resource exists for books.

4 Moms share vegetarian recipes {linky}

Vegetarian?!  First, let me clarify a few things.

We think bacon is proof that God loves us.  I have made and enjoyed chocolate covered bacon, and I would totally try bacon ice cream.

We think that PETA should stand for People Eating Tasty Animals.

I think this is funny:

bacon seed

And this is hilarious:periodic table of meat


I make bacon roses for my husband, and we both think this site is awesome.

bacon roses

We like meat.

But we don’t always eat meat.  That is largely because it tends to be expensive, especially when you are feeding a lot of hearty eaters.  We have found that there are many healthy, hearty meals that don’t break the bank and don’t require meat.  Sometimes you can just skip the meat in a regular recipe if there are enough other ingredients to distract from its absence.  We are not vegetarians, but some of our meals are.

Before we start, let me issue a warning: don’t try to force a meat-loving husband to eat meatless meals.  He must be on board, or you are doomed to failure.  If your husband wants you to cut the food bill, this is a good way to do it.  If he looks at your like you’re crazy when you suggest eating some meatless meals, don’t even try it.  If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here is a sampling of our favorites:

Bean & cheese burritos – Add-ons like tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, etc. really make the meal.  To add texture and appeal, make your beans from scratch instead of using refried beans from a can, leaving some whole beans when you season & smush them.  Or add lentils cooked with Homemade Taco Seasoning as a sort of meat substitute.  It’s not meat and probably won’t fool anyone, but it’s another way to add more texture and appeal.

Lasagna and spaghetti are very good without meat.  Just don’t skimp on the sauce and seasonings, and use plenty of cheese in your lasagna.

Taco salad is another meal that works well without meat: just use ranch beans or season your own pinto/black beans with Homemade Taco Seasoning.  Top with Homemade Catalina salad dressing.

homemade-enchilada-sauceBean & cheese enchiladas or “wet burritos” are another cheap meatless meal that everyone loves.  I use lots of my Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce under, over and inside each enchilada to make them moist and flavorful.  If you use flour tortillas, there’s no need to soften in oil or sauce.  Just put a few tablespoons of seasoned beans, cheese and sauce in the middle, and roll up.  Crowd in a single layer on a pan lined with sauce (use a pan with sides at least 1″ high).  Top with more sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.  Bake about 25-30 minutes at 350, until heated through and lightly browned on top.

We also love quiche, and the egg/cheese combination is a less expensive source of protein than most meats.  Bacon, ham or sausage is nice but not necessary.  Garlic, carmelized onions and other veggies add lots of flavor, and this dinner goes well with a green salad. Just mix up 6 eggs, 2 cups of milk, 2 cups grated cheese (any kind you have on hand), and as many add-ins as you want.  Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake until the center is set.  Of course we double or triple this.  🙂

Moving away from meat is a fun excuse to experiment with new recipes.  We recently discovered and enjoyed Greek Fakes soup, and my husband wants me to make Indian Dahl lentils again.  We tried Black Bean Burgers and decided that the recipe was promising but needed a lot of tweaking.

What meatless recipes have you tried and enjoyed?

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4 Moms guest post by Deanna: books to read to the under-4 crowd; dinner table seating

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A: the laundry monster, snacks, and what to do if you cant do it all (because you cant)So…today is Friday, and I guess it’s time to publish my regularly scheduled 4 Moms post which I was supposed to publish yesterday.  This time I have something fun and special for you: these questions will be answered not from a mom’s perspective, but from that of my daughter Deanna who also blogs at Confessions of a Bibliophile.  Like me, she grew up as the oldest child in a very large family.  Like me, she thinks her extensive experience as a big sister has taught her a thing or two about mothering too.

Just in case you’re wondering, the fact that I didn’t make time to write a post of my own has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to let Deanna answer some questions here.  Well, maybe just a little.  OK, I admit it: her email to me containing her answers to the two questions below totally made the decision for me.

Good books to read to the 4 and under crowd that aren’t too annoying for mom to read?

 I sometimes have trouble deciding on a book to read to the kids because I forget one very important thing about reading to children. They don’t have to understand everything. It’s really a liberating thought once you can wrap your mind around it. Reading a classic like Peter Pan or The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Hobbit to young children who aren’t ready to read it on their own can still be a fascinating experience for all concerned. You just have to keep it in perspective. For example, Don’t get frustrated when they keep asking questions. This is a good thing because it means that they are plugged in and engaging the story. You still need to impose some discipline on them, such as telling them that they have to raise their hand, or that they need to wait until you finish the paragraph before they can talk. It’s important not to get too wrapped up in how much you  are enjoying the story especially if it’s a slightly more advanced book, and stop several times during a reading to ask questions about what’s going on in the story to help them follow along better.
 If you find yourself annoyed by the recommended books for their age level, try branching out a little bit. Think of some books that you enjoyed as a child, or even as a young adult. If you explain hard concepts to the children as you move along. you may find that they are able to enjoy if not comprehend a lot more than you thought.
And to make up for such an off the point answer to your question, here are a few books that the Coghlan children of all ages have enjoyed over the years.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
A Wrinkle in Time, etc. by Madeline L’Engle
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
How do you handle seats at the kitchen table? Assigned? Anywhere they want? What age do they stop sitting in booster seats?
We really go back and forth on this. Dad’s seat has always been at the head of the table, and Mom’s place is next to him, but we haven’t always assigned seating to the kids. Sometimes when seating is unassigned you can make a pretty shrewd guess at who is in favor with the crown by who dares to sit near Dad. All joking aside though, there are pros and cons to both ways.
 The pros of assigned seating are obvious. Dinner is bound to be more organized when it’s not a mad rush to see who can get the most highly valued seat first, whether it be a certain place at the table itself, or a seat next to someone in particular. You can separate troublemakers and be sure that they stay separated, depending of how strictly you enforce the rule, and you can pair large people with small people to ensure the teaching of manners and also that the little ones get served. The cons of assigned seating are less obvious, and may not even be applicable to some families, but in ours lets just say that some unnamed daughter (Lydia) was known to have had several emotional breakdowns over someone using “her” plate, or sitting in “her” spot. Seating a guest may be a little awkward if your children become emotionally attached to their spot at the table. Don’t laugh, it’s been known to happen. -.-
 As for sitting in booster seats, generally the child makes that decision. Or their behind just gets too big for the booster,the child graduates high school, the booster breaks, or the next baby needs it. Take your pick, it’s really never been a huge issue for us.

So, what do you think?  Does she sound like a typical self-absorbed teen, or like someone who knows a little about what goes on inside the heads of those mysterious creatures called Children?
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4 Moms Q&A: the laundry monster, snacks, and what to do if you can’t do it all (because you can’t)

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A: life saving tips and tricks of the trade for moms of many

 Ami said, I have six kids. When I had 2 kids I was good at it (school/read aloud/housecleaning/meals). When I had 4 kids I was capable. Now I am decidedly not.   

I love my relationship with the Lord and truly glory in my weakness. I am so grateful that I am not in a performance based relationship with him  But, here, in this flesh, on this earth, I have to get things done. And Jesus is not down here holding a crying one year old while I get dinner made  And I don’t remember how to educate or make meals anymore. So my question is, How do I do it? How do you redeem your days? What about when you forget how you used to function?

I find myself in the same boat, and I also wonder about the whys and wherefores of the change.  How did I go from reading whole series aloud, to reading so little that finishing a chapter book is cause for celebration?  Who am I, and where did the old Kim go?

I used to create a meal plan every week without fail, and now I can’t seem to do it two weeks in a row.  We did 6 subjects in school every day, and my house was generally clean.  I read entire series of books aloud to my children.  And I had 4, 5, or 6 little ones, with no help.  What happened?

I think it really does get harder in some ways because as our children get older we are pulled in different directions.  It’s harder to find a book that will appeal to everyone at once, and it’s harder to find the time to sit down and read – especially if what you are reading is not universally engrossing.

With 20 years of experience and several helpers, it’s easy enough to put off planning and just wing it when it comes to meals – even though planning would save time and money.

There are enough of us to clean up after the little ones, so they don’t have to learn to clean up after themselves.

And I’m not the 20-something I used to be.  A sleepless baby can put me out of commission for most of the day.

How did I used to do it?  How can I do it now?   I can’t by my own strength, but I never could.  Just like the old days, I do my best and ask for grace and peace about the things left undone.  Or I don’t do my best, and ask forgiveness and help to do better tomorrow.

I ask my husband again about priorities so that we can be on the same page.  I am blessed to have a husband who cares about lightening my burden, so he offers suggestions, pitches in to help, and rallies the troops.  Maybe your husband will do this if he knows enough about your struggles?


From Tanya: We have a family of 10. And my laundry pile is huge! We have more clothes than we need but I am curious how much clothes, shoes, etc per person to keep. Do you have some sort of system for that? And do you get rid of clothing when there out grown or save it for a younger sibling?…at this point we are saving a lot but it doesn’t seem to get used by the next either because the seasons are different or their body sizes are different. Also getting the kids to help with chores etc is like pulling teeth any thoughts on that also?…thanks

I strongly suspect we have too many clothes, but we do work hard to stay right on top of the dirty laundry.  I hate when the washer goes out and it becomes an instant crisis because we were already operating on the cusp of disaster!

One thing that makes a big difference for us is to keep all the dirty laundry in one place, where I can see it easily.  If it’s out of sight, I forget about it entirely.  If it’s divided into a separate hamper for each bedroom or each person, we can be 12 loads behind before we know it!  When it’s all in one place right under my nose, “behind on laundry” means we have 3 or 4 loads to do.

Another thing that helps is not allowing the little ones to have free access to their clothes.  Anyone young enough to enjoy a good game of dress-up is young enough to require supervision.  When the 4yo needs fresh clothes, she has to ask first and have somebody watch her get them out of the drawer – so we know she isn’t emptying her drawers onto the floor searching for her very pair of underpants.

I pass clothes directly from one child to the next whenever possible, because the “out of sight, out of mind” principle works here too.  If we pack it up to save it, there’s an excellent chance we will forget about it until it’s no use to anyone.  If we don’t have a very near-term use for an article of clothing, we donate it and plan to buy again later from a thrift store.


How do you organize kids clothing? Anything you especially keep or don’t keep? 

Our clothes right now consist of 3 cubbies for each child, plus hanging space in the closet.  The cubbies hold:

  1. Tops
  2. Underclothes & pjs
  3. Bottoms: pants, shorts

Some of us have a few more cubbies as the system has evolved, but that is basically how it works.

When it comes to hand-me-downs, I usually only keep what I expect to use within 2 years.  That means I am keeping none of our 4yo daughter’s clothes because we don’t have another little girl up-and-coming.  We try not to keep anything too worn or stained, of course, which means nearly all of the boys’ clothes get pitched faster than they get passed.  I keep just a few newborn outfits because they tend to receive them as gifts and use relatively few.

I also keep very few heavy coats or other winter apparel because they take so much space to store and we use them so rarely – sometimes we go the entire winter without needing more than a jacket, and most of my Texas-born children don’t even know what a snowsuit is.  I don’t own anything heavier than a lightweight denim jacket myself.  I just layer it with a sweater on the really “cold” days.

Ideas for healthy yet inexpensive snacks? I’ve got a boy who is 4 years old and could eat me out of house and home.

Most of our snacks are real food: anything that works for lunch works as a snack, too, and it probably has more staying power than traditional snack foods.  I also lean heavily on milk as an add-on.  It’s a good balance of protein, fat and carbs.  Peanut butter is another versatile source of protein.  Anything with protein and fat will tend to keep kids satisfied for longer.

  • Animal crackers and peanut butter
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Banana bread with peanut butter
  • Any appealing leftovers I’m eager to get rid of
  • Banana roll-ups: spread peanut butter on a tortilla and wrap around a banana.  If we happen to have extra hot dogs buns, we do this and call it a banana dog.
  • Cake or muffins made of leftover oatmeal or other hot cereal.  Serve with a big glass of milk.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich – heavy on the peanut butter (we keep tortillas on hand instead of bread, so ours are pbj roll-ups)
  • Carrot sticks and ranch dressing
  • Tortilla chips and salsa – the only chips we do in our house with any sort of regularity.  We buy these in a big box from Costco, very cheap and much better for you than potato chips.  Maybe it’s weird outside of Texas, but my little ones beg for salsa.
  • Peanut butter and banana smoothies


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