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:

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From the mailbag: Church with 5 little ones

My recent Q&A post included the topic of keeping children quiet in church, and elicited the following comment from a reader.  Maybe you understand how she feels.

Oh, Kim! I am feeling so defeated about having our littles in church! We have worked so hard with our 4-year-old and our 2-year-old and they do pretty well. We have great conversations (esp with the 4-year-old) about the things we learn in church. We have a 12-month-old foster-adopt son who is getting to a challenging stage (vocally and “sitting still”-wise), and because we cannot use Biblical, physical forms of discipline with him, we are struggling with how to train him.

Add to that: our lives have just been turned upside down–we found out we will have his newborn sister placed with us (surprise!), and I am 4 days postpartum with our third bio-baby. We will have five kids, and the oldest is 4!

Even if my husband is always with us in the pew, we don’t have enough arms between us to hold all the babies, let alone train them! I am especially discouraged because in a few weeks, once the youngest can be out in public, we have to begin the church-hunting process in this not-child-friendly city. What will people think when we walk through a church’s front door and cause chaos in the sanctuary? Back when we only had the older two, we once visited a church that asked us to sit in the foyer seating area because children were not allowed in the sanctuary for “videotaping” purposes.

I guess I realize I am overwhelmed with lots of things, and worried about being rejected by believers when we most need the support of a good church.


I hardly know where to start.  I want to offer a dozen pieces of advice and encouragement all at once, along with a shoulder to cry on.  I’m just beginning to come out of the post-partum fog, so let me remind you of one huge thing: Even though your concerns and challenges are very real, everything looks and feels even worse now while you are riding that rollercoaster of hormones and sleep deprivation.  If you can just take the next few months one day at a time, you’ll be able to look back and breathe a sigh of relief, realizing that it wasn’t quite as bad as you thought it would be.  I know this because I was a basket-case when we had a wedding, a move, and a baby all in short order, closely followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and hordes of happy houseguests.  It was overwhelming to me at the time, but looking back I can only blame hormone-induced stress.  It was a loud and busy time, and everyone but me was having fun.

But you do have your hands full, and they’re getting fuller.  You are overflowing with blessings, and overflowing is stressful.

It sounds like your biggest concern is finding a church that will love and accept your family.  I don’t know where you live or what your doctrine is, but I strongly recommend you look for a church on the NCFIC.org site (National Center for Family-Integrated Churches).  These are congregations from many denominations that encourage families to keep their children in worship with them, so they will joyfully tolerate the disruptions as you train your children to sit quietly.  While they may be able to point you to a nursing room or cry-room, nobody will give you dirty looks for having your children sit with you, or suggest that you send them to children’s church.

If you don’t find a suitable listing in your area, you might want to ask around on Facebook (or I’ll ask here for you) and see if anyone knows of congregations in your area that are not listed on the NCFIC site.

I understand that corporal discipline is not an option with your 12 month old, but there are other ways to teach him.

  • Many families recommend regular daily times of quiet listening as practice for worship.
  • During church, when my little ones get too noisy and I take them out, I don’t entertain them.  I make sure being taken out is less interesting than sitting in church.  For example, quiet toys might be allowed in church but not when you take the baby out of the sanctuary.  Certainly don’t reward him with a trip to the nursery if you are trying to teach him to sit quietly in church.
  • A firm vocal command can be effective.  Just tell him “no,” softly but firmly with no hint of a smile.  If he smiles in response, don’t let yourself smile back.
  • Be self conscious not to encourage the baby to squeal and play.  Funny faces may keep his attention, but who do you blame when he laughs and squeals?  My babies are quieter when they face forward rather than facing me.
  • If you can work it, a nap is the perfect way to keep a baby quiet during church.  Yes, they might fuss a little before they doze off but then you are rewarded with an hour of sweet silence.  I don’t know about your schedule, but for us worship falls squarely into naptime for our babies.

When it comes to the mechanics of worshiping with lots of little ones, we have found two seating techniques that were very helpful when we had lots of little ones:

  1. You and your husband resist the temptation to sit right next to each other, placing troublemakers between you and on your laps.  With 2 children between you, one in each lap, one on the far left and another on the far right, you can have 6 children sitting on or next to you and your husband.  While it doesn’t solve every problem, keeping them within easy reach does allow you to notice problems and address them promptly.
  2. If you really, really want to sit together – and I don’t blame you – try this.  I like it better than the first idea.  Rather than stretching out in one long row, have some children sit directly in front of you.  Sometimes this is more effective than having them sit next to you, because they are directly in your line of sight while you watch the pulpit.  This also allowed my husband and I to sit together while keeping an eye on 7 or 8 children – one on each lap, one to the left of us, one to the right of us, and several in front of us.  I won’t name names, but we still do this with our troublemakers and fidgeters.

Having two newborns is going to be tricky no matter what you do, but remember: moms do it all the time.  It’s called twins.  Seek out moms of twins, and get advice.  Most are glad to help.

And speaking of help: once you find a family friendly church, seek out a baby-loving teen who is willing to help you during the service.  Our girls have been known to sit with the little ones of another family when both parents are occupied with needy wee ones.

Do you have advice for Karen?  Let’s hear it in the comments.

4 Moms: How did you know you wanted/could handle a large family?

4 Moms: how did you know you wanted/could handle a large family?

Today the 4 Moms are answering a very tough question: How did you know you wanted/could handle a large family?

That’s actually two very different questions.  I’ll start with the 2nd, because it has an easy answer: I didn’t, and I couldn’t.  I would venture to say that none of us was prepared to handle a large family before we had a large family.  Most of us probably still aren’t able; we do it daily by the grace of God, not by our own strength.  As I’ve said before, if you start to feel like you can do it on your own, things are about to go downhill.

all 300x163 Big family photos; and family comes to my rescue once againI did, however, feel reasonably confident that I would be able to handle a large family if and when God gave me one.  I was the oldest of a large family, so I had plenty of hands-on training in the field.  I could cook for a crowd, had my own housecleaning business, and probably changed more diapers as a big sister than many mothers do in their lives.  I have a strong suspicion that I was a self-centered teen who only did just what was required and rarely went the extra mile, but I am extremely grateful that my parents had high standards so that “just what was required” went a long way toward preparing me for life as a wife and mother in a large family.

Nonetheless, as a 19yo newlywed (or as a 27yo mother of 5) I could not have been truly prepared for mothering my current crowd.  No one is.  God used our children one at a time (or 2 at a time if you have twins!) to teach us and sancify us, giving us the ability to do the job He laid before us.  I love the saying, “God does not call the equipped.  He equips the called.”  If you ever find yourself with a large family, whether you “planned” it or not, be assured that God has given you and will give you what you need to do your job.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.   Ph. 4:13.

As to the first question, I have written a little in the past about our journey away from the birth control mentality.  At first, Perry and I agreed that 5 or 6 children would be a nice, manageable sort of family.  After 4 in 5 years, we very nearly stopped.  We were in over our heads.  Then one at a time, we found ourselves subjected to different influences that made us seriously question what was driving our desire to stop having children.  We gradually came to the conclusion that it would be a mistake on our part, a demonstration of our own selfishness, pride and lack of faith, to purposely and prematurely put an end to our childbearing years.

If you feel judged by that last sentence, let’s not even open that can of worms today.  I didn’t say it applied to everyone, and I didn’t say it doesn’t.  I said it about myself and my husband in our particular situation and state of mind.

When we made that decision, we weren’t convinced that we wanted or could handle 8 or 12 or 15 children, but we were becoming convinced that God knew better than we did.  If He gave us that many children, we would have our answer – and we would find joy in it.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And here we are, expecting #11.  I can’t imagine life without my last 6 children, and in October I won’t be able to imagine it without yet another.

The other moms are talking about it too:

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:

  • June 14 - Q&A
  • June 21 - How do you keep up your energy?
  • June 28 - favorite freezer meals

Recent topics:

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

Big family in a small house: What do you want to know?

Remember my series about having a Big Family in a Small House?  Here are the posts I did so far:

  • Big family in a small house, part 1: Bedrooms
  • Big family in a small house, part 2: Storage
  • Big family in a small house, part 3: the floor plan
  • Big family in a small house, part 4: Entertaining guests
  • Big family in a small house, part 5: Finding personal space
  • So here’s the question of the day: if I add to the series, what else would you want to know?  Hit me with your questions!

    4 Moms giveaway: Large Family Logistics!!!

    This giveaway closed on 7/13/2011. Large Family Logistics book for moms of many

    We’re really excited about this, and we think you will be too.  Did you see the 3 exclamation points at the end of this post title?  Think about it: how often have you seen me do that?  I am not an excitable person (unless there’s a scorpion in my bed).  But this, this is exciting!

    Each of the 4 Moms is going to give away a free copy of Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman, highly organized mom of 10 kids.  Enter at all 4 of our blogs to pump up your chances of winning – you’re allowed!

    And why do you think we’re giving away copies of Large Family Logistics?

    Because we’re going to spend the month of August blogging through the book and we want you to join us.  We’re going to do 4 consecutive weeks of linkies!  The more, the merrier, so get ready and tell all your blogging friends to get ready too!

    About the book:

    Moms have many tasks to tackle and obstacles to overcome: the laundry monster, household clutter and cleaning needs, caring for babies and little ones, menu planning and mealtime routines, town outings, homeschooling, bill paying—and even more!

    Like many wives and mothers, author Kim Brenneman didn’t start out with all of the answers. She struggled to figure out: What do I do next? What’s the best way to actually do the many things that need to be done? And how do I get everything accomplished in a 24-hour day and keep my sanity?

    In Large Family Logistics, Kim outlines practical solutions she has learned to effectively manage a busy household. This how-to manual is filled with step-by-step procedures, easy-to- understand organizational advice, and a myriad of tips and hints for managing a bustling home with greater efficiency in a way that honors God and builds up family relationships.

    Sensible and straightforward, Kim tackles the nitty- gritty, day-to-day challenges moms face and also offers sound counsel on how to plan and accomplish long-term domestic goals. An invaluable home management resource that will equip busy moms to get beyond survival mode and thrive!


    Large Family Logistics Giveaway

    To enter:

    • Leave a comment on this post telling me what area of your home could use the most help.

    Additional entries: (Please leave an additional comment for each entry.)

    • Share about this giveaway on Facebook.
    • Post about this giveaway on your blog. (3 entries! Please leave 3 separate comments for this.  If you post about the other moms’ giveaways, your post can count be entered here too.  Just make sure it contains a link to this giveaway.)
    • Tweet about this giveaway. You may copy and paste: Win a copy of Large Family Logistics from @raisingolives , enter here http://inashoe.com/?p=9116
    • Don’t forget to enter the other 3 Moms’ giveaways!

    We’ll announce the 4 winners next Thursday.

    Don’t want to wait?  Vision Forum just kicked off a special which includes Large Family Logistics!


    Save $21.00 (36%)
    Regular Price $59.00

    Through July 9, save 35% when you purchase Vision Forum’s complete family pack: Victorious Home Life for Families Large and Small. This collection includes two Vision Forum bestsellers — Tea with Michelle Duggar (DVD) and Large Family Logistics (book) — plus the Duggar’s new release,  A Love that Multiplies (book). Together, these resources will equip you to more efficiently run and manage your household, as well as disciple and love your children with renewed joy.

    Upcoming topics:

    • July 14 - Lunch Menu linky
    • July 21 - Tips for remaining patient when you have a houseful of kids
    • July 28 – Q&A  (please leave your questions on my last Q&A post if you want me to find them)

    Recent topics:

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    Beach trip 2011

    Just in case you’re wondering, the beach was wonderful, incredible, exciting, fabulous, amazing, adventurous.  How could it fail to be any of the above and a hundred more synonyms for fun?  It was the beach. Some of us thought we would love to own a house on the beach and live there.  Some of us thought the novelty would wear off too quickly.  I would love the opportunity to learn who is right and who is wrong.

    Since we were going to spend 2 nights and 3 days there, I hatched a plan to aid the sunblock and delay the inevitable sunburns: we would spend a few hours on the beach early in the morning, then for the heat of the day we would hide in our hotel rooms or the beach house rented by the extended family.  The little ones could have their naps while the big ones played cards, visited, etc.  After a siesta, we would once again hit the sand and play for the rest of the day while the sun sank low behind us.

    We left our house insanely early Monday morning and arrived around 11 AM after a 5.5 hour drive.  Immediately ditching the anti-sunburn plan, we all donned swimsuits, slathered on the BBQ sauce, and hit the surf.

    We saw the standard seagulls, but also huge brown pelicans, soaring and diving around us.  How can something so ugly be so majestic at the same time?

    We saw whole schools of fish at the crest of nearly every way, all around us.  We laughed every time one flipped out of the water and flew back in.  We squealed at the seaweed brushing our legs, suspecting jellyfish instead.  I spotted dorsal fins moving back and forth, surfacing and disappearing just beyond the nearby sandbar.  When I pointed them out to the others with me, we convinced each other that they were just dolphins (I know, I know.  They’re really porpoises).

    When we spotted a whole school fever of stingrays (yes, I had to look it up )on the crest of a wave 20 feet away, we decided it was time to join the little kids on the shore.

    Late in the day Perry Boy spotted something alive on the shore.  He screamed and pointed, “DAD!  I see something like a CRAB!”  It was a big crab, which we carried back in a bucket to show the rest of our group.  Fortunately we got a picture of the exact moment he spotted it.

    boy finds a crab on the beach

    The next day, our plan fell through.  We slept right through the cool morning hours, put on more BBQ sauce, and climbed back into the frying pan.  It was great.

    OK, I’m exaggerating a little.  First we went to the free aquarium at the nearby Texas Sea Center, where I looked long and hard at the dorsal fin of every single shark on display.  I was relieved to see that none resembled the dorsal fins I had seen the day before.   They were just dolphins.  Right?  Right??

    At the Sea Center, we crowded around the touch tank to touch all the different types of crabs – hermit crabs, shameface crabs, stone crabs, blue crabs, spider crabs.

    at the Texas Sea Center

    We looked in the other tanks at the endless varieties of fish, large and small, drab and colorful.

    We saw electric eels and morays.

    The little kids had great fun making crayon rubbings at an art station, and left all of them lying there.

    A few of the kids bought shark tooth necklaces for $2.

    And then they begged to go back to the beach.  Of course, nice parents that we are, we obliged.

    We sauced up and hit the sand again while the sun was still at its peak.  By the end of the day, most of us were nicely toasted.

    Dinner was our first-ever shrimp boil.  I think everyone agreed it was glorious, and we plan to do it again soon with or without seafood.  My mom was wishing she had thought to serve meals that way back when she was serving 3 meals a day to 10 or 15 kids.  Just think of all the dishes that would be saved!   Then she realized that she did think of it, but Dad wouldn’t let her feed us from a trough.  Somehow it seems much classier when you do it in a beach house.

    At some point, a couple of the girls realized that they had hatchling crabs in their swimsuits and they showed us the tiny things, barely visible to the human eye.  We compared notes and realized that the faint itchy/pinchy feelings we had all experienced in the water were probably not ant bites like they would have been at home.  No, you don’t get ants in your pants at the beach.  You get crabs in your swimsuit.

    After a little thought, we cautioned the girls against telling people that they had crabs.  Nice girls don’t get crabs, and we didn’t want to give people the wrong idea.  Tact and discretion required a more precise name.  We had infant crustaceans in our swimsuits.

    infant crustaceans in our swimsuits

    On the last day, Kaitlyn made an incredible lifesize mermaid in the sand with lovely seaweed hair.  Isn’t she lovely?  My sister has a picture of Kaitlyn lying on the sand with her mermaid friend.  I’m watching facebook to see if it shows up…

    Oh, wait.  She’s not a mermaid.  See?  No tail.  Here’s a pic with Rachael and the sand-maiden:

    Our last stop before we left town was the jetty, about a mile down the beach.  Mom and some of my sibs drove over with us, and we all had a long, leisurely amble far out into the ocean.

    The sun was blazing down on us but the breeze made it bearable, at least for those of us who had more tan and less burn.  We finally got to see dolphins with dorsal fins that matched what I had seen while swimming.

    We saw a freshly killed sea turtle with a plastic line wrapped around one flipper, and wondered just how it had died.  Did a fisherman kill it because it had fouled a net?  Did he find it suffering and kill it out of mercy?  Did it simply climb up on the rocks to die?  My brother took it by the line and swung it back into the water, avoiding the puddle of blood around it.

    We saw schools of much bigger fish than we had seen swimming, and I saw several groups of what looked like angelfish.  Perry suggested that our stingray sighting was actually fish like these, but Deanna accused us of ruining a perfectly good stingray story and I agree.  They were not flat fish.  We saw stingrays in the water.

    We saw several piles of small fish that had been caught in nets by some of the fisherman.  They had picked through them for bait, then left the rest to die on the hot rocks when they were done fishing for the day.  Natalie and Becca were horrified at the waste of life and threw the ones that were still alive back into the water.  I concurred.  Hunting and fishing are good stewardship, but wasting the resources God has given us is just that: wasteful.  Why wouldn’t these fisherman want to throw back the little ones for another day?

    We found multitudes of tiny snails on the rocks where the waves washed against them, and I gently pulled some off to show Perry.  He was scared of crabs, but loved these little guys.  He was disappointed that he couldn’t take them home to keep as pets, but we assured him they would quickly die.

    Credits for the photographer for most of the photos in this post:

    er…the big guy.  Not the little redhead, though I’m fond of her too.

    Spring cleaning

    Not our own giveaway, but visit Homestead Drying Racks for a chance to win Homesteading for Beginners (a 3 DVD set)

    It’s a fact of life that blogging slows down when spring cleaning starts up.  Today was bright, sunny, and in the 70′s.  We couldn’t resist.  We cleaned the storage shed.

    Maybe you don’t have a storage shed so you miss the grandeur of this undertaking.  Or maybe you just don’t allow your children to carry stuff down to your storage shed while you sit and blog, so your shed doesn’t look like mine did.

    Either way, we forgot to take before and after photos and I hang my head in shame.  I have failed as a blogger.

    We were motivated largely by the fact that last weekend we managed to free up all 3 dressers in the house plus the nightstand.  We were able to organize the shed properly this time because we were able to add proper storage options rather than forcing some poor soul to decide between tossing 3 space heaters and 19 out-of-season dresses up into the rafters or climbing across 4 box fans, a double stroller, and a full size mattress to put the stuff on top of a 20 gallon fish – er, snake tank.

    Are you laughing at my optimism that this time the shed will stay organized?  Are you wondering how can possibly believe this time will be different than all the other times we organized the shed?  I knew it.  Go ahead and snicker.  I’m ignoring you.  I’m pretending you’re just wondering how we managed to free up all the dressers.

    And how did we free up the dressers?  Like this:

    See?  Cubbies!  We love them!  It’s a work in progress: we plan to add a few more upward to create a sort of zig-zag line from upper left down to the window, then a little jag up on the right, sort of framing the window.  Make sense?  Well, it does in my head.  It looks nice, really.  Much nicer than this times two:

    That wall of cubbies holds the clothes of 6 of the children, plus space for books, jewelry, toys, etc.  The 4 youngest have their clothes in my room, but they each have one cubby of their own here in the Kid Room for their toys as well.

    We put a similar system in our own bedroom, but it’s much smaller.  Perry and I each have a 2×3 unit for a nightstand/dresser, and another conglomeration holds clothes for the 4 little ones plus shoes for all six of us.

    Before – Ancient dresser on Mom’s side crammed with clothes for 4.  Nightstand on Dad’s side mostly crammed with forgotten and unidentified junk.

    After – Mom’s side of the room:

    Dad’s side of the room:

    Did you notice our bling?  I have my jewelry organizer, improvised from a glassless picture frame.

    Perry has a tie rack, topped by his grandfather’s old shoehorn.

    Clothes for little people and shoes for all:

    Hmmm.  Either I’m tired and grumpy, or it all looks better in real life.  Maybe I should have had one of my in-house photographers do the job.

    Anyway, we’re all whupped tonight, and we all love our bedrooms now.  Tomorrow’s mission: potluck at our house with 40 or 50 people!

    Happy Birthday Beloved!

    Happy Birthday to the prettiest girl in the world. (and a darn good blogger too)

    Happy Birthday!

    Happy Birthday Kim

    She's mine!

    Living small

    I’m not officially blogging during the month of December, but wanted to take a moment to share this chic little Paris apartment, which houses a family of 4 and one big dog. They may have the same number of square feet/person that we do, but there are economies of scale that they miss out on.  They have much less living area than we do.

    I’m guessing the apartment itself is nothing out of the ordinary over there, but I love the comments from Europeans who point out how we Americans have allowed our perception of needs to become so inflated.

    The Myth of Overpopulation

    Surely you already know that I don’t subscribe to the myth of overpopulation.  Even if I did, if faced with accusations of irresponsibility I think I would have to quote another mother: “Sir, the world NEEDS my children.”

    Nonetheless, I enjoy witnessing the debunking of ridiculous theories like evolution and overpopulation.  That’s one reason I can’t resist sharing this video, found via Large Family Mothering.

    The other reason?

    I love God’s sense of humor and timing.  I found this video and let it load in the background while chatting online with my good friend, Mother Hen.  When it was done loading, I hit the play button.  Mother Hen sent me a link while I was watching, but I finished the video before going back to our chat.  When I clicked on her link, guess what came up?

    Yup.  I wonder if she’s blogging the video this very moment?  Nah…what are the chances of that?