30 Days of Thanks, Day 1: Awkward moments

I do all kinds of embarrassing things, but fortunately most of them go unnoticed.  Yesterday, not so much.2013-11-01 16.35.16

I came out of the grocery store with my purse on one arm and several bags of groceries on the other.  As usual, my plan was to drop it all on the passenger seat.  I don’t always lock the doors since the radio was stolen because I prefer to let potential thieves into my car without breaking a window, especially now that there is no radio for them to steal.

Anyway, I was a little annoyed to find the passenger door of my car locked – then I remembered that I had locked the doors while driving, and only unlocked the driver door when I got out.  Of course the passenger door was locked.

I stopped jiggling the handle with a little grunt of frustration.  Then a voice inquired from right behind me,

“Is there a problem?  Because that’s my car.”


My car was 6 spaces up.

And just for the record, my passenger door was locked too.

On a similar note, and also because today is the first of November, traditionally a month dedicated to thankfulness: I am thankful to have a Mustang.  Even if it’s the most common car and color in the state of Texas.  It’s not a fancy car, not an expensive car, and not even a particularly comfortable car.  But it’s my dream car.

See the rest of my 30 Days of Thanks 2013

Help a shy girl break out of her shell.

Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit NEWS {Giveaway}

See that button above?  I want to win a pass to the Homeschool Moms’ Winter Summit.  And I want you to help me.

Smockity said I had to write an awesome blog post about this conference in order to enter the giveaway.  But the whole reason I want to go is because my awesome is all used up.  I need to recharge my awesome.  So I need you to pretend that this post is awesome.  Say lots of awesome things about it in the comments, because the winner will be chosen based partly on the number of comments.   Can you do this for me?  Will you do it if I tell you that one commentor will also win a pass?  And then if we both won, we could meet in real life!  And I could act all awkward because I’m actually really shy in real life, but you didn’t know that because I’m such a bigmouth on my blog.

The Homeschool Moms’ Winter Summit is in San Marcos, barely an hour from my house.  Interested?  Here’s how to register.  I know Perry will want me to go.  I know this even without asking him, because he just told me about it even though I already knew.  Also, he always encourages me to do stuff like this and I whine and say that I’m too shy for conferences and too tired to go get energized and encouraged.  But then we go to a conference and I love every minute of it while he gives me the “Are you ready to leave yet?” look.  So if I win a free pass, I’ll put on my big girl pants and just go.  I’ll do it.

So pop over to the Winter Summit facebook page and see what it’s all about, but first leave me a comment.  Better yet, leave 3!

Want to enter to win the pass for yourself?  See how here.

In which I sleep better at 40

I turned 40 back in December.  I had heard that the 40’s were great, and so far I have no complaints.  In fact, I just realized one HUGE perk.  I sleep better.  Here’s why:

They say your hearing is the first to go, and you lose the higher ranges first.

I’m a light sleeper and I remember many sleepless nights, lying awake in my bed listening to a mosquito in the darkness.  She would buzz near me, and I would swat wildly.  Then I would listen.  Silence…silence…silence…neeeeeeeeee.  The high-pitched whine of the mosquito’s wings.  Eventually I fall asleep and wake up with an itchy bump or three, but it’s always a losing battle.  I would have happily thrown in the towel if I could have just willed myself to ignore the hum and go to sleep.

But it’s all over.  Today I realized that in spite of this year’s bumper crop of mosquitos and all the itchy bumps, I have not heard the whine of a mosquito in at least 6 months!  I can sleep in blissful ignorance while they drain me to their evil little hearts’ content.

Want to check your own hearing?  The Online Tone Generator lets your test your own hearing range and then see how it compares to others in your age group.  It also lets you test yourself on specific frequencies.  I think 17,000 Hertz is the sound of a mosquito, but  I could hear up to 16,000.  How high can you hear?

Here’s something I want to try out: I read that dragonflies are natural predators of the mosquito, and their wings beat at 45-67 Hertz.  Some claim that a tone generator in that range will repel mosquitos.  You can get your computer to do it, and with the speakers turned way down low it’s really not bothersome.  I’m going to use the tone generator linked above and try the dragonfly frequency on my phone as a portable personal mosquito repellent.  Cool, yes?



When Motherhood seems too hard

I gave Kelly’s new ebook a plug on Facebook when she released it yesterday, but Perry called from work this morning to gently admonish me.  He reminded me how eagerly many of you received my Life With Littles and encouragement For Tired Young Mothers of Many posts.  “Don’t you think Kelly’s book would strike a chord with your blog readers?”

I think he was right.  He usually is.

Kelly Crawford of Generation Cedar has a new ebook for moms, and the title alone is perfect: Devotions, Advice & Renewal for When Motherhood Feels Too Hard.  Isn’t that every day?

When Motherhood Feels Too Hard is the daily inspiration you need to not just get through a day, but to FLOURISH as a mother, to build a home, and to ignite a passion in your children that will impact the next generation for the glory of God!

If the title wasn’t enough, I would be totally sold on Jennie Chancey’s review:

“This eBook is Kelly’s “cup of cold water” to mothers. We all need refreshment and encouragement when the hard days come, and Kelly has provided bite-sized (but meaty and thought-provoking) daily devotionals that urge us to take our calling as mothers seriously but remember at the same time that we are vessels of clay in need of God’s filling. These words are true whether you are the mother of one or the mother of ten! Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your beautiful insights into the calling of motherhood “from the trenches!” -Jennie Chancey, Ladies Against Feminism

When Motherhood Feels Too Hard is available as an instant download (PDF) or for your Kindle.  I’ll be starting my copy very soon.  Anyone want to join me?


Adrenal update

About 2 weeks ago I asked what you all knew about adrenal fatigue, and you came to my rescue with more info than I could absorb in an adrenally fatigued lifetime!

I couldn’t help believing adrenal fatigue was the latest fad and I hated to jump on every bandwagon that passes my way, but I really do think we’re onto something here.  Even though we often live a lifestyle that appears healthy on the surface, I think moms of many are habitually sleep deprived and pulled in too many directions to think much about ourselves.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I think much sanctification comes by children, and most of us would do well to think a little less about ourselves – but maybe it is hard on our health.

I’m a pretty easy-going person.  I’ve never felt like a stressful person, but I know that when I’m surrounded by circumstances that would be stressful to a higher strung person, I get heart palpitations and tachycardia that can last for days on end.  I also know that if I step back and look objectively, I had multiple sources of stress in my life over the past 2 years, often piled one on top of the other.  I thought I was handling things well, but maybe my body disagreed.

I had that conversation with my mom last week and learned that she feels exactly the same way.  We don’t feel stressed emotionally or psychologically, but our bodies feel it and react nonetheless.

My conclusion: I was suffering from a combination of mild adrenal fatigue and some early signs of what a dear friend calls, “Mad Cow Disease.”  I’ll let you guess what that means, but I’m almost 40.

I say was because I’m feeling better already.  For better or worse, I took a shotgun approach and made about a dozen changes all at once, so it’s hard to say which ones or how many are actually making a difference.

  • I cut back on sugar and caffeine.  Except dark chocolate.  We all know that’s good for you, and I don’t want to do anything detrimental to my health.
  • I am making a serious effort to get more sleep.  It’s not entirely in my hands, but I can certainly do my part.
  • On my midwife’s advice, I started taking an adrenal supplement.  I don’t want to be hooked on an expensive supplement and I wouldn’t be too quick to credit this except that my blood pressure, which normally runs in the comatose range, is suddenly very normal.  That has never happened to me – not during stressful times, not during pregnancy, not during labor, not in rain or shine, sleet, hail or snow…you get the idea.  I just woke up one morning about 5 days after I started taking the supplement and I was normal.
  • Progesterone should be helping with any signs of Mad Cow Disease.
  • I’m faithfully taking my Supermom vitamins plus a B complex and D3.
  • I plan to start walking regularly again.  I have a tendency to exercise hard or not at all, and I don’t go outdoors nearly as much as I should.  This winter has been warm and beautiful, and I’m a fool not to be outside at every chance.

As I mentioned, I’m feeling better already.  I didn’t feel terrible to begin with – I just didn’t have the energy that I think I should.  With an unprecedented gap after our last baby, I should feel like Wonder Woman.  Instead, I felt like I was trapped in the first trimester of a pregnancy – you, know, that part where you always feel like you need another nap?  Now I feel like it’s closer to where it should be.  Thanks for all your help and advice, and I hope some other tired mama can learn from this like I did.

Adrenal fatigue: what do you know?

I mentioned on Facebook last week that my midwife was testing me for anemia.  What??  You don’t follow Life in a Shoe on Facebook?  Why not?

Anyway, I was at my midwife’s office last week for a blood draw.  This was my idea, not hers, because I am not currently seeing her for any other conditions including pregnancy.  That’s mainly because I am not, to the best of my knowledge, pregnant.

More accurately, it was Perry’s idea.  He thinks I have been rather more tired than usual over the past few months.  I’m not sure that’s true, but I am sure that I have more confidence in his observation than in my own memory or perception, especially if I’m unusually tired.

This was the first time I have EVER been stuck twice for a single draw.  I have fabulous veins, and have been told by various people in a non-creepy way that I would make a great drug addict.  If I liked needles and had higher blood pressure, I might also make a great blood/plasma donor.  As you’ll see, low blood pressure can be a problem when you’re trying to get something out of a vein.

When she stuck the needle right into my clearly exposed bright blue vein, nothing happened in the little vial.

“Hmm,” she said.  “That’s odd.  I thought it went right into the vein.”  After a little wriggling and jabbing of the needle, we had nothing more than a few pathetic drops.  “I’m so sorry.  I’ll have to try again.”  Poke.  Still very little action in the vial.

I began to think that instead of anemia, she should check me for a pulse.  Death causes lethargy, right?  I squeezed a squishy ball with my hand repeatedly in an effort to bleed compliantly, but it was slow going.  My blood pressure always runs low, but apparently I needed to drink more water that morning.  Looking at the thick dark sludge in the vial, I had to wonder if she was going to reconstitute it before sending to the lab.

After a long time, she smiled brightly and told me that the quarter vial she had would be plenty.

A few days later, the results are in: my bloodwork is beautiful.  No anemia here. (Does anyone know if mild temporary dehydration could skew the results?)

With anemia ruled out, I need to look at other possibilities.

What do you know about adrenal fatigue? My midwife suggested that as a second possibility.  I have enough symptoms to make it a strong possibility, but I also get the impression that doctors don’t necessarily think it’s a real ailment and everyone could have the symptoms on the lists I’m seeing.  (Do you crave sweet and/or salty and/or high protein and/or high fat foods?  Do you sometimes stay up too late, and have a hard time getting started in the morning?  Really?  You too?  No way!!!)

Of course it could also be the fact that I have been pregnant, nursing, or both for over 19 years without a break.

It could be because I am quickly creeping up on my 5th decade.  Er, that would be the 40’s.  Just like the 1900’s were actually the 20th century.  I’m not 50, though I like to think I would look great for my age if I were.

It could be the fact that my still-nursing 20mo baby only recently started sleeping through the night, and only in the loosest sense.  He still wakes often, and winds up in my bed more than what I would call “occasionally,” but less than “frequently.”  Is there a word for that?

It could be because although the baby is finally beginning to sleep a little better at night, the other young children are not.  I get at least one or two visitors each night, and on a busy night my bedroom looks more like a fast food drive through:

“I need a drink of water.”

“I need you to turn on the bathroom light.”

“Bethany has my blanket.”

“I’m scared of that little green guy on that cartoon I watched when I was 4.”

“Pant, pant, pant.”  Stare… (that’s the dog)

“Parker won’t sleep.”

“I need you to turn on the bathroom light.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Are you asleep?”

“The dogs pooped all over the living floor and I stepped in it.”

Gee, I don’t know why I’m so tired all the time.  Adrenal fatigue, or is it just life?  Or are they both the same?

I know when to fold ’em

Life on the road with kids is not all sunshine and lollipops.  I’m pretty sure I should have known that already, but I’ve been reminded again.

We have had wonderful visits with family and friends, old and new over the past 7 days.  I’m so very glad we spent a few extra days in the D/FW area.

However, our last stop has been cancelled.  We were going to attend a meet-up in Austin with bloggers, readers and various internet personages, but have decided to go straight home instead.

After 7 days, we are cranky and sleep deprived.  Some of us who were previously toilet trained are back in diapers.  The temps have been over 100 and without working a/c in the van we are probably smelly.  There is a stink in the diaper bag and I can’t seem to locate the source, so the baby’s clean clothes smell very unclean.  We only packed clothes and diapers for a 3 day trip.  Some children are complaining of sore throats, and I have a headache.

Oh, and I am whiny.

Anyone who met us for the first time this week would not come away with a good impression.  Sometimes you gotta know when to fold ’em.

This was my philosophy back when a road trip consisted of hitting 4 grocery stores with 6 children 8yo and under, and it’s my philosophy today.  You just don’t put yourself and your children out there when you know you won’t be a good witness to those around you.  You slink home to repent, recover and recuperate, and venture out another day.

4 Moms Naptime linky

4 Moms 35 Kids answer questions about big families

It’s Thursday yet again, and this time the 4 Moms are talking about naps this week.  I wish I could say we were taking naps instead of just talking about them, because like most moms I feel like I operate on a perpetual sleep deficit.

I’ve spent a very large proportion of the nighttime hours of the last 18 years doing night feedings, soothing nightmares and night terrors, changing wet sheets, bathing sick children along with the sibling who woke up with vomit in her hair, checking the breathing of a baby who is sleeping too well…and loving every minute of it.  Well, more or less, in a theoretical kind of way.

I certainly haven’t pulled all those night shifts alone, and this is where my hunney would probably appreciate it if I mention that he often sends me to bed early while he battens the hatches, and I have to give him credit for helping me to get as much sleep as I do.  No, he’s not for sale.

Oh, but I was supposed to talk about naptime, wasn’t?  For the kids, you mean?  Very well, then.

Once upon a time, when all the Coghlan children were very young and small, we all had naps or quiet time every single day without fail.  Maybe you’re wondering about the difference between a nap and quiet time?  If you were young enough or tired enough to fall asleep, it was a nap.  If you managed to stay awake the whole time, it was quiet time.

If the kids are doing quiet time while Mom takes a nap, you might have a problem.  You might also decide that the nap was worth the mess you found when you woke up, provided the toddler didn’t wander down the street wearing nothing but a diaper.  I’m not saying this ever happened to me, but I’m also not saying that something similar never happened.

am saying that training is important.  The little ones can and should be taught to stay in bed until nap time is officially over.  This will take an investment of time on your part, but it is sooo worth it.  Stake out the door for a few days or weeks, and you will have years of afternoon peace for your own nap/quiet time.

For one particularly stubborn child, I used a scarecrow. My husband once bought a tiger mask that covered not just his face, but his entire head.  When he wore it and went about the house on all fours, even I felt a lump of fear in my stomach.  It was realistic and terrifying, and even after the novelty wore off, our strong-willed toddler was still afraid to open the toybox if she thought the tiger might be lurking in the depths.

Heh, heh.  Call me a bad mom.

At nap time, I tucked her in and gave her a kiss.  I reminded her to obey and stay in bed, knowing full well she would try to creep out as soon as she thought I was down the stairs.  I closed the door behind me and perched the tiger head on a chair just outside the door, right at eye level for a 3yo.

That may have been the last time she got up during nap time.  Ah, memories.

It’s been years since we did a daily household-wide quiet time.  The definitions of nap time and quiet time still stand, but those of us who don’t regularly melt into a quivering heap of tears at the end of the day usually do without either these days.  I don’t necessarily recommend this.  I think quiet time can be especially beneficial for a large and busy household, and we’re always talking about going back to the good old days.

Naptime reading

Our kids love when I read aloud to them – doesn’t every child?  I have found that naptime is a perfect time for read-alouds.  It entertains their brains while their little bodies are winding down.  Since they all sleep in the same room, I can read to all of them at once after they’re tucked in.

I often read something short and sweet for the very little ones (Goodnight Moon and Sandra Boynton’s Going to Bed Book are favorites), but I find that they also enjoy the chapter books I read for the slightly older children.

We recently read through several of the Boxcar Children series, and in the past have also read Little House books, the Chronicles of Narnia, and some others that slip my mind at the moment.  Chapter books give them a reason to look forward to naptime, a chance to wind down during naptime, and something to discuss after naptime.

The linky: your favorite naptime book(s)

We promised a linky today, and here it is.  Share your favorite naptime reads and link up here.  When you join the linky at one of the 4 Mom’s, your link will show up on all 4!

Please remember the linky rules:

  1. You must link to a specific relevant post on your blog.
  2. Your post must include a link to at least one of the 4 Moms.
  3. The post you link to must be completely family friendly.

If your link is deleted, you probably didn’t follow one of the rules above. Please feel free to add your link again once you have fixed the problem. If you don’t know why your link was deleted, please ask.

No blog, or no time to post?  Share your favorite naptime story in the comments!

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The other moms are talking about it too:

Upcoming topics for June:

  • June 16 – Homeschooling the challenging child
  • June 23 – Q&A
  • June 30

Recent topics:

  • June 2 – 4 Moms talk about church
  • May 26 – 4 Moms Q&A: toothbrushes, internet filters, taming the stuff monster
  • May 19 – 4 Moms try to lose the baby weight
  • May 12 – 4 Moms practice hospitality, and YOU are invited!
  • May 5 – 4 Moms talk about you-know-what
  • April 28 – 4 Moms Q&A: sleep, exercise, and making do with one bathroom
  • April 21 – Large families & church, part 2: keeping them quiet
  • April 14 – Eating inexpensively on the road
  • April 7 – 4 Moms teach history
  • March 24 – Large families & church, part 1: getting there on time
  • March 17 – Bread baking linky
  • March 10 – Spring cleaning
  • March 3 – Books for early readers
  • February 24 – 4 Moms Q&A: my first audio blog on potty training and more
  • February 17 – Individual time with children: scary stuff here.  Just kidding.  Let go of the guilt.
  • February 10Cooking with little ones without losing your sanity
  • February 3 –Teaching reading, because it’s so much easier than teaching them to use the toilet.  Do not request a 4 Moms post about potty training, do you hear me?
  • January 27 – Q&A: Must-have baby equipment and other nitty gritty stuff
  • January 20 – Top 10 Books for Preschoolers
  • January 13 – Soups and Stews
  • January 6 – Teaching Bible

    4 Moms Q&A: toothbrushes, internet filters, taming the stuff monster

    4 Moms 35 Kids answer questions about big families

    It may be Thursday when you read this, but let me warn you: my brain has no idea what day or time it is.  I’m writing this post on Tuesday because I have a 6 hour drive to make tomorrow (yesterday?) and it feel like Wednesday already, because it’s actually Tuesday but I was up ALL NIGHT with a sick baby.

    If you think that was confusing, try using my brain.  Take everything that follows with a grain of salt – or maybe with a martini, if it seems more suitable.

    Since today is the Q&A session and my brain is fried for want of sleep, who thinks it would be a good idea to use this post more for entertainment than actual advice?  Or maybe you could think of my answers as a test, marking a true/false checkbox next to each one?  Yes, I like that idea.  We’ll do that. (Who can name the source of that quote? No peeking at the link.)

    Question from Renee:

    I have a silly question for you. I know you have mentioned that you have one bathroom and there are 12 of you. Well, there are 7 of us and one bathroom, and I was wondering how you store the toothbrushes in the bathroom. Right now I have a small basket that holds everyones brush and a tube of paste, but everyone is complaining about their brush touching someone elses. Any suggestions?


    We have toothbrush troubles too, but ours are slightly different:

    Toothbrush Problem #1 – We often find ourselves with a collection of 27 toothbrushes, and nobody knows where all the extras came from or who they belong to.  About twice/week, we have to thin down the toothbrushes so that the size of our collection resembles the number of occupants in our house.

    Toothbrush Problem #2 – We have tried several different toothbrush holders, and none do a good job of keeping 12 toothbrushes both secure and sanitary.  A pint jar keeps them secure, but quickly collects sour moisture in the bottom.  A traditional holder with an open bottom keep them more sanitary because it’s open on the bottom, but they are constantly falling out, especially if we try to cram 12 toothbrushes into a holder designed for a family of 4.toothbrush holders for the big family

    I recently ordered several of these.  They don’t look especially durable, but they’re inexpensive so I ordered extras.  Each holds 4 toothbrushes, and they can be mounted in groups or trimmed to fit your family size.
    When they arrive, one will be mounted high for Perry and me and a couple of wee people who really don’t need the ability to swish their toothbrushes in the toilet unattended.  The others will be mounted lower, and each person in the family will have precisely ONE SPACE for his/her toothbrush.

    Any toothbrush found in the wrong space is subject to toilet dunking, or unauthorized use, which may be even more disgusting in the opinions of some.  Especially if it’s used to brush the dog’s teeth.


    Question from Kelly G.:

    Hi Kim, I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I wanted to ask you if your family uses an internet filter, and if so which one? We haven’t had the best of luck with them, they either don’t work very well or make our computer so slow it’s unbearable.  Just wanted to hear your thoughts on internet filters.


    CovenantEyes.com We don’t use an internet filter, but we have used Covenant Eyes internet accountability software for many years.  This lets anyone in the house access any site, so we’re not limited or enabled by the standards of the filter which may be very different from our own standard.  It also doesn’t slow down our browsing like most filters do.

    Instead, Covenant Eyes tracks all internet browsing (even in browsers with privacy settings) and mails a report to one or more accountability partners you have chosen.  The report is laid out to make it easy for you to quickly scan for potential trouble spots so you don’t have to look at each and every url visited since the last report, but you can also do that if you feel the need.
    Covenant Eyes works for Windows, Mac, and iPhone/iPod devices. I was excited to learn that they’re hard at work on an Android app too.  Once the software is installed on a device, it can’t be uninstalled without sending a warning to the accountability partner, so it’s very difficult to circumvent.

    The software itself is free and can be installed on as many devices as you want.  You just pay monthly for one account that can be used on any device which has the Covenant Eyes software installed.  An account can be shared by the whole family unless you want everyone to have separate logins so that you have separate reports for each user.  The first account is $8.99/month and add’l accounts are only $1.50.

    That’s a lot of details, but I guess it shows you how much we appreciate CE.

    [for the sake of disclosure, you should know that I learned about the Covenant Eyes affiliate program after writing this, signed up as quick as I could, and changed the links to affiliate links.  sign up through my link, enjoy your first month for free, and I’ll make a little dough to help support my ice cream habit.]


    Question from Debs:

    I can”t remember if you’ve talked about this before, but having been pregnant lots, I wondered if you had experience of nursing while being pregnant with the next baby?

    I’m still nursing my 16 month old and neither of us is ready to give that up, but I’m also at that sort of stage where I wouldn’t be at all surprised to have a positive pregnacy test in the near-ish future.

    Do you have any thoughts or advice you could share on the subject?


    The gaps between my pregnancies have changed over the years, but my pattern has not: When the baby starts getting more of his/her nutrition from the table than directly from me, my fertility returns.  I’ve always been still nursing a baby when I find I’m pregnant with the next.

    For me, this hasn’t been a problem.  I generally find that it takes the edge off the overpowering nausea but does make me more tired, a difficult tradeoff since exhaustion often contributes to morning sickness.

    In the end the baby always ends up gradually weaned at some point before the middle of my pregnancy, so I have never tandem nursed.  Most of the time this happens on accident: the baby becomes more interested in food and I become less interested in nursing, mainly because I’m spending so much time vomiting.  At any rate, weaning has never been an abrupt or traumatic experience in our family, and morning sickness helps me lose those last few pounds that just don’t come off while I’m nursing.  See?  A silver lining around the sickly green cloud that surrounds the first half of pregnancy.


    Question from Donna:

    We have 6 children and even though we only give them each 3 gifts at Christmas, when you add in grandparents and others, we easily have 40 something gifts coming into our house.  Storage is a problem.  I regularly keep a bag or box that I toss things into for Goodwill, but it’s still a challenge. Do you have tips?


    We have struggled with the same problem over the years, but seem to have reached a point of equilibrium and understanding with both the children and with well-meaning relatives.

    On the one hand, everyone now understands that space is at a premium in our home.  Some will ask us for suggestions or run an idea past us before making a purchase, doing their best to come up with ideas that don’t simply add more “stuff” to the house.  Others simply understand that gifts are often passed along rather quickly to make room for others.

    The children have come to grips with the fact that if they receive a lot of new items, they’re going to have to make some difficult decisions about what to pass on to others outside, whether it be old stuff or new.  They have also learned to understand that it’s not an insult when a gift they give to a sibling does not necessarily become a deeply treasured heirloom to be passed on to descendants.

    I think the old saying is trite but true to a certain extent: “It’s the thought that counts.”  Among the dignitaries of etiquette (Emily Post and Miss Manners come to mind), it’s well established that a gift comes with no strings attached, and while a genuine thank you is most definitely in order, the recipient is under no obligation to keep, use or display a gift for any set period of time.  This concept frees us from the guilt of purging and allows us to thin our belongings to only what is truly meaningful and/or useful to us.

    I’ll confess to one more way we keep the stuff-monster under control: attrition.  Stuff breaks in our house.  A lot.  And we really don’t get worked up over because, well, we know there will be plenty more stuff heading our way and we really didn’t need it all in the first place.

    There’s a fine line, I think, between poor stewardship and not caring for the things of this world.  I fear we often find ourselves on the wrong side of that line, but we try to get it right.


    Question from Sarah:

    My mother was/is a stay at home mother; however, she viewed her position as one of dedication to raising children and taking on all the responsibilities of the household.  She thought the children should not be made to do chores, but rather be children (i.e., play).  (And she wondered why we would whine when asked to do anything around the house.)  Her attitude has been a huge help with my new baby, she cannot get enough of spending time with the baby – loves babies.  Unfortunately this has put me in a spot of not knowing how to raise a helping child.  The only options I know are you let a child get away with everything, or discipline them into “submission”.  I know there has to be a better way, so this leads me to my question for your pile – I would be interested to know what you have learned with your kids on best practices to raise a cheerful helper.


    What a blessing your mom is to you!  You’re smart to be thankful for her strengths while recognizing where you can do better.

    When it comes to children and work, remember that we should be training them into adulthood, not endless childhood.  Parents do their children a disservice when they let them practice at being childish until they are adults.  Now what?  These adult children have no idea of how to act or work like an adult, and must spend the next portion of their lives figuring it out for themselves, or simply avoiding it.

    In my experience, children love to help while they’re little.  This often isn’t helpful for us – it may take longer to do a chore with the help of a little one than to do it alone.  But this is when you can most easily nurture and nourish that desire to help.  This is when your child is forming ideas and opinions about work, and if household chores are associated with warm fuzzy memories of sweet time with Mommy, your future looks bright!

    What it comes to, then, is teaching your child that work is good for us.  For a little one, it’s fun times with Mom.  As you work together, begin planting thoughts for later: explain that God gave Adam work to do even in Paradise, that the Bible speaks severely about laziness and indolence, that in all labor there is profit (Pro. 14:23), that we are to glorify God in everything we do (I Cor. 10:31).

    Expect some resistance now and then.  Children are sinful like the rest of us, and we’re all prone to laziness in one degree or another.  Realize that your children will likely mirror your own flaws and weakness, and set a good example in your own approach to work.  Make sure it’s an attitude your children can see and hear: talk to them about your work, and why and how you do it.



    I have been listening to you on the Baby Conference mp3s while I nurse my 2 month old twins.  Question for you…how do you handle sickness in your large family?  My other children are 10, 8, 6, and 5.  I believe we have the influenza bug starting in our home.


    We don’t really “handle” sickness.  We go about our business.  The sick ones go on light duty, doing school or chores if they’re up to it, or camping out in bed if they’re not.  The rest of us avoid sharing cups with anyone is, was, or might soon be sick.  That sums up our policy on sickness.

    OK, maybe there’s more.

    We take extra vitamin C and D3 when we remember, and…well…that’s it.  Yeah.

    Unless you want to take notes so you can blog the really, really bad ones.  That way you can laugh someday about how ____ puked in ____’s hair while she was sleeping, then ____ woke up, saw what had happened, and threw up on _____.

    What?  You don’t have one of those stories yet?  You will.


    Question from Jenny:

    Hey Kim, Can you talk about dogs? Specifically, what to do when dogs drive you crazy? Needy dogs? How do you instill a love of animals in your kids…and be nice to the dog when you don’t feel like helping one more needy creature?


    Jenny, I’m really glad you asked this question.  My husband likes to tease me about ovarian guilt, a phenomenon mostly related to mothers and their children, but I think I feel more guilt when it comes to dogs.

    We have 3 dogs.  Two are beloved pets, and one is not.  In all fairness, I should also mention that one of our dogs likes to eat treats from the cat box.  Can you guess which one?

    I guess you could say that like people, some pets are easier to love than others.  You just have to do it.  Love is not an emotion, but an action.  Maybe you don’t have to love pets, but you can say the same thing about kindness, mercy, and being nice to the dog even though her breath really, really stinks.  You don’t have to feel it in order to do it, and your children can understand this too.  Sometimes a dog just needs a nice pat on the head or a good belly rub.  He doesn’t have to know what you’re thinking at the moment.

    We make a bit of a game out of saying mean things to the poop-eater in a sweet, syrupy voice.  She loves the attention, wriggling with joy as we address her and list off her faults.  I don’t recommend trying this with the annoying humans in your life, but it might make you feel better about the dog.

    Question from Lisa:

    My question is about your chickens. This could probably be a post in itself, or perhaps you have already done so? I just want to know all about them: how you assign care for them, how you handle the eggs (dirt, storage, etc.), predator protection…anything else you can think of. I ask because we have a small flock of our own (23 hens + a rooster), but living in the middle of Alaska, and only being a family of three and one on the way, we probably “do chickens” differently, especially because they are literally cooped up for much of the year. Thanks!


    I think Lisa is right.  This could easily be a post in itself and I have posted about our chickens in the past, but because my judgment is sleeping while my fingers type on unattended, I’m going to answer her questions in quick bullet fashion:

    • Lydia does the daily animal chores in our family, including chickens.  This is at her request, because she really enjoys animals.  I’m glad, because she is a mature, trustworthy gal and I can count on her to remember to lock up the coop at night.
    • We usually gather eggs more than once/day and put them straight into the fridge in styrofoam egg cartons that our friends save for us after they’ve eaten their store-bought eggs.  I’m still working to teach the kids to wash the dirty eggs, but clean eggs should not be routinely washed as this removes a protective coating.  At first, we marked the cartons by days of the week so we could remember to eat the oldest eggs first.  As it turns out, we have no trouble eating our eggs in a timely fashion so this system has gone by the wayside.
    • With 3 dogs and a fake owl, we have very little trouble with predators.  I’ve seen foxes and hawks have a go at the girls every now and then, but numbers remain fairly stable with no extra precautions beyond a nightly lock-up in a secure coop.

    Apparently the auto-pilot function on my brain crashed, because the post ends here.

    The other moms are taking questions too:

    Upcoming topics for June: TBA because we didn’t plan ahead again surprises are fun!

    Recent topics:

  • May 19 – 4 Moms try to lose the baby weight
  • May 12 – 4 Moms practice hospitality, and YOU are invited!
  • May 5 – 4 Moms talk about you-know-what
  • April 28 – 4 Moms Q&A: sleep, exercise, and making do with one bathroom
  • April 21 – Large families & church, part 2: keeping them quiet
  • April 14 – Eating inexpensively on the road
  • April 7 – 4 Moms teach history
  • March 24 – Large families & church, part 1: getting there on time
  • March 17 – Bread baking linky
  • March 10 – Spring cleaning
  • March 3 – Books for early readers
  • February 24 – 4 Moms Q&A: my first audio blog on potty training and more
  • February 17 – Individual time with children: scary stuff here.  Just kidding.  Let go of the guilt.
  • February 10Cooking with little ones without losing your sanity
  • February 3 –Teaching reading, because it’s so much easier than teaching them to use the toilet.  Do not request a 4 Moms post about potty training, do you hear me?
  • January 27 – Q&A: Must-have baby equipment and other nitty gritty stuff
  • January 20 – Top 10 Books for Preschoolers
  • January 13 – Soups and Stews
  • January 6 – Teaching Bible
  • Distraction

    I’m not going to complain.  Really, I’m not.  I just want to mention that while working on a weekly 4 Moms post, there may be mitigating factors in the life of a mom of 10.

    They might include:

    • 2 big girls who are gone for the day.
    • A 2yo in the very midst of potty training, who has learned to pee in the potty but not to empty her bladder while doing so.  A 2yo can hold an amazing amount of urine, especially when it’s divided into 2 tsp. portions.
    • 2 children who desperately want to start learning to play violin.  Today.  I am the resident violin teacher.
    • A nursing baby who is also teething and has just begun to crawl.
    • Another child who is teaching herself to play the piano, and has the attention span to spend all day on it.  Today.
    • One crazy boy.
    • Some other kids that I should probably be checking on.  I wonder what they’re up to?

    Of course I can tell the musical children to take a break and help out, but my ovarian guilt forbids it.  I don’t want to discourage them, and they are making great progress.  So instead I try to create a 4 Moms post under all the distractions one might imagine.

    I can complain, get angry, get frustrated, or just shake my head in wonder at the number of distractions that can occur.  Really, it’s amazing.  It’s so incredible it’s comical.  So I choose to laugh.

    C’est la vie.