Four Moms Q and A

How is the HM doing with school?  What’s the timeline for him to be done?

He’s working hard and passing all his classes.  He works partime and goes to school parttime.  He is able to commute with our daughter, although they aren’t at the same school anymore.  She is at the community college and he is at the University in the same town.

He needs five more classes after this semester (which ends in May).  He will have the summer off, and then return to school part time in the fall.  The courses he needs are not available in the summer. He goes to school part-time so he can continue to work part-time to bring in some income.   The V.A. does cover his tuition and school books. It does this  because he is a disabled veteran, not because of the G.I. bill (he was never eligible for the G.I. Bill, like thousands of others who enlisted in the same time frame that he did, thank-you very much, America:-P).

He also needs a semester of supervised teaching (which will mean a semester without pay).

He has a few things he must complete which aren’t regular classes as well, like a weekend seminar on educational technology and one week long seminar on multicultural education, maybe one or two others, which he hopes to complete before he finishes his last class.

He also needs to complete a practicum, but that can be combined with his regular part-time job as a teacher’s aide in the special needs classroom at the local school.

He will also have to take the Praxis test, get his CPR certification renewed (that won’t be a problem, except for time. He used to be a certified instructor for the Red Cross)- although he hopes  to get those done this summer or next summer.

When he will be done depends largely on when the five classes he needs are available- sometimes they are not available when the student needs them the most. But- if he can get all of the above ‘extra’ stuff done while he is finishing up his five classes AND all the classes are available when he needs them, he posits April, 2015 as the timeframe for completion.

This is not to get a degree (he already has a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management with an Emphasis on Christian Leadership from Colorado Christian University).  What he’s going for is the state license for special education (mild intervention_.  Once he gets that, he will be qualified to teach full time in the school where he is currently working, and he will be applying for full time work there as well as other schools in our area.

All of what he’s doing could be applied to a Master’s Degree, but to get the Master’s he’d have to take quite a few more classes, and he’s not sure it would be worth it, nor is he sure we can afford to continue like this for as long as it would take.  Next semester he will sit down with his advisors to see more specifically what would be required for him to complete his Master’s.  He is 51 years old, and a Master’s just might not be cost effective.


I’m trying to figure out how to manage balancing all of my responsibilities with schooling (we currently have 7, ages 9,8,7,6,4,3, and 1) and hosting (my husband is a pastor and we want to use our home for fellowship and ministry). If we have a quiet week with little or no hosting, we do have time to read and narrate and go over phonics and math, but if we do all the hosting that my husband wants us to, our schooling goes out the window and we end up living between hosting events, recovering from the previous one and preparing for the next. Do you have any suggestions on how to accomplish the necessary schooling each day while hosting?  Especially:

1) Hosting for bible studies, prayer groups, or psalm sings in the evening, usually involves coffee and dessert, sometimes people help out with this

2) Hosting families or young single airmen over for a meal – this is often spontaneous and results in a lot of chaos and a lot of people

We have done quite a bit of both of these sorts of hosting ourselves.  Here are things that helped (in random order):

Don’t worry about getting the house perfect. It’s okay to have it look very lived in.

You can also get the kids involved in cleaning ‘races,’  I have also been known to scoop up clutter into bags, boxes, and baskets and hide them in my room or even in the car.  I’m not proud of this, but I am no longer horribly ashamed of it, either. It was what it was and that was how I functioned, and hey, it’ better than letting the messy house interfere with having friends over.

In fact, get the kids involved a lot. They can do a lot of cleaning, and if you train them well now, you will be reaping the benefits for years, and they will reap benefits all their lives.

Welcome offers of help.  When we invite somebody over and they ask what they can bring, we always ask them to bring either dessert or a side dish.

If at all possible, use papergoods for those events- or have your dessert be finger food friendly and only offer napkins, not plates.

Don’t try too hard.=-) Have some standard meals/desserts for these events and try to keep the ingredients for them on hand.  I generally did an Asian beef stew for the airmen, because it froze well, and it was easy to add extra liquid and more veggies if I needed them. This was served over rice.  I have a rice cooker, which I love and use a lot.  Use your crockpot if you have it.  Make extras and freeze ahead. In the summer we usually do a pasta salad, because you can stretch it so well.

Two stand-by desserts I used were this fruit cobbler and welsh teacakes, because both were very easy to make.  I could get them in the oven in 15 minutes.  My fruit cobbler is usually a peach cobbler, but it works with other fruits, too.  The welsh teacakes are really just cookies.  No Bake chocolate cookies are another stand-by.

Try to have a regular daily quiet time. This does wonders for everybody’s recovery and equanimity.

Simplify schooling on the days after company- streamline what you can, do read alouds in bed or on the couch, play games for school (educational games, of course).

Remember that schooling is a marathon, not a race.  Your children are learning many things through your service and hospitality.  Just keep moving even if it is at the pace of a hen.

And also remember that what you do in homeschooling is *concentrated* education, it isn’t diluted by all the baggage of a public school classroom.
How do you handle bedtime with 4 under 4? My youngest two are 1 1/2 and 3 months, and bedtime when my husband is not home is awful (he doesn’t get home till sometime between 8 and 10pm). 

I have 3 boys in 1 room ages 3, 7 and 9. Any suggestions on bedtime?

I am not the best Mama to answer this question.  I am not a very structured person.  Neither am I awfully conventional.  From the time we married until the time when our sixth child was 2 years old, my husband worked from about 2 in the afternoon to midnight. By the time our sixth child was 2, we had been married 15 years.  Our kids have never really had an assigned bedtime.  Sometimes we all stayed awake until Daddy came home. I have taken my kids grocery shopping at midnight. LOTS of times.  We have done ‘school’ in the evenings after Daddy went for work and played during traditional ‘school’ hours.   Sometimes for bed we curled up on the parent’s bed and read or cuddled until the kids fell asleep and when Daddy came home, he carried them off to their own beds. Sometimes I read and sang to the children in their rooms until they were quiet.  There was just no consistency to our bedtime routines until my husband switched to day shift, but by then I only had two little ones because there is a gap of six years between the 5th and 6th children.

Blynken and Nod do have a bedtime because they have one when they are with their mother, so it’s best for them to maintain that here.  Their bedtime routine consists of toothbrushing, nagging hundreds of times to get their p.j.s on and go to the bathroom, lots of reading, and if I am the one tucking them in, singing, followed by repeated admonitions to BE QUIET in there!.

Maybe a more structured person than I am would like to chime in and share your bedtime routine?


What are your thoughts on organic foods, especially vegetables? I have sourced grassfed beef, but the chicken prices kind of make me want to cry. Also, my understanding is that fat, meat, and dairy are the most important to eat either grassfed or organic, but if it is grassfed, does it really need to be organic? What about butter, cheese, sour cream, ect? The vegetable thing really flummoxes me, though. I grew up on a farm (conventional), and I know that, the small farmers at least, have a economical reason among others for wanting to take care of the soil. So, they do. I know that chemicals are only part of the equation. I guess that I am concerned that I am buying into scare tactics and hysteria.

When my husband worked at the grocery store I bought a lot of organic foods because we could afford them. Now that we are making so much less than we were before, I don’t do that anymore.   Do what you can and don’t stress over what you can’t. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

If the meat is grassfed I do not care about an organic certification (which doesn’t mean what we think it means anyway).

I have bought organic butter at Costco, as it was only a little more than regular butter, but now we don’t.

I wrote a lot about my thoughts on organic foods here, as well as some suggestions on ways to find some frugal organic sources.  Also here.


how do you plan out a rhythm for your day.

Mostly, trial and error, and a lot of flexibility.  I’m sorry, I am just about as organized as the milk your toddler knocks to the floor in the morning.


My question is whether you have ever lived in any other countries? And if you had to move, which countries would you choose to live in, and why?

I have lived in Canada (until second grade) and Japan (in my 20s).  Five years each country.  I have also visited Guam, the Philippines, Korea, and Mexico.

If I had to move?  I’d love to be a migrant, living a year at a time in various countries just because travel is awesome, and it’s wonderful to experience other cultures in an authentic way.  I would choose:

England, because not so much of a language barrier, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and more

Korea, because there are lot of things about Korean culture I love, and I have always wanted to go back

New Zealand- again, less of a language barrier, Hobbits, Middle Earth, grassfed sheep, Ngaio Marsh

But really, I’d be willing to live almost anywhere at least temporarily just for the experience, and especially so my younger kids could have that experience.


How do you deal with life interruptions (my sister tends to have major tragedies I get sucked into helping her with).

Depends on the interruption. If it is not a chronic interruption of the sort that can quickly become enabling rather than helping, we roll with it. the schedule is plan B.

Because my husband was military, we never lived in the same state as family until he retired. Often we weren’t even on the same continent (we’ve also lived in Alaska). So I did not have to deal with family who don’t respect the fact that I have children at home to educate. plus, I don’t have sisters, only little brothers, and only one of them is married. Both of them would rather die than ask their big sister’s help with anything at all (one of them would be totally willing to help me, it’s just not a two way street).

With friends and acquaintances, I used my answering machine to screen calls a lot, and I accepted that my schedule was plan B.
With the Little Boy’s mother, I grumble a lot and am firm about those boundaries we have set- yes, the boys can come over any time, no, I will never take them on school outings, to doctor appointments, or to meet with their social worker, nor will I take their mother to her appointments or to visit her family 2 hours away…


“My 4 Moms question: How do you handle the anxiety? There are so many days where I feel like my heart is just overextended (I have 6 – one with very special needs, and one post-liver transplant). Prayer helps some days – but not all days. It all feels so tenuous. Our family has handled many hard things, but so many days it feels like it will be a miracle just to get them all healthy and into adulthood…

I asked the HG, since the first year of her Striderling’s life he had a diagnosis that was essentially terminal- 80% of kids with his original diagnosis die before they are 2. Those who survive often have kidney failure in their teens.  The week of his first birthday we were told that the diagnosis was wrong, he has something else equally rare, but, while it is not an easy thing to deal with, it’s not as horrific as his original diagnosis, so we are good.  Anyway, she says the question:

reminded me of an epiphany moment I had with Striderling. We were home from the hospital and it was enough of an epiphany that I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing… on the floor, changing his diaper, when I started battling anxiety all over again about the unknowns in the future… what would his life be like? what would his quality of life be? What if his kidneys and heart failed and he died as a teenager? (this was, obviously, when we were still going with the Jeune syndrome diagnosis).

And then something whispered, “look. you want him to love this life and know exactly where he’s going in the next one, and that you can handle, even with everything else going on and even if he doesn’t reach adulthood.” Helped put a lot of things in perspective and give me a good objective to work towards.

I haven’t had exactly the same sort of thing to deal with, except as Striderling’s Grandmama, of course. However, as an infant the Equuschick was very ill and for a few weeks her doctor told me she was sure my baby had cystic fibrosis, which, back then, meant death by her teens or at best early 20s. How did I handle that anxiety?  Not well.  I sat in the hospital parking lot and screamed at God until I was hoarse.

God was gracious in spite of my temper tantrum, and that’s not what she had. So with the new diagnosis the doctor told us to expect her to need a kidney transplant by 6. Except that was also wrong. I felt like we had dodged a huge bullet, but I also felt like it was just a temporary reprieve, not a genuine missed bullet. The E.C. has asthma and we often ended in the E.R,. with her on oxygen being given adrenalin shots. Every single time there was an ugly, dark little voice in the back of my head saying, “This is it. This time you won’t be bringing your child home.”  The year before she got married, when her horse kicked her in the pancreas and she had to go to the hospital and have surgery and stay there for a week for recovery, all the old dread returned.  I wasn’t that sanguine about the Striderling, either. Scroll down here to where I talk about how he got his nickname to see what I mean.

prayer is good.  But I found more solace through Bible reading.  this may be useful.  

I find all of Isaiah ch. 40 immensely encouraging.

And sometimes, it’s too much, far too much, to think as far ahead as next week.  Just get through today.

I hope this didn’t seem too flippant.  I know what it is to live with such worry.  I wish I could say I have conquered such fears, but I haven’t.  I only hold them at bay sometimes, winning a skirmish here or there.


Visit the other Four Moms and see what they have to say!

raising olives button Raising Olives, married 15 years, mama to 11, homeschooling graduate herself- Connie at Smockity Frocks, married 25 years, mom to 8. We were blog buddies for a year or two before we realized that we had very dear mutual friends in real life. How cool is that?!

Life in a Shoe

Kim at Life in a Shoe, homeschool grad, mama to a family of 13
Me, DeputyHeadmistress and former Zookeeper (I gave up keeping a zoo when coyotes and coons killed our chickens) of this blog, The Common Room and our cooking blog, The Common Kitchen; married 30 years, mom to seven plus unofficial foster mom to two little boys, Mama-in-Law to two, and Grandmama to five blessings under 3, and yes we are very proud.=)


We four moms also wrote a book together, and you can buy the Four Moms parenting book, which you can get as a Kindle or as an e-book document:

Here’s where to get more information on how to buy our parenting ebook or become an affiliate, which is another way of making some extra income.


See my other Kindle books, too:

101 Answers to the Summertime, “Mom, I’m Bored” Blues; help your kids use their free time creatively and productively. Give them ideas that will help them use their time and energy to create, to learn, to grow- to contribute. This is not your average ‘keep the kids out of your hair’ book.

Required Poems for Reading and Memorizing (annotated); Charming collection of older poems that you and the kids just might love.

Ten Low-Carb Snacks and Quick Meals Okay, actually, there’s a little more than ten, and they aren’t merely low-carb, they are also sugar-free, grain-free, gluten free. NOT dairy-free.

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  1. Frances
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    “he was never eligible for the G.I. Bill, like thousands of others who enlisted in the same time frame that he did, thank-you very much, America:-”

    Kipling’s Tommy Atkins comes to mind…

  2. Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    After DH graduates and has had some breathing time he might want to reconsider the master’s degree. I have a friend in her 50s who just finished her master’s & who has spent at least the last 10 years teaching in the special ed room. (I forget the correct term.) Her reasons seem to be good ones to consider. Once she became a teacher with special education there were state incentives to get her masters – not only a pay raise but also help with the tuition. She seriously considered it because she has a disabled husband who will only need more help as they both age. Having a masters means she can apply for work at the local colleges where she will have a bit more flexibility with her work schedule and more time at home. Also she’s not getting younger but the kids she works with are getting “bigger” and their attitudes are under going the same shift as the rest of the public school kids. Right now she is up to the challenge of surly teen boys and realized that one day she won’t be. Lastly, she has had years of hands on, in the class teaching experience which most of her professors have little to none. She believes that she can help future teachers and their future students. The DH might not have her years of public school experience working with disabled children but he has life experience and that would be very valuable too. Maybe men do not have to worry about how getting older affects their teaching presence?

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      He teaches younger children, not teens, and that’s where he wants to continue to work. Also, his family doesn’t understand this at all because he is a teddy bear and he is not a big man (he’s only 5’6″), but many, many others find him intimidating, so I don’t think he needs to worry about the same way an older woman would.

      He might consider it again when all the kids have left home (besides the Cherub). He is keenly feeling the fact that our baby is 14 and does want to go to college. He doesn’t want to take more time away from home.

  3. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a very organized person, but I am a person who turns into a zombie at 9, so bedtime has always been a necessity around here. Also, my husband is disabled, so though he is generally present for moral support, I’m on my own physically. All four of our kids have always shared a room since the twins moved out of ours.
    I don’t remember what I did when there were four four and under (probably because I never slept to process memories), but I tended to handle the twins in an assembly line at changing time. I have always tried to make sure my kids had very easy clothes and pajamas to wear so they could change themselves as early as possible. Hooks within reach also help, although just as often they are picking things up off the floor, which is also easy to reach. I also tend to turn teeth-brushing over to them early and trust to a good diet. They only get dessert about once a week and we try to make sure to check their teeth on those days. The kids get baths once a week, if then, and never at bedtime.
    I used to love the idea of reading aloud at bedtime, but I just didn’t have the energy. We discovered that our library has a great selection of classic literature on audio CDs, and we use it liberally.
    Basically our routine is: 7-7:30 Pick up living room, get pajamas on, brush teeth. (Now that the youngest are four and a half, this only requires an occasional reminder. Previously I had to be present for all of this, which meant the dinner dishes got done at breakfast.)
    7:30-8:30 “Quiet Reading Time” which really means kids must be in their room with the door closed and making little enough noise that we do not notice it. This gives some breathing space for any tasks remaining in the day.
    At 8:30 we have prayer, turn out the light, and turn on a CD. Those who are sleepy can then fall asleep, those who aren’t have something to listen to. Often the older ones are still awake at 9:30 or 10, but as long as they are quiet we don’t care.
    Generally everyone goes down at the same time and we trust to nap time or sleeping in for those who need more rest. If one of the little ones is very tired, we will put them down earlier on our bed and move them when we go to bed.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for answering this, QoC. I am a nightowl, which is another reason why a bedtime just didn’t really occur around here.

  4. Cindy Watson
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I did my CPR there. Very easy, very cheap, totally on-line and if you know what you are doing, banging on dummies is annoying. I have run full codes so I am not going to forget. Thought it might be worth looking at. Most( but not all) accept it as CPR. In the 45 places I applied, only one did not accept it.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink


  5. Posted February 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I would make a suggesetion, if I may, to the gal with the bedtime question. I would say that 3,7,and 9 year olds could all go to bed at the same time. Whatever time works for Mom.

    At our house it has always been 8:00, from the time our first daughter was about a year and including our second daughter from birth. I know it can be a drag for them and for Dad when they don’t get to say goodnight, but giving them a routine at night will make for such happier days. Our kids are out of napping now, but when we did do naps I’d try to start the afternoon nap no later than one o-clock-ish. After lunch and a little play time, I’d put on “boring nap time music” -think relaxing insrumentals- and lay the kids down separately. They’d usually be up again by 3:00 and ready to play happily. We try to have dinner out of the way by 6:30 and at 7:30 I send them to get into pjs.(They always ask if it’s bed time, and I say no, just jammies, teeth and toilet) After pjs it’s toilet, brush teeth, wash up and *IF* it’s not 8:00 yet, they can play or watch tv for a few minutes. Usually by the time they get done with the getting ready for bed routine it’s so close to 8 that we just tell daddy goodnight and head up. There’s usually some reason (like laundry) that I need to go into their room between 8:30-9 and they’re almost always out cold by then. My oldest daughter (who is 6) is starting to get my “busy mind” and lay awake a little longer than she used to, but she ,too, is usually asleep whenever I peek in.

    It’ll take you some time to figure out what works best for your family, but routine, routine, routine, has worked wonders for us. In fact once when I had to go out of town for work, my husband called to thank me for the routine. Seems he had asked the kids to put on jammies and brush their teeth and when they had they automatically kissed him good night and climbed up to bed. Once they’re started on the routine it takes over and eliminates bed time hassles. I am not a generally organized person, but this is one area I take rather seriously. I NEED to be off the clock for a few hours before I can settle down to bed myself, and the kids NEED a good night’s sleep. So it’s been win/win. Good luck to you!

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