Four Moms Q and A: Mom’s Clothes; little kids & personal space; big projects; homeschooling K; and your turn- please help this mom.


It’s time for another Thursday group of Q and A- questions readers have asked one of the Four Moms (or all of us).    “I have an answer, let’s see if they match, as my husband likes to say when somebody says to him, “I have a question.”



Q. I have a question about clothing for young Mommas still (by Gods grace) expanding their families and therefore fluctuating a lot in size.

I am switching out my seasonal clothes and realizing how much my body changed after my second baby. My first was a c-section so my hips didn’t change enough to effect my pants size. This baby was natural delivery and I can’t get ANY of my old jeans over my hips. It’s not really a weight issue with my pants, I don’t feel like there is any extra ‘padding’ on them, just that they got stretched. Does this ever go back or do I need to content myself with finding new homes for my pants and getting different sizes?

A. I don’t think the pants will ever go back to the original size. After my first, I lost all but ten pounds, and since I also gained two cup sizes while nursing, I’m pretty sure I know where that ten pounds was, and it wasn’t my hips. Yet I never again fit into the size jeans I wore before my first. Now, before my first, I did tend to wear tighter jeans than I now consider modest, but still…
With tops, when I was still in the possibly nursing babies sizes, I mainly looked for tops that would fit me regardless of which stage I was in- so, yes, looser.  Now, I don’t want to leave anybody with a false impression- I’ve long sense gained far more weight than is healthy or respectable.

Q. I am at my wits end. How do I teach my 5 year old boy personal space? — he constantly has some part of his body (hands, feet, head) on someone else. and I don’t mean cuddling… I mean if he is talking to his 3 year old brother he is touching his brothers tummy. last night he spent the night at my moms with some cousins and my mom said he kept putting his legs/feet on his cousins and finally she had to separate him. I’ve asked him why he does it, and he says he does not know. my 3 year old does not have this problem, so I cannot figure out what is going on with my 5 year old… but I am sooo tired of saying “stop touching him/her” or “get your hands/feet off of him/her”. Please help!!

A. I don’t know if this will help at all, since it doesn’t address why he does it.  But I have a couple of thoughts.  One is that personal space is very much a cultural issue, it actually isn’t something we are born with.  There are some cultures where I am pretty sure what you describe would be perfectly acceptable.  So you could move.

Bwahahaha.  No, sorry.  He’s five, so explain the cultural differences as best you can.  Then, one thought I had is to try to give him something else to do instead of just telling him what not to do.  Ask him to talk to people with his hands folded if he’s standing, or holding onto his own knees if he’s sitting.  Tell him if he doesn’t think he can stop touching people to try and keep a certain distance between them as a reminder.  Tell him that people are in charge of their own bodies, and if they don’t want to be touched, he can’t touch them.

But also, I have to confess that our family does this- although it’s with siblings, not outsiders.  Every day while I am doing school with my 17 and 15 year old, one of them is leaning on me, pulling on one arm, or else I’m doing the leaning and the tugging on the arm, and the other of them has his or her legs resting on the sibling’s legs.  When we have family conferences, at least one of them will be sitting in somebody’s lap (and, remember, the kids at home are 15, 17, 24, 25, and The Cherub, and she is not the one most likely to sit in somebody else’s lap).   In fact, just about a month ago when the touching between the teens had gone from sweet and affectionate to a power struggle game, I got exasperated and said, “Look, I want you guys to just stop touching each other!  Keep all your body parts, feet, legs, hands, elbows, knees, shoulders, heads etc to yourselves and just NO MORE TOUCHING!” You know, one of those immensely reasonable mom moments.  Please tell me you have them, too.

They stopped goofing off and looked at me in astonishment.  “But mom,” they said.  “I don’t see that working in our family.  We’re a family of touchers.”   We are, too.  One of our college student friends made an adjective out of our last name and it means sort of the opposite of ‘tactile defensive.’ Imagine that our last name is Keeper, and instead of saying something like, “Can I have a hug?’ you say, “I’m feeling Keeperish this evening.”  That’s what she does, and it’s an adjective recognized by a few of the young adults in her group.  But it’s not just huggy- put my kids together in a room full of furniture, and they are likely to end up with almost all of them on one piece of furniture, sprawled all over each other like a basket of kittens.  Only far bigger and much noisier.

If his brother doesn’t mind having his belly rubbed while Big Brother talks to him, I’d be inclined to leave it alone. If little bro minds, then I’d go to the ‘keep your hands folded’ reminder.


Q. What do you do when you have a large project? I have 4 kids, ages 7 and under, and over 400 lbs of apples to process and can. I’ve processed about 100 lbs so far, but I’m struggling keeping everything in order, finishing school, etc. My husband wants everything to be done as normal, plus the apples, and I’m having a hard time keeping it all together! It is such slow going, and I’m afraid some of our harvest will spoil. Tips? Encouragement? Help? I’m in WAY over my head.

A. I’m going to give you a list of suggestions that are kind of brainstorming- not solid answers.  And it maybe that none of them will work for you and thus you will only be further discouraged.  I hope not.

In no particular order:

Ask your husband for help figuring out how you can do everything as normal plus ignore the kids for a few hours while you process apples.

Do you have any friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors who would help with any of the above things you have to do?  Could you bring in a 12 year old or two from church to play with the kids, make them sandwiches, read to them?  Do you have another mom in similar shoes who would come over and you could do the apples together, trading off child watching as you go?

How are you going to process the apples? Is there an easier way?  Since I don’t know what your plans were, I’ll share what I’d do if I had to do what you are doing.  I’d borrow crockpots and/or use pans in the oven on low (over night) and make crockpot apple butter.  I’d keep it in the freezer instead of canning it, or at least until another time when I could can it more easily.

Or I’d dehydrate the apples, because if you have a tabletop peeler, you can peel the apples and slice them into rings at the kitchen table while the kids color or play nearby and maybe you can do some oral math, tell Bible stories, sing hymns or folk songs together as you slice the apples and spread them on trays for drying.

I have a question that perhaps you could answer, and might possibly be of broader interest. We are unexpectedly in a position where we are giving serious thought to homeschooling our daughter in a K curriculum in Sept. 2014. Which curriculum do you use? What are good and bad things to look out for? I know nothing about this topic, so I’d appreciate any direction that could be provided.

I use AmblesideOnline, which is a free homeschooling curriculum based on the methods of Charlotte Mason. You can look at it here:

I don’t like a lot of book and paper work for Kindergarteners. But your philosophy of education may be different- and that’s the main thing to look out for- what do you believe about learning and how children learn best, and what do you think children of that age should spend their time doing? More about that here:

This is the sort of ‘schooling’ I think children should have before age 6, including kindergarteners.

Granted, it’s not as flashy, especially not at first.  Your kid can’t show off how he can recite the alphabet, state capitals, countries of the world, and his math facts.  But be patient and wait.  Just as when you plant a seed, much real growth first occurs below the surface where you can’t see it, with an early childhood spent running, playing, helping in the kitchen, splashing in puddles, pasting and painting, going to the zoo, etc- all kinds of amazing connections are being created in the mind and you are building a wonderful scaffold that will make for more secure later education.   Because this:

A child who has never put her feet in the mud and dammed up a little bay in a creek, or at least in the backyard where the hose is turned on, is a child who doesn’t understand the forces of erosion, the concepts of dams and reservoirs, and more with the same instant recognition of a child who has done those things.


A child who has never climbed a tree to get a bird’s eye view of the earth below is a child who lacks a certain perspective on the earth and her place in it
A child who has never rolled down a grassy hill, or ridden a sled down and then trudged back up, is a child who cannot truly put valleys and mountains in their proper place in her mind’s eye.
Children who do not get these important experiences with real things, with dirt, sand, water, rocks, shells, and trees when they are young are children who are increasingly unable to think. They seem smart because they can quote well and reel off answers, but they don’t think.

According to Michael Shayer, ” 11- and 12-year-old children in year 7 are “now on average between two and three years behind where they were 15 years ago”, in terms of cognitive and conceptual development.”  The reason appears to be because they spent more time on books and video games indoors when they were young, instead playing freely, often outside, as kids were doing even 20 years ago. Early learning programs actually hinder genuine, meaningful, long term learning.

See also here:

Children have the facts, but they aren’t thinking very well. We’ve previously blogged about the studies that indicate this is the case. Children who aren’t handling wood and clay, sand and water, bricks and acorns, leaves and grass, and other such stuff because they are too busy inside in a sterilized, sanitized environment lit by artificial lights and enhanced by artificially created noises, the beeps, sings, and whistles of computers and cartoons- these kids are not figuring out what to do with the things they learn. They may know that dirt and water make mud, but this knowledge carries with it no corresponding memory of the feel of cool water and sticky mud with a bit of grit to it, mud that can be used to draw out the sting of mosquito bites, or squished between toes, or to hold sticks together for a tiny log house, or to make a dam. They tend not to be very good at adaptive thinking; they don’t make connections very well.

I’ve also said something like this:

We have confused real intelligence with rote memory. We think the 4 y.o.child who can write and recite the alphabet, count to one thousand, name the 50 states, all the continents and the oceans is somehow further ahead of his peers. We especially think this is better than the child who cannot do these things, but who can and does play in mud puddles, create rope traps to ensnare passing siblings, build elaborate block castles, and who can enjoy sitting and watching ants around an ant-hill for an hour or more. We are wrong. 

The child who squanders, or has squandered for her, her `play’ years can never gain them back completely. The play that occurs in the early years is invaluable, and it cannot be replaced by pen and paperwork.

And more here. and here.


As you can see, it’s a topic I am fairly passionate about.


Last week I shared this post with a list of books that show good mothers.  Readers shared some of their suggestions in the comments.

Please help this mom:  She asks, “How do you deal with unforgiveness in littles? I thought you wrote on it before but I can’t find it! I have a 3 year old who hits and its like pulling teeth to get him to apologize! We’re working on the hitting but I don’t know how to reach his heart to lead him to repentance! Help!”

What are your suggestions?


You may also like:

The fallacy of a risk free childhood

Why you shouldn’t tell your kids they’re smart

Some of you enjoy reading about my witty, funny, and risk-taking teenaged boy.  Well, there are some risks it turns out freak him out after all.


Check out the other moms:

Kimberly at Raising Olives has some fantastic and very admirable news.  I really am amazed by her family.

Kim at Life in a Shoe is doing a 31 Days in the Life of a Large Family series.  Don’t miss it!

Smockity Frocks has all kinds of cool things going on at her house.


Have you bought one of my e-books yet?  Awwww.  Really?  Won’t you take a look?  Please?  Huh, huh, huh?

Freezer Meals from The Common Kitchen (Cooking in a Common Kitchen)

Ten Low-Carb Snacks and Quick Meals

4 Moms of 35+ Kids Answer Your Parenting Questions

101 Answers to the Summertime, “Mom, I’m Bored” Blues

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  1. B. Durbin
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    On the “risk-free childhood” thing, I’m laughing because yesterday the kids were awfully quiet outside and I went out only to discover the five-year-old trapped on top of the rather substantial brush pile we have in the back. It never occurred to me that he’d try to climb it or that he’d get stuck doing so. I helped him down, and his little sister said, “Best campfire ever!” (Which, thankfully, is what she considers a pile of sticks… it may be a while before they get introduced to the joys of real campfires, seeing as we’re not likely to get out of No Burn time until the state gets a thorough soaking.)

  2. Posted October 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    The 5 year who likes to touch: could he have a physical touch love language… this might just be how he knows to show love. Maybe teach him other ways to show love.

    We do lots of praying with our 2 year about wanting Jesus to change our hearts so we *want* to obey. He often responds “no, mommy, don’t pray that!” I think he understands what we are praying for. Seems this is a good way to go with a child who refuses to apologize. Pray that Jesus would change his heart so that he wants to apologize and also not want to hit. Pray with him, not out of his ear shot. Get him praying also (an ideal, not sure how to do this).

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