January 5, 2012

Kids and Family... Reader Mail

Just as I was sitting down for my Bible study this morning, I received this email from a dear reader.  
I have emailed you before and got an honest answer. I am hoping for another one.

First I want to reiterate again how much I love your blog. I check it every morning without fail. You see, we just had our fifth child in October. And we love him to pieces and are so glad he is here. He was very much unplanned as I had my tubes tied after our fourth was born. I had many complications with or fourth, even almost dying and it was advised I not have any more. I too had many complications with our fifth but thankfully we are both here and healthy. Our oldest is eleven, then nine, six, almost three and three months. I love my kids dearly. However life in this house has gotten sad and awful.

The oldest hides in her room listening to music, doing homework and is only occasionally friendly to her siblings. The second oldest just goes with the flow but tends to argue with the six year old. The six year old argues with everyone but especially the two year old. After school is a nightmare, they start getting home at three. I am cooking dinner, trying to keep the two year old occupied and out of the line of fire. And helping with home work for the six year old and occasionally the nine year old. When my husband gets home at 6:30, half the kids are in trouble, or I am yelling, or they are crying. I don't blame the oldest for hiding, some days I would like to hide to. How did you do Disney with kids of all ages? Do you ever get frustrated? I am struggling to find the time to spend quality time with each one.

And I go back to work two days a week in just a week, grandma will be with them those days. I would love to hear what you have to say.

Many thanks,

First, let me congratulate you on the birth of your little blessing.  Even though you didn't have it planned, it seems God had a different idea in mind.  I believe every child is a blessing from the Lord.  Did you get that?  He wants to give you a blessing in your life and this little son is His way of doing it.  "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:  and the fruit of the womb is his reward."  Psalm 127:3  The Lord has also promised us He will give us strength for every trial and temptation He allows in our life.   Notice what the Bible says here in 1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."  

I so appreciate your honesty and your desire to rise above this difficult situation to make the most of your family.  My heart broke as I read your letter.  I have been in homes such as you describe and I know just a short time in the chaos and conflict is overwhelming to me.  I can not imagine living in it 24/7.  I would feel so much better if I could be in your home and talk to you one on one as situations arise.  But knowing where you live and where I live, that is just not going to happen anytime soon.  I will be available as much as possible via email and if you would like to speak in person drop me an email and I will send my phone number so we can text or speak as need be.  

Your words have been on my heart all day and I have prayed repeatedly for the Lord to give me wisdom and His words to reply.   I am constantly amazed at what the Lord has done here at Art's Chili Pepper.  I certainly never planned for it to be such a meeting of the hearts and minds.  I was just going to keep up with some loved ones.  But here we are and I am blessed by the way He has used this blog to strengthen families, lead souls to Him and to bless me and my family many times over.  

I can't stress enough how much I am touched by every letter I receive from readers and how much I pray over each question before I reply.  There was such an urgency in your letter that waiting was not something which was going to come easily, so I was grateful the Lord immediately started giving me answers.  As I was teaching the children this morning, I had a notepad beside me jotting down all the things that came to mind for fear I would forget something.  

My friend, there are so many issues to be addressed in your letter.  I don't know if one post can cover it all but let's dig in and get started and see what we, with the Lord's help, can do.

Let me summarize for my own sake and those who are reading along who might be seeking help in this area.  Your children are ages 11, 9, 6, 3 and 3 months.  You also work part time outside the home.  And it appears your husband gets home later in the evening so you are handling most of the work load alone.  

Dearest, in our correspondence you have never mentioned whether or not you are a Christian.  I would like to know that, because, quite frankly, I believe it has everything to do with the way you live your life and run your family.  Not knowing, since you read my blog,  I am going to assume you are.  I believe one hundred percent that the key to having a happy family life is centering each moment of every day on God.  So often people ask me how I do it.  The answer is, I don't.  I trust the Lord to guide us and ask Him for strength to follow His will for me and my family.  It is when I try to do it, that things don't work out and I become frustrated.

As I said, there are so many things that need to happen in your family to bring you back to a place of happiness and joy in each other.  Right now, though, you are in an emergency situation and it sounds like your whole family is in survival mode.  This is evidenced by your 11 year old's need to escape into herself and your own admission that you would like to do the same.  I think it would be best just to start putting out some of those fires and then build up from there.  

I was sorry to hear that you will be returning to work because more time away from the children is only going to make your situation harder to overcome.  But assuming this isn't something you can change we will work with what we can at this time.  

I am going to start with a few action items.  These are things that I would like for you to incorporate in your day, starting yesterday.  

~ Set your alarm for 15 or 30 minutes before you have to get up.  Before you do anything else, open your Bible and read Psalm 1.  Read a new Psalm each day.  Then spend a few minutes communing with God and ask Him to give you strength to make it through the day, courage to change what needs to be changed, wisdom to know what that is, resolve to stick with it and the love to do it with the right countenance.  If you don't have a Bible, click over to Bible Gateway. com and get started.  Close down everything else on your computer so you will not get distracted from this task by anything else that might pop up.  This may seem like such a small thing, but I assure you my worst days are always those that don't start with a date with God.  And my best days, even though everything may go wrong, are those in which I first spend time alone with the Lord.

~Next, I am assuming, since things are currently so out of control, the baby is not on a schedule and the little ones have not really been properly trained in obedience.  Since the older children are in school all day, this gives you and excellent opportunity to begin training the baby and 3 year old.  Forget laundry and housework and errands and whatever else is on your plate right now.  Cancel your appointments and commit to staying at home and focusing solely on training these little ones for a week, which includes getting the baby on a good schedule.  I have shared on this topic before so I will not use our precious time going over the details.  What I really would like you to do is invest in two books that explain my position and methods of child training.  Start with Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo.  This is available at Amazon.com and on eBay.  His books deal with specific age groups and your little ones fall into several.  I would suggest starting with On Becoming Babywise, On Becoming Babywise II and On Becoming Toddlerwise.  These will give you a good foundation for child training philosophy.   I assure you, you will be amazed at the difference just a week of really applying child training (versus reacting to the situations as they arise) will make in your home.  As a matter of fact, email me your address and I will send you a gift of On Becoming Babywise to get you started on your way.  

~I would also like you to get a copy of E.S.P.  Character Training.  This is an excellent book I recently read, but not had time to write the review.  The author has put together a tremendous manual of character training across the ages.  Mrs. Doebler has collected all in one place information I had to gather from many different sources when I was seeking out God's best for raising my family.  This is the book I would write if I had time.  Kim's book is only available through her website.   Often our children act the way they do, in ways we would prefer they not, because we haven't shown them how we want them to act.  Kim's premise is that if we Explain, show and practice what we want they will do it.  While I didn't have such a clever name for it, I have definitely found this to be the case in training my children and building a happy home life.

~I know you are wondering when you are supposed to find time to do that housework you put aside and to do all this reading and never mind character training.  I am going to tell you.  Your baby should be taking a two hour nap in the morning at this age.  You will spend that 2 hours working with your three year old.  First, working on specific character training exercises and then incorporating what he is learning as he goes about with you doing your house work.  He will wipe cupboards with a sponge as you work in the kitchen, wipe a rag along the baseboards as you work in the bedrooms, empty the trash can and add a new bag in the bathroom, match sock and fold washcloths in the laundry room.  You get the idea.  You can reward his hard work with a game or a story.  When the baby wakes up, he will play quietly on the floor beside you while you feed baby.  Or if baby is cooperative you could do a board puzzle or read a story to the preschooler during feeding time.  Now you have already incorporated some great quality time with your 3 year old and it isn't even lunch time!

~Both the little ones should be having a two hour nap time in the afternoon.  You must make good use of this time.  First, take 30 minutes for you.  Do whatever makes you feel refreshed.  Nap, take a bath, read a book, send an email, write a letter, check out a magazine, call your hubby and tell him how very much you adore him.  It might seem frivolous to take time for your self when there are so many things that need to happen, but Mama sets the spirit of the home and if you aren't in the right mind, no one else will be either.  Recharge those batteries and you will earn huge dividends.

~Spend the next 30 minutes or an hour reading and studying and making a game plan.  Pull out those child training books and pencil and paper and get busy.  Choose just one thing to start with and figure out how you will incorporate it into your life.  

~Use the remaining time to prepare dinner so that it is done and out of the way before the children get home.  (Please note, that ideally, I would have you and the children work on this together but that is down the road.)  Make peanut butter and jelly on paper plates if need be or something you can warm up in the microwave but make sure you don't need to cook after the kids start coming home from school.  Their having your full attention is going to go a long way in reinstating peace in your home. 

~Create an environment conducive to peace and harmony.  Put on some quiet music.  Handel's Water Music is one of my favorites.  You would be surprised at the effect some calming music can have on the attitude of your children.  If the kitchen table is covered with stuff, push it into a box and stuff it in the closet until a time down the road when you can deal with it.  When the children get home from school, I recommend having a light snack on the table... nothing too heavy because dinner will be early for the time being.  Have some quiet activities ready for your three year old to do at the table.  Leggos, play dough, coloring and small puzzles are a big hit in our home.    

~When the children arrive home, greet each one with a hug and a smile.  Don't discuss any problems or issues at this time.  Just let them know you are happy to have them home with you.  Set them down at the table for their snack and make it a requirement that all the children stay together at the table.  Strategic seating will be helpful to keep the peace.  Until the 6 year old is trained to get along with his siblings you might keep him to one side of you and the 3 year old on the other side.  No electronics at all are permitted during this family time.  End of story.  If you need to, throw them in the trash.  It sounds severe, but consider what is most important to you.  By the way, this means you.  Turn off your cell phone.  Turn off the land line.  Turn off the computer.  Shut it all down until after the kids go to bed.  

~Now talk.  Outline and enforce the rules of polite conversation.  No one is to talk when someone else is speaking.  No one is to speak in a rude or hateful way, etc...  Trouble finding something to talk about?  Ask about their day.  What was the best thing they learned in school?  The worst?  What was the funniest thing they saw that day?  What was their favorite thing they did?  What do they wish they had done differently?  Allow each person a chance to talk.  My kids call this the question game and they love to take turns asking questions.  One recent round was Christmas themed and went something like this:  What is your favorite Christmas movie?  Song?  Cookie?  Your favorite ornament on our tree and why?  Now, dear reader, you have just spent an hour of top notch quality time with your kids. 

~My baby has a four o'clock feeding.  I am not sure what feeding schedule your baby is on but I am going to say, for the sake of argument, that is it is the same.  (I nurse at 8, 12, 4, and 8ish) During feeding time, sit at the table with the kids and have them all pull out their home work.  This means the 11 year old, too.  The three year old will keep his attention span if you change his activities every 30 to 60 minutes.  

~At five o'clock serve that dinner you prepared earlier.  Have the children work with you to clear up the school work, set the table and warm up the meal if necessary.  As a rule, I think family meal time is a very important part of the day.  But right now you are putting out fires so you can focus on that later.  You will have to decide if you want to eat with the children or have a snack and dine with your husband when he gets home from work.   This is an excellent time to read the Proverb of the day aloud with the children.  

~After dinner, again work together at clearing up the dishes and cleaning the kitchen.  There is always a job for everyone.  This would be a good time for your 11 year old to have a few special minutes holding the baby and reading him a story or two before he goes down for his evening nap.  (I am going on the assumption his evening nap is around 6 pm.)  Have the children set a place for their father to eat when he gets home later.  

~Now, it should be bath time.  While baby naps is a good time so that you can be there to oversee things and make sure there is no quarreling.  Because you already cooked, fed the children and cleaned up and because the baby is napping you can give all your attention to the other children.  If the 11 year old has more school work, this would be a good time for her to do it.  If not, it would be a good time for her to do a chore or two such as putting away her laundry or cleaning her room.  Make sure they are ready for bed and have their clothes and school things ready for the next day by the time daddy gets home.  

~Instruct the children that when daddy gets home you will be spending 15 minutes with him, uninterrupted.  This may seem silly but it is very important for you, for your husband, for your marriage and for your children.  Give the 11 year old a story book or two and send them all to a bedroom to read together.  You must be firm about this.  No interruptions.  If they are fighting and screaming and it sounds as if they are killing each other, ignore it!  If they come to you to settle squabbles, remind them that it is daddy's time and you will talk to them later.  This will build their ability to work through their own issues without you.  If it becomes completely impossible, set the 6 and 9 year old on their beds with a book or two and send the 11 year old to the 3 year old's bed to read to him.  Then you can work your way into having them spend this time together reading or playing a quiet game.  During your 15 minutes you may only talk about good things in your day.  It will make you both start the evening with a good attitude which will make for a better night, a better sleep and a better tomorrow.  You could spend this time at the table eating dinner or chatting while hubby eats his dinner.  Or if you prefer just catch up for a few minutes and have a romantic dinner together after the kids go to bed.  We call this a home date and it is one of our favorite ways to spend an evening together.

~At seven, the family should spend some time piled together near the three year old's bed reading together before bedtime.  Because this is not a habit you have developed, your 11 year old will most likely resist, but don't  make it an option.  In no time at all, you will find she loves it, even if she doesn't want to admit it.  

~At 7:30 I would have prayer time and say goodnight to the 3, 6 and 9 year old with strict rules about not getting out of bed again until morning.  Our kids like to have some soft music or an audio book playing when they go to sleep.  However, no talking or playing should be the unbend-able rule.

~Now you and hubby have just gained an hour to spend with your 11 year old one on one.  Help her with her homework.  Play a game together.  Talk about what's on her heart.  Study the Bible together.  Watch a video.  Bake some cookies.  Help her with a special project or ask her to help you with one.  Periodically, you or hubby could take turns taking her out for a special date... a drink at Starbucks, some french fries or a movie.  You could even get manicures at one of those cheap places.  Use your imagination.

~At 8:30 I would send her off for her shower and to bed to listen to music or read until lights out at 9:00.  

~ Again, I don't know how your baby's feeding schedule goes.  This is when I get Carmella up for her last feeding of the day.  She is ready to go right back down afterwards but we usually keep up to cuddle and play with her one on one since it is often the only time Allen has with her each day.  So you have options from here.  You could feed baby and put him right back to bed so you and hubby could spend some time together or take some quiet time alone.  Or you could keep him up to see daddy.  Or you could pop a video in and all hang out together.  Not knowing your family personally, I can only tell you how we like to spend our time.  And quite frankly, now that we have grown children, more often than not, this is the time of day when they come and flop down with us and we all hang out together chit chatting or watching a video or playing a game.  

~Lastly, don't stay up too late.  You need to have a good night sleep in order to have a good tomorrow.

Dear Friend.  This seems so simplistic but these little changes are going to go a long way in bringing that peace you are looking for.  Obviously, I can not anticipate every scenario that will come up.  Nor can I imagine the little nuances that exist in your home. But I will gladly accept emails and/or text messages, to help you trouble shoot them.  

Most of all, know that I am with you in spirit and will be asking the Lord to be with you.    

Since Grandma will be coming to stay with the children, you are going to have to carefully enlist her help to keep your schedule and new rules in tact.  Consistency is so important to harmony at home!  I can not over stress that.

To answer your question, Do I ever get frustrated?  Yes, for sure.  When I lose sight of the Lord, everything goes out the window in a heartbeat.  Then, as I said mother sets the tone for the whole family, everyone gets frustrated.  

To answer your other question, How did I do Disney with so many kids of so many ages?  It is quite simply this... we are a family. From day one we have made it a point that it is an honor and privilege to be together.  Going it alone was never an option.  We therefor enjoy each other's company.  We have also made it a point that all our children know life is not about them.  It is about each other, the family and the Lord.  Therefor they desire to meet the needs and desires of each other instead of expecting others to cater to them.  While Dumbo may not in itself be fun to our 8 year old and up, they had a blast standing in line for thirty minutes to ride because 1-we were together doing it and 2-they knew it would bring joy to their younger siblings.  This is not something you will accomplish overnight but with a lot of prayer, tying heartstrings and dedication you will reach that point of sheer maternal bliss-to see your family rejoicing in each other.

1 comment :

  1. These are words from a truly experienced mother. I pray that your words penetrate, not just to whom they were written, but to all who read them on your blog. My initial thought was 'if only I had been able to read this 11 years ago, when my first was born.' But, not matter the age, the principles are the same. And as you stated, consistency is so important.

    Your gift of writing blesses so many, I have no doubt.