When They're All Preschoolers

Sometimes I get the neat experience of meeting someone who reads Preschoolers and Peace and also lives near me. Rachel and I recently got to meet, but before that we had been corresponding by email. She is expecting her sixth and will have six under seven next year!

Since our little one due in May will be just 14 months younger than his big brother, I asked Rachel for some survival tips. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share them with you, too:

1. Scheduling babies. I have done this (with flexibility) with most of my babies, and it helps so much! I get much needed sleep at nights and naptime, and baby seems happier.

2. Rest time. All my children take at least a one hour rest time away from everyone else (I have to get creative here since we are running out of rooms to put people!) I let the ones who are not napping to play with quiet toys or read books. They have to clean up their rest spot after the timer goes off before they allowed to come out. I totally need this break for me! My brain needs a break to focus on something without being interrupted constantly. I use it to read, take a nap, catch up on emails, or whatever I need to do. The children know to stay in their rest spots and not call me.

3. Training time. I just learned to do this last year from a dear Mom of many. I take about 10 minutes most days to practice obedience. We started with "yes, Mommy." I quietly call them over and ask them to do something, and they respond with a "yes, Mommy" (or ma'am if you prefer - my hubby vetoed that). We make it fun and happy. They have practiced "come here," and where to stand when someone comes to the door (instead of crowding around and blocking the entrance.) We also learned Phil.2:3-4 together to learn loving our brothers and sisters - I tell them that it is their job to help make their younger siblings happy. For them that means sharing, giving, and being selfless. (I don't know yet what I will tell my youngest regarding that rule!)

4. Having the older ones do chores and help me when I need it. We are working on this one, but my oldest two are great helpers, and the younger ones are learning to be!

5. Personal exercise and Bible time. I get up before my children to do these, or they don't get done. Of course my personal Bible time is more important than exercise, but having just recently started exercising again, I see why the Bible says that "physical training is of some value." 1 Tim. 2:8 Sometimes the Bible time I have with the children is the only Bible I get all day, but God has spoken to me through that, too. Oh, and I do Bible time with the children while they are eating breakfast. That way, I have a captive audience.

6. Be flexible. There are days that nothing gets done. Nothing. I am blessed to have a patient husband because the house rarely is picked up - it was much worse when my oldest two were really little. Three children 3 and under is harder than five children 6 and under!

7. Honor and respect my husband. If I put my husband first (second to God, but before my children), our relationship stays strong and it frees me up to do the best I can as a mother.

8. Simplify. I stay home a lot more than when I only had one or two! We don't make weekly trips to the library, but maybe once a month. We only this year started sport-type classes with our children, and even then, they are small commitments, with no games, programs, etc. We also stopped having big birthday bashes, and found out we prefer to have just our immediate family celebrate together. We may have a 1st birthday party and maybe one when they are older, but not every year. Also under simplify that I am learning is have a night routine that gets me ready for the morning. It took me a long time to realize my mornings would be a lot smoother if I had the coffee pot ready, hubby's shirt ironed, his lunch made, my clothes ready, etc. Another thing is to cook in bulk. I love when I make our favorite chicken dish x4 and freeze the extras so that I can pull it out of the freezer and pop it in the oven with minimal effort.

Wow, I came up with more than I thought I would. Funny thing is, it sounds like I "have it together" and I really don't! At least I see that there are things that I do well. All I see sometimes is the never shrinking pile of clean laundry and dirty kitchen floor! Mark (hubby) and I are watching the Growing Kids God's Way video series with friends of ours. I am so happy we are watching it together to be on the same page, and for Mark to lead us. I always have read the parenting books, but don't restate things very well, and my parenting during the day was different when Daddy was home... I learned very recently that I was angry at him for not helping me at night with the children, and I would take it out on them (not pretty at all). For some reason, I thought that if I lost my self control and start yelling at them, he would see what a hard time I was having and would help me. I'm embarrassed to say it took me a long time to realize that what I was doing was wrong! (Thus the reason for me adding "honor and respect my husband" on my list.)

My hardest time with my little ones is training when they are 1/2/3years old - and that is foundational! For some reason, I have never been good at training them...maybe my expectations are low? My two year old runs the other way when I say, "Come here!" My just turned four year old son right now has been our hardest by far. We don't know if he is just "all boy" or if he is hyper, or what! When I was on my knees one day, I felt that God told me it was his diet. We are going to start the Feingold program (aka ADHD diet) that eliminates artificial colors and flavors. My hubby and I doubt it will help though, isn't that awful?! Of course a bunch of his behavior is our parenting, I am sure - if not most of it.