Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reality Check!

I have to post this- I need your input! I would so appreciate comments! Did you do this, too? How did you make the necessary changes?

I love everything we are doing but I need to cut back. It has been challenging running around in the winter months with the 4 kids, freezing temps and gobbs of snow!  I need to cut back to a more manageable schedule as we prepare for our new children.

It is more important to me that we bring home the children and that they have a family, love, security and a future than what activities or therapies that we are involved in... I hope that made sense. 

I have to be honest- I have a bit of a gunner personality and we really just need a sense of peacefulness. When we decided to do this we decided to do it differently. We knew we couldn't do all the things that we did with our other children AND we re evaluated our priorities and we decided we didn't even want to do that again. Honestly, 14 years of traveling basketball and 16 years of traveling soccer is enough for anyones life time!! We are choosing not to go down that same road again...

After bringing home our last two I find myself slipping into old patterns- so friends I am asking you - what do you do, what don't you do, what would you like to suggest to me.

I am praying for discernment. I am trying to evaluate what is benefitting the kids and what can really be extracted from the weekly schedule.

We are having an extra large family and because it is coming in shifts I think we forget that fact. All of our children still need us- some only periodically but still we need to help them when they ask.

We are adding two more treasures and this is so much more important than activities of any kind...
I am a seasoned Mom BUT I am not used to making these type of decisions. I tend to do do do and drive myself crazy- so before driving myself crazy we are going to make some changes and allow Ava and Sam to come into a family that has this problem solved!

We need to make more time for Homeschooling and we will need to have time for all our important Dr appointments and surgical procedures. 

On top of that, so many of our activities are so expensive- because we multiply everything by 4 and soon 6 and then by _?_ !!

So friends,
Could you help me prioritize and help me to think straight like the Momma of an extra large family needs to think! Could you give me tidbits of advice to set me on the right track. Could you relieve the feelings I sometimes have of - we should do that or we should do this - otherwise I am not a good Mom.

Could you remind me that my children are fine even if they never learn how to do a cartwheel! A cartwheel- isn't that silly, like who cares... but me!

We want to bring home more BUT we need to live like an extra large family and find the simple pleasure that God has blessed us with - instead of the craziness that could await us in this world.

Please help us to be successful!
Thank you!!

We want more of this!

and this,

and this,

and this,

and this!!!

(Does an extra large family do any activities?? How do the do them? Do they do a few things seasonally?)
What we do is all good... it's just not good for us, to do it all!

Thank you for your help!


Faye Verquer said...

We "only" have 5 children but what works for us may not work for you and vise versa however what we have discovered is that we have kids that prefer different activities. Our High Schooler enjoys her Marching Band and that is a late summer/early fall activity. Our 6th grader loves to Cheer/gymnastics. She was cheering for little league Football and that was summer/fall as well but on Saturday's. So the 2 oldest girls had late summer/fall activities. Our boys enjoy Basektball and baseball (winter and Spring) sports. Our youngest enjoys anything that makes her apart from her siblings! So she chooses Spring Soccer (Saturday mornings at the YMCA) She will also attend gymanstics when a couple 8 week sessions during the year. We try to only have 2 kids inovlved in something at a time. It works for us and there are PLENTY of opportunities for them to do that through out a year. This also helps you to be able to focus on those children for their activities instead of all of them in it at the same time. We have found that for the less atheletic children the YMCA offers great programs and low cost/low involvement. They dont have a lot of practices during a week mainly Saturday practice/games especially for the younger ones. For the boys we do the local leagues...which aren't always the most popular but don't require such a HUGE committment. We have cut back in a HUGE HUGE way lately so we can start to prioritize what is important, what is needed over what is wanted and what they really enjoy and aren't just doing it because someone else is. It keeps us busy no doubt but when only 2 kids are involved at a time it makes it managable and allows us to really enjoy watching those kids and the others cheer them on! We don't feel beat down at the end of a weekend or week day from running here and there. Hubby and I do not do anything for ourselves activity wise we just enjoy thiers! We have a child who was recently dianosed with Type 1 diabetes but we have all adjusted to this major life change and have incoorporated it into our activities as well.

You are GREAT parents and we know you will figure this out just as you do everything else! I LOVE reading your blog and cannot wait to watch you journey to Ava and Sam!

Faye (Cincinnati OH)

RJ said...

An earlier post mentions the YMCA...I have found that getting my kiddos involved in their activities is a huge time commitment saver! Most activities run for a couple of months and then a new session starts. So, instead of committing us to a year long activity, we can start a session and not have to continue past that session into the next one. Just a thought. Still great activities and great costs, just without the huge commitments.

"Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

I think that this is a hard question. We have special needs with our children, they need our time to heal, they need us to be present, they don't need outside stuff. I used to think this was crazy as a child I loved cheerleading, band, choir, jazz choir, etc etc etc etc.....the list is long. It wasn't bad, but really although I enjoyed it. When you are older the most important is the memories of your family.

I may be in the minority, but our children don't do outside activities. Church activities- yes, but even then not all the time. There is much to be said about activities becoming babysitters for so many- NOT ALL- just some. Sometimes it takes up the whole year.

Now am I totally against any activities- no. BUT most bigger families I know say 1 activity per child. This lets them choose. Some children may not want one activity. Some may want more, but they have to accept what it is. I think if it is a sport it needs to be limited to a season. Music lessons are once a week- not 3 games a that is different. Of course I am a music teacher so that helps us :)

At the end of the day- it is better for your children to be best friends. Better for them to have hearts that are compassionate. Better for them to LOVE GOD than anything else. As long as that is happening.......then you are on track. Irregardless of what activities your children are or aren't in.

BUT I also know that if you pay any attention to families that are headless chickens they are not truly happy. You can't be. It is tooo stressful. So whatever you do don't let it steal the JOY of parenting. Especially when you have children that NEED YOU MORE :)

Tesseraemum said...

I only have 3 kids (for now) and not alot of $$ so we have a limit to our activities. NO Travel ANYTHING for starters! The Y or local rec center is great for giving kids a taste of a sport or activity without the time commitment. When we were kids we played sports for a couple or 3 months then the season ended and we played in the neighborhood. Your kids have a built in team! Get them started and set them loose! They will be fine...playing baby dolls and making forts in the backyard is way better than playing a sport until you are sick of it by the time your in high school :) I am a big advocate for free play. My son is almost 14 and he can still play outside and enjoy it. So many of the neighbor boys (and girls) don't know how to stalk bad guys or critters in the woods or play street hockey or kick ball with their little sisters. They don't dream up a block buster movies and proceed write and film them on their own! Your girls (and boys) have had a very structured life already. They will probably want to play house well past the ages your other kids did. Embrace it and savor it! When they are in high school they can pick a sport or hobby they want to focus on! You are a good mom even if you are at home and not at the ball field!! Really!!
Funny side note..Not long after we moved to our new little town, I sat in the barbershop with my kids and basically told some guy (who it turns out is the local travel softball KING) that my kids play rec softball and baseball and if they are not good enough to make the high school teams because they didn't play travel then they would keep playing rec. and the world would not end! The barber had a good laugh and I found out later who exactly he was! HA Sheri

Jennifer said...

Great questions. Helps us all to re-evaluate and think about our own schedules. Something that I need to do every season, beginning, middle, and end. Have you asked your big kids if it all mattered? Their answers might be insightful.

I LOVE this, "What we do is all good... it's just not good for us, to do it all!" So true. We have 4 middle kids and I sign them up for things that they can all do together. One trip, one drop off, one pick up. This will work for awhile. We also look for activities we can do together. My kids enjoyed the children's museum and other places like that way past the "appropriate" age because we just do it all together and everyone plays together. The big kids enjoy reliving their "childhood" with the little ones.

David and Janet Hurley said...

Even with my first set of kids. we limited it to 1 activity per kid at a time.
Now, we have special needs, and I find the maturity level is younger than their actual age....which is fine with me=). We do NO activities, and I don't really plan to in the future. We have playdates and zoo days with friends, but that's it. We have speech therapy x3 (so far) and OT for 1.
Our speech therapist comes to our house. If you have 2 or more kids needing the same therapy, you may be able to get someone to come to your house (private, not school based). This saves me travel time, and I can do school work with 1 less kid, as the therapist works with great for us!

Life Unbound said...

We have 5 kids ranging in age from 6-17. They all participate in church activities a couple of times a week, but that is about it. We've had periods where a couple of them played soccer, but they didn't excel in it or even enjoy it that much, so we didn't continue. Instead, we try to have one family membership somewhere each year - sometimes its the Y, sometimes it's the zoo or the science museum, etc. That place then becomes our "cheap outing" when we need/want to go do something fun (especially on those cold winter days when we are getting cabin fever). Our memberships usually come with a discount for guests, so we'll sometimes invite another family to go with us. We do have a lot of medical appts. and weekly therapy appts., so time for other stuff is really limited too, but this has worked well for us.

TanyaLea said...

Well Jean, when I'm around you I see nothing but a fun loving mom who adores her kids. So I'm all for cutting back and finding that 'balance' so you can continue to shower them in that special bonding love. I think activities are great, but it really is finding the balance and what is most necessary, and then weighing the pros and cons. Obviously, I don't have a family your size, so I cannot dish out the best advise based on experience. But even with a smaller family, I do know that being over committed can weigh one down and create more anxiety then peace in the home. There's just something about having life slow down enough so that we can stop and smell the roses, that appeals to me so much! I guess it's having bigger kids and knowing how life just continues to get busier and busier the older they get. The years fly by too fast, and we only have this short time to leave our stamp on their lives. Just continue raising them with the love of Jesus center stage, and prayerfully ask God to light your path...He will make it straight!! <><

Love you,

Susan A said...

I would suggest living on a small farm, where the children could have a routine of looking after chicken, hens, rooster, goat, and learn to grow vegetables, do their own cooking, canning... and also you could fit in homeschooling in this routine.


I thought it sounded ideal... in fact, there is a DVD called "A Journey Home" by Franklin Springs, it's a real-life narrative about a family, the Waller family... they had a busy schedule when the dad decided he needed to spend time in the Word and with his family, and they moved to an Amish settlement.

They are now serving Israel's farmers and their website is

Thought I'd share that with you just in case it's the answer :)

I loved the pics :)

Dr. D said...

We have 4 sons and will have 8 kiddies before summer. We also homeschool. I'm a planner and a believer in keeping things simple. I'm much more pleasant to live with that way. :-D

Here are some keys that have worked for us:

1. We tend to choose activities that everyone can be involved in. For example, they all did swimming lessons together on the same day and at the same time. Saves driving all over town trying to get children to a million different activities. One location; one time.

Our sons are enrolled in a soccer club, but because it's year round and not seasonal, it can become a bit much. So we pick and choose which times of the year we will be involved instead of trying to do the entire school year.

2. We let the flexibility of homeschool work for us. For example, instead of trying to fit into afterschool tennis classes that might not suit our schedule, we scheduled a private weekly tennis class in the early afternoon when most kids are still in school. That means there's plenty of time to come home, and make and enjoy dinner and the evening without scrambling. :-)

Similarly, when our girls come home I'd like them to do ballet and will teach the class myself. It will be something special they do with mom and it will suit our schedule.

3. We try to make home engaging. With lots to do at home (basketball, horseriding, biking, keeping the horses' stables clean, picking fruit, giving other kids tours and pony rides, training the dogs etc.) there's plenty to do as a family, as siblings, or as an individual just wanting some space, without life feeling hectic and without having to get in the car and go somewhere to find an activity.

Hope that helps. :)

Hunan Mommy said...

I only have 2,so I hope my words are beneficial:-) We allow our older to choose 2 activities he really likes. I did this prior to bringing our daughter home, knowing her sn would require surgery and possible pt. We incorporate this one activity into our schedule. It is the same during all seasons. He does tae kwon do for 1/2 hr 2 times per week. Our little goes to gymnastics located the same place at the same time. He chose Boy Scouts as the 2nd activity, and I allowed this because it only meets an hour twice a month. There are opportunities for everything, but he is only a kid once. Good luck! Great photos!

Debbie said...

We did EVERYTHING with our three bio children, sports, scouts, traveling ball teams, etc. Ugh, I thought keeping them busy was important. It showed my children that activities were more important than family. I would not do it again. With our foster child we are in the process of adopting we plan for her to take golf and music lessons. The golf is something we plan to do every Sunday as a family. Music is something that she can enjoy for a lifetime. If she wants to do something else we will make that decision based on how it affects the family. I think homeschooling will eliminate some of the exposure to a million activities. Right now, she is almost 2 and we go to the library one day a week. The rest of the time we go on "field trips" or play dates. We also live in a cold weather state and I want to be free to spend good amounts of time in warm climates in the winter where we have most of our extended family. Activities would definitely limit that.

Debbie said...

We did EVERYTHING with our three bio children, sports, scouts, traveling ball teams, etc. Ugh, I thought keeping them busy was important. It showed my children that activities were more important than family. I would not do it again. With our foster child we are in the process of adopting we plan for her to take golf and music lessons. The golf is something we plan to do every Sunday as a family. Music is something that she can enjoy for a lifetime. If she wants to do something else we will make that decision based on how it affects the family. I think homeschooling will eliminate some of the exposure to a million activities. Right now, she is almost 2 and we go to the library one day a week. The rest of the time we go on "field trips" or play dates. We also live in a cold weather state and I want to be free to spend good amounts of time in warm climates in the winter where we have most of our extended family. Activities would definitely limit that.

Chad and Kristy said...

I felt completely overwhelmed with 3 kids in soccer and it was just AYSO soccer (which is just for fun). I can't imagine having all the kids involved in something. Even if you say one activity a person...with 6+ kids you would still be running around ALL the time! Bethany is 12 and doesn't know how to do a carton wheel:) Soccer is our sport and I would be ok if they all decided to give that up:) I never played sports growing up... except with my cousins in the front yard (kickball or softball). We had a great childhood and all we had was lots of kids to play with and huge imaginations! I think kids miss out on a lot these days by running around to "Events" instead of just getting to stay home and be kids... playing in the yard (freeze tag, hide and go seek, kickball..), making mud pies and building castles in the dirt, raking leaves and jumping in. That is all a kid needs! It made me treasure the moments we did go out and they were usually free like going to a state park or to the art museum.We would occasionally go to the movies but we mostly enjoyed playing in the yard with each other or playing Barbies in the house... we would play for hours! As for outings... I think just getting together with your homeschool group from time to time and your China group would be plenty! My two cents:)

Pam said...

You've gotten much wisdom from all your replies. I have to say I totally agree with "Are These Kids All Yours?" This time around we want to focus on "family" and not just keeping the kids busy with activities. Also, I heard John Rosemond speak many, many years ago, and he talked about how we run around, miss family dinners, and have our lives ruled by our children's sports. And really after high school or maybe college, how many of these kids are going to be doing their sport? Only a small, small minority will, and yet think of all the time we have allowed for those teams to suck from our families. SO, this time around we have decided that ALL of our littles will take music lessons~ piano, (Grace has already started) since that is lifelong activity, as well as swimming lessons, which we consider a "must know how to do" activity. We then are allowing 1 other activity and our sports activities for Grace and AC are through the church league and VERY low key. Once a week for AC and 1 practice a week along with one game for Grace. We are not going to allow sports to rule our lives, though I do see benefits for the kids to participate. We are just going to make sure it's fun rec leagues for ours. Kate, our princess, has just started dance through a Christian studio. Low key, modest costumes, praise music~ perfect for her. And little Charlie is not ready for anything yet. He just needs some time to mature.

It's hard not to get sucked into it all again, isn't it? Even when we've BTDT and KNOW. It's still hard. We want our children to have all the best experiences, but I truly think the best thing they can have is TIME spent with their family.

About Me said...

We have used our church families (willingly) to build our activities with. Our kids participate in 4-H, Culture Club, Awanas, and piano/violin lessons. The 4-H and culture club were created and organized to include only other home-schooled kids from our church. (Which there are alot of) The piano lessons are taught by one of our church members. It keeps us busy enough but not overwelmed. We're able to schedule our club meetings around each other's schedules and be VERY flexible. I schedule doctor and physical therapy appointments on one day of the week whenever possible so that we're not driving into town too often -- which is a 20 mile drive. My daughter has asked to participate in gymnastics, ballet, dance, swimming, etc. etc. But we've become pretty set on limiting activities. After raising our 4 bio sons, we too have learned that in our "OLDER" age, we're not able or willing to be so busy.
Karen H.

Difference2This1 said... will be OK whatever you remove from their schedule. They will learn to do a cartwheel- whether they take gymnastics or not by hanging out with eachother and other kids at the parks, playdates, etc. They can learn to swim in a few lessons with lots of practice during family swim times (it looks like you take them often to warm places, right?). Etc, ect. They can learn all these things we think they need to learn in formal lessons in other informal venues and when the day comes they show a passion for something, then you can involve them more formally. It will be OK whatever you decide to pull them out of so they can have more time for those sweet moments in those photos. Because that's what's most important.

We try to do the things EVERYONE enjoys (AWANA, our small group bible study where the kids play together). If we do lessons, we do short term exposure types of lessons (6 wks here and there so it's not unbearable to the ones not participating). NO MORE SOFTBALL TEAM- pain in everyone except the one participating's backside. No 8 week mini volleyball camps that keep everyone out until 9pm but only one kid can participate- insane for a big family focusing on together time. This all may change as they get older, but it's working for us right now.

Whatever you decide to pull them out of...they will be OK :) God bless, Jennifer

Annie said...

I am a friend of Sally Reed and have been reading on your blog for a little while! Just wanted to introduce myself!
For our family, we were consumed with non-family activities. Not even really consumed compared to others, but it was still too much. I think it is because of the way I was raised. ALWAYS doing church activities, because it's church so it must be good, right? Always sports/school activities. When the Lord allowed me to quit my job, I was immediately asked to help lead a bible study, to which of course I said yes. Because, Bible study is a good thing, right? Well, I so quickly learned that even GOOD things aren't BEST for us at times. I had to learn the hard way to choose BEST! I believe now that the Lord was showing me to stay home and be content there! I could not learn to be content with HIM until He removed all of the rest. Using the reason of it benefiting my kids or my faith was just masking the problem!! So, I committed to a year of saying no to most everything! Only would we do family activities, or I'd deliver a meal here or there to help a family in need. We'd have play dates and other outings, but as a family. It was the best year of my life and the catapult to so many other years! The Lord taught me a lot during that time. A lot of folks who know us don't understand why we limit activities. It's okay if they don't understand or agree! They use all of those key words like "socialization" and "sharing" and "teamwork". I agree that those are good things, but should I leave it up to society to teach them? For us, the answer was no! The Lord will allow me peeks into my kids lives where He shows me how those things are being accomplished under our roof. It is so sweet to be the ones to witness it happening! I am thankful for each and every moment here, even if it is tedious at times and "slower" than normal.
However, I totally agree with the person who posted about moving to a farm! That's my dream!!! Plenty of work outside to keep us all busy!! Just pray and seek the Lord and pray for extra guidance for your hubby and follow his lead and trust in Christ to do the work!

rachel said...

Although I am not a parent, as a teacher I know you can not do it all all the time! I have found that devoting times or days to certain activities can make them more special, and more of something to look forward to - even if it is an ordinary activity at home. You don't have to go out to have fun. :) In my classroom, I have themes like "Whiteboard Wednesday." I also reserve play-doh for "Funky Fridays." I really do think the kids find it much more of a treat and enjoy their time because it is not available all the time. (Play-doh is a great way to build hand muscles to improve fine motor skills.) Since we only do it once a week, all of the gizmos and gadgets to go along with the play-doh come out too. Movie or game night could easily fill a night of entertainment. Devoting time every week or so to do a special luxurious bath night with special cleansers and nail polish would definitely be a cheap in house treat. I am continually amazed how much children love to have chapter books read aloud to them - no matter their age. This is a regular routine in my classroom. And of course, since I love cooking, I try to involve kids in at as much as possible. They love to learn about food and I personally think it opens up their minds to trying new things if they have touched, learned about and helped prepare. Good luck! You do a lovely job parenting!

Holly said...

You have gotten some great advice! Way before I even thought about adoption, when I just had 2 kiddos, my husband left for active duty in the Army and I was a single mother overnight for 7 months and the activities were about to do me in. We had something EVERY night of the week and that is no exaggeration.
We stopped everything for a season.
Now I ask myself, "How will this activitiy build character into my child? Is this something that we can do as a family? Is this going to be a worthy investment of our time and money in 10 years?"
Then when I answer those questions I pretty much know whether or not it is an activity to say yes to :)

From the Erben Gang..... said...

I "only" have six. Honestly I am trying not to worry about what the kids do. My older two have passions. We let them follow those. One is hockey, huge time commitment but we all go. Next two like organized sports. And we use friends for nikkis team, otherwise we all go. I know that rat race and am trying hard to avoid it. The best thing for the kids (and how I grew up) is a place to go on the weekends (of course if possible!) We go to Breck and ski together and hang out together, if we break up during the day. Or your beach place. Family time and play time-whatever it may be- is most important! And honestly, I KNOW you know what you are doing!

expressmom said...

When you are a kid in a large family, your 'after school' hours are always fun. You have a built-in group of kids to play with. So, if you do no outside activities, I wouldn't worry about it.

But, if you are up for a little thinking outside the box....
You could ask local clubs to offer a class at your house. Providing your house has any spare space at all. You really need only one room you are willing to spare during class time. (if you have a big back yard & decent weather even better!) You could also invite other homeschooling families & charge a fee. (This can cover your own participation costs too.) And the teachers/coaches that run their own businesses and do not work in the school system often welcome day time hours, (with reduced rates too) and they are especially eager if they do not have to find their own clientele. I find it is the chauffeuring to and from the activities that is the most difficult, if you can eliminate the carpool portion, well, yay you!

Good luck!

Karin said...

We hardly do any activities. Instead, I try to come up with an occasional outing--hiking in the woods, a trip to the local park, etc. Most of the time, though, they just play at home. They have SO MUCH fun together and have learned to use their imaginations. :)

Sammy said...

We do some school sports like tennis and my daughters do religious clubs at school. We mostly do church activities though like Upwards. My husband and older daughters coach. It works out great for me because I don't like sports. They are usually involved in church programs around 3 to 5 times a week plus camps in the summer. We are blessed with a huge Bible believing church that is close. Other than that, they are working on homework or playing around the house. Honestly, since we've adopted several with special needs I stay very busy with medical appointments. Even regular medical issues are bad enough. I can hardly find time to get to the dentist myself and still have time for the computer. : - ) Also, with this many we cannot afford fancy lessons. I don't feel bad either. I know plenty of people that pay the price, but their kids never use what they paid for.