1.) What was it like homeschooling and being a pastors wife?
Interesting...In Tulsa it was fine, people at least respected us. But when we went to WI we were the only people homeschooling in the church, of course the church was very small and the church was used to older pastors who's wives who were in the church full time. It was difficult for people to take at first and it takes awhile to earn respect for what you are doing and have people hear your heart. But then to see good results within our kids and then all those things were enough for people to like the idea and then it became more popular.
2.) What sort of characteristics did you want to see in your children as they grew? Did you and Kirby sit down and talk about those?
Oh yes! Constantly. I'm sure nobody does this anymore but we did morning devotions together during the week, we had all our meals together. There was no- Hey grab this when I'm hungry- some of that happened when they were teenagers. We went through all kinds of things we talked about, it was me at the beginning leading them and doing most of the discipline. Because sometimes it's hard for dads to get into the discipline, they've had a long day at work and they don't want to walk in the door and hear you say- this person needs a swat for this and this person needs a swat for that. Instead they want to get them up out of bed even though it's 10pm, they haven't seen them all day. This is the stuff that was really hard when I was structured and more strict. My friend Christie advised me to continue almost like he's not there, so instead of thinking that the minute he comes in the door- he's the head, he's the lead- he may not the lead in that area yet. Just in that area, so you keep doing what you're doing. You get up and move, it's easy with parents for dad to come home and mom expects dad to take care of the issues because he's home- but then neither of you do. And the kids know- they know when dad comes home things are looser. To communicate with my husband respectfully I would say something like- Honey I know you're really tired would you mind if I take care of that-
I really wanted my kids to be independent and also being able to manage a home- part of our schoolwork in high school were business skills taught by Kirby and I taught home management. I wanted them to know you had to change the air filter, you gotta do this and you gotta do that, this is the way we manage housework- there are things we do every 3 days or twice a week, things we do weekly, monthly, things we do every 6 months. That stuff may not be totally real for them until they have their own place, but at least they've been exposed to this stuff. I wanted them to love the Lord and look for Him first and to be able to fulfill whatever gifts the Lord had given them. We were really big into finding what those things God had blessed you with and be able to use those skills and talents for Him.
For the girls I intentionally taught sewing, cooking and house management. But the boys still got exposure to those things. My husband couldn't even run the washer when I was gone! So that determined me to train the boys to know house management skills. We wanted all of our kids to work hard to have a good work ethic- by the time they were in 7th grade they had to figure out a way to make money- this trained to be entrepreneurs!
3.) You say you are structured and scheduled could you give an example of that during the day?
I got up at 6am I would shower or get ready for the day and I would have my quiet time. If I had to get a digital clock for the kids rooms I would. If they wake up before- I put some books by the side of their bed and they could sit and read or visit with one another- but they could not leave their rooms.
>>>Oh Gail I don't do that now- BUT I want to start doing that with my older child! How do I transition into that wake up routine?
You start by explaining it and explaining the benefits, then you have some rewards to encourage them. Give them a reason to want to do it. I don't know what that is for your kids, but most things with kids are systems of rewards and consequences. They are different rewards and consequences for each child- depending on what they like and what they don't like. It's not a bribe- it's a benefit beforehand and they can choose not to and they don't get the reward. We train for a long time with only rewards before there are ever consequences, if they got out of bed they would have to go back to their room without a reward. To train your kids to do something different there has to be a benefit- lunch on the back porch or a popsicle after lunch- when they are younger the rewards need to be closer to the training though. But really that was just salvation for me- I couldn't have done it with 5 small children without wake up training for the older kids.
Once the children were older and didn't need me to help them with everything they could get out of bed and start their day. We got into a routine of having big breakfasts together and each day we had 1 big meal scheduled- there were not options. We had a cycle of what we ate one day we had pancakes, then eggs, oatmeal and then muffins there weren't choices. In the winter we made bread in the bread maker and they could have some of that- but other days they weren't allowed to eat anything until lunch if they didn't eat their breakfast. They didn't starve, now if they wouldn't eat any of it not even 2 bites- it went right in the fridge and they would have that for lunch. I would warm it up and then they would have the regular lunch afterwards. Sometimes my kids would get tired of sandwiches- so I gave a slight variation: PB and jelly or bologna. But that's it, no other options. That's just what we were all going to eat. Listen- you have to be tough, you are setting the example, you're setting the boundaries- your children are not your friends- you are in charge of them, you are over them, so you should not be feeling like- Hey Buddy do we want to eat right now? OK we don't- Do we want to nap right now? OK we don't- you aren't going to get anywhere with that. You are going to have a child who is way off the radar.
4.) I'm sure you did, but did you ever just get worn down with the dailiness of it all?
Of course! In fact if you were to ask me right now what's your biggest regret in parenting- I would say the fact that I could not be as consistent as I wanted to be- it was very hard. Well I had 5, that's a lot of intermingling and opportunities for not obeying.
This will help: I heard a teaching one time about how pilots in a plane actually are off course 90% of the time! They constantly have to make course correction, so that's what parenting is; we know where we are going, we know it's here, but we go off and we have to course correct, every time the Lord shows us we are off we need to course correct. We do it and we come back- that's what we are looking for- as long as you are course correcting and doing what the Lord shows you- you are OK. Don't beat yourself down. There's always going to be opportunities when you feel good about what's going on and there will be opportunities when you feel bad. That's how homeschooling was- felt good, felt good, felt good: oh now I want to quit. Ha ha. That's when bouncing things off my husband would help.
Your kids aren't there to prove you are doing a great job. That is a trap. And as a pastor's wife, can you imagine how we felt? We always felt like our kids were a reflection of us- but we had to break that. Our kids are there own people, especially when they get to the point where they are teenagers, you are still influencing them, you are still effecting them, but they are there own person. They are not with you 25/7 nor should you be with them 24/7 so they will stub their toes. They will do things that are wrong, they will do things that will embarrass you- but you cannot completely lose your confidence in what you are doing. You've got to know the confidence inside that you've done what's right, God has shown me this, I believe I'm doing what's right- even though it's looking bad, even though this child is reacting strongly to what I'm doing- God am I making a mistake? Please show me!
My scripture when I had the twins was- Isaiah 50:7 "For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." Because I kept thinking that I didn't know how I was going to do this with 5 kids! But I knew the Lord would show me! I will set my face, I will not be confounded or confused and I will not be ashamed- now you see why I had to have prayer time! Ha!
5.) What were activities you did just for yourself while your children were young?
Exercising and sewing. Those were the 2 major things, when I had all 5 I would go to an 11:30 workout class at a fitness club, then after lunch shower when they napped. Then when we didn't belong to the gym anymore we did Hooked on Aerobics which I think was on PBS, I would have the kids try and do it with me. It's hard to exercise with the kids at home, sometimes there were times I would just go take a run.
6.) What were some ways you kept your marriage strong with 5 kids?
Being consistent with the kids with discipline, keeping everyone on a schedule, because when you are keeping things on a schedule you are honoring your husband. If you know the kids stay in their rooms until 7am then you and your husband could have 6am-7am together, yes that might be your quiet time- but that might be the most spiritual thing you could do! Having the kids stay in their beds at night, not letting them keep getting up and interrupting your time. Having the first 10-15 minutes when your husband comes home, where he greets the kids and gives them a kiss and they go play and you sit and talk. That was hard for us to do but that was our goal- sometimes Kirby would come home during lunch time-we would have a quick bite and then have a "meeting" in the bedroom, same thing at night- I may feed the kids and Kirby might take a few nibbles and by the time the kids are all in bed (like around 8pm) we would have a nice candlelight dinner at the dining room table. That's what's so important about having the kids under control and on a schedule.
7.) Raising 5 kids is tough- how did you remember what age the first child started to do new things?
I had a book called the "Book of Ages" and I had specific times at specific ages- what time you went to bed at different ages, at what age you could spend your own money and so on. When the kids go to bed at different times it gives you more quality time with each one of them. Another way to get special alone time with your kids is to take only 1 of them on an errand with you. It gives them a chance to talk about anything, you can sing- you can do all kinds of things. And you never get that time at the house. So taking them one by one is fantastic.
8.) Your family is all very close- what were some things you did as a family to keep them close?
Traditions! Lot's of traditions, I'm a firm believer that they need to be apart of something that is bigger then themselves and that thing is basically the family. That is their unit, that is the unit I want them to identify with- I don't want them identifying with their peers and thinking they don't want to be with family. So fun things- every year we did a "Kidz Day" because Jesse hated that every year there was Mother's Day and Father's Day- and he said when is it going to be Kidz Day? I thought what a great idea! So we started having yearly Kidz Days- it's not a specific date, it's always in the summer and it's always a surprise! I would wake them up at midnight ad tell them it was Kidz Day and give them badges, an invitation to what we were going to do for the day, placemats and ice-cream at midnight! Usually it involved a trip out of town, or an overnight at a hotel, day trips, something special, it was written on their invitations.
Our weekly family nights, we started that before it was a national thing- we also journaled about the night. We traded who planned it, the only ones who could spend money were mom and dad, the kids had to plan a family activity that did not involve money.
I have a ton of traditions written up, we had a Fall walk every year when the leaves would start falling off the trees, our vacations- we took one big vacation a year- we named it, we had a vacation cry! We also had special school days: Red Day, Green Day, Backwards Day, No Socks Day, Green Eggs and Ham Day, School in Bed Day, Pajama Day we had loads of special days- just to keep the fun in school! We had a Summer Day in the winter- we turned the heat way up and wear swimsuits, shorts and a t-shirt, picnic in the living room with hot dogs and lemonade.
But do you see there how nothing about those special traditions or fun days have come off the schedule or off the consistency I'm trying to establish in my home?
Well if Gail doesn't inspire you to be disciplined & scheduled BUT fun then I don't know who could! Ha ha, but seriously how amazing are all her traditions and special family moments? Is that what our current society is missing? With all the convenience and tech toys around us- are we missing out on being creative in our own homes? Have we left the creativity to Apple, Disney and Pixar? I say we rally up our families in 2014 with new traditions, Kidz Day and schedules! Do you like how I slipped that discipline in there with a schedule for your family? Well it's important but you can be a fun mom amidst all the consistency.
I'm so grateful to Gail for her godly wisdom, these interviews are having a huge impact on how I mother by sons and how I approach the years coming ahead. Join me soon for our next interview coming in a couple of weeks! (Do you see I did it again! I've posted part 2 late- eek. Sorry!)