Friday, October 26, 2012

Make Time to Play

I know. You're exhausted.  There's always so much to do and the more you do, the longer the list seems to get.  Who has time to play? I've come to the conclusion that we will never have the time to play, but instead, we have to make the time.  

Remember back in the days when you played?  Hours upon endless hours of tireless fun with no worries of deadlines or commitments or having to get dinner on the table. Those were the days...and although they won't return in quite the same way, we can still play and have fun.

Looking for simple fun? Build with blocks or put a puzzle together.
Play board games or get high tech with video games.
Go old school and play cards (still a favorite around here). 
Want to be artistic? Draw outside with chalk or create with play dough. 
Looking for adventure? Go geocaching.

My kids love to play card games.  One of their favorite is called May I, a card game my husband grew up playing. They enjoy playing with us at home, as well as with their grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles.  Its a lot of fun, but I think the best part for them is who they're playing with.

One Christmas, my brother-in-law made marshmallow shooters for the kids out of pvc piping and duct tape.  This gift was a hit for the kids and adults alike! We  had endless fun shooting marshmallows back and forth.

Sometimes its good to put the to-do list aside and just play!  We're never too old to have fun and our kids really like when we get in on the fun with them. Playing keeps us young and also has the benefit of strengthening our relationship. The more time we spend with them now, the more likely they'll want to spend time with us as they get older. 

Do you make time to play with your children?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Serving As a Family

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.
~Benjamin Franklin

What a powerful quote.  I find this to be helpful in all areas with our families but there is one area that I want to focus it on more today.  Serving.  Whether its serving others or each other, modeling it is the best way to teach service to our children, not only by them seeing you serve but by serving along side them.

Relationships are multi-faceted and its amazing how deep our relationships can grow in different areas when we dig deeper and encounter new experiences together.

Serving can begin with serving one another at home and extend it outward to those around us that need our support.  Helping a sibling with schoolwork or doing an unexpected chore are a few ways that we can teach kids how to be on the lookout for ways to help others.  

Many times when my husband has asked for volunteers at church, the kids are always the ones that are eager to help.  Maybe us adults have something to learn from them.  We need to nurture that eagerness and let them serve along side us.  It will create a spirit of service, compassion,  and leadership for the future generation.

I'm sure there might be ways in which you serve already.  Are you involving your kids in it? It can be pretty simple to do.  

Have them write a note when your preparing a meal to take to someone.
Give them a part in being hospitable when you have company.
Join them in serving in a community project.
Give them a part in helping you serve at church.

Serving others is all about loving others. Let's not only tell our children to serve, let's involve them and serve together.  

In what ways do you involve your kids in serving others? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Create Traditions

When I say the word tradition, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? It could be celebrations that take place throughout the year like Thanksgiving and Christmas, or cultural food items, or certain ways of doing things. Most people love traditions and for the most part, we all have our own.  

We are all creatures of habit who gravitate to routines, and traditions solidify that feeling of knowing what to expect. Traditions are reminders...of happy, simple, or hopeful times and it brings comfort to us when we repeat those traditions and reminisce in great memories that were accompanied with people we love.

Do you have favorite traditions that you're passing down to your children? Passing down traditions are a wonderful way to share our heritage with our kids and the things that were important to us. 

AND...are you creating new traditions with them?  

Traditions don't have to be formal in any way!  It could be pizza and a movie every Friday night.  One of my family's favorite tradition is drinking hot chocolate by the pool when we come out at night.  Although we live in Miami and it's very hot in the summer, at night it can feel cool when you're all wet and the sun is tucked away, especially when you enter the air conditioned house!  So ever since my kids were little we've often had a tray of hot chocolate by the pool at the end of a late night swim.

Sometimes the greatest traditions are the new ones that we create with our own families. New traditions built in just for them are a way to capture those moments that you want to repeat and have them looking forward to.  

One day, when they have their own families they'll repeat some old traditions and hopefully continue to create new ones. 

What new traditions have you created with your family?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Break the Rules

There are rules and then there are rules. You know, the ones we can break at times. Now I'm not saying breaking the big rules, the ones that are the heart of the home, what I am saying is relax. There are times that letting the little things go, creates an environment that makes our home fun.

Breaking the rules creates spontaneity, and who doesn't need a little spontaneity in their lives? The unexpected can lead to memorable moments.

In my home, when I go away and my husband is left with the kids for the night, they break the dinner rules and have ice cream for dinner.  A nice big sundae filled with the works. This seldomly happens because I can count the times I've been "away" for the night. Maybe five times in the past seven years! So it's OK because its not often.  For the kids this is a big deal, one that they love and have vivid memories of.  

What rules could you break? I guess it depends on what rules you can live with being broken and your family would enjoy! The point is to enjoy it.  

So go ahead, really, it's OK.  Break the rules once in a while and have fun while you're at it!
What rule would you break for fun?


Monday, October 22, 2012

One-on-One Time

Today was a busy but quiet day. I was alone with three kids. I know, that's not alone, alone, but it really does make a difference when you remove one or two kids from the equation.  My husband took the younger kids with him to "his other office" a.k.a Panera Bread. 

The kids bring their schoolwork and keep busy while he gets some work done and then afterwards, they spend time together talking or whatever, and he always gets them some sort of treat.

Usually he tries to take them individually, but sometimes he takes two at a time. I give him a lot of credit for staying on top of this because this is an area that can often go neglected.  If you have two or more children, you know how difficult this could be.

We spend a lot of time with our kids but how much of it is one on one?

If you have this sinking feeling right about now because you haven't been doing this, you are not alone! This is an area that is very difficult for me to manage and so I had that sinking feeling going on as well.

For me it isn't possible to leave the house and get away with one child alone very often. So in my efforts to get better in this area, I decided to make a list of different ways that I could spend one-on-one time with each child, whether at home or out if possible.

I enlisted the help of my kids because it would be nice if they enjoyed what we're doing and being that kids change their minds on things so often, I just wanted to be sure I was on track with them.

Well, to my surprise, their list was no different than what we do as a family! It really just reminded me that kids don't need much more than our time and undivided attention.  They really are simple.  Yet we, in our efforts to try and do better, sometimes overcomplicate things. At least, I'm guilty of that.

So here are some ideas I received from my children just to give you an example. 

Play board game
Tell her a story 
Snuggle and read stories
Scrap booking
Arts and crafts
Pool time
Go shopping together
Watch a movie
Paint nails
Sit outside together
Barnes and nobles
Get an ice cream together
Go on swings together
Go to pet store (just to look)
Go to Starbucks
Sit around and talk
Play cards or build card houses
Cook together
Work on building something together
Kick the ball around

Hey, thats not a bad list! As you see, its just seeking out the moments that come along and customizing it for a particular child. As a mom, you know your child and their needs. Lean into those moments when they need a little more attention, an extra word of encouragement, or a bit of time alone to feel extra special. 

As busy as I am, I could think of a few different occasions during the week, that I have the opportunity to pick one of these activities from the list and share it in a special way with my kids one-on-one. In a large family, even just taking one of them food shopping is special!  Then they get to pick out the snacks, get the free cookie at the supermarket bakery and push the cart, which I forbid when they are all with me because they get easily distracted together and start bumping into things!

Individual time together can happen when the other kids are busy doing other things; when the baby goes down for a nap or the older kids are watching a movie. Its being aware of our children's needs and filling it as needed.  

So maybe this isn't as difficult as it seems. We're not talking carving out hours or a whole day (although if you have a chance, go for it!), its about filling their love tanks regularly and showing them that they are loved as part of this family as a whole and individually. 

How do you spend one-on-one time with your children?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Learning Together

There are invaluable lessons to be learned from taking the time to learn something together with the family.  Learning together models inquisitiveness, demonstrates that learning is a life-long process, and creates common interests.

What better way to teach a child to be curious than to be curious yourself and children are naturally curious anyway so it shouldn't be hard. There are times that our children ask us a question that we don't know the answer to.  This is a teachable moment, that we could use to learn together.  Research it along side them and share the information with each other. It models teachablity. We teach each other and learn from each other.  

This is one of the things I love about homeschooling, we are constantly learning something together and when the kids find out something that's new to them, they are always excited to share it with me. We can connect on a topic of interest or even work through together a topic that has been difficult to master.  Oh, the joy of accomplishing something that at some point seemed impossible! 

Our kids benefit from seeing that we don't know all the answers but know how to find the answers.  Learning is a life-long process and instilling a love of learning ensures that they will carry on this trait and continually feed their minds, even as adults. Learning doesn't end when high school or college days are over and we are their example. Do we seek to learn new things? What is our approach to learning?

At the same time our kids are benefiting in these ways, our relationships could be made stronger by creating common interests through a learning path. It could be taking a class together, like karate, for example, or learning sign language through DVD's or practicing a skill together.  

A few months ago, we bought a DVD series on Mental Math from The Great Courses.  We are really fond of many of their courses and they're a great addition to our homeschooling.  We worked on the mental math and worked together to learn the math tricks taught.  It was fun quizzing each other and working at it together, until the kids started doing better (math isn't my strong subject) and my husband got too competitive, lol. 

We also try to watch documentaries together.  Thanks to Netflix, they are available at our disposal. It adds to our knowledge and leads to more questions on that topic or similar ones. 

But the most important aspect of learning together is not just for mental knowledge but for spiritual growth.  It is to learn to grow in our relationship with Christ. The bible is something we will never master. We should be life-long students of the word, teaching our children to be curious and search the scriptures with fresh eyes every time.  A teachable spirit is open to instructions and humble in receiving His teaching and applying it to daily living.

So I challenge you to learn together and grow mentally and spiritually as a family.



The Great Outdoors

Being outdoors can do wonders for the family. Besides getting a little exercise, its a way to connect with our family in the setting God originally created for us. Spending time in nature is also a great way to leave aside the daily problems and focus on what's truly important, each other.  

I have to admit that I'm not the outdoorsy type. If the setting is a nicely landscaped park, then yes, but the real roughing-it type of outdoors, I can do without. So when I say outdoors, I mean it in the broader sense of the word, outside the confines of a man-made structure...and soaking in the crisp air.  

Whether its the park, beach, or your backyard, doesn't matter.  Just getting out and taking a nature walk, can make a difference in the way we relate to each other.  

All it takes is some simple good old-fashioned fun outdoors to put life in perspective. Nature is simplicity at its best and the possibilities are endless, so there's sure to be something for everyone, even your picky teenage daughter ;).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Live with Conviction

We all have a core set of values that we instill to our families. What do you stand for? What do you stand against? 

So what are you doing for your family to know the difference?

When we live by our convictions and stand firm on them, we are giving a standard to live by instead of living by whatever standard is before us at the moment.

It's one of the things I love about the Duggars family from 19 and Counting. They have strong spiritual convictions which they live by and have not let the worldly standards shape their family. Instead they have chosen to live spirit-led lives. Yet, many people are opposed to their ways and don't agree with the decisions they've made.

Hey, I don't think know I couldn't handle having 19 kids but I love that they can and that they've based their decisions on what God has set for their family instead of what society decides their family should look like.

A strong set of rules and family standards establishes a sense of comfort within the family. Rules are not bad. They give boundaries and protect.   

In our family, we live by certain convictions because its what we strongly believe God wants from us, to honor Him in these ways. Here are just a few:

-Sunday we give God our first fruits by going to church and devoting the morning to him with our church family. Activities, birthday parties, to do lists, all have to wait. This is our first priority.

-We don't add Santa Claus or the Easter bunny to celebrations that are God ordained. For us, these are opportunities to celebrate Jesus and share Jesus instead of giving equal focus somewhere else.

-We also homeschool our kids. Wierd, right? Well, for some. I know it was the right choice for us and our conviction to educate our children is what keeps me going on the rough days where sending them off to school starts looking more attractive.  

Now please don't feel sorry for my kids.  They have fun...lots of it and they stand on these convictions probably stronger than my husband and I. They find the Santa thing silly and wonder why parents "lie" to their kids. (These are their words, not mine) They look forward to church and wouldn't think of replacing it, even when the opportunities have presented themselves. They love being homeschooled and being part of all the social events that come with it. (There are many, will discuss in future blog post)

On the other hand, weak convictions lead to weak faith. Our convictions should be set on a firm foundation, a foundation that is unchanging and solid. Our values should reflect Godliness. 

Sometimes people can look down on others convictions because they look different from what culture would classify as the norm. They seem different, maybe even radical? 

But since when is the Holy Spirit predictable?  Since when does God send His people to blend in with the crowd, instead he calls His people out.  He sanctifies (calls out) us to be light in darkness and stand for those things in which he has called us to be witnesses of, without a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-dicipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Are you teaching your family to live with conviction?

Psalm 93:5
Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Family Meetings

(Ok, so I couldn't help using this picture of the Brady Bunch, my all-time favorite sitcom family!)

I love family meetings.  We have them to discuss things that we feel are important to share with the family. My favorite part is the unity that takes place when everyone takes a part in the planning.

The core of our meetings is to get the whole family involved in being a part of the direction God is leading us. Sometimes these meetings happen to discuss change, or discipline, and at times they're simply to let the kids know whats up!

We are very open with our kids about everything and we like to keep them in the loop about things that affect our family in both positive and negative ways. Of course, we use discretion and are sensitive to discuss things as they seem appropriate and timely

Last year, at the beginning of the Christmas season, we had a family meeting to discuss what the season would look like. We wanted the season to be more focused on Christ, serving, and giving. So together we sat down at our family meeting and made a list of the things we wanted to do that would reflect our values and help us to put into action the Christmas spirit. 

We've had meetings on coming up with ways that everyone in the family could contribute to saving money. For example, turning off the lights not in use and not wasting food. We've also discussed ideas for vacations and have given the kids a part in the planning of whatever is decided upon. 

Family meetings help build trust and stability within the family because they know you're in this together. A huge benefit is that they see the Lord at work within the family when problems end with praises and hard tasks are overcome. 

Family meetings help ensure that the family knows "the vision" and helps  take part in it.
  Its a 
great way to connect and make everyone feel a sense of belonging, however big or small the size of your family.

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish

Do you have regular family meetings?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Story Telling

Now that I've expressed how great read-alouds are, let me tell you what my kids like just as much or even better...story telling.  A good, made up, silly story!

Made up stories aren't just for campfires. Who doesn't love a good story?Let me just say that I have no imagination for telling stories on the spot. No creativity, what. so. ever.

Pretend the kids are suppose to be going to bed and they ask me to tell a story... it goes something like this...
Once upon a time, there were 4 obedient children who loved their mother. When mom spoke they obeyed her at once.  When it was time for bed the kids would get ready and brush their teeth and hurry off to bed.  The end!

My stories are always about them and what I want them to do.
Yeah, not exactly what they want to hear but it always gets a good laugh accompanied with moans and groans.
I'm not a good story teller, I'd rather read aloud and leave the story telling to my husband, who's the rockstar at home for story telling!

Way back, when I only had my first three kids and my oldest was barely 6, my husband started telling them a story.  A very silly story. So silly the kids loved it!  He even had a title for his silly story and it became number one on their list.  It was called, Lost and Cousin.  Lost was actually the name of a character.  When they began asking for the story over and over, my husband began adding to it and made it a series that always left them in suspense. 

They would wait for about a week or so until he thought of a sequence told them the next one.  It was a big buzz! Like the season finale of a favorite show. In kid years, a week is a long time to wait!  

Now years later my kids still ask for these stories and talk about their favorite characters and story line. They actually remember a lot of the details that my husband and I have since forgotten. Maybe one day I'll write them down and pass them onto them to share or maybe they'll come up with their own great stories to tell their kids.

What kind of creative stories do you tell your kids?


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Read Aloud

The only thing cozier than curling up to a good book is curling up to the book with your family hovering around you and listening during read-alouds.

Most parents would agree that reading to their children is important, but there comes a time where many parents stop reading to them. Why? Because the children have probably become independent readers and are now reading stories on their own. 

But I urge you, read aloud together and don't stop once they've mastered this on their own.  Read-alouds allow your family to take adventurous journeys together to different places, time periods and fantasy lands. 

My favorite part of read-alouds is how connected the kids become to the story. I don't always hardly ever receive high praises for my choice of read aloud books.  It sounds more like, "We're going to read that? It looks so boring?" To which I always pull out the cliche, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Usually after a few chapters they are asking me to read just one more before we put the book away.  

We've had instances where not only are the kids and myself enjoying the read aloud, but my husband will walk in during this time and start asking questions, to better understand the plot.  I love it when the kids all want to fill him in! One of our favorites has been Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  My boys had reservations about this book that ended up becoming one of their favorites! They even ended up taking on the characters of the kids in the book and dramatizing scenes.  

Read alouds enrich creativity, learning, and the use of their imaginations.  It leads to asking questions, which breeds communication. It also builds memories of being spread out on the couch or across the floor as a family. Personally, I like that it allows me to sit down and enjoy my favorite past-time while instilling a love of good books to my kids.   

But be warned... like most things with kids, it isn't aways smooth sailing.  

-Arguments arise over who gets to sit closer to me and read over my shoulder 

-Interruptions over questions they'd get answers to if they continued to listen 

-Sometimes they get antsy while sitting 

but those are small hiccups when compared to the great rewards that read alouds produce, besides, (between you and me) I'll take argument over who wants to sit next to me anytime.  As annoying as the interruptions can be, I'll take them if they feed an inquisitive mind, and the antsy part can be solved by giving them something to do.

Let them draw, color, write, build, play with puzzles, or whatever else can be done quietly while listening to the story.  They will be listening, even if you think they're not.  Remember the conversation with your husband that the kids repeated back to you? The one they heard while playing in the next room. Yeah, that one. They were listening.

Does your family have a favorite read aloud story?


Laugh Out Loud!

This evening after a very long day, we stopped off for a meal before heading home.  We were really enjoying ourselves as we talked, reminisced in stories of the past, and laughed at the baby who was in quite an entertaining mood.  

We were having fun and began getting louder.  The paranoid side of me kept reminding them to lower their voices.  After a few reminders, my husband gave me the look that I read as, "relax, their having fun." After all, they were just enjoying each others company and laughing out loud (very loudly). 

I love to see my family laughing together. Its one of those simple pleasures that brings tremendous satisfaction to me.   

I grew up in a family with a lot of laughter and I recognize the unique bond that it creates. When my family gets together there is sure to be a lot of cackling going on and our get-togethers wouldn't be the same without it! We enjoy each others company and laugh out loud, putting inhibitions aside!  

According to, laughter is contagious and binds people together creating happiness and intimacy.  

One of the best way to create a laugh out loud environment is to lighten up and be able to laugh at yourself. In my home, we joke around a lot.  Anything can become an opportunity for a good laugh and no one is exempt from being laughed at (in a healthy way, of course). 

I have one child who is the family defense attorney, always coming to the defense of anyone she thinks needs it.  We often have to remind her that we're joking and are helping her learn how to laugh at herself instead of taking things too seriously.

In todays stress-filled world, we can all use a good laugh. Since laughter is known to be the best medicine, give your family a heaping dose. Build a foundation at home that evokes laughter and learn to laugh out loud!!! 

When was the last time your family laughed out loud together?


Friday, October 12, 2012

Fullness of Law and Grace

Discipline.  Its necessary.  Just ask God. 

I know, its difficult.  

Depending on your personality you fall into one of these two categories.  You either discipline by showing the law and handing out the punishment or you discipline by showing grace and letting the punishment slide here and there.

Maybe this is the reason God made opposites attract so that marriage would have a balance of Law and Grace in our relationships and in the way we discipline our kids or better yet, a fullness of the two. 100% of both.

By taking a look at different parenting styles, we can see how an out of balanced ideology can cause so much harm.  Kids raised to fear their parents may be outwardly obedient but inwardly it probably causes a lot of hurt and resentment. Other parents have thrown away the rules and its disciplines and raise kids to use their own judgement and their own measurement when it comes to right and wrong and receive no accountability for their actions.  

We end up with adults who have this image of God as being a dictator, rule- with-an-iron-fist God.  On the other hand, we end up with adults who have an image of God as being permissive, therefore lack reverence and respect for His Truth. 

But this isn't what God shows us, in the beginning, starting in the garden.   
Adam and Eve sinned. His very first created beings, whom he loved so much and made to be in relationship with Him now in a sinful state.  There was no going back. What a heartbreaker this must have been for God! I don't think we can imagine the pain God felt when he saw this happening...knowing the result...Separation from God.

So He demonstrated tough love. 

Couldn't there be another way?  Seems tough for a first offense, don't you think?

Genesis 3:16-19
To the woman he said,
I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.” 
 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.

And so we could look at this and see a harsh punishing God! Where's the Grace?!

Oh, it's there...100% (in a God sized-heart big way) there. God, while firm in 
His discipline, didn't leave them in a state of sinfulness forever. 

Genesis 3:21-23

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

I'm sure His decision to banish them from the garden was not an easy choice, but it was the right one.  Can you imagine living forever in our present sinful state, without the chance of ever achieving perfect love, hope, or peace?                      

Isn't this the way we should discipline? First, equipping our kids with what they needed. Second, not letting our children stay in their state of rebellion by punishing the offense and third, drawing them closer by finding a way to bring them back around. 

Of course, God being merciful and kind, showed us undeserved grace by sending us a Savior.  His love is never-ending!

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Matthew 5:17  Jesus speaking,

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

What do you think?

100% Law, 100% Grace.  The fullness of both.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Family Night

I used to find the term "family night" humorous.  Why the title? Wasn't family night every night? Like many things I didn't get before I had my own kids, family night started to make sense once extra curricular activities and other things competing for time began filling the evenings.  

Family night: An evening dedicated to spending time with the family because unless it's planned, it may not happen these days.  

In our home we don't always have a set night but we do have something everyone agrees on always... movie time! So usually, thanks to Netflix and Redbox, we can have a movie without much thought or preparation. We don't plan it much either because I have a son who takes any chance he gets to do the planning for us!

It doesn't get much better than that and that's the point of family night, to instill the importance of family to our kids through time spent together.   

Do you have a dedicated Family Night? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Go on a Picnic

Being that we've been on the topic of food for the past two days, I thought I'd continue the theme.   Picnic time!  

Most of us have images of picnics being laid back.   Theres no reason why picnics can't be had between activities as a way to slow down our lives a bit!  Simplicity is key here. A packed sandwich, a snack, and a drink is a healthier alternative than grabbing fast food on the go.  Plus fast food is just that... fast... usually gobbled down in the car instead of enjoyed. 

The great thing about picnic-ing is that it creates opportunities to enjoy our surroundings,  disconnect from technology and connect with the family.  Don't pick up the cell phone! Live simply, if even for a moment.

Do you have a favorite picnic spot?

Make Dinner a Special Event

So you cooked dinner together, now what? Well, enjoying it together can be just as special as cooking it.

Unfortunately today, many kids miss out on that experience of eating together as a family.  Its proven fact that families who eat together have better family bonds.  

I have many memories of the dinner table growing up. My dad sat in the seat closest to the phone hanging on the wall. If it rang during dinner time, he didn't care who was calling, he would pick it up and tell them we were eating dinner. We knew that dinner time was off limits for anything else but coming to dinner and eating.

Those were simpler days, even thirty or so years ago.  So more than ever the simple things like a family dinner together need to be intentional and special.
Dinner together can be takeout on paper plates if need be. The point is to make it a time of togetherness. Sharing a meal is always special. Food is a central part of most social gatherings, no matter how simple.

But every once in a while its nice to make it even more memorable.

Growing up, whenever we had a special occasion dinner, the china came out, the best silverware, and fine glasses. There were always too many people for the table size, but instead of having a separate kids table, my dad would insist that the kids ate first at the nice table and then the table was set again for the adults.

I remember how special it was to sit at the table dressed in its finest and drink out of the beautiful delicate glasses. Now that I'm an adult I often think back and see the beauty in what my dad did. He treated us as special as the adults would be treated, even putting us first.

In my own house, my kids also value a special dinnertime experience. They love it to the point that they want it to happen frequently and not just for the holidays.

Pulling out the special glasses, plates and utensils can be a pain, not to mention a lot of dishes, but it makes for fond memories.

My older kids, even while they were really young, loved to surprise us with a beautifully set table. I remember one year they woke up early and set the table and made breakfast. They made it special! While enjoying our beautiful surprise I noticed that the table protector wasn't on and the candle was dripping on the tablecloth and seeping through onto my wood table (a lesson in buying cheap candles learned)!  At first I panicked silently and then as I started to react, I noticed how joyful and proud the kids felt about the special breakfast they had put together. I discreetly put out the candle and kept enjoying my meal with them.

I ended up throwing away the tablecloth because red wax on a cream tablecloth proved difficult to get out (and it was before blogs and Pinterest).
Looking back I wouldn't change a thing. Since then, I've had broken glasses on other occasions as well but I've come to not care as much.  Material things are replaceable (don't buy expensive ones). 

So enjoy that meal you made together with the finest of what you have.  
Special dinners say, "we don't need a holiday, or company, to use our best things, you are enough reason to celebrate". 

How do you make family dinners special?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cooking Together

The kitchen is usually the heart of the home. It's where we gather to prepare meals, enjoy good food and have rich conversations.

So why not take advantage of this God-given opportunity to draw the family closer by spending time cooking together. Whether you choose to bake cookies, make pancakes or go all out with a full meal, the time spent will enrich relationships.

I think its safe to say that all kids enjoy cooking. Scooping, pouring, measuring, blending, making a mess in the kitchen... What's not to love? It's very satisfying to create something, especially when the enjoyment continues past the point of creating it.  There's something fulfilling about setting something out to eat that you helped make.  

Whenever my kids have helped prepare a meal, they have been so proud of the finished product that I haven't had to push them to eat their food because its happened naturally.  

In my home the kitchen is also used for learning. Many home schooling lessons have been taught at the table as well as many projects created, so why stop there?  Cooking is a great life skill which can be taught while also achieving the goal of bringing the family together.  

Sabbath Rest

We're all busy. This life is fast paced and time seems to just get away from us. Thanks to our Heavenly Father who knows us so well and commanded a day of rest!

Of course, as disobedient children we don't always listen.

There are so many things to do, good things, that slip into that precious time.
Lately, my husband and I have been so convicted of this! Always going and doing that when we turn around its another week and we're doing it all over again. It's so hard to let opportunities slip by when you feel they are too good to let go of, especially when you have the Martha syndrome.

Yet in wrestling with our thoughts we've realized that letting go of the good doesn't mean missing out. Maybe letting go means being open to receiving what's best for us, at this moment, for our family, because too busy is not good.

Good things come and go and so does time. I want to cherish the moment instead of rushing off to the next one.

In keeping with the command to honor the Sabbath, take time today to enjoy honoring God and spending time with those you love, making memories and drawing closer as a family.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Working together

A family is a team and one thing a team does is work together for the good of everyone that's a part of it.  All families, big and small, benefit from working together and taking a responsible role in the family. It helps in managing the daily routines that can veer us off course when neglected.

(I know your wondering how on earth this will draw your family closer...)

But the truth is that when we work together there is more time to spend enjoying 
the moments we're given.

I'm no expert in this area because I am more of a doer than a manager. Sometimes I find it easier to do it myself than send one of the kids, have to check up on them, send them to do it better, deal with the whining and so on and so forth! On the other hand, my husband is a great delegator and he's proven to me how this is a much better way and is worth the time in training.

Something we started doing quite a while ago, was to give each child their area of authority.  That means whoever is in authority of the room, leads the others and gives out assignments to get everything done.

If something isn't done right, as the manager of that area, they will be held responsible for it. This helps keep them more accountable and making sure everyone is doing their job and doing it correctly.
We gave the older kids the most used areas and the ones with the most work because they can handle more and the younger ones the areas that aren't as difficult to maintain.

The results? Great!!!

I love it because we can accomplish so much in so little time, it teaches the kids how to submit to authority, and how to work together while serving joyfully.  ;)

With that said, it isn't perfect, but then again nothing is.  Sometimes the kids don't like to submit to each other and arguments erupt. There is never a shortage of reasons but as these things come up, we're able to deal with the problem and get to the heart of the issue.

Since we've been doing it for quite a while, they have gotten more efficient on the chores and used to working together.  I love that it teaches them leadership skills and they have learned to manage their areas better.

Working together can be fun.

We give them incentives from time to time depending on the size of the task at hand.  For example, in a certain time frame if they accomplish the job, we'll take them out for ice cream. One summer, the reward was a spontaneous trip to the beach.  

Usually the reward is something cheap but fun or yummy!

Another way to make it fun is to divide them up in teams and give them each a room to work in. The one who's room looks better wins. The reward bragging rights:)

This was a fun one! The teams were boy vs. girls and they went above and beyond by not only cleaning up but also adding decor to the room. They brought out table runners, candles, and anything they could find to spice up their room. What can I say they're competitive!

Chores don't have to be boring but they do have to get done. So get the kids involved in working together because we can do more together than apart.

How do you involve the family in helping out at home?