What happens on family night … stays on family night. At least that’s what we said the night I dramatically pantomimed changing my adult daughter’s diaper. It was the final round of Cranium. If my husband guessed correctly, our team would take the win. If not, it was sure to go to the other team.
In the last few seconds, he shouted, “Changing a diaper!”
I raised my hands in victory. “Yes!”
The other team groaned as my husband moved our player piece into the winner zone. My daughter got up off the floor, red-faced and raspy from screeching/laughing.
Now, whenever we decide to play a game on family night, her older siblings (and brother-in-law) always tease her with, “Let’s play Cranium.”
And she always spits back “No!,” much to their delight.
Creating a fun family night
Family night has been a thing in our family since the kids were little. Now that they’re all out on their own, they still love it. So do my husband and I. I credit family night for one of the main reasons we’re a close family.
It hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve learned some things (sometimes the hard way) to make weekly family nights an event they won’t want to miss.
1) Yummy food. If your kids still live at home, this is a night to put something special on the menu. When mine were little, they’d beg for pizza — an obvious way to make the meal fun for them.
There are other nights for “eat your vegetables” and “try it — you’ll like it.” Family nights are a great reason to put out those “Yay! Best mom ever!” foods.
Now that mine are young adults on a meager food budget, anything that isn’t Ramen noodles or Kraft macaroni and cheese puts a smile on their faces. I usually make this my night to put more effort into cooking dinner. It’s also our one dessert night of the week.
Whatever their age, choose a menu (or restaurant) that will be sure to lure them to the table.
2) Fun activity. Don’t let the night end with everyone slipping away after dinner and melding with their devices. Planning an activity keeps the conversation going, often getting into the deeper issues of life. We’re fond of board games, so it doesn’t take much to entice them to play a round or two. Sometimes we’ll hike at a local landmark or head to the nearby city park if the weather’s nice.
Some weeks, like Easter week, we’re simply exhausted. Those are great times to head to the theater or rent a movie to watch at home. This weekend, my heart melted when my youngest curled up next to her dad on the couch like she did as a little girl.
3) Safe conversation. Speaking from some of the most painful parenting lessons I’ve ever learned, I highly recommend saving the difficult conversations for later. Most issues can and should be dealt with individually, but if it’s truly a family matter, we schedule a family meeting.
We work hard at cultivating positive interaction, with more encouragement than correction. For me, the work is especially hard, since I didn’t grow up in a positive environment; too many times I’ve repeated the mistake of being too harsh with my children. Often, it takes intentional work on the parents’ part to create a supportive and affirming family environment.
I’ve watched the work pay off not just on family nights, but throughout the week as well. Recently, one of our adult kids sent us all a group text before a big job interview and instantly got 100% response with many variations of, “You go, girl!”
One Small Win: Whether your kids are just barely old enough to sit at the table, or if they have dining room tables of their own, family nights are a great way to create great memories and foster closeness.
And if you ever find yourself playing Cranium and draw the “pantomime changing a diaper” card?
Do it with gusto.
Your family will be talking (and laughing) about it for months to come.
Lyneta Smith is an inspirational writer and speaker who lives with her husband near Nashville, TN. Some of her favorite things to write in her planner: date nights and family time with her adult children. She’s owned by a frisky Boston terrier and a tortoiseshell cat. Connect with her at www.lynetasmith.com.
Right now, I’m experiencing the post Easter hangover that so many of us, with less than perfect families, are experiencing.
• I spent way too much money on Easter baskets no one in my family really liked. (I was tempted to ask them for the candy back, but I resisted.)
• The NINE DOLLARS worth of strawberries I bought on Thursday were rotted when I went to cut them on Sunday.
• When we texted our second oldest “Where are you?” to find out where he was for our 1:00 lunch, his response? “For what?”
Maybe you had some of your own crazy going on:
• Your kids didn’t say thank you for the toys your in-laws brought over.
• You cooked all day Saturday and half of Sunday, and someone had the nerve to ask you why there wasn’t any artichoke dip.
• Your brother got drunk and obnoxious. At EASTER.
If your Easter didn’t go according to plan, let me just remind you of this:
New life isn’t just about eternity. It’s about Mondays too.
Luke 1:78 “A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.” GWT
We don’t have to leave the new life in God until next Easter. We get to celebrate each and every new day, each and every day.
God loves a do-over.
Go into today with new hope for what God can do.
Go into today forgetting the perfect Easter that every other family had (and by the way, stick with the friends who share about their kids saying a “grown-up word” when there was nothing in their little orange plastic egg. Those are the friends you need for a lifetime.)
Go into today knowing what we celebrated yesterday: a Christ that cherishes you enough to give you everything he had so he could be in relationship with you forever.
Once upon a time I thought if I could make enough spreadsheets, post enough lists, or structure my planner enough, then I could build the scaffolding for smooth, meaningful days. I imagined days where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control could just spill right out of my heart.
Turns out “fruit” doesn’t grow on spreadsheets. Nothing against lists, mind you. But through God’s gentle teaching over the past several years, I’ve embraced the natural rhythm of days and grace in the midst of busyness.
It’s a beautifully confounding idea that the miraculous is often present in the mundane. A moment setting aside a scrambling schedule in order to kneel down, look a little one in the eye, and just listen to what is on their heart, is worth all the crossed-off lists in the world.
In short, I’m learning that the “small” can be momentous. That the moments make the days. And that it’s the humblest things that make life the richest.
How a jar can unify your family
Take for example the idea of a simple jar and a few pebbles. What if these everyday things could help unify your family throughout the day? What if it weaved hearts together? Here’s what I propose:
1) Find a jar, bowl or vase.
2) Obtain a group of pebbles, glass gems (as you might use in a fish tank or for the game Mancala), or other memento—one style or color for each person in the family. Even just a slip of paper with each person’s name written on it would do the trick.
3) Each morning every person takes a pebble of another person’s chosen color. Slip it into a pocket, lunch box, brief case, purse, pencil box or backpack. Gather before parting ways for the day to talk about prayer requests for the day.
4) Throughout the day, whenever that person comes across the pebble, it’s a prompt to say a quick prayer for the person it represents, and whatever they might be facing in their day.
5) At the end of the day, take a moment to go around and debrief about the day. Each person asks the person whose pebble they drew how their day was. Then let them know how or when they were prayed for.
6) Finally, deposit each of those traveling gems into your chosen jar. Over time, the intermingled pebbles (or other items) serve as a visual reminder of how cherished each person has been in thought and prayer.
A message in a bottle
In my research for the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, I’ve come across some incredible stories of objects and messages in simple vessels. This is just one way to make a living message of your own and create a beautiful tradition.
For a chance to win one of five copies of that book, tell us in the comments: What is one simple but important message you would love your family to carry in their hearts each day?
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of Truth, and spinner of hope-filled tales. She spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family, who love a good blanket fort and a stack of read-alouds. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale, a contributing author to the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, and enjoys connecting with her readers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship, joins us on the podcast this week to talk about how nice we think we are. We think of ourselves as being kind, but when we learn what is involved in kindness, we realize we have work to do. Plus, their is a HUGE difference between kindness and being nice.
Kathi and Shaunti apply the concept of being clutter free in every area of our lives, to the condition of our hearts. We get exasperated with our family, we get irritated with people that don’t think like we do, we think it’s all them, not us. The Kindness Challenge helps us uncover the things about ourselves that we can change to make the world a kinder place. At the very least, there is one relationship we can improve upon.
Listen in and gather some key tools to use to build that relationship, find out how kind you are and start changing the world one relationship at a time.
You Are Invited, plus a Giveaway!
We’d love to have you participate in the 30-Day Kindness Challenge and let us know what you learned!
Shaunti is giving away two free books. To enter, leave the name of the person God is bringing to mind that you will be kind to. Two random winners will be selected. Plus check out the online assessment and all the tools available at www.jointhekindnesschallenge.com.
When I was pregnant with my third child, my doctor put me on bed rest for eleven weeks because I went into preterm labor. I was overwhelmed—to say the least. I was allowed once daily trips down and up the stairs, and a shower every other day.
Everything I did happened in bed—except sleep! Because who can sleep after lying around all day? Oh, and the medicine they give you to prevent labor is actually a stimulant, which doesn’t help. (C’mon people, this is modern America, can’t we do better?)
Overwhelmed became my middle name
That time was scary and frustrating, and I needed LOTS of help taking care of my then four and two-year-old babies, and my poor overwhelmed hubby, who could barely keep his head above water, despite the help we received.
What I learned during those weeks, and subsequently, as I endured four back surgeries in six years, is that when a person is facing overwhelm like never before, there is one thing they crave: normalcy.
During the last few weeks before my due date, my doctor released me to go on one outing a day. So one Wednesday, I chose to go to swimming lessons with my kids.
Previous to my forced bed rest, I dreaded those hectic afternoons—hurried, sweating bullets in the tropical temps of the indoor pool, trying to get unruly toddlers to comply. Sadly when I was fully healthy and able, I often wished those afternoons away.
But when I couldn’t do my regular chaotic life, oh, how I wished for normal.
My mother-in-law (a godsend) stepped in for swim lesson day. She wrangled my littles into car seats, wrestled them into swimsuits, drenched herself during the post-swimming shower routine, and somehow managed to get their sticky, wet limbs stuck back into dry clothes.
For any woman who does this on a regular basis, you know this is a heroic feat!
And all this was done for one purpose: so that I could have a dose of normalcy in the midst of my overwhelmed life. So I could watch my tiny people do their big kid kicks, get splashed, and sit in a wobbly, uncomfortable, plastic chair at the side of the pool.
But really, so I could have small dash of normal in the midst of my overwhelmed life.
A few hours of normalcy is one of the biggest blessings I received in those bed rest and back surgery days. If you want to be a friend who loves well in times of hardship, consider giving the gift of normal.
How to help a friend who’s overwhelmed
Here’s a few ways to help create normalcy:
• Take them to Target or the mall (even if they need the wheelchair)
• Go to the movies (recliner seat theaters are perfect for infirm friends)
• Go out to coffee
• Offer to accompany them to their kids’ events (you do all the “heavy lifting” if needed)
• Help with their household tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning so they can focus their energy on time with family.
One Small Win: Call a friend who’s experiencing a hard time (illness, stress, loss of a loved one, cancer, infertility, divorce, etc.) and offer to do one of these “normal” things with her!
For more practical ways to support those you care about in the rough patches of life, you can pick up a copy of Sarah Beckman’s, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which releases February 14, 2017.
Sarah Beckman is an author and speaker, living in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband, Craig, of 24 years. They have three delightful children ages 15, 17, and 20. Her experience on both sides of the “bed”—both being helped and helping others—provide her authentic viewpoint for her book, Alongside. When she’s not writing or speaking, you might find her in the kitchen creating something to share with a “neighbor” in need.
Her passion for loving her neighbor has fueled her life and ministry for over 10 years, giving her the opportunity to address audiences across the country. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also works as a communications coach and corporate trainer.