We finished teaching the Strengthening Your Family class last Saturday night and completed it with a nice sitdown dinner for all of the class members. This class was such a good experience. I strongly recommend that if you have children of any age, it would be worth your time to read the manual. It's incredible! I recommend reading the teachers manual because it has more detail. This was an eye-opening experience for Doug and I both! There are nine lessons. Read one a week or every other week, even, and practice what they preach. It's amazing! We've seen so many changes in our own home, and I thought we were doing pretty good with the babes! But, there's always something to be learned! Seriously, make it a goal to read this manual and try to practice a few things... even if you only pick up one out of each lesson, WOW! What a difference it can make in your life!
After Doug left for his meetings yesterday morning, I was studying and pondering a bit. I started thinking about our own family. The bigs, who are all independent and on their own and the babes, who aren't really babes at all anymore, who keep us running non-stop and bring us such joy in life... I was thinking about what seems to work best in our family. I've noticed a few things that really make a difference in the "spirit" in our home. Then, I asked the kids for their observations. And thought I'd make a note of them.... (I had photos to insert, but sadly, I updated the new computer with Windows 10 this weekend and now BlogSpot doesn't want to work. Still figuring this out. Gee, and to think I moved from Typepad for this very reason. GRRRRR.)
- Pray together. Honestly. This is a make it or break it thing in our home. EVERY morning, before we walk out the door, we kneel together and have a word of prayer. It may be short and sweet with coats on, back packs on shoulders (and a few times, it's even been in the car as we backed out the driveway so that they don't miss the bus), but we always have morning prayer. I could not feel comfortable sending them out into the world without asking for blessings from heaven to be upon them that day!
- Play together. Grace and I were visiting yesterday afternoon about how much fun it is to play together... we play a lot of games in our home. Some of my fondest memories of the Bigs were playing cards with Liza. We'd listen to music (long before playlists) and sing along. She and I (Although I was not blessed with a singing voice) would sing in harmony to Reba, Barbra, the Eagles while playing. Good times!
When Kelly was a teen, and in her worst years of rebelliousness, she could be gone for days at a time, we would have no clue where she was, rivers of tears would be shed...but, when she came home, she'd be angry at the world, as though it were our fault that she was so unhappy with her life. She'd sit in the next room while Liza and I would play Hand and Foot, our favorite card game, and she'd start out sulking and making sure we all were aware of it. Liza and I would continue to play and before too long, Kelly would make her way to the dining room and before too long, she'd slide herself to the end of the table where we were playing. A few rounds later, she'd be right in the middle of the game, laughing, enjoying family time. Card games at the table brought many good memories and good times. I was thankful that we could have, at least, one thing that we could do with a wayward child that would always make for a happy time! She still loves to play cards while Liza is in town on a visit!
Play together, whether it's a board game, a card game or a round of HORSE under the basketball hoop, take a family walk through a cemetery or around the block...find places that generate conversation! Even TV watching together can be a great thing to do as a family. We watch a show, stop it and discuss what we're watching. We have just finished watching the Human Planet series on Netflix and enjoyed talking about how blessed we are to live where we live, how we live and now! Don't just sit and stare together, make it a learning experience. Just do things together! Make the moments count.
- Work together. I think that the absolute happiest memory of working together from the Babes would be a few years ago when we renovated the entire upstairs of the old home. We emptied the entire main floor in February, the coldest month of the year, and literally "camped" in the home while redoing all of the floors, the walls, the cabinets. It was insane! We worked soooooo hard! The kids helped scrape paint, remove carpet and carpet-tacks, stain, assemble, you name it! And honestly, I can say that there was not one harsh word spoken, not one moment of upset. We had a goal, we were excited about it and unified! Not all projects go that well... this move was certainly a test. BUT... when the goal is a common goal and the family works together, it's a great bonding experience! Don't just say, "Do the dishes!" Do them together!
- Learn together. This is not always an easy task because everyone has different interests. But, learning together can be one of the most fun things a family can do. Learning about the stars, about dogs, about trees, you name it. Find something that everyone has even the slightest interest in and study it together. You'd be surprised at how, all of a sudden, you will all notice things in different places and times and bring that knowledge home to each other. It adds unity to the family if you are all focusing on, at least, one or two commonalities.
- Create together. This sounds odd, but when I say create, I mean it in a multitude of ways. Preparing dinner together is, or can be, a creative time. Everyone has assignments from setting the table to making the salad to helping prepare the rolls or dessert. It's a great bonding time! Growing a garden or planting fruit trees is creating. Even a toddler can drop a seed into a hole or help pick fruit. Weeding is work, but planting is fun! Decorating a Christmas tree or setting out seasonal décor is a great way to bond, doing it together, listening for new ideas and allowing the kids to participate. The kids have always loved having their own tree in the family room and decorating it! Liza was devastated the first year that had a job and I decorated for the holidays while she was at work. It wasn't until then that I realized how important that was to her. Be creative together!
- Eat together. This is sort of a "no-brainer". However, in this day and age, eating together becomes more and more of a rarity. We're busy! We're going in different directions, sometimes five directions. Studies have shown that families who eat together are closer. It's a great time to hear about each other's day, to listen for concerns, highs, lows, to recognize good and to laugh! Our new home has a covered patio and we've eaten almost every meal that we've eaten all together outside. (With three teens working, it's been harder this summer than ever before.) I'm sort of sad to see the weather change and that coming to an end because we will miss that! And while I'm at it, set the table! Make meal time a special event, even when no company is coming! Honestly, a meal is much more enjoyable if attention is given to the presentation. A place mat, a serving dish rather than a pot, matching dishes... I tease the kids and tell them that the food tastes better if eaten on a placemat. They'll put them out on their own for a bowl of cold cereal...I think they believe me!
- Surprises. We are, undoubtedly, a spontaneous family. A lot of the spontaneity is a bit more planned than the kids are aware, but we love to take a drive and end up doing something fun and exciting. When the bigs were in upper elementary school, we took a drive one afternoon up the canyon. I asked Doug to stop for a potty break at a hotel. They had no idea that their bags and treats and fun were packed in the trunk and we spent the next two nights there! Even a stop at Sonic for a drink or McD's for an ice cream is a fun surprise. When the babes were small, we carried a kite in the trunk and if the wind was just right, we'd stop and fly it! We've also found that just running to Best Buy and grabbing the newest DVD release is way more affordable than going to the theater with the entire family. Movie night is always a fun surprise ~ and you can do it in your pajamas!
- Read together. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are encouraged to study the scriptures together daily, as a family and individually. That's sometimes a challenge and sometimes something they look forward to, depending on where we are in our reading. Over the years, especially in the summertime, I've read some of the classics to the kids. Even as teens, they enjoy hearing a good story. We've had good memories of reading, then watching the movie, or going to a place that we can see things from the book first hand. One of our alltime favorites that I've read aloud to the kids was A Dog's Life by Ann Martin. Honestly, you don't even have to be a dog person to enjoy this book! Reading together also is a way to encourage your kids to read on their own!
- Have traditions. When I asked the kids to tell me some "good things" about our familty, they gave me some of these ideas. Traditions was on everyone's list. Going to the ranch, New Years Eve, Back to School Father's blessings after the new clothes "Fashion Show", General Conference Cinnamon Rolls are all things that pop up in every discussion about traditions. Holiday traditions are my personal favorite! If you don't have traditions, start making them today!
- Show affection and express love. We are a touchy feely family. We give lots of hugs. We always kiss goodnight. We always say "Love you, good bye", as if it's one word. We hug when someone's hurting, we high-five for good jobs, we always sign "I love you" as we part after the hug. I believe that being a part of a touchy-feely family reinforces that each person is loved. Today, in Sacrament Meeting, it was announced that ZJ's Sunday School teacher was being released and a new one was being called. She started to tear up instantly. She adores her SS teacher and, literally, loves going to church on Sundays to hear his lesson. (The teacher is Layne, our awesome and wonderful neighbor.) ZJ was sitting on the other side of Quayd. He was looking at me, in shock, over the announcement, but I could see that Zeej needed a love. Quayd saw it and immediately switched seats with her so that she could lean on me and cry a bit. It's also a way to end tension... if the kids are not getting along and I'm in the right mood, I'll insist that the hug and say, "sorry" to each other. At first, they growl about it, but by the time they half-heartedly hug, and say sorry a few times until they sound like they mean it, everyone's laughing. Hugs are wonderful when you're happy, sad, blue, excited... anytime! Hug lots!
- Laugh! Laughter really is the best medicine! Laughter is easy when things are funny, but it's equally important to teach kids that laughter is great when we make a mistake. Be able to laugh at yourself! Laugh with people, not at them. Laugh when you feel like crying. I have always been intrigued how babies can laugh and cry in the same minute. The emotions are so close! We have silly little personal jokes, like when someone spills milk... Doug once said, "If you spill that milk, your name will be MUD." So, when someone spills milk in our house, no one gets upset. We just all say, "Uh-oh. MUUUUUUD."
- PLAN together. Seriously, this doesn't sound fun, but it makes life so much less complicated. Planning and preparation, as a family, is critical. It eliminates catastrophes ("My project is due tomorrow!" at bedtime..."I can't find my coat or shoes or backpack!"..."I didn't know we were doing this, so I planned that for this weekend! Ten minutes together on a Sunday night can make all the difference in the world for the peace of the family during the whole week! Planning also helps kids to know that "we're budgeting for...." in the future, it helps them be available to support each other in each other's activities and it helps parents keep their sanity! Make the time to plan together!
LIFE IS GOOD!