31 Days: Let Them See You Kiss!

I want our children to see The Hubby and I as more than just parents.

The Hubby is obviously more than the father of my children to me, but do the kids know this? Do they see us interact in ways other than our parenting roles?

Our children need to see the other aspects of our relationship in order to give them a healthy picture of marriage!

So what do I want them to see?

We were best friends first and we still are.

We really enjoy doing things together. The boys know we love watching football and movies.

We tell each other everything. We have our own conversations about things other than parenting when the children are around.

We willingly do things for one another just because. The Hubby has an especially great heart for blessing me with acts of kindness.

We are lovers, and while this may seem “yucky” to the kids, it is good for them to know I care for The Hubby beyond just friendship!

This is one I need to work on. When The Hubby gets home, I am usually busy doing something and don’t stop long enough to physically greet him. I DO have the time to stop what I’m doing, even if briefly, and properly say hello with a kiss and a hug! And it shouldn’t just be when one of us gets home. We can cuddle on the couch during family movie night or give a little kiss anytime during the day!

It’s ok for our boys to see us kiss! In fact, it’s wonderful! Sure, they may say, “Eww!” at the time, but they need to see healthy physical expressions of love within the context of marriage and will appreciate this model later in life!

I’m sure The Hubby is reading this right now and thinking, “Oh yeah, baby! Can’t wait to come home so she can work on her new goal!” And it can’t wait either! Let’s show our kids how much we love one another!

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Family Tie #22: Kiss and hug your spouse more when the kids are around! Show them that you are more than just parents. Find ways to emphasize your friendship with one another to your children, whether it is doing more fun things together, having non-kid related conversations, or something else!

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31 Days: Don’t Take It To the Limit

A major component of having a strong family is knowing its weaknesses. But let’s not think of them as weaknesses today – let’s call them limits. And we all have them.

I get very crabby when I’m tired. Sleepless nights are my norm right now with a baby in the house, so I’ve had to make adjustments. But in more “normal” times – when little people are waking me up less – The Hubby and I both know I need to guard my sleep carefully or I will not be pleasant.

Lack of sleep equals weariness and grumpiness for me and that is one of my limits.

The kids have their limits as well, including sleep, too much time together, hunger, and so on.

I’m sure you’ve been on a family trip of some sort, and things are going along quite well, until a lack of sleep catches up with someone and the trip takes a turn for the worse. Limit hit. Game over. Family fun has ended.

If I want my family to stay strong and well connected, I need to know well everyone’s limits and make sure I do whatever I can to help them not go there!

This can happen in the every day as well if we are not careful!

If your child gets less than pleasant on little sleep, don’t push your luck with a late bedtime!

Does someone in your household get crabby when they are hungry? Don’t mess with meal times! In fact, plan out snacks as well to stave off the bad mood!

Some kids can only take being with their siblings for so long, so know their limits and have a plan for alone time before problems arise!

We all have our limitations – know them for your family and avoid them as much as possible!

*****

Family Tie #21: Evaluate the limits of everyone in the family, including yourself! Take preventative measures to avoid the negative side effects of hitting these limits!

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31 Days: Catch Them Doing Good

I wrote a post two years ago about Big J being “caught being good” at preschool and I’m still a big fan of this concept.

I think I spend WAY too much time as a parent catching my children doing something wrong and correcting or disciplining as necessary.

It is exhausting and discouraging to be focused on the “bad” and “wrong.”

Of course, we want to make sure that our children do not travel down the wrong path. Correction and discipline have their place in every family.

Maybe it would be less exhausting and exasperating for everyone if our mindset was more the encouraging way of “catching them doing good!”

I think this can work with children of every age – it’s just a matter of finding what works for your family!

The first key is to watch for your children doing unsolicited good works or regular chores or tasks with a an exceptionally good attitude. This shouldn’t be something they expect to be rewarded for ahead of time. The surprise element is what makes this so fun for all of you!

Next, find a small, age-appropriate reward that fits your child. Big J’s preschool teacher used little certificates. A small treat is a great option. Older kids could be rewarded with extra screen time. Even a few words of praise may be a gift to your kiddo! You know your children best, so tailor the rewards to them!

And this can be encouraged throughout the whole family! Tell your spouse when you really appreciate something they have done! Have the kids tell their siblings when they really like something they have done.

Just imagine the family bonds being made and strengthened when everyone is noticing the positive in one another!

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Family Tie #20: Start catching everyone “doing good” in your family! Decide with your spouse on rewards for these special moments and stock up on them. No need to tell the kids your plan – just keep your eyes and ears open for chances to praise them!

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31 Days: Make Memories with Extended Family

Today’s post is late because we were actually doing this family tie!

The Hubby had two days off, so we drove up to visit his parents and celebrate his dad’s birthday! It was spur of the moment and his dad was totally surprised – great fun for all of us, even though it was a short trip!

We are blessed to live within driving distance of both of our sets of parents, as well as my sister and her family, and lots of extended family.

Spending time with relatives has always been important to my family.  Growing up, we were able to hang out with grandparents, aunts & uncles, and cousins quite a bit.

Big meals, holidays, watching football, exploring my grandparents’ farm…those are some GREAT memories.

To make it even better, even as my generation has grown up, the extended family get-togethers have continued! What fun we have with our children being the little ones now!

There are so many ways to make special memories with relatives, whether they live near by or not! Extended family can mean different things to different people, so here are a variety of ideas…

*Grandparents {in the same town or when visiting}: Set up a way for your kids to serve with Grandma and/or Grandpa! When our boys stay with The Hubby’s parents, they often go with Grandma to the nursing home for therapy dog visits! They help walk the dogs in the hallway and talk with the residents. It is often the highlight of their time!

*Grandparents {not in the same town}: Plan a weekly or monthly Skype date for the kids and their grandparents! When Big J was starting to read books, he read some to my mom via Skype and she read some poems back to him. I thought this was so sweet! Have your child share read or sing or perform something for Grandma and Grandpa to enjoy!

*Extended Family: Plan one big get-together or reunion every year. Fourth of July and Christmas have worked for my mom’s side of the family, and since it is every year, everyone knows to plan ahead! We still have 40-50 people at each gathering on a regular basis! Consider picking a less popular holiday to plan around or try the weekend before or after a holiday.

Our extended family Christmas gathering is usually the 26th or 27th of December, so everyone can spend Christmas with their immediate family or other relatives! We meet at a hotel where we reserve a conference room for food and games. Several families get hotel rooms so there are places to watch TV and the kids do lots of swimming!

Time and distance can be hard to overcome, but creating special memories with extended family doesn’t have to be difficult and it will further develop the importance of family in your children!

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Family Tie #19: Do one thing this week to create a special memory with extended family. You may start planning an event or set up a Skype date – just start somewhere! Pick something a little out of the ordinary so it will be memorable for everyone!

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31 Days: Mom’s {or Dad’s} Night Out

It was all his idea.

We had just moved to a new house in a new city. There’s a lot of stress that comes along with a move, especially with three kiddos.

He knew I needed some time. Some quiet.

He sent me off to Starbucks to write.

I didn’t even know how badly I needed it until I took that “mommy’s night out” and came back feeling like a new woman.

No matter how busy and chaotic your life is, some time just to yourself will do everyone in your family some good.

And there shouldn’t only be a “mommy’s night out.” Dads deserve some time to do their own thing as well, although it may look different from what Mom needs. Dad might not really need a break from the house as much as he just wants to be completely alone for a while. Every person has different needs to recharge!

I like to use these nights for writing because I can focus and just write. No laundry staring me in the face. No children getting out of bed needing a drink. It’s just me and my coffee and my laptop. I’m amazed at how clearly God speaks to me on these nights out – both things to write and things I’ve been too distracted to pay attention to on a daily basis.

You might want to do some shopping. Or take a trip to the gym without children in tow. Or have coffee with a friend. The point is finding something to do that you ENJOY and that REFRESHES you while you are away.

And I feel this must be said: You should never ever feel guilty about needing some away time. A regular “breather” from the daily grind will almost guarantee a renewed strength and motivation to give the best to your family.

Talk with your spouse about time away for each of you – I think you will find the break to be just what you need to bring your family closer together!

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Family Tie #18: Grab your spouse and your calendar and pencil in at least one morning/afternoon/night out for each of you. Make sure your away time is spent doing something relaxing and refreshing!

Do you already have a regular day or night out by yourself? What do you do? If not, what does your dream night out alone look like?

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31 Days: Out With the Bad!

As parents, it is our job to know what is influencing our family.

It is also our job to manage those influences to provide the best environment for our children, spouse, and ourself!

I will not pretend we can shelter our children from every negative influence in the world, but I want to do my best to set my family up for success!

There is so much truth in this verse…

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. ~Proverbs 13:20

While this verse specifically mentions the influence of people, influence comes in many forms…

  • TV and movies
  • Video and computer games
  • Books and magazines
  • Friends
  • Family members

Let’s just get down to it here: If you think something or someone is a negative influence on your child or family, you can get rid of it! You should get rid of it! It is your job to say, “This is not good for our family and I want it gone!”

That TV show your kids are watching and repeating inappropriate language from? Be gone!

The person on Facebook who constantly makes you think less of your spouse because of their own complaining? Hide or unfriend!

The video game that has brought around a violent side in your child? Good riddance!

I don’t want to sound harsh here, but I believe very firmly in protecting our families, and if something is threatening the family dynamic you are striving to create, then it needs to go.

I understand that people can be a different story. People issues can get messy and complicated, especially with extended family members. We are to love others and be Jesus to them, but when that person is doing some form of harm to you or your family, I believe it is necessary to set firm, clear boundaries or cut ties altogether. This is definitely a matter of prayer and something to be settled between you and Jesus.

Each family has its own standards and beliefs, so this is not a one-size-fits-all family tie, but I want to encourage you to not be afraid to stand up for your family and eliminate the negative influences that have crept into your life!

Your family will be stronger when you regularly and intentionally say, “Out with the bad!”

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Family Tie #17: Sit down with your spouse and identify any negative influences in your family’s life. Determine those that need to be eliminated and make it happen! Teach Proverbs 13:20 to your children to help them make good choices in friendships.

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31 Days: Watch What Goes IN Your Mouth

Can I talk a little about our families and food today?

Most of this series so far has been about heart and head stuff – things we say and do with our children and spouse.

I’m discovering some things about strengthening our families through our stomachs! It could be because I live in a house full of boys, but food is always on someone’s mind in this house. And if we’re not getting the right kinds of food in our bodies, we are not the best bunch to be around!

Earlier this year, I saw a story on the Today Show highlighting the importance of protein in our diets. I paid particular attention to this report at the time because of the mention of protein and exercise, but I learned something unexpected at the time as well…

If a person doesn’t get enough protein, it can affect anxiety and mood!

I found this incredibly interesting, so I decided to try eating some protein when I was feeling less than pleasant. Think what you may, but I did notice a difference! Protein has become a more important more of everyone’s diet in our house since then!

The boys are “always” hungry, but an apple dipped in peanut butter or some string cheese can fill them up AND combat those crabby times! Win-win!

Protein isn’t the only food that can benefit your family in multiple ways. Less junk and more “real food” is always a good idea to strengthen your family all around. We aren’t into any crazy diets or food movements – it’s just common sense that “real food” is better for our bodies. And when our bodies are functioning properly, we probably will be as people as well!

Maybe you think this food family tie is a bit of a stretch.

Believe me, we are NOT healthy eaters all of the time. We enjoy our Saturday morning donuts from the Donut Professor. Laffy Taffy is a special treat Daddy brings home every now and then.

Which lead me to the other part of strengthening our families through their stomachs…

Fun food experiences create fun memories.

Eating healthy food on a regular basis will help to keep bodies strong and minds clear.

But that corn dog at the State Fair?

Or the stack of chocolate chip pancakes you shared at Village Inn?

The taco ring for game day?

Strong bonds are formed over glorious food of that magnitude.

Our boys have extremely powerful long-term memory when it comes to food and I want a bunch of fun family times to be what comes to mind when yummy food is shared!

Whether it is healthier food on a regular basis or special treats for wonderful memories, watch more carefully what goes into the mouths of your family for stronger bodies and family ties!

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Family Tie #16: Think about what your family eats in a week. Is everyone getting the nutrition they need? Do you have any fun meals or treats planned for a special occasion or “just because?” Plan at least one way you can strengthen your family – physically or relationally – this week with food and share it in the comments!

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31 Days: Step Away From the iPhone

I’m going to keep this short and sweet today.

Moms and dads: We need to put down our iPhones {or other electronic devices} more often. Period.

I mention the iPhone as an example because it is a blessing and a curse to me.

I can get directions, find phone numbers, answer a million questions a day from curious kids, find the ingredient list for a recipe while I’m at the store, take pictures…

I really love my iPhone.

But I dislike how much time I waste on it. And I REALLY dislike how it distracts me from my children.

We HAVE to put down our smartphones or whatever other electronic devices are pulling us away from engaging with our children.

I don’t have any magic formulas or how-tos on breaking your iPhone addiction. The attraction is different for each of us. Maybe you need to identify those apps that are time-wasters and delete them. Time limits or “off-limits” periods during the day may be your solution. Just reorganizing your apps into categories might be helpful – Kat has some GREAT ideas for this on her site!

A few tips that I am still trying to follow myself?

1. Don’t talk to your kids while doing something on your iPhone. You may promise something you aren’t willing to follow through on!

2. Don’t let them try to talk to you while you are on our iPhone. Ask your child to hold that thought, quickly finish what you are doing, and give him or her your full attention.

3. Put your iPhone on the counter and walk away as much as you can during the day. It doesn’t HAVE to go everywhere in the house with you! Make sure you can hear it in case it rings, but otherwise, see how long you can go ignoring it completely!

4. Turn off notifications. This is one thing I did as SOON as I got my iPhone and it was one of the better choices I have made! I don’t need to know right away whenever someone mentions me on Facebook or Twitter.

5.  Never, ever get mad at your children or spouse for “interrupting” something you are doing on your iPhone. We have a firm rule for the children about not interrupting phone conversations, but texting or typing or playing a game just aren’t the same. I cannot think of anything I could be doing on my iPhone that would warrant me getting upset with my child for interrupting, yet somehow my irritation level rises to unhealthy heights when they do! I need to get those emotions and my priorities in check!

Please don’t read this post as being judgmental – I need this reminder as much or more than most of you! And I don’t want the strength of my family threatened by a little white {or black} electronic device!

Let’s find a way to step away from that iPhone and engage with those we love the most!

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Family Tie #15: Identify the roots of your iPhone/smartphone/iPad/computer addiction and make a plan to break that bad habit! Try one or two or all of the suggestions in the post above or share in the comments what boundaries or limits have helped you put your family before your iPhone.

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31 Days: What Comes Out of Your Mouth

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

This statement has been probably been uttered by moms for centuries.

I know I said it many times as a teacher, and I find myself thinking it often as we live in a culture that feels it is ok to say whatever negative thing it wants to any other person, even total strangers! Grrr!

While that phrase is a great motto to live by, there is an even more important statement to that needs to be followed by each of us, especially in our homes…

Click here to download the printable PDF!

We need to put a stop to negative words being spoken to one another, but to make our families stronger, we also need to speak words that BUILD each other up.

Kind words.

Affirming words.

Encouraging words.

I love the NIV translation of Ephesians 4:29 because of the word BUILD. It has created a great mental picture in my mind about what my words can do for my sons and husband, building a stronger family with the right words.

But I also adore Ephesians 4:29 in The Message…

 Click here to download the printable PDF!

My words should be a GIFT. Oh my, that is good stuff right there.

Everything that comes out of your mouth will affect your family one way or another – what kind of words will they be today?

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Family Tie #14: Build your family up with the gift of your words! Post one of these translations of Ephesians 4:29 in your home to remind yourself and your family of the power of your words.

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31 Days: Get Moving

If you’re reading this Saturday morning, I’m hopefully out on the trail running eight miles right now. Rain is in the forecast, but I really want to do this run, so I’m praying it’s just a drizzle or nothing at all!

Exercise has become an important part of life for us this year, and I would credit this increased physical activity with improving attitudes and moods in our household!

The Hubby and I have been running, as well as various other workouts at the gym. The two older boys take weekly swimming lessons. Big J started soccer. Little J charges full speed everywhere he goes. And Double J is crawling and taking off up the stairs!

See what I mean?! All of us are active on a regular basis and I can see it strengthening our family in a few different ways…

*The exercise and endorphin connection. The Hubby and I are both happier when we’ve done our daily exercise. The boys are both in a great mood after their physical activities. Happy family members definitely help make a strong family!

*Goal-setting and purpose. We share our exercise goals with one another, encourage each other, and celebrate when someone reaches a goal! The boys love to ask how many miles each of us have run that day. Mastering new skills in swimming is a big deal. The Hubby and I have both reached weight loss goals. Setting and reaching goals together is a wonderful family bond – and a great thing to model for the kids!

*An active, healthy lifestyle model for the kids. We got moving in the first place to lose some weight, but it has become more about being active and healthy, and this is becoming a family thing. It is clear to our children that our health is important to us. Boys are always moving anyways, so this isn’t too hard for us, but our homeschool PE and their extracurriculars are great for more disciplined activities!

I can tell when we’ve been sitting around the house for too long – crabbiness and quarrels and such – and usually the best remedy is for all of us to GET MOVING, which makes us a stronger family all around!

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Family Tie #13: Find a way for each member of your family to get moving! Not all of these activities need to be done together, but plan some fun active outings as a family each month as well! Even taking a walk as a family counts!

How does your family get moving, both individually and together?

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