Board Games are more than just Family Fun

Board games are pretty popular in our house.  We play a lot of board games on our Family Nights.  Sometimes it can get pretty intense.  Have I ever mentioned we are all a little bit competitive?  Well, actually some of us are VERY competitive.  And arguments deep discussions have ensued.

Truthfully though, we do argue over the rules, there is always a moment of pause when one looks for a specific point that will make or break his move, and continued discussion most often follows.

And it is awesome!  What better place is there for children to learn strategic planning, communication and negotiation skills.  I know folks who pay big money to master these skills.

This is our family Top 10 list of Board Games (not necessarily in order of favorite)

1.  Chess

2.  Blokus

3.  Quirkle

4.  Quarto

5.  Mexican Train

6.  Mancala

7.  Uno

8.  Catan (for the older kids)

9.  Swish

10.  Animals Upon Animals (for the younger ones)

and just a few more…

11.  Chinese Checkers

12.  Scrabble

13.  Monopoly (not really my favorite, but the kids like it)

What are some of your favorites?


Our Family’s Family Night Top 10

In discussing creating a family culture I have mentioned our family’s “Friday Family Night”.  Usually we stick to board games or a movie night, but sometimes we get a little creative.  Have you planned your next family night?

This is our Top 10:

1. Make pizza together.  If you like to get really messy you could make your own pizza dough.  I really like this recipe.  We often buy pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods along with all of the toppings of choice.

2. A picnic and bike ride in the park

3. Make fancy desserts together.  I’m not really sure if this dessert qualifies as “fancy,” but it definitely was time consuming and not a cake for any ordinary day.

Rainbow Layer Cake

4. Board games  Our favorites are Qwirkle, Blokus and Animal Upon Animal.

5. Movie Night.

6.  Dinner at a favorite restaurant.  Or maybe try something new like an ethnic restaurant.

7.  Make something together.  We made birdfeeders once.  It was a mess, but loads of fun.

8.  Work on a puzzle.

9. Get take out and picnic at a local playground.

10. Hold a family meeting, maybe to plan something exciting like a summer vacation.

Family Night, a means for developing your family culture

Each family has its own Family Culture.  As a parent it is up to us to help develop this culture, because whether it is intentional or not, our choices and actions associated with our family will create the culture that ultimately molds our lives.

In our family, the Commander and I are very intentional (although we do have our unintentional moments) to create a family culture which will nourish and strengthen our children in ways we believe important.  One way we do this is through Family Night.

For us, Family Night is decided on a rotation.  Each week one of the five kids will be the one in charge.  We aim for Fridays because it is an evening that most often works for us.  Whoever’s turn it is for the week has the opportunity to decide on the dinner and an activity.  For the most part the options are limitless.  Meals are usually predictable kid favorites and afterward we  do something together which always varies.

Ironically though, family nights are not always as smooth and happy as they seem.  Honestly, there was a time I even wondered, “why bother?”.  Often there is someone who hates the dinner choice, doesn’t like the movie or stomps off because he didn’t win the game.

About this same time I was attending a parenting seminar.  It was a video course where teens were interviewed regarding their family experiences.  Overall, of the teens who regularly spent time of some sort with their families, they expressed that even though not each event went smoothly, or was their favorite, the time spent together was absolutely worth it and because of the consistency of this time together they felt much closer and more loved by their parents.

With this in mind I now see that even though not every family night is a complete success, it is still worthwhile.  Some Fridays we may laugh and play games until midnight, and other Fridays we may have tears and someone that chooses to go to bed early.  But this is normal.  It is life.  Not everything is going to go your way and you have to choose how to deal with it.  Who better to learn this lesson with than your own family?


It’s A Family Tradition

Just in case you have not noticed…  Thanksgiving is next week!  Are you ready?

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays.  Christmas is awesome as well for some of the very same reasons, but Thanksgiving is special.  Thanksgiving is an opportunity to spend time with your family, celebrate your friends and loved ones, and most importantly be thankful for everything you have – without presents.

We are a very consumer driven, materialistic society.  I often find myself overwhelmed by this need for stuff at this time of year.  I am especially overwhelmed by the tendency to over schedule in an attempt to “celebrate”.  This is very ironic to me considering most people, if asked, will say their most important priority is spending time with family, friends and loved ones, which shouldn’t require much scheduling (unless you live far away) and definitely does not require gifts.

But then I think back to my own childhood.  In the midst of the holiday rush I have some very distinct memories of Thanksgiving holidays.  I have very fond memories of activities my family did together year after year.   On Thanksgiving morning we always watched the Macy’s Day Parade.  It is kind of funny though, because as a child the parade was not necessarily my favorite event, it was just the best thing on television prior to football.  But now as an adult the parade brings to me joyful memories of sitting in my grandfather’s huge Lazy-Boy recliner watching the parade as the adults prepared food in the kitchen.

And then I have some memorable moments, that fortunately only happened once, like the year my grandfather had excuse himself from Thanksgiving Dinner in order to bail my cousin out of jail for driving too fast through the little, one stoplight, South Georgia town where he lived.  And while this sounds awful, it wasn’t nearly as bad in my mind as the time I accidentally bit into a big fat slimy oyster hidden inside of the cornbread dressing.

And now that I have my own family we have created some traditions of our own.  We like to use our time together the weekend after Thanksgiving to drive up the mountain to search for and cut down our Christmas tree.  We also make little cookies the kids call Pilgrim Hats, which are something we HAVE to make.  I put them off one year and didn’t get it done before Thanksgiving.  Guess what we were making the first weekend in December…

So in all, I suppose every little detail really is important.  You really never know exactly what your next family tradition will be and what it is that your children will value as they grow older.  But it sure would help if we could figure it out so that we could skip some of the other stuff that needlessly fills up our calendars.



I now know why I sometimes feel like a crazy person

Last week I was part of a discussion with other mothers of preschoolers.  The group was asked, “What do you enjoy most in this season of your life, and what prevents you from enjoying this thing you love best?”

After thinking about this for a moment I realized it is no wonder I feel like I am going crazy on most days.

I have two things that really make me happy.  Well, really there are several things that make me happy, but these first two things are pretty elemental in allowing anything else to happen.

One of the first things I could think of that really makes me happy is organization  and cleanliness -although you would never guess this about me based on the condition of my house on most days.  The second thing I really enjoy is being with my kids and allowing them to be kids.


But then I pondered the remainder of the question.  This is where I realized there is an absolutely rational reason for my moments of craziness.

The very two things I enjoy are also the same two things which prevent me from enjoying them.

Let me explain, I love a clean house, everything in its place, fresh sheets, spotless windows, clothes folded neatly on so on.  The main reason my house is not this way is, well – five kids.  But, I also love allowing the kids to have fun, play and make a mess.  I enjoy allowing them to play uninhibited.  Often this means I will find paint on the walls, mud on the floor or something strange in the freezer.  But all the while they are exploring, learning and growing in ways they could never otherwise be taught.  This I believe is very important.

So now I know, yes I have a rational reason for my feelings of craziness induced by the conundrum I have created.  Fortunately, this is only a “season” of my life and there will be another time in the future when I am not questioning my sanity – at least not for the same reasons.




6:00 a.m.

Do you sometimes have crazy mornings?  You know, the ones where you rush to get dressed, overlook that nobody’s hair is brushed because you really don’t have time to fix it,  ask your 4 year old to help make lunches because it just won’t get done otherwise, and you are ok with allowing the kids to grab a granola bar to eat in the car on the way to school.  And then of course this always leads to extra sibling” affection” as one kicks the other because “she is in my seat” or “he pushed me.”  Yeah, those mornings….

Well, I have found the solution!

Sorry, but you will just have to get your act together.   Have you ever heard the phrase, “You must be the change you wish to see in the World”?  I have decided this applies everywhere, especially at home.

So in our house tomorrow morning I will be the one to make the changes.  First, I plan to get out of bed at 6:00 a.m., before the sun wakes me up.  Secondly, we will all eat breakfast – on a plate and at the table.

Tonight I am going to try for the first time a crock pot breakfast meal.  I’ll have to let you know the consensus on this tomorrow.

Wish me luck, mostly just in getting out of bed on time.  I am sure the kids and the crock pot will be just fine…



Intentional Parenting

I have been very busy lately.  Five kids, a new school year, house guests, a birthday, five committees and two upcoming fundraisers has made the past two weeks a bit of a blur.

In the midst of this blur we have obviously managed to accomplish our everyday goals.  Nobody has been late to school, chores have been completed, agendas have been prepared and dinner has been served.

Although I must admit it was ever so helpful to have my in-laws in town to pick up any loose ends – or children on the days I was scheduled to be in more than one place at a time!

With all of these commitments I sometimes find myself on autopilot.  This makes me question how intentional of a parent I really am.  Am I parenting with purpose, or by default?  Are all of our systems in place so that they are accomplished in the midst of the blur?  Are my children being molded with goals in mind or are they on a path of happenstance?

The Commander and I joke that running a family is really the same as running a business.  Really though this isn’t a joke.

A business makes a plan, sets goals and works toward those goals.  Why not do this with your family?

This week I am going to update our Family Plan.  But most importantly, the Family Plan is going to be written, not just ideas thrown out and discussed.  I want to create an actual document that can be revisited, revised and grow along with our own family’s needs and desires.

I know this sounds daunting.  But, just start.  Include your children.  Make this your mealtime topic for the next few nights.  The beauty of this project is that a Family Plan, just like a business plan, will always be changing.  You can always revise or make an addendum – it is YOUR family’s plan.

If you need some assistance, begin with questions like this:

  • What values are important to our family?
  • What are our family goals?
  • Where or how do we see our family in 5 or 10 years?
  • What are our traditions?
  • What rituals do we have?
  • What activities are important to our family?
  • What rules do/should we have?

Back To Nature

We doubled the fun this weekend – camping and a birthday party!  MC turned four.  And for the second year in a row she chose to have a campout birthday party.  This is definitely up there with one of my favorite birthday parties we have hosted. Our family loves to camp and explore the outdoors, so to add a birthday party just makes it all the more exciting. Even if you are not campers, or have not really tried it yet, if you have children, especially between the ages 3-12, I highly suggest you camp at least once.  Give it a try!  Perhaps begin with a cabin if you lack supplies or are a little apprehensive.  But definitely get out there and camp.  There is something amazing about the freedom to get dirty and explore the outdoors.  It is such a great thing to see a child’s excitement and appreciation of nature. This little guy was discovered before the Commander and I even finished unloading.


Here are some ideas in case you need a little motivation, or might just like a good list.  Check out our Camping Checklist.  These are the standard items we always bring with us when we camp.  Like I said, we really like to camp,  but we also have 3 Scouts in the family who camp ALOT.  So this list has been tested, many times.

Another thing we have found to be very helpful when camping is to keep a “Camping Gear” box.  We use a large Rubbermaid type container.  Instead of gathering all of the campfire cooking supplies like s’more sticks, spatulas, iron skillet, foil, etc. every time we camp, we keep it all in these Camping Gear containers.  This really eliminates some of the hassle when packing to camp.  Instead of searching for each individual item we can open the box, take a quick inventory and pack it in the car.  (An inventory list taped to the inside of the lid is always a good idea too.)

Other items like sleeping pads, flashlights, first aid supplies and such could always be kept in another large container.  This will make packing for your next camping trip so much easier.

We usually keep it pretty simple and stick to hot dogs or sausages for dinner when camping.  Although we have been known to get really crazy and bring things like steak.  Vegetables like asparagus or corn on the cob wrapped in foil are easy to transport and always cook well over a campfire.

Very important: Don”t forget the S’mores!


And try a little of my favorites for breakfast – Campfire Omelette.  These are a big hit with everyone because you each get to make your own adding your favorite omelette toppings.

Campfire Omelette

  • Eggs
  • Quart size Ziploc bags
  • Large pot to boil water
  • Chopped toppings of your choice – cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms, salsa, whatever you like

Boil a large pot of water.  Crack 2-3 eggs in the Ziploc bag.  Add the toppings of your choice.  As you seal the bag squeeze out all of the air.  Use your hands to squish the bag to scramble the eggs.  Recheck to make sure bag is sealed tight.  Drop in boiling water.  Cook about 12 minutes until egg is done.  Be sure not to let the plastic bag touch the hot sides of the pot.  This will melt the bag allowing water to get in your egg.

And if you would like more inspiration check out these great posts with campfire ideas:

25 Delicious Camping Recipes

More Camp Fire Dinners



Whistle While You Work

Do your kids have chores?  Mine do.   Even the Commander has chores!


I am absolutely a proponent for chores.  And I don’t think there is an age too young to start.  My 18 month old helps fold laundry.  Sure, he doesn’t fold quite the same way I do, but he can absolutely shake out some wrinkles and throw hand towels in the linen closet.  And he is so proud of himself for helping.

Chores are so much more than cleaning up.  Those little responsibilities given to children are huge.  Chores give children an ability to be a part of something larger than themselves – the family unit.  Chores give children something to be accountable for, something to own and be proud of.  Chores teach children they are not entitled and that hard work is appreciated, even sometimes rewarded.  Not to mention most chores are merely life skills that will only be helpful at some point.  Eventually your child will thank you for giving them jobs a kid, mine have not yet, but I know they will one day.

So why not start now?  Summer would be a great time to ease into a new routine.  Start small.  And if you would like some assistance (maybe motivation) check out these great apps to track chores and encourage your little ones.




(And just in case you are wondering, no I don’t really make my little guys scrub the floors on their hands and knees.  For some reason they chose to do that on their own.)