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?

 

Be Kind

Summer is nearly here.  Have you been thinking about exactly how you will fill the upcoming l-o-n-g days with your kiddos?

One thing I have been thinking a lot about is not necessarily how to fill the days of Summer, but what is it that I want to accomplish within these days of Summer.  I don’t want to just pass the time.  I want to make it count – especially when the kids are home and watching.

Our family is going to create a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge.  Our Summer break is 10 weeks long.  So for our family the goal will be 1 random act of kindness per week.  Part of the fun will be brainstorming a list of ideas to choose from throughout the Summer and then planning an act each week.  Will you join us?

If you need some inspiration start with my previous post on random acts of kindness.  Or search for ideas at http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas.

These are a few of my favorites:

1.  Make dinner for your local fire station.

2.  Create Ziploc bag care packages to give to the homeless.  Include things like toothbrush, gum, socks, chapstick, wet wipes, chewy granola bars.

3.  Write a kind note or quote on the sidewalk in chalk.

4.  Write a thank you note to let someone know you appreciate them.

5.  Bake cookies for a neighbor.

6.  Host a Free lemonade or popsicle stand on a well traveled walking path or playground.

7.  Set up a community library for book swaps.  An old bookshelf at the end of your driveway would be perfect.

8.  Leave a coloring book and small pack of crayons in a waiting room.

9.  Carry an extra leash or umbrella in your car for the next time you see someone who really needs it.

10.  Leave a kind note or special treat for the community helpers who often go unnoticed, like the garbage men, mailman or school janitor.

The possibilities are endless.  What will you do?

Morgan Freeman

Photo credit unknown

Just Let Them Play

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For us today is Opening Day for Little League Baseball.  While I hope Little League is an exciting experience that my child looks forward to each Spring, and looks back on over the Summer as an achievement and something to be proud of, I enter the season with much hesitation and concern.

Fortunately, the kids don’t always see what goes on beyond the dugout – at least not for the first few years.

Why must we (the parents of these children) apply so much pressure?  Why do so many coaches and parents act like they are paving their child’s path to Major League Baseball?

Did you know that even if your child continues beyond Little League to play on a High School team only 11.2% of those players will continue to play baseball in college (Scholarshipstats.com)?  And then if your Little Leaguer continues to MLB he will be 1 of the 10.5% of college players to do so.

Odds are not in your favor to be a professional athlete.

So how about we just let them play?  Perhaps in doing so our children will learn a little about character, courage and loyalty, and grow to be superior citizens rather than superior athletes.  After all, this is the Mission of the Little League Baseball.

Encourage your child to always do their best.  That is the only thing that matters.  And after the game praise your child equally whether the game was a win or loss because in the end those statistics are not really important.

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?

 

Mom, Please Let Me Fail

We have all heard it before, “in order to succeed one must first learn to fail.”  As a parent this means we have to let our children fail before they can succeed.  I know, it is so difficult to watch your child fail.  And it all begins so very early.

As our babies learn to walk it is hard to sit back and watch when you know they are going to fall.  But if we were to swoop them up every time they wobbled, how would they ever learn to walk?

My older kids seem to rarely take my advice, and on the occasion they do I can tell they are not always completely convinced I have any clue what I am talking about.   I have learned to be ok with this.  When they gain wisdom through their own mistakes they truly learn – they succeed.  Through their own experience this newfound knowledge is concrete, definable and able to be reconstructed and amended – they own it.

Forbes Magazine recently published an article, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders.”  Guess what number 1 on this list was – “We don’t let our children experience risk.”

So do your kids a favor, let them fail.

 

What to say…

Not long ago I recognized an old acquaintance’s car as I left the grocery store.   Before I was really even able to process it all I found myself thinking, I hope I don’t run into her.  And then before I could even finish that thought it was as if I stopped to yell at myself in disagreement.

Don’t worry I was thinking all of this quietly to myself.

In the parking lot unloading my groceries I realized I have no clue what to say to someone who has lost a loved one, especially when that loved one was their child.

Sure, I could say something.  And I am sure I am not alone in my ineptitude, but what can I say that is kind and helpful to this person who is suffering?

My first thought was to not say anything at all and avoid the possible conversation all together.  I must admit I was very angry with myself for even considering this option.  And since this moment I have been thinking a lot about grief and how I can best be a friend to someone who is grieving.

I suppose because of my increased awareness of the topic I have been more attune to others and their need to discuss things like death, loss, hurt, and overall extremely difficult situations.  Recently I have noticed these topics are far more common than I used to recognize.  Unfortunately, I think part of this inability to recognize is more of one’s choice.  Difficult situations are not something new, but very likely something I and others avoid, ultimately diminishing the impact and knocking it off of our radars.

I have made a point to be more aware, and in doing this I have learned two very important things when speaking with others who have suffered.

  • It is very important to recognize the loss or suffering and not attempt to belittle it through comments like, “This is all part of a plan,” or “They are in a better place.”
  • It is often more important to be a good listener than to have something to say.

This morning I found an incredible post by another mother who lost her daughter, Natasha.   This mother explains what she and others who have lost a loved one really wish you would say.  I encourage you to read this incredibly honest and humbling post.  I did and am very grateful for what I have gained.

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.

Awesome.

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.

 

 

 

Eye Opening

(Photographer unknown)

Huh?  French Kiss?  That is what I secretly remember thinking the first time I heard the word.  I recall being in elementary school, on the playground, underneath one of those half-dome monkey bar things that all of the playgrounds used to have, when I first heard of a French Kiss.  I had absolutely no idea what those kids were talking about.  But they all seemed to know so there was no way I was going to ask and let it be known that I was clueless.

It was most likely a few years later before I used all of the many context clues I had gathered to really know what a French Kiss was.  There was not really much on television I watched that would explain this, I would never have asked my parents, my brother was younger than I was so he naturally didn’t know anything (at least that is what I thought), so I just had to wait and piece it all together.  At some point I do recall the stunning realization that some of these words I had been stumped by could be found in the dictionary.  I suppose that was pretty helpful.

Have you considered how this process will work for your children?

Until recently I just expected my children’s experience with sex and the like to be similar to mine.

Today I read a post by a thirty-three year old, daughter of a Southern Baptist Preacher and recovering addict, entitled “Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex.”  Wow, huge eye opener!

This is what made the most impact on me: Miller states, “Google is the next Sex-Ed.”

Just like we use Google to search for anything else, children are using Google to search for these phrases, like “French Kiss.”  Why not?  Google won’t laugh, criticize or condemn.  This is very logical.

Although the thought of the Pandora’s Box this innocent search might reveal is sickening to say the least.

My desire to maintain my children’s innocence and joy for as long as possible is a constant concern.  Too often it seems our children are approached by evil.  It is reassuring for me to remind myself evil can only be defined by what it is not – the good in the World.  So in order for evil to exist there must also be the good.  We just have to look for it.

This is another good reminder.  Talk to your children.  Talk to them often.  And let them know they can ask you anything – tell them this.  It is my hope that my children will be comfortable asking me, not Google when they really want to know something.

Embrace the Interruptions

Jeff Goins, author of The In-Between, has created a series of challenges to help us focus and give motivation to slow down.  Pretty ironic that we need to be motivated to slow down, don’t you think?

Today’s idea is to let go and embrace interruptions.  The challenge is to:

  • Decide what you will do and who you will be WHEN you get interrupted. You don’t have to let people steal your time, but choose your response before it happens.
  • Block out time to spend with a person who usually interrupts you. Call her just to chat; if local, ask her to lunch.
  • When an interruption occurs, welcome it. Look for what you can learn from the experience, and don’t get annoyed. Instead, embrace this as a chance to grow.

As a mother of five I am interrupted constantly.  These were my interruptions I can recall from today:

  1.  C had a bloody nose in the back seat of the car while on our way to a playdate.
  2. The Little Prince insisted to play the monkey song on my iphone over and over again handing me the phone each time he closed the app as I tried to work.
  3. Diaper explosion on the way out the door.
  4. Driving down the road I realized MC was not wearing a seatbelt.
  5. The gardener knocks on the door to discuss a water leak.
  6. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I know these are necessary but when it requires preparing, making food for and cleaning up after five people it becomes an interruption.
  7. Quarrels.
  8. How do you spell…?

I know it can be frustrating when you are really focused and just about to finish a project and then you are interrupted by that little voice saying, “I’m hungry” or “How do you spell investigate?”.

I must admit it took me a while, probably about 3 children, but finally I have learned something from all of the interruptions.   At the end of the day it doesn’t always really matter if you completed every project you had planned.

I like to look at life like laundry.  If you finish all of the laundry today there will once again be more laundry tomorrow.  The pile of dirty laundry will always be there.  But all of the little moments between the wash loads will not.

Instead of having all of my laundry clean, folded and put away, I have chosen to stop what I am doing to listen in order to show I have interest in my children’s interests so that they will grow confident and continue to dream big.  I have chosen to stop what I am doing to read Pinkalicious (again) so that they know they are in fact my priority.  And I will stop what I am doing to apply bandaids (even when there is no blood in site) so that they know their concerns are real and that I will always be here to take care of them.

So especially today I am going to choose to embrace all of the little moments between the “loads of laundry” in life.  Because it is all of these little moments that are molding and forming my children creating the foundation for the adult they will too soon be.

“We need to learn to fall in love with the whole process of life, not just a particular event.” – Jeff Goins

Ten Days of Art, Part 4 – Gratitude

As a child I recall my mother telling me that if I was not willing to take the time to write a thank you note for a gift that somebody took the time to choose for me, I might never receive another gift from that person again.   I know, harsh, huh?

When was the last time you received a Thank You note – a written note?  After our most recent birthday celebration and many days of reading “write thank you notes” on my to do list I have realized these little hand written notes are one of the things we have made ourselves “too busy” for.  And even worse, we feel as if this can be excused because we are so “busy” with so many other things.

As a society we have exhausted our tasks with all things instant.  We scan payments from our phones, receive appointment confirmations via text and invitations via email because our culture has decided one can “save time” if we don’t have to pull out our wallet, make a phone call or post something in the mail.

So today I have decided we will slow down and take the time for gratitude.  Not only are we writing our thank you notes, we decorated them too.  Each note is unique and lovingly made just for the addressee.

IMG_6236  IMG_6237  IMG_6238

To make cards like these we used white cardstock, red acrylic paint and the base of a stalk of celery.  Other vegetables like romaine lettuce or okra would work well too.  Use your imagination and have fun.