Intentional Summer Memory Making Resources

Click the links below for some excellent summer resources to inspire your journey for an intentional summer.  When we tearfully send our  children back to school this fall, let’s look back fondly over our summer memories knowing we took hold of every single moment.  Intentionally.

Summer Survival Tips for Parents (audio podcast May 30th, 2012 Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast with Kathy Peel)

Ideas for summer fun and learning (From Family Manager)

Make Summer Count Activity Calendar (From Thriving Family)

Chores, A Tradition? Part Two

Today’s post is a follow-up to the previous post, Chores, A Tradition?  Part One.

I mentioned that we have started and stopped many different chore systems in our home.  We have used chore charts, we have used online chore sites, we have used the index card system.  You name it, we have likely tried it.  Each system seems to work great for a time, then gradually fades away until we are back to me doing the bulk of the work.  I also mentioned that one reason our systems didn’t last long had to do with the fact that we assigned chores that would go unnoticed if not completed.  Or they were so small, I would just do it myself rather than call the boys back to complete the job.  No one wins this way.  The kids weren’t being trained to do a job completely, their work ethic was not being developed the way we would hope, and quite frankly, I found myself bitterly muttering, “Why am I constantly cleaning up after everyone in this house?”

Raise your hand if you like a nagging wife or mom?  That is what I thought.  Who wants to be around someone like that?  I didn’t like to hear myself sound like that.  Nagging is not known to create family harmony.

So here is what we came up with:

  1. Using library card style envelopes, I labeled each one with a child’s name.
  2. Next I tacked them to our organization wall, aka family command center.
  3. Using popsicle sticks, we labeled chores to each one.  (My crafty friends are cringing right now.  I’m more about efficiency and getting the job done than how things look.  That’s why there is chocolate and vanilla, right?  If you prefer a more crafty look, these chore craft sticks are all over Pinterest.  Some very elaborate ones that I just didn’t have time to create.  Ours seem to get the job done just fine.)  We have actually added more chores to these sticks, which do not include their personal hygiene chores.
  4. Taking turns the boys chose their chore stick until all chores were assigned.
  5. Once they had all their sticks, they placed them in their assigned envelopes (just in case they forgot throughout the week whose chore belonged to who)

For now, it works.  Let’s see if we can make this one last!

Chores, A Tradition? Part One

Chores, a tradition?  I don’t think so!  That is what your kids would be thinking of this post.

Ok, so maybe chores aren’t actually a tradition, per se.  But they do accomplish some of the same goals that traditions accomplish.  Though chores might not create the warm, fuzzy experiences that say eating chocolate chip cookies every afternoon while rocking on the front porch may create,  they do produce unity, feelings of belonging, and stability in our homes.  Not to mention it helps mom from feeling like a 24 hour servant!  And let’s face it, when mama has help, the home is a happier place.  When mama isn’t exhausted, mama can spend more time creating those special moments, memories, experiences, and traditions.  Bottom line, when mama is happy, everyone is happy.  Amen?

Honestly, I wish that I had realized the importance of giving kids responsibilities earlier on.  Until recently, we have started and stopped so many different chore systems I could write 10 posts on each system and why it was great in the beginning then lost its steam.  I believe part of the reason we weren’t very good at sticking to it had to do with the fact that I assigned incredibly easy chores to the kids.  I assigned things that honestly would go unnoticed if they weren’t completed.  Or I would just do them myself if it didn’t get done.

Last summer we had the pleasure of having my niece and nephews from out-of-state stay with us for a few days.  I was so impressed with their willingness to help without being asked to help.  If there was a need, one of those kids was sure to meet it.  Quite the impression was left on me.  One would think I would have begun to crack down on some responsibility assignments around the house.  Not so.  Simply because it was just easier for me to do it myself.  It would get done the way I wanted it done if I just did it myself.  I made excuses for myself and my kids.

I have come to my senses.

I realized that:

  1. My boys need to be trained to be servants.  Servants of Christ.
  2. My boys need to not think I’m their servant, rather I’m a servant of Christ.
  3. My boys need to learn to be responsible for something
  4. My boys need to learn that life isn’t just fun and games and it doesn’t revolve around them
  5. My boys need to feel the pride of doing a job well
  6. My boys need to feel they are an important contributor to the family
  7. My boys need to pitch in so I can have more time to enjoy the moments with them
  8. My boys need to be trained to identify where they can help and offer it without being asked
  9. My boys need to learn to help without complaining or rolling eyes.
  10. My boys simply need to be trained.  Period.

I also realized that:

  1. I was doing them a disservice by doing everything around the house
  2. I was failing to provide training and life skills
  3. I could potentially create self-centered monsters
  4. I was exhausting myself
  5. I needed to be okay with okay.  Chores didn’t have to be done my way.  Other ways may actually exist.
  6. I needed to be okay with a different timetable than I prefer for when chores are completed.
  7. My boys would feel important and a part of Team Robinson if the ball were passed to them more often.
  8. My boys would feel stability and unity with the family if given appropriate jobs
  9. My boys could actually do MUCH more than I realized they could do
  10. My boys are eager to learn, help, contribute, and be trained.  Period.

The results so far?  Well, my house is staying much cleaner.  We all have more time together.  Oh yeah, and I’m less tired and grumpy.

Long term results?  My prayer is that God would use these training sessions to grow and develop boys who have servant hearts, desire to help others, see the needs of others before their own needs, and feel strongly connected to our family, feeling secure and bonded to our family unit.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will post the systems we’ve tried and the system we are currently using.

P.S. I won’t mention any names, but one of my sons liked to grumble when asked to do a chore.  Now that he realizes that attitude affects everything, we often find him having a grand time in the midst of completing his tasks.  Here he was singing with a spatula.

He also realized fun can be had in most situations, even the dishes.  He made sure to show me his castle creation before completing the job.

 Who knew working together to accomplish the same goal could be so much fun?

A Bird in Need

As I was preparing dinner, Zachary burst through the door from baseball practice.  My hand flew up to stop him in his tracks in hopes of preventing mud tracks from the baseball field from being spread across the kitchen floor.  He panted, “Mom, come here, there is a baby bird outside.”  Everyone dropped what they were doing to rush outside and marvel at this little helpless creature on our driveway.

Helpless.

Alone.

Scared.

My Jacob could hardly bear the thought of leaving this bird alone to face the world.  “We can’t leave him.  Where are his parents?  He can’t die.”

“He isn’t going to die.  His parents will come for him.  They are close by watching and protecting him.”

“How do you know?  What if they don’t get him?”

Somehow, we were able to convince him to come inside to have dinner while we gave the bird some space.  Though we convinced Jacob to come inside, he didn’t make it far.  Head against the wall, shoulders shaking, he sobbed.  Attempting to provide comfort, we reminded him that we had to let nature run its course.

“But mom, what if his parents don’t come back for him.  You would never leave me.  We can’t leave him.”

Jacob has always been compassionate.  He hurts deeply when he sees others hurting.  He imagines the pain, he feels it with them.  And it hurts.

Peace alluded Jacob during dinner.  Honestly, it did me as well.  Jacob was hurting for this baby bird.  I was hurting for Jacob.

A few times through the evening we checked on the bird.  He was still there.  Still chirping.  Still waiting.  Still needing.

I imagine he felt alone.  Forgotten.  We’ve all been there at times.  Wondering if we have been forgotten, are we alone?  We are never forgotten.  We are never alone.

Jacob couldn’t stand it.  Neither could I.  My heart ached watching my son hurt.  He was imagining himself in the place of that bird.  So I couldn’t leave that bird there.  Because I wouldn’t leave my child.  Protecting that bird was protecting Jacob.

After tucking the boys into bed, I went back to the computer to read how to save a bird.  Then I made my way outside to find the nest.  Once I found it, I asked my mom who was here visiting to go get Jacob out of bed so he could watch us get the bird back to safety.

In the process of helping the bird, I knew we could be hurting him more.  Relief was around the corner.  Sometimes the pain becomes more intense before we are able to experience the relief.  It would all be better soon.  But the bird didn’t know.  He chirped louder, his pain seemed to increase.  Jacob was scared.   I was scared.

“Just get him up there,” Steve urged.  Jacob nervously added, “His chirp sounds different.”  Was I doing the right thing?

Gently, I placed the bird in the nest breathing a deep sigh of relief.  The bird was home where he belonged.  My son could go to bed in peace knowing the bird was safe.

As I walked Jacob back to bed, I said, “Do you feel better now?”  His response surprised me, “Only a little.  I will feel better when I know he isn’t alone in the nest.  When I know his parents are back with him.”

Of course, he would feel that way.  The bird was safe, but the bird was still alone, which means the bird was still scared.

Unbeknownst to Jacob, I was working in the background.  I was reading online how to care for this bird.  I was climbing on ladders to find where the nest could be.  I was gathering supplies to move the bird from the driveway to the nest.  And I was praying.  Jacob couldn’t see, but I was working.  Jacob couldn’t see how much I cared, but I did care.

In our pains of life, God is working.  We just may not see it yet.  He is aching with us.  He wants to protect us, love us, and make it all better.  And He is.  We just may not see it yet.

When I tucked Jacob in bed for the 2nd time that night, I reminded him to pray for the bird, to which he replied that he had already been praying.  Of course he was.  I walked out of his room silently begging God to save that baby bird.  I wanted Jacob to experience yet again the realness of this God we proclaim.  I wanted Jacob to see beyond a saved bird.  I wanted him to see a Savior.

When morning arrived the first words out of Jacob’s mouth were inquiring of the bird.  I knew the answer already.  It was the first thing I did.  The mama bird was back with her baby, right where she belonged.  Just like the baby bird, when we are in the arms of our Father, we are right where we belong.  Right where He wants us to be.

Love, Affirm, Pray

The more we show our children how valued and loved they are, the greater our opportunities for creating rich experiences with them will be.  When they know they are loved unconditionally, they will trust us.  When they trust us, they will allow us into their lives.

Our children are bombarded by the world daily.  They hear false messages, they are made to think their value is based on what they do or don’t do, their self-image is often created from fashion magazines and pop culture.  To be a kid or a teenager today is so hard.

When our children are with us, they should feel loved and accepted simply for being themselves, based on nothing they do or don’t do, how they look or don’t look.  They need our love.  The world will not love them like we do.  We can grow strong, confident children by pouring our love into them.   Pouring our hearts into their hearts.

We can tell them repeatedly, “I love you no matter what.  No matter what you do, my love for you doesn’t change.”  We can model to them the love Christ has for us.  Unconditional love.  Start a tradition of letting the last words from your mouth every night be, “I love you no matter what.”

When our kids have the opportunity to hear someone other than their parents speaking their praises, it can make a big impact.  How many of you had an influential teacher in your life?  Teachers spend more hours of the day with our children than we do oftentimes.  When a teacher is able to point out a strength in a child, it has the ability to encourage that child to try much harder in that area.

Our school year wrapped up a couple of weeks ago.  Awards Day left my husband and I in tears as we listened to the teachers speak about each of the children they were able to influence.  Our older two boys were completing kindergarten and second grade.  As we listened to the awards each of them received, and the words spoken about them, we were unable to hold back our tears.  They said things about our boys that we thought only we had seen in them.  Of course, we recorded each of them receiving their awards, and I have replayed them at least 10 times.  Each time wondering if it penetrated the hearts of my boys like it did mine.  Did they hear what others noticed about them?  Did they understand that the good was noticed and it did matter.  Did they hear?

The words spoken about them were so special I wanted them to be remembered forever.  I wanted the boys to have access to those words anytime they needed a little bit of encouragement.  So I spent one evening playing back the awards over and over in order to write down the speeches exactly as they were delivered.  I printed them onto cardstock and gave them to the boys.  I have a special binder for each child to hold special letters and cards they have received.

Have you captured a memory or a moment in time that you want to write down as a reminder?  Maybe it wasn’t an award, but another parent commenting on a character trait they observed.  What if we wrote down these compliments and stored them in a journal for our kids?  They could flip through them whenever they needed to be encouraged.  We can take these special moments and preserve them for our children.

We all need to be affirmed.  Though we want our children to be humble, we also want to provide encouraging reminders of the good they hold inside them.  We can love them, we can affirm them, we can preserve other’s affirmations for them, and we can pray, pray, pray.

We can pray that the positive traits that are being recognized will continue to develop and mature.  Then we can watch God’s workmanship as He molds and shapes our children.

Artwork Treasures

My boys are constantly drawing me pictures or writing me notes.  Their sweet pictures are precious to me, and I hated them being stuffed into drawers and boxes.  I wanted the boys to know that their time and effort to create something was appreciated and loved.

I also wanted their creations to be organized in a way we could continue to enjoy them together.  (One thing you will come to learn about me is that I LOVE organization.  When my world is ordered rather than chaotic, my creative juices flow a little more freely and I’m able to create more moments of life to enjoy. )

I decided to organize and store their creations using a 2 inch vinyl 3 ring binder.  I made divider sections for each year by age.  Next, I filled the binder with their sweet treasures.  Now that their artwork is in a binder, they can thumb through it anytime they like.  And I can look at it and see how much they are growing based on their drawing and writing.

I love having these memories in one location.  I love that my boys and I can sit down and look at their pictures together.  I love that I can show the boys how special their drawings are by giving them a special home.  I love the many moments and memories we can share together reflecting on their creations.

And the winner is…..

Congrats, Jen Hunt!  I hope you and the girls enjoy some fun with this.

Wishing everyone a memorable Memorial Day Weekend!