A 4th of July Family Tradition That Could Change The World

As we celebrate our country’s independence today, I would like to encourage you to spend time praying with your family today for our nation.  It’s a family tradition that could change the world.  Imagine the impact of families around the world praying together for our nation.  May our hearts be filled with gratitude today for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to bring us the freedom we enjoy today.  May we thank God for protecting us and blessing us the way He has.

The following links provide wonderful inspiration and reflection on what we are celebrating each 4th of July.  Andy Stanley is one of the most gifted communicators I’ve ever listened to.  The messages are brief but incredibly rich, and I can’t think of a better way to begin our 4th of July celebrations than to listen to these messages, reflect on what God has done for us, and pray for our nation.

If your children are old enough to listen to a sermon for about 20 minutes, I would encourage you to listen to these together as a family.

A New Look At America’s Christian Heritage Part I

A New Look At America’s Christian Heritage Part II

I hope your 4th of July is full of fun memories with friends and family!

Giveaway Winner

Congrats Stephanie Parlee on winning Rory’s Story Cubes!

DIY Dry Erase Picture Frame

My favorite part of summer is having my boys home for extended periods of time allowing us ample opportunities to create special moments and memories together. My boys are still at ages where they love being with me, and they love having projects that we can work on together.  Working on a craft or creation together provides us with a bonding experience that each of us treasures.

I’ve posted this project on our family blog in the past.  I’m posting the idea again here because it is such a popular one and is one your kids or grandkids can easily do, even on their own.

Do you have empty picture frames sitting in a drawer somewhere?  If not, you can buy them for $1 at the dollar store or Wal-Mart.  A picture frame dry erase board is so useful around the house.  I love to make them using cardstock that coordinates with the decor, which is much more fun and interesting than the plain white boards.

We have found uses all over the house for these picture frame boards.  We use one on our family command center wall for writing out our weekly menu, we use one in the kitchen for writing our scripture memory for the week, and we use them in the boys’ rooms for their personal hygiene chore charts.

They also make great gifts.  The boys and I made these for our niece and nephew for Christmas to coordinate with their bedrooms.  We added their names to them and a little fun embellishments.  One of my nieces has enjoyed making these herself to give to friends as birthday gifts.

Today we are making one as a gift to go along with a meal we are providing for a friend who recently had a baby.  We will use it to announce the menu for what we are providing.  A fun little gift the family can continue to use in their home even after the meal is devoured.


Picture frame (size is up to you depending on what you plan to use it for.  I have made all different sizes and they are all fun!)

Decorative cardstock (I’ve even used fabric scraps)

Scissors or paper cutter

Tape measure (only if using scissors rather than a paper cutter)

Ok, here is the so simple tutorial, it can hardly be called a tutorial.

Step 1: Measure and cut your paper to fit inside your picture frame.  We are using an 8 x 10 frame, so we cut our cardstock to those dimensions.

Step 2:  Insert the paper inside the frame behind the glass

Step 3:  Write a message

That is it!!

Options:  Add a hanging ribbon to the frame.  Or embellish the cardstock for added interest.

A Sweet Storytelling Tradition & Giveaway

(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Kryshtalowych)

One of my favorite times of the day is bedtime.  It is a sweet time of the day when the kids have quieted down, and their hearts are softened and eager to give and receive.  Sword fights have ceased, the little boy smell has been washed clean and replaced with a fresh scent, the brotherly bickering has ended, the heavy running feet have slowed to soft little tiptoes, and the loud demands have been replaced with softer tones sharing stories and asking questions.

One of my very dear friends, Rebecca, was over one day with her son James, who is great buddies with my youngest son, Andrew.  Rebecca was telling me about their bedtime routine and how James would tell stories and include Andrew in his story every night.  Rebecca and her husband Greg have a bedtime story tradition with James where they begin the story and let James create the rest of the story prompting and guiding him when needed.  What a sweet way to go to bed at night!

Here is what Rebecca shares with us about their family’s bedtime tradition:

“We always start the story…’once upon a time there was a small boy named…’ and then, James will say his own name. We continue to feed him “ideas” and he fills in the gaps with people, activities, places, etc. For example—

 Once upon a time there was a small boy named:  James

And another small boy named:  Andrew Robinson (he ALWAYS says this one next!)

And his other friend:  Mallory

 One day they decided to play: baseball with blue bats

they met at the: baseball field

 and so on and so on…James develops the story with a little guidance from us. It’s fun and different every day. And, James loves it! The reason Greg started to do this is because James wouldn’t let us sing him songs before bedtime. He didn’t like it….our tradition with Andrew was to sing songs to him after we read bedtime stories. So, we have a different tradition with each child”

For so many reasons, I just love this tradition.

  •  Creativity is ignited in the child.
  • The child has a say in what will take place.  His little voice is being heard in a positive light.
  • It’s the same but different every night.  Same setting, different story.
  • You have the opportunity to learn and understand your child better when you are hearing what is in their heart and mind
  • Could be a great tool for the child who isn’t as verbal or doesn’t express feelings well verbally

I’d love to hear some of your bedtime traditions.  Please feel free to comment to share your thoughts with us!  One lucky commenter will receive Rory’s Story Cubes.

Comments must be submitted by Sunday night at 11:59 pm.  Leaving a comment gives you one chance to win.  Leaving a comment with links to posts on twitter, Facebook, pinterest, or your blog referencing this post will give you two chances to win.  Winner will be drawn at random and announced Monday.

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?