Help For Growing Families – Traditions

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At this time of year there are many traditions that my family and I hold dear that come around again to bless us all. Traditions are a very important part of our family. I come by this belief naturally because I grew up in a family rich in traditions – some of which are still in practice to this day. They keep us close and create a common bond for us in a day and time that seeks to fragment us with busy schedules and distant locations. My brothers, sister, parents and I, and our families, always come back to our traditions each year and find a comfort and joy in the continuity of life and love that they bring.

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From the beginning of our marriage, Jeff and I have sought to start and continue traditions for our own family. In the beginning, we took some of each of our favorite traditions from our separate families and blended them into our own set of traditions for our new family. As the years have gone by, we have added new traditions which have become very special to us. Sometimes the kids decide that something is a tradition just because we did it once and they liked it. Then we hear “but we have to do it – it’s tradition!” I love hearing this, because then I know that they feel the bond and the importance of family moments the way that I hope that they will.

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I would encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to start some new traditions for your family this year. The children really thrive on them and so do we as adults. We have traditions for things all through the year, but our Christmastime traditions are extra special to us. It may be something as simple as baking a special recipe each year together or reading the Christmas story from the Bible on Christmas Eve. It might be a special shopping trip each year with Daddy or Mommy, or going caroling around your neighborhood, followed by cookies and hot chocolate. It might be donating your family’s time, talent or treasures to those in need, or baking snowman cookies to eat while watching Frosty the Snowman for the first time of the year. The possibilities are endless – only you know what will work for your family – and the rewards are so very special and will bless your family for years and years to come.

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Looking for more tips? – visit Mother Hen at Ship Full O’ Pirates to find the list of participants in this week’s Help For Growing Families.

Have a fun and tradition-filled day!

Blessings,
Nancy

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Help For Growing Families – Secret Santas

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As our family has grown, we have started something that is so helpful to us around this time each year. We started off with our children buying Christmas gifts for each other, which is easy to do when there are relatively few of them. As the numbers grew, it started to get really ridiculous – with the number of children ‘s gift exchanges heading up to the 30+ range! This presented several problems – first of which was that usually Mom and Dad were footing the bill for all of these gifts, since most of the children were too little to have a steady income. And second – do you know how long it takes to open all of those gifts? We’re one of those families that takes turns one by one opening so that everyone can see and enjoy what the others have received. And third – they really don’t need that many presents – our house is full enough already!

So, I think around about the 5th or 6th child, we started what we call Secret Santas. Early in the season, I write each child’s name on a slip of paper and put them all in a Christmas basket. Each child draws a slip of paper and, as long as it doesn’t have his own name on it, they give it to me to record on the master list. The name they drew is the person that they will buy a Christmas gift for that year. This name is kept a secret until Christmas morning when the gifts are unwrapped.

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This has been such a great thing for our family! The children get so excited about drawing each year and they love keeping the secret all season long from each other – there’s always lots of fun whispering and plotting!

The names were drawn this year at Jeff’s birthday dinner last month and several gifts have been purchased already. Let the fun begin!

Visit Mother Hen at Ship Full O’ Pirates for more great tips for growing families! Mr. Linky was acting up over there the last time I checked, but some of the links are posted in the comments of Mother Hen’s post.

Blessings,
Nancy

Help for Growing Families – Stairs Baskets

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Welcome to this week’s installment of Help for Growing Families! This week I would like to tell you about our stairs baskets. We live in a two story house and this is a great help to us. If you live in a single story, maybe there’s a way to adapt this idea for your home – but, probably, you won’t need this as much.

You may have seen the baskets that are sold for staircases – the idea behind them being that you place a basket on the stairs, and drop things in it throughout the day that need to go upstairs. Then, when you’re ready to go up, you just take the basket up with you and distribute it at that time. This saves many trips up and down, as well as keeping your house neater throughout the day.

I have adapted this idea to suit our large family. I have three baskets on my stairs – one for the girls’ room, one for the boys’ room, and one for the hall and linen closet. I have used decorative (but not expensive) baskets, so that they will look nice, but still be functional.

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We put things in them all day long, including clean laundry. At chore time before dinner, while each child is cleaning their assigned room for the week (go here to read about how that works), they simply put items in the appropriate basket. Part of chore time is for them to take up their room’s basket and put things away.

Now, the only down side is that most days the stairs look like this during the day –

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But, we don’t mind this so much as long as it is emptied before dinnertime. This is a simple idea, but it works for our family and has made life in a two-story home much easier.

For more helpful tips, please visit Mother Hen at Ship Full O’ Pirates to find the list of participants in this week’s Help for Growing Families.

Blessings,
Nancy

Help for Growing Families – Chore System

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This week I thought that I would share the system that we have in place for the children’s chores. Over the years we have tried many different approaches to chores, but this is what is working for us right now.

Four of the children are assigned a room each week downstairs that they are responsible for straightening up each day at chore time. They tidy that room every day for a week. The next week, we rotate them around to another room, so they each have a turn at each of the four rooms on the rotation in a month (some rooms are harder than others, so this keeps it fair).

In addition to their assigned room, they have one special chore a day. These include things like washing windows, vacuuming, sweeping, wiping down cabinets, washing mirrors, dusting pictures, etc. These do not rotate and are assigned to the same day every week. They are handed out based on age and skill level. Every so often I overhaul this chore schedule and change them around some – this way they eventually learn how to do different things as they get older.

The two littlest children are not on the room rotation, but help out with whatever needs doing that they can handle. Since Anna just turned five, I will probably start giving her one daily chore to do that will be her daily responsibility, rather than just helping someone else.

Matthew also is not on the room rotation, since he works now and is many times not here at chore time to tidy up. He does have a special chore each day, however, and is responsible for mowing the lawn in season.

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Chore time is usually around 5:00 pm or sometimes I wait until Jeff gets home, so he can supervise it (if it’s been one of “those” days).

Lately we’ve started adding in something new during the day that has been a really big help. We call it the “20 Item Pickup”, and it works just like it sounds – everyone picks up 20 items each in the living room and puts them where they go. I use this when the living room has gotten super messy (most days) long before chore time – mostly for my own sanity – I can’t function when the house looks like a tornado (David) has just gone through. The children think it’s fun and it helps the house (and me) survive until the more thorough straightening at dinnertime. It also makes it a bit easier on the person assigned to clean the living room each day, which is usually the dreaded room because it gets the messiest – what can I say? – we live in it.

So, that is our chore system for our children. Feel free to ask me any questions about it. I’ll be happy to go into more detail about their specific chores, if you’d like me to.

To find more helpful tips, please visit Mother Hen at Ship Full O’ Pirates to find the list of participants in this week’s Help for Growing Families.

Hope you have a wonderful evening!

Blessings,
Nancy

Help For Growing Families

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Mother Hen from Ship Full O’ Pirates has started a great new meme over at her site. I’ll let her tell you in her own words her thoughts for this meme –

A place for more experienced moms of several children to share practical advice and helpful hints with new moms just starting out and with each other.

Almost all young (ok, all of us) moms are looking for helpful ideas to make their jobs a little easier or possible. When God sends us many gifts it can be lonely territory. And it can feel like you’re sailing in uncharted seas.

God has a plan for us though. He tells us in Titus chapter 2:3-5,

3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

What a wonderful idea for a meme. Mother Hen asked me to join in the fun, so I am jumping on this bandwagon – with a little fear and trepidation, because I so much feel like I’m still learning myself! But, there may be a few tidbits that I have picked up over the years that might be helpful, and I’m hoping to learn some new ideas from everyone else.

This week I’d like to share with you something I read years ago (I don’t even know where) that I have always remembered. The story involved two friends meeting at the park with their small children to play. One of them was usually quite stressed, visibly so, with the daily life of mothering. After awhile, her friend noticed that she was much more relaxed, content and happy when they met at the park. When asked about the change, she replied, “I simply lowered my expectations of what I could do each day!” So, rather than always living stressed-out because she wasn’t getting everything on her list done, she shortened the list, and lived in the reality of what she could do, not the ideal of what she’d like to do. (Okay, I’m preaching to myself here, too!)

Of course, shortening the list is not always an easy task. But I think, if we’re realistic, there are some things in the day that we might realize are just adding more stress than they are worth. The key is to pray and ask the Lord to help us plan our days – to know what His will is for that day. I think it’s also important to realize that we don’t have to do it all at every stage of life. When we have small children, there is so much time spent just in caring for them, training them and loving them that is so much more important than most other things. I know that I tend to not list these things on my To Do list and so I don’t feel that I am accomplishing much in a day, when really I am accomplishing the most important thing! (Maybe it would help if I did put it on my list!)

So, my word of advice is – if you are going through a stressful time, see what you can scale back on – expect less from each day and you’ll be able to more calmly handle the things that the Lord has for you to do.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

To read more helpful ideas for growing families, please visit Mother Hen at Ship Full O’ Pirates to find the list of helpful participants this week!

Blessings,
Nancy