"Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes." (Elder David A Bednar, Ensign, Nov. 2009)
(in no particular order)
1. Family dinners. Dinner doesn't need to be fancy (a bowl of cereal will do), but there's something about the simple gathering around the table that does more for reconnecting than a thousand special outings. With kids on four different school schedules, it's often the only time of the day where we are all (or mostly all) gathered in one location all day. I hear them joking with each other, telling about their days, and in general, enjoying being together. It's honestly one of my favorite times of the day.
(Apparently I don't take pictures of us at the dinner table very often, since this one of us at a restaurant was the only one I could find. )
2. Family Home Evenings. Anyone who's been reading my blog for long knows that I am a family home evening lover. I feel so strongly that I never want my kids to wonder how I feel about the gospel. While it's not always easy finding a time that we can all meet together, I love that I get a weekly opportunity to bear my testimony to them. With my kids now 5-15 years old, our lessons have had to evolve over the years, but I find us covering the same topics year after year, the gospel basics. We use lots of pictures and object lessons for the younger kids and in-depth discussions on real life applications for the older kids.
3. Getting to know the kids' teachers (and classmates). This one is hard when you're in the midst of taking care of babies and toddlers, but even a small effort will pay off. I really like seeing the teacher's interactions with the kids. I like seeing how my own child interacts with the other kids. I like seeing which kids my child seems to be friends with and which kids I would like them to foster friendships with. In addition, field trips are also a great way to connect with other parents, that you may otherwise rarely see. I also rather like the loud exclamations of, "Adam's Mom! Adam's Mom!" whenever their classmates see me. :)
4. Reading to your kids every day. I, for one, love reading time as much for the snuggling as I do for literary benefits. I read to my kids as long as they'll let me and I cherish that time with them.
(I love this picture of my dad reading to Ellie and Andrew)
5. Waking up before your kids. In years past I've woke up about the same time as the kids and found that I often didn't get my own needs taken care of (like a shower or a good breakfast), because I was so frantic getting them ready. Since Spencer has begun early morning seminary and Cami has started middle school, I am forced to be up before the little ones (long before them), and I am surprised at how much smoother my days go now. It's worth it to get up before them, even if it's only 15-20 minutes.
6. Taking walks with your kids. Not only is it good exercise, but I really feel like getting away from the distractions of the house is therapeutic for them and me. I invariably hear far more details about their days and funny stories that I don't know that I would've heard otherwise. I love it. I also love how, as we saunter slowly around the neighborhood, they take notice of the beauty in the world around them--the birds, the squirrels, the flowers, the clouds.
7. Family prayers. We're at the stage of life that we end up saying several family prayers each morning and night, so that no one gets missed. I feel like this simple exercise of being quiet and turning our hearts to God for a few moments every day, is one of the most powerful things we can do to teach our children what the gospel means to us.
8. Hold your babies and snuggle with toddlers as long as possible. I can't believe that I'm past those years of my life now, but I am a big advocate for holding your babies as much as humanly possible. While of course there are times you have to set them down, but I feel like the hours spent holding and snuggling them instead of putting them in the bouncy seat or swing is time you'll never regret. I know it's cliche, but it's a true cliche; chores and projects can wait, but babies don't wait to grow. Hold 'em, snuggle 'em, love 'em....it's worth it.
(Ellie gets a little jealous when I hold other babies.)
9. Moderation & Balance. I tend to be someone who tackles things 150% when something captures my interest. While my interests are not bad or anything, I have to be careful not to let it take over. Moderation in my own pursuits. Moderation in kids' pursuits. It's not easy finding the right balance, but making an effort to keep your life in balance--physically, spiritually, emotionally--is something that helps the pieces to fit together better.
10. Light-heartedness. I am one who tends to take myself too seriously, so it is with effort that I have to strive not to be too serious with the kids, especially the older ones. Of course there are times to be serious, but do they really need a 10 minute lecture about how they're supposed to clear their dishes from the table? I notice that the more I put aside the lectures and try to keep a smile on my face while we talk, the more they listen. Being able to laugh at myself certainly is helpful with having teenagers too.
PS All this philosophizing is kind of tiring. Beware of bubbling goofiness starting to brew. :)