Chicken Dude Tea Party

As I’ve mentioned before, Court does a killer job planning fun family activities for our family. This past Sunday, it was a family tea party based on ideas from the Fancy Nancy Tea Parties book. Court made lollipop placecards, tissue paper flowers, raspberry and orange swirls,

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strawberries supreme,

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ladybug cookies–and, of course, tea.

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The kids cut out and decorated placemats and paper doilies; folded special napkin shapes; and decorated utensils.

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Here’s the full spread:

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And of course, being a fancy tea party, we had to dress up!

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The kids had a blast making all of the tableware and loved the food. SUGAR!!! It’s by far the fanciest tea party we’ve ever had.

Afterward, the guys and girls split up to have a chick night and a dude night. The girls watched “The Parent Trap” while painting their nails. The dudes played LEGO Star Wars on Wii (well, Josiah watched while Liam and I played). We’d been telling the kids all day that it was coming, but when the girls heard us saying, “chick and dude night” they heard “chicken dude night”.

Not exactly what we were going for…

Story Time–A Tornado Who Hula Hoops

We set aside our weekly family night for yesterday. When planning these, I have learned to keep them super simple for the most part. Otherwise, it seems too easy to focus on the activity instead of our actual family. Last night was definitely one of the easier nights–no materials or pre-planning involved. And it was excellent. We simply went around the table making up a story I started. I think it started something like, “Once there was a tornado who wanted to learn to hula hoop, so…”. As you might imagine, there was much laughter to hear how everyone was going to fill in their part of the story. One time Miriam, our two year old, just said, “And he was doomed.” I think the story ended with the tornado transforming into a flaming tornado who jumped through hoops at the circus. Even as the kids were getting ready for bed, though, the discussion about what else might have happened in the story continued.

Last night was especially sweet for our family. This week has been a particularly discouraging one, and Bill and I didn’t realize how much we’ve been neglecting our children until we had the almost tearful relief to simply sit and enjoy each other. Most of our family nights aren’t this enlightening, but the Spirit used this one to show us how self-centered instead of Savior-centered we’ve been in the midst of our circumstances. We forget so quickly who we are! I feel like I can’t take my eyes off my sweet kids’ faces today, smiling in contentment and knowing they are glimpses of the perfect joy we will one day have.

Family Night

[Note from Bill: Even though I’m still struggling to find the right words for my post I had intended for Monday, I don’t want that to stall the blog.  So, Court’s going to rock it out with some stuff about Bell Family Nights.]

I’m sure most of you have very busy schedules. We do, too. So one thing we have been setting aside for a few years is a family night during the week. Here’s how I see this night going: We’re all sitting around the table, laughing and enjoying each other. The fun little activity I had planned and prepped is a huge success and is completed by all the kids saying, “Oh Mommy, all others must be so sad to not have a mommy like you. Your love for us is amazing.” At the night’s conclusion, we all sleep well knowing there is peace, joy, and much bonding that has happened.

More often, though, at least one of the following scenarios take place: A fussy child who screams so loudly for who knows what reason that we can’t hear each other talk, fighting among siblings, an exploding diaper that must be taken care of before poop becomes the new play object, complaining, one or both parents being so tired that the whole time we’re simply looking at the clock eagerly anticipating bed time, etc. I remember one night I had a fun activity planned. The evening actually went much like I described in the first paragraph. I was happy. When we were wrapping up, one child looked at me and asked, “Are we going to play a board game?” I said, “No, Sweetie. We did a craft instead. Wasn’t it fun?” to which the child responded, full grump face in place, “Well then it’s not really family night.”

Many times I use things like family night to try to foster a gospel-centered, joyful home, and many times when the night ends I end up frustrated and angry that it didn’t feel like a success. What’s truly going on is that I wasn’t a success. Instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus, I began to naval gaze. Instead of admiring the work on the cross and naturally imitating what I admire, I tried to force that admiration, making the tool the priority instead of the one to whom the tool was supposed to point. I stopped parenting in Jesus and once again tried to parent like Jesus.

You won’t find family night anywhere in the Bible. Someone in our culture made it up, and now many parents feel like it’s an obligation. It’s not. The Bells, however, have chosen to do this activity. We do it because much like spending time with Jesus helps us know him better and prayerfully leads to an increase in our admiration of him, spending time with our children should in theory lead to an increase in our love for them. So even in the midst of the grumbling, crying, dirty diapers, and fatigue—and oftentimes laughter—we are still getting glimpses into our children’s hearts, the sweet and sinful parts, along with understanding our own hearts better. And if we do family nights in Jesus, we do them in faith, understanding they probably won’t go the way we imagined but giggling the whole time, waiting to see what curve balls are going to be thrown and loving Jesus all the more with each strike out.

Though adding family night to your routine won’t solve any problems in and of itself, it might be something you decide to set aside for your family as a tool to help them look at Jesus. So each time we do some little activity together as a family, we’ll post what we did on here to maybe help spark some ideas. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. If you take ‘em, though, and if your night of softball turns into poopball, just laugh. Jesus is in there somewhere.