One Simple Way to Build Relationships with Your Children


My favorite tip for building relationships with our children is a simple one. It doesn’t require much money, time, or energy, and yet it brings such joy and closeness between each parent with each child. What is it?

Buddy Nights!

Buddy nights are just what you might imagine: one parent and one young buddy going out for some one-on-one time. We prefer to actually leave the house for buddy nights, because just as when a husband and wife go out on a date, the whole atmosphere is different and more intimate when you are alone with undivided attention. We can talk more, and listen easily with no distractions. Our children know that we are 100% theirs for a few hours, that they are important to us, and that we believe they are worth setting aside special time for.

How does it work?

For us, buddy nights happen every Thursday after dinner. Having it scheduled and on the calendar has been key for us. Back when we first started buddy nights, we did not have a set, scheduled day, but would simply “aim” for it weekly. Without a pre-determined date on the calendar, however, those special evenings would be hit or miss.

Putting the event on our calendars creates a plan and a commitment, which helps ensure it actually happens. Using Google Calendar has the added benefit of sending us timely reminders, so we can not forget our plans!

My husband and I take turns for buddy night. He’ll take a child out one week, and I will take one the next. The kids take turns as well. We started a while back with our oldest, and worked our way down to the youngest. When we got through everyone, we started over again, reversing the parents so that each parent could spend special time with each child.

So for example:

  • Week 1: Dad takes Writer out for buddy night
  • Week 2: Mom takes Handyman
  • Week 3: Dad takes Cowgirl

and so on.

After all kids have had their weeks, we start over, but this time:

  • Week 1: Mom takes Writer
  • Week 2: Dad takes Handyman


Currently, all children except our one-year-old have regular buddy nights with us. That means it takes two months to go through the entire cycle of children, and each one gets about six buddy nights a year.

What does a buddy night look like?

Buddy nights vary in how they play out every week, with one exception: Dessert!

In our kids’ minds, dessert tends to be an essential beginning of an ideal buddy night. On those occasions when we go out to dinner as a family, we never order dessert because… well… $3-6 per person times eleven people is just ridiculous! Whole family desserts happen at home, for the most part. Buddy nights, however, provide an opportunity to try the cheesecake, creme-brulee, or chocolate lava cake without breaking the bank. And our kids relish it!

Sometimes dessert is all we do, and that is truly enough to foster conversation and strengthen relationships. However, we usually do something else as well. Shopping often happens. Somehow my buddy nights with my boys tend to happen when they are in need of shoes, so we will go shoe-shopping. When I’m with one of the girls, they often want to go look at dresses, scarves, shoes and such. My husband doesn’t really do dress-shopping, but he’s happy to take a stroll through Target or Hobby Lobby from time to time.

little buddy

Handsome left the house as a cowboy, and returned as a Neverland Pirate

Sometimes we may do something extra special, such as hitting golf balls, miniature golf, bowling, or seeing a movie.

A small but important note on older kids:

With older children who are sometimes reluctant to open up, a long drive is helpful. Side by side in the car together, where they don’t need to make eye contact, they are often more open to sharing their hearts. For this reason, we sometimes choose destinations that are farther from home.

Is this they only one-on-one time they get?

By no means is this they only time we spend alone with our children. As homeschoolers, we are together nearly all the time! We work to keep our lives light on “activities,” so that we are always available when our children want to talk, or when we want to have a conversation with them. I often call one of them to sit at my bedside and chat, or make an extra cup of tea or coffee and invite one to sit at the kitchen table with me. Often if I’m heading out of the house, I invite one to come along. Our life is full of one-on-one moments!

Buddy nights help us to ensure that we are intentional in prioritizing time with each of our children. We are striving to live our lives purposefully, rather that just floating along wherever the wind blows. Relationships with our children are so dear and important to us, and buddy nights are one way of arranging our lives to make time to nurture that. Those hours we spend are so precious, and I know that we will never regret one moment of it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and ideas on growing relationships with your children! Please leave a comment and share!

A Tea Party!

We have been studying the late 1700s/early 1800s. For culture week, one of our activities was to hold an old fashioned English tea party!

The girls made tea sandwiches and  delicious scones, both blueberry and chocolate chip. We used beautiful tea cups that we found at a thrift store, turned on some classical music, and got dressed up.


The girls own a few formal gowns that a family member passed along to them. I found my dress at the same thrift store as the tea cups, and I wore my wedding jewelry from 19 years ago!  The girls pieced together a sweet outfit for Strawberry, and put her hair in an adorable ribbon. Baby Princess wore a dress that my oldest daughter wore in a wedding fourteen years ago! Most of the boys dressed up too, gentlemen that they are.

Most of us took on the name and persona of a Jane Austen character. Joining our party were Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Bennett, and Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice), along with Elinor Dashwood and Margaret Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility). The men in the party were Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley (Pride and Prejudice), and Mr. Knightley (Emma).

Those of you who like Jane Austen, I know you’re enjoying this. Those who don’t, just nod your heads and humor us Austen geeks.


The guy in the yellow t-shirt was “John.” I don’t know who John is or where he appeared in an Austen book, but that is who Sonshine wanted to be.


This young man, on the other hand, hailed from the American colonies. He wanted to be called simply, “Cowboy.” The American’s manners were good natured but rather unrefined for a proper tea party (smile), but the ladies took a liking to his rugged good looks.

Jane Bennett prepares tea for Charlotte Lucas.

teaparty4Young Miss Margaret Dashwood enjoys the scones!teaparty5

Pinkies up as drank our tea!



Personalized Napkin Rings

napkin rings2We recently converted to cloth napkins, a good fit for our family, which races through napkins at lightning speed. I found some nice black napkins at Amazon, and bought 48 of them. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider that eleven people sit down for three meals a day, with occasional dinner guests, we wanted to have a large stock so we won’t ever run out.

To avoid laundering 33 napkins a day (one napkin per person, three meals a day), we set some ground rules:

  1. Everyone takes a fresh napkin at breakfast.
  2. If their napkin is still reasonably clean after breakfast, they save it to use again after lunch.
  3. If it’s dirty, they toss it in the laundry basket.
  4. The same applies after lunch.
  5. After dinner, all napkins are tossed in with laundry whether they appear dirty or not.

Since napkins are reused throughout the day, we want to ensure that everyone had their “own” daily napkin. Even though re-used napkins are all pretty clean, no one else wants to use a napkin someone else may have wiped their mouth with. This is where the napkin rings come in! By using personalized napkin rings, everyone puts their napkins in their own rings, thus avoiding the spread of germs and overall yuckiness.

I ordered simple, square-shaped, black napkin rings, eighteen in all, from eBay. Since we have lots of Mickey Mouse fans in our household, I used a paint pen to draw a simple Mickey head on each napkin ring, and wrote out each family member’s name underneath. We have seven extras on hand for company, with just a Mickey head and no name.

I have no idea how long the paint will survive. Quick touch-ups should be easy, but I really hope that they’re not often needed. Perhaps a layer of clear nail polish or some sort of craft glaze would help prolong our efforts?

The project was so easy and inexpensive, and yet I love the classic, simple look with a touch of Disney whimsy!

napkin rings blur

How do you like our new look?


If you visited our blog at all yesterday, you may have seen some crazy looking stuff! Clashing colors, several headers auditioning for the role of “Header of the Year,” widgets being moved all over the place, all while I hoped nobody would happen to click into the blog at precisely that moment and see the mess.

This happens sometimes when I get bored with the design and decide to change things up. I do the same thing with furniture in my house.

Anyhow, I’m going for a more clean, fresh look and feel. The new blog-do also inspired me to snap a few family pictures to use in the new header. Sweet Happy and Cowgirl also took a photo of Iron Man and me. Although I’m not using it in the header, I wanted to at least share it here.

I really like the new design, at least for now. Give me a year, and I’ll probably want to try something completely different.  Does anyone else enjoy redecorating blogs and homes?

Writing Projects for the Young Bunch

Last week in our Homeschool Curriculum post, I shared that I’m using Here to Help Learning to teach writing to my 1st through 5th graders. Some of you were interested in how we like it. The answer is that we like it very much!

The videos themselves are high quality and creative. Beth, the teacher and homeschool mother herself, is wonderfully engaging with my young crew. The activities are fun, and Beth has a knack for helping the kids to understand and apply new concepts. For example, in teaching the concept of avoiding overused or undescriptive words, she uses the term, “dead words.” She plays a game called “Dead Words Tell No Tales” in which she gives a “dead word,” and the children have two minutes to brainstorm better word choices, as many as possible. Mine came up with 30-something excellent word replacements for “nice.” She also provides live classroom demonstrations of other children going through the writing process, so the kids can learn by example.

My children recently finished their first writing project. The topic was “Learning Something New.” The children were to explain how they learned a new skill, the challenges they faced, etc. I thought I’d share my children’s final drafts here.


First we have Happy, 5th grade, who veered slightly from the original topic. Originally wanting to write about woodworking, he instead thought it would be interesting to write about the head injury he sustained while doing a woodworking project. I agreed that this could be interesting and wanted to see where he would go with it, so I gave him permission to write on the different topic.


We planned to tear down a wall. Result: Staples, in my head! I’m sorry, maybe I should tell the whole story.

We had just moved into a new house. The previous owners had a dark media room, but my family wanted a playroom. The previous owners had built a fake wall to shut out the light. There were upsides to the wall and downsides. The wall gave us toy shelves, and a great hiding spot. Downsides: The shelves were a hazard, and the wall shut out the natural light from the window.

We chose to get rid of the wall. We  planned to destroy the wall on a very memorable Saturday. My Dad, Handyman and I  gathered a hatchet, hammer, ladder, and drill. We set to work.We took out the shelves, then the door, and then the wall.

Then we were working on the frame. I heard l “LOOK OUT!” A board came swinging down at my head. Dad caught one end but the other end hit me. BAM. There was a konk sound. Memories after that are blurry. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor with ice on my head getting ready to go. Next thing I remember I was in the car on my way to the emergency room. The doctor put some medical staples in my head. I then went home, and later I even helped finish the wall.

The moral of this true story is “Never trust a guy on a ladder.” No, just kidding!

The moral is really “Never tear down a wall without a hardhat.


Next up is Strawberry, 3rd grade. She is learning to type this year, and I’m super-proud to report that she typed up her composition by herself.

Learning to Ride

My older siblings had so much fun riding their bikes. I decided I wanted to join them.

I was five or six when my brother outgrew his little blue bike with red training wheels. I felt excited when he gave it to me.I did wonderful with it.

I was eight when my sister gave me her pink Barbie bike. It did not have training wheels. I felt happy, but a little too scared to ride it.

(rhyme time)

One sunny day when my parents were away, my grandparents came to stay. My sister Writer took me outside to teach me how to ride. It was fun, but hard. First Writer held onto the bike handles, then she held onto the back of the bike. When I didn’t know, she let it go! The bike started to wobble, and I panicked knowing she had let go. I fell, and skinned my knees. I tried again up and down the driveway. Then I tried riding in circles, and I realized I was good at them.  

Not long after that we moved to Texas. I started to do bigger circles on the road. I’m good  at riding my bike now. Now that I can ride my bike, I love the feeling of the exercise, the cool wind in my face, and speeding down the street.

The End

Note: Writer claims that Strawberry took some creative liberties in her story. She wishes to state for the record that Strawberry did not skin her knees. Who tells the truth? It is a mystery!


Finally, we have Conductor, 1st grade. I helped him with the mechanical side of his writing because, as with many first grade boys, his fine motor skills require him to use a pencil either very slowly or very messily. It isn’t easy to build creative momentum when you need a minute or two to put a sentence to paper! I also gave him some help with ideas and sentence structure, since this was his first experience with composition writing. However, the bulk of the ideas and words came directly from his own mouth.

How I Learned to Swim

I was just a little boy about three or four years old. My older brothers and sisters could go swimming without swimmies, and I wished I could join in.

At our old house, we had a pool where I could touch the bottom with my tippy toes. It was not deep, but my parents said I must wear swimmies.

This summer, we moved to Texas. Now at our house, we have a big, deep, blue pool. The pool has a fence so no one will run or fall in and drown. At first, I still had to wear swimmies so I would not sink. Then Mom taught me how to swim. Learning to swim was tough. There were short times when Mom would let me go without swimmies. When we were in the deeper part, she would hold onto me and let go.

In a few days, I could stay above water without swimmies. My mom let me take my swimmies off when she was watching me. I practiced and practiced and got faster. When I put my face in the water, I could go really fast. Now I don’t need swimmies at all.

Now I have so much fun with all my brothers and sisters in the swimming pool, splashing in the cool water. We swim, we jump in, and we go deep.

The End

I love how every young child needs to end their stories with a proper “The End.”  :)

Thumbs up for Here to Help Learning for great writing instruction, and to my young bunch for their writings.