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I know I’m not the only one who finds the task of hunting down the “coolest” and most thoughtful Father’s Day present superbly difficult. Your challenge has probably been trying to find “The Thing” that perfectly encapsulates how amazing of a father your husband is. IMPOSSIBLE. Sure, there’s the Home Depot gift card, or the steak dinner, or the new grill or gadget (not painting a blanket statement on the guys, this has just been my own experience). However, none of these things ever seem to accurately express the depth of gratitude you have for your man! 

I may have a solution that seems simple on the surface but can express what a Home Depot gift card cannot: Words and Actions of Affirmation and Encouragement. 

Joel Wong, psychologist and author of The Psychology of Encouragement, says, “Encouragement can be defined as the expression of affirmation through language… to instill courage, perseverance, confidence, inspiration, or hope in a person within the context of addressing a challenging situation or realizing a potential.” 

A great dad is living into the challenge of parenting your kiddos. And believe it or not, he probably needs affirmation more than you think he does. (And maybe even more than he thinks he does!)

I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I feel most loved is when I am acting within a challenging situation and someone on the outside takes my chin and tells me that I’m doing a good job. 

Simplicity can be incredibly powerful. 

So, here are 10 ways to affirm your husband as a dad: 

  1. Write down one way he has been an amazing dad for each year he has been a parent. So, if he’s been a parent for 10 years, that’s 10 pieces of encouragement! 
  2. This one is for the “physical touch” people. Either take your man’s hands, or give him a hug, or cup his face in your hands and tell him that he is killin’ it as a dad and that you’re thankful he is your partner. 
  3. Ask how you can best support him as a father. This question will show your husband that you care deeply about his needs and that you’re there to support him. 
  4. Gather your kids and tell stories about all the ways he has been an amazing father. This could become a Father’s Day tradition! Stories could include daddy-daughter dates or help with homework, etc. 
  5. Think through the hopes and dreams you had for how your husband would parent your future children. Tell him the ways he has either met or exceeded those desires. 
  6. Ask him what his highs and lows of parenting were this year, and then see what conversations this sparks. Listen to him and affirm him where needed. 
  7. Since quality conversation leads to quality sex, this feels like an appropriate lead-in. From time to time, get the kids to bed early, just so you and your husband can have some time alone together (if you know what I mean)! It will make him feel like a priority. 
  8. Challenge your kids to write down some ways they think their dad is the best. You could fold up the pieces of paper, put them in a hat or bowl, and then read them one by one at dinner time. Have your husband guess which kid wrote what! 
  9. Affirm your husband in public as well! An awesome dad friend/co-worker told me that his wife is great at standing up for him when he finds himself at the butt of a harmless joke. “When other moms might make a harmless joke at my expense, like, ‘Oh, he’s taking care of the kids tonight? Think they’ll be in one piece when you get back?’ [My wife] is pretty quick to let them know how capable I am, which tells me she has confidence in me.” 
  10. Don’t be afraid to go big for Father’s Day! Celebrate your man’s dadness with his favorite meal, or by doing something he loves to do, etc. 

Other helpful resources:

Practical Ways to Practice Generosity in Marriage

DOWNLOAD: 30 Days of Gratitude and Love

DOWNLOAD: 25 Family Activities

First Things First Virtual Date Night

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages

If you don't reach your goals, it doesn't mean your relationship is a failure!

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

According to data collected in 2018 by the fitness app Strava, January 17 is when many start to give up on their resolutions. By early to mid-February, many have thrown in the towel. What does this mean for you and for your relationship? 

If you set goals as a couple, maybe to rein in finances or invest in your marriage, failure can seem detrimental, especially if one spouse is ready to give up. At the same time, the other wants to push forward. When both partners aren’t on the same page regarding goals for their relationship, resentment can develop. One person throwing the towel in may lead the other to think they don’t care or are lazy. So what do you do?

A failed goal doesn’t mean that your relationship is a failure. 

Remember, your relationship’s health is most important. It may be time to press pause on the pursuit of the goal and reevaluate. Have a conversation about why one or both of you gave up. Communication is a necessity! Don’t wait. Talk. 

Ask yourselves if the goal is a mutual interest or if one spouse wants this and the other went along trying to support it. My wife and I have the goal to be a healthier couple physically. We want to be healthier for our kids, but we don’t go about it the same way. I may have my eyes set on running a marathon. She may be pursuing healthier eating habits and consistent cardio workouts. We support each other and are each other’s #1 cheerleader. We’re committed to helping each other reach our goals. 

Don’t worry; January 1 doesn’t hold any magical power when it comes to goal setting. 

You can adjust and start fresh on whatever day you choose. (YES!)

Here are some questions to ask if you feel like your relationship goals aren’t going as well as you hoped this year:

  • Who do you want to be as a couple? As a spouse?
  • What is the motivation for the goals?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Are the goals realistic and achievable?

Knowing the why and how is essential to accomplishing the goal. Identify who you are as a couple and your identity, then work the plans out from there. Maybe as a couple, you want to influence others to prioritize their relationship by having consistent date nights. That’s your goal. How do you work it out? Schedule your date nights and make them a priority on your calendar. Other people will recognize this, and you may influence another couple to do the same. 

Realizing a goal is about who you want to be as a person; achieving it is a journey, not a pass/fail. 

You can and will make adjustments as you go. Adjusting is not a sign of failure but a sign of growth. Commit to working together and supporting one another.

Don’t let failed resolutions affect your marriage. Step back, have a conversation, reset your goals, and plan for success. 

Other blogs you may want to check out on this topic:

Whether you’re together or apart this year, these holiday conversation starters are sure to spark some joy and help you get to know each other better.

Now go get your party started!

  1. In your opinion, what would the ultimate winter wonderland look like?
  2. What is your favorite Christmas scent?
  3. What is the single most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
  4. If time were not a concern and you had plenty of money, how would you decorate the outside of your home?
  5. Candy canes, of course, are the traditional candy of Christmas. If you could have your way, what would be the official candy of Christmas?
  6. You have a beautiful 50-foot pine tree in your front yard that you are allowed to decorate with only one color of lights. Which color would you choose?
  7. Of course, red and green are the traditional colors of Christmas. What two other colors do you think could—or should—become the standard for the season?
  8. At Christmastime, which do you honestly enjoy more—giving or receiving?
  9. What is the first Christmas you can remember? What do you remember about it?
  10. Do you have any ethnic traditions that you honor during the Christmas season?
  11. In your opinion, what word(s) would best complete the following phrase: “‘Tis the season to be …”?
  12. What holiday food do you enjoy the most?
  13. Which event or aspect of the Christmas season do you look forward to most of all?
  14. If snow could fall in any flavor, what flavor would you choose?
  15. What makes a Christmas gift really special to you?
  16. If you could Christmas shop until you drop in any one store, which store would you choose?
  17. What do you typically do the day after Christmas?
  18. If you could indulge in only one type of cookie this holiday season, which cookie would you be eating a lot of?
  19. If you could invite any famous person to your house for Christmas dinner, whom would you ask?
  20. No other time of the year affords such a great opportunity to enjoy good food and drink. In your opinion, what is the best taste the Christmas season has to offer?
  21. What would be the ideal way for you to spend Christmas Eve?
  22. On a scale of one to ten (with one being very relaxing and ten being very stressful), how stressful is the holiday season for you?
  23. What brought you joy this year?
  24. If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
  25. What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Related blogs:

100 CONVERSATION STARTERS TO INCREASE YOUR FAMILY’S CONNECTEDNESS

25 Fun Holiday Date Ideas for Couples

Get cozy and grow closer with this merry little list that's guaranteed to make the holidays sweeter!

The holidays are the perfect time for couples to experience closeness and connection in the spirit of the season. Try out a few of these fun holiday date ideas with the one you love most! 

  1. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with some gourmet hot chocolate
  2. Pick up some donuts and coffee and visit neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.
  3. Bake Christmas cookies together to give to family, friends, neighbors, or first responders. 
  4. Pick out a live tree or wreath at a Christmas tree farm.
  5. Check out a Christmas concert, either live or online. If you’re on a budget, look up local places of faith or high schools having choir or band concerts.
  6. Go Christmas gift shopping in your Christmas pajamas.
  7. Support a local organization such as Toys for Tots by shopping for and delivering gifts for needy families.
  8. Build gingerbread houses together using graham crackers, icing, and an assortment of candies.
  9. Decorate outside of your house with Christmas decorations and add one thing new this year.
  10. Go ice skating.
  11. Create ugly Christmas sweaters together and wear them out to eat.
  12. Have a couple of Christmas photos taken, either by a photographer or yourself using your phone. Be as creative and humorous as you can with locations and poses.
  13. If the weather is right, go sledding, build a snowman, or have a snowball fight. (Or make your own snow!)
  14. Go caroling with other couples or another group.
  15. Do your own photoshoot in matching Christmas pajamas.
  16. Have a backyard fire with hot chocolate and marshmallows.
  17. Dance in your living room to Christmas songs. (Set the playlist on random!)
  18. Have your picture taken with Santa.
  19. Take a holiday cooking class together, either in-person or streaming.
  20. Wrap gifts while playing holiday songs and eating Christmas treats.
  21. Visit your favorite coffee shop and write Christmas cards to families and friends. (Or create a Christmas letter.) 
  22. Watch “A Christmas Story” and give each other a kiss every time the words “Christmas,” “Santa,” or “You’ll shoot your eye out” are said.
  23. Give each other a soothing massage with oil or lotion, candles, soft Christmas music, and nothing but the Christmas tree lights on.
  24. Get a box of assorted chocolates from the store and take turns giving each other a bite and guessing the flavor.
  25. Do holiday karaoke. 

There’s no excuse to not enjoy some special time with your spouse this holiday season. Pick one of these ideas and make a fun holiday date this week. And happy holidays!

It’s been a different kind of year, to say the least. You’ve changed, adapted, adjusted, and dealt with disappointments, uncertainties and the unexpected. But you made it. And as a family, you made it together. Here are 20 fun ways to end 2020 on a high note with your family.

These ways will help you connect with your family and remember what’s most important.

  1. Give to essential workers—thank you notes, gift cards, prepackaged treats, coffee, etc.
  2. Build and play a music playlist with songs each family member has listened to most in 2020.
  3. Family Karaoke with songs from 2020.
  4. Practice your 20-20 vision by naming what you’re most thankful for in 2020.
  5. Learn a new game the family can play together in 2021. Teach it to others and create a new tradition. 
  6. See how many family and friends you can get on to one video call. Have a simple encouraging message that your family can share with everyone who gets on the video.
  7. Get hot cocoa and go on a holiday lights tour in your car.
  8. Write letters to family members. Include family updates, pictures, highlights of the year.
  9. Read a book together as a family.
  10. Create and write a family story together.
  11. Build a fort and camp out in the living room. Each family member chooses a TV show or movie, and the family watches it together.
  12. Make s’mores in the kitchen using a microwave, stove, or oven and share funny memories from 2020. (No burns! Be careful!)
  13. Cook a favorite family meal. All hands on deck to prepare the meal.
  14. Look online and create a special family meal together: buy the ingredients, make plans, cook it together and of course, eat together.
  15. List what you’ve learned about yourself or your family from A-Z. A: We’re Appreciative of each other. B: We’re Bad at Board Games. C: Cook good meals, etc.
  16. Have a family awards ceremony. For example: Best Attitude, Loudest Snorer, Longest Shower, Most Adaptable, Best Hand-Washer, Best Sharer, Most Improved Attitude, Most Improved Cook, Best Helper, and come up with your own categories!
  17. Cardboard Race Cars—build a race car out of cardboard and race around your home.
  18. Build a maze or tunnels through your home out of cardboard. 
  19. Use cardboard to build forts and have a family fun time: paper battles, Nerf gun battles, pillow battles, blow-dart battles using straws and Q-tips, etc.
  20. Create your own New Year’s Eve Party. Make your own ball drop, streamers, and countdown clock. With younger children, you don’t have to wait until midnight to watch the ball drop.

Bonus:

Make a large sign wishing neighbors a Happy New Year. You can drive through your neighborhood honking your horn so neighbors will look out and see the sign. Post on family social media accounts. Include an encouraging message to lift their spirits.

The circumstances aren’t what we remember most as a family most. It’s how we deal with the circumstances that color how we remember events. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t have or get to do during this challenging year, help your family recognize how you grew and are better for it.

Here we are at Christmas, supposedly “the most wonderful time of the year.” Children are wide-eyed in anticipation, excitedly telling their parents what they want Santa to bring them. On the other hand, parents are reeling amid the pandemic with too many unanswered questions to count. 

Let’s don’t even talk about finances. Or the pressure to make sure everything is in stock and ordered early enough to arrive on time. 

Give Something Different

Can we press the pause button for a minute? I think it might help to take a step back, breathe, and think about a few things. There are lots of voices telling your children what they should ask for this Christmas. While some of those Christmas gifts may be awesome, the truth is, what your child really wants for Christmas and what you actually end up giving your child this Christmas may be two very different lists. And for good reason.

I’ve been down the road of being really proud of myself for getting some of those begged-for items, only to see them sitting in the corner a few weeks into the new year.

After several years, it occurred to me: maybe those things aren’t really the best Christmas gifts I could give my child. That sent me down the trail of thinking about what I could give her that wouldn’t break, sit abandoned in the corner, or be returned to the store. Challenge accepted.

Give Something Meaningful

Here are some of the things we gave her through the years instead.

  • Coupon book. We made a coupon book with 20 or so different coupons for things like an ice cream date, getting out of a chore for a day, making your favorite dinner, popcorn and movie night, dessert before dinner, staying up past bedtime, and extra video game time.
  • Membership or passes to a children’s museum, aquarium, zoo, rock-climbing, zip-lining, or other attraction to stimulate both the brain and body.
  • Vision book. We asked people who knew our daughter well—teachers, friends, coaches, grandparents, neighbors—to write her a short note talking about the qualities they saw in her and giving her words of encouragement. I put all of the messages in a scrapbook and gave it to her. She’s all grown up, but that book is still with her.
  • Scavenger hunts and experiences. A wrapped box under the tree with a clue in it that led to the next clue somewhere around the house… which after numerous clues would lead to the gift. One year it was tickets to a concert we attended as a family. Another year, it was a weekend daddy-daughter trip. The goal was to create lasting memories instead of temporary excitement. I think it worked because we still talk about those experiences today.

Back to hitting the pause button. After a few Christmases, it occurred to me that each year around September, I started feeling significant stress about Christmas—shopping, finances, and attitude over gifts I bought that weren’t the right thing. I actually began to dread what was my favorite time of the year. Something had to give. That’s when we decided to do things differently.

Give Something That Lasts

In the end, I think we decided that not giving our daughter all the stuff on her list might have been one of the best Christmas gifts we gave her as her parents. You can’t buy the conversations and laughter around those memories. And they are there forever. 

They won’t ever put this on their Christmas list, but what children really want for Christmas is to know they are loved by their parents. Don’t expect a huge thank you for not getting everything on their Christmas list. That won’t happen for a long time—maybe never. But, coming up with creative ways to celebrate your child, creating memories with them, and showing them your unconditional love truly will be the most priceless gift you can give to them. You’ll never regret giving them that, and you don’t have to break the budget, wait for it to arrive in the mail, or get it at the mall.

Photo by Any Lane from Pexels

Whew! What a year it has been. We’ve all been through the wringer and it looks like this will be our reality for a while. How do we handle such hard stuff and not let circumstances steal our joy, especially around the holidays?

I grew up with a brother who had many special needs. Every single day posed some kind of challenge to him. While he was never supposed to live past 30, he passed away at 56. Because of his life circumstances, he had every reason not to be joyful, yet he was one of the most joyful, funny people I’ve ever known. I’m thinking I could take a cue or two from him about navigating hard times without letting them steal my joy. As we approach the holidays, here are some things Lee taught me about finding joy when life is hard that may be helpful for you, too.

1. Don’t let circumstances dictate your mindset.

Even in the worst situations, it is possible to have joy because you can choose it. What amazed me about Lee was although he had bad days, they were always the exception to the rule. I don’t remember my mom saying to him, “You are going to be happy,” and that wouldn’t have worked anyway. Somehow, he was able to look past all of his daily challenges and experience joy. Boy, do I want that! The holidays may not go like we want or plan for, but they’re going to happen and we get to choose to make the best of them!

2. Focus on others.

Lee was always thinking of others. Once, on a trip, he bought so many t-shirts for friends and co-workers, he didn’t have room for his own clothes when it was time to pack. If my mom hadn’t made him pack his clothes, I guarantee you he would have left them behind. He loved people and genuinely cared for them. Spending time loving on others and letting them care for us can help us experience joy.

3. Wishing away your current set of circumstances can steal joy, and it’s a waste of time.

No doubt, all of us are over COVID-19 and ready to get on with life. But, the more we talk about and focus on that, the more joyless we become. My brother was on dialysis for the last 10 years of his life. Three times a week he would sit in the chair for hours while the machines worked. He didn’t like it, but I never really heard him complain. He took that opportunity to meet a whole bunch of people he never would have known otherwise. Lee chose to see the opportunity in his current set of circumstances instead of focusing on wishing them away. We can do that, too. 

4. Make a list of all the things that bring you joy.

Sweets, football, holidays and people, for example. My brother never met a sweet he didn’t like, but he especially liked sugar-coated orange slices. Give him a container of those and his face lit up like you had given him gold. While he couldn’t add numbers, he knew football better than most and was an avid fan. He loved every holiday, but Christmas was his favorite. Being around people made him happy. What brings you joy? How can you bring joy to others during the holidays?

5. Avoid information overload.

Lee was aware when tough things were happening in our world and he took in the information, but he didn’t go looking for more. News and talking heads are available 24/7, so it’s easy to get drawn into the same news over and over again. I’m not even going to go there with social media, but…you know. Talk about joy-stealing on steroids—that’ll do it for you. We have to learn to turn it off. I haven’t spoken to anybody yet who regretted limiting it. This is a great time to take a break from technology and spend that time doing activities that bring you and others joy.

I’ve learned it is exhausting to focus on the negative and it for sure doesn’t help me work my way through the hard times. During times when we are really put to the test, just doing one thing differently can help begin the process of flipping the script. Circumstances will only steal our joy if we allow them to this holiday season.

How to Plan for the 2020 Holidays Without Getting Stressed Out

Happy (and easier) holidays can be yours with the people who mean the most to you!

For many of us, planning for the holidays is just another thing to add to our long list of things that stress us out. I felt the pressure as I walked into Home Depot over the weekend—I was greeted by a HUGE variety of holiday decor. 

OMG! It’s that time of year, again. 

This year, like no other, will cause you to search for the true meaning of the holidays and new ways to celebrate.

As you prepare for this upcoming holiday season, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What’s the meaning of the holidays to you and your family? 
  • In the past, what have the holidays looked like? 
  • What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions?
  • This year, what will be different? 
  • What needs to change?

Personally, the holidays are a time of celebration and gathering. It usually includes families who travel and friends who are like family. Food and fun are the centerpieces of activity. However, this year requires more conversation and planning beyond the menu and what football game is on television. Below are some ideas to consider as you make your holiday plans.

Think About Other Years The Holidays Were Different. Learn From Them!

This year will be like no other, but there may have been some years that didn’t go according to tradition. I recall one Thanksgiving where I had to work on the day after, but I wanted to have dinner with my out-of-town family. We decided to meet midway between our homes so we could be together. The only thing open was a southern-style restaurant. We were the only people there, and the food was pretty good. Was it our traditional holiday? No. But it is one of the ones that my children talk about and remember the most. 

Consider Creating New Traditions.

Change is not always comfortable for our near and extended family. A tradition becomes a tradition because it has meaning, and it occurs over time. Traditions take many forms: from using Grandmother’s china and silverware to who carves the turkey. As your family grows, it’s inevitable that change will occur. You may have had to create new traditions or adapt old ones. Different doesn’t mean deficient. It’s just different.

Create A Plan.

You have considered how things used to be. Now, think about the new possibilities for the holidays. It’s ok to look at a variety of conditions in order to create a plan that works for your family this year. (You may need to work on contingency plans as well.) 

Here are some thoughts that may enhance your planning:

  • What are the latest health guidelines and recommendations? 
  • Are we willing to travel? If not, will we allow family to come to us?
  • How many people can attend? 
  • Should we be tested before gathering? 
  • Should we gather in homes or try to find a large space for our festivities? 
  • Can we celebrate earlier? Later?

Talk and Listen to Family

Seek out your family to discuss plans. Everyone may not be on the same page and that’s ok. Be open and willing to be flexible with the plan. Listen for concerns and fears, but also new opportunities. Remember the meaning of the holidays and how you can work together to make it come together this year. 

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that family and friends are what matter. The holidays are moments of concentrated time we have with those we care about the most. It may not look the same as it has in the past. It may actually be better because we’re keeping first things first.