Building Memories and Meaning into Everyday Life
By LESLIE LUDY
When my son Hudson was about three, he was moping around the house one afternoon and calling out to anyone who would listen, “I’m feeling creamy! I’m feeling creamy!” Finally I asked him, “You’re feeling creamy? What does that mean?” He looked at me as if it was completely obvious and said matter-of-factly, “It means I want ice cream!”
It was such a hilarious moment that I decided to make his wish come true by taking him to the local malt shop, where he eagerly ordered a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone with rainbow colored sprinkles. The sprinkles, as the malt shop owner wisely pointed out, are mainly there for the “happiness factor.” You can’t really taste them, but they brighten up the whole ice cream experience and bring a smile to even the most serious face.
Hopefully this won’t seem overly cheesy, but ever since that memorable trip to the malt shop, I’ve been on the lookout for ways to add “rainbow sprinkles” to our home and family life. You know, those little special touches and traditions that turn an ordinary day into an exciting one. It’s not that I expect every moment of our family life to look like a photo out of a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, or for each day to end like an episode of Little House on the Prairie. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we forget to add that “sparkle” of fun and romance that makes family life meaningful and memorable. It doesn’t take a trip to Disneyland to add sparkle to everyday life. It just takes some planning, vision, and intentionality.
Since I’m a rather type-A, task-oriented kind of person, taking the time to add romance and sparkle into daily life does not come easily to me. I tend to plan my days according to how much I can accomplish rather than how I can build creativity and fun into family life. But whenever I approach the day with a desire to make things special and memorable for my family, it goes a long way to combat the “survival-mode mentality” that we as young moms can so easily fall into!
Even a very basic study of God’s creation shows us that our heavenly Father goes a long way to provide sparkle and beauty into everyday life for us to enjoy. A scarlet sunset, a bubbling brook, a meadow of brilliant flowers, the sound of chattering squirrels or chirping birds — all of these little “touches” reveal an infinitely creative and divinely artistic Creator who delights in seeing His children find pleasure in His handiwork.
When we take time to add beauty and romance into our family’s daily life out of a desire to love them, serve them, and building meaningful relationships with them, we reflect the nature of our thoughtful, purposeful, beauty-loving, creative God.
I won’t pretend this is an easy goal to achieve—especially when you have many young children. I find that I battle with a constant temptation to simply “get through the day” rather than “make the day special.” But when I turn to the Author of all creativity, sparkle, and beauty, I find that He gives me the ideas, wisdom, and grace I need to add a few rainbow sprinkles to my family’s daily life!
Here are two ways I’ve been putting this principle into practice lately:
1. Create a Family Activities Calendar
Last summer we visited a resort that was geared toward families with young children. Everyday, there was a “Family Activities Calendar” posted on a large chalkboard in the lobby. It included a list of all of the fun “extras” that we could choose to participate in at the resort that day — such as roasting marshmallows by the campfire, participating in a Bingo tournament, decorating your own tee-shirts, or attending a cowboy sing-a-long while making your own trail mix. Even though many of the activities were extremely simple, my kids were very excited about reading the chalkboard each day and choosing which events they wanted to attend.
I’ve done something similar in our home. Each week, I have started posting a “Family Activities Calendar” on a large chalkboard in our kitchen area. Even if we don’t have a lot of “exciting” things on the docket that week, I have found that creating a few fun activities that my kids can look forward to can turn a mundane week into one filled with eager anticipation and smiles. Here’s an example of what a weekly “Family Calendar” might look like:
Note: for really young children, it can be helpful to draw pictures of the activity being promoted — a task which I leave to my husband because my drawings are almost always unrecognizable!
Of course, none of these events are meant to replace our regular times of prayer, Bible-reading, and worship together as a family. But adding in a handful of “bonus” activities like these to each week, on top of our normal routine, can brighten everyone’s perspective and build precious memories.
Tip: If you are “coming up dry” when it comes to thinking of fun family activities, I have found that Family Fun Magazine has some great ideas. Not every suggestion in this magazine is one that I would use (for instance, I always ditch their Halloween ideas or ones that are built around pop-culture in some way) but for the most part, this magazine offers simple, inexpensive, creative ways to build memories together as a family. You can also look at kids’ party planning books for some fun game ideas!
2. Show Simple Thoughtfulness
I tend to get a bit insecure in my mothering when I see beautiful Pinterest photos of incredible home-made birthday cakes, beautiful hand-knit scarves, or gourmet kids’ lunches, packed to perfection and complete with an artistic hand-made card. Suddenly I start feeling like I’m just not talented or creative enough to be a good mom. But the truth is that showing thoughtfulness to my kids throughout the day doesn’t have to be a Pinterest-worthy production. A little note left under my kids’ pillow at night, a smiley-face sticker hiding in their lunchbox, or their favorite snack awaiting them as they come in from the backyard — all of these little touches show them I’m thinking about them throughout the day, and remind them that I love them.
I’ve been asking God to show me simple, purposeful ways that I can demonstrate thoughtfulness to my kids throughout the day. Sometimes it’s a strategic word of encouragement or an unexpected treat. Other times, it’s a more elaborate surprise such as a treasure hunt in the backyard. Showing thoughtfulness usually only takes a few minutes of planning and effort, but these little acts of love can bring a smile to a child’s heart that will last for years to come!