It’s the Little Things (guest post)

So I did something crazy. I caught a ride to a writers' conference with a 
complete stranger. Okay, I knew her on-line, but I'd never actually met her 
before. The four-hour (each way) trip passed in minutes as we talked about 
anything and everything. At some point, she told me about her family's 
Friday night traditions; I knew she needed to share their story with you! So 
please welcome Stephanie Pavlantos, now my actual face-to-face 
writer-friend, to Intentional Parenting. Read more about her at the end.

Three children under three. That was my world. My husband worked long hours at our family restaurant, making me feel like a single mom.

When I went to the doctor for swollen lymph nodes, pain all over my body, and a sore throat, she said, “You have mono, but we rarely see that in women your age, are you under a lot of stress?”

“Ha! Does having three children under three years old count?” I asked.

I had two-and-a-half year old preemie twins (boy and girl) and a one-year-old son. My oldest son, who has cerebral palsy and was just learning to walk, needed a lot of extra attention, including therapy, not to mention extra daily help.

I needed to make life as simple as I could.

Like all children, mine wanted to have fun and be entertained. But I was only one person, and taking them out by myself  was not only nerve-racking (hence, the mono) but also expensive.

Matthew had physical and occupational therapy every Friday morning. During the summer, the local Children’s Hospital had a really inexpensive outdoor lunch for the outpatient children and their parents. It wasn’t the most nutritious, but it was easy! We got a drink, chips, and a hot dog at the hospital’s playground, and my kids loved it. I thought, I can do this. So, at different times of the month I would pack up their lunches, put each in their own little lunch bag, and take everyone to the park. They played, they ate, they had fun, and it cost me very little.

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Stephanie’s husband and young sons, watching TV (c) Stephanie Pavlantos

Another tradition involved Fridays. After physical and occupational therapy every Friday, the first thing we did was go to the library for books and movies. These were going to last them all week, so they could each get two movies and as many books as they could carry, or, um, I could carry. From there, we went to the local drug store where they could each pick one of the discounted snacks to eat later. When we got home, they popped in the first movie while I straightened up my house. Dinner was always pizza. My youngest is almost twenty-one now, and he still wants pizza on Friday night. “It’s a tradition,” he says.

We all watched an age appropriate movie while enjoying our pizza. Then, all three kids went to the twins’ bedroom and watched the next movie on another TV while eating their special snack. That’s when I finally got to sit and watch something I wanted to. My twenty-two year old daughter recently told me this is a favorite memory. She enjoyed the routine and looked forward to it each week.

We have done many other things with our kids over the years—big and small trips. But sometimes it’s the little, inexpensive things which bring us together and let our children know we want to be with them. This is what they remember.

Sometimes the simple family routines become special memories when you’re spending time together. An #IntentionalParenting guest post from Stephanie Pavlantos via @Carole_Sparks. #familytime (click to tweet)

Does your family share some simple but special habits? Do your older kids remember a childhood pattern you thought was insignificant? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below!


About Stephanie

ip - stephanie pavlantos headshotStephanie Pavlantos is passionate about getting people into God’s Word, where they can discover God’s love for them, their identity in Christ, and healing for the wounds of this life, while forgiving those who caused their pain. She has been a Bible study teacher and speaker for over fifteen years. Stephanie’s work-in-progress, a Bible study called Yeshua, God’s Son, our Treasure: A Quest through the Book of Hebrews, recently won an award at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Stephanie and her husband, Mike, have been married for 26 years and have three college students: Matthew, Alexandria, and Michael. Stephanie also loves animals. Her brood currently includes has two dogs, four ducks, three goats, and many chickens.

Get to know Stephanie through her blog, or on Facebook.


Memorable Mealtimes (guest post)

I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has 
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime. 
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of 
this post.

“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.

Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.

Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.

As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.

Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:

  • Unplug

We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.

  • Keep it relaxed

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.

  • Facilitate conversation

The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.

  • Make room for fun

Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.

  • Model healthy habits

From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.

  • Find your own rhythm

For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:

  1. Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
  2. Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
  3. What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?

Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.

How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.

Prioritizing family #mealtimes may take a little work, but it’s worth it! Some #IntentionalParenting tips via @DazzledByTheSon and @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

IP - Meredith Mills headshot

Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter.