Thursday, July 21, 2011

Making a routine of hospitality

I've always loved having people over to my house! Now that I have young kids with early bedtimes, it is truly the best way for us to spend time with people without worrying about exhausted meltdowns. I just put the little ones to bed at the appropriate time and continue fellowshipping with our guests!

But on the flip side, now that I have 3 little ones, it is rare that my entire house is completely clean at the same time. (OK; I'll be honest; it just never happens!) The thought of preparing a special meal is overwhelming when I have so many other things that I need to do. And to be completely honest, a lot of times I feel downright selfish with my time and want to have a quiet, relaxing evening with my family instead of having to serve others and do tons of dishes late into the night. I've quickly learned that if I just wait until I "feel" like hosting, it never happens. That is why we decided that for our family, hospitality must become a routine. It was a gradual change for us and I thought I would share with you how it happened and why we love it. I know this method of incorporating hospitality into your lives won't work for everyone, but it has really been a blessing to us (and hopefully to our guests as well:).

When we first started seminary, I heard a speaker say that his wife always cooks extra food one night a week and he is free to invite anyone he meets over for dinner that night. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, but never got around to implementing it.

Then two years ago, some friends in our church needed a lot of work done on their house. Our Wednesday night Bible Study decided to just meet at their house every Wednesday night to serve them instead of studying together. Since I had two little ones and couldn't really help with the workload, I cooked everyone dinner so that they could just come straight from work, eat together, and then get straight to work and have time to accomplish a lot more than if they went home and ate dinner first.

At the end of the summer when our work was completed and we got back to doing the regular Bible Study at our house, I decided to continue cooking extra and invited one of the single Seminary Students to eat dinner with us beforehand. When his roommates joined our Bible Study a few months later, they began to come for dinner as well.

When Abbi was born, we stopped hosting the Bible Study but continued feeding and fellowshipping with the college guys most weeks. And when I was too sleep-deprived to cook, they brought us Chinese food :)

This summer I realized that it wasn't too difficult to make just a little bit more and invite another couple or two over when I fed the guys. (The guys might not get as many extra helpings, but the fellowship is more important :) We have really enjoyed building stronger relationships with these couples, along with the college guys.

Having people over for dinner every week might seem like a lot of work, but I have found that the more I do it, the easier it gets. When I first started, I tried to pick my most praised recipes and special desserts have everything perfect, but that was too exhausting (and expensive) and I just couldn't keep it up! I quickly learned to make my meal plan for my family just as I normally would, with simple dishes that could be doubled easily and most often ones that I could prepare the day before. Then I could relax and enjoy our company (who quickly became family!)

Why we love it having people over on a set night every week: The relationships we have built are priceless! My girls LOVE the college guys and couples that come over and look forward to their night every week. They are learning to have good manners and polite conversations with grown-ups. (They do not always behave, but it is a loving and safe environment to train them!) Our friends take part in our nightly sing-song time, Bible reading, prayers, and kisses, and truly become part of our family. My husband and I enjoy sharing in the lives of our friends and learning how we can better minister to them and pray for them. We are encouraged by their friendship!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nap-time Solutions

My girls are getting to the point where they don't always go to sleep at nap-time. They take a good, long nap about 75% of the time, but they were getting frustrated with staying in their beds for two hours the other 25% of the time. I grew tired of fussing at them to be quiet and wanted them to do something productive with their time if they were awake. I also did not want to lose my time to rest or get things accomplished uninterrupted each afternoon! So we came up with a new plan that is working well for us and I thought I'd share. I'd also love to hear how you handle disappearing naps in your home!

My girls undoubtedly need to have "quiet time" in order to happily make it to their 7pm bedtime. So they are required to stay in their beds, resting, with the lights off for 45-60 minutes. I do allow them to talk and sing quietly with each other during that time. Most of the time they drift off to sleep, but if not, I go in and put on a book on CD for them to listen to for about 30-45 minutes. They have been so excited about this! They are currently listening to the Adventures of Peter Rabbit and plan to do Winnie the Pooh next and then Charlotte's Web. All of these are available for free at our local library. After listening to a book on CD, I then turn on the lights and let them look at books together in their room for another 30-45 minutes. I love to hear them in there talking about what they are looking at and singing together. Now, I must admit that my girls are not perfect and there have been a few days when I have had to go in and break up an argument about who gets a particular book. But overall, this has been a great plan for us.

Something else that has greatly helped us with nap-time and morning wake-up time is our little friend,MomoThis cute monkey cost about $35 but was worth every penny! We had a hard time finding a kid's clock that wouldn't wake the girls up if they were actually sleeping past the time it was set for, but Momo is perfect! His eyes simply open at the appropriate time. He glows for a couple of seconds, but not brightly enough to wake them up. He does play a little tune, but we turned the volume all the way down and the girls can't hear it. The girls know that if they wake up before Momo wakes up, they should just talk quietly in their room until his eyes open. Then they are free to come out of their room. My girls LOVE their little monkey and are always reminding us to "close his eyes" (set the alarm) when putting them down for bed. We've had "Momo" for 3 months now and they still excitedly chant, "Momo's eyes are open," Momo's eyes are open" every morning as they come out of their room.

So what about you? What have you done when your little ones start to outgrow naptime? And do you have any good recommendations for books on CD for a 2.5 and a 4 year old?