Growing up we had a “major” and a “minor” for each school year just like they do in college.
My parents would choose what they were…whether it was education or music or service or one year it was even Spanish (I think that was the year we went and lived in Mexico for the summer).  
(To find a list of our majors and minors, scroll down a bit in the post back HERE…my dad kept a record of them all in our “ancestor book.”)
Well, I’ve thought about doing this on and off raising kids of my own, but finally we got serious this year and although we didn’t get detailed enough to have an actual “major” and “minor,” we decided to just come up with a “theme” for the year.
I thought about all kinds of things.  I read through my spiritual notes through the years (I write them in a little book).  I pulled out the scriptures.  Then Dave and I had a little discussion about what we really want for our kids.
We came up with this:

Super simple, and not anything earth shattering, but that little saying embodies so much of what we want for these kids of ours.  We want them to be lights.  And in order for that to happen, they need to soak in the light of others, of each other, and light from above.

So the night before school started I set up the table all fancy with all kinds of “light” I could find around the house (and a yellow table cloth, because light you know ;), and prepped for a big “theme introduction dinner” before the school year began.

We read one of my favorite books together:

(This book is SO awesome.  It’s a story about how one person can make such a huge difference in someone else’s life.  I wrote more about that wonderful Mrs. Twinkle who is a “light” back HERE.)

And since then we have incorporated that little theme into a lot of what we talk about as a family.

…and have put little reminders around the house.

We try to remember to ask the kids how they were a light that day around the dinner table.  And sometimes they’ll spontaneously tell us how someone they know was a light as well.  Lucy has started praying that we will be lights to others 🙂

This world of ours can use all the light we can shine.

So we are working on it in our little corner.  Hopefully our home will generate a little more light this year.

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  1. As I started to write this comment a few things came to mind and then I realized that what I really want to say is "thank YOU for being a light!" I have been following your blog for a few years now for that very reason – you are a light. You are doing good at home, in your personal, and community life. It's deliberate and it is beautiful. There could be a lot to complain about and fear these days, but you choose to focus on the good and what YOU can do. That's how the world changes – one person at a time. Thank you for being valiant and a light!

  2. Your blog has become sort of a parenting Bible for me. We are in the process of adopting a child and are creating a profile of what our current family life looks like. As I detail our traditions and goals I realize that I've taken so much from you. So, thank you.

    I wanted to say all this before I ask my question, so that you know what a huge fan I am of your parenting style….You share so much about your amazing parents and childhood and I am in complete awe of how MUCH your parents did and how many systems they had. Do you ever feel like it was over the top or too much? I only ask because I love adopting your/their ideas but often find myself caught in a place of, "Am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough?" I just can't believe how much was in your little brain growing up with everyday life and then with all of the additional jobs, systems, experiences etc. your parents had in place. Clearly they did something right but I just can't imagine implementing everything they did and keeping my sanity, as well as for allowing for unstructured time for everyone. I'd be really curious to hear your thoughts on finding a balance while creating and maintaining all these amazing family systems and goals.

    1. I 100% agree with Katie. I have thought this for a long time actually, thanks for asking Katie! Your blog is my favorite, I glean so much goodness and insight from your blog and look forward to when you post! But I am in complete awe at how much your parents did for you and your siblings- and there were NINE of you, right?? That's A LOT of work, and like Katie said, as much as I would like to implement so many of their incredible ideas (your as well) I can't seem to think I can do it all and keep my sanity along with everything else my kids have going on. (Katie said it a lot better than I did haha!)

    2. Thank you so much for your kindness, guys. As far as the pressure to implement everything, I think being a "deliberate" parent includes being deliberate about what works best for YOU. And sometimes that takes a while to figure out. It took me a while to realize that although some of these systems were magical in my family growing up, the combination of these ideas with ideas from Dave's family work differently for us. We do things a lot more simply over here and that's ok by me. I think because I grew up the way I did random ideas just come to me sometimes because I like how this or that worked, and I want to be deliberate like my parents were (and are). But if I go too far, Dave is good at rolling his eyes at me and making me realize it's ok to do it a different way too:)

      The more I parent the more I realize how unique my parents were and are. If you watched the video my Dad made that I posted in the deliberate parenting post (back here: ) you see that he just couldn't stop the ideas spilling out of his head 🙂 He still can't. My mom did/does too, but in a different way, and in a way they almost made this parenting gig seem effortless. Then I look back at that ancestor book and think of our money system and think of all the goals and plans they had for us and it overwhelms me. I think the same as you do, how in Heaven's name did they do that!? They put so much work into how they parented. But never once did anything seem overwhelming to me or to them. (except maybe when I was first watching that video my dad made about the money system…ha!:) I think honestly they just had a natural knack to put family first and they did it very well.

      Every family works so differently. It's so great to have ideas on the internet of what works for different families. I have loved the ideas I've found out there and especially from great blog readers who add so much to my life. But it's important to stop and ask yourself those questions you mentioned ("Am I doing too much? or Am I doing enough?") and figure out what is best for your own family. What is most important. And then let things slide if they aren't on the top of the list.

      Not sure if all that rambling made sense, but bottom line is that deliberate parenting is tough. It does take a lot of blood and sweat and tears (I felt a lot of them this weekend with a situation with one of my kids…natural consequences can break a mother I tell you!). But it should feel uniquely right to YOU. All the systems and goals and jobs that worked perfectly for my family growing up certainly don't work for my own family, nor would they for most families because quite honestly I think my parents might have a little bit of parenting super power in them. But it's so great to have ideas to take and tweak and mull over as we establish our own families however they might run.

      And I know I always say this, but prayer works to figure out what is best for each family. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to take those questions I have to God and "wrestle" to find answers as I strive to parent these children He has entrusted in my care. I know that sounds all religious to those reading who may feel differently, but I have had so many experiences as I've prayed for specific things in my own family. Nothing huge and earth-shattering, and sometimes the prayers are just in my head as I walk down that hallway to deal with a child throwing a fit or driving in a car trying to figure out what in the world is going on in a particular child's head, or if a system or job is too much for us, but if I have a prayer in my heart about this or that that I'm worried about I do feel some gentle nudging at times, or just simply that yes, I'm doing "enough," and that's ok.

    3. Wow, thank you SO MUCH for your thoughtful response and for putting this all into perspective! I aspire to be a deliberate mother (and wife) and it's great to have you and your parents as role models and also important to remember that I am unique and my family is unique and it's not going to look the same for all of us. Thank you for the continual inspiration 🙂

  3. Hi! This is my first comment ever. I've been following yor blog for some years now. I'm a Christian wife and mom of a two year old blond little guy.
    I just wanna say thank you for all your tip on raising a kid and how to make a whole family look for the light and all the important stuff in life first.
    And to tell you that it works even In Sweden,and is spreading far far away from where you're based 🙂

    Also, why do you have a Swedish flag in your living room? 🙂 haha just curious about that.

    Anyway, thanks for a great blog and for letting me be a part of American life, love it!! I also loved in Hawaii for 7 months some years ago, and loved it, so fun Elle is living there!

    Much love from Sweden / Julia

    1. Hi Julia! My Grandma is Swedish and also I just love that flag! I found it at an antique shop and fell in love with it.

      Sending love back over to Sweden! 🙂

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