About teachers…My child was assigned a teacher for next year that I’m not hearing the best things about. Would you ask to have your kid switched, or just make the best of the situation? 

I think this is all about relationships too.  Making relationships with the principal and the current-year-teacher helps a ton.  You and the principal are partners in your child’s’ education.  If you are really worried I would definitely talk to him/her and voice your concerns.  When my kids are in elementary school I do put up a pretty good fight to get them in with the teachers I know and love.  They are with that teacher at school practically longer than they’re home, so I think it’s a big deal.  When they get to junior high and high school though I don’t worry as much.  I figure the classes are shorter and it’s a good way to help teach them to deal with different personalities.  That’s life.  I will contact the teacher if something is out of line, but that is pretty rare.   

More about teachers back in THIS Q & A post.

I am so inspired by the wonderful relationships you have with yours and Dave’s extended families. I would love to know some of the things you do to nourish those relationships and stay close. I am guessing you have a lot of nieces and nephews, do you do something special to remember their birthdays or give presents at Christmas time? As my number of nieces and nephews continues to grow and we’re spread all across the country I worry about our relationships as a family weakening. I would love some ideas of how to maintain those relationships. Thanks so much for all you share with your blog! 

Growing up I had an uncle who sent us all (all his nieces and nephews) a birthday card with $5 inside.  

Every year.

Boy oh boy did it ever mean a lot to me that he would take time out to do that.  Getting that card in the mail each year, money or no money, was such a gift because it meant that he remembered me.  

I always had a plan that I would do that same thing, but with cool $2 bills.  remember those?  But somehow that plan got lost in life.  Luckily for us we get to be in Bear Lake each summer with all those nieces and nephews.  We are spread out living all over creation so to have that precious time together each year is a big deal.  (See what we do for family reunions back HERE and HERE and HERE…cannot wait for a couple weeks from now when we get to do it again.)  We get to really hang with each other as well as the nieces and nephews there and it does wonders for relationships.  I thank my lucky stars every single year that my parents had the vision to make that work for us.  

Dave’s family does all that they can to get together as well.  Six of the nine kids live in the desert and we get together when we can (I wish it was more often).  I adore all of Dave’s siblings, but I have a special place in my heart for one of his little sisters who doesn’t live close but prioritizes getting her family with six kids here to the desert each year.  Even in periods where they are really strapped financially they save up and drive all the way down to us.  And they create a party when they get here.  We just had one at the beginning of June that started out like this:

I love looking in from the back yard and seeing this sight:

And turned into Dave’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.  (More on that soon.)

As far as Christmas goes, in both families we rotate which family we give gifts to each year.  I try to think of the kids when we give those gifts and give something that will mean a lot to them.  There are too many to give gifts to everyone!

I also think something as small as a phone call is a big huge deal.  Talking voice to voice, not a text or email.  

I need to make more phone calls and spill out my love more.

More about relationships back in THIS Q & A.

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  1. IT IS DIFFICULT to keep up with a big family like that, mine is big as well and it's complicated. I barely get to see my cousins once a year, some of them more but never enough! you're right about the phone calls, sometimes it's more valuable than the best of Christmas gifts!

  2. "Letting your mind quiet down opens your heart. And that's the best gift we can give our kids"

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today after a few trying days. Thank you, thank you for your insight!

  3. The first question on this post struck a real chord with me, because 10 years ago I was a grumpy Mum with a 4 yo and a (nearly) 6 yo. Now of course your circumstances may be very different from mine, I may be completely misunderstanding and your kids are momentarily narked with you because you've told them to tidy their rooms. But – I thought I would give my thoughts from my experience anyway 🙂

    We're all human and if we're overwhelmed with all our adult responsibilities (as I was 10 years ago) we're going to be grumpy. Fortunately for me, I live in the UK where grumpiness is perfectly acceptable so my kids never thought to mention it. It also strikes me that honestly showing that you are down helps your kids to see that it's fine for them to feel down from time to time; human beings aren't made to be permahappy after all.

    BUT it is also a warning sign that you are under stress or frustrated; and a reminder to see if there's a cure for what ails you. If there isn't a realistic solution be very kind to yourself to get yourself through, and Shawni makes some great suggestions for how you can put aside some special time with your family as a demonstration of your love for them.

    There's a lovely English book which you can buy in America, called The Idle Parent by Tom Hopkinson, which deals with this. It's gloriously impractical, muddleheaded and contradictory, and quite possibly very countercultural for Americans, but there are some gems in there and I love the overall message. Most kids are programmed to grow up absolutely fine. More effort from Mum and Dad won't lead to better results, and may actually cause problems. So just enjoy your kids, look after your own sanity, and chances are that things will turn out just fine.

    1. Us in the UK know how to be grumpy & have a good moan don't we:).

      I don't mean you personally, I just mean as us Brits as a nation.

  4. I have another question about relationships… I have a 2 and 3 year old. Sometimes they get frustrated with each other and push/pinch/pull hair/bite/call names/hit. You've mentioned the fighting bench that your family uses, and it sounds like a great idea. When your kids had to sit on the bench together, would you have to sit right with them to make sure they weren't hurting each other and to make sure they stayed there? I'm just worried if I start something like that they will fight while on the bench or run away from it? How do you get them to just sit there and actually make up with each other?

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