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Becoming a Party Family!

  • June 24, 2024
  • By Donielle
Becoming a Party Family!

Psalm 118:24 This is the very day God acted – let’s celebrate and be festive! (MSG)

 Shirley Dobson quotes her husband, Dr. James Dobson in her book Let’s Make a Memory, “The great value of traditions comes as they give a family a sense of identity, a belongingness.  All of us desperately need to feel that we’re not just a cluster of people living together in a house, but we’re a family that is conscious of its uniqueness, it personality, character and heritage, and that our special relationships of love and companionship make us a unit with identity and personality.” Why become a party family? Let’s start with the Bible.

God planned out quite a few celebrations that He commanded to be celebrated in the Old Testament involving breaks from work, food, dancing, music, and decorations. Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding reception.  David danced before the Lord with all his might in a spontaneous victory parade. But my favorite is the detailed account of the party in the book of Nehemiah to celebrate the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem – a project that had taken years and faced many obstacles before completion. Nehemiah 12:43 describes the party music – two choirs, a big band with lots of instruments, SO LOUD it could be heard miles away.  That’s what happens when everyone is having a blast! There was a ceremony, food, and gifts!

Party like a Peruvian

When my middle daughter was born, we lived in a townhouse. Next door was a lady originally from Peru. She would have these LOUD parties. We could hear the Latin beats pounding through our walls. So when Summer was just a few months old we experienced another one of Pilar’s Peruvian Parties as we called them, through our bedroom wall. Summer was a terrible sleeper.  Still is, nothing’s changed about that.

We couldn’t get Summer to sleep, it was 1:00 a.m. and we were getting grumpy. My husband suggested calling the police. I didn’t think that was the right thing to do to our nice, next door neighbor.  So I said, “I’ll knock on her door and ask her to turn the music down.” So I went downstairs, out the front door, and knocked on Pilar’s door. Someone, not Pilar, opened the door, and a roomful of dressed-up, dancing people beckoned me to come in, pointing at the food table and, either not speaking English or not being able to hear me because of the stereo volume, pulled me into a party. Ya’ll I am in my pjs, not my party clothes. But it was tempting to stay.

A minute later Pilar came in. I explained that the baby couldn’t sleep because of the noise and she apologetically turned the music down. And Summer went to sleep. For at least 2 hours. But partying people are happy people, aren’t they? We are drawn to them. If we are looking for happy homes, they should be celebrating homes! How is your family doing in this category?  Not how are you doing personally, I am not asking how your kids are doing in the partying dept, I am asking how your family is doing at celebrating?

The Power of Music

Homes of spontaneous dance parties, karaoke nights, or lip syncing contests are celebrating homes. Our family background music becomes a soundtrack of beautiful memories for your kids. Music is powerful. Did you know Laura Ingalls Wilder used music to remember her childhood?  The result was beautiful descriptions of everyday prairie life in her famous and beloved books. The music invoked such clear memories that she could write them down in such vivid detail that we can all share them.

Music, with smells, are one of the few ways you can have total recall.  Did you ever notice how a song brings you right back to a place? It’s a neurological process.  And the more complex the music is, the more powerful its effect on your brain. Music for your home should be intentional. We use thoughtful classical music as we study, color, or paint. Thoughtful rock motivates us while we clean house. We listen to jazz while we cook. When we are enjoying the outdoors however, we let nature be our soundtrack. Silence and music are both important. Creating road trip or house cleaning playlists as a family gives us opportunities to introduce more Christian music into our households. What is your family soundtrack? What would you like it to be?

Love Advice

On Valentines Day my 17 year old had a Galentines party. There were teenage girls in flannel pj bottoms painting nails and putting face masks on all over my living room floor. One young lady yelled out, “Alexa, play songs by Taylor Swift!.” My daughter yelled out, “Alexa, stop! Do not desecrate my speakers with that music.” As an aside, it is the parent’s job to develop musical taste in their children, not the culture’s job. So I chimed in, because yes, I hang out on the fringes of the room and keep a listening ear out during these events, “Don’t take love advice from Taylor. She has yet to be successful.” My daughter said, “Alexa, play songs by Billy Joel.” Musically way better, but I was obligated to chime in, “and don’t take love advice from Billy Joel either.” He’s Taylor’s future, unfortunately.

So that got the gals and I curious. We looked up the family histories of a bunch of performers with good love songs. Don’t take any of their advice!  Sadly, even Bryan Adams! Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial for us as Christians!

Who should we take love advice from? Sorry to ruin the party share the bad news results of our search but here they are: (The longest running marriages) Alice Cooper, Keith Richards, two of the dudes from Rush, Angus Young (from AC/DC for all you youngins), and Bono. What?! They have lousy loves songs. My daughter surmised, “Maybe the key to lasting love is not to monetize and exploit your relationship before the whole world.” Wisdom. Take note, young songwriters.

Be the Hang-out House

Be the house that welcomes the kids. Become the mom that your kids’ friends know they can come to when things are tough. And be the mom that says, no we are not going to listen to that, how about this instead? A teenager said to me, “Thanks for being my crisis mom!” She has a great mom, but when her brother was going through an emergency medical situation she knew where she could go for a hug. And make sure your kids have adult friends that YOU trust that they can go to if there is something they feel like they can’t talk to you about just yet. This is very important in an age of mental health crises – and where many families live far away from a family support network.

My senior-in-high school daughter came to us and said, “Could I have a prom after party at our house? My husband and I looked at each other and said, “YES! Let’s do it!” Cause I want those kids partying safely at my house! Yeah, I snoozed some in the living room easy chair while they hung out on the back porch. The kids cleaned up after themselves. And everyone was safe and had fun. Be the hangout house.  And if you can’t, know the place and the people they hang out with very well!

Party Food

The other important celebration ingredient is FOOD! There is a reason that humans use food to commemorate special occasions – food and friendship and notoriously linked.  An Oxford study found that that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.

Cake Frosting

As a kid I had the privilege of being sandwiched in age between two sisters, Becky and Angie. So I was always invited to both of their birthday parties. Their mom made this cupcake frosting that tastes like heaven.  I so looked forward to a Marks birthday party, chiefly because of the that frosting. I grew up to be the extravagant homemade birthday cake mom because of those happy party memories. Every festival and holiday has food attached to it. Food is the universal language of hospitality and celebration.

This is a description of the early church in Acts 2:46-47 (MSG):

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that church? Sounds like a party! Not only does it attract those around us, it is attractive to our own kids. Celebrations give us an opportunity for cultivating relationships with our children that will continue into their adulthood, at times when they’re receptive to hearing your values and beliefs. They give us reasons to communicate, establish parents as spiritual leaders, model a spiritual heritage, strategically move us toward spiritual maturity, make impressions on your child’s heart, address spiritual and developmental issues before they come up, and help establish their identity in Christ. (Spiritual Milestones by Jim and Jan Weidmann).


My little one is participating her in first dance recital.  After her sparkly costume came in and she expressed some nervousness I said, “Do you know what we do we always do after and show or recital?  We go out for ice cream!!!” She said, “I know!! That’s why I wanted to do the show!!” Traditions are powerful motivators!

I’ve explained before about our very cool Coming of Age parties where, when our kids turn 13, we initiate them into adulthood by giving them a list of tasks to accomplish throughout the year, culminating in a big 14th birthday party where, not only friends, but grown women of their choosing are invited to be spiritual mentors, mothers and sisters. They choose three of these women to give them a charge, a speech, an encouragement or a challenge. I have been asked many time to share these lists of things they must accomplish.  The lists are unique to the child, but my examples in the hyper links might give you a starting place.

Throw in some Ceremony

The more ceremony that is involved, the most seriously kids take it. Even if it feels a little goofy, traditions with some formal ceremony to them are the most memorable, looked forward to, and ones that children are proudest of. We make a big deal in our family of the day each child joins the church. COVID almost robbed us of that, it certainly robbed us of some of the attendant ceremony, for our middle daughter, which incredibly disappointed her.

These things do not have to cost a lot of money, though some expenditure does stress the importance of the event. I am one of eight kids, and a big deal for us was McDonald’s ice cream sundaes or a Dollar store shopping spree, or my personal fave: breakfast at Dunkin Donuts with my mom. Whatever is a little out of the ordinary!  At those breakfasts, which cost a split iced tea and 2 donuts, my mother prayed with us.  She taught us to pray about everything. We got our treats, sat in the car and prayed thank you prayers, confessions, then a long list of family, friends and world concern prayer requests. This has been THE most useful lesson my mother ever taught me.

And Gifts

And while we are talking about money, let me say a word about gifts. Gifting is a beautiful, biblical idea that often turns crassly commercial in our culture.  I encourage you start thinking early for holidays so that your kids can make handmade gifts -even if those gifts are not to your perfectionist standards.  As early as possible let them start purchasing their own gifts for friend’s birthday parties.  This encourages creativity, avoids trendy impulse buying, teaches them to value homemade gits because they know what goes into them, and teaches them the value of a dollar. Consider handwritten notes for your kids instead of a gift. I treasure the notes my mom wrote me since I lost her 24 years ago.

More Stuff to Celebrate

If you have daughters, another milestone to celebrate is menarche (first period).  I want my girls to have a healthy attitude about their amazing bodies! My oldest was a little older when she started and relished a fancy dinner out with her aunts.  My middle was younger and wanted NO ONE to know anything about her period, so we celebrated low key, just her, her older sister, and I. We celebrate high school graduation with a special blessing.  Ahead of time I pray over and choose a verse that I want my child to carry away with them into the coming years. That is the verse I put into my cards, letters, program dedications, and all the graduations festivities. Whatever milestone you are celebrating should come with increased privileges and responsibilities. These could be increased participation in family devotions or a hand in decision making.

One of our favorite celebrations is now Holy Week. My grown kids clear their calendar for it. No one wants to miss a single tradition.  We are at church almost every night of the week, and we can’t get enough.  Why? Every single tradition is thick with meaning and focuses us on our Savior. I have invested in Barbara Rainey’s Ever Thing Home décor (from Etsy), beautiful white and gold placemats and pillar candles because special décor creates and sense of excitement and mystery. We have a special goblet for when we are honoring a family member for an accomplishment. Fresh flowers, banners, anything set aside for a special purpose will create a sort of sacredness for the occasion. My mom had these earthenware bowls that she only used to serve chili or the rare cold South Florida night.  I still get shivers of excitement when I think about those bowls.

Party Stuff

Do you love a firepit on a cold night? We read books out loud together on those nights. The Lord of the Rings trilogy should be read by firelight! Old fashioned hymn sing a longs with grandparents, a special night to watch old home videos, and a poetry reading night have been surprising family favorites.

Create family discussions times. Movie nights are good for this. My kid’s friends have become used to staying a little later to discuss what we just watched. Sometimes lively discussion, sometimes not, but they know I am going to ask about the worldview and the artistic value.

Be intentional. Accidental living produces chancy results, someone said. The Secret Keeper Girls dates and Passport 2 Purity weekends have been favorites for my girls.  You can do this very poorly, as one friend of mine describes (listening to a birds and bees talk awkwardly in a hotel room, trying to escape as quickly as possible).  Or you can make it exciting and fun, interspersed with snacks, treats, games, beach time, shopping, and activities.

Made for Worship

More than anything God desires worshippers. Worship starts with wonder. Wonder is sorely lacking in our scientific, analytic age. Do things with your family that awaken their sense of wonder. Of course, July 4th and Thanksgiving celebrations can do this if we intentionally point out and discuss the history, symbolism, and memorials.  We can create those items on the Weidmann’s beautiful list, above, through good books, movies, art, projects, contests, and discussions.

Memorial celebrations help us through grief. We remember my father in law by having a Reuben sandwich on his birthday each year, a mahi sandwich or Dr. Pepper for my dad, a goofy 80s comedy for my mom. Don’t forget to celebrate your children’s spiritual and personal victories and triumphs. 

Summertime Ideas

This summer see some local tourist sites. Knowing your local history helps give a sense of place and belonging. Put together a family puzzle. Paint objects you find at the beach like driftwood, shells and sand dollars. Painting tutorial. Try a family read aloud. There will come a time when it is very difficult to get all of your children together under own roof, so be a student of your family, find out what they enjoy doing together and make it a tradition, a celebration.  It seems, upon reflection, that anything we do a little out of ordinary, once you add snacks – better yet a snack they help make – chocolate chip cookie or a custom trail mix, becomes a family celebration.

Board games to try:

Throw the Pigs or Pig Dice, Clue, Happy Salmon, Headbandz, Exploding Kittens, Code Names, Life, Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples

By Donielle, June 24, 2024
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