The Year of Motherhood: March Update and April Challenge (Family Nights!)

Editor’s Note: Today we have another motivating read by Jamie Ivey, sharing more about her Year of Motherhood.

The need to schedule.

If someone would have walked up to me eight years ago as I held my precious 2 month old baby and told me that in eight short years you will have four kids and you will be trying to schedule one-on-one time with them each week, I would have looked at them like they had two heads.

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What kind of mom has a hard time spending time with her kids? My mind back then would have said only the “bad” moms have to plan time with their kids! It’s kinda like when you first get married and that sweet couple that’s been married about 10 years longer than you and is chasing four kids around tells you that one day you will schedule sex … you laugh and think NO WAY. Well, YES WAY to scheduling sex and time with our kids!!

This month’s challenge of spending one-on-one time with my kids was harder than I thought it would be.

In a perfect world I would take each kid out to their favorite lunch spot and then we would spend hours at the park talking and sipping cherry coke (although I would really never let my kids drink cherry coke, because I’m the psycho-no-coke-mom) all while the other kids were at home and it was just me and that one kid for a few hours. Y’all that expectation is hard. Very hard.

Throw in a husband that travels, school, piano lessons, homework, a child having surgery, church activities and commitments, a mom volunteering for a big fundraising event, basketball practice, friends and family in town …. the list could go on forever. You know what it’s like with kids and life and trying to fit it all in!

Lesson learned.

What I learned this month was that being a mom takes work.

I know you are on the floor laughing hysterically because you already knew that. Well I already knew that too, but it was confirmed again as I was trying to juggle my commitments in life, my husband’s commitments, and being 100% present and there for my kids.

I’ll say that there were many days that I failed, but there were also days that I succeeded and those days felt so good. I learned that it’s the little things in life that can bring so much joy to my kids.

Yesterday we all went out and got ice cream cones that costs $1 each and they were so excited. I was intentional in my conversations as we sat around the table at the park and talked. I was present. I was there for them. I had nothing on my mind but them.

Moms, I am the first person to say that when life gets busy sometimes my kids get the worst in me. I am on edge, tired, busy, and consumed with my own agenda. This challenge was a huge reminder to me that my babies are precious and are gifts to be treasured. They need me and believe it or not, I need them too.

The March challenge reminded me that the time I invest in my kids has a far greater reward than anything else I could invest my time in.

The next challenge.

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For my April challenge I’m focusing on family nights. We love family nights around here, but they are always dinner & movie. I need to branch out, and make memories with my family through these nights.

This month I want to plan and implement a family night each week that is more than dinner and movie. This is going to be a challenge for this very non-creative momma! Pintrest here I come!!! Leave me a comment with your favorite family night ideas, because truly I need all the help I can get!!!

Wanna join me in planning family nights for your family? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

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  • What about a game night? (Not sure If your kids are the age where they can stay engaged in games for an extended period). You could also do an early picnic at the park dinner and then take a family walk or go on a nature hunt… the boys I nanny always enjoy this activity… just a few ideas!

    Good luck… love these challenges. Gives me inspiration to incorporate this early in my parenting (my first baby is due in 5 weeks!)

    • Avatar Jamie Ivey says:

      My kids would love a game night! We do games every now and then, but my challenge is finding something age appropriate for an 8 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. Any ideas?

      • Avatar Shelly Smith says:

        We have a weekly family game night (with our 8, 6, and 3 yr old boys) and they love it! Favorites are Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and other board games (though the 8 year old sometimes gets “bored”- we also let him pick a game after we put the 3 year old to bed!)- and also DVD Bingo (they all like that one!) We also do older kid games, like Battleship, card games and/or Wii games, with the 3 yr old being on a “team” with Mom or Dad. Of course, its more fun if I make a “special” treat like ice cream sundaes, or something! 🙂

      • Avatar Melissa Messer says:

        Zingo and Uno Moo are fun games and interactive! I also need to plan more family nights. Thanks for the encouragement. I am looking forward to hearing more ideas. 🙂

      • That is the tricky part, ha ha. I’ll think on it and reply if I get any good ideas. Or the Nintendo Wii is always a hit for all ages (games like Wii fit or sports) but of course that is dependent on having the game system. I’ll keep thinking for you!

      • Avatar Amy says:

        My kids are game lovers! We play Blokus, Trouble, Sorry, Rack-o, Life, Mastermind (in teams of kids vs parents), card games (Skip-bo, Uno, war, go fish, memory/matching), and Roads, Rivers, Rails.

      • Avatar Kris Freitag says:

        I have two boys 10 and 6: we love Zingo (at target–a think fun game), mancala (the 6 yr old can play this one), UNO (our youngest has been playing this since 4 as a “team” with one of us.

  • Avatar Natasha d says:

    We usually have “game” night! right now it is simple with CandyLand or a Bingo game so that both girls (7 and just 4) can both play. We make special drinks and have popcorn!
    We also like to go for walks to the river and play at the river’s edge together!
    …and we always love ice cream!

  • We love Friday family movie night–which we also use as “family cook dinner together” night. However, we’ve also used Friday as family build-legos-together-night, and family play-Uno-together-night (even works for kiddos that can’t read since it’s numbers and colors), so I think you could probably just insert any game or activity and your family would still love it.

  • Great idea! My kids have been begging me for a game night for a while and its been in the back of my mind. We had been doing movie nights (especially when dad is out of town) but I think making some snacks and sitting down with them over Connect Four, Uno, and Candyland would be really fun for them.

  • This is more of a Sunday afternoon activity but we love to go hiking together. We live just down the road from a county park and not too far from a really nice wildlife sanctuary that’s known for the snow geese that visit each year.

    None of us are big on games (just us and our 11 year old son) so I’m anxious to hear what other ideas come up here.

  • Avatar Karin says:

    Instead of board games, we enjoy pretend play where the kids take turns “directing”. Could be a re-enactment of scenes from a movie they like and know well (like in our case “Monsters Inc.” ) or a commonly known fairytale. The kids love to tell the grown-ups what part to play, what to say, etc.! Or they could read to us (our 4 year old either recites book pages from memory or creates her own content as she goes). Or play school. Anything interactive where they get to direct. 🙂

    • Avatar Jamie Ivey says:

      This sounds like something my kids would love! Maybe a “hollywood movie” night where they make the movie and we star in it! Fun ideas ….

  • Avatar Jen E says:

    I absolutely LOVE “Just Add Family – Easy Recipes for Faith-Filled Fun” from Family Life Publishing ( They are purposeful Family Night ideas that are really fun and teach spiritual truths geared for children ages 10 and under. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare. I highly recommend it! Have fun! 🙂

  • Avatar Jen Wood says:

    Here’s a fun idea that we’ve started implementing for date nights for my husband and myself. This could EASILY work for family date nights. I follow a fellow photographer’s blog and her idea is to pick a letter of the alphabet and then plan things that begin with that letter. There’s more detail here:

    I cut out small squares of paper and put every letter of the alphabet on them (one letter on each piece) and put them in a glass jar. Then, like a day before our date night, one of us will pick a random letter from our jar and we take turns planning our adventures. You could do the same thing with the kids and get them involved in planning.

  • Avatar tacy says:

    So many fun ideas here. We love to go for walks as a family. Sometimes it may or may not include frozen yogurt:) I grew up with many a family worship night with the hymnals and my dad playing guitar. Although our kids are little and we haven’t really followed up on doing that regularly in our family, I want to get back into the habit.

  • We have had a weekly family night around our house for years. It is sometimes challenging to come up with ideas given the fact our 5 kids range in age from 3-9 but we always end up having a lot of fun anyway. When the weather is nice, we love to “park-hop” – we get on our bikes and bike around town, stopping at play structures along the way where we play with the kids, then we hop on our bikes and find the next play structure and do it all again. The kids LOVE this! Sometimes we stop for some amazing soft icecream. We love to play games with the kids – just played Pictionary Junior with all of them this past week and it was a hoot (obviously, mom/dad have to help the very youngest ones draw but even my 4 year old could draw the “umbrella” and the “cross”!). Bingo is also fun with little treats for the winners (and we play until everyone wins). Sometimes we bake cookies all together. In winter we go skating and snowmobiling together. Sometimes we just play baseball in the back yard or have water gun fights. Mostly, we don’t stress about WHAT we do and just focus on being with them without any distractions, even if the “event” is not all that exciting or creative. They know that evening each week is all about them so they are more than willing to give us ideas! Have fun!

  • So true! I’ve found that thinking outside the box can work well for one on one time. Lately I’ve been taking my daughter (age 8) out for hot chocolate at our little local coffee shop on the way to school a few times a month. We have to get up earlier, but it’s been a fun and meaningful way to squeeze in some quality time together – and I can really see it becoming a tradition all the way through high school. I still take my son to the library for story time each week and sometimes I can extend that – not sure what we’ll do next year when he starts school!

  • Avatar Stacy Smith says:

    Family nights are something of a passion for me. A GREAT resource for fun and creative family night ideas can be found at I also love the Family Night Tool-Chest series from Focus On The Family. Our kids talk about these all the time after we do them! Nature walks, park nights, cooking as a family, water gun fights, and game nights all top our list of favorite things to do. However, I’ve also been wanting to try a new idea once a quarter with some other families from our church who also do family nights – basically one BIG Family Night together!! Here are some ideas (not all my own) Family Talent Night, Progressive Game Night, a Drive-In Movie Night (kids bring cardboard boxes decorated as cars to set on the lawn), Eat Only With Your Hands Night, and Family Circus Night. Would love MORE ideas – maybe I’ll set it up for the summer and try one each month??

  • Avatar Jamie Ivey says:

    Stacy LOVE those ideas and thanks for the link to check out more ideas!!!

  • Avatar Hilary says:

    Mine are still young enough that every night is family night. 🙂 We do Monday Meetings(schedule, allowances,etc.). Tuesday is game night. Wednesday Wii night. Thursday we work on projects or watch Wipeout. Friday is family movie night-complete with popcorn, which is a big deal in our house. Saturday we either cook together or socialize. Sunday is church & extended family.

  • Avatar Cecilia says:

    Maybe geo caching (I think that’s how it’s spelled). It’s like a treasure hunt and I’d bet there are several beginner ones in Austin. My niece (6) thinks they are awesome.

    • Avatar Jamie Ivey says:

      Cecillia great idea … I’m gonna look that up b/c I’ve heard so many great things about that. Would be a great fun family night!

      • Avatar Kris Freitag says:

        We love geocaching! It has become a family addiction! We try to get out and go a couple of times per month. Love it!
        is the best place to start! I’d be happy to be a resource if anyone needs tips/starter info.

  • I love reading your blogs!! You write just like you talk and i love that! We started our game nights with easy stuff like UNO, where Story can be on your team. Point to the card you want to play and let her lay it down. Even still, as I have 1 really smart and 1 really average (intellegence-wise) kid, we play games the younger one doesnt always understand, but we find a way for him to help until he works it out! We love CLUE, RACKO, PASS THE TRASH, and oh how we LOVE I SPY EAGLE EYE and HEADBANDS! xoxoxo to you!

  • Avatar Suzanne says:

    What about service? How about going to a food kitchen for a night and serving? We do game night, movie night, picnics, zoo nights, sometimes we take a picnic to a vineyard (more for us, but there is a playground that they love), going to a new town 30 minutes away and discovering a fun place to eat! Have fun! I love family nights!

    • Avatar Jamie Ivey says:

      Great thoughts Suzanne. We LOVE family nights and we have them often but they mainly just mean the whole family is together (since that’s not the case every night) and we’re cooking and eating together. You have some great ideas that are out of the box. Thanks!

  • Avatar Amy says:

    We have a few Family puzzles with 3 different sized pieces for various ages, so we work on those together. We take walks and bike ride. We get out paper, stickers, markers, etc and all work on making cards together to mail to family/friends. Sometimes we spend our time baking/making something for our neighbors then walk and deliver them. Whatever we do, if we call it Family Fun ________, our kids LOVE it! Even if it is something that isn’t spectacular.

  • Definitely game nights. There are soooo many card games and board games out there. Most of them are also educational, so you can make learning part of the fun. I featured some of our favorites during the month of February. This link will take you to them….

    Also, service projects. Going to the grocery store and everyone getting $10 and trying to buy the most food for the food pantry with their $10.

    Writng letters to family that lives far away. Who doesn’t love receiving letters. If they don’t want to write, they can draw pictures of something they did with that person or just a happy spring picture. Mom and Dad can write letters too.

    If it is nice out, just going for a walk around your neighborhood. Sometimes you see things differently from a walk rather than drive perspective….and you just may catch a new neighbor outside.

    Start a puzzle on April 1 (500 piece or maybe less if younger kids) and see if you can complete it before the end of the month.

    Anytime you can make family time a priority…you can’t go wrong!

  • Avatar Carrie Smith says:

    My kids are 13 and 10. About a month ago I picked up a great puzzle at Barnes and Noble. It’s called “The Number Pi”. It’s kind of big. It’s got great colors and we’ve had so much fun together working it. We finished it and now I need to glue and frame and hang in the gameroom. It was something we hadn’t done in forever. I hope someone with older kids my try it!

  • Avatar Karin says:

    You could also cut up old magazines and catalogs (especially the gardening ones) and make greeting cards. Our kids go nuts with that.

  • Avatar Jen says:

    I follow both this blog and your personal blog, Jamie. Thanks for pushing me to be a more intentional, Spirit-filled mom.
    We had a great “backwards” family night. Eat dessert first, wear your clothes backwards, have breakfast for dinner and eat underneath the table.
    If we do it again, I would add playing a game backwards. Chutes and Ladders is a game my kids think it’s funny to play from the top to the bottom, sliding down ladders and climbing up chutes.

    • Avatar Jamie Ivey says:

      I have heard lots of “backwards” family nights and love it. I think my kids would freak if we ate dinner under the table and had ice cream first!!!

  • Avatar Heather says:

    I’m going to plan an activity where I blindfold my kids, put together a bunch of food samples and ask them to guess what they are!