Large Family Question #3 – Anchors

Little Man demonstrating his mood on a happy, peaceful day….

…and on a not so happy day.

To be honest, those pictures were probably taken five minutes apart!

I am happy to report that yesterday and today have been much better than Tuesday. I’ve done a better job anticipating the children’s needs which has helped the days flow. I also have been giving Honeybee tasks to do when I am working with Dimples and Boo, rather than trying to teach her at the same time. This morning she cooked the ground beef for chili while I did math with the little girls. She was happy and proud of her work, rather than frustrated that I wasn’t sitting next to her doing math.

I also sent the children outside to play, which I do nearly every day, even when it is cold. It is a challenge getting all of the socks and shoes on, and they often fuss about it, but once they are outside, they run, jump on the trampoline, and burn off lots of crazy energy. Today it gave me enough time to finish making chili and clean up the kitchen before they came in and we started back into schoolwork.

I’ve been contemplating my answer to our most recent question:

What has made the biggest difference in creating a warm, peaceful environment in a busy household?

There are so many things that help create a peaceful environment, but one thing keeps coming to my mind and it is what I call “Anchors”. My friend, Kimberly, and I were talking one day about certain activities that occur every day in our families, and if they are done well, they are like Anchors holding everything else in place. For us those Anchors seem to be breakfast, Quiet Hour (even more than lunch), and dinner.

The kids have the same routine every morning: get up, get dressed, make their beds, do their chores, and have breakfast. Since I run in the morning, my wonderful husband oversees much of this. He decided about a year ago that we needed to have a more serious breakfast because the kids would start fussing for a snack if they hadn’t been filled up well in the first place. I was impressed when he began whipping up pancakes, french toast, and our special oatmeal (made with milk and apple juice concentrate). And just to show how we really can learn from one another, last week after reading Laurel’s comment about getting my kids more involved with cooking, I began having Ladybug and Honeybee prep the ingredients for breakfast the night before. On Tuesday and Thursday Ladybug made pancakes, while Honeybee made french toast on Monday and scrambled eggs on Wednesday. The girls are so proud of themselves!

Since Russ hasn’t been responsible for cooking this week, he has been ready to leave for work earlier. With the whole morning running more smoothly, we’ve been squeezing in a little Bible and prayer time with him before he heads out the door. It’s been great! We have regained something precious that we had lost along the way.

On mornings when things don’t go right and breakfast isn’t a significant event, the children flounder. They don’t get their chores done in a timely manner, they may not get dressed. Some will eat, some won’t. Left to themselves without the Anchor of breakfast, they feel unsure of what to do and begin to squabble or get into trouble.

Our second important anchor is Quiet Hour. All of my children, from Ladybug on down, are required to have an hour of quiet time alone in the afternoon. After lunch we clean up and the kids may play a little bit more, but by 1:00 I begin getting everyone settled. I start with Little Man who likes to have a cup of milk while snuggling on my lap. He loves to sing, so I usually sing to him while I hold him. His current favorites are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Farmer in the Dell. Then I tuck him in his crib.

Next I take Eby upstairs, read him a story and tuck him in a sleeping bag on the floor next to my bed. This is his cozy spot where he keeps a pillow, his stuffed dog, and a few favorite books. Sometimes he finds his way there during the night, but most often I’ll find one of his sisters in it when I wake up.

Once Eby is tucked in, I gather Honeybee, Dimples, and Boo on the living room sofa. Ladybug has quite a bit of schoolwork, so she is generally working on her own. The three girls and I read a story from our Bible and then at least one picture book. When I’m not too tired, I let them each choose a book. Then Dimples goes to rest on Sweet Pea’s bed, Boo unrolls her little sleeping bag in the upstairs hallway, and Honeybee rests on the living room sofa. They can have a small stack of books to keep them company. Sometimes I let them have CD players, but the need for batteries, more CD’s, etc. seems to be more hassle, during my one hour of quiet, than it is worth. I also write down the time that they can get up. If they get up before the designated time, which is one hour, I add five minutes to their Quiet Hour each time.

Our last,and most special Anchor, is our family dinner. When the children were young we were always together at dinnertime, now there are many nights when some of the big kids are gone to classes, labs, meetings, etc. My mom was exceptionally good at making great dinners every night. It wasn’t that the food was fancy, but it was always good, always ready, and my dad was almost always home with us. My mom also lit candles on the table each night, a tradition that I have continued in my home. Over the years our dinner times have included read-alouds at the table, family prayer and Bible reading, going around the table with one person telling about their day at a time, or other routines. But the most important part of this Anchor is simply gathering at the same time in the same place as a family each night.

When I fail to prepare for these “Anchors”, the environment of our home begins to slip. The children lose their bearings and some of them get anxious, which is usually followed by naughty behavior. These simple routines help them know what is coming next. The activities of the morning may change, but Quiet Hour happens every day. On a given afternoon we may be out and about, or we may be home and I may be working on the computer, but dinner will happen at 6:00, Daddy will come home to eat, and all will be well.

I also got two more great comments to share:

Ann wrote: The way I find peace is ear plugs! And lots of laughter which creates a relaxed environment but not a quiet one 🙂

She writes a great blog that you should check out. I wish I were half as fun as she is.

Becky said…

I second what was said about the mother’s attitude being so important to having a warm, peaceful, loving feeling in the home. Another thing that has helped contribute to a warm, peaceful feeling in our home is good music. It has also been a tool for bonding with my adopted children that has been very beneficial. (When the brain is processing music, both sides of the brain are “talking to each other.” You know how you can still remember the songs you learned as a child-tv commercials andsuch:-) In our homeschool, we learn a lot of factual informationto music. 🙂
It seems if my attitude or the tone in our home is less than desirable, if I put on some sweet music, or start humming, whistling, or singing, things generally turn around.

I have to agree with Becky. Over a year ago Russ bought me a little Ipod which the kids loaded with music for me. Then for my birthday he got me a speaker/dock-type thing which sits on top of a cabinet in the family room. It has been a great purchase. Rusty loaded some of our favorite children’s music on it and now we play music throughout much of the day. During breakfast and clean up we often listen to good children’s music, during school we listen to instrumental music, including movie soundtracks that my sister-in-law, Lori, got me into. When we clean we listen to happy, upbeat music. When the little kids start getting grumpy, music often goes on and it improves the mood of everyone in the room. Eby has moves that you can’t believe and Dimples does some crazy gymnastics when the music gets turned up.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I am learning from all of you.

Les’s question is next!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Kristi J
    December 11, 2008

    That was great…with four kiddos and another one or two on the way from Ethiopia…(and my oldest is 6 yrs. old)…my key to a peaceful home is “my calmness”…no matter what happens in a day, 365 day a year I teach my kids that we can all react to things in a calm manner and that is usually what I get in return..How can I expect my kids to not yell and scream and act out if that is all i’m modeling for them…so years ago I decided i would never be a yeller or drama mom and would handle things “calmly” works…kristi

  2. blessedfamily
    December 12, 2008

    Great post! I am trying to establish routines in my home now so our son knows exactly what to expect and so that when we do adopt, the expectations are set early on. That way everyone knows what they are to do and how it is to be done… Getting there has been a struggle (to say the least). But slowly I am seeing progress.

  3. Anonymous
    December 12, 2008

    Lisa and All:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the time you’ve taken to share your wisdom regarding managing a home and large family. I’m Lisa’s friend, and I called her with my questions a few months ago as we were adjusting to a new school year and a newly adopted baby. Family life was feeling rather bumpy! I’ve been quite interested to read each post, and have begun to put some of your ideas to work. Things are really going fairly well in our home, now, but I know I’ll refer many times to these posts as I continue to grow in my role as mom, wife, and home manager. I’m glad I have blog friends to encourage me on the journey!

    Blessings to you!

    In Christ,

    Lisa H.

  4. Jen
    December 12, 2008

    I’m really enjoying checking in on your blog. We are preparing to bring our new 2 little ones home from Ethiopia, and have 2 little ones home now. I know I am going to have to be REALLY consistant about “anchors” and routines, to make a safe, happy, place for everyone. A lot of what I am hearing sounds a lot like the GROWING FAMILIES INTERNATIONAL material… do you use that?
    Blessings from Michigan, and thanks for sharing!

  5. Laurel
    December 13, 2008

    Hi Lisa,

    I always love reading your blog, because our families are so much alike.

    While I have never thought of "anchors", our 3 anchors are exactly like yours. 🙂 Breakfast is a big, important meal (and I'm so glad your girls have jumped on board to help you make breakfast … did you get my baked oatmeal recipe off my blog?). We, actually, have a 2 hour quiet time in the afternoon (and our 6, 7, 8, year olds still sleep, while the 10 & 12 year olds read, and the 12 & 15 year olds do school work). We, too, have kids with permanent blankets and pillows on the floor next to our bed. And … dinner is a VERY important family time.

    And … a few years ago my kids bought me a kitchen "under-the-counter" CD player/radio for Christmas, so we have music playing all day every day. Our local radio station plays continuous Christmas music for the first 3 weeks of December … I LOVE it!


    Laurel 🙂

  6. darci
    December 14, 2008

    hi lisa, what a great post. i love the picture of anchors..even with ‘only’ three kids, we have found that our kids thrive on routine..and i am a big believer in quiet time..they need it, i need it. 🙂 God bless.

  7. Brianna Heldt
    December 15, 2008

    Lisa thank you SO MUCH for doing this series…It is so great to get to benefit from your wonderful wisdom!

    SO true about anchors…oh my goodness. You totally articulated something that has been swirling around in my head but I hadn’t thought it through clearly yet.

    And this is crazy but the three anchors you named, are essentially the same three for us!!! A big healthy breakfast, quiet time (we do 2 hours) in the afternoon, and a sit-down dinner where we are all present.

    Again, thank you SO much for sharing your life with us!!!

  8. Angela
    December 17, 2008

    YES! Music is a spirit lifter around here as well, and we have those ‘anchors’ here, too! I’ve never thought of them as ‘anchors’ before, but I LOVE that word picture, and will continue to think of it!
    I also LOVE the idea of having some kids roll out a sleeping bag in different areas of your home. I’m SO going to do that tomorrow with my 2 oldest ones (6 and 4) while the little 2 sleep. Right now, I just let them choose a spot to be by themselves (guest room, kitchen table, play area) but I love the idea of having them in a smaller, designated spot that they go to every day. Thanks for that! I SO hope we meet in person someday! I adore your blog, and your heart that shines through in your writing!


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