Family Favorites

Our family is ALL about family night–we call it pizza pajama night.  When the holidays roll around, we spend days on end working puzzles, playing games and reading books aloud.  It is what we do!

Perhaps in your home, with your family or even in singleness, you find that these kinds of events never happen.  Well I can guarantee you, invite some from the youth group over or your neighbors or even a family at church. It is something that is well worth the few extra steps it takes to do it. Then just do it!

If you are of the mind that games, read-alouds and puzzles are things you despise, then I might question your joy-o-meter!  But I would suggest, too, that you give it another try and give the experience a NEW and FRESH place to grow.

There are few things that match what laughter and a bit of  shallowness can provide in the way of whole-health and wellness.  Oswald Chambers warns, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow concerns of life are not ordained of God; they are as much of God as the profound. To be shallow is not a sign of being wicked, nor is shallowness a sign that there are no deeps: the ocean has a shore. Our safeguard is in shallow things. Determinedly take no one serious but God.”

So do laughter.  Enjoy some shallow. It is life handed out to others and health and joy welling up in yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously!

Here are my top picks for some great holiday family games, puzzles and reads (not an exhaustive list or I would exhaust you.).


  1. Settlers of Catan (If you have more than four, get the expansion pack)
  2. UNO Spin (My family LOVES this game, though it is not my favorite.)
  3. Whodunit (Find it on Ebay.  It is a great game of logic and clues–more challenging than just regular Clue.)
  4. Monopoly (If you have a long time to play…)
  5. Farkle (Easy peasy dice game)
  6. Pictionary (We found one on the Wii that is really fun, too!)
  7. Sorry! (Simple for 5 and up)
  8. Cranium (Fun and lots of laughter)
  9. Apples to Apples (For older kids, but they LOVE it!)
  10. Sequence, Mexican Dominoes and Pit (Couldn’t decide which one, so added all games! Pit gets pretty loud, just to let you know.)


  1. Times Square
  2. Night Before Christmas (Can You See What I see?)
  3. Trump’s General Store
  4. On the Porch
  5. A Joyful Celebration
  6. Moonlight Funning
  7. Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride (Holiday Hidden Messages)
  8. Keepsakes on Santa’s Desk
  9. No Room at the Inn
  10. Wet Your Whistle and Warm Your Toes


  1. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Chronicles of Narnia series C.S. Lewis
  3. The City of Ember Jeanne Duprau
  4. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Rick Riordan
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L Frank Baum
  6. Henry Higgins Beverly Cleary
  7. Trixie Belden #1: The Secret of the Mansion Julie Campbell
  8. Betsy Tacy Maud Hart Lovelace
  9. Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain

How about you?

Do you have any recommendations for games, puzzles and read-alouds that we should check out?

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Family Room Intentionality

One thing I absolutely love about the family room is that it is often where some of my best and most precious memories are made. Steve Farrar said it best “quality time happens in quantity time.” Yet, somehow we believe we can plan a time-frame for it! We’ll  plan this fun couple of hours and leave that time feeling empty and cheated of “what should have been.” The fact is we can prepare, plan and pray for quality time, but it happens when we are present, unhurried and available for others.

Before we dig into this topic, I want to be clear, you don’t have to have a “family” to make great memories with others in the family room. I have tested this and have spent many happy hours hosting both friends and strangers alike. The heart of the family room is WELCOME, sharing your life and laughter.  I can still envision in my mind’s eye the stories I have heard, games I have played and laughter and joy I have felt after passing quality time this way.  In fact, the Lord often brings remembrances to mind of just such occasions right when I need them.

So how do we begin to be Intentional and find Quality Time in the Family Room?

1) People— Decide and plan on who will be there. Is it the family under your own roof, friends or relatives? Or do you need to do what Jesus suggested in the parable of the wedding feast? “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” (Matthew 22:9)

2) Preparation–Clean your home, add decorations (home-made is my favorite) and photos (placing special frames around with people you care about really let’s people know you value them), add gentle touches of scents (candles, cookies), sounds (perhaps soft music in the background or a burbling fountain like this one) and some snacks and drinks. Spend some time in the Family Room and prayer over the time together.  Ask the Lord to be present in your midst and to infuse the time and place with His peace, love and joy.

3) Possibilities–Lay out several ideas for the time spent together–games, movies, clean comedy shows, conversation jar (just a jar with getting-to-know-you questions) or even a book from which to read aloud together. I used to think that this time should be well-planned and orchestrated (read, I used to be a control freak), but I have found that sometimes people prefer to do something other than I planned.  Like for instance, I had no idea until recently that Trish doesn’t really like playing games. Forcing folks to do what you planned is not always the best route–certainly not as fun for them. So leave out the possibilities and ask!

4) Practice–Invite and re-invite!  Sometimes the first few times together will not reach the level that you would call it Quality Time, but more awkward than anything.  But invite them again!  You will begin building some wonderful relationships this way. As a family under your own roof, perhaps you have reached a staleness in your relationships.  Follow these steps and add something new to your time together.  You may find that family read-alouds are your thing or you may realize that one is really struggling with winning or losing a game.  It is time well spent–giving you insight into your family members. So practice with them, too!

We recently visited our friends of nearly 20 years in Canada.  One evening, we sat down to learn a new game called Liverpool Rummy.  It was so much fun!  They had a tradition of playing 80’s music while playing this game. The game was such that music was not distracting and it added to the conversation.  We had the best Family Room time with our friends. We made memories.  We laughed. We got tired and silly. We learned new things about each other. We stayed up past midnight. Now  I would call that Quality Time of the highest degree for this otter personality!

The best thing about this process is that it is do-able for everyone.  It is as free as you want it to be. And it fills your life with quality relationships.  These are the same relationships we will turn to when our lives are filled with stress or falling apart. Indeed, God puts the lonely in family. (Psalm 68:6)

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