Simplify Family Schedules with Traditions

posted by Andrea | 04/25/2013
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As I mentioned earlier this week — I have kind of a crazy work schedule. Dave is also quite busy with school, coaching, student council, etc. — and then there’s house work, yard work, volunteer work, and Nora!

Our home is busy — but in a good way.

Even with the best intentions to simplify and organize, life gets crazy and things don’t always go according to plans.

I’m sure you can relate.

You may remember my motto for 2013 is “A Year of Ultra-Simplicity“, and one of the ways Dave and I have been able to REALLY simplify our busy schedules is by implementing daily and weekly traditions.

They are nothing super formal or set-in-stone, and nothing is hurt or lost if we veer slightly from our traditions. However, these simple traditions save us loads of time, energy, and stress.

Sound good?

Let me explain!

If you think about some of your holiday traditions, you probably realize that you do the same things each year, eat the same foods, put up the same decorations, go to the same parties… and it’s all fine and wonderful because you know what to expect, you can plan ahead, and you have something to look forward to.

However, traditions are not reserved solely for holidays or other special occasions; you can quickly and easily implement traditions into your every-day life to simplify and save time.

Here are a few Dekker traditions. 

Sunday Meals:

On Sunday mornings, we almost always have cinnamon rolls. And on Sunday evenings we almost always have pizza. These two “traditions” are so simple… but since we almost always eat the same foods for these two meals, I never have to waste time or energy figuring out what to eat.

If I have more time, I might make homemade pizza and cinnamon rolls from scratch. If I have less time, we’ll pull a pizza from the freezer and open a can of refrigerated cinnamon rolls.

Done. No extra thought required.

Nora’s Bedtime:

When Nora was only a few months old, we were told to develop some type of bedtime routine or tradition to “signify” that it is time for bed — and thus help the sleeping process. After 17 months, I’m sad to say that it hasn’t helped Nora sleep any better… but it HAS helped her wind down and realize that it’s time for bed (whether she sleeps or not!)

Every night, usually around 7:30ish, we start our “traditional” bedtime routine. Dave snuggles up with her on the couch and they watch an episode of Daniel Tiger or Curious George on the iPad. Then Dave gives her a bath and she enjoys splashing around for a bit. I change her diaper, put her PJ’s on, feed her, and put her to bed. She almost always GOES to sleep right away — she just doesn’t STAY asleep. However, we’ll take what we can get at this point!

It’s not a perfect system, but Nora’s bedtime tradition takes the guess-work out of when/how we will put her to bed. We do it roughly the same way each night and I’m hoping (praying) that we will continue to see progress in this area.

Meal Planing:

I already talked a bit about our traditional Sunday meals; however, I have a pretty simple method for planning meals throughout the rest of the week which saves me time and stress.

You can read more about how I plan our weekly meals in this post… but the general concept is that we eat certain types of food on certain days (Italian on Mondays, Breakfast on Wednesday, Mexican on Fridays, etc.).

Obviously, the world doesn’t come to an end if we mix things up a bit, but by having these simple traditions, my meal planning doesn’t require nearly as much effort or time — hallelujah!

These are just 3 really simple traditions Dave and I use on a daily and weekly basis — I could list many more, but I think you get the idea.

with the ipad

Some other “traditions” you might implement in your home are:

  • Family movie night (with a specific meal or snack each time)
  • Babysitter night (a.k.a. date night for mom and dad!)
  • Taco night (kids seem to love tacos and you could make different types of tacos each time)
  • Sleep-in Saturdays (or Sundays) where you sleep in, stay in your PJ’s, and eat a yummy brunch
  • Parent-child date nights (one-on-one with each kid every month — and let them pick the place)
  • Game night (no TV or other electronics allowed)
  • Pool day (if you have access to a community pool or a local gym membership)
  • Special shopping weekend (once or twice a year — maybe stay over night or go to a fancy restaurant)

Again, I could go on and on!

All these traditions make planning your week, your meals, your after-school-activities, and your schedule so much simpler because it takes the guess work out.

Yes, there might be times when you mix things up a bit or deviate from your “normal” traditions and routine, but if you always have that tradition to fall back on, life just seems to run smoother and be less stressful.

Don’t you think?

What are some of your favorite weekly or monthly traditions?

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  1. Jennifer


    I love our tradition of hitting a Wednesday evening farmers’ market, shopping at Sprout’s, then eating at Jason’s Deli right next door. We do it once a month because it’s a little far from our home. I wish we did it every week.

    On another note, I also have a 17 month old and serious sleep issues. I’ve tried so many methods and have just resolved to simply going with the flow and trying not to let myself get stressed about it. I no longer read “how to’s” or ask anyone for advice because that only added to my frustration when “tried and true” methods didn’t work. I can get him to sleep, even if it only lasts a couple of hours. I’m counting on some day to be able to sleep through a night and start to feel like my brain cloud is dissipating.


    Andrea Reply:

    Ahh… Jennifer, it makes me SO happy to hear you say that (not that I’m happy about your lack of sleep… just that you can relate to our situation!)

    Dave and I have also intentionally chosen to “give up” on trying to get Nora to sleep better. We were driving ourselves crazy trying all these methods that would “for sure work” only be disappointed again and again and AGAIN.
    We’re still surviving! We get as much sleep as we can, and just keep plugging along. It’s amazing how after 17 months, my body is actually used to functioning on only a few hours of broken sleep every night. I’m not saying I’m happy about it, but we’ve figured out how to compensate for severe lack of sleep and we just keep telling ourselves it can’t last forever 🙂


    Jennifer Reply:

    Yes, plugging along exactly. 🙂 good luck to you guys! At least I have your blogs to read at 12:30, 2:30, and 4:30 in the morning. 🙂


  2. Susan


    Hi from Australia! I recently found your blog after i made the decsion to gain some control over our crazy life and “bomb-site” of a house. We bought a 4 draw filing cabinet and i wanted to start a filing system the “right” way from the start. So thankyou for you tips so far.

    As for the bedtime routine, we are still doing the Bath-Books-Bed routine 7 years on, and it works a treat.

    Thanks again for the inspiration.


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Susan, glad to hear the filing system is working well for you — and that your bedtime routine is still working years later. I’ll let you know in about 6 years if Nora’s bedtime routine is still working 🙂


  3. Melissa


    My husband and I don’t have children, but we still find that having a routine helps us function better. Every Monday we get together with his mom and dad and go out to dinner with them. Every night around 8pm or so one of us sets up the coffee pot for the next morning so all we have to do is push the ‘start’ button. Every morning before I leave for work I make sure all of the dishes are done (or at least in the dishwasher) because coming home to a clean sink makes me more motivated to make dinner (and leaves me calmer and less cranky than if the sink is full after coming home from a long day at work and a long commute). Every Valentine’s Day we go out to eat at the same hole in the wall Chinese place (that we really like) because there’s never a wait. Even when Valentine’s day is on a Saturday! 🙂 Another thing I do every day before leaving for work is to walk our dog. He loves that routine!


  4. Living So Abundantly


    We grab breakfast before church(drive-thru) every Sunday. It actually motivates us to get out the door quickly–lol. I also stop by my hubby’s work every week when I grocery shop, dropping him off a drink and a snack. We also do a bedtime routine. Our baby boy loves bath time.

    Speaking of bedtime and sleeping, I thought you might find this post interesting. It is a hilarious take on expert advice for getting your baby to sleep. 😉


    Andrea Reply:

    I saw that post too 🙂 So funny!


  5. Jill


    Our family always has pizza on Friday. My married kids plan on it too. We have a mini family reunion every week! I love it! There is no food prep to worry about so we can all focus on each other.

    After reading your post I realized we have a new tradition at our home. My husband and I leave for work each day at 6:00 am so we go to bed early. Our teenage son who is 18, “tucks” us into bed on the nights he isn’t at work. It is a fun moment to connect with him, He tells us about his day and we talk about the next day’s activities. He then turns our light off and shuts our door. I know it sounds funny, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!


    Lisa the Farm Lady Reply:

    I laughed out loud when I read the part about your son turning off the light and shutting your door! What a sweet and funny way to stay connected with your 18-year old! 🙂


  6. Suzanne


    I love this post, and really think I could simply things a lot, implementing them more. I always say I’d like to go out to eat every Friday, or do this or that with my son on Saturday. I do it once, then it seems to fall by the wayside.

    I’d read your post a long time ago about themes for the dinner menu, and loved it, and think it is finally time to do. There’s still so much variety allowed, but makes planning that much easier, which I truly need.

    Thanks for all your great advice always!


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Suzanne — definitely try the meal planning thing. It sounds like your menu would be boring — but you can still make lots of different recipes, just with the “category” guidelines. It has seriously helped me SO much over the years.


  7. Stel


    We also our similar tradition.
    Also – Monday night is mom’s off night. After kung fu we eat out, something small, but out-of-kitchen time for me. Sundays after church we go for coffee. Breakfast-in-bed on your birthday with vanilla cupcakes!
    And every evening, the boys get a story in my bed, then Bible time and a prayer, and they fall asleep there. I love sitting with them while they doze off, and that’s often my reading or blog-time.


  8. Family Fandango


    Mostly every Friday, we go out to eat. It doesn’t have to be fancy, we just cut ourselves some slack after working hard all week. It’s a nice way to bring the family together when we are all tired and need a lift.


  9. JoAnn C.


    Such a lovely picture of you and your family at the beginning of this post. Traditions, (a better word than routines), are necessary to keep a household running. Mom and I have to keep nearly strict traditions; meals at certain times, medications taken at certain times, etc. in order to keep her as healthy as possible. There is not a lot of room to veer off but every once in a while we shake things up a bit. She does love breakfast for dinner.

    I hope you and your family are safely away from all the flooding that is plaguing the west side of our great state.

    Thanks for this post.


  10. Chris


    Maybe this has already been discussed or maybe you’ve tried it, but since Nora has such a hard time staying asleep or sleeping for long periods of time, maybe you could put her to bed later? I absolutely love your blog. 🙂


  11. Georgia Gal


    Great suggestions Andrea! Some of the traditions we do are:

    * Pizza on Friday Nights ( If we have something different, my family reminds me it’s pizza night! 🙂

    * Big Brunch on Saturday’s ( My family can sleep in and wake up to a big and satisfying meal. They love it!)

    * 24- Hour Fever Isolation ( If any of my children have had fevers, I always wait until 24 hours from their last fever to have them around people outside of our home. Of course they might have to go to the doctor, but I don’t let people in my home ,or have the child around outside family, friends, at events, etc. That way I can not only protect their immune system so they can heal, but also not spread their illnesses to others. This has worked well for us.

    * Birthday Wall of Fame ( When it is someone’s birthday they wake up to one of our dining room walls covered in pictures of them throughout the years and a birthday banner. I will usually leave it up for a week and at their birthday party for everyone to enjoy. My family loves this and always looks forward to it. We also give our children their gifts the morning of their birthday, instead of at their birthday parties.

    * Daily Dinner Dessert ( From the time my children were very small, they learn that you have to eat all of your food to get a dessert. Desserts are simple and can be anything from 4-5 jellybeans, a popcicle, a cookie, small bowl of ice cream, etc. We eat pretty healthy, so this is a big deal to them! Even if my children do not want their salad, veggies, etc, they will eat it to get the dessert. As they grow older, they are rarely picky about food and eat many foods without getting a dessert. I have done this with all five of my kids, and even the pickest eaters learn to like a variety of foods.

    Hope everyone has a great day~


    Lisa the Farm Lady Reply:

    Love the idea of a Birthday Wall of Fame! What an amazing way to make someone feel really special! 🙂


    Mreeanne Reply:

    We do the same thing for b- days. Right now we have the Papa Museum up. For the past few years we have asked for donations for Operation Christmas Child instead of gifts at their party, (my kids’ b-days are a week apart. So we have a joint party.) They get plenty of gifts from relatives on their actual b- days.

    My son saw an ad for Operation Christmas Child on Veggie Tales and wanted to do it.


    Andrea Reply:

    That’s an awesome idea — thanks for sharing Mreeaanne!


  12. Cathleen


    We have done the same thing with our dinner routine and you are right, it makes meal planning easier. We do break away from the plan once in a while, but more than often we come back to it. With both parents working and never knowing who would be home first – and knowing what we are eating without having to constantly plan out dinners has worked wonders.We call it our “routine” but “tradition” sounds more fun and I’m going to use that more often now!!

    I love you posts, as always. Thank you


  13. Organize 365


    I love the baby bedtime routine! They smell so good fresh out of their baths!

    Our family eats dinner together every night. Which at the ages of 11 and 13 is a feat! We also have date night.

    Since my son is doing his homework at school, he and I now have a tradition of one on one talking time after school on the long drive home. I am cherishing these minutes with a 13 year old!