Brown Family Traditions

TJ and I have been throwing around ideas for traditions and ideals we would like to instill in our own family “culture” as our kids grow up. Luckily, we were both raised with strong moral convictions by our parents and we would like to pass along the importance of our faith, the awareness of others in need around them, and being a stand-up individual.

Here are a couple things we would like to see our family routinely do in the years to come:

Birthdays: For each birthday, in addition to receiving presents, have child collect and guests/family bring an item that the child will give to someone in need. For example: Sadie’s birthday is in November just before Thanksgiving. This is the perfect time to be collecting canned goods and having her deliver them to a food pantry or homeless shelter to support Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless.

This way our kids get to enjoy their birthdays and receiving gifts of their own, but they also learn to give to others who desperately need the necessities we often times take for granted.

Receiving Commission: Our kids will have a list of chores that are unpaid that they are simply required to do as a member of our home. Beyond those chores, they will have the opportunity to do more to earn their own money. They will learn to divide the money up into 3 categories: Save, Spend, Give.

With their giving money, we would like them to adopt a child through an international organization that is the same age as them to support every month. This way our kids have develop a heart for missions and can develop relationships with kids their own age who live in much more need by writing to them through their own childhood.

Prayer Pail: Sadie already always asks to pray all the time (especially before dinner). Right now, it’s limited to praying for her cousins. We would like to use the above pail in our dining room to start off our family dinner times by letting each of our kids pick a stick from the pail to pray for. This way we are sure to always be changing and adding things to pray for and it gives us a good foundation to start our conversation throughout dinner.

Thanks Board: And since Fall is approaching soon, here’s a tradition to start now. Every year I’d like to put this board up in view and have the kids draw or write things they are thankful for during this season and hang them up as a visual reminder of all the good.

We would like our kids to grow up knowing that there is plenty of bad that is easily seen in the world, but we need to be intentional about looking at the good and be thankful for the big and small things that take place in our lives!

What do you do in your family? I’d love to hear more ideas!

The Simple Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about living simply a lot lately since we live pretty minimalistic over here at the Brown household.

I wonder sometimes what God thinks about us when we fill our lives with material things in our homes as a means to bring us happiness. Do we really need it all?

This trap is so easy to fall into when you have kids. You find out your pregnant and go to Babies R Us and are immediately bombarded with all the “must-haves” to have a happy baby. 90% of it is all things you could live without, and yet there is this sense of urgency that if you don’t get these pacifier holders or an extra diaper changing mat, your baby won’t survive when they come home from the hospital.

If you can recall, when we were pregnant with Sadie, we were also without a job until a month after she was born. I remember crying my way through Babies R Us feeling like the scum of the earth that we couldn’t buy her 20 different rattles like the rest of the families were doing. I couldn’t even afford to buy one! The amount of pressure you feel regardless of employment status is unreal. Even with a steady income now, I still find myself fighting that feeling of needing to buy what everyone else is buying.

It doesn’t get any easier when they get older and have toys. I see so many homes that are consumed with toys. Parents even dedicate an entire room of the house just for holding toys. Or garages are filled to the brim with toys instead of cars. I can see how easily something like this can happen. It is easy! And when it happens, it could actually make sense for a moment. Despite that, I urge you to re-think with me and challenge the possibilities. Are all those toys really necessary?

Not only do I think it’s unnecessary, but I think it is of no help when it comes to fostering a creative imagination or an attitude of gratitude. When I was a kid, I remember playing with my crayons and a blank sheet of paper for hours. Or making forts with a couple of blankets in the family room so I could sleep there with my flashlight on. I didn’t own one Barbie…and I still don’t care.

I want my home to be centered on God and what He provides. Provisions that are not material, but are eternal. I want my kids to grow up knowing that it’s okay to go outside and play in the backyard with rocks and sticks instead of worrying that they don’t have the newest edition of the latest fad in the toy world.

This is Sadie’s toy area in our house. And it will stay somewhere very near to this size regardless of her age or the size of our house:


1. Rotate toys. We regularly switch out Sadie’s toys inside for ones we have stored in the garage outside. Every couple weeks she thinks she has new toys! When she’s older, she will be able to pick the ones she wants to play with and they will be special for her.

2. Give toys a new home when you get a new one. When we get new toys, we also give away an old toy. You can bet that there are toys your child has outgrown and can be given to someone else who really could use it for their child. It’s a great way to stay organized and not let your stash in storage overflow.

3. Encourage creative play. Go outside. Get out the crayons and the finger paint. Get to baking in the kitchen and let your kiddo help you stir or measure. Start a garden and plant together. Count all the dogs you see pass you when you take a walk. Go run in a fountain together and dig in the mud.

4. Think outside the box. Not every toy has to have a battery in it to drive you crazy. Kids are somehow always drawn to simple things. One of Sadie’s favorite toys is an empty steel cut oats canister with dried pinto beans in it. She will shake that little homemade thing silly and giggles with delight.  Add a wooden spoon, and you have the perfect drum!