What is a Family Culture?

A proper definition of a family culture is long overdue. I’ve been avoiding the question because it seems so large and overwhelming.

What is culture? What is a family culture?

As much as I love the idea of a family culture, I don’t feel like we have much of one. Who am I to blog on building a family culture?

It’s time to tackle these questions and fears. Thankfully, I recently found some guidance in the form of a gripping book.

culture making

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch

I’ll be tackling sections of the book bit by bit over the next few weeks as I grapple with what Crouch is saying and seek to find application to family life. There’s a lot in there and I’m super excited about it.

I’ll share some quotes and some thoughts and I eagerly wait your insights in the comments.

Here’s a quote to whet your appetite, although the family is just one of the many areas for culture making discussed in the book.

“I hope families will read this book and discover that the family, so seemingly insignificant in an age of technology and celebrity, is still the heart of culture, the primary place where most of us are called to cultivate and create.”

This is the introduction to the Culture Making series.  Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII here.

The Power of Positive Discipline: An Example


Sometimes I feel guilty that we don’t spank our kids. Would they obey better if we did?

This past week was one of those weeks that threw me into doubt. “This can’t go on,” I thought to myself. “The kids simply must learn to obey me each and every time.”

Early on we tried spanking with our oldest, but it just didn’t work. His personality was strong and my nerves are weak, plus I have trouble with anger sometimes so it simply isn’t a good option for us.

I brainstormed options for discipline that didn’t include spanking. “Maybe I can put their names on the white board and every time they fail to obey I’ll put a check.” Immediately I felt disgusted with my school-like solution.

“I’m completely focused on the negative,” I grumbled, “How can I formulate in a more positive way?”

After more brain-wracking I asked myself, “What is the goal? It’s not not disobeying, it’s obeying with a good attitude.”

“Maybe I can give them check marks for when they obey the first time and with a good attitude.”

It was worth a shot and my precious time alone to think was running out.

I went to the white board and wrote:

“Yes, Mommy” Count

Then listed my kids’ names.

I didn’t have time to make an announcement or to think whether to make it a competition. Life goes on when there are lots of kids around.

Later that day I saw this added to the list:

Daddy 🙂

Support from the husband is always a good sign.

The effect on the rest of the week was confirmation that it pays to focus on the positive. Even without the promise of a reward the kids took to trying to get “yes mommy checks.”

They even created their own game where they give each other instructions and hand out checks of their own.

I was so grateful that I took the effort to formulate my expectations positively. That choice had a spillover effect that lifted up the mood of the whole household.

My kids didn’t obey perfectly the rest of the week, but it no longer bothered me quite as much. It felt so good to enjoy and celebrate the moments when they would answer “Yes, Mommy!” and obey.

My point is not that I have found the best way to teach discipline. Far from it. The more I parent the more I believe our solutions should be varied, many, and changing to fit the personalities our kids and ourselves and the diverse situations we find ourselves in. I’m also hesitant to share a solution that hasn’t stood the test of time.

My point is this:

It pays to focus on the positive. What you focus on grows.

We aren’t perfect and neither can we expect our kids to be perfect – even in obedience.

To expect that they never do something (even if that is the ideal) is to set everyone up for disappointment and frustration.

To celebrate each success is to encourage everyone to pick up and try again after failure.

Where can you flip a negative into a positive this week?

(Personal note: Once again I’m writing this two hours before publishing time, and I still managed to paint with the kids, cook lunch, and do laundry. Don’t ask how clean the house is, though . . .)

One Easy Tip To Get Your To Do List Moving Today


You know the feeling: the longer and more urgent the “to do” list, the harder it is to look at, much less pick a task and do it.

If I ever were to create an organizational course one of its main tenets would be this:

Your habits MUST fit your organizational system.

No matter how great one organizational system my be for someone else, if your habits don’t fit it, it will fall apart. It’s just a matter of time.

I’ve had a hard time forming the habit of regularly looking at my to do lists. I tend to work in bursts rather than steadily moving forward, one bite at a time.

This week I discovered one reason why I avoid my “to do” lists.

In the past, I’ve mainly written down the things I have to do or what others want me to do.

I usually fit my own ideas and dreams into the margins of life, and it is no surprise that life has very little room in the margins.

Recently I started writing down simple tasks that could get me closer to something I’d enjoy, like making leg-warmers, which isn’t really necessary nor urgent.

I added “look up leg-warmer crochet patterns” to my “do at the computer” list, which mostly has items like “pay Discover bill” and “email the worship leader about Easter.”

Now when I look at my computer list there is something fun to look forward to after I pay the Discover bill – and I get to check off two things on my list!

I find I’m much more likely to look at my lists when I might discover “read for 10 minutes” and not just “sort inbox for 10 minutes.”

The idea of scheduling fun is not new, but somehow “fun” became just another burden.

“Geeze,” I’d think to myself as I scanned my lists, “Now I have to have fun before I can get to the work I care about!”

It’s important to realize that any given activity might seem like work to one person but be a pleasure for another.

We have to listen to our own inner voice to know whether “make muffins with the kids” would be stressful or a pleasure. Or if “sing hymns with the kids” would be energizing or torture.

Next time you think of something you’d like to do while you’re tied up in something else, go put it down on your regular to do list.

Remember to keep the initial task small – just the first step. You can get moving on it without it taking away from all your other duties.

Have fun!

(Personal Update: This week has been much better for me, but I still wrote this post at the last-minute and without my proofreader. I’ve read some inspiring books because I’ve finally made some time to read, and I’m excited to share of the helpful ideas with you over the next few weeks.)

Value Proposition

Why Blue Ocean Families?

Believe it or not, I still wrestle with this question.

As part of my struggle to define what it’s about, I’ve developed a “value proposition” designed to help the casual viewer get an idea of what Blue Ocean Families is about.

Current version:

Blue Ocean Families

Family life. Tailor Fit.


Proposed new version:

Blue Ocean Families

We see parents as leaders and children as capable.
We help parents with vision build a family culture aligned with their deepest values, one step at a time.

Your opinion is valued! What do you think?

Does it capture the value you see in Blue Ocean Families blog? Does it excite you to learn more? Is something missing?

Thanks for your help and your honest opinion!

It’s Never Too Late


I was starting to feel better this week, so I thought I’d give some reader-requested advice on toddler discipline.

Then we had a few bad days, and suddenly everything was my husband’s fault and my mother’s fault, and the fault of anyone who loves me enough to invest in my family.

It still scares me how quickly I can go from feeling okay – or even great – to plummeting into resentment and guilt.

As I vacuumed the kids’ room, grumbling about how my kids have not been trained properly to help out and even pick up after themselves, I remembered this important fact:


It might be too late to do things early, or do it right the first time, but it’s never too late to change direction.


It might not be easy, but our actions got us here and our actions can change the course we’re on.

I’m a little obsessed with trying new systems and ideas, so I’ve had lots of chances to see how children (and husbands) resist change fairly strongly at the beginning.

It’s discouraging, but if I push through with a positive attitude, it’s often a matter of days (or sometimes weeks) before it becomes the new normal.

That doesn’t mean the end of complaining – we’re human, after all – but the first few attempts are always bad and require keeping a longer-term perspective to get through.

The trick is to pick one thing to fix and work on it consistently.  I tend to get fed up and want to change everything at once. Obviously, disasters ensues . . .

It’s also important to pay attention to the feedback. I’d estimate that only two out of every ten “brilliant” ideas I have actually have the intended positive results.

Don’t beat yourself up about a good idea gone wrong, just drop it or adjust it and try again.

Last week I added a large table to the living room so the kids could have more drawing space, then created a new reading nook next to it with the bean bag.

Instead of drawing and reading the kids run and jump. (At least they keep the table clear!)

Sometimes good ideas gone wrong have unexpected fruits, like kids getting exercise in the reading nook.

(For the record, a few days later I did catch them reading in the reading nook.)

So here’s some encouragement to us all to not let all our troubles overwhelm us, but to take the next step to make our family life a little better.

Don’t forget to celebrate your success. I know I tend to think about what still needs improvement and forget to enjoy the progress we’ve made.

Remember, you’re the leader and it’s never too late!