Thursday, August 9, 2012

First Love: Meal Times That Matter

The best thing happened last night!  I put on some music and my daughter Norah said, "ahhh...this reminds me of dinnertime...when the house looks golden from the candles and you play music and I can smell dinner cooking and dad is about to come home."

"Does that make you happy?" I asked.

"Yeah..." she said dreamily and sighed.

The little details that make her think of home are very intentional on my part, but for her they all just to come together to make her feel comfortable and at ease in our house.  I love that.  That's what building a comfortable environment is all about.

If you want a great book on family dinners, I highly recommend this one, The Family Dinner by Laurie David.   Though it has recipes in it, I find that the helpful hints and tips for making dinner a special time are what I enjoyed most about the book.

Some suggestions:

1) At dinnertime we go over cards called, "Chat Pack," which have little kids' discussion questions on them.   Lucas' parents gave us these cards one year as a family gift.   When he was a kid, his family sat around with a similar stack of questions at the dinner table.  It gets us all talking and it's a great way to open up the lines of communication with your kids each night.  Our girls really look forward to it.

2) We say the same prayer each night at dinner.  My mom grew up saying it as a kid, and I learned it from my grandparents.   Laurie addresses family prayer or a moment of silence as a great way to open up a family meal at the table.

3) When I was in grad school and Lucas was, too, we often weren't all around the dinner table together.  So, we set our alarms for a little bit earlier in the morning and I made a nice, hot breakfast each morning for our family.  We carried on our family meal but changed the time of day we gathered to fit our busy schedules at the time.

4) Laurie David suggests in her book the idea of making even snack times feel like rituals.  She suggests always having a bouquet of flowers with a snack tray out when the kids get home from school, or a lit candle and hot tea at your island in the kitchen to welcome kids home.  I LOVE that idea.  You'd be amazed at how much little things like that can really make a difference in a family's day.  I find, too, that it really cuts down on the mindless munching and makes meal times more intentional time together.

5) Dessert has become a dirty word in our culture, with childhood obesity on the rise in this country.  But, taking the time to have dessert as a family after dinner lengthens your time together as a family.  Dessert can be berries and cream or tea, fruit, cheese, and crackers.  It doesn't have to be a heavy, fatty variety to be enjoyed by all.

6) Need something to listen to?  I love this Fleet Foxes album.  I've been playing it non-stop since we moved here over a year ago and I STILL can't get enough.  In fact, I asked Lucas on a scale of one to ten how much it bothered him that I play the same music over and over.  He said, "zero."  He's a keeper ;)

And, as always, please DO let me know what your meal time traditions are.  Do you have any meal time goals for your family? I really can't emphasize enough how much meal times can really set the rhythm of the day for your family.

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