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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Strangers in My House

or
How We Bring the World to Us

In the last month we've had people from Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Finland, Puerto Rico, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Korea, and Kenya at our house as well as from seven states! Some of them we knew before they came and some we met when they arrived at our door. Well, actually one couple, the parents of our student-teacher boarder, we met after they'd spent the night at our house as they arrived after we had gone to bed!



Where do we find these people? I guess you could say we are drawn to them. Or maybe they are drawn to us.

The truth is we have always had an open door policy--an extra plate at the table, a child we could kick out a bed to let someone spend the night. We talk to people and find out family or friends or missionaries are coming into town and need a place to stay and we're happy to oblige. Besides now, we actually have a guest room so no one has to get kicked out.

I can't tell you how much we've learned from these people: about their country, their language, themselves, the Lord, their food (sometimes I get them to cook something!), how to pray for them, their country, and their ministry, their kind of humor... 

I only wish more people would open their homes. You know it doesn't have to be a perfect home or spotless, or gourmet food. 



There are about a dozen students living in the dorms of Emmaus Bible College near us right now. They are the summer workers, mostly foreign students who can't go home and can only work on campus. There's no food being served there now and the student kitchen doesn't offer much more than a coffee maker and a microwave.

On Sunday night one of the teachers and his wife invited them over. They served on disposable plates and everyone sat around on chairs or they floor of the small apartment visiting for several hours.

The next night we realized was the only night we could have them over for quite a while, so we issued an invitation, and we grilled chicken, sliced baked potatoes, and made a salad. Dessert was a pudding "eclair". They were thrilled! So were we, laughing and talking for three hours. Imagine a bunch of college kids hanging out with a middle aged couple like us!



As an ice breaker (as if one was needed!) I told them to wander around my house and look at my knick knacks and decorations and choose one that in some way related to them and bring it to the table to tell the rest of us about how it related. I have things from all over, the world, that is, and that's what they are--things--so I don't mind them being used, touched or carried. (Unless it's my center piece. Don't touch the centerpiece!) *smile*

It was great to get to know them.

How open is your home?




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For More Ideas and Inspiration:
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Keeping Memories--16 Photos You Must Take

Years ago our nephew asked his mom if he could watch the "Happy Birthday" video. It took her a moment to realize that was the video of his cousins who lived in South America. 



Apparently most of the times we remembered to take videos was birthday parties. When we got a long enough segment we sent it up to the grandparents who shared it with other family members. A large part of the video was made up of people singing happy birthday to one or the other member of the family!

What the grandparents would really love to have seen would have been everyday life. And that's what we'd like to be able to look back at in photos, too.

Here's a list of 15 photos you should take every year of every child:

1. Your child sleeping -- aren't they angels?

2. Eating breakfast -- whatever you normally do.

3. Leaving for school -- not "First Day of..." but a regular day in t-shirt and jeans dragging that old book bag or riding the skateboard.



4. In the classroom -- get permission from the teacher to take a photo of the class while she's teaching; yes, you will be that Mom (or Dad), but everyone will be happy for that picture later.

5. With their best friends -- go ahead and pose them together, but try to catch them in a candid gathering too. My best friend and I used to often come home and sit on snack stools at the kitchen counter and giggle our way through cookies and milk. That would have been a great picture memory to keep!

6. Playing their favorite game -- whether that's on a screen or around a board.

7. Practice at their sport -- don't just photograph the event and (hopefully) the trophy, get some pictures of the everyday practices.

8. Everyone in the car -- do a selfie from the front seat of everyone in their seats as you go to the multitude of errands, lessons, practices, and orthodontist appointments.



9. Doing their homework -- do they sprawl on the floor, sit up in bed, work at the kitchen table? However they do it, take a picture to remember that.

10. In their favorite outfit -- having trouble getting them to wear something besides that t-shirt from camp and their favorite, now too small, jeans with the holes? Keep photographic evidence. (Actually I'm rather glad my mom didn't keep a picture of the purple and white striped jeans shorts I wore all summer one year with purple knee socks!)

11. Practicing their music -- are they learning the violin? piano? recorder? It's worth remembering.

12. Doing their chores -- I wish I had pictures of my kids washing the dishes, setting the table, emptying the trash. They each have their own style and it would be fun to remember.

13. Playing -- Hopefully your kids play creatively. Sneak up on them and take a picture. Include friends if possible.

14. Family dinner -- on a regular day when it's just fish sticks and frozen mixed veggies.



15. Family fun -- what do you do together as a family? Go to the park? Ride bikes? Take a walk? Eat outside? Play board games? Whatever it is, record it with a picture!

16. Bedtime routine -- do you read stories, sing songs, holler goodnight? My grandkids have a fun routine of singing with Mommy and Daddy, I hope my photographer son gets pictures of that time.

You'll never be sorry for these visible reminders of family life. If you print out the photos or make a photo book, you can get them out and talk about them when they are grown up and you are all reminiscing. I promise, some day you will do that! We do.


Tell me what other pictures you would include!


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Do you have a meal to tell us about? 
Write me and let me know. 
I'd love to share it with my readers.

aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com


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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why You SHOULD Have Internet at Dinner

Be honest now. How many of you have played the game "Can We Guess Your Level of Education?" 

I'll be truthful, I did.

And I got PhD level! 

Even though I only have a bachelor's degree.

Okay, I think the quiz was designed to make you feel good about yourself, but there were a lot of questions on there that were topics around our table over the years, either when I was a child or when I was raising children.


When I was growing up and when our children were young, whenever a topic we had a question about came up, we walked to the bookshelf and chose the appropriate World Book encyclopedia to look it up.

But then came Google.

At some point during our children's upbringing we stopped lugging books to the table and ran to the desktop computer to "Google" whatever information we were interested in, reading loudly from the other room so everyone could hear.

We no longer have to shout.

If it's not a phone it's a tablet that can answer our questions. And I don't think it's all bad. 

Don't get me wrong; I still think there should be strict rules about phones, computers, and tablets at the table. Unless it is very important (and that is defined by the parents) no one should be holding an electronic conversation with someone while at the table. But using the Internet to learn, that can be useful. 

Everything in moderation.

We have also used the Internet to "eat" with people across the country or around the world. Our daughter lives in Germany so we have brought her to the table with us via the wonders of the Internet. It's fun!

Whether you are finding out where in the world a place you heard about is or are discussing current events the Internet can be a help.

Just don't let it be an interruption to your family time around the table.







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For More Ideas and Inspiration:
Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book.

Attention Introverts!
We know we like people and we do like to talk, but we want to have something to say, right? I can help. Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page, and always have something worthwhile to talk about.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

If It's Monday, It Must Be Breakfast for Dinner!

When I sit down to make a menu for a week, a lot of it depends on what I feel like eating at the moment I'm writing the menu. Sometimes it depends on who is coming, what's in season, what events are included, but mostly just what I can think of that sounds good.



Is there a better way?

One of my daughters-in-law has three small children three and under, so there's not a lot of time to think about planning meals and especially not time to run to the grocery store for forgotten items, so she has come up with a weekly meal plan.

It works like this:
Monday--Breakfast for dinner
Tuesday--a familiar recipe 
Wednesday--something new 
Thursday--a favorite 
Friday-- appetizers 
Saturday--Random  
Sunday--Wing it 

Abby has a rationale for each day being what it is as well. On Monday she needs to get to her Bible study, so she wants a meal that's quick to put together. 


Tuesdays her husband gets home late from work so she wants something that she knows how to put together even with three little kids at her feet. 

Like all of us, she has a whole Pinterest board of recipes to try. My son is there to entertain the kids on Wednesdays, so she tries something new that night. 

After the children have tried something new, they get an old favorite on Thursday, well they all do. We all have meals we enjoy repeating often.


Friday night is "date night". When you are a couple with a young family "dates" usually mean staying home, it's easier and  cheaper! So they feed the kids early and then have fun appetizers together while they play a game or watch a movie.

Sometimes on Saturday there's a plan she follows and sometimes it's what's-left-from-the-week-that-I-can-put-together?

Sunday night is AWANA night for their "Cubby" so often she gets a PB&J "lunch" to eat on the way home. Even that's a special treat for someone who usually gets to eat at a table with the family!


Abby even has all her recipes on Pinterest set up in these categories so she only needs to go through each category and pick out a meal. She also very carefully goes through the recipe to make sure she has everything she needs or puts it on her grocery list.

This plan makes a lot of sense to me. I literally a-g-o-n-i-z-e over my menus at times. This system just seems to take the difficulty out of choosing.

How about you? 
How do you plan what menu you will have for the week
 or what to buy?




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Do you have a meal to tell us about? 
Write me and let me know. 
I'd love to share it with my readers.

aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Easter Hunt With a Twist!

I wrote this last year just in time for Easter. I had planned to have it published a couple of weeks ago, but life got in the way of blogging. However, it's been popular on Pinterest, and I believe it's an idea worth thinking about and adapting for your family, Sunday School class, or children's ministry. I'm hoping to do it with my grandchildren again. --Sharon


When my husband and I had the opportunity to to go to Russia for ministry, I began reading about the country, it's people, and their traditional faith. One thing that fascinated me was the Russian Orthodox Easter service. 

From what I understand, at some point during the early Easter morning service, everyone files out of the church following the priest. They walk around the church. When they come back, the doors are closed. The priest knocks on the door. An altar boy is inside and opens the door and says, "He is not here, He is risen!" And everyone answers, "He is risen!" 

It gives me tingles to think about it. I would love to organize an Easter service like that! I guess that is part of my inspiration for this fun and meaningful Easter Hunt I made up for my grandchildren.


Perhaps you could call it "The Hunt for the Meaning of Easter" or "The Better Kind of Easter Hunt" or simply "The Easter Story Hunt".

I did this with my grandchildren last year. I had as much fun thinking about this and planning it as they had doing it. Here's how I did it.

Gather:

  • 4 very large plastic eggs, or medium sized Easter gift bags
  • a boot-size (or larger) box with lid
  • green tissue paper or one of those disposable plastic green tablecloths (that's what I used)
  • Fig Newtons (enough for each child to have at least one)
  • Small bread rolls and boxes of grape juice (one of each for each child)
  • Two boards nailed together to form a cross, two or three more nails, a hammer
  • an old sheet or rag torn into a long strip
  • a favorite stuffed animal
  • 3x5 cards or computer printed cards
Printables for the cards can be found here.

Once I had all the supplies, I put the Hunt together into the Easter gift bags.
Bag 1:  One folded piece of green tissue paper or pieces of tablecloth cut into large "palm leaves" --one for each child and one for me
On one side, the card in this one said: When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey the people were excited and waved palm branches and shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Hosanna means 'Save us'. Why don't you pretend Jesus is coming? Wave your palm leaf and shout!
On the other side: The next item will be found ______. (My grandchildren are very small, so I told them exactly where to look. If your children are old, you can give them clues so they have to hunt.)


Bag 2: Fig Newtons for everyone
Side one of the card: A fig is a fruit that grows in hot climates. Jesus used a fig tree to teach His disciples a lesson. You can eat your Fig Newton while I read you the story--One day Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree. He looked to see if there was fruit on it, but there was none, so He said, 'This tree will never again have fruit.' The next time Jesus and His disciples passed the tree, it was withered up and dead! The disciples were surprised. They asked Jesus about it and He told them, "Have faith in God. Whatever you ask of God He will do for you, even if it is hard, like forgiving someone." We know this was important because it was one of the last lessons Jesus taught His disciples.
Side Two: The next part of our Easter Hunt can be found _______.

Bag 3: Bread rolls and juice boxes
Side One: At the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before He died He gave them bread to eat and said, "This bread is to remind you of my body that will die for you." Then He gave them juice from grapes and said, "This drink will remind you of how I shed my blood for you. Remember Me." Eat your piece of bread and drink the grape juice and remember that Jesus loves you.
Side Two: The next clue can be found ___________.


Bag 4: The wooden cross with nails pounded part way in where the hands and feet would go and a hammer.
Side One: Soon after this all the people who had been so excited to see Jesus on Palm Sunday, were talked into asking their ruler to kill Him on a cross. Nails were pounded into Jesus' hands and feet. It sounds awful, and it was, but God had a reason for this. When Jesus died, He was paying what we should have paid. It should have been us, dying for our own sins, but God let Jesus pay for them so we could go to heaven if we would believe on Jesus. Can you pound the nail into the cross and think about how much it must have hurt Jesus to pay for our sins?
Side Two: Go find _(name of favorite stuffed animal)_ and then look for the next part of the hunt in a box in ___________.


Box: cloth strip(s)
Side One: When Jesus had died, they took His body and wrapped it in strips of cloth and put it in a tomb. Everyone was very sad. They had thought Jesus was going to be their Savior, but now He was dead.
   Wrap _(stuffed animal) _ in the strips of cloth and put him in the box. Then put the lid on the box. Do you feel sad to think of _(stuffed animal)_ in the box? Remember, Jesus' friends were very sad, too. But there was something very good that they didn't know! It happened three days later. Run around the house three times to pretend like three days have passed.


Unless your children are old enough to run around your house alone, while you are running with the children, you need an accomplice to take the stuffed animal out of the bag and place him in a prominent spot nearby, fold up the cloth strips neatly, and place this note on top of them.




Celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive with your kids! Cheer and clap and jump up and down. Hug the stuffed animal and hug each other. Tell them this is the true meaning of Easter.


Links for Printables

For more ideas on how to bring the true meaning of Easter to your family in a fun way click here.




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For More Ideas and Inspiration:
Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book.

Attention Introverts!
We know we like people and we do like to talk, but we want to have something to say, right? I can help. Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page, and always have something worthwhile to talk about.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Trivia Questions



This year on St. Patrick's Day I'll be in San Francisco...and Dallas...and Cedar Rapids, Iowa...and, finally, home. I hope to get home around 1 a.m. if all the flights are on time, thanks to a miles ticket to get me from my mom's house (where I've been helping her sort and pack to get her house ready to sell) to home. So I won't be doing my own celebrating, despite the fact that my grandfather immigrated to this country from Ireland, in fact, from the very county where Patrick is buried! 



However, I'd love to help you celebrate the day with your family. 

I know that the world thinks this is a day to drink (green) beer or Guinness, but then the world pretty much thinks that any celebration requires drinking, even to the point of getting drunk, but I really can't imagine that's fun. It's so much more fun to laugh and talk and connect with the people we love.



So my St. Patrick's Day gift to you is St. Patrick's Day Trivia Questions in the form of printable cards. You can take turns asking these questions to your family or friends around your table on St. Patrick's Day.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!
And don't forget to wear green.





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Do you have a meal to tell us about? 
Write me and let me know. 
I'd love to share it with my readers.

aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com


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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space on the right side of the blog, below the picture of the book. Each week you will receive one email that looks like this:



It's as easy as that. No searching for the blog, waiting for your browser, or missing a post. Sign up today! (And you can unsubscribe anytime.)





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Thursday, March 5, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Idea Round-Up

I love a celebration.

When my kids were little, I celebrated everything I could think of--George Washington's birthday, Groundhog's Day, Valentines, St. Patrick's day...and on and on. Since we lived overseas, far from extended family, we celebrate all their birthday with a cake, candles and a song on the day!

Celebrations create joy, happy memories, and--usually--dessert!


So why not celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year? It not only adds to the fun, but there's a missionary story involved that's worth letting your family in on.

Here are some ideas I've found:

Breakfast
For the Littles (and not so littles): Green Milk--Every year when my kids were at home, we would have cereal for breakfast on St. Patrick's Day. Since our milk came in bags, I always poured it into a ceramic old fashioned milk jug. On St. Patrick's day I added green food coloring. The first one to pour them milk was usually surprised! I had fun watching their reactions. As they got older, they knew to expect it, and my oldest son repeats it with his children now.

Grown-Up: Shamrock Eggs--I tried this and it actually works! It probably requires a grown-up palate, but my husband and I loved it!


Snack Time
For the Kids: Lucky Charms and Green Milk--My grandkids love eating little snacks where you pick up one at a time, so how about serving Lucky Charms cereal in a muffin cup (extra points if it's green!) along with milk (maybe green, too)?

Activities
For the FamilyLeprechaun Photo Shoot--With these printables your family will have as much fun as a barrel of leprechaun's taking pictures together!

For the Bigger Kids: A Treasure Hunt! --When my son was a freshman in high school we hosted a St. Patrick's Day party that included running all over the neighborhood for a treasure hunt. This link has pre-written clues for an indoor treasure hunt. If the weather is warm enough, you can have the kids go further abroad. The prize? A "pot" of gold (foil covered chocolate coins). 

For the Littles: Shamrock Stamping--even my young granddaughter had fun with this one! When my kids were little I had them paint shamrocks on the kitchen window for me. They had a great time and washable paint is so cleanable.


Devotions
For the Family: The True St. Patrick's Story--My daughter-in-law wrote this story to explain who the real St. Patrick was to her preschool class. It is one of my most popular pins on Pinterest! But I think it would work with any family for a change of pace family devotion.


I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day.
As they say in Iowa:

Kiss Me
I'm Iowish


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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space on the right side of the blog, below the picture of the book. Each week you will receive one email that looks like this:



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