Friday, April 25, 2014

Which TV Mealtime Mom Are You?

Ever wonder which TV Mom you are most like? Based on family mealtimes, my personal opinion, and not much science factored in, I have a fun quiz for you to find out:

1. How far in advance do you plan what’s for dinner? 
 A. One month 
 B. A week 
 C. That afternoon 

2. Getting your child to help with dinner means: 
 A. Telling her to put the napkins around the already set table 
 B. Ask him to make a dessert 
 C. Let her follow a recipe for meatballs by herself.

3. As a kid, what were the themes of your imaginary tea parties? 
 A. Finger sandwiches, and herbal tea served in miniature china tea cups -- My dolls got the best!  
 B. Oreos and hot cocoa -- Mom thought it was “cute” and I got the treat!
 C. Tea parties? 

4. Your child wants to invite a friend to dinner. You:
 A. Check your menu for the next week and look for an evening when you could stretch the food to include someone extra, provided they have good table manners
 B. Are thrilled and add a potato to the pot
 C. Figure one more, one less, no problem

5. Where do your family members sit at dinner? 
 A. Each child has a set place with a placemat of one of their favorite places we’ve been on vacation. 
 B. I sit closest to the refrigerator, my husband opposite me; the kids sit within arms’ reach of one of us.  
C. Everyone sits where they want--it’s different every time

6. What is your “go to” dinner when you don’t know what to make? 
 A. The extra enchilada casserole from the freezer. I made it the last time I made enchiladas
 B. Chef salad consisting of lettuce and everything in the cheese and meat drawer, with whatever dressing  is open in the door of the fridge
 C. Blue box of mac’n’cheese, hopefully

8. The menu is complete, and you are deciding on the centerpiece. You choose: 
 A. Handmade, carefully thought-out items that match the meal’s ethnicity and the season of the year perfectly 
 B. A pretty bowl with whatever fruit is in the fridge
 C. Wait. Centerpiece?

9. After your dinner, what happens to the leftovers? 
 A. I chop them up and freeze them separately. Each one is destined for a pre-planned meal in the coming 2 weeks 
 B. Reheat them for tomorrow night’s dinner
 C. Store them in unmarked plasticware until they grow mold; then I throw them out

6. It took you two hours to prepare a fantastic, well-balanced meal, which your 6 year old refuses to eat. You 
 A. Have a two bite rule for every new food. He must develop a taste for all foods 
 B. Think some foods are “grown-up” and shouldn’t be forced on kids. You only ask him to finish the one he likes
C.  Provide him with a completely alternate meal that you make while your husband eats. 

7. You usually decide what to make for dinner based on:
 A. What is on sale at the grocery store this week and will provide a balanced diet for your children
 B. A family consensus based on past responses to your meals
 C. Whatever is easiest

8. Your child talks with his mouth full, has his elbows on the table, and constantly interrupts. You:
 A. Call a family meeting after dinner to show a downloaded Miss Manners video on proper table etiquette
 B. Ask him to say “Excuse me” instead of interrupting and plan to bring up manners at dinner the next night asking everyone to contribute ideas as to what should be expected at dinner
 C. Ignore her

9. You are at dinner when your phone rings and you can see it is a call you want to take. You
 A. Decide that rules are rules and you can’t answer your phone 
 B. Explain that you’ve been playing phone tag with this person for two weeks and must excuse yourself to take the call
 C. Answer the phone at the table and then check your email quickly after disconnecting

10. Your 7 year old daughter suddenly stands up by her chair and does a perfect imitation of her teacher’s foibles. You:
 A. Give her a look which she knows means to sit down and eat quietly and you will talk to her later.
 B. You laugh and applaud her, then ask her to finish her dinner
 C. You laugh and applaud her and ask her to do an imitation of you to which you give the same response, no matter how unflattering it is

11. Your philosophy for family mealtimes is:
 A. Every evening at 6. Come prepared for a lively and informed discussion of current events
 B. We should eat together, as often as possible, and enjoy each other while learning how to behave at meals
 C. Haven’t really thought about it. We eat, sometimes together.


All “A” -- June Cleaver! You are the mother everyone wants to be, organized, efficient, and maybe just a tad OCD. You might want to find an area or two in which you can loosen up just a bit.

Mostly “A” and “B” -- Carol Brady! Your children will rise up and call you blessed--some day. Don’t give up, you have the right balance and your family will learn to eat together without some distant point in the future.

Mostly “B” and “C” -- Claire Huxtable! You are comfortable to be around and know how to have fun. Your kids may not have perfect manners right now (whose kids do?) but they’ll grow up to be well adjusted.

Mostly “C” -- Debra Barone! You are the glue that keeps your family together, laid back about mealtime, and believe your kids will figure out how to act at important events in the future. In the meantime, you applaud yourself for having family meals at all, and so you should, however, it might be a little easier if you planned ahead now and then.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Secret To Having Family Breakfast

I am sure your home does not sound like this on school mornings, but some homes do (or did!)

If you have even one of those things get in the way of having a family breakfast or even a parent with a child at breakfast (however short that time may be), you should know that there is One Secret to solving these hindrances.

Photo Credit

It's so easy, you might have thought of it, or maybe it's so easy that it hadn't occurred to you. But it is only three words. Curious?

Here's the Secret:

Photo Credit

Really, it's that simple.

With elementary school children:
The night before go through your children's backpacks and check to see if there are any notices, especially ones you might have to sign. (I know, they seem to always get lost, don't they? I wrote my share of "homemade" permission slips in my day.)

The night before check their homework agenda and find out what homework they have, make sure it is done, and that they have it in their folder, notebook, or backpack. (My husband was good at this one.)

The night before take a look at the school schedule--do they need anything special, like gym clothes? Make sure that is in their bags. 

The night before help them pick out appropriate clothes for school, including socks, unmentionables, shoes, and adornments (like earrings or barrettes). (This was easier for us as our kids wore a school uniform most of the years they were in school.) Lay these on a chair near their beds so they have them at hand.

Photo Credit
The night before help them make sure their alarm clock is set to get them out of bed in time. Discuss with them how much time they think they need--you should revisit this discussion from time to time. (We failed in this one and were always our kids' alarm clocks, but somehow, they learned anyway.)

The night before make their lunches. Have them all packed and in the fridge so all you have to do in the morning is pull their lunch bags out and set them where they can put them in their backpacks.

And my Secret Secret:

The night before set the table for breakfast. Put out everything you can, plates, bowls, sugar, boxes of cereal, silverware, that you have less to do in the morning, and more time to enjoy breakfast with your kids.

If you do these things with your elementary age kids, gradually turning the responsibilities over to them, by the time they are older, they should be able to get themselves ready in time to enjoy a quick breakfast with you or dad.

During their last visit, my daughter-in-law mentioned to me the difficulty of getting breakfast on in time for her husband to leave for work while dealing with a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. I try really hard not to give advice to my two wonderful daughters-in-law (fortunately they don't need my advice, but that doesn't stop most of us), but before I could think, out popped, "All the years the kids were in school, I set the table for breakfast the night before." The next week I received this text message.

The sideways photo is of their table set the night before, all ready for their oatmeal breakfast the next day. Yes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Doing this meant we had a quick breakfast with almost all our kids almost every morning before they went to school. We liked to use the time to not only get some nutrition in them to start the day, but say a quick prayer before the first one left the table to pray God's blessing and protection over their day. (And I will admit that there were more mornings than I care to remember like the one depicted above. I choose to forget!)

So, you remember those three words, and work toward having 5, 10, or 15 minutes with your kids before they start their day.

“The Night Before”

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You can get a copy today for only $4.75!

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Easter Hunt, With a Twist!

Did you ever do Easter egg hunts as a kid? 
Did you ever lose an egg?
Or two?
I can remember it happening when I was a kid, and it happened more than a couple of times with our children. We never smelled a rotten egg in our yard, but we did wonder what happened to those eggs.

If you Google "history of Easter egg hunts" you will find all kinds of stories, from the dark and scary to plausible to down right silly. 

But I got to thinking about doing another kind of "Easter Hunt" that would have a whole lot more meaning and be an interactive learning experience with our children. No eggs need apply.

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 when we visited them on Tuesday before leaving for a ministry trip to South America. I had as much fun thinking about this and planning it as they had doing it. Here's how I did it.


  • 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.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to Have a Happy Family Meal

A reader wrote to me recently, "I would love suggestions for how to ENJOY family dinner. I honestly hate family dinner at our house...My kids are great when we all eat together at Grandma's...but it's pretty much just stressful almost every night: the kids are all complaining abut their food, they're fighting with each other, everyone believes everyone else's conversational topics are boring and tries to short circuit them, every kid has 5 requests which he has to interrupt everyone for. I end up wishing I *could* just eat by myself before everyone else comes to the table just so I can digest my food in peace. What is our problem?"

My heart went out to her!

I write about happy family mealtimes, but believe me, when our kids were growing up, there were plenty of meals that I just wanted to be over. Every night won't be one big happy family. There will be seasons when it will seem like that never happens. But don't give up!

First and foremost, Mom and Dad need to be on the same page about the importance of meals, the "rules", the enforcement, and being all there themselves. If that's a problem, try a Dinner Just for Mom and Dad to talk about this!

I did a round up of suggestions to make the goal of happy family meals a possibility in your home. While I may not endorse all their ideas, and I certainly don't know what the rest of these websites talk about, here are some practical ideas to solve some of the dilemma's you might be facing that hinder your joy at family mealtimes.

The New Rules of Happy Family Meals
The Ladies Home Journal has 9 great suggestions to make a family mealtime happier (for you), healthier, (for all), and a time of more connection (for your family).  Note: you can click through to the other pages even though you can't get rid of the over-ad on page one.

Fight for Your Family Mealtime
Blogger Jennifer Schmidt talks about watching her teenage sons eat noodles directly from the pot while she prepared a talk on "The Importance of Family Meals"! It happens to the best of us, but she also talks about the atmosphere benefits of having candles at every meal, even frozen pizza meals, conversation starting questions, and being all there.

Focus on the Family
The ministry with that name was brilliant in choosing that name! To make your family your focus, and getting your kids to focus (or at least not be distracted by technology) will enhance family mealtimes and be a big factor in a happy family mealtime. This is a link to a short FotF video on the topic.

Making Mealtimes Pleasant
One of my pet peeves is no one coming when I call them for a meal. But I have to realize that it's hard to suddenly drop whatever you doing and run to the table. I've learned to give a "warning call". That's just one of the ideas you'll find in this article that helps our families come to the table with a good attitude.

De-Stress the Environment
Wouldn't it be great if an article could tell you how to take the stress out of your life, but that's always going to be there. This article has some great ideas about how to tone down the stress possibilities for you at mealtime, like using non-breakable dishes for little ones, (or everyone!). That way you aren't tense about breaking something valuable. Check out some of their other ideas.

Eat! Eat! Eat!
Actually, not. When our focus becomes on what and how much our kids eat and making sure they are in the "clean plate club," no one's going to have a happy meal. Here are some suggestions for getting kids to eat healthily, without ruining your dinner.

Minimize Annoying Behavior
This mom has some great ideas about how to deal with habits your kids have that really annoy you, in a positive way! Take a minute to read her thoughts.

Check Blood Sugar Levels
Don't actually do a blood test (unless you have a diabetic in the family) but make sure no one is starving for the last half hour before a meal. "No snacking, we don't want to spoil our dinner" should maybe change to "Have a little snack. We don't want to spoil our mood." 

Other great ideas that so many mention:
Include them in the Work
Making Serving Others a Priority
Use Questions and Conversation Starters
Risk the Mess, Get them Involved in Cooking
Be Proactive about Picky Eaters

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Did you know that Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!

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Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

How about "pinning" this post to your Pinterest page?

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