Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ten Habits of Families that Eat Together

"How do you do it?"

How do families that eat together often, maybe every night, manage it? In our society it seems like that's an impossibility. Everyone has a busy schedule, including the kids, so what makes family mealtimes happen?

Here are 10 habits of families that eat together often:

1. Start Right Away -- From day one of becoming a family they sit down together to eat. This means before the first child comes along, the couple eats meals together. As soon as possible baby is included at the table, even if he's not eating. My grandchildren have learned to hold hands and pray just by being included from long before they had any idea of what was being done.

2. Expect It -- Develop an attitude of this is the way it will be. Not eating together should be the exception. Expectations go a long way in developing habits, so be on the same page about them!

3. Everyone Helps -- Teaching our kids to shop, cook, and clean up are life skills entrusted to us. But getting them to help isn't just about them knowing how or me getting the table set; it's a great way to get to know each other. You know, it's easier to talk to someone about sensitive topics if you don't have to look them in the eye!

4. Keep Meals Simple -- My mother-in-law thinks every meal needs a meat, potato, vegetable, salad, bread, dessert, and coffee. Of course, those are great meals, but sometimes we have stir-fry and rice. Oh, and I let them drink water.

5. Block Interruptions -- There are BIG interruptions, like everyone having a different sport, practice, lesson, or appointment to get to. And there are little interruptions like television, phones, doorbells, and texts. The family that eats together blocks out as many of these as possible. Schedule things early enough to eat together. Power down, put away, don't answer. And, gasp, say "no" to some activities so you can say "yes!" to family dinner. 

6. A Few Simple Rules -- Dinner time is not time for Mom or Dad to turn into The Enforcer, but you need some basic rules to make a meal enjoyable. How about: Don't do things that make other people uncomfortable or upset.

7. Parents Set the Example -- Mom and Dad have to obey the rules too: no answering the phone, say please and thank you, be all there. 

8. Keep it Light -- Humor defuses. I can remember one of my teen's mood temperature rapidly rising as they searched frantically for their shoes. For once I didn't spike a temp, too, and philosophized, "One of the great questions of life is, 'Where do our things wander off to when we aren't looking?'" Temper successfully disabled.

9. Be Flexible -- Some days the family meal won't be on time. Some days there will  be interruptions. Some days the food will burn, or still be raw. Some days you'll have to take the phone call. Some days the appointment is unavoidable. Some days you won't all be there. The family that often eats together knows this and keeps expecting family mealtimes on most days. 

10. Know Every Day Won't be Like the Cleavers -- Do you even know the Cleavers? I was stunned to find out many of my kids' friends don't. I guess that dates me. The Cleavers are the family on the 50's TV program, Leave it to Beaver. They always sat down to dinner in the dining room, with a tablecloth, dad in a tie, a delicious meal, and kind conversation where the kids respected and learned from their parents. Yup, won't happen every day in any home. Might not even happen most days. But you keep trying.

Tell me, what habit helps your family sit down together for a meal?

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tell Us Your Story!

After reading a post on my blog, I want the readers to long for the kind of family connection they read about. They should think, "Let's have dinner as a family as soon and often as we can. I want that kind of connection in our family."

To do that I want to tell stories in my posts. My problem is I don't have any kids living at home full time. One daughter is in her senior year of college and I get to have her home some of her school vacation. 

So I need help.

If you have children--of any age--living at home, and you have regular family meals. I would LOVE to hear your mealtime stories.

If you have a story about a time your family (children, parents and siblings, grandchildren) was together around the table (or at a meal) that includes

Then it could be a great addition to the blog.

Photo Credit: Kelly Wilson

I want to emphasize that it is a story we want to hear. The teaching comes along naturally. If it’s a story of how something really clicked we’ll all be encouraged to keep working at getting our family together for meals. But even if it’s a hilarious disaster (at least now it’s hilarious), it helps us all know that others have calamities and not only survive, but can make them a part of their family’s oral history.

Humor is a wonderful teacher, so if that’s part of your story, work it in!

I am also open to slightly off-topic posts that have to do with families connecting. If you have an idea along these lines, please query me before going to the work of writing.

If you are interested in helping me (and I hope you are!) please take a moment to read the rest of this post with some specific guidelines.

Also, if you have a story, but aren't a writer, send me an email telling me the topic and giving me your phone number. You can tell me the story, and I will write it up.

Writer's Guidelines

Please take time to familiarize yourself with the blog (including clicking on the links above) and its purpose, to inspire families to gather around the table more often where they can learn, talk, and enjoy each other.

Submission of your guest post does not guarantee publication. Your submission will be reviewed and if it will benefit Around the Table Blog readers, it is likely to be published.

A guest blog should be a story not an instruction manual.

Musings on family mealtimes are also good, but keep them real and include true illustrations from your life.

Posts must be original content (i.e. not published under a copyright you do not own).

Please read and reread your entry to tighten up your story and make it readable and flowing. Read it out loud to yourself to see if it sounds good.

Read it to the people in the story to make sure they agree on its accuracy and that you have their permission to have it published on the web.

If it has to do with a holiday or season, please get it to me at least 3 months before that time so that we can work on it together before it is time to post it.

If you have any digital photographs that you could include with it, that would be very helpful, and actually necessary!  These would need to be sent to me in an attachment to be able to post them. If your family or others are in the pictures please get their permission to have them published on the web. I will assume that your submission means that there is permission. Include the suggested caption for the picture.

The entries can be 200-600 words long.

Include a short, fun bio (50 words or less) at the end of your post. I don't want your curriculum vitae, tell a fun or interesting fact about yourself. Feel free to include a link to your website, blog, and/or Facebook page.

Please send your well-edited blog entry to me in body of the email with any images attached

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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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Thursday, August 13, 2015

People with Clean Houses Clean

Not too long ago I looked at my schedule. I could mow the lawn that day or I would not have time for nine days. It had only been a week in the heat of summer, so large parts of the grass had barely grown. The shaded parts were getting long, though. And if I waited another nine days, it would all look pretty bad. I decided to mow. 

As I pushed the mower along, there were times when I would survey the grass seeking some sign of wheel tracks so I could tell where I had mowed and where I hadn't. I figured my neighbors were looking out their windows thinking, "O.C.D." But believe me, I'm not!

My neighbors' always lovely yard

But you know what I realized, people with manicured lawns, mow, cut, and edge when others think they don't need it.

I had some further revelations.

People with clean houses, clean even when the house looks relatively clean.

Godly, wise older people got that way by walking with God every day. (This is one of my goals; actually, all of these are my goals!)

Thin people watch what they eat. All. The. Time.

Organized people (like my husband) are always organizing. (Which is different from the way I do it: always trying to organize.)

People who are never late, always leave when there's more time than they need to arrive. (And they get less speeding tickets!)

Think about it.

People who get a lot done, are always doing something.

Maybe my "revelations" are beyond obvious to you.

The point is, to get something done, we have to do it...All. The. Time.

You want to have family meals on a regular basis? Start planning before dinner time. In fact make plans at dinner the day before! 
Do what you always do, even when it doesn't look like it needs to be done and then you'll be one of those people that seems to have it all together. AND, you'll get around to family meals!

Okay, now where did I put that fingernail file...?

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For more thoughts on this see Noticing What We Do

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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!

*   *   *   *   *  

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?

Linking with these great blogs. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Take It Outside!

In the city of Lima, Peru, there's a light house with a green grass park around it. Lighthouses are fascinating and spark the imagination. And a park with nice grass, that was a rare find in Lima in the 80s. So we often took our supper down there to enjoy looking at the ocean, run around the park, chase each other around the light house, watch ships sailing by, and have a family meal together.

When the weather is warm and the kids are off school is a great time to do something special for family meals. And there are all kinds of great ideas. Here are seven ways to "Take it Out". 

1. Carry Out -- That's what we did in the lighthouse park. I made some simple one dish meal that we could easily eat while sitting on a blanket along with tangerines or carrot sticks, sippy cups for drinks, and cookies for dessert. Any park will do, from the city park around the corner to the park by the lake an hour away. Bring some balls or frisbees or Bocce Balls (our family favorite) and enjoy the time together. As long as you are away from home, you are going to have enforced togetherness.

2. Grill Out -- Whether you have a hibachi or built in gas grill, and if you eat shrimp and steak or hot dogs, cooking and eating outside give you a chance to hear the birds sing, kids playing, a car driving past with bass booming, and, of course, someone mowing their lawn nearby. Something special after dinner (iced coffee drinks?) keeps everyone lingering longer to enjoy the outdoors.

3. Grill Further Out -- Take it further from home to a nearby park where grilling is allowed. We have a great park in our town overlooking a lock and dam in the Mississippi River where we've enjoyed some wonderful family times. "Remember the time the "ladder balls" got stuck in the tree? The game of getting them down was as much fun as the original game!" Perhaps there are trails to walk along in a park near you. And a kids outdoor scavenger hunt is always a great diversion!

    4."Move" Out -- Do you have a "video" projector? Take it outside and show a dinner movie on the side of your house, a sheet, or even an outdoor screen. Invite friends and neighbors for extra fun! Another variation of this is a drive in movie, if you still have one in your part of the world.

    5. Concert Out -- In our town there are two parks with free concerts where you are encouraged to bring your dinner beforehand for a picnic and then listen to the local talent. In the bigger city, where my son lives, there's a Concert Park dedicated to this during the summer. You have to pay, but you get to hear professional musicians. Either way it's a lot of fun! Look in your local paper for possibilities.

    6. Play Out -- Where my parents live they have "Shakespeare in the Park" one evening a week during August. We've gone there with our supper in a basket to enjoy the park, feed the ducks, have dinner together, and then try to figure out the Bard. Maybe there is something like that in your area.

    7. Shout Out (or Take Me Out to the Ball Park) -- Our church has a softball league and they love to have fans. It's pretty easy to pack a simple dinner and go cheer the team on. We did this a few weeks ago and sent an email around telling others we'd be there with our dinner and asked anyone who wanted to bring their food and join us. We had a good crowd cheering on our team!

    What can you do to make a summer evening meal extra special?
    There's still plenty of warm-enough weather time to eat outside!

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