As I sit here thinking about what to write about dinner at our house I realize that it probably does look crazy and chaotic from an outsider’s perspective. Gary and I fixing plates [side note: that’s what we say in the south. The plates aren’t actually broken just so you know], the kids coming in and out of the kitchen, the fridge opening and closing. I see it all in my mind, sped up just enough to make it comical and the Benny Hill song playing in the back ground.
Our dinner routine has evolved over time to suit our needs. When we were first dating there were only 4 chairs at the table so we had to use a bar stool as well. Which caused arguments over who was going to sit on the stool….and our first schedule was born! Everyone had ‘assigned seats’ at the table [alright, alright…I might be a bit OCD] so the stool just made its way around the table giving each person a turn to sit on the beloved stool. Which I don’t know what the big deal was. It was too high for the table and you had to lean over to take a bite of food. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, dinner routine. The table was only large enough for four, five with the stool, so Gary and I would feed the kids first and play waiter while they ate. Once the kids were done we could enjoy a peaceful dinner, and I use the term peaceful very loosely. This routine continued on for quite a while. We still use it when we have our friends over so the adults can sit together and converse over the meal and the kids can run off and play. However, we now eat together as a family every night!
Our first meal as a family was on Memorial Day. Gary had made the best looking ribs, I made potato salad and baked beans…the whole nine yards. The food looked fabulous!! Gary looked at the ribs and then looked at me and said “We’re all eating together today. There is no way I’m going to sit and watch them eat these ribs and have to wait on mine.” So we had our first meal together as a family, all at the same time! All joking aside, Gary and I truly value our faith and family and we decided that we needed to start eating our meals together as a family to reflect that.
Our dinner routine runs rather smoothly I think. When dinner is almost ready we call one of the kids to set the table. Depending on the type of dinner we have we either go ahead and fix [prepare for you northerners] the kids plates and put them on the table. Usually the child that sets the table helps with this part too. Sometimes we put all the food on the table “family style” and serve them there. If we have tacos or something like that we either call each child to ask for their preferences or send a child to take orders just like a waiter. Don’t laugh, it works. I even write their names on the edge of the paper plates with my sharpie sometimes to keep track. Those of you who know me are laughing now because they know all about me and sharpies. You are aren’t you? Once all the plates are ready and everyone is seated we say the blessing and enjoy our time together. Sometimes the discussions are silly, sometimes intriguing. Some nights we have wonderful discussions about right and wrong, our faith and how great life is. And we almost always learn something new about each other. One by one the kids finish and ask to be excused. We have to be a little strict here because we have a few who like to inhale their food so they can return to their xBox game or television show or drawing or whatever. They know up front that if you finish first you will have to sit and visit for a little while before being excused. So you may as well slow down and actually taste your food. Everyone clears their own spot putting their cup in its spot on the counter (yes, I even have a certain place for their cups to stay), trash in its place and the dishes in the sink. Then a child wipes down all the place mats and puts them away, wipes the table and pushes in all the chairs. Gary and I are left to clean the rest of the kitchen but together we knock it out in no time. Plus, it gives us time to chat and I really cherish that time. On the weekends, school holidays and summers we do the same for breakfast and lunch except I’m doing it alone sometimes. Those meals are a little more laid back but still pretty much all the same rules apply.
Our friends are amazed at our dinner routine. They watch in awe as we float around the kitchen, and each other, as we spoon food onto plates, pour drinks and herd five kids to the table. The real challenge is finding something everyone likes to eat. Especially when you’ve got two picky eaters in the family. One day I’ll share with you the many ways to serve pasta with butter and plain hotdogs. I’m sure you can’t wait to share those recipes with your friends and family.