September 4, 2008

Controlling Dinnertime Chaos

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Find more about cooking with kids, dinner, siblings

The Worst Dinner Ever
"The Worst Dinner Ever," as it will be always known, was so unpleasant that it seems permanently etched in my memory. The images from it are tough to shake, like those from a traumatic event -- two over-turned glasses, a screaming baby Miles, a tearful, hungry, but refusing-to-eat-what-was-in-front-of-him 7-year-old Henry, and a hysterical red-faced 9-year-old Julia, who had slipped onto the floor, limbs splayed every which way. Later that night, Dave could barely utter, "We've got to..." before his words trailed off and his eyes glazed over. I know what he meant to say. It takes moments like this for me to wake up and realize that we might have to make some changes. (Ya think?) Read more.

Blue Plate Special
Dinner had always been a hectic time at our house. Most evenings, when the five of us sat down to eat, everyone seemed to be clamoring to be the first to talk about their day or future plans. Somehow, we'd gotten in the bad habit of talking over each other rather than talking to each other. My head would spin from trying to listen to three different conversations at the same time. We needed to slow down and listen to each other rather than compete for center stage. So I came up with a plan for managing the flow of conversation. Read more.

Mom's Menu
"What's for dinner?" The question came at 4:30 p.m. I had 60 minutes to have my answer on the table. Options were limited. Most meats I had on hand were frozen -- no time to thaw and cook. I thumbed through my favorite recipes, quickly realizing that I was missing at least one key ingredient for each. My stock of frozen leftovers was depleted, as were the funds necessary for takeout. Thanks to a dozen eggs, the evening was saved, and we had breakfast for dinner. That night I announced that I wanted more variety in our dinners, and in some cases, I wanted more nutrition. But what I wanted most of all was a plan. Read more.

Turning the Tables on Dinnertime
Gathering the five of us for dinner is priority, but Talie's manners -- or lack thereof -- were turning our time to reconnect and relax into nothing of the sort. When she wasn't annoucing there was "yucky stuff" on her plate (and repeating it like a stubborn parrot), she was forever finding reasons to pop out of her chair with annoying frequency. Caitlin and Ellie began to refuse to sit near her. Matt was about to insist on separate meals for kids and grown-ups, when a friend let me in on a promising tactic that had just turned the tables for her daughter. Read more.

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