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Tuesday
Nov252014

Family Dinner Non-negotiables

If I were more a more creative mom I would simply install a revolving door at my house because we have had so many children and guests live here at different times. My mother lived with us for a few years and then a lovely lesbian couple took over the basement for one summer. Another friend's son moved in for a while for a few weeks until his apartment was ready. Both of my boys live here now and a few years ago The Cuban's eldest son and his girlfriend moved into the basement. (Thankfully, we have a finished basement with a bathroom.) Currently, my father lives with us in an upstairs bedroom. 

Basically, this is a well used home and we can't say no to anyone who needs a place to live.

The one constant is, of course, that we have a lot of meals in this home. No matter who is currently living with us, whether temporary or permanent, we set the non-negotiables for how we do dinner. Mostly everyone eats breakfast on their own and everyone seems to be gone at lunchtime except for my dad. Once dinnertime rolls around, the once quiet home begins to bustle with noise and excitement and a dog that needs to be walked and rumbling stomachs that need to be satiated. 

Our home is built so that we have a formal dining room for the overflow but we have a highbar table in the kitchen that is used daily. It seats 8 and when my grown-and-on-her-own daughter and her husband come over we all fit at the kitchen table. It's a routine we've perfected over the last decade because it's a sacred time for us. Some days, that's the only time we'll see one another. Because we hold family dinners so close, there are rules to this.

Dinner Time Family Rules

First, we all sit at the table and turn on music. 

We like Jack Johnson or Jill Scott on in the background (or my new favorite Pandora station: Pink Martini), but we try not to turn on the television. Instead, with music playing we're more likely to have conversations. The kids help set the table unless The Cuban is going to plate our food. Cloth napkins are a staple and we've been collecting dinnerware together since we like to entertain.

Second, whoever cooks doesn't have to clean.

The Cuban cooks almost all the time. That means I do a lot of clean-up detail even though he's perfectly fine with doing it himself. Still, dinner is a shared responsibility and that makes this relationship work. I especially like when the kids come over because, as adults, they're less likely to complain about clean up. You know how it's easier to clean someone else's kitchen rather than your own? That.

Finally, we connect.

Everyone in our family is rather chatty and have a lot going on so we like to connect over the dinner table. Whether we're discussing our projects or things we're passionate about or our jobs, everyone has something to contribute. It's how I know what's happening in their lives and beats the heck out of finding out things on social media. We know that Mason can almost never join us for Sunday dinner because of his church youth group commitments but we still make time because it's a priority in his life to give back in this way.

Giving Tuesday is upon us and you can help.

Between December 2-16, you can join me to kick off #familydinnerforward, an initiative and contest to inspire families to give – within the family to one another and/or to those outside your family. 

To participate in #familydinnerforward, simply snap a dinner or giving-related photo and share it via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #familydinnerforward. Share as many photos as you like! All photos tagged on Twitter or Instagram with #familydinnerforward between December 2-16 will be entered to win prizes from Lenox.

Two winners will be drawn at random and will receive four 4-piece plate settings of the Lenox Entertain 365 pattern of their choice (estimated value of $344-400 depending on pattern chosen)! US entrants only. 

Need some ideas about what to do?

You can also invite a family to dinner, take donations to a food pantry, or help deliver meals to those in need.

Check out the Family Dinner Project and the #familydinnerforward page so you can get an idea of what we're up to with the project. There's an Instagram page you can follow as well.

I urge you to participate in the #familydinnerforward contest and enjoy your meals as well as consider giving to those who need support.

And when you're done? Get the kids to do the dishes.

This post represents a compensated editorial partnership with The Family Dinner Project. All kooky family members, storytelling, and opinions are, of course, my own.

Wednesday
Nov052014

In a Lifetime of Conversations Being Responsible is Key

I make and have made so many mistakes with my own children that I probably do a disservice to myself to open a piece of writing with that because how are you going to take my word for it that I was, in actuality, a darn good mom. Except, that's my superpower right there: making mistakes and moving forward anyway. I wasn't big on reading parenting books when my children were younger and I had a far crunchier-granola approach to parenting. Even while a student in school I learned best when I made mistakes. 

That is a tradition that continues today.

Learning lessons and making mistakes is different for every child and the ones I raised all learned so differently from one another that I became, inadvertantly, very accustomed to allowing my kids to make them within some safe boundaries. 

You don't want to get up in time to eat breakfast before school? Okay, then. 

Staying up until midnight to finish your chores is how you want to play this? No time limit then.

You want to go to a party where there's a possibility of alcohol? I'm out of money for the weekend so bail is not an option. If you get in trouble, you're on your own.

Turning in that essay without looking over the errors I pointed out? Fine. Take the grade that comes with it.

Oftentimes planning to have a tough conversation with your teens, especially your teens, is harder than the actual conversation. So when the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility asked me personally how I talked to my daughters and sons about underage drinking, a million thoughts raced through my minds.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility asked me for my best advice on this subject in the hopes that it will inspire you to start your own conversation with your kids. Here's why I agreed to be filmed for this: you, the parent, are the leading influence on your kid’s decision to drink – or not drink – alcohol and to make good decisions and boundaries for your children.

You can listen to more real advice from my fellow bloggers and visit responsibility.org for additional resources and tips to keep teens safe.

Check out the Responsibility.org homepage, follow them on Twitter @goFAAR and check out their Facebook and Pinterest pin page for more information.

Kids will make mistakes and there are safe ones to make about choices involving alcohol. For the record, when I told my children that I wouldn't be making excuses for them about partying with booze before they hit the legal age, they all chose wisely and steered clear of it.

It was the best advice I could give about them being personally responsible and I feel lucky that they made good choices about that. Sometimes, just starting the conversation is all the push parents need. I urge you to make that primary parenting practice.

Friday
Oct032014

Things I Said At Work Today: Picture Day Edition

It's been a long week at work with bizarre October temperatures, picture day shenanigans, and awful songs with ridiculous ranges.

Today was Picture Day which meant that I made sure students didn't scowl at the camera so I tried making them laugh by dancing off to the side out of view of the camera. I ended up making the kids laugh who were standing in line to be next which meant I had to step up my dancing game.

 

Let's have a little chit chat. 

That's a cutesy word, Ms. Wickham. But I know you. This won't be good.

Then at least I'll be cute while delivering news to you: You're staying after school today.

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Yes, you can French braid my hair.

 

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I went to the choir classroom today to talk to a student and listened as each student took a turn and sang The Star Spangled Banner while the teacher listened to tone and pitch. 

Why are you making them sing this horribly multi-ranged song? I teased the teacher.

He responded with this:

Why don't you sing it?

Uhhh, no. I came to get a kid. Gotta jet.

That's the last time I visit that room. I did, however, sing The Star Spangled Banner in my office when I walked back in after that. By myself, it doesn't sound half bad.

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I greeted a student at the front door when I saw her coming in this morning. 

Hi! I'm so glad you're here! You just missed the rain we're getting! WHAT? I WANTED TO GREET YOU TODAY. I WANT YOU TO HAVE A GREAT DAY. 

She turned to walk away from me and very dryly said, "You've had a lot of coffee, haven't you?"

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Other Things I Said 

You are a habitual line stepper? Do you know Charlie Murphy? Habitual. Line. Stepper.

These are not things you should be worrying about at your age. 

What are you, 12? You're too young to tell me that you're tired of walking from class to class. YOU'RE 12.

When I get married my new last name will be Hurst. You don't have to call me Mrs. Hurst. You'll never remember that anyway.

No, I haven't picked out a dress yet. 

No, you cannot come to the wedding to meet my parents. Why would you...you're weird. But I like you. Maybe I'll save you some cake.

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