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.
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.