A Family Affair

Meal time is a family affair...or at least we do our best to make it so.  Usually what that means is that we all sit down to eat together, but tonight it meant participation preparing the meal.  The question is frequent:  "Mom, can I help you?"  My answer, especially during the usual "witching hour" that we have while I'm preparing dinner is, "Not tonight, but you can watch."  Well, watch they do, and I'm sure that they learn something in the process.  Tonight for some, honestly, unknown reason, my reply to their plea was "yes"...and then of course, I grabbed my camera to document such an occasion.

Typically, dinner-time goes like this:
4:30ish:  return home from school, unload, get a snack, drop back-packs and coats in the middle of the floor because even after 772 days of being reminded, no one can remember that they should be hung up.  Home work is eventually started, some of the kids start playing/fighting/playing, and in the midst of all refereeing, guiding homework and solving the world's most important problems, I start dinner. 

Now...one would think that I would try to make it a habit to have dinner already prepped and maybe even in the crockpot or ready to put in the oven.  Well, that would make sense now wouldn't it, but I tend to gravitate toward the more challenging and less sensible solutions!

5:01:  Amidst the clutter from snack and emptied backpacks, I clear a spot to begin some of my prep.  By this point, I usually have a small person attached to my leg, grasping at my hands, wailing about some need or another, and for some reason, I am still playing referee for a couple of others.  Since snack was a whopping 30 minutes ago, there is usually someone pillaging through the cupboards and refrigerator trying to find something to prevent starvation, and then, just because it is probably the most ideal time of the day, the phone rings!  :)

5:30:  Most of dinner is at least started cooking by this point, although along the way, the kitchen has become something that looks like it has been in the direct path of a small tornado.  There is a diaper that needs to be changed, but the wipes are no where to be found...hold that thought, because something is boiling over on the stove, and now, asking for help is probably out of the question, because the noise level is so high that no one without an industrial hearing aid could possibly hear me. 

5:55:  Usually by this point, I've at least had a bit of help getting the table set and a few things picked up, put out a few small fires (not literally--well, sometimes), and then I run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to quiet everyone down just in time for Tim to get home.  As soon as we hear the garage door open, everyone is at least excited to welcome their daddy home for the evening. 

6:05:  On most nights, if we're eating at home, this is the time that we're at the table, give or take 10 or 15 minutes.  Meal time is much different from prep time, although we have a long way to go to create that serene family time around the table where meaningful conversation happens and our day's events are shared.  Most of the time it is reminders to "sit down; ask for it to be passed please; wait for it to come to you; sit down; use your inside voice;" etc, etc, etc.  Over the last year, we've sporadically implemented asking questions from a couple of decks of cards that we have that are designed to spur conversation at the table.  My friend Kristi posted recently about other such similar activities suggested to keep dinner a family affair from a book called The Family Dinner: great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time. By Laurie David.  I'm eager to take a look at it and add to our repertoire.  The results vary, but it's a start.  For the most part, by this time of night, there is typically smiles and laughter...

6:30:  Please, oh please dear kitchen fairy, visit my house tonight.  She never does.  :(

So, tonight was different...unusual, but quite pleasant all the same.  Things started as they always do, but Tim was going to be late he said, so when the kids asked if they could help, I said yes, and then:

Joe helped roll out the pie crust...albeit the leftover pieces, but he was thrilled none-the-less!

Mathilda washed and peeled 10 pounds of potatoes...that wasn't exactly my intention, but she did a fantastic job!!

Millie was the official taste tester.  She was still pretty much at my ankles most of the time, and of course needed a diaper change, but no one wanted to volunteer for that one!  Jakob took a break from his homework at one point, but as soon as I asked, he turned and made a bee-line back to his room to "finish some homework that he forgot about."  Uh-huh!

Joshua mixed and made the hamburger patties--Jon's suggestion of Emeril's Bam-burgers.

Jon and Millie set the table and got everything ready.

Now, the above picture is why it is often hard for me to say "Yes" on a typical weeknight.  I love having the kids in the kitchen with me, but there is something much more pleasant about cooking with one or two at a leisurely pace, or baking on a weekend with more or even all of them, than the usual result that is seen here.  SIGH.  I am blessed with a good-sized kitchen, but come on...it is not sufficient to accomodate 6-8 cooks in an organized and neat manner.  (I'm not complaining...promise!)
 Well, I couldn't take it.  I could not possibly finish dinner in that mess, so we made a quick game of cleaning it all up (there was chocolate pudding on the floor and not one extra place to put another dish on the counter!)  Doesn't that look better??  (Good time to pour a glass of wine too)  :)  At this point almost everyone cleared out...cleaning seems to do that!  Joshua stuck around to help with the hashbrowns.

Tim was welcomed home to a quiet house, filled with a mouth-watering aroma, a prepared table, a clean kitchen, and a warm greeting from yours truly. 

This is what dinner-time looks like regularly at our house...regardless of what it looks like 30 minutes before!

Tonight's question was about names...do they shape our personality and if you could change your name, what would you change it to.  There are always answers that make no sense!  Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we ignore them!  Tonight the conversation was fun and it lasted...all the way to dessert.

And dessert?  We don't always have dessert, but tonight seemed like a good night to indulge.  Grandma's (my mom's) chocolate pudding pie.  Mmmmm.  The general comments??  "If there was a Grammy award for food, Grandma's pie would get it."  "Grandma should have a throw-down with Bobby Flay...she would win for sure."  Yes, it's that good!  :)

Now, as for the frequency of this type of an evening?  Ha ha ha!  There was a suggestion that maybe we should have a box of wine in the refrigerator so that I could easily have a glass every night while making dinner.  **wink**  We'll see...I'm exhausted...in a good way, but still...  Tim helped clean everything up--every last bit, so maybe I just will!  **Smile**