Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Great Dinner Experiment

I've adapted the name from Shelly's Great Breakfast Experiment, and as with anything new, whatever you need to do to make it happen is all good, right? And for me, having a real name for the projects, rather than thinking of it as "cook more dinners" makes it more fun. So the GDE is all about figuring out the answer to this question:

Can a too-busy family with a dinner-discouraged mom actually sit down to a home-cooked meal on a regular basis?

So far, the answer seems to be that with a little more planning and a little less denial, YES they can!

Tim and I had a discussion about this subject on Friday night. I've known that it would be nice for the family to have dinner together more. And I've heard all the parenting experts talk about how important it is to eat together. Over the years, though, I've let some circumstances get in the way of making dinners a priority. The roadblocks?
  • Two kids who practice gymnastics 4 (Tucker) and 5 (Austin) nights a week and are not home at dinnertime.
  • A mom who transports those kids (30 minutes round trip) once or twice a day.
  • A husband who comes home sometime between 4:00 and 7:30, depending on what's happening at work.
  • A husband who sometimes likes to workout before eating, and sometimes likes to workout after eating.
  • A wife who feels like cooking is a lot of work and it just creates a big mess for her to clean up, and who honestly is just fine with a nice bowl of cereal whose name is dinner!

Put those all together, and dinners together become a thing of the past, unless they're eaten out.

There are some circumstances that work in my favor:
  • I am a good cook.
  • I enjoy the process of cooking once I actually get into it.
  • I have lots of good cookbooks with lots of good recipes.
So after our air-clearing discussion, we decided that dinners at our house happen at 6:30, regardless of who's there to eat them. (Tuesday night was an exception, but we still had dinner!) And I agreed to stop pretending that if I just ignore dinnertime, it won't actually come. And I decided that I'm just going to cook whatever is yummy, rather than trying to find the healthiest recipe around, and will work on portion control to make it work for me.

Well, so far, so good. Sunday night was a Mexican cornbread casserole. Monday was twice baked potatoes with broccoli & cheese. Tuesday was baked ziti (from the Nordstrom Family & Friends cookbook -- SO yummy!). Last night was our worst dinner of the week, but it was because Austin had to be at gymnastics at 5:00, Tucker had church at 6:30, and we had Bible study at 6:30. I picked up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and we had that and salad and good bread. But I did make guacamole for the kids as a snack, and also made them smoothies.

A few random things that are helping with dinners for me:
  • Cloth napkins. I have some in really great colors (what a surprise!) and they make dinner feel nicer to me.
  • Music. We have a playlist on iTunes on the kitchen computer titled "Family Dinner." It makes the time feel so nice. We all contributed to the songs in the list (and Austin published the list on iTunes as "Family dinner!").
  • Setting the table early. Just having that done makes it feel like dinner's going to happen, and that's good.


Colette said...

Leslie, I love how things are coming along for you! Your "happy" list is great and you taking in more calories puts a big smile on my face :) You are kicking butt with the shaping up thing...YOU GO GIRL!! I'm going to have to do the table setting thing myself. I always wait 'till dinner is ready. I like the playlist idea too, so I'll take that one too ;)

I had a GREAT time walking and talking with you Tuesday! You are such a wonderful person and you know how to work it! I felt so good that whole I actually did something! Can't wait to do it again ;)

Have a super day and keep up with all those great things!!

KatieFeldmom said...

We're getting back to the family dinners too. It *is* so important and I did it every night when I lived with my parents. My husband did not, so the rub is getting him to the table.

Brit-Man said...

You'll make things happen Leslie, you're a great multi-tasker judging by the documented times where you've had to.

Take care

:-) :-)


Lori said...

Dinner together??? What's that? I even sold my kitchen table. No kidding.

Pamela said...

Dinner all together ...welll seeing that I work straight eves... they only happen on my days off if you mean with me there! ~lol~ but thankfully I only work 3 in a row sooo there is that! Otherwise they do just fine with Jamie at home .. he's a great cook! :) at their dad's... well I hear there is a lot of Pizza & burritos ..

Jen said...

I had cereal for dinner tonight ;-)

Eileen said...

We do dinner together almost every night, though sometimes I think I put too much energy into it because the little ones are not so cooperative! My husband is not always there though because he usually works late one or two nights a week. Once it become a habit, it's just what you do. However, we do not have so many practices to deal with right now....