I've just wasted three hours on line looking up dinner recipes for my family, and did not find one single recipe that screamed, "Hey, that looks great. " It was more like, "Well, let's see…Jack and Billy will hate how it looks. Will would love it if I left out the three main ingredients. Faith would tell me she isn't hungry. And Little Sass would go into anaphylactic shock if she ate it". Feeding a large family on a tight budget is hard.
Speaking of dinnertime, did you know that eating dinner together every night is better for your kids than even reading them books? I swear I read that online (source: Facebook—ashamed? yes). Double score for us, because not only do we read to our kids, we eat dinner together pretty much every night. How is it that our children are NOT in all the gifted and talented programs?
Dinnertime together is not an easy task, from the food prep to clean up, not to mention scheduling it when we are all home. There are at least four nights a week that we are jam packed with activity, and making dinner happen together is a challenge. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't actually LOATHE cooking. But I do. There I said it. I hate cooking. Barbara Billingsly, I am not.
I think it goes back to my childhood when we owned a restaurant. Every day I would come home from school and head to work across the parking lot from our motel to the restaurant. My first job at the restaurant was filling the ketchup and mustard containers without making a mess. After that, I moved over to the salad bar to make it presentable. It always made me want to vomit the way the ranch dressing dripped across the hard boiled eggs. And the way the croutons and sunflower seeds were mixed together as if they were supposed to cohabitate in one bowl. What a waste of time. I much rather wanted to be out riding my horse. And if I were to be perfectly honest, I am certain I didn't wash my hands before heading in to work at the Townhouse. Sorry health department, when you allow an 11 year old girl to work, the quality of service is most likely going to suffer. When I moved into waitressing a couple years later, I dropped a whole plate of pancakes behind a wall where no customers could see. You better believe I dusted those babies off (duh, 5 second rule) put them back on the plate with the pretty little garnish, and served them up as if it had never happened.
So you see, my history of cooking/service work is less than steller. I was never employee of the month, which is pathetic, considering I worked for my parents. Same story, 30 + years later. Now I work for my husband and children, and while I try really hard to feed them healthy and tasty meals, most of the time I come up short. I serve the same 10 meals over and over, and when I do try something new, I can never please the whole gang. Sometimes I feel like a failure.
Then again, there are those nights when I stop and listen to the conversation, despite the groans over eating vegetables and putting napkins in laps, and I'm in awe. Several years ago, Billy and I started asking the kids for five details from their day, during our dinnertime. The boys often get side-tracked by comic books or dumb television shows, and Faith just answers "good" to everything. But sometimes they really get into it—giving us the ins and outs of their day…who they ate lunch with, who got busted during band, and real life issues they struggle with in their classes. Often we all talk at the same time, and get frustrated by the interruptions, and singing (usually done by me, as I like to pretend dinner is a Broadway musical), and rarely do we go through a meal without some form of potty humor and/or use of the word "nipple".
Sometimes we even have music on with our dinner. Last week my computer was playing through my library and the song by Miranda Lambert, "The house that built me" came on. We all stopped talking and began to loudly sing along. Then Jack, the 15 year old said, "Oh gosh, I can never hear this song without wanting to cry." That just about made me bawl right then and there over my bland and somewhat dry chicken tacos.
These meals, this time around our dinner table is way less about a stupid plate of food that got too cold. It is all about a conversation where we learn to connect, grow, and reveal who we really are. The kids know that our time with them is much more important than being involved in 80 activities a night, and that we'd rather spend the evening hearing how they are, than seeing them stressed and rushed traipsing from one thing to another. They are learning how to work together, cleaning up after each other, and becoming stewards of the home we've been given. When the kids have grown up and moved out, they'll remember the times we sat around our tiny little table, not because of my cooking, but because we were all allies in a journey. This is where they know they belong and where they are most loved. And most of all, together, we are learning how to put on our full armor before heading out to face the battles that come with life, choices, truth, and the reality that we are never alone.