It has one of the highest impacts of anything we do as families... and it becomes harder and harder the older the kids get. It's dinner as a family.
Study after study talks about the benefits of a family dinner. It's important physically, emotionally, spiritually, even mentally--according to this article, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. As someone whose job used to involve a lot of evening meetings, and now involves travel a couple of times a month, family dinner is a challenge. But it's also a cherished value for us. It may not be leisurely or gourmet quality, but I'd say we pull it off four or five times a week.
That average just got a lot harder. On Mondays, our kids have choir rehearsals. It's a single program, but they're in three different choirs that all start and end at different times. It's not close enough to our house to drop off and pick up, so we've been MacGyvering our way through it with sack dinners, the occasional GoPicnic, and bringing homework along while we wait in what is thankfully a very comfortable space to hang out for three hours.
Wednesday is our other challenge--piano night. We were able to keep all of the kids with the same beloved piano teacher we had before we moved, but the lessons are one after the other during the dinner hour. So again we're doing the sack dinner thing. I drop the kids off and go somewhere nearby to do some writing, then pick them up when they're done.
For the last two weeks we've tried a new practice. If we can't have dinner together, we can at least have dessert together. Monday is too hectic to do anything and we get home too late. So on Wednesdays when the kids and I get home, Robert has the table set for something simple: last week it was ice cream, this week it was these pumpkin gingerbread muffins with whipped cream and Trader Joe's lemon curd.
We use the fancy dessert plates (because it's no extra effort) and do our customary dinnertime check-in of most favorite and least favorite parts of the day. It's been a great way to end our day.
...Ok, this week someone had a meltdown and left the table in a huff. That happens too.
What do you do to make family meals or other special times happen in the midst of your busy life?
adapted from Simply Recipes
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 Tbsp finely minced candied or fresh ginger (optional)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 Tbsp water
1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 12 muffin cups or a loaf pan with cooking spray.
2 In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3 In another bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the pumpkin purée, melted butter, sugar, molasses, fresh or candied ginger, eggs, and water.
4 Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Stir only until incorporated.
5 Place the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes (loaf) or 15-20 minutes (muffins), until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then gently run a knife around the edge and remove from pan(s). Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes or longer.