Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Simplifying My Life: Setting the Table For Dinner

The past 2 years have been a bit of a whirlwind for us.
We moved twice. I was 8 months pregnant the first time.
We bought a house.
It is a fixer upper. It required 5 weeks of fixing before the kids and I could even move in.
So we lived and hour and a half away with my parents. Aaron stayed here.
We jumped from 2 to 3 kids. And all those people who tell you there really isn't a big difference between 2 kids and 3 are LIARS. It is crazy.
Of course, when our 3rd was born our others had just turned 2 and 4.
That first year was a blur.
The second has been too. We're still unpacking. Still fixing. We got pregnant again. We had a miscarriage. We're home schooling, which means I have all 3 with me all the time.
Life is full.
And often, it feels kind of out of control.


It didn't use to be this way. We had a pretty solid routine. I liked it that way. But it seems like we haven't really been in that place for a long time. Sometimes Aaron and I hardly have a chance to talk. And if one of us falls asleep with a kid, we might not talk at all. A lot of times it's "fly by the seat of our pants", as much as we try to avoid that.

Clearly something needs to be done.
So Aaron and I had a little heart to heart. We brainstormed ways we could make our life a bit more simple and a bit less chaotic. I'll be sharing some of our ideas in these Simplifying My Life posts, as well as asking you what your solutions for simplifying are.

One solution was giving things a place and putting them back in their place-- see the Lego post from yesterday. You see, we have a whole garage of things that need to find a place. Either in our house, at the women's shelter thrift store we donate to, or stored neatly in the garage.
My life would be much simpler if I didn't spend time looking for things that are packed away in some random place.

Another idea for simplifying is having a family dinner.

There are several key components to this idea.
First, dinner needs to be ready before Aaron comes home. If he comes home in the middle of me cooking and I'm frantic because I am being interrupted and the kids are crazy because it is the witching hour and I am ignoring them, well, that is chaos.
And we're trying to avoid that.

Another component is setting the table.
I have to admit, at first I balked. I got the idea from here, and it just seemed too much. I mean, could I really pull this off every night? I was skeptical and even a little bitter. Her life seems so perfect and mine seemed so, boxed macaroni and cheese on plastic plates.
But I gave it a shot.

And it was nice.
Really, really nice.
The boys helped and they were so into it. They liked filling the water glasses and folding the paper towels (still haven't finished those napkins!) and setting out the silverware.
They liked putting out the butter dish and the salad bowl.
They were involved and actually very helpful.
It made Daddy's homecoming seem more like a special occasion rather than a rescue operation. Which is how it usually feels. AKA: "when are you going to get home and rescue me from these children?"

We usually do eat together, but you know how it is with little kids and a new born. (or a 2 year old!) Sometimes dinner is sandwiches, and we eat before Daddy gets home because he's working late, or it's a frozen pizza. (Trader Joe's makes a fabulous one. The only one I'll eat) Or the kids don't like what we're eating and they complain and someone is tired and cranky and you just want to send them all to bed and say,
"forget it! We're having dinner by ourselves until they're 10."
But we did always use real plates. But I didn't always have the boys set the table. Or fill the water glasses. Or use a table cloth.
There was less ritual and more just get it done.
Sometimes a little slowing down for the ritual of the thing, the making of a tradition, is a very nice thing to do.

Perhaps none of this applies to you because you have the whole family thing dinner down. If so, please tell me your secrets.
If you are more like me, I am happy to tell you it is worth the small amount of extra effort it takes to make this happen. The whole experience was more pleasant; from cooking, to eating, to cleaning up. It wasn't as rushed, or stressful or chaotic.

Sometimes it takes a bit of work to make things more simple.

Lastly, because I so appreciate honesty in these matters, I am going to tell you it hasn't happened every night. Last night we had a guy here until 8:30 trying to sell us windows. The kids had nuts and toast for dinner. I had cereal and I don't even know what Aaron had.
A couple other nights Aaron worked late and we all ate before he got home.
But tonight the table was set when he came home. Dinner together was very nice. We had time to go for a bike ride afterward.
I think I can get used to this.

So, how do you simplify your family routines? I'd love to hear from you.
Love from Greta

6 comments:

Simply Brookes said...

Greta,
love this post.
Dinner is big in our house...but we definitely have "whatever" nights. The kids love them...

Daughter of the week gets out of chores on whatever nights, because everyone has to load their own dishes and do their own clean up.

But yes, dinner time is big...my kids are a bit older though, so they definitely help out more.

Here are the rules:
No answering phones
No TV

I try to get everyone involved so it's a team effort (for conversation, prep and clean up).

We eat early, so we can go to bed early.

We always do favorite part of the day making the dinner table a time to share (this brings everyone into each others day).

And we all love to eat...so it's good.

Oh and no eating until we're all seated and have held hands and thanked God for the food he provides.

Hope this helps.
Love this post.

W.

j e n n i f e r said...

seriously... this post had to be today? god's timing i tell ya'. we'll chat tonight. i hope. xoxo

Nancy said...

I love this post...simplifying is really hard. I find that planning ahead helps me and my sanity. Getting ready for the morning the night before. Having the kids help with this too. Packing their swim bags on Sunday so we don't have to later in the week. Menu planning while looking at my schedule. I make quick meals for busy evenings and sometimes crockpot too. That really helps. Love your blog. Your shoes in your little picture are darling!

Four Flights said...

Oh I wish I had some pearls of wisdom but I don't. daddy usually eats dinner with us 2 nights out of the work week, and that' usually because we wait for him. when it's just the three of us though we do sit down together, even if I am not eating, I will sit with them so we can talk. I think they appreciate that, and I know at least I do. we also try to say grace so we can take a moment to think about the food we are about to eat as opposed to just devouring it. good luck with your new dinner routine

Four Flights said...

Oh I wish I had some pearls of wisdom but I don't. daddy usually eats dinner with us 2 nights out of the work week, and that' usually because we wait for him. when it's just the three of us though we do sit down together, even if I am not eating, I will sit with them so we can talk. I think they appreciate that, and I know at least I do. we also try to say grace so we can take a moment to think about the food we are about to eat as opposed to just devouring it. good luck with your new dinner routine

Darlene said...

This post is nice. The idea of simplifying always interests me. Eating together at dinner does seem to reconnect our lives. We talk. We laugh. We teach manners. My girls help clear the table. Like your blog.