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Several years ago (2006 to be exact), my mantra was always the ever-cliched "Live Life to the Fullest."  It was, so it turns out, just that: a cliche.  It's one thing to say it, another to do it, right?  Suddenly, my family was standing in the recovery waiting room, talking with surgeons about my dad; my healthy, larger-than-life, room-commanding, hilarious dad.  We heard the diagnosis and had to physically shake our heads back and forth to wake up from the nightmare.  It was then that I realized, in a matter of 24 short hours, that I had made life so much more complicated than it needed to be.

We had no regrets, I am certainly not saying that. We spent time with our (then two) children (I had just found out I was pregnant with Henry) playing dress-up, scavenger hunts, trips to the museum/zoo/library, and truly loving every single minute we had with them.  But I was still going through the motions of work, sports practices, meetings, etc.  We went in to visit Dad in recovery and I suddenly wanted to spend so much more time with him just talking, laughing, and not making mountains out of molehills or stressing about the things that "will, too, pass."

I know we can't give up our obligations to provide for our family.  I know that life does have valleys that oppose the peaks.  But I also know that chasing after things that don't truly matter is an exercise in futility.  While we are striving to have what others have, there is someone out there striving to have what we have.  Does that make sense?  Asking yourself what truly matters is often an eye-opening question because it forces you to also confront public perception.  Keeping up with the Joneses is a vicious cycle of self-depreciation and distracts your focus from the truly important, from the fleeting time we truly have with our family.

Again, I do know this sounds idealistic.  Life does have obligations.  But hoard your family time.  Hoard it.  One of our most favorite times of the day is when we kiss our kids good night.  NOT because it's time to fist-pump and high-five that it's quiet.  But because we spent time with our children; didn't over-schedule them; ate dinner together; learned more about them; taught them; and now they are healthy, and happy, all tucked away safely in our home.


{a family's guide to simplifying life}

As parents, we often find ourselves running from one meeting/lesson/practice/conference to the next.  We wake up in the morning {feeling the sudden impulse to guzzle some caffeine} and instantly become totally dependent on the clock.  Then suddenly, the day is over, we kiss our children good night, and we think of all the time we didn't truly spend with them.  Then the intense desire to simplify life takes over.  It takes over until the caffeine wears off and we fall asleep {waiting for the alarm to go off until the routine begins again the next day}. So how do we do this? Why do we need to do this? How will this affect our children if they miss some of the opportunities all because we have "simplified life?"

fisherkids dinner spinner chore charts for kids


There are many studies concluding that mealtime spent with your family results in a variety of positive behavior traits, including higher academic scores, less obesity, more positive food choices, lower likelihood of substance abuse, and less importance on peer pressure.  Now, there are limitations to the studies, including factoring in {or out} whether there is one parent present or two, whether the television is on {or off} during mealtime, whether the meal is at a restaurant or at home, and more.  Ultimately, though, mealtime opens dialogue among family members and our company strives to offer products that promote this valuable time together.  Whether it's 20 minutes or an hour, the time your family can sit down together and talk, truly talk, is invaluable.

Another thing that is important to do is to make your children understand how important this time is.  It is not to be missed and as a viable member of the family, they are an integral part of this tradition.  Children need appropriate boundaries; they might roll their eyes and gag at the sound of your voice, but boundaries are necessary to learning what is right and what is wrong.  If a child knows there is someone who cares enough about them to keep them safe with boundaries, they feel (even if they won't admit it) genuinely loved.  One of our favorite retorts to the common, "Well little Susie gets to ________!" is, "Oh, you should totally go live with little Susie's parents.  They are super cool."  Then our kids roll their eyes, sigh, and move on.  We are not trying to be cool mom and dad, just a loving mom and dad, and even when it is so difficult to keep firm to the boundaries, your kids will be better for it (despite the eye rolls and temper tantrums). 

One thing I used to tell parents of my students is to be sure to ask open-ended questions in order to learn more about your kids.  Don't ask yes or no questions if you want information!  "Tell me", "Describe to me", "Explain to me," etc are all ways to gather more information.  Family mealtime can become a can be such a great memory for your children as they grow up and begin their own family traditions.  Children learn table manners, proper nutrition habits, and family expectations, all from eating a meal with the family.

Some more ways to make this time memorable:

-Light candles!  Show your children how special they are to your family by creating a warm atmosphere.

-Every once in a while, break out the "good stuff".  Nana's silver tray, the china you registered for when you married and have used only when your mother-in-law is visiting, crystal water glasses, linens that aren't disposable :) all subtly speak volumes to your children.  It shows them you appreciate this time with them!

-When dinner is over, read a chapter from a is an automatic family book club!  We did this when we lived with my mom and dad for a stint back when the girls were little.  Every night after dinner, my dad would read a chapter from a book and we looked forward to hearing more every night!  Every once in a while, we do this as well with our family mealtime.  We let the kids pick the books in rounds....Henry was first and chose Frankenstein and it does create an air of anticipation that after dinner we are going to "find out what happens next!"

-Let the kids help with dinner.  I know, I know.....this is SO MUCH MORE WORK than just doing it yourself.  But there are many aspects {don't tell your kids, but they are really LESSONS} to a great family dinner: setting the table, choosing a healthy, well-rounded menu, shopping for ingredients, cooking the meal, presenting the meal, filling the water glasses, cleaning up after the meal, storing the leftovers, conversation starter, giving toasts, saying prayers, and on and on.  Now, all of these may not fit your family lifestyle or beliefs, but what a fun way to teach SO MANY LESSONS!  Check out our dinner spinner, too {shameless plug....sorry}.  Our daughter Anna came up with the dinner spinner and it is one of our best sellers! -Make mealtime conversation meaningful.  We partnered with Table Topics to bring you several varieties of conversation starters....and they are fantastic!  Check out some of our products below to maximize your family mealtime and make it a memorable time for your children.

look familiar?

"If I fish for you, you eat for a day.  If I teach you to fish, you eat for a lifetime."