Conversation at suppertime can sometimes be awkward or halting or downright boring, especially when your kids answer your questions with one-word answers. “How was school?” “Fine.” What did you learn today?” “Nothing.” Allllllllrighty then. Not sure how to draw more chatter out of your kids (or spouse…or yourself)? Here’s a little something that has worked well for us, involves everyone, and is much anticipated throughout the day. We like to call it the “Running Story Game.” One of us picks an animal, a vehicle, or a musical instrument – or all three! – and begins telling an original story. Each person shares around 4-5 sentences. Then the next person adds a bit more, and so on. We usually go around the table 3-4 times by the time we’re finished eating. To give you an example of some of the hilarity that has ensued, I’ve included a few of our favorite Running Story summaries!
- A tale including 150 talking giraffes that drove a yellow Hummer with a sunroof and who, at times, stood at opposite ends of the kid owner’s backyard to act as really tall goalposts. And then they went to jail for reasons unknown. When they were released, they were overall-wearing Old Man Giraffes that went to have coffee.
- A story about a unicorn, reindeer and a dragon trapped in a cabin during a blizzard. They had hot chocolate and they were kept warm by a fire lit by the dragon’s breath. Apparently, there was also a painful incident between the unicorn and dragon when they played Twister to pass the time. Ouch.
- An especially meandering epic about a mouse and a tiger who befriend each other. The tiger moves into a human’s house that the mouse currently inhabits. Somehow, the tiger gets stuck in the house, and requires the house-springing services of an octopus. The octopus catches a ride to the house in a yellow submarine, staffed by four beetles, one of whom is named Ringo, another of whom is nicknamed Walrus. They fill their recording studio onboard the sub with water, in order to keep the octopus alive en route to the house. The octopus frees the tiger, who goes with the mouse [now named Mickey] to Target for diapers and wipes and candy. Then they go to Kroger, to church, and something about unicorns. Beanstalks, brown eyeballs, and the end.
- A thrilling adventure about a treehouse in a tall pineapple tree, which was flooded by a hurricane. During the flood, we all clung to different objects to stay alive: I chose a brontosaurus, Superman chose a sawfish, Nanny chose a 1987 red Ferrari, and Elizabeth chose a fork. We all hung on for dear life but Superman’s sawfish cut us all up and we died. Then the “trontosaurus” (Marie slightly modified the name) met up with Captain Picard after brief discussion, he beamed all of us onto the Enterprise where we were nursed back to health in sick bay. Somehow it became apparent that the sawfish was a timelord. Doctor Who showed up with his TARDIS and took Superman, the sawfish, and the Trontosaurus to 1950s Germany, where everyone lived happily ever after. Ahem.
I could go on, but you get the gist. These stories are priceless.
We also like to use dinnertime to catechize and educate. We play “Guess Who,” where Mommy and Daddy give clues about a saint until someone guesses it right; we ask questions about Catholic teachings and discuss the answers; we talk about our favorite Bible stories. We talk about our favorite time periods in history – what people wore and ate during that time, and we ponder aloud what they did for entertainment. We discuss episodes of “Chopped” and how we are going to strategize and win the yet-to-be-cast Family Week. We just share whatever comes to our minds. There are only two rules: don’t be rude and don’t call people names. Really – sharing this time together over food, without the distractions of electronic devices, is a mini-retreat for me. I love that I have my kids’ undivided attention, and that they have mine. Sure, there are days when it’s not all sunshine and roses. One of us might be a tad cranky, or the 3 year old might be having a meltdown because her carrots are orange and “I don’t YIKE orange fooooood!” Overall, though, the positive memories outweigh the negative, and we enjoy great meals with even better company!
Speaking of meals – have you checked out my friend Haley and her husband Daniel’s new cookbook yet?
WHY NOT?! MORE FEASTS! is an incredible collection of recipes, activities, and essays that will help you enrich your family’s observance of the liturgical year. I’m especially looking forward to the delicious slow-cooker carnitas featured in the book for today, December 12th – the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Don’t forget that to celebrate the book launch, the Stewarts are graciously offering their new book as a digital download (.pdf format) for just $3.99, and for all of Advent, their original cookbook is available as a digital download for $4.99, which is $3 off the usual price of $7.99**! AAAAAAND, if you order between now and December 15th with the coupon code HAPPYFEAST, you will get an additional 25% off of your ebook purchase.
Oh! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND, for the first time in Ora et Labora et Maternitas history –
Leave a comment below, sharing your favorite things to do around the dinnertable. Your comment is your entry to win a digital copy of More Feasts! The winner will be chosen at random, and will be announced on Tuesday, 12/16. GET EXCITED!!