Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Dinner Table

While I work very hard to not "be" my mother, there are some things she does that I admire and miss. My mother is very good about cooking most nights, and those meals are typically really incredible. She, of course, has to give color commentary about how things taste, usually saying something overly critical, when really she is just fishing for compliments. Mom is also really good about baking something once or twice a week. I remember most Saturday mornings I would wake up to this incredible aroma wafting through the house, and it was typically a cake, cookies, or a pie... and I wonder why I have a sweet tooth. I don't cook or bake like she does, although I'm capable of doing so, and every so often will manage something that is worthy of being in the same class as what Mom creates.

When I got married, I tried... I really did try to emulate my mother when it came to cooking and baking. The baking fell by the wayside pretty quickly because my now ex-husband really didn't eat much dessert [although he ALWAYS did when my mother offered it] and I ended up eating most of whatever I baked. And as far as cooking goes, I fell into a pattern of various things that I prepare, with few variations. I admit I'm still in that pattern, mainly because of my kids and them being somewhat picky when they were little, but I am trying to mix it up a little more often these days. Kind of hard, though, because I typically cook one or two nights a week, and the rest we either go out or find something. Such is the life of a single mom/kids' taxi driver. And I think I do pretty well, all things considered.

Tonight's dinner? Pancakes. Yes, I made them. Chocolate chip pancakes for DD1 and regular pancakes for DD2. Only thing missing was bacon.

Is this something my mother would have done? Probably not. I started making breakfast for dinner periodically when DD1 was in kindergarten because her teacher suggested that I mix up the routine every now and then because DD1 had a hard time when things didn't go according to routine.

But what I know she would not have done is read aloud to us at dinner. I know we had family conversations about goodness knows what, or perhaps the TV was turned on so we could watch Wheel of Fortune or some other inane show. I know when I was married the TV was on more often than it was not, as we had a TV in every single room of the house. I don't really remember any incredible dinner conversations, although I'm sure they happened on occasion. In what I know is a knee-jerk response to that environment, my house currently has one TV, and it is typically on only on the weekend.

I'm trying to remember when my mother quit reading aloud to me, and I think it was fairly early on. It may have been a combination of me learning how to read and reading at a much faster speed than my parents, or it may have been because my brothers were born and the focus shifted to them. I know that I took my turn reading aloud to the boys along the way, but I don't remember when that practice tapered off.

I started reading aloud to my kids at the dinner table sometime after the three of us moved to our current town. One of my friends suggested it, and it has turned into a really amazing tradition that has enabled me to keep reading to my kids even after most would consider them "too big" for such. While we have typical dinner table discussion while I'm still eating, we typically move into reading together at the end of the meal. This practice has allowed us to experience some fabulous books. Some include Harry Potter, Matilda, Where the Red Fern Grows, Up a Road Slowly, Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, most of the Andrew Clements books, Ramona Quimby Age 8, A Wrinkle in Time, The BFG, and I know there have been more. We take turns picking the books, so this has allowed me to read things that I consider my favorites, as well as allowed the girls to pick their favorites, too.

Tonight I finished reading Percy Jackson - The Lightning Thief. DD1 chose it as our read aloud sometime last month, and I had my doubts about it but I quickly got hooked. It is a fabulous story that takes Greek mythology and brings it to a present day context. Percy Jackson is a young man who is always in trouble, has ADHD and dyslexia, but ends up realizing that his issues stem from being the son of a Greek god, and then the story takes off from there as he learns to cope and come into his own as a hero who bridges both worlds. My kids were able to learn about Medusa, Persephone, Athena, Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hades, as well as a host of other mythological characters thanks to this first book. And I am just enthralled by the series - I will have to read all of the books regardless of whether or not they become read alouds for dinner.

Last night DD2 got a pillow and a blanket and curled up on the floor to listen. Tonight, they begged me to read another chapter, and then there was only one chapter left, so I decided to go ahead and finish it. All together I read for about 45 minutes.

The look on my youngest's face as the action got intense was just incredible. Total engagement and excitement about the book. She has already picked book 2 to be next.

I do love this tradition. I love sharing literature with the kids and being able to talk about what we read. But most of all, I love that they love books, and that they ask, "Mom, will you read to us tonight?"

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