Family Dinner Conversations

Conversations for Family Dinner Time

As I slowly make progress in Simplifying Home, Week 3: Kitchen + Dining has me thinking, again, about our diets.

The importance of eating healthfully comes and goes in my list of priorities. I'll care for a couple weeks at a time, and we'll make improvements consuming more greens and eating less cheese or reducing our excess sugar intake. We usually feel better, more energized, maybe even lose a pound or two.

Then, life happens. A stressful day at home ends with the options of eating frozen pizza or nothing at all, and I always opt for the artificial ingredient laden-whatever over my kids' empty bellies. Then one stressful day after another, mixed with the pickyness that returns on a packaged-foods diet puts us in a meal-time rut.

It makes meal-times stressful and piles on guilt to my already growing list of real or perceived failures as a parent. It ignites a string of self-defeat.

If I didn't ever buy the frozen or packaged options, then I'd have to cook healthy, homemade goodness. If I wasn't so selfish, maybe I wouldn't get so stressed out at home and would have more energy for meal prep. If I always cooked healthy meals, then my kids wouldn't be so picky and make meals so limiting. Stop talking about it and just do it already, Trina!

Some of it's true. We've found some tricks that help us eat healthier even on over-the-top crazy days. The less we buy "food-crack", the less we crave or rely on it. And I definitely have room for improvement in my mothering and home-making that would reduce my own whining and complaining.

However, this conversation I have with myself, on a pretty regular basis these days, comes to a different conclusion: Maybe diets don't matter as much as we lead on. At least not in the ways we initially assume.

Yes, there are obvious benefits to our health and well-being with better food choices. These habits grow and build over a lifetime. One donut won't kill us, but a habit of donut-eating can certainly do its damage. And poor health can keep us from fulfilling our potential in some pretty big ways.

Health is important and what we eat is important, but perhaps there are things even more important. Like our spiritual health. Our prayer and Bible-reading habits truly matter for our lifetime and beyond. Yet how much more do we obsess about food simply because we can see the numbers on our scale or on our jeans label? Numbers that, let's face it, mean absolutely nothing in the perspective of eternity.

Another thing more important than what we eat: Using our dining time for family conversations. Not rushing through another healthy, or unhealthy, meal, but simply slowing to hear each other. Sharing the conversations we always mean to, but never really have time to.

And that's what this post is really about.

Because these years, while the kids are young, are fleeting. I hear it all the time and I've mostly brushed it off. Until we had a third baby and I realized just how much our first is not a baby anymore. I had all of these intentions of what we'd teach her/them. I imagined the open ongoing conversations to prevent relying on one heavy talk to share everything they should know.

And here we are with a seven-year-old and rarely enough time for anything.

We've reclaimed some of that time during morning and afternoon commutes. And especially during mealtimes.

These are priceless moments of talking about what makes us feel loved, where we've seen God at work, and the little and big things that we love or hate about our days. It's these moments where we hear their evolving thoughts and opinions, share little bits of wisdom, and ever-so-slowly and as naturally as possible venture into otherwise uncomfortable topics.

In this important work as parents and on this holy ground of family time, it suddenly doesn't matter that we're having pizza... again. It matters that we're together and enjoying moments and conversations that we might otherwise never have. Moments that escape us when we don't sit our butts at the table and face each other as we stuff our faces.

What we serve for meals is important. Even more important is that we reclaim that time for our families.

Questions for Family Time

Whether the conversations are at the table over supper or in the car during commute, here are some questions and topics to start family-time conversations. Where they go from here varies on the day and what each person answers. But it always helps to have a starting point.

Daily Highs

This is usually the start of the conversation, and can be asked a variety of ways to get slightly different answers each time. Of course, just choose one way to ask it.

1. What was the highest part of your day?
2. What was your favorite part of the day?
3. What was the best thing that happened today?
4. What made you happy today?
5. What accomplishment are you proud of today?
6. What was easiest thing you did today?
7. What goal did you achieve today?
8. What are the positive things that happened today?
9. What is one good thing that happened today?
10. What did you love about today?

Daily Lows

Right after the highs of the day, comes an opportunity to share the lows. Again, there are a variety of ways to ask this to give slightly different answers. Mix up the way you ask it each day.

11. What was the lowest part of your day?
12. What was the most challenging part of today?
13. What was the hardest thing you did to today?
14. What was the worst part of today?
15. What is something you failed at today?
16. Where did you struggle today?
17. What goal did you not achieve today?
18. What are the negative things that happened today?
19. What is one bad thing that happened today?
20. What did you hate about today?

Seeing God at Work

This is a question topic we got from the authors of Sticky Faith. While the kids are still young, it helps for us parents to start with answering to give an example of what this even means. This might lead to sharing about answered prayers, a person we saw act Christ-like, a time when bad feelings were turned good, something that was read or learned. Knowing this topic will be talked about also gives motivation to really look for these little divine interventions throughout the day. This may get odd answers when they're young, but even our four-year-old pipes in with how he sees God at work in his life.

21. Where have you seen God working in your life?
22. What have you learned about God recently?
23. What prayers have you seen God answer lately and how?
24. Who have you seen act Christ-like? What did they do?
25. How has God helped you recently?
26. Where do you see God leading you?
27. Who do you see God calling you to love?
28. What message do you hear God telling you lately?
29. How is God transforming you?
30. What is strengthening your faith?


Sometimes we throw in an extra question or two that might be related to a current holiday, life-happening, or event. For Valentine's we talked about what makes us feel loved and unloved, and each shared what we love about each member of the family. The ideas here really are limitless, and can lead to some fun conversations and insights.

31. What makes you feel loved or unloved? Or proud or like a failure? Or happy or sad?
32. What do you love about each member of the family? Or your home? Or your school/teacher? Or your friends?
33. What has been your favorite family tradition? Or family vacation? Or family activity?
34. What do you wish we did more of at home or as a family?
35. If you were the parent, what rules would you choose for the family?
36. If you could spend the day any way you wanted, what would you do?
37. What is one thing you're really good at?
38. What do you really want to learn how to do?
39. Where would you most want to go for family vacation? Or live?
40. What is the best present you could receive?

Where Babies Come From

Just kidding. But our dinner table conversations have certainly turned there and to other normally not-so dinner-table-friendly topics. And we let them. Or sometimes we're even the ones asking odd questions. (Like about the worst words they know. Thank you, Jimmy Kimmel.)

We might give vague answers and say we'll share more about it later. Sometimes we go ahead and discuss. And we generally provide a disclaimer if a topic shouldn't be discussed with non-family members or isn't usually considered polite to talk about at the table. We're the parents, we can allow whatever we want. But I also want my kids to be conscious of what others might consider rude or disrespectful.

41. What's the worst word you know? What's the worst thing you've heard mom or dad say?
42. Is it ever okay to disobey an adult? When?
43. What do you know about...? (Fill in the blank about anything. Seeing what they already know on a topic is a good place to start in deciding where to take the conversation next.)
44. When has an adult (i.e., mom, dad, teacher) disappointed you?
45. Have you seen a friend do something bad? What did you do?
46. What would you do if...? (Fill in with various difficult scenarios like seeing a friend steal something or hearing a classmate say a cuss word. If they don't know then help them think of what to do.)
47. Should you always keep someone else's secret to yourself?
48. What makes a person good?
49. When have you done something right even though it was hard?
50. What do you wish someone told you more?

It should be noted that I tend to focus on depth and intensity, while Daniel offers a good balance of fun and light-heartedness. Not everything has to be so serious and heavy.

I hope our conversations eventually cover it all. I want our kids to feel open to talk to us and not get shut down all the time. Even if it's hard to hear their answers sometimes. These can also lay the foundation to make future, heavier topics more approachable and less awkward.

More on those in the future when we more directly cover that territory.

Until then, we'll be here keeping up our odd conversations while eating non-Pinnable meals. I realize it doesn't have to be healthy food or quality conversations. Still, as we focus on raising our kids in things that matter in eternity, making space for intentional family time will always win out.


also read:
the delicate balance of contentment
simplifying home: 8-week challenge
week 3: kitchen + dining
100 date night questions
simplicity starts here

The Delicate Balance of Contentment

The Delicate Balance of Contentment
This last weekend we enjoyed visiting family in Kansas. Of course, we loved it, and as soon as we left, I'm already looking forward to the next time we'll all get together. Even so, there's something about coming home that's so refreshing.

Even to our messy home.

I'm making little bits of progress with this round of Simplifying Home. Week 2: Living + Family wasn't exactly life-changing this go-around. The benefits of decluttering I've done before are still lingering. I cleaned out and organized a couple tech boxes we store under the TV, and cleaned out some storage ottomans that gather kids' toys.

The messes in other places in our home still abound. Bathrooms need deep cleaned, and bedrooms need decluttered and organized. I noticed how bad those areas need attention after our weekend getaway.

We stayed in a very clean and clutter-free guest room. Homier than a hotel room and just as clean. Even if a space isn't decorated in my style, the cleanliness is always welcoming and relaxing. Then, we came home and I realized cleanliness and clutter-free isn't everything.

Because in this place, even while dust bunnies gather in obnoxious places and bathrooms magnetize grime, this is home. And it's always good to be here, content with where we are and what we have.

That isn't always my experience. Contentment turns into complaints real fast when I see how little we have compared to others or see how much we struggle for this place. The contentment will likely come and go throughout life, and I'm learning maybe a healthy hint of discontent is just as important.

I saw a glimpse of it through my daughter this weekend.

The place we stayed was a spacious and welcoming apartment addition to a barn. When I first directed the kids up the unlit, unfinished wood stairs, Brylee resisted. She said she was scared and whined about not wanting to sleep up there.

I kept her moving, knowing she'd be satisfied with our accommodations once she stepped through the door onto luscious new carpet and climbed into the cushy, pillow-laden bed.

She upped her whimper as we neared the top of the stairs, "I don't want to stay here. This is scar... Woah."

She stopped mid-"scary" as she walked through the door.

I knew she wouldn't complain about the homey space. Yet she was stuck on the dark and unfinished stairs and convinced that something similar was waiting at the top.

I see myself do the same. Life can be scary and hard and unfinished. I sometimes have difficulty comprehending that there could be anything truly great awaiting in Heaven. Jesus keeps prodding me along, and I'm sure mid-whimper the door will open to shut me up with only a "woah" muttered at Jesus' feet.

He gives me glimpses of it at home. That deep welcoming feeling that transcends dust bunnies and bathroom grime. Heaven will be that on steroids. Because the unfinished and clutter-filled won't be there. Just a deep sense of "aaahh... home" surrounded by paradise.

I'm thankful for seasons and even moments of contentment. When I think about our home--a mansion when compared to the shacks or cardboard boxes some call home--I'm silenced by gratitude.

Then, complaints creep up to corrupt those moments. I see too-small rugs, not-right collages, and those never-clean corners. I get whiny about a perpetually unfinished, in-progress, messy home. And while contentment is good, I'm learning discontent has its own place, too.

That's my reminder that my home will never see perfection this side of Heaven. I can keep working on it and enjoy the process, but my truly perfect home is waiting for me elsewhere.

Paul couldn't have said it better:
"Sometimes we can hardly wait to move--and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less. ... Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. | 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, The Message
And that seems to be the balance between contentment for where we are and what we have, while we also yearn for more.

It's perhaps the balance God had in mind for the Israelites in the wilderness. That they'd stop grumbling over their hard life and just see all the ways God provided for them--cloud-cooled days, fire-warmed nights, heaven-sent bread. How blessed!

Yet, those blessings weren't The Blessing. They were still on their way to a Promised Land.

Contentment didn't mean then, and it doesn't mean now, giving up the journey. Contentment means gratitude in the process while we continue toward Home.


also read:
simplicity, simplified
simplifying home: 8-week challenge
week 2: living + family

Warby Parker Take 3 | glasses + sunglasses

Rockin' Warby Parker's Free Home Try-on

*warby parker affiliate links used. see full note below.
"Nice glasses."

I was helping in the cafeteria line at a summer camp, and one of the guy counselors was going through line to get his food. I usually wore contacts back then, but that day busted out my thick-rimmed burgundy Candies glasses.

Apparently, he noticed.

I say, "Thanks."

Then, he pauses in line to clarify, "Oh. No, I meant 'Nice (pause for emphasis), you're wearing glasses.'"

Uh, ok?

I share that mostly because I think it's funny.

Also, it's glasses time again!

And for some reason his "nice glasses" keeps coming to mind.

We had another Warby Parker home try-on. This will be my second pair of glasses and my first pair of sunglasses from them.

I've shared about Warby Parker before here and here. Here's a quick recap:

Warby Parker // what you need to know

Warby Parker glasses are super affordable.
Frames with prescription lenses start at $95 total and sunglasses with prescription lenses start at $150 total. We save tons compared to all the other glasses we've bought in the past.

They offer designer quality frames.
I've had my Sims frames for a couple years now and they're holding up great. Also, I love all of their frames and have a hard time choosing. Which means I can't go wrong with whatever I choose.

For each pair sold, Warby Park donates a pair of glasses to someone in need.
I love companies that give back, and that's just what they do.

Warby Parker's home try-on and shipping are completely free.
All we've ever paid for is our actual glasses and taxes. We don't pay shipping or any try-on fees. We go online, choose five pairs, they send them to us, we try them on, then send them back. Even if we decided to not buy a single pair, it's zero cost to try them out--just be sure you send them back!

Are you wondering what's the catch?

For me, there is no catch. But there are a couple details you should know:

You'll need an accurate pupillary distance--the distance between the middle of your two pupils. It's in millimeters and can be a challenge to get an accurate measurement if you haven't done it before. They have a tool >> here that might help. We also take it a few times manually just to get a good idea of the accurate number.

You need a current prescription. This may be a no-brainer, but if you're getting prescription lenses, go to an eye doctor for a check-up and get your current prescription. Then have them print it out for you. All you have to do is enter the numbers when you checkout online.

Your glasses might need adjusted. Whenever I've gotten glasses at other places, there's always someone there ready to adjust them which can be helpful with my uneven ears. Daniel successfully adjusted my last pair, but I recommend getting help if you need it instead of risking breaking your new glasses. If you end up paying for this, Warby Parker may reimburse you.

Not all frames are $95. Their frame options are growing, with some selling out or available for a limited time. With that, prices vary, though we've found even their pricier frames are still cheaper than the designer ones we used to buy.

Not all frames are available for home try-on. Some frames, maybe some you really like, aren't available for home try-on. I can love a frame online but hate it on me. So I personally rule out the frames I can't try-on. You do what you need to. They have free shipping on returns, so look into that if necessary.

You'll have to bill insurance yourself (if insurance covers part of your glasses). We pay for insurance's part of our glasses with a credit card, use our insurance company's forms to send them receipts immediately, then put that reimbursement back on our credit card. Look into what your insurance will cover and what documentation they need before you buy.

Alright, I think that's enough of the nitty gritty.

Last time, I shared photos of my home try-on and got your feedback in the comments. I've since turned off comments here on the blog. So, feel free to share which are your favorites on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Or just enjoy the following photos as a tiny example of Warby Parker's women's frame selection.

Warby Parker Women's Sunglasses // home try-on

My prescription didn't change this time, so I already have my go-to aviator-style sunglasses. This time I wanted to try out something in the thick rim variety. I'm really liking Winston and Barkley. I love Reilly, but they're a little big for my face.

Paley in Blue Marblewood
Winston in Old Fashioned Fade
Barkley in Antique Shale Fade
Laurel in Tea Rose Fade
Reilly in Marzipan Tortoise

Warby Parker Prescription Sunglasses // paley in blue marblewood
Prescription sunglasses can be stylish + affordable!
Warby Parker Prescription Sunglasses // barkley in antique shale fade
Warby Parker Home Try-on // free + fun ;)
Warby Parker Prescription Sunglasses // reilly in marzipan tortoise

Warby Parker Women's Frames // home try-on

If I needed to update my daily glasses, I'd probably choose Oliver--love them! Since my prescription is the same, I'll still be able to use the Sims in striped sassafras that I have now and look similar. This time, I wanted something a little bolder, a little different to wear when I want something a little more fun. I'm loving Finch, but Winston and Lyle have more fun factor.

Upton in Sea Smoke Tortoise
Finch in Violet Magnolia
Winston in Lunar Fade
Oliver in Striped Olive
Lyle in Hanalei Tortoise

Warby Parker Women's Glasses // upton in sea smoke tortoise
Warby Parker's frames are stylish + affordable
Warby Parker Women's Frames // winston in lunar fade
Warby Parker Prescription Glasses // oliver in striped olive
Prescription glasses can be stylish + affordable!



also read:
Warby Parker | stylish, affordable eyewear
Warby Parker Take 2 | men's glasses

*Note: Warby Parker affiliate links used in this post. Any purchases made through these links will earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support :)