Table Talk

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Invite Great Grandma for Dinner

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As we all know, dinner isn’t just about the food that’s on the table; it’s also about the conversation and the connections around the table. So tonight, invite your great grandmother to dinner.

Today is the day to open wide your fancy dish cabinet. Find the dainty cups, silver napkin holders and soup terrines that hold stories about your ancestors. Dust them off, gather them on your table and get ready for an evening of storytelling.

Tell your kids about why your grandmother or mother or uncle’s heirlooms are special, what were their lives like, and from where did they come?

Every year for my birthday my mother gives me a few pieces of her mother’s silverware. I use them often and am always reminded of the two of them and the seven years during World War II that silverware spent deep in a hole in the backyard, hidden from harm. And I imagine the first dinner after the war, when it was dug up, polished and set at a peaceful table. Had these stories not been told to me, the silverware would just be cutlery and not a reminder of where I am from.

Emory University’s Sloan Center for the Study of Myth and Ritual has spent over a decade studying the impact of rituals and have concluded that passing on our family stories directly builds resiliency and self esteem in our children. And the best place to tell these stories is around the dinner table!

So light great grandma’s dusty old candelabra (no need to polish it first), stick a few daisies in your uncle’s martini shaker and tell your kids the funniest story about when grandpa…

If you don’t tell them, how will they tell their kids?

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Try a Technology-Free Table

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In our first book, The Family Dinner, we present “Ten Simple Steps to Successful Family Dinners.” A couple of those rules can be quickly summarized thus: “No Screens!”

No Phones: Do not answer the phone at dinner. Do not allow any cellphones at the table. No ringing, vibrating, answering, or texting allowed. If someone does bring their phone, take it away for as long as you decide to keep it. That will teach them to leave it elsewhere next time.

No Television: Of course, that also includes any electronic device like computers, iPads, Kindles, game devices, etc. Your kids will argue they can do three things at the same time (watch TV, eat, and listen closely to your every word, maybe even IM, too!), but it doesn’t matter.

As with all the rules in Chapter Two, pay no attention to the complaining. It’s just human nature to resist. Your job is to insist! Enforcement must apply to everyone (even Mom and Dad).

It’s important to talk to one another as a family at the table, as it may be one of the few times during the day you are all together. Modern technology may provide great tools for communication, education and entertainment. But at the family dinner table, it’s all just distraction.

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The Special Bowl of Treasures

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Try this for a week or a year, especially if your kids are the kind whose pockets are always spilling with found objects.

Place a bowl in the center of your table. As the week progresses and objects are found, either by chance or on special treasure seeking expeditions, the empty nests, and magical marbles, the rock that looks like uncle Bob’s nose, acorns, perfect pebbles and strange seeds, are all placed in the bowl. At the end of the week let each person explain what he or she has found, and why it is so special.

This not only gives you something to talk about, and perhaps a new appreciation of someone else’s finds, it also makes you look at your world in a different manner as you search for objects that are beautiful, odd or surprisingly meaningful.

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Table Talk: Sochi Winter Olympics 2014

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Topic: The 2014 Winter Olympics In Sochi

Story to read: LET THE GAMES BEGIN

What to say to your kids: Every two years, countries from around the world send athletes to represent them in the Olympics (Winter and Summer games alternate each time). This year, the Olympics take place in Sochi, Russia. Competitors from 88 countries will try their very hardest to win a gold medal in sports ranging from figure skating to curling. The games were kicked off Friday with a ceremony where each country paraded their flags. The United States will be the 67th country to enter.

Tonight, let’s talk about what the Olympic games mean for our country and the world.

Questions for discussion:

* Why do you think it’s important for countries to come together to compete?

* Why do you think athletes choose to compete in the Olympics?

* What sport are you most looking forward to watching?

* Do you play any winter sports?

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Table Talk: The Polar Vortex

Polar Vortex Weather System Brings Artic Temperatures Across Wide Swath Of U.S.

Each week, The Huffington Post presents a compelling topic to spark discussion at your dinner table. This week’s topic is the Polar Vortex.

Story to read: U.S. Cold Weather Shatters Records As Polar Air Brings Temperatures Into Single-Digits

What to say to your kids: Some very cold weather hit the U.S. this week, causing temperatures to drop to record-breaking lows.

As the AP explains: “The big chill started in the Midwest over the weekend, caused by a kink in the “polar vortex,” the strong winds that circulate around the North Pole. By Tuesday, the icy air covered about half the country, and records were shattered like icicles up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”

It got so cold in some places that you could throw a boiling pot of water into the air and it would instantly turn into snow. But the intense cold was definitely not all fun and games; it was also dangerous. If a person is in the cold too long, he or she can suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. Luckily, a very good way to avoid danger is to stay cozy inside.

Questions for discussion:

• Did it get cold this week where you live?

• Why do you think some scientists believe the extreme temperatures were related to global warming?

• What are some of your favorite things to do when it’s too cold to go outside?

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