How to Spice Up Conversation at the Dinner Table

dining roomAs I listened to our forks clinking against our plates, I looked up across the table at my husband and chuckled, “We can’t be serious. We haven’t even been married two years. There must be something to talk about.”

Ray and I are both very talkative people, but, sometimes, it’s not always that easy to think of new conversation topics after all the chitchat about the day’s events is over. Once in a while, dinner table conversation just needs a little sprucing up.

Making an effort to enliven conversation at the dinner table will do wonders to your family dinner experience, because, despite what dinner in many homes has devolved into (meals eaten at different times, often in front of the TV), dinner is meant to be just that: an experience.

Here’s what to do to encourage more unique discourse with family (or roommates) at dinnertime. (Note to reader: those of you with children of a certain excited, chatty young age may likely have no problem with dinner table entertainment. Relish your little entertainers while you can!)

  1. One night, sit down as a family and hand out strips of paper to each family member.
  2. On the strips of paper, have each person jot down questions—fun, serious, imaginative, thought-provoking, lighthearted, pertaining to current life, the past, the future…almost any thing is fair game. Some ideas include:
    • Who was your favorite storybook character growing up? (Remember, all of these can be modified for age-appropriateness—Who is your favorite storybook character? for kids)
    • If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
    • What Olympic sport is your favorite to watch?
    • Describe your favorite family vacation.
    • Which book of the Bible or verse do you find yourself reading most often?
    • What is one character trait or virtue you wish you were better at displaying?
    • Name the event or moment that made you the happiest in the past week.
    • If you could start your own business some day, what would it be?
  3. Fold all of the strips of paper and place them in a big jar or box. The more question strips, the better!
  4. Every night (or on select nights), take turns picking a strip from the question box and let fun conversation ensue. My husband and I usually chat about our days, catch up on each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual lives, and then turn to the questions after that, going through anywhere between one and three questions, depending on our desire or on how long each question takes to answer. Often, the questions will end up leading to all sorts of other tangential conversations. Allow yourself to get sidetracked! It enhances the experience.
  5. When you run out of strips, make more!

Forget the music of clinking forks. You can have animated chatter, dynamic storytelling, and laughter back at the dinner table for the cost of a fraction of time, some paper and pens, and the intention to make dinnertime an experience that your family will look forward to every night.

*For those of you looking to do this fun dinner Q&A activity without the doing creative work of coming up with your own questions, I recommend Gary Chapman’s books, 101 Conversation Starters for Families and 101 Conversation Starters for Couples. These books have done the work of coming up with intriguing questions for you, and the Kindle editions are particularly reasonably priced.

Baby Shower Gifts for Catholic Moms

Want to give something a little out-of-the box on its own, or along with, the usual clothes, blankets, and baby gear at the next baby shower you attend? These are some of my favorite baby shower gifts for Catholic moms.

  1. Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Parenting with GraceKids, by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak. I just love this book. It is hands-down the best parenting book I’ve read…and it’s Catholic! Filled with theological, psychological, and practical information, the Popcaks build a case for a Catholic style of parenting that is simply brilliant, and inspires me to work hard to build our family according to this way of raising healthy, happy, holy children. Since I first wrote this post, the Popcaks have released another great title called Then Comes Baby.
  2. A Spiritual Bouquet. Yes, definitely unconventional, but why don’t we do this for each other as Catholic moms? The thing I really needed most at my baby shower was lots and lots of prayer from my closest family and friends. Prayers that I would grow in virtue and my ability to be a good mother, prayers that I would have a safe and healthy delivery, prayers that my baby would be happy and healthy. Here is a printable spiritual bouquet card, but they are also so easy to make on your own.
  3. I Want You to Know the Wonder of God, by Kirk Jackson. Though it’s a children’s book, this one is just as much for mom as it is for baby. I love reading this book to my toddler. Beautifully written and whimsically illustrated, it conveys the grandeur, beauty, and loving presence of God and the wonder of His creation…from small pleasures like bubble baths to His masterpieces like little children. My son always gets excited when we turn to the last page. Trust me; this book will be a hit.
  4. Saint Softies. These adorable, thoughtful homemade felt saints are perfect for baby showers and will have everyone else at the shower oohing and aahing over their creativity. For the extra crafty mom, try making them yourself!
  5. Our Lady of La Leche prayer card, novena, statue, medal, or some creative homemade item with the prayer printed, etched, or sewn on it. I fell in love with the Our Lady of La Leche prayer during my pregnancy, and continue to pray to her after I giving birth to and nursing my son. “O Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Your tender Mother, Our Lady of La Leche, who bore You close to her heart during those long months before Your birth, I place my baby and myself entirely in Your Hands. Free me, I beseech You, from useless and consuming worry. Accept the sacrifice of my aches and pains, which I unite to Your sufferings on the Cross. Above all, most merciful and loving Jesus, protect this child You have given to me from all harm, bestowing the health and vigor every baby needs. Implant in my heart and on my lips the words and prayers of Your Mother and mine, our Lovely Lady of La Leche. All this I ask that my child and I may live to praise forever Your Holy Name. Amen.” 

My Favorite Thing to Do For Lent

During Lent, there is one spiritual activity that I look forward to most. Before Lent starts rosary in hand_red(though it’s never too late to begin), I get out my calendar and I write the name of one family member, friend, coworker, neighbor, acquaintance, or someone I’m not too fond of on one of the 40 days of Lent. When that day arrives, I offer my prayers and petitions, frustrations, joys, and sufferings for the person’s intentions.

This practice is truly transformative. First, it encourages me to take the Lenten pillar of prayer more seriously. I feel like I have to pray hard each day; otherwise, it’s almost as if I let that person I’m interceding for down in some way.

Second, it allows me to become a sort of spiritual companion to another person on their own Lenten journey, particularly by letting them know that I am interceding for him or her on that day. Often times, the individual will give me specific intentions to pray for, making that day’s prayer even more meaningful.

Finally, it gives me a chance to catch up on my “I’ll be praying for you” promises. It’s easy to tell people that we are praying for them, but sometimes, our prayer for them just isn’t as frequent or as deep as we would like it to be. (Other times, we forget to pray altogether!) This Lenten prayer activity changes that. You devote an entire day of focus to one person and their struggles, hopes, spiritual life, family relations, health, and whatever else that soul uniquely needs from you and your intercession.

I encourage you to join me in this special prayer journey this Lent. I love how connected I feel with others through this exercise. It reminds me that, especially during this penitential season, we are all one body, helping to bear each other’s crosses so that, at the end of these 40 days, we can come to rejoice in the glory of Easter as brothers and sisters through the Risen Christ.

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