This week I’ve been reading “The Book of New Family Traditions” by Meg Cox. For some time now, I’ve wanted to create traditions for my family that would not only be fun in the moment, but also form great memories for my kids when they look back on their childhoods. However, as I was reading Cox’s book, I discovered there are a TON of other reasons why we should incorporate a few traditions or rituals into our family schedule. Cox writes:
Intuitively, we know this is good, and consciously pass down beloved traditions from our own childhoods. But the power of ritual and the need for it are far stronger than we realize…Through rituals and traditions…you are building the bond of your joined identity, defining your relationship by acting it out.
Interestingly, research shows that it is the everyday traditions that kids remember most about their childhood. Cox includes in her book a list of “Ten Good Things Rituals Do for Children”:
impart a sense of identity
provide comfort and security
help to navigate change
pass on ethnic or religious heritage
teach practical skills
keep a live a sense of departed family members
help heal from loss or trauma
generate wonderful memories
Rituals are important for everyone: married couples, singles, families of four or childless couples. We all need them to, as Cox says, “slow time and heighten our senses.”
Thinking about rituals in those terms, I remember the rituals my husband and I had before we had kids: long weekly walks where we talked about anything and everything; Sunday evening movie nights where we explored every genre from every decade; and monthly dates to ethnic restaurants where we enjoyed trying new foods and experiencing the flavors of a new culture.
But now, we have two very new and good reasons to come up with some creative family traditions: our sons. I don’t want to attempt any ritual or tradition that is too strident or confining; I want it to be flexible enough to account for the ebb and flow of our busy and every changing lives. But, I also want it to be defined and consistent enough that it is something we can all look forward to with expectation and excitement.
Cox also includes five signs that you and your family might need a ritual, and while I won’t list them all here, I will share with you that there was one that especially hit home with me: “A recurring rough spot….[or] during transitions.”
Don’t be alarmed, we aren’t going through a “rough spot,” but we have experienced a lot of change this past year, and our lives are busier than ever. I think that developing our own rituals and traditions could help bond us through these busy times, connect us as we are all doing different things, and give us a much needed “break” from it all.
To begin my ritual/tradition question, I looked through Cox’s book at some of her suggestions. Her ideas ranged from “full moon bonfires” (where you have a bonfire each….full moon and eat fun campfire foods), to “spotlight dinners” (where you celebrate a family member. This can come on the heels of a major accomplishment, after a discouraging experience, or just because.) For the latter, you make a big deal about an upcoming dinner you are hosting, telling your family you will have a special guest. Everyone dresses up, you bring out the best china, and then when the family member who you have chosen as the “special guest” for the evening comes in, you throw some confetti, make a toast, and celebrate them for the evening! Sounds fun!
The book had many, many more fun suggestions, but for my family, I took a few of her ideas, molded them to fit our schedule, lifestyle and interests, and came up with these:
♥ Ritual: Weekly coffee dates with my boys. For about a year now, Theo and I (and now Oliver too) get out of the house once a week for a coffee date. We’ve gone all over, but what remains the same is we take a break, get a treat, and enjoy being out and about. Sometimes we join up with friends and sometimes it is just us. No matter what, it is always a nice break. Plus, Theo loves to people watch, so for about 1/2 hour, I get to savor a large cup of coffee while he nibbles away at a cookie and waves to people walking by. I never thought of this as being a “ritual,” but now I realize this is one of my favorite things to do with the boys!
♥Ritual: “Walking Talks.” This is another idea from the book. As I mentioned before, my husband and I love going for walks to talk and connect. I want to have that same type of interaction with my kids. I hope that someday they will grow up and think back on the many fun talks and conversations we had.
♥Ritual: Family Blanket Time. I know, this sounds weird, but let me explain. As I was thinking about what kinds of traditions we could have on a monthly basis as a family, I saw one of Cox’s suggestion was indoor picnics. This got me thinking. Ever since Theo was just a little over a year old, we’ve practiced “blanket time” several times a day (less now that he is older). During this time, I would lay out one of his favorite blankets on the floor and give him 2-3 toy of my choosing.
This did multiple things: It helped Theo to learn how to focus on one activity or toy; It allowed him to slow down and enjoy a quiet activity; and, the blanket acted as a physical and literal boundary. During “blanket time,” Theo was not allowed to leave the blanket. As much energy as this child can have, it was amazing to see how he instantly calmed down and relaxed on the blanket. It was as if removing all the options and allowed him to relax within the confines of his own little personal space. I would frequently have him do blanket time when we had visitors and he was getting a little overwhelmed or out of control.
I would simply place the blanket next to where we were sitting, hand him a few toys, and peace was suddenly restored. And before you say “my kid would never do that,” let me just tell you that Theo is a runner/climber/getter-into-evvvvverything kind of kid, not your sit quietly with hand folded on his lap kind of boy. And like I mentioned in my post the other day about doing crafts with kids, it just takes practice.
Now, I have no intention of doing that kind of blanket time as a family. Buuut, this practice was the springboard for my new idea. At least every other Sunday, I’d like us to spread out a big blanket, inside our out, and have two things: food, and fun. On these nights, we will order takeout, sit on our blanket, and do something fun. That could include, playing a game, reading books, watching a movie, or if we are outside, sitting by a campfire. I think there is a lot of flexibility and room for growth with this idea, which will hopefully help make it both meaningful and lasting.
As for traditions, I’m still working on that! I plan to keep thinking about and researching this topic in the weeks to come and will hopefully have some good ideas before too long. (In case you are wondering, rituals are more routine in our daily lives, whereas traditions are more sporadic, and celebratory in nature.)
What about you, reader? Do you have a fond memory of a special family ritual or tradition. What rituals/traditions are you currently practicing? I would love to hear from you. Who knows, you might inspire someone else with your idea!
****Update**** Want to see what our newest ritual of Family Blanket Time looked like? Check it out here.
And now, on to part deux of this post-recipe development! I have shared some recipes with you so far, but mostly in the form of a link to the original recipe from another blogger. Well, I’m very excited to share a His Girl Friday original recipe with you! What’s more, it answers a question that I am frequently asked: “how the heck do you cook quinoa?” So, without further adieu, I give you, Southwestern Quinoa Bake, sure to satisfy and delight.
Southwestern Quinoa Bake
1 C uncooked Quinoa, rinsed (I like the tri-colored blend)
2 C broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 TB olive oil or coconut oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 zuchinni, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
handfull of cilantro, chopped (1/2 -1 C)
1 can corn, rinsed
2 cans of black beans, rinsed
2-3 peppers in Adobo sauce, diced (I only used 2 so that it wouldn’t be too spicy for my toddler)
2 C taco sauce (use the heat level of your choice)
2 TB lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 C Monterey Jack cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 350° and grease a baking dish.
Bring broth and quinoa to a boil in a stock pan. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed (10-15 minutes) When it is done, the quinoa will have a translucent ring around the edge.
Saute the onion, garlic and peppers in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. (I like to saute everything in my cast iron skillet to give the veggies a seared flavor.) Add the zuccini and squash and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in the remaining ingredients, including 1 1/2 C cheese. If you are cooking in a cast iron skillet and plan to use in the oven as well, top with the remaining 1/2 C cheese. Otherwise, pour into your previously prepared dish, top with remaining 1/2 C cheese.
Cover and bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through, then remove the cover and cook for 10 minutes more, to allow the cheese to brown slightly.
Top with lettuce, avocado green onions, additional cheese or sour cream. Enjoy!
*This recipe can be made without the cheese, just skip that last 10 minutes of cooking. It will be done when it is heated through.
*Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse: it makes for a tasty side, but because quinoa is a complete protein and because this recipes includes beans and veggies, it also makes for a great one-pot meal! This recipe is also excellent as a vegetarian alternative to taco meat. Use in place of ground beef on nachos. Yum!