The 13 Thou Shalt Nots of the Family Dinner Table

dinner table manners

You know you have little ones in the house when you find yourself inventing dinnertime rules like these . . .

1. Thou shalt not pull out a tooth at the table.

2. Thou shalt not moan, sigh, wail, slump to the floor, or say the words “gross,” “ew,” or “I hate” in reference to anything on your plate. This makes thy mother cry.

3. Thou shalt not lick the table.

(Ideally, thou shalt not lick thy fingers either, unless thou art eating fried chicken, but . . . well, there’s still a lot of finger-licking. Your mother tells herself this happens because she is a fantastic cook, not because her children are Neanderthals.)

4. Thou shalt not put thy shoes or feet on the table. Thou also shalt not sniff or lick thy shoes or feet while at the table. (Seriously.)

5. Thou shalt not interrupt Mommy while she is eating to involve her in a situation involving poop. (Alas, this one also gets broken at almost every meal. This may account for Mommy’s frequent loss of appetite mid-meal. She can’t even think about last Thanksgiving without gagging.)

6. Thou shalt not whistle at the table—at least not during dinner while five other people are all speaking at the same time. At breakfast and lunch, some cheerful whistling is welcome.

7. Thou shalt not poke, prod, or otherwise injure another diner with thy fork, spoon, or finger. (Thou shalt not be entrusted with knives until thou art at least sixteen years old.)

8. Thou shalt not lick mashed potatoes off thy spoon as though it were ice cream. This makes thy mother gag.

9. Thou shalt not blog, text, Tweet, Facebook, or answer the phone while at the table. (Thy mother probably cannot help plotting epic teen novels in the back of her brain, but that is permitted.)

10. Thou shalt not pass gas, or imitate the sound of gas-passing using thy armpit, at the table. (This rule also extends to silent-but-violent episodes.)

11. Thou shalt not inflict Neil Diamond or Johnny Cash impressions upon thy family during dinner if thou wanteth thy wife to remain at the table and thy children to not clap their greasy hands over their anguished ears.

12. Thou shalt not roll thine eyes at the large number of animal-themed Knock-Knock jokes that are clearly being made up on the spot. Thou shalt listen patiently and laugh heartily at the nonsensical punch lines.

13. Thou shalt not worry, stress, or be angsty at the table. Thou shalt relax and belly-laugh until thy hiccups overflow.

Okay, it’s your turn. What are your family’s dinner table Thou Shalt Nots? (Scroll down to comment!)

 Before you leave, don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive seven two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table—or dinner table—with your kids! And every month, you’ll get a newsletter with parenting tips. You can subscribe here, or in the widget in the left sidebar.


Dinner table manners with kids

13 Reasons Moms Never Get Haircuts

Scheduling a haircut is never easy, but once you have a child, getting a haircut takes divine intervention, planetary alignment, and a whopping dose of good luck. Here are thirteen reasons moms hardly ever get their hair cut: 1. First, you have to call ahead. This requires having the wherewithal to think multiple thoughts in a row:Huh. I could probably sweep the floor with my hair. I guess I need a hair cut . . . I should call and make an appointment . . . I should do that today.” (Meanwhile, the baby cries; the potty-trainee tinkles on the floor. All hair-related thoughts fly from your head.)

13 Things that Rock About Being Kid-Free at the BRMCWC

In case you’re wondering, the BRMCWC is the oh-so-amazing Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference. And clearly, I am here without my four delightful children. (Stands up. Takes a bow. Sends husband and mother-in-law virtual flowers and chocolate and sleep.) Much as I adore and miss my children every minute, I am very happy to go on missing them for the duration of the conference, for these 13 glorious reasons, which I imagine every Writer Mom at this conference is also secretly celebrating:

1. Four full nights of uninterrupted sleep. Four! Nights! (Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I suspect this was one of my main reasons for attending a writing conference. Drive 400 miles for four full nights’ guaranteed sleep? YES.)
2. Getting to worship all the way through a song set without being forced out of the room by an adorable toddler who has an impressive talent for emitting eardrum-shattering shrieks.
3. Two words: white pants. Three more words: no jelly fingerprints.
4. Talking to wonderful new writer friends, using multisyllabic words that have nothing to do with the potty or smashed bananas.
5. Getting to use a hair straightener like a normal person . . . without wrestling with the cord the whole time, trying to keep it away from curious toddler fingers.
6. Using an iron and ironing board without the heart-stopping fear that a child will come running into the room unexpectedly and scar themselves (or Mommy) for life.
7. Hearing Alton Gansky say, “When an accountant looks out a window, he’s daydreaming; when a writer looks out a window, he’s working.” Laughing and nodding alongside four hundred other people who understand exactly what that means.
8. Admiring mountain views, breathing mountain air, savoring the sound of silence.
9. Taking a shower, getting dressed, putting on makeup, doing something to my hair besides yanking it into a ponytail . . . and doing all of these activities in a single span of time, without stopping to mop up spilled milk, remove a splinter, or resolve a sibling squabble. I have not done these things without interruption for, oh, eight years.
10. Staying up ridiculously late talking books and God, just because we can.
11. Four days without dishes and laundry? Call me Lady Mary.
12. Hearing Brian Bird say, “We gotta stop clamoring against the darkness and start lighting some candles.” Trying not to levitate out of my seat.
13. Filling up on inspiration, ideas, and conviction so I can go home and write a better world for those four precious people who I actually do miss with all my heart—jelly fingerprints, milk spills, sibling squabbles and all.

13 Things I Wish I Could Teach My Dog

What I Wish I Could Teach My Dog

My two Christmas babies: our dog, Cole, born Christmas day 2004, and our daughter Cassidy, born Christmas day, 2005

1. Look both ways before you cross the street. Please, please, please—if you learn nothing else on this list, get this one down.
2. If you get tangled in a leash, just step out one paw at a time, and unwind. It’s really not that difficult. Really.
3. When people get down on the floor to do yoga, or stretch, or just pick up a piece of lint, that is not an invitation for you to pant wildly in their face, lick their cheeks, and plop your enormous derriere down in their lap. We love you, but really, it is unpleasant—and probably very unhealthy—to take cleansing yoga breaths when the air is full of doggy breath.
4. When I place a pile of clean laundry on the floor to fold, it is not for you. It is not there so you can walk in circles on top of it, then make your smelly self comfortable lying on it. And the baby’s mat is definitely not yours to lie on. You have a lovely bed that you may lounge upon at any time.
5. Don’t sneak up behind me at night—especially not when I’m holding the baby. If you haven’t noticed, your fur is pitch black, and I’ve nearly decapitated myself in violent collisions with you in dark rooms at night. And if I’m gone, who would buy you treats?
6. If you find that you must throw up inside the house, there is plenty of hardwood flooring available for your yakking pleasure. Please use that instead of the carpet. (I appreciate the way you always station yourself right at the seam where the hardwood meets the carpet, but still, you have a gift of aiming for the carpet. You’re not doing this on purpose, are you?)
7. Corollary to #6: If you absolutely must use the bathroom inside the house—I understand that sometimes even the best of dogs have emergencies, and if you do, it is probably your owner’s fault—but again, just find a nice spot on the hardwood. Your life expectancy will be much longer if you do this.
8. It is not necessary to eat paper, books, and DVDs when we leave you alone in the house for a little while. We will always come home—always. We know you are unhappy when we leave—but eating our stuff just makes your misery continue after we get home, and where’s the fun in that?
9. Corollary to #8: If you simply must display your displeasure by eating books, please don’t eat the ones that belong to the library. I imagine they have a distinct old-books-from-the-library scent that will be easy for you to distinguish. Library books cost a lot of money. (And you’re welcome, Athens-Clarke County Public Library, for my $200 “donation” on behalf of my dog.)
10. It is not necessary to bark 5,000 times when the doorbell rings. One bark will do the trick.
11. And on the subject of barking, if the baby is asleep, it is not necessary to bark at all when the doorbell rings.
12. Sometimes, Daddy likes to knock on the walls just to mess with you. No one is at the door; Daddy is just being mean.
13. Speaking of Daddy being mean . . . sometimes he pretends to throw the ball, and he doesn’t really throw anything. You have my permission to run into him and knock him down with your ginormous head whenever he does this. I promise to laugh hysterically and give you lots of treats.
I know we’ve hit 13 already, but I’ve got a few more bonus lessons . . .
14. If you would quit pulling on your leash, you would take a lot more walks and have a much fuller doggy life with many more opportunities to sniff new things.
15. If you must eat grass in preparation for emptying your stomach, just let me know you’ve been eating grass—we can work out some sort of paw signal or something—and I’ll gladly leave you outside for a few extra minutes.
16. Sometimes, you just gotta go in the rain. Sorry, bud, that’s just the way it is, and the sooner you accept that fact and stop looking at me with those “Are you crazy?” eyes, the happier we will both be.
17. When it rains, just stand at the door and give me one paw at a time to wipe the mud off. This is not, by the way, an invitation for you to flop onto your back in the doorway and roll your wet fur around on the floor, hoping for a luxurious belly rub.
18. You are no longer a puppy. You weigh 80 (ahem, maybe 85) pounds, and you are not a lap dog. Wait. Maybe I don’t want to teach you that one after all . . .

13 Reasons I Dropped Off the Blog-Wagon this Winter

So I fell off the blogging bandwagon this winter and spring, but I have 13 good reasons. Scout’s honor.

1. I had a baby in January. (I offer photographic proof below. Need I post 12 more? Nevertheless . . . )

Why it's hard to blog with a new baby around

Sawyer Kate, the sweetest-ever blogging distraction

2. It is not a wise idea to post things online when massively sleep-deprived.
3. Did you know that the average newborn goes through 10 to 14 diapers a day in the first few weeks? Yeah. Mine definitely fell in the “to 14” end of the diapering spectrum.
3. I’ve been using what remains of my beleaguered brain cells to finish up my latest manuscript, Wishing Well. It’s done and submission ready! (Clouds part, angels sing, my husband faints with joy. Or perhaps relief, or horror—or then again, maybe that’s just the sleep deprivation, creating a narcoleptic attack.)
4. When you try to find a babysitter for four young children so you can write, people either laugh hysterically in your face, or run away screaming. Sometimes both.
5. This baby only weighs about 12 pounds right now, but she somehow creates more dirty laundry than the rest of the family members combined. I suspect she is secretly proud of this accomplishment.
6. And while we’re discussing mind-boggling levels of laundry, my dryer has some sort of rust issue, so that it’s putting lovely brown streaks on all our clothing…meaning I have been forced to hang most of our clothes to dry like someone straight out of the 1950s…LAUNDRY HAS TAKEN OVER MY LIFE.
7. I feel compelled to add here that while all this talk of having four children and drowning in laundry may make me sound like an old, boring person, I am no such thing. Exhausted, yes; old, no; boring, definitely not. Or so I tell myself. This is not a reason I have not blogged, it’s simply a fact that deserved a few lines.
8. In February, in the post-baby haze when I was too tired to write, I got a serious case of HGTV addiction. I spent any free moments (and there weren’t many) obsessing over that captivating question: Will they love it or list it?
9. In March, it was still cold, when it was supposed to be warm. And who can blog with cold toes?
10. In April, I decided to reread The Clockwork Prince in order to prepare for The Clockwork Princess. I have been consumed.
11. Did I mention I had a baby?
12. Did I mention sleep loss?
13. All this to say…I’m gradually digging out of the baby burrow I’ve been snuggled in all winter and spring. I haven’t stopped writing—I never stop writing; that would be like ceasing to breathe!—but the blog had to go into hibernation for a few months. Up next is a list I’ve been pondering for some time now: 13 Things I Wish I Could Teach My Dog.