Monday, April 27, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf, er, Napkin

After reading over at Meredith's blog awhile back, I decided to try two new (to me) ideas: use cloth napkins and make a few simple changes to make my dinner table a little more pleasing.

She recommended a few simple things to make sharing a meal a little more appealing. For instance, using serving dishes for each dish. It sounds simple, I know, and perhaps I was the only mother serving her yogurt and cottage cheese and butter out of their original containers, but a little light bulb went off in my head.

"Perhaps," I thought, "my children will behave less like rabid weasels at the dinner table if it looks nicer." I also wanted to give this a try because my husband works very hard so that I can stay home and I reasoned that it wasn't all that much more work to wash a few extra dishes that might not fit in the dishwasher if it meant a more pleasant experience for him.

The first night I did this, my children asked me who was coming over to eat dinner with us. I mentally cringed because, really, how sad that I make more effort for company than for my family! I explained that this was what the dinner table would look like from now on because a) I thought they were worth the extra effort, and b) someday they might dine with the Queen of England and I couldn't have them behaving like rabid weasels among royalty.

My husband has mentioned several times that the table looks nice and that he's enjoyed eating his meals this way. Now, he never complained before when I served things from the container and if I suddenly went back to my slovenly previous ways I don't think he would complain. But the fact that he even noticed the change, let alone commented on it is all the motivation I need to continue. Many of you will understand this, because if you are like me, you could move furniture, paint a room, or shave yourself bald and it would barely elicit a response. In Man Speak, he was practically jumping up and down and squealing!

As for my rabid weasels children, I have noticed that the politeness quotient has risen a bit. (Now their dinner table behavior is more like that of slightly irritated gerbils.) They use "please" and "thank you" more freely and have been using their napkins more than their sleeves. I call this a smashing success!

Part of the change in the table setting routine included using cloth napkins. This appealed to me for several reasons: the table looks nicer, it's better for our budget because we don't use nearly as many paper napkins as before, and it's better for the earth because, well, we don't use nearly as many paper napkins as before.

Switching to cloth has not been a big deal. I found some napkins on sale and I also scored several sets at great prices at Goodwill. Then I just throw them in with my regular laundry. (And I always seem to have a load of laundry to do...) After that comes my favorite part--ironing! Go back and read this sentence but this time, leave out the sarcasm, because truly, there is none intended in that sentence. I am a sick puppy, I know, but I have come to love ironing those cloth napkins. Before you run to look up the number for the loony bin (which by the way will be my retirement home) let me expound upon the virtues of ironing cloth napkins!

First, there is the lovely scent that wafts up to greet you when the steam hits the freshly laundered fabric. Ahhh....heavenly. Then, there is the mindlessly repetitive motions--spray, iron, fold, spray, iron, fold--you don't have to think you just do. It's very Zen. It also helps to do this in front of an open window with a pretty view. Finally, it's a task that gives immediate gratification, because the wrinkles are gone in a hurry and the ironing is not tricky like, say, on my husband's button downs. There are very few tasks in motherhood that give such immediate results. Raising children is a s-l-o-w process, y'all. I'll take quick where I can get it!

So now, a few times a week, I am at the ironing board, sucking in the smells and enjoying myself. And you know what? It's worth it. My family enjoys their dinner more and I get a few minutes of quiet to ponder while smooshing out wrinkles. A very fair trade, I think.

And just so you know, I still hate ironing anything besides napkins. I'm crazy, people, but not that crazy!

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