Thursday, March 15, 2012

{p,h,f,r} Dining Dilemma

Think about going to church. It's a special place set aside for worship. As you enter, you ready yourself for what is about to occur. You notice the altar boys lighting the candles in the same pattern that they use every week. The polished chalice and filled cruets are on the preparation table. The lace cloth is on the altar, having been lovingly washed and ironed well before the day. There is no rush, no slap-dashedness.We need to bring something of that sense of time, place, and preparation to our dinner, of course with all that is proper to the family setting. It's up to me, the mother, to think through where, when, and how we will eat (and then the others can help you make it happen). ~ Auntie Leila
I crave this right now! I've been devouring Auntie Leila's Eating Dinner Together series. Her latest one touched on something very real to us. Leila said, "I am grateful for my dining room, and from the time our eldest kids hit puberty we ate in the dining room pretty much every night.
You see, as the children get older, their bodies take up more room! Maybe the size table you actually need just won't fit in your kitchen!" Yup. This is where we are. Up to this point, we have been able to sit everyone at the dining table in our breakfast nook for almost 10 years. But now that we have 1 very long-legged man-sized boy and two almost teenage girls, that bench that used to fit three now really only fits two comfortably. Throw in a 6 month old in a high chair and well, we are officially out of room.

Because we've been able to eat in the eat-in section of our kitchen, we've used what should be the dining room section of our living room as a school room since we moved in. Now we need to reclaim it for dinners while still finding a way to keep our school stuff there. I'd love to hear your suggestions!

The kids have been eating in the breakfast nook and keeping their lenten reading next to the crown of thorns. Sean's work has been so crazy, he's not always with us and depending on how Cupcake feels, I might not be there either. Hopefully both of things will be changing here in the near future. I think we will still use this space for weekday breakfasts and lunches since those meals happen independently. Some of my kids like to eat before they shower and dress, others like to eat after. They usually eat lunches together but without me since Cupcake's nap schedule has dictated a later lunch most days. I'm ok with this because it has allowed me to instruct them on what makes a healthy well-balanced lunch. We call it Health class.

This is our dining/ school room. Right now we are on Spring Break but Bigboy is using a cool car drawing kit that The Professor no longer uses to draw some hot rods. It makes me so happy to see these boys share their love for all things boy even though they are 6 years apart in age. What doesn't make he happy are those shelves. Part of our day today is going to be addressing those cluttered shelves and the bins on the floor. Those were relocated from the den and need to find a new home.

The Professor has been teaching Cupcake to read. He has very high standards for his baby sister! :)

The real problem with using the space right now is that we don't have enough chairs. Since this table is used for schooling, it only has four chairs. One sometimes gets pulled over to the computer, or to the desk, so really it's only three chairs. This table will seat 8 but with no leaves it's a tight fit especially with the rounded windsor style chairs. Maybe some chairs like this would be better. We also need a bigger table in here if we are going to dine every night and still have room for occasional guests. Maybe some lamps too. The window keeps it well lit during the day, but in the evening, there is only a ceiling fan light.

I'd love to have a pretty sideboard/buffet in this room, but the shelves and desk are more useful. Plus, the desk belonged to my great grandfather and I'm not ready to let it go. I have considered painting it or trying to sand off the dark finish for a lighter look. Also, what you can't see is that opposite the giant window is an area we call the dry bar. A dry bar is a wet bar without the sink and apparently every house built in the 1980's just had to have one! It acts as a good place to put some barstools and set out food for a party. Right now we use the cabinets for game storage, so maybe if we shifted things around it could act as a sideboard to house candles and linens.

Like I said, suggestions are most welcome. I wouldn't want to go too formal because this room is open to our front living room/ computer room. We do a lot of living here. I want it to feel comfortable.

I just want to add that I am not complaining or bemoaning our situation here. We have more than enough room in this house for everyone God has given us to care for. I am approaching this as something that I feel called to try to accomplish for the sake of my family and I would love some practical ideas on how I can make that happen. Thanks!


~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
with the lovely ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter


  1. Oh Charlotte,
    I can relate so much. With 5 little ones I am running out of room to teach and also feed my entire family. But we make due and we are so thankful for whatever the Lord wants for our large family. I once read to keep things simple, and that children don't see discomfort like parents do when it comes to home life or organizing. They are just happy with what comes with life and homeschooling. I remind myself of this when I gripe at my small kitchen and my living space for homeschooling. We are in the process of painting and remodeling what we can around the house. Our dilemma has always been babysitting while we do these tasks. It sure gets interesting when we are completing a home improvement project with my 2 youngest who are 3 and 1 1/2. =) Thanks for posting! Good post! blessings

  2. Cupcake is so adorable! I hope you come up with a good solution--we don't even have a dining room so I'm not much help!

  3. Here's our dinning room/schoolroom odyssey.Our house does not have a dinning room per se. There is a long narrow room off the kitchen which I think was originally a porch, but was enclosed. The former owners used it as a dinning room for their big family. That's what I did when we first moved in, relieved to finally have something like a dinning room after our first small house. I kept some of the school things there also, but since the room was so narrow I could only use the short end walls for storage. I kept the computer and more school books in my bedroom. After awhile I found that not restful - I needed a bedroom without distractions and paperwork. So we moved the dinning table into one end of our long kitchen and moved everything school related (many books) into the dinning room. I also have a little corner there for my youngest's playthings. The computer is there where I can see it from the kitchen sink and keep an eye on it's use. While eating in the kitchen can be chaotic and crowded at times, I figure (and my husband agrees) this arrangement is a much better use of our quirky house space. For special occasions, like Christmas or family gatherings, we move the table into our large living room in front of the fireplace to eat. The kids love this change and my girls really go all out with table setting for these occasions. Regarding the chair issue, I bought a couple of sturdy benches(under $100)from Adults get first dibs on chairs.

  4. The dining room table in that link looks just like the one I have only with the ability to extend it. Our's seats just six. With holiday dinners at our house I know we've pretty much outgrown our dining room table. I had to replace our kitchen table this past summer so we could have enough places to fit the whole family. Now we have room for six.

  5. While I admire Auntie Lelia a lot and learn much from her, I think we shouldn't get caught up in the details of her message. She has a large old house with many rooms; most of us don't. The important thing is the eating together as a family in harmony and respect, not the location, table settings, etc. Historically most families ate all their meals together in one-room cabins or small cottages in humble surroundings. Everything was done at the kitchen table - eating, food prep, studying, crafts, visiting. Only the wealthier had the luxury of having more than one substantial table in the house. And even in houses with a dinning room, that was often reserved for company or special occasions. And there were usually servants or "help" to keep things running smoothly and pleasantly.

    1. Well, I don't live in a log cabin but if God asked me to, I'm sure I would find a way. I do live in a house that has a dining area that I have been using as a school room and I am really just trying to find ways to now merge the two uses of that one room. Compared to some people's situation it might be considered a luxury. This is our second house. Our first house was a teeny tiny little thing. We improved that house enough to make a profit when we sold it and buy this one, even though it had lots of growing room for us at the time but at well below market value making it a very smart buy.

      What I took from Auntie Leila's message was that a family needs to be together for dinner and I agree with that. I also happen to like how she accomplishes it. I didn't mention in the post but our chairs are slowly breaking. My husband has tried to fix them as best he can but they were a little on the flimsy side to begin with so I doubt they will last much longer. So if it seems like I'm focusing too much on the details it's just because I need some of those details, like chairs, benches maybe floor pillows, to allow everyone to actually sit down to dinner.

  6. We ended up getting some benches on sale for about 60 bucks each, adds space for 3 people on each side plus one on each end--nothing matches but someday I have dreams of a very large table in an extended dining room!!

    Love the baby reading, love the chubbs, she's adorable!!!!
    Here's a picture:

    1. Jamie,
      We've done the bench thing in our breakfast nook. My girls have been sitting on it. We used to be able to get Bigboy on their with them when we needed to squish. Well, with puberty, comes hips. My girls might only be 11 & 12 but they have the figures of young ladies, not girls anymore and that seems to make the difference. I also don't like to put my tallest one on the bench because then I see him hunching over to eat and I don't think that's good for an almost 6 ft tall posture.

  7. I really enjoy Auntie Leila's posts, too; a lot of meat to chew on.

    We eat in our dining room. We are currently renting so I am not dead set in the fact that when we buy things may change. However, in our tiny apartment we HATED eating in the kitchen and we were so relieved to have a real dining room when we moved. We have a dining room table that we bought at Cost Plus World Market on sale with a coupon! This one:
    We also bought two benches, the ones that match the table. For us, right now this works. The high chair goes at the end for the little guy and the 7 and 5 year old sit on the bench and the 3 year old sits in an Ikea Junior chair like this I acutally have 2 of those chairs and one is with my tiny sewing table and machine for me. :)We have extra dining room chairs floating around as well so that when people come over we can have two chairs at the head and foot of the table. The table that we have may not be as big as the Ikea though and it doesn't have leaves. However, in our dining room, with the buffet, bookcases and sewing table if I had a bigger table it would feel crowded(sounds crowded already but it isn't, promise). Sometimes with Ikea the furniture doesn't hold up as well for everyday use with families, in my experience. Don't get me wrong I bought my dining room chairs and junior chairs and highchair there because the price was right and they went well with our table from Cost Plus.

    Oh, our dining room functions as our dining area and school area. It has a muitipurpose function. :)

    1. I know IKEA isn't top quality merchandise but I like the fact that we could buy a few chairs now, maybe a few chairs later, save up for the table, you know, rather than having to pay for an entire set all at once. We also have a computer armoire from them in that same antique stain finish so atleast some of the pieces would look like they matched. I did look at Craigslist, but didn't see anything reasonable in our area.

    2. My dining room furniture is from Ikea and while it's nothing gorgeous, we're very pleased with it. We've had it for nearly ten years, it survived a move and has withstood countless hours of play. It's not fine furniture by any stretch of the imagination, but the pieces we have are good solid furniture. My advice when buying from Ikea is to go to the store and check it out thoroughly before you buy it. If it's sturdy and doesn't seem like it will break after you give it a good going over in the store, then it's probably not a bad buy.

      Oh and one more thing. If you go with that table you linked to, I would suggest adding a clear poly coat to it. It's something I wish I had done with our table. When we replaced our kitchen table this summer I did that to the new one in addition to repainting the legs/apron to match our chairs. It takes a little bit of time and effort, but it's worth it.

  8. I totally know what you mean about needing something now that will look and function nicely :) That is why I have some Billy Bookcases, Hemnes dresser and dining chairs, kids table and chairs, etc, all from IKEA. :) I like the IKEA chairs a lot. I find that their chairs look nice and are affordable. Everywhere I look it seems that the chairs are almost as much as the table, yikes. I saw a blog post mention(and I am thinking I might do it eventhough I never thought I would) getting a plexiglass for your tabletop to keep the wood in great condition. I am thinking that for us with the paint, glue and such that goes on at our table it might be a nice way of not stressing out when people and their projects are spread out all over the place. Okay, now I have just rambled. Sorry! I think that you have great taste and am excited to see pics once you have it all in and set up. :)

  9. All school books and supplies except those the kids are currently using are stored in a separate room (with lots of shelves). Each student has ONE crate for their school items. "Living books" get swapped in and out of the crate as they are finished, but their math books, religion book, etc. live in each students' crate for the entire school year.
    We started using crates 5 years ago when my daughter broke her leg and we suddenly had to hold lessons in the dining room. Our classroom had been in the basement, but with a broken leg, she was unable to use the stairs.
    We've moved since then, but still use the crates and do much of our schooling around the kitchen/dining room. When it's time for a meal, the children pack up their things and we slide the crates to the edge of the room.

  10. Charlotte,
    Have you tried Craig's list for chairs? I find a lot of what I need there but I know every region is different so you may not. I feel your pain.Certainly I don't think it's complaining. I love that we homemakers can share ideas and talk about the little dilemmas we face. We homeschoolers tend to have a lot of books and materials and keeping it all handy, neat and sightly can be a challenge. I like your idea of using the dry sink cupboards for linens and candles. I know for me having them handy means I will use them more often.

    Love, love LOVE the picture of Cupcake "reading"! Oh my goodness she's so scrumptious I just want to eat her up!!

  11. We have the same problem; we need to use our dining room for schooling as there is literally nowhere else. Also, it's a very small room and the table just barely fits into it. On one side of the table is the pathway to the open staircase, and on the other side of the table is the (non-negotiable) pathway to the basement door. I made life way easier for myself by finding a "deacon's bench" online for $75, which seats four little-medium bottoms. However, the ends still have chairs, which still stick out into the pathways. So I'm totally relating to your problem with chairs being here and there.

    My one suggestion regards the shelves. I have tried a variety of storage options for the kids' books and things. What has worked best for us is a dresser with five deep, wide drawers. All schoolbooks, notebooks, pencil cases and small math items go into these, one drawer per kid, with the tallest getting the top drawer, the smallest getting the bottom. It has worked EXCELLENTLY, because when it's time to put the stuff away, it actually goes away and is out of sight.

    Unfortunately, this doesn't hold our arts and crafts supplies or the office/school supplies (paper clips, staples, glitter glue, etc). However, perhaps you could reduce the visual clutter by getting a dresser?

    By the way, I like your maps.

  12. I'd love to see your breakfast nook -- you may be able to configure it for school use. May I suggest that when you get a new table, do get one with rounded edges (oval or circular with leaves to extend). You can seat more people at a rounded table than one with corners. And I echo Michele Q -- check Craigslist. You can get some amazing bookshelves (tall or short) that can be repainted or used as is to line your entire wall behind the table (where the map is). You can use it for books and storage bins. We also use tall dressers in our family/school room to store the kids actual binders and day to day books. Each child has their own drawer and mine is at the top. I like the fact that I don't see the binders and everything looks tidy. Have fun reinventing the rooms. OMT, recessed or ceiling lights will help keep the floor less cluttered too.

  13. Hmmm... What about arranging the room so one wall has school things (books,desk etc) and the opposite wall is dining things ( Buffet, Nice painting/print...Last Supper, perhaps? Cozy Chair for reading?)Table and seating in the center, of course. I would also look for a pedistal table with an oval shape...would seat more. We have a large Farmhouse table, but because of the legs in the corners it has wasted space, even with the extra Leaves in place. Possibly put in some pot lights(4-6) in the ceiling for extra light?

    1. Good point about the table. We sold our large farmhouse table a few months ago and got a two pedestal rounded corners one on Craig's list for $20. It's SO much easier to squeeze people. Plus I'm not constantly bruising myself running into the corners --but I am probably the only one who does that.

    2. * to squeeze people AROUND. That's what I get for commenting when I should be sleeping!

  14. Perhaps one way to make the dining room feel cozier when eating dinner would be to get one or two folding screens or folding room dividers. You can google them if you don't know what I mean. They could be put up along the wall in front of all the school supplies when dining and folded up and out of the way when using the room for school. There are tons of styles to choose from or if your husband is handy he could make them. They are just simple wooden frames with hinges from the hardware store. You would stretch some pretty fabric in each frame and staple or make them out of thin plywood painted a color to match the room.



Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!