My family is not usually at a loss for words. More often than not, I'm hoping for a moment of silence not a reason to add to the chaos. But I was intrigued when I heard about The Meal Box (Loyola Press), a deck of 52 cards with questions to prompt interesting dinner conversation among family members and tips on the back to inspire sometimes-weary parents.
One of the main reasons I wanted to test out this question-and-answer game is because Tom McGrath, one of my favorite Catholic authors, is a creator of The Meal Box, along with Bret Nicholaus. McGrath wrote Raising Faith Filled Kids (also from Loyola Press), which has remained a go-to book for me both at home and in faith formation class for many years now. I figure anything Tom McGrath had a hand in had to be good. And I was right.
I brought the deck of cards out tentatively, not sure how my family would take to what might feel like forced conversation. No need to worry. It turned out to be a really fun way to get us talking about all sorts of things:
- If you could be born on a holiday, which one would it be?
- If you could carve four new faces into Mount Rushmore, whose faces would they be and why?
- Suppose whenever you talked, it wouldn't be your voice that people heard -- it would be the sound of a particular animal. Which animal sound would you choose for your voice?
- Suppose that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you had to hear a background noise in your head. This background noise would always be there throughout your life. What background noise would you choose as your very own?
One of our favorites was this: "If you could build a private bridge or tunnel that would take you directly from your home to any place at all, what would it connect you to?" We ended up with two people heading to Rome (one directly to St. Peter's - Gee, I wonder who that was?), two people heading to Paris (one directly to the Louvre and the other with a special exit leading to Grandpa and Grandma's house in New Jersey), and one heading to Disney World. I found it so interesting to hear what my kids would pick and why. Or what about that background noise constantly playing in your head? My husband and I both picked the ocean, our teenage son picked his iTunes library (shocking), middle daughter picked the ocean as well, and the youngest picked birds (which we decided would not include crows).
Maybe those questions don't sound like they're inspiring any earth-shattering conversations. Then again, they're not supposed to do that. They're supposed to spark fun talk about things we might not otherwise think about. It's been a great way to gain insights, and, if you're talking about animal sounds and oceans, it's really hard to bicker over who should pour the milk or pass the salt.
On the back of every card is "Food for Family Thought," which includes tips on how to make faith come alive for children, suggestions to talk to kids about favorite holy people, ways to counter the consumer culture, and more. Where else can you get all that for only $9.95? So check it out. Click HERE for more information. And tonight, when you sit down to dinner, bring this Meal Box question to the table:
"Suppose that, regardless of what clothing you were wearing, you always had to wear a button with a maximum of seven words on it. You can choose the message that goes on this button, but it must be worn at all times. What would it say?"