One of the best parts of last year was growing my friendship with Ash and Kelly and their families. What started as a simple dinner invite turned into a monthly tradition, and has become something we all look forward to. Having family friendships creates an amazing feeling of community. It gives my husband and I common friendships at a time in our lives when we often divide and conquer, or do separate guys/girls nights. It also provides my kids with a common friendship and with adults outside of their family who care about them, and make them feel safe and loved.
I’m grateful to my friend Kelly for getting our monthly dinner date started. I can’t imagine the journey of motherhood without her and Ash. Our kids were the first to meet through shared activities, and then Ash met Kelly, and I met Ash. Then I discovered that I lived two blocks from Kelly and our parents grew up in the same small town and, well, the universe was telling us we all needed to be friends. Even our husbands like each other! It may seem like all the stars need to align to make friends like this, and this could be partly true, but I also think our monthly dinner date helps. It ensures that our families get together regularly.
Now that we’ve been doing this for a little over a year, I’ve discovered a few things that make this practice sustainable and fun:
1. Let yourself be seen.
That first dinner at Kelly’s was so relaxed and easy because she kept things simple and she was herself. Dinner was chicken wraps for us, and hot dogs with tater tots for the kids. The kids ran through the house and played like crazy, the dog barked, and we sat on the porch steps and drank wine. It was awesome! The message was clear: this is about friendship and feeling good, not about a fancy menu, or a perfect table setting. It gave me the permission to host the next dinner even though we’d just had our kitchen gutted.
2. Make time for it.
Once a month or so, we start a group text to set a date to get together. It is hard to get twelve people together for dinner sometimes, but it is possible. You might have to do it on a weeknight rather than a weekend because that’s what’s open. The kids can stay up a little past bedtime once in awhile. It’s worth it.
3. Share the hosting.
We each take a turn hosting, which makes things easier. Whoever hosts makes the main and provides drinks, and the two other families bring an app or a dessert.
4. Keep special, simple.
From time to time, your dinner rotation night might take place on someone’s birthday or before a special event. Our most recent gathering took place right before three of our kids started kindergarten. I wanted to honor this huge transition, and do something special. I was initially tempted to look up ideas for a back to school dinner on Pinterest, and buy each of the kids a present. But this isn’t what these dinners are about! These dinners are about connecting. And, that’s something to celebrate in and of itself. I decided I would have each of kids tell us what they are most excited about when it comes to Kindergarten, and I would take a photo of the three of them. It was pretty special.
Before this dinner group, I thought things had to be perfect in order to have people over. I thought I had to have a little gift for each person, and the gift had to be something crafty and homemade. I thought I had to make something from a magazine for dinner, and it had to look like a magazine, too. The truth is, I never wanted to have people over because it took so long to do all of those things! The truth is, I am fine just as I am, and you are too. Invite some people over!
To get you ready, I’ll leave you with a no-fuss dinner rotation recipe. It’s my oldest son’s favorite meal and the one he chose for his back to school dinner. As a bonus, it will give you time to drink a beer with your friends and snack on chips and salsa while you host. It may also transport you right back to childhood!
Crispy Fish Tacos:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 24 minutes
1 30 pack of Gorton’s crispy battered fish fillets
2 ripe avocados sliced
16 oz pineapple peach or mango salsa
1 package of romaine hearts
1/2 a grated purple cabbage
1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
grated cheddar cheese
2 15 oz. cans black beans
40 tortillas—I like the La Tortilla brand
optional add ins: limes, cilantro, black olives, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Cook the fish according to the package directions, and prep all the ingredients. Here’s how I like to re-heat corn tortillas: put them in a big stack in the middle of a damp paper towel and wrap the sides of the towel around the stack. Then I microwave it for a minute. Don’t use a paper towel with flour tortillas though, it will make them soggy. I usually make some cheese quesadillas for the kids, too.
Line up all the ingredients in pretty bowls, and let people make them however they like!
I hope this motivates you to reach out to a few friends and get your own monthly dinner rotation started! If you have an easy dinner recipe you like to make for parties let me know. I’d love to hear from you.