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back to school dinner

Inspired by others who have similar traditions, we have started having a Back to School dinner the first night of the new school year. It helps to get the kids excited about school and to give the family some time to talk about each child and what they have to look forward to. This year we added a theme for the school year, something we want to focus on as a family throughout the coming year. Our theme for this year is: "Be a Builder".

We took some time to explain to the kids what this means. We built a little tower of blocks and talked about all the things we could do to help "Be a Builder". How it takes time and effort to build something great. How we want to be people who build things, not tear things down. We talked about how to help build others, both at home and at school. How we need each person's help to build our family. And most importantly, how to build their brains (did anyone else read Nurture Shock? There is a great chapter about teaching kids that their brains are a muscle that needs to be worked... not that some kids are just born smart).

I printed out "Be a Builder" signs and placed them on each plate, and asked each person to put their sign somewhere in their room to help them remember our theme. The kids have it on their bulletin boards, I have mine on my bathroom mirror. I also printed a big version for the door to the garage, so the kids see it as they walk out the door. To be honest, I think it is helping me the most. It can be hard to Be a Builder, to remember to build my children up (rather than focus on all their little mistakes)... but I am trying.

We had pulled pork sandwiches for dinner with some homemade coleslaw, and corn on the cob and watermelon. The most exciting part of dinner for the kids was the shrimp cocktail, which won a lot of points for presentation (i.e. hanging them on the side of a glass bowl). My 7 year old said "I've seen this before... like in movies, but I never knew we could do it in real life!!". I followed Ina's recipe for Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, and though the cocktail sauce was a little spicy for the kids, the shrimp were a big part of making it feel like a "special" dinner. Instead of boiling the shrimp (or buying it pre-cooked at the store), you roast the shrimp with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.. simple and delicious and sure to grace our table again sometime in the near future.

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Reader Comments (28)

How, HOW do you peel the shrimp and leave the tails on? Dying to know how to do this for my DIY wedding next May.

What a great tradition! And I like the "Be a Builder" theme. Nuture Shock is on my list of books to read.

09.13.2011 | Unregistered Commenterevylynn

Nurture Shock is one of my favorite books. In fact just had a conversation with our 10 year old about the brain being a muscle that needs to be worked :)

(Also loved the sleep chapter)

09.14.2011 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

I love your theme. I might have to use this idea for my family. You also seem to have a knack for doing things well, but not over the top. The message isnt lost in all of the hoopla.

09.14.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

I really love this idea of a back to school dinner. I've seen it on a couple of blogs lately, and I think it is such a lovely way to mark the beginning of a school year. Likewise, loving the idea of a family theme! Wonderful traditions!

PS... those shrimp look AMAZING!

H xo

09.14.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHana

This is a great idea! I love the slogan. I think I will put it on my bathroom mirror too.

I'm not a parent, but this one is going in the "someday" box.

Thanks again!

09.14.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoyful.mara

I love the idea of a family theme. I'm going to have to ponder what ours could be.... Thanks for the idea!

We also have a back to school dinner on the 1st day of school every September. The kids pick the menu, which I think has featured pizza almost every year, this year being no exception ;)
Moosewood chocolate cake made it extra special this time - definitely going to include a theme next year!

09.14.2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Brooke...A+ for you on this motivating, positive theme! The menu is fabulous as well!

09.14.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBabby

Oh...so, so sweet! Love the back to school dinner tradition. And what a prrr-fect menu to accompany the theme.

09.15.2011 | Unregistered Commenterg.

fantastic theme Brooke. i think it will borrow that for next year. i love C's reaction to the shrimp cocktail!

09.16.2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

What a great idea! Something to mentally file for the future!


09.19.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Châtelaine

"Be a builder" is a simple concept that my entire family will be able to relate to. It's definitely passing the "I should do that" catalogue and into the "I will do this tonight" category. Thanks for the inspiring post.

09.21.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Not close to the "kiddo" portion of my life yet, but this is such a clever idea—and something that all of us should remember, whether we're school-aged or not. Thanks for sharing.

09.23.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSmithRatliff

such a sweet setting! xoxo

09.26.2011 | Unregistered Commenterhello friday

What a cool concept! Love it.

10.3.2011 | Unregistered Commentercolleen

so cute. And I agree with the kids on the shrimp cocktail, I would be all over that!

10.17.2011 | Unregistered Commentersobrina

My kids are away at college and in late high school and this is the kind of thing that I used to do when they were young, but it has gotten lost through the years. You have inspired me to bring it back since we are never too young to have themes and goals for self- improvement!

I will reinterpret it to New Year's and borrow your great theme this year. Thanks for the motivation/inspiration!

10.26.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

The tradition of a special meal to celebrate the new school year is nice, but what really sets yours apart is the family theme to focus on together throughout the school year. LOVE love this idea!! I'm including this in a Gimme Five for Friday blog post I'm doing about Back to School Traditions. Thanks for sharing such an inspiring idea for family togetherness!

I simply LOVE this theme! I've been trying to think of something, and this is perfect!

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