Dinners got out of control a while back. I thought with all the Tupperware around, I could easily let everyone pick their own vegetable, side dish, or fruit, or just save the rest for later in the week. My reasoning was that if everyone had what they wanted, at least they would eat it. But the requests started coming in for separate main dishes. I justified potatoes, pasta, and even grilled chicken as separate or combinable entrees and sides, using up even more space in the fridge with the leftovers.I was working harder than necessary, the food bill was going up, and we were actually wasting more leftovers than we were using. And the kids were getting used to having their way a little too much. Then on evening while my husband and I were discussing the heated presidential primaries, the kids said they wanted to vote, too. We explained they'd have to wait a few more years, and noting their disappointment, I tried to think of another way they could participate in a voting experience. The next day when I was cleaning out another ten Tupperware containers, the light bulb came on, and I instantly knew what the kids could vote on. Dinner would no longer be made-to-order for everyone. Instead, each family member would nominate a "candidate" for each part of the meal--entree, side dish, vegetable, fruit, drink, and dessert. Each of the four kids got to pick one item for each category. I printed off ballots with pictures next to each item (for the two younger kids), and each child made one poster for one of their chosen items and spent the next three days campaigning for that item. The night before the elections, each child privately filled out a ballot and slipped it in a taped-up shoe box with a slit on top. The next day I surprised them with the results at dinner and we talked about what everyone had voted for. The kids realized that if one person had voted another way, dinner would have been a little different. We had this activity again, on the "American Idol" finale night, and we plant to have an extra special dinner vote on the night of November 4 to coincide with the presidential elections. Not only did my children start to understand the voting process, but they understood more about each other. When my daughter, Rachel, was sick, my son, Aaron, suggested we make the bow-tie pasta with the white sauce and peas that night. That's usually what Rachel puts on the ballot.
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