Turns out, I have a lovely oak kitchen table. It’s not just a dumping ground for unopened mail, old newspapers or random homework assignments. My family and I can actually sit down and eat meals at it – together.
Sound familiar? Every family is different, but what brings them together is the dinner table. It might be breakfast before everyone heads off for the day. Maybe it’s a special weekly dinner (with fancy plates and flatware, too). It could be a long-standing recipe that gets the kids excited – like at my house when I make the famous Buchheim family spaghetti sauce.
I know – crazy talk.
As my family prepares for another school year, I’m amazed at how crucial family mealtime is for everyone at the table – especially my two kids (ages 12 and 10). Research from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University shows eating dinner as a family helps kids get better grades, and avoid unhealthy choices (like smoking, alcohol and marijuana).
Family mealtime slows things down, which is crucial given all the activities about to begin that can dominate schedules. But really, it’s important any time of year.
Food is part of the equation, but so is what happens around it. Meals at home are the single strongest factor in higher achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems in children of all ages. More home-cooked meals also mean less obesity for kids.
We can all talk about the importance of family mealtime, but it’s more fun and engaging to be involved and do something about it.
So, in September, American Family will begin collecting family recipes (and the stories about them) from our Facebook community. We’ll publish a Back to the Family Dinner Table cookbook later in the year, along with tips for busy families and ideas to make mealtime a priority.
But I need your help.
We want everyone to be part of this American Family Cookbook. Use this form to send us a favorite family recipe or two – and encourage your co-workers to do the same. From your submissions, we’ll choose a sampling for the Back to the Family Dinner Table cookbook and special Pinterest recipe board. (And everyone is eligible to win prizes, too.)
This is your chance to show off a favorite recipe (including an optional photo). I look forward to clearing off my kitchen table and trying some of your recipes with my family this fall.
When my sons were just six and seven years old, I became a divorced, single mother. Having worked in insurance previously, I was aware of the importance of life insurance and bought a universal life insurance policy for myself to protect my family financially.
Unfortunately, just five years later, circumstances changed, which added some extra financial burden to my budget. I needed funds and cashed in the policy. Two years after that, I began my American Family career with a now-retired agent and purchased life insurance again, this time for myself and both of my sons. Sometime later, another priority came up, I needed discretionary funds, and I decided to let the policies lapse.
I've experienced a heart-related health issue, and while I’ve improved to “mildly affected” status, I was also diagnosed as an adult diabetic, as a result of one medical test. I live a healthy life today with no real problems.
However, in a nutshell, due to a combination of factors, including not completing medical testing recommended by my cardiologist to help prove insurability because of the expense, I decided not to pursue obtaining life insurance again. As a result, I am not able to provide the financial safeguards through life insurance that I would like for my sons.
Because of the value I place in the benefits of life insurance and understanding the importance of insurability while young and healthy, I did purchase 10-year level term life insurance policies for both my sons, and kept the payments paid and the policies active. Over time, I also began the process of converting a portion of the term policies to purchase 20-pay whole life insurance policies for them. I’m thankful that I did.
I never imagined my son, who is now 27, would have a major seizure out of the blue at age 21. To this day there is no definite reason why it happened, but he’s now diagnosed with epilepsy. Thankfully, my son is on the best seizure meds available, and for all intents and purposes he’s a healthy, active, young man. Although still insurable, it’s comforting to know that he already has life insurance in place.
We’re really enthused about life insurance here at the Michele Weber Agency. As a life-licensed American Family agent assistant, I use my personal experiences to tell the story when selling life insurance in our office. I believe my first-hand knowledge is appreciated by everyone, especially younger, newly-married folks.
I tell my customers – and it’s my message to you as well – buy life when you’re young and healthy, and keep it in force. That way, in case something happens to you that limits or prohibits you from purchasing more life insurance later in life, you will at least have some life insurance in place.
I like how American Family Life Insurance Company is creating easy-to-apply-for products for busy customers. The auto-life discount, when applicable, is also nice to discuss. The important thing is to get thinking about and making life insurance part of our lives.
The family dinner table is where I learned to dream.
Often, when friends came over they expressed surprise that we sat down as a family for dinner. It didn’t happen at their houses, and they really liked being part of the ritual at our house. Years later, they bring it up at reunions or around town when they see my parents. My mom even got a note on Mother’s Day from a friend of my sister’s, saying how much she’d appreciated being welcome in our family during those times.
The trait I most admire in my parents is that they encouraged each of their four children to identify our own dreams. And it started at our family dinners. My siblings and I talked about school, sports, theater and our friends. Whatever we said we wanted to do, my parents built us up with positive comments, making us feel like we really could do anything we set out to do.
That encouragement has continued all our lives.
At the Easter dinner table, when I was 28, I announced I was quitting a really good job to return to graduate school full-time, and my parents’ support and encouragement gave me confidence that I was on a good path.
The conversations and inspiration that take place around the table have measurable value to children. Children who regularly eat dinner with their families do better in school and are less likely to use tobacco or alcohol.
That hit home for me recently. I unexpectedly worked much later than usual one night, arriving home around 7 p.m. My husband was gone for the evening, and I thought our teenagers would have had dinner already. They hadn’t. They’d waited for me so we could eat dinner together – that’s how much they value our time together at the dinner table.
I was completely in awe of how important this nightly ritual is to them.
At American Family, we’re focused on building a community of dreamers. Building the next generation of dreamers starts at the family dinner table. That’s the reason behind Back to the Family Dinner Table, which kicks off this week.
Through Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, we’ll be sharing family favorite recipes – and the stories behind them. We’ll also give your family tips for getting organized and suggestions for involving everyone in meal planning and cooking.
We’re partnering with cooking blogger Isabel Laessig, whose mission on her website, familyfoodie.com, is to bring back Sunday supper around the family table in every home. Isabel and her network of bloggers will partner with American Family and share ideas for easy and fun, family-friendly meals – including hosting a Google Plus Hangout and Twitter chats this fall.
American Family wants your recipes, too. Go to our entry form and enter your favorite family recipe – and you’ll be eligible to win prizes to help bring your recipes to life. We’re also gathering everything (recipes, tips and more) into an electronic cookbook, which we’ll share with our customers and everyone who shares a recipe.
Of course, when we talk about “family” dinners, we know a person’s family is really their network of support, no matter what form that takes. We’ll celebrate that with additional blog posts here on Dream Protectors, recognizing “family” goes well beyond the traditional idea of parents and kids.
I hope you’ll join us by trying new recipes, sharing your stories, and focusing on bringing your family back to the dinner table.
Editor’s note: Share your favorite family recipes on our entry form, which you can find on the American Family Insurance Facebook page. We’ll include some select recipes and stories in our upcoming Back to the Table e-book.
I never tire of the view at our headquarters in Madison, Wis. The surrounding landscape features wildflowers, stone walls, seating areas and a pond. These gradually change over to oak woodlots and large grassland areas.
When our facility was built, the intent of the grasslands was to transition to outlying natural areas and keep expenses down by reducing the costs associated with large well-groomed lawns. It turns out these tall grasses are an ideal habitat for nesting grassland birds. An employee discovered this 20 years ago when he spotted a Dicksissel living in the grasses.
Knowing this, American Family decided to strike a balance between economic development and land resource protection. We realized we have an opportunity to protect and restore diverse plant and animal species on our lands.
As an example, we found that simply by delaying the annual mowing of our meadow until mid-August, the Dicksissel – whose population has been steeply declining – could successfully raise their young.
Our land use plan has three goals:
- Research existing habitat and wildlife.
- Implement land-management practices to support habitat-enhancement strategies.
- Promote employee and community involvement.
Since then, some of our land-use achievements include:
- Installation of a native prairie butterfly garden.
- Restoration of oak woodlots to oak savannas.
- Conversion of several acres of non-native plants to native species.
- Pond management for habitat diversity.
- Installation of a 34 bluebird nest boxes.
It’s been a gratifying experience. Some of the most rewarding compliments on our land use come from customers. One guest said that after discovering American Family’s dedication to responsible land management, he would definitely remain our customer. He was an administrator at a local college and was so impressed with our land use plans that he asked if his facilities team could contact me for more details!
I also received a similar compliment from a customer who is an employee with the Wisconsin DNR. She said, “I am so thrilled and impressed to discover I have been doing business with a company that truly cares about the environment.”
At American Family, it’s rewarding to know our good stewardship isn’t just a financial way of life, it extends to our land resources as well.
Editor's note: Learn more about the environmental sustainability efforts at American Family Insurance on our website.
My experience as a child growing up in the Chicago suburbs on Lake Michigan provided casual family bike rides on paved trails, go-at-your-own-pace and feel the wind in your hair – before helmets were necessary.
However, my husband likes riding across the state of Iowa in RAGBRAI or the length of Wisconsin in the GRABAAWR (each about 500 miles in 5-6 days). So, you might guess our family bike rides are more than around the block.
Our daughter has been zipping along more than 15 miles on average per trip, at speeds of 12+ mph over the rolling hills of Wisconsin before she even graduated from training wheels. We’ve ridden the Sugar River Trail in New Glarus, Wis., the Ice Age Trail loop at Devils Lake State Park, and Glacial Drumlin from Cottage Grove, Wis., to Deerfield, Wis. (for the ice cream…) and back.
She enjoyed it more when she could be dad’s riding buddy traveling in a trailer bike attached to his road bike.
Through the years, one landmark trip was the 24-mile round-trip adventure to Crystal Lake in northern Wisconsin. We were dripping with sweat and tired when we arrived – so the crisp, cold water of this crystal-clear lake near Minocqua brought a welcome refresh.
Weaving through country roads from our cabin in Boulder Junction, we biked with anticipation with our snorkeling gear in tow. We explored the lake and swam across. While not the same as our Caribbean adventures, this trip “up North” provided our only clearly visible lake bottom view.
We set a new milestone in family biking adventures with our now 18-year-old daughter on a recent vacation to California. The 12+ miles up and down hills in San Francisco to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, Calif., blew us up against the rails of the bridge with blustering winds around the towers, and provided grand views worthy of post-card status.
The spiral downhill ride into Sausalito led to a final ferry ride back to the city. The sore muscles and numb fingers gave way to new bragging rights for literally crossing a new bridge in our family’s bike riding resume.
Where’s your favorite biking destination?