Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Teamwork Dinner

The Story:

I found some amazing books on cooperative games, my favorite being Cooperative Games and Sports by Terry Orlick . . . I was interested in the author's assertion that aboriginal games were non competitive, non eliminating, easily played with a variety of ages, and simply fun. Our family has a problem with competition between themselves. "Who does it better Mom, me or her?" and "Look what she did. I behaved nicely."

Somehow, there is too much competition in our world, a belief that there is not enough love, approval, or whatever to go around. I knew I need to foster a spirit of "the team" with my family. I so want them to realize that what we can accomplish together is so much greater than what we can do alone. Now, I realize that this cannot be accomplished with one dinner, but, why waste a dinner when you can add a little learning opportunity with the time we share. Right?

So... this was our least organized and unplanned dinner, but there is a place for those because life is what it is and it doesn't have to be perfect to be worth it. We had some friends with older children join us and it really improved our activity. The bigger numbers made it funner, and my children idolize Trent and Erin who took such good care of them.

I had parts of the food pre-made; the fruit salad dressing, the chicken, the noodles, and the salad dressing. On two tables outside I placed a fruit basket, carrots and a grater, vegetables, knives, and cutting boards.

I began by pointing out the unappetizing look of the unprepared dinner in front of each person. Onions and a knife were in front of one, pine nuts in front of another, and so forth. I mentioned that as a team, they had a quest to fulfil in order to enjoy the feast to it's fullest potential.

I had several activities in mind, the books were full of so many great activities. But mindful of time, I picked a few.
  1. First we made a sticky popcorn ball. Everyone scattered around the yard and Sunshine started popping like popcorn. When she popped next to another person, they stuck to her and the popped over to someone else until everyone was one large sticky ball. I would love to see 20 or so teenagers bouncing around together.
  2. We formed teams and used blankets to throw and catch a ball. I required 20 successful throw/catches to fulfill the quest. I think this would be funner with a volleyball net and maybe more people around the blankets.
  3. We played fruit cocktail. The fruit for our salad was in a basket across the yard. The group had to transport the fruit to the table without using their hands, feet, or mouths to touch the fruit.
  4. Each individual picked a task that needed to be performed for dinner to be completed. They could ask anyone for help if needed. (slice the cucumber, grate the carrot, chop the pineapple, etc.) It was heartwarming to see Trent, a senior in high school help the little ones with tasks that were a little above them and to see help and encouragement given.
When tasks were complete, the separate dinner salad ingredients could be combined to create a whole that was greater than it's parts. While we ate, I asked for input on what our words had to do with our meal. I was lifted by the insights of the little and big ones. We discussed each individuals importance in the team effort. A team is made up of individuals working together for a common goal. Trent gave us a deep thought, "The name on the front of your shirt is more important than the name on the back of your shirt."

After our friends left, our girls chanted "Team ______!" as they carried in various items and assisted in clean up. "We're such a cool team Mom. We're _________." Sunshine stated. I'll need to do a lot of follow up, but it was a fine introduction to begin thinking as a team.

The recipes:

Asian Chicken Salad
This fresh tasting salad has an amazing mixture of flavors and textures and feels perfect for summer.

1/4 cup sesame or olive oil (I use a bit less)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 T sugar
1/4 t hot sauce (I use chili paste)

Individual Ingredients
5 ounces angel hair pasta
3 chicken breast halves, cooked and chopped (I cooked a chicken in the crock pot, leftover rotisserie chicken works well too)
3 cups shredded cabbage
3 cups spinach or other dark greens
2 shredded carrots
3 green onions, sliced diagonally
1 peeled and sliced cucumber
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and set aside. Cook pasta according to directions; drain, rinse and place in a bowl. You can combine the remainder of the ingredients in the salad, or let everyone make their own from the individual ingredients.

Cantaloupe Fruit Salad
Perfect sweet side for any BBQ. Does not, I repeat, does not need sweetener.

1 cantaloupe cut in chunks
1/2 pineapple cup in chunks
1 apple, cored and chunked
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup plain yogurt
1 t grated orange peel

Mix bottom 4 ingredients together and stir over fruit.

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