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How To Regain Your Family Life Neal and Jill Kimball love their family. Their intent is to do what they can to nurture their family as well as share the importance of healthy families to the world. Their Goal: To restore the family table to its traditional role as a gathering place where parents and kids can rekindle what seems to have become a lost art: communication.

The Kimball�s have seen how important meals with the family can be. When the demands of �corporate life� caused them to question what was really important, they resolved to take their family back � and decided that dinnertime was going to be the place. To make the time together more meaningful and fun, they developed �Family Table Time� � a weekly family meeting kit that�s simple, practical and fun. What began as an idea to help their family re-knit has become a way for all families to plan activities, build values and strengthen family unity.

Their Journey

It was during a family vacation/road trip in 1999 that the Kimball family came up with the idea for Family Table Time. Neal and Jill asked their kids, Caitlin, 11; Maggie, 9; Kyle, 7; and Jimmy 5, what they could do to make dinnertime more fun for them. They came up with the idea of drawing pictures and writing down memories on a tablecloth! They also decided that a weekly family meeting would be important. And in the process, they created a way for families to plan family activities, build core values, strengthen family unity, and create positive family memories.

On this same vacation, they found out that they were not alone! They shared their situation and ideas with the friends they visited. �They echoed our concerns! While we were still in Chicago on vacation, we brought together some of our friends�nineteen families in all�and shared our idea of making mealtime a priority. They all agreed to test our �family table time� idea for twelve weeks,� shares Jill. The �test� included: (1) eating meals together as a family as often as possible; (2) conducting a family meeting once a week; (3) creating a family mission statement; and (4) jotting down memories on a tablecloth. �Armed with a white vinyl tablecloth, agenda sheets and some permanent markers, we all took the plunge,� states Neal.

Jill loves telling their story. � Some families felt they were strong but liked the idea of the keepsake of the tablecloth, some families had always wanted to have family meetings but had no tools and some wanted to get their spouses home for dinner! All nineteen families kept in touch through e-mail. We shared stories, tablecloths, and mission statements. The mission statements were written on the center of the table cloth and reflected each family's focus. Ours was (and still is): "Living our lives like Jesus so that when we get to Heaven, He will say, 'Thanks.'"

When they first tested their idea in their own family, the Kimball family made a commitment to have at least one meal together each week. After recognizing the value and fun of family meals, the Kimballs now eat together as often as they can and do Family Table Time once a week. �We have made our dinner table a "safe zone," where feelings can be shared, thoughts can be communicated openly and honestly, and where everyone is valued and heard. It is a fun and relaxing experience�something our kids look forward to and enjoy, says Neal. A father using the Family Table Time tool shared with the Kimballs that he had rarely made it home for dinner during the week. After experiencing the time around the table with Family Table Time, he was so fulfilled from spending this quality time with his kids that he started come home for dinner much more often.

The nineteen families in the test group experienced so much success with implementing the idea that they urged the Kimballs to create and market a kit to enable other families to do the same thing. � What used to be so ordinary and natural in families�eating meals together�is becoming less and less of a reality, so we hope that our kit can help families put their desire for regular meal times into practice, � says Jill.

�It is all about helping families draw closer together and keep open the lines of communication,� says Neal. The Kimball�s believe this kit can make a big difference in the lives of those who want to build core values, improve communication, create family unity, plan family activities, foster self esteem, recall family memories, and share stories.

� Neal and Jill Kimball


What is Family Table Time?

Simply stated, the Family Table Time kit is an interactive tool to make meal time fun and ultimately help bring families closer together. It is also a weekly family meeting kit that is practical, simple and fun! The centerpiece of the kit is a large vinyl tablecloth that becomes a living Journal and treasured family memento. Parts of the kit include weekly family meeting discussion agendas, permanent colored markers to use with the tablecloth. A �Count Me In� certificate of commitment for each family member to sign is also included as well as a �Getting Together� resource guide that explains what Family Table Time is all about, outlines how to maximize the Family Table Time process and walks families through creating their own personal family mission statement, how to conduct weekly family meetings, and how to incorporate their own �sense of family� into the dinnertime hour.

In the Family Table Time process, one family member is named �leader� on the day of the family meal. He or she gets to choose the meal and run the meeting that night. After the meal, a family meeting agenda is followed to help guide communication.

The Family Table Time tablecloth is the canvas upon which you will create your family memories. �It becomes the foundation upon which you will start building your family relationships and where each week, family members jot down ideas, record experiences, catalog feelings and set goals, " says Neal. In the center of the tablecloth is a table, where a family writes down its purpose and direction. There's also an area so family members can inscribe what they hold to be their most important values. A Dine-O-Meter allows them to mark off the meals they've had together. There's also a "guest book� for friends and family who come to dinner to leave messages.

"At the end of a year's worth of family dinners and meetings," says Jill, "the tablecloth is taken up and kept in a special place. Then, years later, fathers and mothers and sons and daughters can go back and read what they wrote and summon up precious memories." "The time you have with your children is fleeting," says Jill, "and you want them to be happy, kind and loving, to develop communications skills and social skills. Family Table time is a practical tool to help you do this."

�Family is everything to me,� says Neal. �My past jobs rewarded my pockets, but didn�t get to my heart. Our work with Family Table Time feeds my heart.

Family Table Time is my most important meeting each week!�

Family Table Time