‘Wasting time’ as a family

Homemade pizza

Photo: Jeff Young

You have probably heard it said that kids spell love T-I-M-E. Most of us know instinctively that this is true. But knowing doesn’t necessarily make it easy to put into practice. Time is the one thing most of us claim to lack, no matter where we fall on the economic scale. And yet, when we boil life down to its most basic building blocks, we find that life is made of hours, minutes, and seconds.

Every one of us has the same amount of time in a day. Twenty-four hours. That’s it. What we choose to do with the time we are given each day determines the quality of the life we live. And whether we want to face it or not, the truth is that what we give our time to reveals what is most important to us. 

We live in a world that clamors incessantly for our attention, and the tools of distraction continue to multiply: televisions, radios, video games, tablets, smartphones, and the myriad of social networking sites and apps hosted on our ever-present devices. Today it takes real effort to unplug, to disconnect, to pay attention. 

But even in those moments when we are not on our phones or in front of the computer or television, we can still be not present mentally because of the cascade of images and thoughts we recall from all those times we were on our phones and in front of the computer and television. That’s part of the insidiousness of the content we consume. It lingers. Distraction lasts much longer than just the time when we are plugged in. 

Today it takes real effort to unplug, to disconnect, to pay attention.

The struggle is real, y’all. Despite the fact that we as a society have never been more connected (digitally), the evidence is clear that we are actually more disconnected than any other time in history.

So what do we do about it? What can we do? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I can share with you my own experience, imperfect as it may be. At one point in 2015, in frustration, I went back to the basic building blocks of life — the hours, minutes, and seconds that we all have — and evaluated how I was spending my 24-hour allotment. I looked at a typical week, and I was shocked by what I saw. 

The biggest revelation was that the things I claimed to be the most important to me in life — my relationships with God, my wife, and my children — were the things I was spending the least amount of time on. I spent most of my time working, or worrying about work and finances, or distracting myself with TV, movies, podcasts, and lots of social media so I could temporarily forget about work and finances. I was a mess. 

The biggest revelation was that the things I claimed to be the most important to me in life — my relationships with God, my wife, and my children — were the things I was spending the least amount of time on.

It was about the same time that Pope Francis visited the United States. During that visit he said something that rattled me. I later learned that it wasn’t the first time he had said it, but it was definitely the first time I heard it. It’s something he frequently encourages families to do: waste time together. Pope Francis knows something about the human person that many of us in our productivity-obsessed culture have forgotten. It’s the same thing that little kids know instinctively: Love is spelled T-I-M-E. And a distracted presence doesn’t count. We need to be present and attentive, even if we are simply wasting time together. 

I confess that his statement took me aback. Waste? I already felt guilty anytime I “wasted” time. That was one of the reasons I had always found it so difficult to relax. It would take months of putting that advice into practice before I would start to feel or experience the rightness of it. One of the ways we would (and still do!) waste time together is in the kitchen. One of our favorite ways to do that is pizza night.

Love is spelled T-I-M-E.

Making pizza is fun and kid-friendly. Children of all ages can participate. From making the dough and the sauce to prepping the toppings and decorating the pizzas, there’s a job for everybody, even the smallest of toddlers (with proper assistance, of course). On page 9 are my recipes for pizza dough and sauce. Both are super easy to make. 

For the dough I prefer a slow fermentation process. This requires making the dough a day in advance. But there’s no kneading required, so it’s a quick and easy process. And the sauce is uncooked because it will be cooked on the pizza. The possible variations of toppings are virtually unlimited. Play around with the sauce and toppings. Make it your own. Do what you know you and your family will enjoy. And please, plan a pizza night soon. Make wasting time together a regular part of your family life. That time spent together makes all the difference. That’s L-O-V-E. 


For the dough


4 cups all-purpose or bread flour (bread flour has a higher protein content, which is better for making pizza)

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1½ cups warm water

To prepare: In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and, with a wooden spoon or your hands, mix thoroughly. Note that you might need to add a little extra water to obtain the desired result, a slightly sticky dough.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature (about 72 degrees Fahrenheit) for 18 hours or until it has more than doubled. It will take longer in a chilly room and less time in a very warm one.

Flour a work surface and scrape out the dough. Divide it into three or four equal parts, depending on whether you want large or small pizzas. Shape the dough, one portion at a time. For each portion, start with the right side of the dough and pull it toward the center; do the same with the left, then the top, and then the bottom. (The order doesn’t actually matter; what you want is four folds.) Shape each portion into a round and turn it seam side down. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound. The mounds should not be sticky; if they are, dust with more flour.

If you don’t intend to use the dough right away, wrap the balls individually in plastic and refrigerate for up to three days. Return to room temperature by leaving them out on the counter, covered in a damp cloth, for two to three hours before needed.

If you are going to use the dough right away, divide it with a sharp knife into three or four equal portions (depending on the size of the pizzas you want to make). Shape each portion and bake one at a time in a preheated oven. The temperature will depend on whether you are baking your pizza on a pizza pan, baking stone, or baking steel. Consult manufacturer specifications on temperature and baking time.

For the sauce


1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fine sea salt or more, to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano flakes

To prepare: Place tomatoes in medium-sized mixing bowl. Crush tomatoes by hand. Add olive oil, salt, and oregano and stir together well. 

Photo: Jeff Young

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