Archive for June, 2011

How Well Do You Know Your Neighbors?

On a recent afternoon trip to the local grocer, I noticed a lady perusing the plant and flower selections outside of the store. I wasn’t totally sure if I knew her, but thought, “If that isn’t Mrs. X, no harm done. Go and say, ‘hello'”. So I did just that. I approached the woman whose back was to me and said, “Mrs. X?” The lady turned around and greeted me with a familiar smile and we hugged. She then commented on how big the tween and teen that I had in tow had grown.

Mrs. X was the secretary at the elementary school in my neighborhood. The same familiar smile that I saw at the grocer was the one that had greeted me for so many years. During the course of our conversation, Mrs. X and I realized that we live just two blocks away from one another. That got me to thinking (again) just how little we know about our neighbors. I had seen Mrs. X in the elementary school numerous times over the past six years, but never knew she was a neighbor.

Where I love, most days, we pull in and out of our garages never seeing or hearing from our neighbors. On occasion, we may happen to be outside working on our yards at the same time, but just smile and wave. Never once do we stop what we’re doing to walk over and shake the hands of the people geographically closest to us. Not all neighborhoods are this way, but mine is. What am I going to do about it? Am I going to go stop manicuring the lawn and greet a neighbor when I see them outside, or will I let my or their (perceived) level of comfort dictate how neighborly I am? Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that Mrs. X and I didn’t squander the opportunity to get to know one another and develop a friendship. She suggested that we get together and go for walks throughout our neighborhood, so I gave her my telephone number. That’s a start and I hope it catches on for other neighbors.

It would be nice to live in a community where everyone knows one another – like in the good ol’ days. We can make that happen one handshake or footstep at a time.

How neighborly is your neighborhood? Does it resemble anything from your childhood neighborhood or any of the feel-good movies you’ve seen?

Let’s chat!


Etiquette for Children and Teens, Part 2

Part two of a two-part series on etiquette for teens and children.

The second part of this series focuses on appropriate telephone etiquette, theater behavior, and table manners.

While telephone etiquette is always a matter of great importance, this topic would be rather lengthly if I included all scenarios. Therefore, this article will focus on appropriate behavior when calling someone. If I had a dime for every time a child called my home and asked, “Who is this?”, I’d be able to fill the tank of my van – even at today’s prices. Whenever I am the victim of such bad manners, I have no problem taking the opportunity to teach the child something they may or may not have learned at home. When calling a phone number that is shared by two or more people, the polite thing to do is to introduce oneself and ask for the person with whom you wish to speak. For example, “Hello, this is Sarah. Is Cindy available? If so, may I speak with her?” This approach works best for someone with whom the child is not familiar. However, if the child knows the person who answered the telephone, an appropriate greeting would be, “Hello, Mr. Smith. This is Jackie. How are you?”, or some other pleasant chit-chat. When the time is right, it is OK to then ask to speak with the primary person with whom you wish to speak. Don’t forget to offer “please” and “thank you” for the time that the other person took to respond to your request.

The next topic of etiquette can result in flared tempers, because it requires having to approach someone publicly. Movie theaters should be treated like libraries (quiet) and not living rooms, phone booths, raceways, or trash cans. Before your next trip to the theater, go over these simple rules with your child or teen:

  • Do not kick the back of the chair in front of you.
  • Silence your cell phones, so as to not disturb others. If your phone vibrates and you must take a call, take it outside of the theater.
  • Do not treat the aisles like runways by running up and down them, because you are bored.
  • Place your trash into receptacles generally located at various places near the exit.

Following these few simple rules will allow your fellow movie-goers to enjoy the film that they paid good money to see. It’ll also likely keep you from being tossed from the theater.

Finally, teach your children that proper table manners are important. Believe me, this is a constant battle in my home, so I know it’s not an easy one to win. This advice will focus on dining etiquette when eating outside of the home, but there’s no place like home to practice. As a former restaurant hostess, I’ve seen it all. Parents who let their children empty condiment containers onto tables, treat restaurant workers disrespectfully, throw trash on the floor around and under the table, have loud conversations, and disrupt the peace of other diners by tugging on their hair or clothing from the other side of the booth were constant concerns. Helping your children exhibit good dining behavior is quite simple. When you see any of the above behaviors (or gasp) or something worse, address the immediately. Don’t wait until the manager or an angry guest has to approach you.

Think about how you’d want to be treated when having a conversation, watching a movie, or dining outside of the home. If you see your child behaving unpleasantly, do something. Don’t sit back pretending not to see an issue and force others to do your parenting for you.

Have any stories of unbelievable bad behavior? What did you do to address it?

Let’s chat!


Other Resources

Rude Busters

Family Education: Manners for Kids (and Parents)

What Is Your Life’s Purpose?

We all exist, but do you ever wonder why? Do you ever wonder about your purpose in life? Lately, I’ve felt a strong pull to help people. This desire is nothing new, but it’s stronger than it’s ever been. Sure, my corporate job allows me to help people with issues of marginal importance; however, I feel a tug to go out into the world and have face-to-face encounters with people and learn how best I can serve their needs. But I don’t just want to help anyone; I want to help people who have broken faith, finances, relationships, and spirits.

My experiences testimonies have shaped me into a different person than I was in the past. I’m still changing and I’m still learning, but God has shaped me into someone that I never imagined I’d be. His grace has changed me.

I believe with all my heart that I can make a positive difference in the lives of others. I’ve always helped people informally, but I now feel as if I can replace what I do for a living with something that will help other people build or rebuild their lives. I feel compassion toward others. Significant compassion. Webster’s defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering”. A recent Bible study message touched on this very topic. Was it a sign? I’m not sure. I just feel like my purpose is not to sit on the sidelines when there are people in the world who want and need the kind of help that I long to give. I want to do more than pray for others. I want to be the hands and feet of God; doing for others what they can’t do for themselves. For now, I am praying for discernment and for God’s guidance, because above all else, I want to do His will.

Has God revealed your purpose in life? If so, did you follow what he was telling you to do?

Let’s chat!

Etiquette for Children and Teens, Part 1

Part one of a two-part series on helping our children to overcome poor displays of etiquette.

We’ve all seen or witnessed it: unruly and out of control children at formal functions, kids who butt into conversations, or children who have a sense of entitlement for things often undeserved.

So how can you help your underage rule-breakers? According to Cindy Post Senning, a descendent of etiquette expert, Emily Post, use of the Golden Rule of Parenting goes a long way in helping our children to model desired behaviors. Senning says, “Always be the kind of person you want your kids to be”. That’s right, the “Do as I say and not as I do” rule goes out the window! If you want properly behaved children, you must exhibit proper behavior. Don’t worry – if bad habits have already been formed, there’s hope.

Let’s break down three common etiquette offenses and explore ways to help our young ones to learn the art of good manners.

Conversation Butting – Unless the building is on fire or someone has been injured, it’s a good idea to teach your children at a very young age to have patience, because world does not revolve around them. The urge for children to blurt out something and demand your attention while already engaged in conversation with someone else is a bad habit to break once already formed, but consistent training will get you (and your child) to your goal. The next time, little Mary tugs at your arm while you’re having a conversation that does not involve her or continues to call out, “Mom, mommy, momma” or some other term like, “now!”, politely say, “Dear, I would be happy to speak with you as soon as I finish my discussion with Mrs. X”. Repeat this each time Mary decides that she wants your immediate attention; she’ll get the message eventually.

Formal Function Meltdown – Events such as weddings, funerals, and awards banquets are the most formal events that many of us will ever attend during our lifetimes – unless you’re the recipient of an invitation to a dinner at the governor’s mansion or the White House. If you plan to take very young children to such events, be sure to pack quiet and age-appropriate activities to help them pass the time – unless you want to be the victim of a formal function meltdown.

Most parents have found that coloring books work wonders with children ages 3-7. For slightly older children, a chapter book, crossword puzzle, or word search can provide enough entertainment ’til the end of the stuffed-shirt event. If video games are a must, don’t forget to pack the headphones as the other guests likely won’t want to hear your child’s favorite game. Of course, these comfort items should be saved until the attention span of your young one is nearing an end.

You know your child better than anyone else, so if rewards work for good behavior, offer one ahead of time, so that they know how high the stakes are. Don’t hand over the award until after the desired behavior has been achieved. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up to provide a reward, while still getting poor behavior. Not to mention, the behavior is likely to continue if a reward is given for without having to work for it. This brings us to the next topic of poor etiquette…

Sense of Entitlement – As parents, it’s often difficult to not shower our children with love and material things, but if we’re not careful, we end up raising children who sincerely believe that they are entitled to pretty much anything they want. Helping them to preface requests with “please” and respond with “thank you” will help them to understand that a certain level of respect is necessary (and honorable), whether or not they ultimately they get what they want.

During this time of year, graduates enjoy gifts the flow in from friends and family near and far. Remind them to write Thank-You cards. The lost are of writing thank-you notes can be resurrected amongst our children if we simply teach them that a gift is just that – a gift – and not an entitlement and a simple acknowledgement exhibits proper gift-receiving behavior.

One more note on entitlement, birthday party gifts should never be expected from invited guests. Parties are not a tit for tat and your guests owe you (and your children) nothing other than an RSVP – even that’s debatable.

Look for part 2 of this 2-part series!

Thank-you note examples for young children (printable)

More thank-you note examples for children

Let’s chat! Have you been offended by children behaving badly or are your children the offenders? How have you handled situations of poor behavior? Post questions, comments, or advice.

Veggies Are Planted!

I’m patting myself on the back for following through with my desire to plant my own veggies. I’ve had several false starts, but never quite obtained the desired results. This year, I have a new attitude about planting – an attitude that I’ll get out of it what I put into it. No longer will I plant seeds and water them whenever I happen to remember to do so. No longer will I place the plants outside and out of sight to be ignored forever. This year, I will harvest something edible – even if it’s one teeny, tiny veggie. I…am…committed!

I’m on a mission. Seedlings for carnival peppers, roma tomatoes, and bell peppers are getting their start indoors while pea seedlings began settling into their home outdoors yesterday.

I planted the indoor seedlings ten days ago, but noticed the first sprouts for the tomato sprouts just six days after planting; a great short-term reward for someone who typically has nothing to show for her gardening efforts. As soon as the indoor sprouts are ready I’ll move them outside to a homemade raised garden bed fashioned out of scrap wood (we have tons of it) that I knew would come in handy someday.

Peas were just planted yesterday and I don’t expect to see anything from the seeds for at least 10-20 days, but when I do, a sense of accomplishment will surely wash over me. Sweet corn, red corn, peas, and lettuce should be planted next weekend, which will allow me to harvest them in early fall.

I’m probably going to throw my hat into the herb-growing ring as well by growing mint and rosemary indoors in some artsy, but utilitarian containers. I’m looking forward to freshly-pinched mint to add to cups of tea and fruit salad.

I’m sure I will have learned many lessons during this experiment, but one that I’ve already learned…don’t wait until summer to think about growing strawberries. Better luck next year!

Any advice for a novice gardener? Well, I’m not a novice, but this is the year that I’ve declared to not give up on my little sprouts. With a little help from you, I just may have a bumper crop year.

Let’s chat!


Summer Days Are Made for This!

I love summertime! Memories are made every season of the year, but there’s something about what happens in the summer that makes me want to relive each and every day. Maybe it’s the nostalgia that overcomes me while watching my children learn and do things that I did when I was their age: playing outdoor games, jumping rope, riding bicycles, or taking a bite from varieties of fresh fruit that can only be had this time of year.

This past weekend was full of memory-making moments spent in our backyard oasis.

On Saturday, we ventured into the city to visit a fabulous farmers’ market for the first time. The sites and sounds of shoppers and vendors buying and selling fresh goods were near sensory overload, but a great time was had. The children squirmed as I pointed out fresh portions of chicken feet behind one glass enclosure. They delighted in the smell of fresh-baked goods and we all enjoyed touching and smelling fruits and veggies from farms all over the country. We hiked back to the car with lemons, strawberries, broccoli, peas, and twenty pounds of fresh ribs. While we unintentionally chose what was apparently the busiest time of day during the busiest day of the week, we all talked about how we looked forward to visiting again soon. We drove to the nearby river for a quick trip, but made our way back to the highway after realizing that some kind of major event closed the parking lots until further notice. The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing and having a backyard BBQ.

Sunday brought about a new set of adventures and memories. After church, we built a washer toss game from scratch. We cut 2-foot segments to create a square and then spray-painted them in green to blend in with the backyard landscape. Then we spray-painted (I love doing this!) 30 quarter-sized, metal washers in 6 different colors, so that each of us (we’re a family of 6) would have our own color. We made up consequences like doing jumping jacks or push-ups and running laps if we didn’t meet given goals. Ex: must land at least two washers in the tin. The punishment push-ups were a sight to see and we laughed ’til our bellies hurt! We had loads of fun using a game that we made for a total of $10.03 including tax!

Also on Sunday, we put assembled our newest (and surely better quality) badminton set. That provided loads of fun for all and everyone got a great workout without even thinking about it.

I was able to get a bit of gardening in as well after my husband built a custom planter out of scrap wood. I planted garden peas and am looking forward to being able to harvest them in late summer.

We had dinner outside again and played more backyard games. The weekend finale was sitting around the firepit telling spooky stories and eating s’mores until almost midnight. It was difficult to let go of the fun we were having, but we’re looking forward to next weekend’s opportunities. Next weekend is Father’s Day, so whatever we do will be centered around dad.

Overall, we had an absolute blast that was largely technology-free; ver, howewe did use our cameras and cell phones once or twice. The only thing missing was a pool! Ahh!!!

Happy Summer!

How do you like to spend your summer days? What’s your favorite recent or childhood memory?

Le’ts chat!


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Love to all!