Friday, November 29, 2013

Today I'm Thankful For...

Time with our family this weekend.

Three of our four children and our two grandchildren are with us along with other extended family. While we are missing our daughter and son-in-law, we're enjoying each other, "Making a Memory." 

Next week I'll tell you what we did instead of giving Christmas gifts (because some will be with their "other" parents at Christmas.)

In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Like the Queen is Coming

A friend of mine told her son to "clean the bathroom like the Queen of England was coming." After a while he said he was finished and the mother went to check on the bathroom. To her amusement, she found a Union Jack flag taped to the door, a variety of teas set on the vanity alongside his double decker toy bus, a note saying, "Welcome to Our Country," and, finally, for her reading pleasure a copy of Harry Potter on the back of the toilet. Oh, and the bathroom was spotless!

Sounds like her son had a lot of fun, a good imagination, and the ability to clean.

Have you ever told your children to "behave like the Queen is coming" or "like the President were here"? Let me ask you, who is scarier when it comes to your children's manners, the President, or your children's grandparents? Or how about great Aunt Evelyn?

It's probably more likely that one of the latter will be at your house (or you'll be at theirs) and it might be as soon as this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Is there time for a quick brush up on mealtime manners?


If you make it a game. 

So play, "Like the Queen is Here". Here's some ideas on how:

  • Tell your kids that tonight you have a very special guest and you want them to behave appropriately.
  • Set out your good dishes and silverware on a pretty table cloth. 
  • Have an extra place for the "Queen". Print out a photo of her face (or get one from a magazine) and tape it to her chair.
  • Serve a nice meal--doesn't have to be fancy. Make sure it's not difficult to eat--like spaghetti that might spill on your tablecloth and tax their willingness to attempt good manners.
  • Call them to the meal with your best British accent (If you don't know how, check out youtube video below on how to do that.)
  • Introduce your children to the "Queen" and tell them to say, "How do you do, Ma'am?"
  • Now demonstrate and ask for "Proper Manners" (say that with a British accent!) Your children will  probably be picking up your accent and I think you will be surprised at how they will rise to the occasion. (China, lace, and royalty bring out the best in all of us.)
  • Have fun with this, but all the while encouraging (not nagging!) good manners.

If you do this I think your children will pick up the idea of what good manners are. Talk to your children during dessert (after the Queen has left for her next appointment) about how they would behave if the Queen really had been with you. 
Ask them 
  • why it might be important to have good manners.
  • why certain manners are expected on different occasions.
  • when they think manners need to be more formal than just a meal at home
  • how they would feel if the Queen came and they didn't know what was expected of them
Our children are quicker studies than we think. They should pick up on the application to which events you are referring. 

Just remember: they won't catch on if you aren't setting the example.

For more ideas on teaching manners see Good Manners Build Connected Families and Manners Mimic

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Friday, November 8, 2013

It Happens Every November

Just as sure as the leaves change color and fall off the trees.

And then it is all undone in December.

Facebook friends begin using #30daysofthanksgiving hashtags and talk about a Thanksgiving Challenge. At churches and in homes paper turkeys and trees boast of all the things for which we are thankful.

But in December we begin to make lists--mental, written, or on Amazon--of the things we want. 

Does that strike you as incongruous? 

I did it with my kids every year, but a few weeks ago I was asked to speak to some college girls on "contentment" and it gave me a whole new perspective on thankfulness.

The world thinks we'll be content if we have a little bit more. 
Or if we learn to want a little bit less.

Is that what the Bible teaches?

Or how about:

In other words: God is enough.

How can we teach our children this? I am not sure I succeeded with my children. I'm not sure I have come to truly believe this in my own life. But I'm working on it.

I'll give you a few of my ideas of how we can teach this to our children, but I would love to hear from you and know how you are working on this. Please let me know.

  1. Be an example. Are you someone who is always talking about wanting the newest, the better, the improved? Or do you exhibit contentment? What do you talk about?
  2. Talk about contentment. If you look online you will find all kinds of quotes about contentment. Read one to your kids each night at dinner and ask if they think it's true. Is this is a clever statement or the path to contentment?
  3. Read what the Bible says. Look at the verses I have mentioned here and others. What does the Bible say is the basis for a Christian to be content? Ask who they can think of in the Bible that lived contentedly...or didn't.
  4. Look for real life examples. Talk about people who are living life content with having God in their lives. Ask your children, "What would true contentment look like in your life?"
  5. Be thankful. This year I challenged the college girls and myself to not just list things they are thankful for, but start their thanksgivings with "I'm thankful for God's presence in my life because..."
Leave me a comment and let me know your ideas for living and teaching true contentment.

P.S. I took these photos the other day while on a "leaf crunching" walk with my youngest daughter who is a college sophomore.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Lessons from China Plates and Little Boys

Today's guest post is from an online friend, Jessica Morris, whom I found out had my children's books read to her when she was a child! (Yes, I'm feeling old.)

A few years ago, inspired by a picture seen somewhere (pre-Pinterest) I decided it would be adorable to have mis-matched fine china dish set for our every day dishes. Beautiful pieces can be picked up at thrift stores for about $1, so I knew that the investment was do-able and that, should any break, they would be easily replaced. With two little boys that is important.

What I failed to anticipate was how using fine china dishes as our every day dishes would change us. Change me.

1. It has been an incredible lesson for me learning how to respond to my children when they break a plate (or anything else that is breakable.) I want my children to know how to properly handle fragile things, and thus they are exposed to them. But they are children, and accidents do occur. God has used the breaking of earthly things at the hands of childish mistakes to teach me to consider my words carefully; to be prepared with something to say that conveys concern for the child rather than an emotional response to whatever item is broken. And it has been incredible to watch my boys compassion develop; when they break something they show a sincere sorrow, free from the fear of shaming or anger from their mother. (more on this - When Things Break.)

2. As time has passed with the usage of china dishes (they were 2 and 3 when we started, they are now 5 and 6) they have developed excellent discernment and self control when carrying a stack of china dishes. It might sound silly, but it is incredibly precious when I realize that I trust them fully. They have developed a skill as a result of a few $1 plates having met its death. A worth while investment for young boys who are now fully capable of setting and clearing a table full of breakable dishes and serving platters.

3. They have developed an eye for details. Certainly, more goes into this than can simply be attributed to random China dishes, however because each of our plates are unique they have their favorites among them, as well as their reasons for them being their favorite. My youngest likes the plate that has dark flowers, as uneaten food blends in to the plate. The daintily painted flowers, leaves and swirls - and the colors! - have all been noted and discussed too.

4. The dishes, along with other thrifted pretties for our table, make for a nice looking table. To my surprise, my boys have noticed and commented on how special they feel when the table looks nice. It is such a simple way to cherish my family and make our home a haven for them.

Jessica enjoys photographing every day moments, playing Lego with her boys, cooking (without a recipe, to her husbands chagrin), and long car rides with the husband to talk to en-route. She has been blogging since the early 2000's, back in the days when it was "live journaling", and can be found at where she writes about home, life, schooling and her two boys. 

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