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Monday, March 21, 2011

Same Manners; Different Blog Address

Monday Night Manners Friends (all 10 of you) !
I have some exciting news! My latest manner is posted on my new blog called "Raising Lemons".  You can find me at

The story behind the name is up on the website, but it is basically a parenting blog with ideas for holidays, travel, abcs, general parenting and of course MANNERS.  I  found myself having so many other ideas that wouldn't fit under the mantle of manners and I wanted to keep all my ideas in one place. I will still be doing the weekly manner posts on Monday but just under the heading of                { Manners } on my new blog.  All of my previous manners posts were transferred to  "Raising Lemons" so you will still be able to access them under { Manners } as well.

I have appreciated your support and I hope you will follow me to the new website and stay with me there.   The new blog is a little more advanced so there is an RSS feed that you can subscribe to if you want to be notified when I update the blog. Or you can check in at the new blog every Monday for the weekly manner post.  This will be my last post on  the Monday Night Manners blog, but I will keep it up for a few weeks during the transition time. will reroute to 

Again thank you all for your support and let me know if you have any questions. I would love any feedback you have for me.


Monday, March 14, 2011

#13: Using Your Spoon

Manner #13: Here's the Scoop on the Spoon

Attention Getter:  I set the table as normal (with a spoon on the right,) but I also set a spoon above the plate.  The kids were intrigued by the mystery spoon above the plate. I let them make predictions about the "new" spoon.

Since we had already learned about the fork and the knife, it was time to learn the scoop on the spoon:

Manner:  1. The spoon-including the soup spoon- will be found to the right of the plate. If a spoon is set above the plate, it is used for the dessert.
2. You hold your spoon like you would hold a pencil- not with a fist.
3. Spoons have limited use compared to the fork and the knife. (I gotta admit I feel kind of bad for the spoon.  She is like the fat sister that has little purpose compared to her sharp brother, the knife, and busy sister, the fork.)  Spoons can be used to stir drinks like coffee and tea, to eat soft desserts like icecream and pudding , and of course they are used to eat soup and cereal.  When I was studying the functions of the spoon, I realized that they would be easier to remember if we noted that the Spoon's responsibilities fit under the letter S.  Spoons are to be used for Soup, Stirring, and Soft Desserts.
4. If the soup is a course and not the meal, then you will see two spoons. The soup spoon is found to the right of the regular spoon. It is usually the outer most spoon.  The soup spoon may have a slightly different shape. If you are only having soup, you will only one spoon would be set. (I will do a more detailed post on just soup later.)

Practice: I served soup for dinner and pudding (from a Snack Pack) for dessert so the kids had two opportunities to use the spoon.  My son kept resorting back to the fist hold, so we had to work on the pencil grip.

Follow-Up:  Since Jello-O is classified as a soft dessert in my book, I made a a rainbow Jell-O dessert complete with a whip cream cloud later in the week.  This was a fun St. Patty's Day treat as well as another chance to practice using our spoon.  Isn't it cute in the individual trifle dish? (I knew I would get some good use out of my  cups.)

If you have any desire to make this rainbow Jell-O for St. Patrick's Day here are a few tips:
1. Make sure you have room in your fridge for these to set.
2. I used 6 boxes of small Jell-O.  I had to go to a few stores to find blue and I only found it in the big size, so I just guesstimated.  I prepared each color as the box directed.
3. I keep a pot of boiling water on the stove that I could just keep going back to for each color.
4. Each layer was about 1/4 cup.  
5. I placed the dishes in a cake pan so I could take them in and out of the fridge easily to add layers.
6. It took about 20 minutes for each layer to set.
7. The boxes made about 10 trifle cups of rainbow Jell-O.  So if your family is small, share with a friend.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Feeling Lucky

Background:   This is a modified repost from my days as a guest blogger for Shade Clothing so this might be familiar to some of you, (but I changed the ending so keep reading.) I love to use the holidays-even St. Patrick's Day- to reinforce good manners.  Kids benefit from opportunities to express gratitude and appreciation.

The idea came to me after the Haiti earthquake last year.  My kids seemed to be complaining about everything from breakfast to school clothes.  I found myself lecturing "You're lucky you have food to eat" or "You're lucky you have clothes to wear at all."  My rants inspired this St. Patty's Day idea:

Mini pot of gold
Attention Getter:  Before we started, I filled a mini cauldron (found at Partyland) for each child full of pennies. It took 4 rolls of pennies per cauldron.  Then I hid them around the house.  I told the kids of an Irish legend that says if you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow you will have good luck. I sent the kids on a hunt for their own pots of gold. Squeals of excitement came from the basement when they found their pots.

Lesson:  We gathered in a circle and I gave a brief lesson on how lucky we are to live where we live and have what we have.  Then I explained the activity:  Take a penny out of your mini cauldron and say something you feel "lucky" about.  Then add your penny to the larger pot of gold in the center. We went around the circle many times and their responses ranged from the silly to the serious.  My son was lucky to have his light saber and my daughter thought we were lucky to have policemen and firemen.

Follow-Up: Since it took 200 pennies to fill up one small pot, we did this activity every night with our bedtime ritual for a week or so leading up to St. Patty's Day to go through all the pennies.   I had intentions of donating all the pennies to the Haiti earthquake fund, but I can't remember if I ever did???  This year I might just do Rolos in the cauldrons, eat them as we go, and keep the activity to one night.

Monday, February 28, 2011

#12: Using Your Knife

Manner #12:  Knife Knowledge

Attention Getter:  By now my kids know that Monday night = new manner so I often get the question, "What manner are we going to learn tonight?"  I like to keep them guessing and this week was no exception.  So my helpful sister and I came up with this riddle:

Can you guess what I am?
I don't start like I sound.
Use me with butter and fruit,
On the right I can be found.

Now let's cut to the chase,
Cuz' you're on the edge of your seat.
I should never touch your mouth,
but I will cut your meat.

What am I? ....... A Knife!

(My kids weren't so sharp. I had to read it a few times before they got it.) We had talked about how to use our fork, so now it was time to talk about how to use our knife correctly. 

Manner: 1. You will find the knife on the right of your plate with the blade facing the plate (review).
2. You can use a knife to cut sandwiches  in half or to butter your bread.  You use a knife and a fork together to cut meat and fruit.
3. When cutting, hold the knife in your right hand like it is an extension of your index finger.  It should be parallel with the plate.
4. When not in use, put your knife on the top of your plate with the blade facing inward.
5. Don't lick your knife or eat off of it.
6. Don't wave it around while you are talking.
7. If eating the European way, you would use your knife to put the food on the back of your fork.

Why:  Most of the manner rules around the knife have to do with safety.  That is why the blade is always pointed in.  That's why you don't make gestures with it.  It could slip out or you could poke someone.   And safety is why you don't eat off of it. 

Practice:  I served different foods throughout the week where a knife would be needed so my kids had ample practice with this utensil.  We practiced cutting meat with pork loin and yogurt chicken. I didn't do tougher meats, that might require a steak knife, because that will be another post another day.  We buttered rolls and baked potatoes, and we cut our sandwiches in half.

Follow-Up: We played "The Knife Game/Candy Bar Game" (see directions below.) We cut loose and broke several knife manner rules.

1.Wrap up a giant chocolate bar in several layers of paper.
2. Freeze it.
3. When the candy bar is good and frozen, gather everyone in a circle with the candy bar, 2 knives, and 2 dice.
4. Roll the dice.  If you roll doubles you get to hack at the paper-- trying to get to the chocolate. The catch is that you can ONLY use your knives.  When you get to the chocolate, you have to bring it up to your mouth with the knives. (This is the fun part.) No fingers allowed.
5. If you don't get doubles, pass the dice to your right.
6. The next person rolls the dice and so forth.  When someone else gets doubles, she takes the knives- immediately- from whomever has them. (Nothing is more satisfying than stealing knives from someone just as he is about to take a bite of the chocolate.)
7. Keep the dice going around the circle until the chocolate bar is eaten.
8. You can increase the difficulty level, if you are playing with older kids, by having them put on gloves, a scarf and a hat before they get to start hacking away.  It just slows them down a bit and makes them a bit more clumsy.

Have fun and be careful!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Table Manners Review

Why: So far we have covered 11 table manners, so I thought it was time for a review.  This was a chance to practice all the manners together and have some accountability.

Attention Getter:  I set a police badge (that I got at a local party supply store) and a buzzer (don't ask; I've had it for years) on dad's plate.  The kids hovered around dad's plate before dinner. I love when I pique their interest.

The supplies
When we were all seated, I introduced the "Politeness Police".  Now the purpose of the "Politeness Police" was to monitor the family's manners in a playful way.   The designated Police would wear the badge and buzz the buzzer when he caught someone using bad  manners.

Some nights we decided that the "Politeness Police" could catch people using good manners.  Although this method is way more warm and fuzzy, our family voted to stick with the old school method (since when does a cop pull you over for going the speed limit afterall?) You can take whichever approach you want with your family.

Manner: We had to set some ground rules right up front: Moms and dads can lovingly point out manner mistakes any day, any time.  That is our job and our responsibility.   But kids can only point out manner mistakes if they are designated as the "Politeness Police" by a parent because it is actually bad manners to point out someone else's bad manners

Practice: Dad was the first Police to model how it was to be done.  He buzzed away and corrected the children.  I felt like it was a great teaching time because often we don't even know when we are using bad manners.  My son took great pride in not getting buzzed, while my 4 year old daughter purposely tried to screw up so she could get caught (let's just say I'm nervous for her teenage years.) Over the week each kid got to take a turn as the "Politeness Police".  Eyes were alert. Revenge was sought.  No mercy was shown (the baby even got buzzed for using his fingers.)

The evidence
But in the end, we all were more aware of our manners.

Monday, February 14, 2011

#11 Using Your Fork

Manner #11: How to Use Your Fork Correctly or Use Your Fork Not Your Fingers!

Attention Getter:  I set the table with a pencil in the fork place.  As you would expect, the kids noticed the missing forks and the out-of-place pencils right away and wondered what it would have to do with manners. Well, I'll tell you....

Manner:  How you use your fork depends on where you live.  In America, you are to hold your fork like you hold a pencil except your hand is about 2/3 up the shank rather than being close to the point like a pencil.  (Now this implies that you are actually using a fork and not your fingers.) The tines (pokey things) of the fork point up, and you use the fork like a scoop rather than poking and stabbing at your food.  Next, I was surprised to learn that you use your fork to eat almost everything including rice, corn, peas, cake, mashed potatoes, etc. ( I was guilty of using my spoon too much.)  And what if you can't get those pesky peas to stay on your fork?  I read in a few places that you aren't supposed to use your knife to help you. So I am not sure what to tell you other than a knife, in my opinion, is better than your fingers.  So do what you gotta do. Plus using your knife is how it's done in Europe.  The fork can also be used to cut foods like pancakes, lasagna, softer meats, etc. Lastly, if you want to set your fork down in between bites, set it ON your plate on the left side not on the table.  We wouldn't want to soil the tablecloth.

This hold is a little too far down on the shank of the fork. But the stars aligned, and my model had clean fingernails AND no marker stains on his hands, so we're sticking with this picture.
Why:  When you hold your fork correctly, it naturally brings your elbows down and keeps them by your sides rather in your neighbor's space.  I had my kids hold it like an icepick and we saw what that grip did to our elbows. And  just like you can write neater and with more control if you hold a pencil the right way, so it is with eating.  You will make less of a mess, have more dexterity and control and look more dignified if you hold your fork correctly.

Practice:  At the beginning of each meal we held our forks like a pencil and I checked everyone out to make sure that we were at least starting the meal off right.   I served tricky foods throughout the week like rice, corn, and homemade macaroni to stretch their skills.  We also did some fork cutting practice with enchiladas and waffles.  We have waffles most Wednesdays (because I'm a nerd like that) and someday everyone is going to be able to cut their own waffle.  (This is as big as I dream right now.)

Extension:  We don't eat with our fingers, but at least we can paint with them! We rolled out some butcher paper in the garage, got some washable finger paints and made a mess....with our fingers.
Finger Painting

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love Notes

Change of plans.  I was going to post a table manner this week, but then I saw a cute idea on my friend's blog that I wanted to share in advance of Valentine's Day.  She set up a post office station and had her family write notes to each other throughout the month of February.

I love this idea because it gives our children the opportunity to practice showing love and appreciation and giving sincere, truthful compliments. And that is good manners.

I introduced the idea to my kids and told them we could write a sincere compliment, a favorite memory, words of encouragement, something they noticed, draw a picture, etc. to family members and then drop it in their "mailbox". 

For mail boxes, I just wanted to use what I had on hand so I opted to use paper sacks.  We each got to decorate our own mailbox with foam stickers and markers.  (I  resisted the strong desire to leave my kids out of the process and just do it a cute way all by myself.  Some of you might be able to appreciate how difficult this was for me.)

I hung the bags with twine and clothespins that I covered with glitter scrapbook paper (okay so maybe just a little cute.)  I thought this was a great idea....then my baby woke up from his nap.  The first thing he did was swipe at a bag.  So I will probably be moving it up a little higher but still within reach of my other kids.

I put index cards and various pens (Valentine colors of course) in a pail.  Then I tied a few remnant ribbons on the handle of a pail to pretty it up (I couldn't stop myself).

We just got started, but on day one they prolonged bedtime by 20 minutes as they wrote everyone a note.  Needless to say, they are excited. Our plan is to read them each morning over breakfast (and then practice saying thank you too.)  I snuck a peek in one bag and read "You are the best sister. You mack me laff" from my kindergartener.  The note made me smile and "laff".  I hope your family will enjoy the love notes and the good manners this week.