Monday, August 29, 2011

Keeping calm when you're on live TV

The other day I was interviewed on Good Day LA, sharing great deals that we were running on Plum District. When I arrived at the beach at 7 am, I was pretty frantic because no one was there to help me set up and we were going LIVE in 1 hour. The morning got worse before it got better. As I was unloading a box, a man walked up to me and I looked up squinting at the sun. He had papers in his hand, so I asked him if he was the balloon delivery guy. No, he responded I am Bob Decastro, the reporter from Fox. Yikes! I tried to recover. But then the real balloon guy showed up and I kind of nodded to Bob as if to say, see, I was expecting the balloon guy, not I didn't recognize you.

As moms and kids showed up the day got better and better. I was pretty nervous and kept doing my deep breathing exercises as it got closer to 8:30. But everything was calm around me, the kids were playing nicely in the sand box and we were all set to go. Bob took off his shoes and rolled up his pants, he was a pro. He played in the sand with some kids and we were LIVE. It was such a rush, but I held my own. Check out the link.

Bam, it was over. We were all set up for the second shoot and I noticed that the camera crew was wrapping up. Bob comes over and apologizes that they have to leave, some homicide in Torrance....

I had to break the news to all of the people I had waiting on the beach. Then an idea...I decided since we had everyone there already, I'd be the reporter and we'd go ahead with the shoot. I had way more fun this time, not live TV. See
me as a reporter at Gladstones

Dog and a Duck PR firm, edited this and really helped me made lemonade out of a sour situation!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What kind of role models are best for our children?

I went away to the mountains recently to do a reality TV Show for the Discovery Channel. I can't say much about it now except that it was CRAZY! I lived in a wilderness camp 9,000 feet high with 9 other people and we were told to, "Survive on our own." I will definitely share more details about the show, when it will air and my experience on it, when I get the OK. The reason I bring this up now, is that my children spent 2 weeks at their Grandma and Zadee's house. When they came home they had all kinds of new manners, good ones, gross ones and some that sounded a little scary. The best was my littlest learned that talking with your mouth full was bad. The worst was that the punishment for talking with your mouth full was being "locked" in the closet. Now mind you my kids were never locked in the closet, but you can imagine my embarrassment when my son announced this punishment loudly to a friend and her children who were visiting us and unfortunately, "talking with food in their mouths." "Don't talk with food in your mouth or you'll get locked in the closet," he sing-songed to her. "What?" I said, "Who taught you that?" "Grandma," he said as he took a new bite. "Did you ever get locked in the closet?" I wanted to know. He refused to answer until he had finished chewing; Pointing to his mouth as he chewed. Well, he hadn't and it apparently had really made an impression on him. But wouldn't also threatening to lock them in the dark basement if they didn't eat their broccoli? I had to get down to the bottom of this and I did. My mother explained it was a well lit closet of sorts that was easy to get out of and they would never have done it. In fact, only Zadee had gotten "put" in there once. I guess you get a warning before that happens, so you have a chance to change your behavior. Either way, it probably wasn't what I would have said. But how can I complain, I dumped my kids there for 2 whole weeks while I went off on a journey of self discovery and starvation! Here are a few other great manners that they learned:

1) After burping you MUST say, "Excuse me, I am a piggy."
2) When you get to the bottom of your milk, you suck noisy air through your straw and say,"Blue Angels" like the noisy airplane air show.
3) And it is okay to wake people up by tickling their feet!

These well meant manners aside, I really do feel totally blessed to have parents who care so deeply about my children and love them so much that they just adore having them visit. My parents play with them like they are kids themselves. Their actions of having uncensored fun with my kids and showing them that adults can be silly too is just the kind of role model that I am thankful my children have. It's not like at home where we as parents have to clean the house, pay the bills, go to work. I want to spend more time playing with my children. I have an idea of how to get them to help out more at home to free up more time for me to play with them ( but that's another blog entry). My parents give 100% of their time when the kids are visiting; playing hide-n-seek 100 times as day, reading to them, taking them for long bike rides and letting the kids squirt them with water canyons, which, by the way, has a penalty of getting a "free" butt squirt if you accidentally squirt someone in the face. Even though I have to make a few minor tweaks when they come home, I know summers at Grandma and Zadee's will forever be filled with fun memories. But beyond those their grandparents will have a lasting impression of learned lessons from two people whom I admire and love.

Parents: Speak well and you'll hear good manners

When I think about teaching my children manners, it is not all about their actions. It is also about how they say it. We are so caught up on teaching our children to say, "Please and Thank you," have we forgotten about proper English? It is just as important for children to use the correct words when asking for something. Instead of "Can I have...? " It should be, "Please, May I have more peas?" "Could you please pass the vegetables?" As I listened closer to my children's words, I found I needed to listen closer to my own words. If I asked, "Does anyone want pizza?" the response was more often than not, "I want pizza." So, if we are to expect our children to be polite, we need to guide their response. We should say, "Would anyone like more pizza?" in hopes of a "Yes, please," or a "No, Thank you." It is just the same as with our actions. If we do the same routine when we sit down to the table, our children will learn from that as well. If my husband pulls out the chair for me, the children will see that it is a nice gesture for a husband to do for his wife. When I sit down, I always take my napkin, unfold it and put it on my lap. I use a knife and fork to cut and eat my food. I wipe my mouth by dabbing and I never speak with food in my mouth. Sure, I am perfect. Actually, I am not...I put my feet on my chair and hug my knees while sitting at the table when I am done. I often speak with food in my mouth because I love to talk. And I leave the table 10 times during any given meal. So, it is really me who is sending messages to my children that these behaviors are okay. It is up to me to be a good role model and not only tell them what are good table manners but physically show them.

I am sure this is not the first time anyone has said this. But to me it may be the first time I have had a minute as a mom to actually reflect on my own teachings and realize that I need to listen to my own advice.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Polite at 40,000 miles high

We have just returned from spring vacation, were we spent a few days in the cold, rainy and SNOWY mid-west. I have been storing up adventures since taking a few weeks off of writing and the napkin notes are piling up. To catch you up on how the manner training is going, I have to share my insight into the overall project at hand. After starting this blog and hoping to teach my kids a "new manner" each day, I begun to realize that it took much longer than a few hours to ingrain a behavior into my children's actions. A friend who read my blog, commented by saying, “well, this is life” meaning to her it is an everyday task on which she works. It got me thinking that perhaps my goal of refining my boys in 1 years time was not achievable. Perhaps raising polite boys will take me a lifetime or 18 years at least to achieve. Regardless of the length of time, my mission remains clear. Tame my wild boys and teach them the rules for acting well behaved in society. I didn’t realize when I wrote this what that really meant until I wrote this next section.

MANNER #8 - Look a person in the eyes and ask politely for something you need.
The Rules:
1) Look the person in the eyes before you speak.
2) Speak loud enough for the person to hear you.
3) Use polite language, such as Please and May I. Do not say, “I want.”
4) Smile friendly at the end, showing the person you respect them.

I took my lessons to the sky as we flew home, 40,000 miles above the ground. Who knows why I decided a noisy plane was a good place to enforce this rule. We had previously practiced at a few restaurants much to the annoyance of the glassed-over-eyed servers who desperately wanted to leave our table. Here it was, the moment of truth, engine noise blaring as we were, of course, seated over the wing. I instructed Henry, “look at the flight attendant and say, May I please have some apple juice.” He looked up and repeated what I had said, like a good little robot. Perhaps she didn’t hear me whisper the cues to him. Because she was surprised and delighted. She responded in her southern charm way, “Well now aren’t you the cutest, most polite little boy… May I please?” Then she looks at me approvingly, “He is so sweet.” I smile back and said, “Thank you.” But my thoughts were thinking, thank goodness you didn’t see him in the car on the way to airport burping so loud you’d think he was a 50 year old man. Or even 5 minutes ago in the cramped bathroom, where I was scrunched up in the corner, worried the waiting passengers might have heard him declare, “My penis gets larger when I fart.” No, she only saw the sweet little polite boy. And that is I guess what I aiming for. Not a stuffy boy who is not allowed to be loud and have fun at home. But boys who when in public, know how to behave, be polite, courteous and helpful. I now understand it is the face that we put forward to the world that is the one that gives people a good impression about who we are. So it is, wild-n-crazy in private, polite and respectful in public. That, I think we can do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Manner # 7 - Napkin Do's

Unfold your napkin half size if it is a large one and all the way if it is small. Put it on your lap where it should remain until you need to wipe your mouth.  It should be returned to your lap after wiping. When wiping your mouth, do NOT rub the napkin across your mouth.  You must pat your lips. Always wipe your mouth before you drink so that you will not leave any crumbs on your glass.  And never drink when you have food in your mouth, wait until you have swallowed.

Its been over a few weeks since I started implementing these manners.  And as usually it is a little lost on my 3 year old. I just sighed, but I am hopefully that if I lay the ground work someday it will all just miraculously happen.  But for my 5 year old, he has taken to it whole heartedly. He even surprises me sometimes.  I ask him to wipe his mouth, yes, I still have to tell him.  But I always kind of forget that I have instructed him to pat his mouth instead of wiping, and then he PATS his mouth.  I practically die of laughter (INSIDE, of course) and then look at his face which still has a TON of crumbs on it and sigh again.  Maybe this patting technique needs to be rethought. 

If you have kids like mine, their faces are so dirty sometime that even a chisel with hot rag scrub won't do the trick.  So a "Pat" seems a little silly.  But we'll try it and even though there was still food on his mouths after the pat, it was soooo cute to see Lukas do it.  I think we need to work on getting them totally clean before reaching the table and "patting" more frequently.  But forget about it if we are having spaghetti bolognese!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MANNER # 6 - What Not To Do at the Table

So we have been working on knife and fork use, and as I previously mentioned the placement of the knife and fork when you complete your meal.  Specifically, when you are done you keep you napkin on your lap, never put it on the table.  When you are done and if leaving the table, you may fold it neatly and slide it under the right side of your plate.  You then should place your knife and fork across your plate pointing to 3 or 4 o'clock. This lets everyone know you are finished. 

Okay, THEY DID IT. Tonight before dinner I prepared them and said that dinner would be ready soon and they should wash up and they stopped playing and went to wash their hands.  I put the food on the table and they arrived just as I called to them.  My goodness, that was easy.  Well, let's see if they can keep it up.  And btw, we had dinner guests.  Maybe they were a good influence on my boys?  Anyway, when the meal was over our guest announced, " I am done."  Lukas said, and I quote word for word, "You do not need to say that, just place your knife and fork across your plate and everyone will know you are finished." I almost died! It was too hilarious.  I was super proud of him.

At breakfast we asked the boys to share what  were some bad manners at the table.  Here is what they said: 
No feet on the table (Lukas likes this rule in particular and reminds Henry frequently) 
No spinning your knife (Lukas said this - I guess he did listen yesterday!)
No shouting, No getting up from the table, No eating with your fingers. No elbows on the table.  Well, I guess they have been listening all along.  I was super excited.  So I am off to bed a happy mom.  Tomorrow - back to the table for more good manners.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Here is a list of a few basics which will get us started before we get into the more nit picky rules.
  1. If you know it is getting close to dinner time, wash up so that when you are called, you can be ready to come right away.  It is rude to keep people waiting.
  2. Go to the table as soon as you are called or the meal is announced for those of you out there who have private chefs or servants. 
  3. Make yourself easy to look at as Ms. Tina suggests.  Make sure you are clean and presentable.  Clean shirt, clean face and hands and brushed hair. 
  4. When you arrive at the table, do not start eating until all of the diners have arrived.
Thank goodness it is finally here.  I have been teaching them table manners since the beginning of time, but some just don't stick.  We have implemented a knife and fork rule.  Meaning that at each meal they are giving the tools with which to eat properly.  They are shown how to use these eating tools and we hope that they are used.  We constantly remind them to use them.  Tonight, Lukas was using his knife as a spinning wheel. He moved his plate over and flicked his knife.  If spun around and around. Henry noticed how cool it looked and shoved his plate out of the way and proceeded to flick his knife.  I grabbed Henry's before it hot over his milk but was too far away from Lukas'.  I told him that a knife is to be used to cut your food and not as a toy.  After 5 times of spinning his mean and me telling him to stop, he lost his knife privilege. Is it him missing out or really manners who are missing out, because now he can not cut his food or eat right. Oh well, I guess the novelty of having a knife will wear off and the games will subside.   Henry on the other hand is particular to eating with his fingers.  A normal meal consists of me saying, "Use your fork" and "NO fingers" at least 100 times.

I have to watch them like a hawk.  If I leave the table or let me thoughts wonder for even a minute, I regret it.  Tonight when I was day dreaming?? Not sure, I look over to my right and Lukas is standing next to Henry tossing food in Henry's open mouth.  I have no idea how this started as I was sitting right next to them! I say, "No, no, no boys.  No throwing food in Henry's mouth."  Lukas responds by saying, but he has to eat all of his food if he wants dessert."  Although I really liked his explanation for the need to throw food in his brothers mouth and the fact that he was being very helpful to his brother, I couldn't let it continue.  It is day one of table manner after all, and I am on a mission.

I usually get them to wash their hands before dinner, but combing their hair and changing their shirt? Who am I kidding.  And getting them to come to the table the first time I call, well I would probably faint.  But I explained to the rules and we will see how they do tomorrow at breakfast.

MANNER #4 - Know when and when not to introduce

1. When you take a friend to someone's house, always introduce them to the people you see there.
2. If you meet someone on the street and they stop long enough to chat, always introduce them to the people that are with you.
3. Any friend you bring home with you should be introduced to your family members.
4. You do not need to introduce people who meet very briefly such as people coming out of a store, or church or office if you and a friend are going in.
NEVER let a friend wait around while you chat on and on to someone they do not know.

Finally, we are on our last rule about introduction.  I am dying at the dinner table. Tonight Lukas announce that when he burped it meant he was full! I said, no, when you put your fork and knife on your plate that let's the other people at the table know that you are finished. 

I didn't really go over this one with the kids yet.  I will use it when we run into someone briefly and when we meet someone we know on the street.  So this one will be done in a practical life scenario. But I did use it myself when I brought a friend over to another friends house last week.  I did pretty well.  I even mentioned something about each person so that they have something to instantly talk about.  Two points for Mom?  I really should have had my boys introduce their girl friends who we brought with us.  Darn! Missed out on the perfect situation! I should have read this rule last week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MANNER #3 - What To Do When YOU Are Introduced

Before I start today, I just need to say that eating 3 meals a day with my kids has prompted me rethink a few things.  Introductions are important (and cute!), but what we really need help with immediately is TABLE MANNERS!  We need an emergency intervention at the table! So, after I finish this introduction chapter, we are switching to the chapter on table manners!!! Ms. Tina, please help me.

When you are introduced to someone:
  1. Smile, and say: "How do you do?" Now this is interesting, the book says do not say, "Pleased to meet you."  That is odd.  I need to research this further, is that a 1950's rule or should we use it today?  More to come on this.  For now, I will teach my kids, "How do you do?".  It also says, never say, "Hi," or "A pleasure, I am sure." (Too funny).   
  2. FOR BOYS:  If you are a boy meeting another boy or man, reach out your hand, look them in the eye, and shake their hand.  If you are a boy meeting a girl, wait for her to reach out her hand first, if she does, shake her hand.  If she does not, look her in the eyes and bow slightly as you say, "How do you do?".
  3.  FOR GIRLS: Smile pleasantly, look at the person you are meeting in the eyes and either hold out your hand to shake or make a small curtsy as you say, "How do you do?". Most girls these days do not curtsy anymore, however if you want to, you should do so, as it is not only considered polite but it is also charming.
  4. IMPORTANT: Never crush the persons hand you are shaking nor be too slight in the pressure.  Your hand shake is an important sign of who you are.  Be confident but not too aggressive, it will make the person you are meeting feel welcome and not overwhelmed or think that you are weak.
MOMS TAKE & EXECUTION ( Together for today)
Our 3 day weekend is almost over and I am thinking that maybe we learn rules during the week and then practice what we have learned during the weekend.  One a day is definitely hard.  Anyway, we are trying to keep up! Lukas was up for the manner lesson today, but my lil one ran away.  This does not bode well for one year of manner lessons.  Oh well, I proceeded with my one captive audience member.  Okay, this is how to shake someones hand. With some minor adjustments, he got it: too light, augh, too hard, look me in the eyes, say, "How do you do?," shake my hand...You get the point.  This is a very nit picky manner, but if I teach him how to do it right the first time, then he will learn the right way.  Right?  I ask myself as I begin to doubt my process.  Maybe I need to make it more fun?  Is this totally boring?  Back to the manner lesson....If I do not give you my hand, then you must bow, too low, keep looking at my eyes, just bow slightly, one arm in front, one in back, keep looking me in the eye.

Then as I offered to make some honey tea for us because it was a rainy day here, he says to me, "Mommy, let's see how we are suppose to drink tea in the book."   My heart jumped for joy. But I remained calm and did not show my surprise nor enthusiasm. "Great Idea," I replied evenly and went to get the book.  We sat down on the kitchen floor and thumbed to the table manners section.  Well wouldn't you know, there was not anything in there about how to drink tea.  So, I had to make it up.  I couldn't tell him that there were no rules.  Because Chaos theory was not something I was going to tackle today.  Somethings have rules, somethings do not.  I proceeded with my own set of drinking tea rules:  Never slurp tea or make noise when you drink, Girls sometimes lift a pinkie finger when they drink tea, but boys never do.   It sounded pretty good. Anyway, he bought it.  So, now I am thinking I need to go back to library and get Emily Posts book as a reference book for Ms. Tina's.  I will let you know if my made up manners on drinking tea come even close to the expert Miss Post.

So, I am sitting here writing my blog and from the other room, I hear my son call me, "Lora."  I am jarred away from my thoughts on writing.  I take a breath, and calmly answer, " I do not respond to that name."  "Please call me Mommy." He ran in and said,  "I didn't call you Lora, it was Far (that is what we call my husband, their dad, because he is from Denmark and that is the word for father in Danish).   He smiled at me, which is his tell that he is fibbing.  I grabbed him in my arms, looked at him with my crooked smile and raised eyebrows suggesting that I knew who said what and squeezed him.  He smiled and then ran away.  All politeness and manners aside.  I think children should call their parents Mother, mommy, dad, father, ect.  and not by their first names.  I am sure there is NOT even a chapter in my book about what to call your parent because it is just a given.  But, I will let you know as the journey continues and our knowledge of what is polite grows.  Enjoy Presidents Day!

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    MANNER #2 The Rules of Introductions

    THE MANNER - Rules to follow for introductions
    1. Boys are introduced to girls. Look at the girl and say her name first, "Mary this is Bill Smith - Mary Watson. 
    2. Introduce the younger person to the older person. Mention the name of the older person first, "Aunt Ivy, this is George Jones.  George, this is my aunt, Mrs. Butler."
    3. When introducing friends to your parents: 
      1. If they know your last name: "Mother this is George Jones. 
      2. If they do not know your last name or your mother has a different last name than you  "Mother, this is George Jones.  George this is my mother, Mrs. Butler.
    4. In an instant when an older man is being introduced to a girl over 16, introduce him to her - Mary this is my father. Dad, this is Mary Tanner.   If the girl is under 16, introduce the older person first, "Dad this is Mary Tanner."  
      Manner Rule #2 is pretty complicated to teach to young children.  I have simplified down to 4 rules but honestly, I am just going to simplify it further.  I will tell my children to introduce girls first and older people first.  I think that is all they can probably handle right now. 

      We practiced with my brother when he came to visit and my kids did stellar introducing me to my Uncle Josh! He was very impressed and asked what I did with my kids.  I guess it is working so far :)
      We also went into the next manner for tomorrow which is shaking hands and I started introducing bowing.  I practically melted to the floor when I saw Lukas bow and say, "nice to meet you" to my friend!  It was prompted by me, of course, but he still did it and then he looked over at me and felt so proud of himself! I winked at him, lifted a finger in the air and drew the number one in the air.  This is truly an amazing.  Everyone should try this.  Please try it, you'll be amazed.  Off to put the kidos to bed.  More Manners tomorrow ( I sang that sentence in my head like I am Mary Poppins or something) and now I am shaking my head at my self.  I can't get ahead of myself, we have 363 more days to go.

      Thursday, February 17, 2011

      MANNER #1 - Introductions, Take Your Time

      When you are introducing people take your time.  Pause to think about whom you are introducing.   Never rush through an introduction.

      This is a good one for me.  I always feel a need to rush.  I get totally tongue tied and sometimes the pressure is too much that I even forget some of my best friends names. That is quite awkward to say the least.   I too will work on this.  I will relax, take a breath and think about whom I am introducing to whom before I open my mouth.  I am going to have the kids do it after school today.  I figure it is best to make them feel comfortable and at ease with the first lesson so we will probably just do it ourselves. 

      So I was successful in introducing the concept to the boys.  Lukas got so excited about earning points that he said, "let's play it now."  He got up from the table (without saying excuse me - lesson #125) and started running around (walk, do not run in the house - lesson #87) looking for the "game." I explained to him that this was a game that we play in life everyday and when we follow the rules, we score points.  I then began with manner #1, take your time with introductions. What I instantly realized was that they had no idea what an introduction was.  I needed to step back explain to them that if you know 2 people but they do not know each other that it is your job to make them feel comfortable.  You do this by telling each of them the other persons name.  This helps both people feel at ease because you took the time to help them learn the other persons name and (we'll get to this part later) a little something they might have in common to talk to each other about.  We wound up practicing on ourselves, which my sons thought was hilarious.  It took us several times for them to do it without laughing, "Mommy this is Henry, Henry, Mommy. "   I then added look in the persons eyes who you are talking to and even went as far as teaching them about hand shaking! I definitely went too fast and surpassed my readings in the book.  We were just having so much fun!  Tomorrow I will review the rules on these manners and write them out for everyone to fully understand what is expected of you when you are doing an introduction.  But for now,  I peeked the kids interest.  So, Mom scored 1 point today too!

      Kids Today

      I am starting this blog in an effort to share helpful tips on how to teach your kids to be polite, thoughtful and well mannered.  I am excited about this adventure.  I can't tell you how many times I have had to say to my 2 boys in hopes that they would repeat it, "Please, may I have some milk?"  or "Thank you, Mommy."  My goodness, you would think that after saying that 5000 times that they would learn to say it themselves.  So, in an attempt to carve well rounded nice boys out of my (politely stated) "energetic" rough toddlers, I am going to teach them a new polite manner each day this year.  I will share the manner of the day and what dull or revolutionary experience it brought to our lives.  If you'd like to follow my probably insane attempt at training wild monkeys, please feel free to share your pioneering comments.  I am sure we will all tear our hair out, laugh, cry and hopefully not crumble along the way.  I have called this blog Hello Manners, because I believe that inside of each person there are manners just waiting to come out.  We, as parents, just need to guide our children, lead by example and teach them the rules to follows.  If we do this, then when our children's manners appear, we can say, "Oh, Hello Manners, there you are.  So glad you could join us today."  And in the end of this tortuous year, maybe just maybe, we will find ourselves as mothers of sweet little angels. 

      I will be enlisting the help from manners experts Tina Lee, who wrote a sweet book called "Manners to Grow On" published in 1955 by Double Day & Co. The chapters are broken down into different categories of interactions and skills. The first chapter is on introductions.  So, that is where we will begin.  But first I need to prepare my children for this journey.  I can say that I have decided to teach manners to them, but if they are not willing students, it will inevitably fail.  So, I will start by telling them we will be playing a game called manners.  There are rules to learn which help you play the game correctly.  When you learn the rule and use it, you score a point.  As my children practice these rules, just as in playing any game, they will get better at it and it eventually just becomes part of who they are.  (I hope, I hope).  Now, if they forget to use their manners that they have learned, I will encourage them not to be disappointed in themselves, for everyone makes mistakes.  And I will show them how to do the right way, and have them repeat their action with the corrected adjustment.  I will also be leading by example and being on my best behavior.  So, no talking with food in my mouth (a disgusting habit which I have perfected) and no leaving the table without excusing myself (as a mom can you imagine actually sitting down to a proper meal with your family without interruptions!).  Okay, I think that is it.  I am ready.  Opening my book to page 6.  Introductions.