I have three tips to share with you today: two that are practical and one that is more thoughtful.
First off: One of the very firsts posts I ever did years ago was on greener living and in it I recommended using cloth napkins. I still use them and I still recommend them both for environmental as well as economic reasons. We have been using cloth exclusively for more than a decade. It's so easy to throw them in the wash with your dishcloths and towels and folding them is one of the first chores a little one can learn to do easily. I have purchased nearly all my napkins at thrift stores, mostly because there is always a lot to choose from there. It's surprising to me that people don't think of cloth napkins for every-day use, but they don't. I could understand using paper napkins if you were going hiking or something and didn't want to cart a bunch of laundry around with you (though unless you are a very messy eater, you really only need one napkin a day), but when one has the convenience of a washing machine in a home or apartment building, it doesn't really make economic sense to me to buy something like napkins over and over and repeatedly throw them away for a job that requires so little of cleaning necessity.
Anyway, plenty of people don't think the way I do and so the thrift stores are usually full of a wide variety of napkins. These often come in sets of 4 or less than 4. Sometimes the thrift shops will divide up a set of 6 of the same napkin into sets of two. I don't really get this, but they never cost very much to begin with, so if I have to purchase separate "sets" it doesn't bother me. Also, for daily use, I don't need to be all matchy-matchy anyway. I have some inherited, matching linens that I bring out at holiday time, but for daily use, none of us cares what our neighbor's napkin looks like.
As I mentioned, you really can use the same napkin all day. It's hardly necessary to launder a napkin that has wiped a few breakfast crumbs and orange juice from your lips. With everyone having a different napkin, you'd think we'd keep track of whose napkin is whose during the day. Not so! Somehow fresh napkins were getting taken. Napkins were left on the table, on the counter, on the end table downstairs, at the school table up in the school room... all over the house, really. And the magical, amazing thing is that they belonged to no one!
"Hey, whose napkin is this?"
"Who left this here?"
"I don't know."
"Isn't this the napkin you were using today?"
"No, I'm using the green one."
"Daddy used the green one."
"No, Daddy used the white one with the fringe."
And on and on.
And so began my search for our very own napkin rings. I got this idea when I visited the lovely retreat center, Clare's Well years ago. Each guest kept his or her napkin at the table for the day and each had his own carved, wooden animal napkin ring: a zebra, a giraffe, etc. So, I set out to find our own family napkin rings. I checked every time I went to the thrift stores. I was looking for similar, but different rings. I found a white, ceramic set of animals, but there were two of the same kind in the set. It took me a few visits, but I finally settled on a painted, wooden set of 6, each a different color. These are the four we regularly use; a green one and a pink one are in a drawer below for guests.
Our basket is usually full with the various napkins we've chosen for the day and most of the time, it works like a charm.
And before I share my other Titus 2 tip of the day, I thought I'd share the following pictures, just so my Mom could see that I finally hung my plates on the wall. :) Also, so she could see the new paint job in the dining room/kitchen. The new color looks a little light in this picture, but it is close; it's called "Pale Celery." It's a lot brighter than the previous owners' chosen color that remains on the ceiling as well as in the hall that you can see through the door. That was more of a darker, grayish-brown color. It's still in my living room and I like it there, but it was just too dark for my kitchen.
The second, more thoughtful tip of the day for those of you with smaller children is this: do teach your children manners; it will take them far! If you practice using manners in your home, they will be a natural part of your children's speech. It is not an effort when it is part of your regular behavior. Instead of looking at the ground and mumbling an answer when asked, "How are you?" Your child, watching you, can learn that meeting people is enjoyable and that people love to be asked back (especially by a child) how they are doing as well. It is not a stretch to train a young child to answer, "I'm fine, thank you! How are you?" The real pleasure for you, the parent, comes at the bemused look that spreads across the recipient's face when she gets this kind of engaged response.
Practicing manners is fun. When my children were small - just 3 and 5 years old, I purchased some inexpensive, cut-glass goblets from the thrift store and set them out one morning with the girls' juice in them for breakfast. The red juice sparkled in the glasses and the girls were so pleased and began to eat and speak very carefully! It was so funny - and fun, and easy. Over time, we purchased a few more "special dishes" for them to eat on from time to time. It wouldn't matter if they broke and we didn't use them daily - I didn't want them to feel pressured at the table - but we did practice manners daily and it always seemed to come a bit more naturally when the table setting was just a bit more elegant.
Speaking with respect toward others is not relegated to those in authority over us. Respect toward every human being is important, especially if you are Christ's ambassador and you always are if you claim His name.
One day, for example, - and this does not involve my children, but just me, but it is an important illustration - as I was shopping for a few things in the grocery store, a manager and another employee came down the aisle toward me. As he passed, doing his job I presume, he said, "How are you today?" And very naturally I answered back, "I'm great, thank you! How are you?" He said, "I'm fine." He took a few steps more with his co-worker and then paused and turned around and said, "You know, you're the first person today who has asked me how I am doing. Thank you for that!"
I mention this not to toot my own horn - because really, what I said was so very small and again, it is second-nature and not an effort for me; it is just a habit I've cultivated - but instead to reiterate that manners get noticed. You never know the kind of impact even a small amount of gracious behavior can have on a person. I have been complemented time and time again from other adults on how delightful it is for them to talk with my children, because the children are polite and practice listening and give attentive answers. These are not particularly special traits in my children, but are simply learned behaviors. Just as the children learn their language naturally as they practice it, so they learn to use that language to be a blessing to others as they practice and observe you practicing too.
Finally, I want to add, that whenever someone has complemented me on my girls, my common reply is, "Thank you. They are my good girls." I know this may not be politically correct. I remember learning that one should not say that a person is "good" or "bad," but that their action was good or bad. I get that. But this was just a natural answer that would spring to the surface and I didn't want to play editor in my mind. If my girls were standing by me, I said it anyway. I wanted them to know that I do think they are good girls. As a matter of fact, I think they are wonderful girls and I want them to hear me say that to others from time to time to remind them of how much I believe in them and that they can make good and wise choices in their lives.
Mothers, do not disparage your children to others. By this I don't mean to suggest that you should not seek trusted counsel when you feel you need it, but generally speaking, let your children hear you be their biggest fan. Have private conversations with them about negative behavior, but do not shame or embarrass them in public. Esteem your children in public. Lift them up with love and let them rise, on their own, to your esteem.
Now go out, and with (or without!) your children, bless someone with your words today! :)