The End

In other years, as August approached, we took a break from blogging to relax and enjoy the quieter rhythms of summer. This year, we've decided to make that break permanent, and end this blog.

No, we're not foolish enough to imagine we can hold our lives in the slow gear of late summer by not blogging. Ever again. Quite simply, we feel we're beginning to repeat ourselves, having covered many of the mannerly topics of motherhood. Some days, we just don't want to think about table manners, dinner partiesthank you notes, or even the mommy wars.

One of us (EHP) will continue blogging at Bottle Branch, shifting from a focus on manners to making things, but hopefully maintaining some of the verve, brevity, and authenticity we've striven for here. The other (EBB) will  continue working to make the world a more civilzed and mannerly place in the private sphere.

To celebrate our three and a half years blogging, we've put together a list of some favorite posts - a mixture of the most viewed, the most commented, and the most timeless topcis we've covered here at Manners for Modern Mothers.

We have so enjoyed creating this blog, more that we could have imagined at the outset. We thank you all, dear readers and friends, for reading, commenting, and otherwise participating in our discussion of manners, motherhood and the modern world.

An erratic lists of posts from Manners for Modern Mothers, 2010-2013

School pick up, or Sartrian cocktail party

*"The End" illustration by EHP. Yes, I'm crafty like that. Go check out my new blog.

On Kindness

I've been thinking a lot about kindness these days: the kindness we owe to each other, to strangers who cross our paths, and the kindness I hope to teach my children to express. Such kindness, of course, is the foundation of truly good manners, but its also deeper than that.

Sometimes I worry kindness takes years to develop, if one of my children gawks at an odd-looking person, or when they taunt each other endlessly. Other times, even my youngest can surprise me with his innate caring and solicitude.

Mostly, I have been thinking about something I read in January, a letter from Ariel Kaminer, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine's Lives they lived section.  In her letter, Ms. Kaminer describes three lessons she learned from late author, David Rakoff.  One of her lessons is "As fun... as it might seem to be witty and cutting, it’s probably better in the long run to be kind." So true. So true, but we sometimes need a reminder. Ms. Kaminer writes it all more beautifully than I can capture here. I only advise you all, dear readers to click through and read this inspiring letter.

Same circus, different tent

As summer 'vacation' settles upon us, we thought we might re-visit one of our older posts on the topic. 

Vacation, all I ever wanted?

For many mothers, summer “vacation” is no holiday. Never is this more true than when she decides to take a trip (yes, a “vacation”), say, for example, to a beach house filled with her own extended family. She is lucky to be there, lucky to have access, lucky to spend time at a scenic waterfront spot. Lucky indeed. So, how can it feel like such drudgery? Is it the endless cycle of changing into swimsuits, applying sunscreen, preparing snacks, dragging chairs, buckets, bags across the sand, supplying drinks of water, supplying clean towels, wiping sand out of eyes, and then cleaning everyone and everything up only to do it all again the next day? Is it the difficulty (exacerbated by the new setting) of keeping track of all the swimsuits, coloring books, hats, sunglasses, and favorite stuffed animals? Is it the exhaustion of letting the kids stay up later than normal, only to have them wake with the sun, ready for another busy day of vacation? Whatever it is, it can leave a modern mother feeling fatigued and, well, in need of a vacation from her vacation. But of course there is no time off from motherhood. Perhaps the modern mother can take solace in the fact that she is not alone, and the U.S. has recently been called “No Vacation Nation” for the paltry vacation time Americans typically receive and take from their paid jobs. Better consolation might be found by curling up with her digital camera after everyone is in bed, and flipping through the photos of the day: frolicking in the surf, sandcastles, learning to body surf. Her children’s happiness in the photos should help put the schlepping in perspective. These luminous and gritty days at the beach are quintessential childhood summer memories.  The modern mother can cling to their brightness and shake off the fatigue as she shakes the sand out of her beach bag.

Suffering from end-of-school-year fatigue?

The end of the school year can be overwhelming. As it all winds to an end – the grind of tracking down missing shoes, remembering permission slips, helping to pull together class projects – a mother can feel just plain fed up. So fed up that she can’t come up with words to convey the ridiculousness of it all. 

Then lucky for us, we can read and delight in Worst End of School Year Mom Ever on Jen Hatmaker's blog. Judging by the 1500+ comments on this post, she might have struck a nerve. Or, as our friend Catherine said, when she posted this on Facebook, "Oh yes." Thanks, Catherine for sharing. 

Have a great weekend, mothers, the finish line is in sight.

The curly bracket is here to stay... {Brace yourself}

I've been seeing lots of brackets these days. To be precise, curly ones like {these} which are also known as curly braces. And I can't decide: are they a little mis-used and maybe a tad pretentious? Or, are they fresh, fun and whimsical?

I'm probably reading too much into this micro trend, but I can't help wondering: what are you trying to say if you surround your initials, an invitation, or some particular words with curly braces? Are they simply a fancy substitution for parenthesis? A decorative embellisment? Or, to a cunning grammarian, do they mean something highly specific?

I like to consider myself gramatically well imformed, but the only place I've ever used curly brackets is in anxiety-inducing mathematical equations. Yet, curly brackets are a part of a standard keyboard, so they must have some importance. Feeling I might be missing something, I decided to do some research. When I struck out in Strunk and White, I turned to the internet and found this helpful post on Grammar Girl. (I had never encountered Grammar Girl before but it looks like great fun for anyone with a case of general grammar grumpiness).

According to Grammar Girl, the curly brace serves no gramatical function whatsoever, and exists primarily for mathemathics. In the exponent-free world, I guess that makes curly braces fair game for anyone wishing to add little whimsy to her written communication. In the age of the emoticon, the curly brace seems quaint and whimisical indeed.

* image from Mark and Graham

Friday Frivolity: Sandwich Bag Art

Day in and day out, packing school lunches can be tedious. The thrill of a clever and functional new lunchbox can wear off. The time and inspiration for perfectly adorable bento style lunches can run short. Leave it to a father, then, to come up with a speedier way to infuse his children's lunches with a sense of fun and whimsy, express love for his children and exercise his own creativity.

David Laferriere is just that father. Since 2006, he has be drawing quirky and clever pictures on the sandwich bags in his sons lunches, and posting photos of his creations on flickr.

The assembled photos are a thrill to peruse, and so its no surprise that they have been written about in more than one place, and slowly but surely his lunch bag photos have gathered a following.

We might not all be as deft with a Sharpie as Mr. Laferriere, but we can dream.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Stunned into Silence

This week, we've been stunned into silence by Monday's bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. No, neither of us was present and neither of us had friends or family who were victims. That makes us lucky. Yet, we mourn the loss of three vibrant and young Bostonians and the maiming of so many others.

While our thoughts are with the many victims and their families, we recommend Messing with the Wrong City a recent op-ed by Dennis Lehane. His piece so perfectly sums up some of the peculiarities of our adoped city. Bostonians like hard things (epic snowstorms, creaky public transportation, and unexplainable traffic patterns). Rich with medical institutions, grit, and, in Lehane words, "adoration for civility and intellect," Boston will not be cowed by such atrocious acts of terrorism, we're all just too contrary.

* We wish we knew who to credit for the image. We found it on Facebook, where it is rapidly going viral, just like Lehane's op-ed piece. 
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