Category Archives: Life Lessons

When it comes to Mr. and Mrs., where have our manners gone?

When I was a kid, my parents—my dad especially—insisted we use ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ when referring to grown-ups. Our older nextdoor neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Bechtold. My parents’ friends and co-workers went by names like Mr. Harris and Mr. Chalfant. 

If we ever slipped up and dared to be so bold as to refer to one of our parents’ friends as Ken, or Bill, or Dave, we’d simply get ‘the look’ from our father or else an incredulous ‘excuse me?’ followed again by ‘the look.’ In any case, we knew we needed to rectify our error.


Looking back, I appreciate so much how we were expected to address grown-ups by their respectful titles. I love the notion of instilling that same ideal in my own children. However, the times have changed, and beyond that, we’re not off to the best start.

Many of the grown-ups in our kids’ inner circle insist on going by their first names. Babysitters of past and present went and still go by first names. All of our old neighbors introduced themselves to our children using first names. In fact, when we suggested otherwise, they scoffed at us. Call me Larry. Betty. Isabel, they said. In the end, we compromised a bit with names like Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty. Miss Isabel. 

Nora’s first two teachers also went by first names Meghan and Eileen. No surnames. Something I know my dad disapproves of in general  (teachers going by first names) since I got to witness his reaction when I told him. Love that he’s so traditional. Old school. Stern and all about being reverent.

I don’t know. It just seems so weird to me to introduce our own friends as misters and missises (is that even a word?). We seem too young for all that. But my parents and their friends were our age when we were kids.

I still feel slightly uncomfortable referring to my in-laws by their first names because it’s so ingrained in me to use proper titles. It’s like I’m breaking the rules or seomthing.

And yet, I just can’t imagine referring to my friends in my kids’ company as anything other than their first name. If I even tried to, I think I’d bust out laughing at the formality of it all. But, I like the idea of it. What to do?

I’m thinking I might just keep everyone the kids know now grandfathered in just using first names. And then maybe everyone new we meet from this point on can become Mr. So-and-So and Mrs. Such-and-Such. 

In the future, the kids will remember everyone as belonging to either the pre-when-my-mom-was-hip-and-breezy era or the post-when-she-tried-to-be-all-formal-and-proper-and-whatnot era.

They won’t be confused at all. It will be fine. Trust me.


A Photo Post: Lobster Rolls and Playoff Football

We may no longer be living in New England, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate two of its favorites—Patriots football and lobster rolls. Today was a day for catching up on some much needed family time and lounging about the house. The girls and I are looking forward to another day off together tomorrow.


“Can I touch it, daddy?”


“Why do we have to be careful of its claws?”


“I’m going to pick it up.”


“Why do they like the cold water? And why don’t they like the hot water?” Ummm…because the hot water renders them dead so we can eat them.


“Frances. Look, but don’t put your fingers near the claws or you’ll get snapped.”


Enjoying a special dinner in the living room. The girls are seafood lovers! How lucky are we?

I got concerned as I was listening to the questions Nora was asking:

“What happens when the lobsters go in the hot water?”

“They die? Why do they die?” 

“Do they cry?”

Liam handled the lobster death talk beautifully. He explained to Nora that we need to be thankful any time we eat meat or fish because when we do an animal has given its life for us to enjoy it. Although this conversation nearly brought me to tears and made me question for 0.3 seconds the merits of becoming a vegetarian—must be the pregnancy hormones—it was a good reminder to give thanks for all the critters that end up on our plates.

In the end, Nora wasn’t phased or traumatized. She ate the hell out if that lobster, which incidentally she kept accidentally referring to as crab:

“Mommy, daddy this crab is just so good. I mean lobster. Ugh! Why do I keep saying that?!”

Total crack up. Looks like the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl.

NoraTalk: “Even though that’s really Grandma.”

Nora recently sent a card to Liam’s mom (she goes by Grandmère and she lives in Connecticut). After telling me what she wanted to write in the message part of the card, Nora signed her name and drew her customary picture.

Her drawing consisted of several people, as it often does. I always ask Nora to tell me about the drawing so I can label the people or objects as necessary. Generally, this adds to the endearing quality of these notes. When I asked her to tell me about her drawing, she began pointing out the people: “This one’s mommy. And this one is me. This one is Frances, and this one is Grandma.”

“Grandma” is my mom. She lives close by, here in Pennsylvania. Naturally, she is the more familiar grandparent. I talked to Nora about why she might want to include Grandmère in her drawing and not Grandma—that Grandmère would probably really enjoy seeing a drawing of Grandmère with our family since she was the intended recipient of the card.

Nora looked like she didn’t totally get it but acquiesced anyway. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “OK.” She seemed mildly disappointed.

I finished labeling the drawing and reread Nora’s note aloud. I also went over her pictures one last time, just to make sure I had everything correct: “So this one’s mommy, right? And here is you. This one is Frances, and this one is Grandmère.”

I looked to her for confirmation and she responded with a heavy sigh, “Yeah. Even though that’s really Grandma.”

I tried to keep from laughing out loud and told her I thought Grandmère would really be pleased. Sometimes these lessons in learning to be considerate of other’s feelings can be difficult to embrace.

A Watercolor by Nora: "Mama and Me"

A Watercolor by Nora: “Mama and Me”