It was voted Thanksgiving’s #1 dish, and that’s saying something in this house where we are surrounded by viable Chopped contestants.
It’s also saying something as I have struggled to like sweet potato since I was a wee lass growing up on the plains of Nebraska. The sweet potato has so many virtues and has long been touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Why couldn’t I adore it? But this. Love at first bite. The butter, sugar, and pecans might have something to do with it, but you have to start somewhere, right?
This Sweet Potato Pie comes from Auntie Jill, passed down from her mama Nancy in Iowa. The first two Makechnie boys married girls from the midwest. Aren’t we quaint?
Mama Nancy’s recipe sure was delish, but Jill saw the need to healthify it by cutting the sugars in half, using dates instead of white sugar, and fresh sweet potato instead of canned in syrup. Still, we agree it’s more of a dessert to be eaten after a 5k Turkey Trot (or sleeping in, whatevs,) and goes ever so wonderfully with any meat and potatoes meal, like Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m posting this in January. Makes perfect sense, right? You’ll peel, cut, and boil 4-6 sweet potatoes. Mash them with butter. Add sugar, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Now for the topping! Chop 1 cup pecans. Add brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon to the pecans. Spread sweet potato in a pretty pie baking dish. Add the nut and sugar topping. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve and swoon.
Sweet Potato Pie Casserole
4 and 6 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (*or puree 1/2 cup pitted dates with 1/2 – 1 cup hot water until thick paste forms)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (2% or more is best)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped (or pecan/walnut combo)
Boil sweetpotatoes until soft and mashable. Mash with butter. Add sugar or pureed dates, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix well.
Pour into ungreased 9″ glass baking dish or a deep dish pie plate.
For topping: in a separate bowl mix brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon with fingers or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Stir in nuts.
Sprinkle the topping on the sweetpotato mixture and bake @ 350 for 40 minutes.
Can be made ahead.
Thanks Auntie Jill and Mama Nancy – we sure do ENJOY!
If you’re like our family, Christmas brought presents in the form of technology. (Hallelujah, the boy proclaims – you finally got me a phone!)
With a fresh year upon us, it’s a perfect time to review the tech rules are in this house. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve all had to evolve, discuss, negotiate.
Our contract for Brynne (7th grade, iPod only) looks different than her high school siblings. She has to ask before she uses her iPod, which is kept in my bedside drawer. It’s more like an after school snack rather than a permanent fixture on her body.
The older, high school kids carry phones and do homework on iPads. Their tech contract:
Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology. With this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your devices have the potential to do great good. They also have the power to cause great harm, not only to yourself but to others.
As a tech user in the Makechnie house, you agree to the following:
Technology is used under the supervision of your parent. Other than homework and seminary, you must ask permission to use your iPad (not your phone.)
Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen, not in bedrooms or behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place, we will discuss.
All apps must be approved.
We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites.
We will be able to read your texts and conversations at any time.
Technology is put away and off your body at meal times.
When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving.
Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.
Never search for or post anything that you would be embarrassed for your parents or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! If someone shows you pornography, FLEE.
At 8 p.m. phones are to be turned in.
At night, after homework is done, iPads are to be turned in.
On Sunday, we have a technology Sabbath. This is so we remember what one another looks like and that the scriptures are actual books. Even God, who was incredibly busy creating the world and animals and people, rested on the seventh day!
When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations.
When using technology, and another person enters the room, close your device and acknowledge the person (it is also polite to stand up in certain situations).
Download and listen to music that is uplifting. Ask: How does this make me feel?
If you break your device (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.
If you break one of these rules, your devices will be taken away for a period of time. They will be returned to you when your parents deem it appropriate.
There will be times when we ask you to put your technology away for an extended period of time. Taking breaks are good for your brain!
Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you.
Love, Mom and Dad
We had quite a negotiation session regarding this contract. Honestly, they think it’s super strict and totally unnecessary (go ahead, submit an eye roll 🙂 ). But we parents take tech really seriously. It is a WONDERFUL tool, but it can also be dangerous and addictive on young, growing brains. So we have rules because we love the darlings. The end.
Make your own contract by cutting and pasting the one above, or using the original tech mama’s TEMPLATE.
Kelle Hampton’s, PDA With Your Device? Get a Room idea is hilarious and adorable. I might get crafty and make one! Check out the Unplugged Motel, where family tech spends the night:It was especially hilarious to see the expression on my boy’s face when I suggested making the tech motel for the family. Still laughing.
Also, check out THIS LINK, or better yet, watch it with your kids!
Low: My children don’t like the above Christmas card
High: I don’t really care 🙂
Low: We emptied and sold a house, hauling and selling stuff every weekend for four months
Saying goodbye to Grandma’s house
High: We became a multi-generational family. It’s better than I ever thought it could be
Low: Four major appliances broke
High: We have Brendaen
High: We almost have a finished basement!
High: We didn’t get divorced during this process 🙂
High: I shocked myself and hired a woman to clean our home for two hours during the month of December. And I have all sorts of thoughts about this. It shall be written! #2017post
Low: Grief is not linear. Loss hangs over you and hits hard at the oddest times.
High: Friends and family. You hold me together.
Low: So many well-intentioned blog posts didn’t get written.
Poor time management?
No, the other one.
Higher than a kite: In April, New York ICM literary agent Zoe Sandler called and made all my dreams come true. I have not written about this publicly yet. Hold on to your earrings, ’cause I’m still freaking out.
Low: Publishing houses apparently aren’t worried about my self-esteem #boatloadofrejection
High: Zoe is the best.
High: This is the book deal year. I can feel it . #please?
High: There was soccer and basketball and swimming and running and piano and singing and chores and Netflix and cows and driving and did I mention soccer?
Low: My running suffered.
High: Running saved me.
Shout out to good health and running buddies!
Low: Faith was tested
High: Staying in the boat
Low or a High? Our country voted Donald Trump as our next president. #what?! If we’re Facebook friends, you know how I feel 🙂
High: I get to teach the best A&P class ever. We dissect pickles.
Life was good and life was hard. The year felt short and some days felt forever long. I cried a lot. And laughed a lot, too.
If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that tomorrow can change in a second. SEE. FEEL. HEAR. TOUCH. RIGHT NOW, in the present, all that you love most.
Questions swirl in my brain as I look forward to a new year:
Will Cope go to college?
Will my boy like me again?
Are all teens surly while seeking independence from their mothers? Theoretically speaking…
Is Brynne growing up too fast?
Will Paige still hold my hand?
Will I get a book deal?
Am I good enough? #sayyes
Should I let my hair go gray? #chicken
Will I master a consistently clean house?
That was a joke.
Tonight is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Tomorrow the earth will begin to spin toward greater light. Literally. This makes me giddy. There is light ahead! As a born and often unrealistic optimist (my best quality 🙂 ) I’m holding out hope.
“… it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period…”– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Merry Christmas, friends. See you in the new year!
I know, I know. We’re on to cyber deals and Christmas parties, but first I must pay homage to our glorious fall.
New season, new goals!
School starts and she still holds my hand
A new fridge. And a brother-in-law who is all in!
Lazy lump days
My favorite cows
Is any running better than fall running? A completed piano chart!
Girl in a tree
Love this guy.
Baby blow that horn! Her siblings love this sound 🙂
Grandpa moves in! We are happy.
My soccer girls! Finishing the basement. So much work. So much satisfaction.
Fiery skies atop Maple Street
The woods were lonely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep…
Early morning drives
The boy paints his first bathroom
Thanksgiving! Our great Goody neighbor She sings The basement is almost livable! The boy’s room.
Saying good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We close today.
You were glorious.
“Seasons are not only realities that occur outside and around us, in the skies and in the trees. I believe seasons are also internal and personal, interwoven into the fabric of human life. We are designed to transition, to change, and to vary. Our souls have seasons.” -Adam McHugh
This fall. Well, it’s been good and really hard and full of transitions. My brother said that his grief over losing his wife has not been linear at all. Those five stages are all over the place. It hits at strange times; the first time I saw a mum for sale at the grocery store I almost burst into tears. I couldn’t tell you why.
This week we had a guest who told us of an experiment: for two weeks, instead of asking God for anything, the only thing he did was thank God for all the things he had. I looked around the family and thought we had a splendid idea!
Many things have gone by the wayside this fall. I can’t keep up. When I forgot to make a Halloween breakfast, Paige thought the world had ended. When we didn’t go apple picking even ONE TIME this fall, Brynne was appalled. Even our lame tooth fairy has been extra lame. Boo.
But – hark! I did find the Thanksgiving tree. We made our leaves, wrote down what we were grateful for, and burned our fingers with the glue gun while gluing them on.
Do you pray? We don’t talk much about praying, it seems, but I pray all the time. And it usually begins and ends with please…(ie: me asking.)
Being thankful instead of asking seemed especially appropriate as my inbox has been inundated with BLACK FRIDAY SALES! GET IT NOW OR YOU’RE A BIG LOSER! I have to admit, when I see those emails pop up in my inbox my heart does a little pitter patter and I simply MUST HAVE. No, no, no. Be patient, young one. This is the season of gratitude! Should we not be thankful before we start asking??? Can’t we at least wait until Friday?
So, the experiment began. While praying, we would only thank and not ask. It’s only been a few days, but an interesting change has occurred in my heart: I’m sincerely grateful.
Even with challenges, when it was really hard not to ask, I found myself grasping for reasons to be grateful, and also thinking, maybe if I word this just right God will know what I’m really trying to ask. Am I warped?
For instance, Paige was really sick. She’s got these humongous tonsils that trap all the germs from all the places. She constantly gets strep and is constantly on antibiotics. So when Paige was crying and her throat was burning, I said, “Let’s say a prayer together.”
But I was a bit stumped. If I wasn’t going to ask, what could I say? After a long pause, I began, “We’re thankful for…our health, and good medicine, and…our warm beds, and prayer…and faith.” I wondered if I wasn’t asking, would she get better anyway?
She’s better. She ate a Thanksgiving feast tonight and smiled. And we gave our thanks.
I found myself saying “thank you” in my mind over many things that went wrong.
We are cleaning out my father-in-laws house and it’s a monster job, with multiple trips to the transfer station. Instead of asking for strength, which I’m always asking for, I said, “I’m thankful for this strong, healthy body, that I can move these heavy bags and that we are almost done…”
It became almost a game to turn every situation into a Thankful Moment.
I became calmer when I might have been impatient, like when Nelson was painting the bathroom with a roller for the first time, and driving me down the road for the first time, and both were a little terrifying. “We are thankful we didn’t crash and made it home safely and I have a boy who can paint the bathroom! Hallelujah.”
The challenge was on tonight, when I sat down to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner after a long day of working and cooking, and a child who shall not be named, spilled a full glass of water right in front of my plate and I ate the entire meal with water dripping down on my lap. All I could think was…”I’m thankful we have water.”
The holidays are hard without the ones you love. But because I’ve lost, I was especially grateful this evening to be surrounded by the ones I still have. Like many of you, I know things I didn’t know before. It’s given me more empathy for those who have lost more than I have. I’m thankful for that, even though it makes me sad.
As we ate our turkey and mashed potatoes and this strange delicacy canned by my one and only mother-in-law, Heather, we laughed and cried a little, too. “We’re so thankful for our family, for the ones here at this table, for those who have come before us, and for those who are far away and no longer with us. We are grateful for eternal families.”
Thankful. Even when it’s not perfect. Even with cold water dripping on your lap 🙂
Tonight, I did not ask for anything. I only said thank you. And it felt just right.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we remember the many blessings you’ve asked for and received. xoxo.
About a year ago, in the spirit of trying to be more organized, I mapped out a calendar of posts I wanted to write instead of my usual writing-everything-on-the-fly-however-the-muse-moves-me way of blogging.
Intentions were good. Output was poor.
I also didn’t pay particular attention to particular events, like the election, and how we all might be feeling post-voting. This week I had “laundry post,” slated.
But I’ve been feeling rather despondent post-election. A laundry post seemed rather…trivial. Didn’t our country need more? I could only stare glumly at the black screen…who cares about laundry? Write something important, something meaningful, something big.
So I wrote nothing.
Not to worry, my heart is coming back. How is the state of your heart?
So I unplugged for a bit and boy was it refreshing. Even Hilary went for a walk the day after! Nature is soul cleansing. When I run outside in the woods, breathe in fall air, crunch in leaves, our sweet land of liberty feels good. It’s not what happens to us, but thinking that makes it so.
As always is the case, when you are searching, you find. This gem from Sarah:
There should be less talk, a preaching point is not always a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough. All of us are but His instruments who do our little bit and pass joy.
Isn’t that great? Take a broom and clean someone else’s house! Oh yes, I am 100% positive that if you picked up a broom in my house, I would feel very JOYFUL.
Mother Theresa, oh wise one, also said:
War is the fruit of politics,
so I don’t involve myself, that’s all.
If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving.
Because I will have to stand by one, and not stand by all.
This is the difference.
This is the difference. I’ve had a personal political crisis of late, but these words speak to me, reminding that I can only control what is in my circle of influence, and that is enough. In fact, if we all did that a little better with our own families, the world would take care of itself.
If that feels too big at this very moment, try something smaller: make your bed.
Yes, that’s the advice from happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin. Sounds trivial and small, perhaps, but maybe there’s more to it. The simple act of getting out of bed and pulling up your covers is not only satisfying, it marks the start of the day. It makes our world feel a little more orderly and organized. And every time you walk back into your room, it’s a nicer place to enter.
I think the making of the bed also signifies something bigger for us: It’s time to rise up! A bed made signals a resolve to face the world. You can’t crawl under the sheets and hide anymore. You must rise, and find a way to be good and brave and kind.
So there we go. It’s rather simple. Turn off the news, find Nature, pick up a broom for someone, make the bed. And than all will be well, my friends.
The last ten years I’ve been fascinated by race results. I began to notice a disturbing trend among female runners at race events: they seemed to be getting faster with age.
I say “disturbing” because I was under the false impression that if I just kept running, I’d be on the only one left to win the bling. Ha ha ha! Oh, contraire.
What the heck was going on? Why were women in their 40s running faster than their younger peers? Why were they smoking past me?
In my 30’s I would occasionally place in the top 3 of my age group. Sadly, I realized that if I didn’t get faster, I’d never take the podium.
You know what I think now? “Yeah. YOU GO GIRL. You go get that!”
Something happens to us when we “grow up.” We believe lies. We think we’re past our prime. We think sport is just for the more talented or for those girls who played varsity sports in college. We stop walking and running and pushing ourselves athletically. “It’s too late. We’ve missed it, blown our chance, and I never even played a sport in high school, let alone as a mom.”
Here’s the truth: We Are All Athletes.
Maybe we believe the lie because for many many years, it’s hard to do anything but work hard and nurture hard. There doesn’t seem to be any left over for us. This is where our ingenuity must kick in. We have to do squats while folding laundry, perform calf raises while vacuuming the stairs, get in some arm circles while in our work cubicle, skip lunch with colleagues to walk around the block. Staying at home doesn’t make it easier. There were always babies saying, “You want to work out in peace and quiet? Get real!” (good thing they’re so cute.)
How many times did I look like a dork trying to run up a hill pushing a stroller while mixing in lunges and swinging my legs for hip mobility? The baby was always screaming and I’d be throwing cheerios down at her while gasping out a Cinderella or Peter Pan story all the while experiencing milk letdown. Oh yeah, I was a beauty out there with my stroller.
And than there were days where it was just too much energy to dress the baby and myself and a toddler in all those layers when it was so cold. There were many many days of missed workouts. But I also knew this: a little goes a long way. So over the years I tried to get a little bit here, a little bit there.
I felt slow in my 20s and even slower in my early 30s. There were times when I couldn’t run more than a mile without stopping to walk, when I was just too tired and it was too late to get on the elliptical. But there were other times that I did. How serendipitous it was to find running buddies (bless you!), an awesome running watch (bff for life!), a few 5ks while dear husband watched children. I played indoor and outdoor soccer on a real team for as long as I could. One year the season started when Nelson was just two months and I had to bring him with me because I was nursing. I remember running onto the field to join my teammates and they turned around and started clapping. That moment still makes me want to weep, it meant so much. Sisters cheering for their sisters!
I remember Meredith and I getting permission to bring a big Hogwarts bus to one of our soccer games so all of our kids would fit. We laughed like crazy and I nursed Nelson behind a tree during halftime, all sweaty and gross! (sorry, Nellie boy for that image 🙂 ). I remember thinking at the time, “what the heck am I doing???” But a voice was saying: just keep your foot in the game. I was slower, underweight, had looser joints and was severely sleep deprived. There was also the pleasure of milk letdown while trapping a throw in. Heavens. It was worth it. God gave me this body and when I was running down that field I felt His pleasure (to paraphrase a hero, Eric Liddel.)
As my kids grew older and my own hobbies and teams took a back seat, I volunteered to coach because I loved the game and wanted to spend time with my children. I also hoped it would keep me in shape. It helped. I make the effort to keep playing summer soccer at least once a week with my children, even as they overtake me in speed and touch. But I can’t stop. I have role models out on the field inspiring me, and yes, maybe I too can be that person for someone else.
I feel this huge surge of pride every time I take the field. No, I’m not first, not the quickest, and can’t get that shot off as fast as I use to, but no matter. Console yourself with these words: at least you’re out there.
We hear all sorts of negativity: “you’re going to slow down,” ” you’re going to get old and your knees will hurt,” and “things change after 40.” Yeah, the body changes, but life isn’t even close to over at 40. It’s not over at your wedding. It’s not over when you get pregnant. It’s not over when you have your first baby or your fifth. You’ll have to work to “get back,” but didn’t you have to work when you were 15? I tell you what, I’m way faster and can run way farther than I ever could at 15.
And I happen to think that’s wicked cool.
Two weekends ago I ran the Cape Cod half-marathon. Robin is a veteran runner with dozen of halfs and full marathons behind her. She’s 48, my friends, and she’s still going at it! My sister-in-law, Jill, is 44 and just finished her FIRST half marathon, running under 2 hours! So impressive. This is only the beginning.
Thank you, Brendaen, for the pictures! I used the semi-decent ones…ugh, you should see some of my running shots 🙁
Want another good reason to run? You get bling bling!
One of the most rewarding parts of sports as a mom is having your children cheer you on, an odd but needful reversal of of roles. Yes, mom has legs. Yes, mom has hobbies. Yes, mom has interests others than chore charts. Yes, mom is a person! Mom kindof rocks.
And no, she’s not ever going to stop trying!
This was at mile 6. I had downloaded the Hamilton CD. The song “I am not throwing away my shot” was on repeat. 🙂
Jill came through the finish line blowing kisses to her daughters and husband – it was SO cool. “Wow, mom just ran 13.1 miles!” Remember all those mornings when she got up before we were up to get in her training run before she had to help us pack a lunch and drive us to school before she could even eat or take a shower? Wow, GO MOM. This moment? So empowering.
I ran the Cape Cod half with my friend, Eric, in mind. Eric is in the late stages of ALS and cannot move any part of his body except to blink, speak some, and move his fingers. We stayed with Eric’s parents at the cape and when I was out there on the road, I thought of Eric. What would he give to be able to run just once more? Maybe we should move just because we CAN.
You did it. And it was so not easy. So proud.
Stats from the Cape Cod half were eye-opening. There were 1,307 female runners. Of the top ten female finishers, four were in their 20s (29, 29, 24). Four were in their 30s (33, 34, 32, 33), one was 49, and one was 52! They all ran super close races, too. The first place 29-year-old ran a 1:16:52; 5:49 minute/mile splits for 13.1 miles – wicked fast!
The 52-year-old woman ran a 1:30:57; that’s a 7:01 minute/mile pace for 13.1 miles! At 52 years old.
Overall, the women 39 and under ran faster than women in their 40s; but the 40s, 50s, and 60-year-olds were still competitive. Sidney Letendre, a 62-year-old ran a 1:40:31; 7:40 minute mile splits! And Nancy Spiro, age 74, ran a 2:15:39. Of course, these are the top finishers in their age group, but there were many many more runners post-40 runner. Incredible. Inspirational.
Think it’s all talent? Oh no. It’s time and training. Which is good news for us all: we can all do it.
Don’t think it’s going to get easier when “the kids are older.” Twice a week I run at 5, not because I want to but because it’s the only time I can fit it in. It’s kindof horrible. But I’m realizing life is not slowing down anytime soon, and tomorrow has a way of turning into never. There is only today.
A few years ago I emailed running coach, Jason Fitzgerald of strengthrunning.com, to ask if he knew if their women in their 40s were running faster than women in their 20s and 30s, or if I was making this up. We couldn’t come up with any scientific answers except anecdotally. In our 20s and young 30s, women tend to be in the pregnancy and child rearing years, taking them out of the competition stage. But what I love about that, is that many are coming back to run or starting to run for the first time in their later 30s or early 40s. Next time you’re at a race, check the stats – women in their 40s and 50s are getting after it.
I write this post as an anthem to YOU! To women. Your life is not over at 20, at 30, not 40 or 70. Not by a long shot. Your knees might creak a bit more (stretch your butt!) and you might need more of a warm-up than you did at 14. You may get sidelined for awhile. You might even need a knee or hip replacement and you might have battled a cancer scare, but I tell you what, I know a lot of women who can walk and run and bike farther and faster than many many kids. It’s not because they’re the “lucky ones.” It’s not all that mysterious. It’s because they’re putting in a little bit of time, a little bit of dedication to use that amazing body of theirs.
Love you girls. Use that smokin’ hot body of yours 🙂 If you love it, it will love you back. Guaranteed.
Okay. Now go schedule something. Put it on the calendar. Make your friend sign up too and you’ve got an accountability buddy instead of a wish. Go get it.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. -Henry David Thoreau