Category Archives: Family

transitions and here we go again!

Yes, we’re alive over here, time is just going so fast I start wondering where to start.

It’s such a strange thing to suddenly be the parent of older kids instead of having a posse of younger ones. The baby is going into 6th grade for heaven’s sake! I find myself gazing at her playing Barbies and with her American Girls, knowing in a blink they will soon be abandoned for American Eagle gift cards and iPods.

We’ve had a great summer, traveling out west for a family reunion, coming home to another family reunion (hosting all of Gregor’s brothers and family – a hoot and a holler!) The house has been FULL of people and so much food and messes and reminiscing.

Labor Day always marks the beginning of packing school lunches, quieter days, busier afternoons, and the rank smell of soccer cleats by the front door.

I find myself pondering Ernest Hemingway’s quote:

There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? -Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

I’d like dispute that, Ernest. If I may. Because what of this:

The past in a cool, dark pond; our feet are always damp.

I took that line from book critic, Lucy Feldman. Isn’t it terrific?

Or how about Matt Nathanson’s greatest and latest song:

The past is a long distance runner…

So good!

I’ve always been one to look back and also forward. I think I have a better handle on it, feel more at peace with change.

It’s been a good summer and a hard one. We lost a tremendous man and friend to suicide. His impact reverberates through our community in a painful way I’ve wanted to run from, yet it’s been a huge wake up to remember we belong to each other. It’s a reminder to check in with one another. To speak up when we are hurting, to reach out when we need help.

But the good stuff?

A LOT of swimming at our favorite hole:

Traveling to Utah for a family reunion, where the stomach bug traveled through all of us (YES!). We hiked some mountains, sold books, rope swinged into Blood Lake, ate gallons of ice-cream.

In early August I ran in the Beach to Beach 10k alongside elite-level and olympic runners (okay, fine, they were practically finished before I started) and now I’m ready to train for the Cape Cod 1/2 marathon this October. SIGN UP HERE! We (running buddies Maryn, Jill, Chloe, and Cope) have had great times on the rail trail. Running a 9-miler with a pal bonds you for life, I swear.

The other night I lay here in the dark, looking out at a bright moon lighting up the sky. The next morning I awoke early for our girl posse long run. The moon was still up when we started; by the end of the run we were running into the sunrise. WOW.

I’m waxing a bit sentimental thinking of the upcoming year and the many changes that will occur. These kids we’re raising? We haven’t missed anything. It’s happening all as it should. We’re watching miracles happen every single day.

Here’s a picture of my siblings and me from this summer: I remember so well when we were little kids and now look at us. Side note: isn’t it remarkable that I’m the oldest and have retained my natural L’Oreal Medium Brown hair color when the rest…haven’t? What can I say??? I guess it’s all in the genes! 🙂

And look at these kids. What will they remember about their childhood together? Adding Grandpa and Tenny to the mix sure was a great idea!

So here we go:

Cope is awaiting her mission call! It should arrive any day. Like, ANY DAY. She will serve an eighteen-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will leave behind her phone(!) and everything else to serve and teach others of one thing: the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I’m in awe of her. She could be called to Brazil or Iowa – WE DON’T KNOW. I’ve known A LOT of missionaries, but how different it is to have my own child embark.  Strange, for sure.

Stay tuned!

Nelson embarks on his senior year and is currently going through the college admissions process. Boy, that’s no small feat. Note to self: we will survive. He’s also ALMOST done with his Eagle Scout project and fundraiser. I’m more than A LITTLE EXCITED to see him on the soccer field this fall. He loves the sport so much, and uh, so does his mama.

And Brynne Brynne? She’s a freshman! Zowie. Paige is a middle-schooler. I mean, what is going on? They will also be on the soccer field and I’ll be coaching, so you know, packing lots of Lara Bars.

I process these transitions by running (which leads to cravings of wavy potato chips and Diet coke, but hey, no one’s perfect.) Also? More sleep, please.

Talk to me. What are you transitioning to?

xoxo

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on not forgetting: we already have a great kid

The other day I asked one of my kids if they knew I loved and was proud of them. It was a rhetorical question, because of course – I DO AND I AM.

But the reaction? There was kindof a shrug. So I pulled over and said, “Wait a second, you DO KNOW THAT, RIGHT?”

Yeah, sure, mom.

It’s been looping inside my mind like a reel: they KNOW I love them, but do they know it’s absolutely unconditional? That NOTHING can separate the love I feel for them? No matter what?

There’s the rub: no matter what

I had a friend who told me that every morning her mom would say, “you’re so pretty.” This was absolutely well-intentioned, but when she went to college, no one said that to her every morning. Am I pretty? began to be a constant, nagging question. It began a serious struggle with worth. Would I still be loved if I weren’t pretty?

Will you still love me if I’m not skinny?

Will you still be proud of me if my best friend makes the team and I don’t?

Will you still love me if I’m attracted to my same gender?

Will your eyes always light up when I walk into a room – no matter what?

Many months ago, when one of my kids was having a hard life stretch, I realized that I really only wanted one thing. I could let go of all the awards, public acclaim, athletic talent, musical ability. The only thing I really really wanted was for my child to rise up every morning and walk out the door feeling truly and utterly loved. What we couldn’t do and overcome!

I am convinced that with this sure knowledge, that even through the hard days, there would still be happiness on the horizon. That’s it. She/He could be ugly, misshapen, failing a class, dumped from a friend group – whatever. I just wanted a child who knew who she was: a child of God. Divine. Created from love. And absolutely and unconditionally LOVED by her parents.

It’s come into sharper focus for me with these school shootings. I see myself standing outside a school, waiting for my child to come out. I can feel the desperation and panic start to rise, just imagining such a scenario. In that very moment, all I would want is for my child to come walking out the door and into my open arms. That’s it. I want them to be alive.

Alive. And running in a field together. That’s all.

I think we sometimes forget what our children need. We are so hell-bent (and I use that word intentionally) on getting them into lessons and schools and teams and social groups that I worry – do they know that without any of those things – we would still love them?

How could they know? When all of our effort, when all of our praise is focused on the accolades?

I’m not advocating false praise, or handing out a trophy every morning – that’s external, materialistic, and meaningless “stuff.” You can love your child and not like them every minute. And true love can be tough love: “you will get a summer job and pay for your own cell phone” because I love you.

I’ve just finished reading the most terrific and heartbreaking book I’ve read in a very long time: EDUCATED by Tara Westover. What she is able to overcome is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read. It also makes me want to weep – Tara is fiercely unique in her ability to get out of a family that is completely dysfunctional and literally crazy. I want to think I would be her, but I doubt my own strength, especially as a sensitive, compliant child. While you read, you can’t help but hurt for all the others left behind.

Amazingly, without ever going to school, Tara studies on her own to learn trigonometry (okay, right there, I’m dead in the water) and takes the ACT, earning a 22. She studies harder and earns a 28. She’d never seen a bubble sheet before.

Remarkably, she is admitted to BYU (where she sees all sorts of heathens showing their knees and ankles 🙂 ). She eventually earns a scholarship to Cambridge (you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!)

A professor observes how uncomfortable she is, how she “knows” she doesn’t belong. Dr. Kerry says,

“You act like someone who is impersonating someone else…it has never occurred to you that you might have as much right to be here as anyone….You should trust Professor Steinberg. If he says you’re a scholar – ‘pure gold,’ I heard him say – then you are.”

“This is a magical place,” I said. “Everything shines here.”

“You must stop yourself from thinking like that,” Dr. Kerry said, his voice raised. “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself – even gold appears dull in some lighting – but that is an illusion. And it always was.”

So good. Pure gold.

I am sometimes heartsick to think of all the ways we mess up our kids after they come to us, as small babies, so completely perfect. For all of our good intentions, it sometimes goes horribly awry. But all is not lost. I think it’s actually very very simple. WE JUST LOVE. Tell them their beautiful – but not just on the outside. Tell them their souls are beautiful, that their hearts are kind. Tell them you’re proud of them – but not just when they excel – but also when they fail. Because failing is perhaps the greatest show of courage; they can fail and they will still be forever and unconditionally LOVED. Teach them what goodness and true love is; use words if necessary.

Our kids are in the arena. They are fighting a daily battle. They are warriors just for enduring. I don’t think we know the half of it. And they sometimes forget – because we do – that they are already golden. That gold should SHINE, not dull, by the light in our eyes.

It’s that time of the year, when many many kids are being awarded, graded, applauded. But not everyone is, are they? I don’t begrudge any of the above. Achievement is important and good for our personal growth.

But in all of our effort to make our kids “great again,” let’s not forget that they already are.

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The Gratitude Drug

Today husband had four stitches put in his head.

As I drove him to the ER, my imagination went into overdrive as I imagined all of the worst case scenarios. I began to feel mad. How dare he get hurt? This was not on Monday’s schedule! Clearly, I need to get a grip.

Also: my impatience makes me a bad nurse. I like things to be “fine.” I am annoyed by sickness and injury as if they are personal weaknesses. Sigh. Bad nurse.

Impatience and mad finally gave way to a rush of relief. He was okay and so I was, too.

In the long run, it was a little thing, but you know, life changes as quickly as the flip of the switch. Flip. Your life is turned upside down.

There is nothing like spending the day in a hospital to give you perspective.The Thankful Tree, a physical manifestation of our  gratitude. If you’re looking for a family activity, I suggest this one! It’s fun. The kids think it’s great to glue thankful leaves on a tree branch. I’m going to write “Gregor’s Forehead” on a leaf.

I’m also thinking we should tell the people we love that WE REALLY DO LOVE THEM. Because the Thanksgiving table changes. People somehow get swapped out. This year I will have to make a giant paper Cope Cut-out.

Cope, we love you.

Life is good. We are alive and well. Even if our girl will be eating mashed potatoes in the Wasatch Mountains…sniff…(but Patrick and Natalie, I am SO GRATEFUL for hosting her!!!)

Small events like this morning are reminders. We are mortal. I’m grateful for more time. It’s a feeling that floods through me. It’s like a drug. Literallly.

Did you know? This relief, this thankfulness, this GRATITUDE activates a reward center in our brain: meaning we crave more. Read THIS Great Post! “When we feel grateful, we are programmed to seek out more experiences or things to be grateful for, more ways to feel that high.”

And guess what else? The more we practice gratitude, the better we get at it. The brain continues to seek after what made us feel so good (confirmation bias) so it keeps finding ways to be grateful, which in turn keeps rewarding us with feel-good dopamine.

But on the flip side: it could also do the opposite. If we look for ways that life is no-good horrible, our brain will keep finding more no-good horrible. We could actually train our brain to seek after the bad.

Fascinating, no?

I think I’ll stick with feel-good dopamine hits.

For starters: Sunsets

Children hopping off a school bus

The change of seasons

This guy. A scar on the forehead should just make him more fetching, right?

I’m thankful he’ll be at the table (and cooking the turkey and stuffing.)

There was another dopamine hit:

Starving, I went to the hospital cafeteria for soup and a Diet Coke (I know, a drug I’ve got to quit) only to discover they didn’t take credit cards. While fumbling through my purse to no avail, a man pulled out five dollars. “It’s the holidays,” he said, handing it over to the cashier.

Gratitude flooded through me right there in the check-out line. What kindness.

In turn, I wanted to buy someone else lunch. See what he did there?

Just think, if we were all so kind, the gratitude drug could become an epidemic. We could be swimming in happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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On a Monday. Want to be happier? Try this!

In college, my five roommates and I called ourselves, “The Snapper Squad.” (Yes, we were very cheesy…but don’t ya just love cheese?)

On our Snapper Squad wall we covered it with reams of paper. Across the top we wrote “The Snapper Squad’s Happy List” (or something like that. Gretchen Rubin, eat your heart out 🙂 I should have written THAT happiness book!)

Anyway, the whole wall was covered with lists of what made us happy. Just writing the list made us happy. And every girl, boy, and RA who wandered into our apartment had a comment about our wall. It was a huge conversation starter, and every time I passed in and out of our apartment, I would glance at it…and college Amy was happy (in-between all the boy drama.)

I didn’t know it then, but years later, science would back up the Snapper Squad’s happiness experiment.

Being grateful and expressing gratitude makes us happier.

My niece, Hailey, and I taught a lesson to our young women at church on Sunday. The topic was “Why is it important to be grateful?” Isn’t it interesting that God has often commanded us to be happy? (Think of the parable of the lepers…)

Doctrine & Covenants 59:21 And in nothing doth man aoffend God, or against none is his bwrath ckindled, save those who dconfess not his hand in all things, and eobey not his commandments.

Sometimes, when we feel our lives are a train wreck we don’t feel we have much to be grateful for.

But remember Job? Even after he lost everything, he said: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I think God wants us to be happy. And if that’s true, than perhaps we shouldn’t think of commandments as restrictions, rather, as opportunities for greater happiness.

Even if you don’t care a lick about what scriptures say about gratitude, let us go back to science. Science says we are happier when we are grateful. Try it.

Hailey showed this video:

For a phenomenal talk from one of my spiritual heroes, listen to this one.Wow.

Tonight, with a nod to the Snapper Squad, the #makechniemafia hung a long piece of paper on the wall so we can have our own happy list.

“We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?”

-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Happy Monday. Hope you’re feeling grateful because then I bet you’re feeling happy 🙂

 

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This is How We Say Good-Bye

So, it’s all very, very good. We’ve had college in mind for 18 years. We’ve saved for it for 18 years. We didn’t really hope she’d live in the basement.

We paid for books, drove her to games and rehearsals, pushed her to work hard. We filled out the applications, did more than stress our minds out, cross our fingers and say our prayers. But geez, this is the deal? She actually LEAVES?

I’m paying for this pit in my stomach?

College.

This picture sits on my desk. This was my baby Cope starting kindergarten, just a little while ago.

I remember her so well at this age. She had a little brother and a baby sister who accompanied her to school. She wore a yellow rain jacket and Elmo backpack. On the first day of kindergarten she came home and threw a ginormous tantrum, collapsing on the couch in a deep sleep from sheer exhaustion. This would continue to happen throughout her childhood 🙂

She lives with passion, this girl.

What a privilege it has been to be her mother. There are no perfect mothers, but I have tried to be a good one. I’ve pondered: Do I regret other “opportunities” I didn’t take so I could be home more and raise children? Do I regret any of the stories read, the bedtime routines, the wake up and go to sleep times? I regret none of it. I have no greater accomplishment.

Suddenly she’s this girl: so confident and smart and compassionate and beautiful.

We had a great August. Slow days of packing and purging and sorting. What to bring to college when you have to put it on an airplane (2 carry-ons per passenger, nothing over 50lbs.)

We also had hostage-like negotiation sessions over clothes – she is always raiding my closet!A certain sister already had her room packed up before Cope left, chomping at the bit to move downstairs instead of across the hall from mom and dad.

Cope and I and flew across the country, hovering above the great Salt Lake. It was getting real.

I was that really strange mom taking photos of my grown daughter while she slept beside me. I found myself gazing at her skin and eyelashes, wondering how this thing called “TIME” works. I thought of Erma Bombeck’s poem, WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP?

Guess what? They do.

Although Utah is a desert, we went hiking and found TREES!

We stayed with my sister and family where Cope walked little Autumn to first grade. On the first day, Autumn cried and clung to Cope. Cope looked at me with big eyes and panic, mouthing, “WHAT DO I DO?”

I said: Give her a hug and kiss, I’ll see you later, and walk away.

Oh dear, I feared I would be Autumn in a few days.

We made it! She has a room key. I don’t. What the heck?

We love her dorm and roommate!

After buying out the entire local Target (when people tell you that bringing your child to college is the most expensive trip you will make – THEY ARE RIGHT. I, the tight-fisted budget mom was suddenly spending her feelings on lamps and hangers and “Honey, look at this llama lamp, do you want it for your room???! No? How about mug with your initial or how about M for Mom? Make-up? Do you want make-up? What can I buy you???”) Who was this woman???

We spent HOURS debating about room decor (Believe me, Pinterest IS NOT YOUR FRIEND). However, after agonizing over the tapestry and bedding for literally DAYS, we had just what she wanted. Bless you, Amazon, and your free Prime 2-Day shipping.

Roommates?!

“Dad, mom knows she’s not staying, right?”

We walked around campus, reliving the college years (Gregor and I met at BYU!) Cope patiently endured us.

 This is a much bigger pond than our little town…

Of course we had to get pictures with the BYU cougar. “Moooooom!” And yes, we are now completely dressed from head to toe in True Blue BYU fan gear. I’m sorry if you find me annoying for the next four years 🙂

On the bright side. The BYU bookstore has the best cinnamon gummy bears IN THE WORLD. This is not a joke. For $2.50 a bag, I’ll just eat her way through college.

On the wall in the bookstore: We went to spy on her the next day at freshman orientation (we didn’t see her). Um, is this what they mean by “helicopter parents”? Clearly, we are part of the problem.

We made up an excuse to meet up for a few minutes before our flight took off. When she came walking across campus she looked like she could be in college. Oh wait…she is?

Final hugs good-bye, in the Joseph Smith building, where Gregor really fell in love with me 🙂

And so it begins.

We left her in the capable hands of mighty Mount Timpanogus, my most favorite mountain. Can you see her lying across the top, left to right? Keep an eye on my girl, Timp.

She will, as this girl does, read. And study. And learn. She will, as BYU’s motto states: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

The Class of 2017. “You Are the Y.”

Excuse me while I go get a tissue. As Gregor says, “this is the happiest sad I think I’ve ever felt.”

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Finding Anne Shirley {at Prince Edward Island!}

If you haven’t read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, run to the nearest library right now – it’s a childhood classic!

Then, watch the 1984 masterpiece with Megan Follows as Anne. We all adore it – even The Professor.

For Cope’s 18th birthday we decided to take a spontaneous trip to find Anne Shirley of Prince Edward Island, a mere 10-hour journey north to Canada.

Make sure to fill every seat in the car, and wedge yourself in the back while your son practices his driving skills – it’s a real hoot! Headed north! Should we attempt Nova Scotia, as well? Make sure to have those passports readyThe 8-mile bridge across the water, from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. We settled into a tiny little cottage a mile from the water. Wedged together and happy at all times 🙂 The sand is soft and red (like Anne’s hair!) Beautiful coast  In July, Prince Edward Island is loaded with jellyfishPaige and I got stung! It felt like a bee sting.In anticipation of finding Anne, we watched the fabulous show and played a rousing game of cards.  On July 8th, our sweet baby Cope turned 18. (Still in shock and denial.)Look! Bosom friends Diana Barry and Anne Shirley. Millions of fans visit Prince Edward Island in the hopes of finding the setting for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; it’s now a national park! It wasn’t crowded, but how interesting to see people from China and other countries loving Anne as much as we do.Inside the home of the real-life Green Gables, where L.M. Montgomery’s aunt and uncle lived, and the inspiration for the novels. Make sure to dress up And wear romantic hairstylesThe typewriter L.M. Montgomery used – can you imagine???

  Could this be the bridge that inspired those fabulous Anne and Gilbert scenes?

Prince Edward Island is similar to New Hampshire – but with longer winters (yikes!) The red earth grows many potatoes And lots of red hair Before leaving, make sure to find PEI’s Cows Ice-Cream, it’s mighty tasty! Alas, it was time to cross back over the other side…with another adult! We decided we would save Nova Scotia for another trip. But someday we will sail the six hours from Portland, Maine to Nova Scotia – dreamy! We crossed back onto American soil and spent the night in Bangor, Maine …where we discovered the home of Stephen King. After feasting on L.M. Montgomery, it was only fitting to visit King’s abode, don’t you think? I have a particular fascination with authors!We made a quick stop in Portland, Maine, to eat pizza by the water. Three hours later we were home sweet home after a whirlwind of a weekend.

Thinking of finding Anne Shirley? I highly recommend it!

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

  1. “I’ve learned how to be patient and now I’m done being patient!”

  2. “Sometimes when I miss you I go into your room and smell your perfume.”

  3. “When I’m a mom we will never use plastic – feel guilty!”

  4. “You didn’t make a snowman with me like you said and I want you to think about what you’ve done and how you’ve taken a bite out of my soul!”

  5. “Our family is so weird! Who listens to this music in the car???”

  6. “I could not be mute! I would negotiate something else with Ursula.”

  7. “I learned a new way to strangle someone today.”

  8. “Can you please not die before my wedding?”

  9. “Thank you for being my mommy!”

  10. “Mother, this is not dinner. This is a wee nibble.”

  11.  “You were meant to have wavy hair, Mama. None of that straight stuff.” *

More Real Quotes From Real Kids HERE

*a husband quote!

I’d like it to be known that I made a snowman with Paige and was not the one responsible for taking a bite out of her soul.

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What is On the Walls of Your Home?

I’m becoming more intentional about what goes on the walls of our home. Of all the sensory receptors in the body, 70% are in the eyes. Fascinating, no? We see a lot of images everyday, and what we see stays with us.

We didn’t have a lot of extra for decorating when I was a kid, but my mother made a real effort to put up interesting art. I remember eating breakfast as a little girl and staring up at a poster of the urinary system 🙂 My mom put up anatomy posters, Monet, ancestors, and framed Minerva Tiechert. I am so appreciative of that now.

What’s on our walls? Here are a few amateur shots from around the house:

 Flowers painted by great grandmother, Alice Fogg Family photos Love is spoken in our home at all times, day and night. there is never any fighting 🙂 This Christ print is by Greg Olson, one of my favorite painters. We received this for our wedding (almost 20 years ago!) We see it every time we enter or leave the house, and every time we enter the living room. Poor Jesus has been through a lot in our house. The glass was shattered after Nelson kicked a soccer ball into it, the frame cracked after a dry winter, it’s been tipped over by careless dusters, and often gets covered in black soot from the fire. Nevertheless, after replacements and loving care, the print is going strong.This hard-workin’ laundry mama reminds me how I adore washing and folding multiple loads of laundry a day. She and I always have a smile on our face while performing this service for our family (just ask the kids! 🙂 )

I like to use inspiring pages from a youth Christian magazine, The New Era (’cause Cosmo hasn’t really led us toward the light). Love, love, love their monthly message. I tape these up onto the bathroom mirror. We ponder goodness while brushing teeth.

But besides this, and my children’s artwork, I’ve been longing for meaningful art  to ponder and get lost in.

This past summer, when my heart was heavy, I gravitated toward paintings of strong women.

When I saw this, I HAD TO HAVE it:

She Will Find What is Lost by Brian Kershisnik now hangs in our living room. What has she lost? A person? Hope? Faith? She’s lost something that has impacted her happiness. But all is not lost. Heavenly angels surround her, strengthening and reminding her that she is not alone. I think the beauty is not that she has lost something, but that “she will find what is lost.” Read more HERE, by artist.

She Became Herself With Tears by Caitlin Connolly. Cope says this is a depressing piece, but oh, I love it so much. The colors, the title, everything. I stalked artist Caitlin Connolly on instagram for a full month, waiting for a holiday sale, snagging print #2 of a limited edition of 30. It really felt like the first significant piece of artwork on our wall.

Mothers Teaching by Caitlin Connolly. I love this one, too, which now hangs in my bedroom. I want so many of her prints, but must exercise restraint. Her paintings of strong women really speak to me.

Artists I’m really loving right now…(I even know some of them!)

Molly and Corbett Leith, David FlemingJen Fleming, Brian Andreas, Ruth Chou Simons, and James Christensen (just to name a few – there are so many!)

Good artwork, especially original, isn’t easy. But is shouldn’t be, right? The time it takes to find the right mat and frame and hanger easily overwhelms me. And if you want someone else to frame it, well that’s time and effort and money, too.

But. I’m upping my game, vowing to do better. Art is an important investment for a family and home. It makes homes more interesting, less stale, more beautiful. It’s a conversation starter, it supports our artists, and makes our hearts pitter patter with happiness over that special, unique, carefully chosen piece.

As the chaos of the world swirls around us, I’ve felt a greater need to make home a refuge – and you certainly don’t need great artwork on the walls to do that – but I do want us to be surrounded by beauty and color and inspired artists who seem to have an eye and heart and paintbrush turned toward heaven. Bring the heaven in.

Read this: 13 Reasons Why Original Art In the Home is As Important As a Bed! 

“Do a visual tour of your home with spiritual eyes. Is there love? Is your family room a place to gather as a family? Regardless of circumstances, home should be where family wants to be.” -nestingwithgrace

What’s on your walls? Any favorite artists?

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Our Technology Contract!

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:

Dear _________________________________

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. All apps must be approved.
  4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. 
  5. We will be able to read your texts and conversations at any time.
  6. Technology is put away and off your body at meal times.
  7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. 
  8. Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.
  9. 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.
  10. At 8 p.m. phones are to be turned in.
  11. At night, after homework is done, iPads are to be turned in.
  12. 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!
  13. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations.
  14. 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).
  15. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. Ask: How does this make me feel?
  16. If you break your device  (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.
  17. 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.
  18. 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! (See HERE and enter @maisymak for 20% off.)

Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you.

Love, Mom and Dad

Signed:

Signed:

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:featured1-1024x683It 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!

Here’s another cute idea: crate your phone!

crateToday, all of my students put their phone in this cute crate and focus abounded – one girl even thanked me! Which goes to show…they need us on that wall 🙂

Want a cute crate for 20% off? Visit http://www.crateyourphone.com/ and enter the coupon code maisymak.

Enjoy technology, make some rules, stay strong.

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Thankful in Our Hearts

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.

unnamed-1Do 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.  unnamed

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we remember the many blessings you’ve asked for and received. xoxo.

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