This past week The Professor and I celebrated 19 years of marriage by going to a basketball game. Ha. It just goes to show that I’d follow my love boy anywhere 🙂 For the record, we also got away to Maine last weekend and ate a lot of cheese. Which just goes to show he’d follow me anywhere…especially if cheese is involved.
NINETEEN YEARS. It was yesterday and a million years ago. Today I’m feeling thankful. No matter what else we do in this life, my marriage and family will rank as my most important and joyful accomplishments.
Because he loves public displays of affection: 19 years ago we married, drove across the country to this place called New Hampshire, landing somewhere called a boarding school. I had a broken neck (from a trampoline mishap, but never mind 🙂 and a head full of dreams. You made them all come true. Love is patient, kind, and putting up with my floss on the bedside table. It’s four beautiful children, constant dishes, and mortgage payments. Life is hard and sometimes cloudy. Your love is the sun. And I love your forever ❤️.
Last summer my mom said: “We need to stay in touch better. I’ve been feeling disconnected.”
Remember when you and your siblings all lived at home under the same roof? Remember how you knew everything about each other? I never really thought there would come a day when I didn’t know all the details of my sibling’s lives.
I mean, we spent a lot of time together. Oink.
But it happened. We five siblings left for college, missionary service, and marriage.
Including my parents, we are now in four different states across the country.
The Professor’s family is in five different states and not all in the same country!
We read each other’s blogs and Facebook updates, but it isn’t quite the same as a nitty gritty written update about kitchen appliances and how potty training is really going.
And so, last summer, we began a family newsletter.
This happened around the same time I was listening to a Gretchen Rubin podcast. Apparently, her family has been doing this for years. And if Gretchen says it’s a good habit, it is!
We have two rules:
It’s okay to be boring
It’s okay to be short
We’ve been going strong for a year.
Every Sunday we write a little update of what happened during the week, and while no one is actually in charge of kicking off the weekly email, it always gets started by someone.
I tell you what, it’s been even more fantastic than I thought it would be. Surprisingly, family updates are never boring, and they’re rarely short. Once you start writing, you keep writing. And what’s boring to you (grocery shopping with twins), is fascinating to your siblings and parents.
There have been no downsides. On the contrary, we look forward to it every week. We know what’s going on with each other. We are as close as we’ve ever been. That is due, in large part, because we have made a conscious effort to stay in touch. We still text and call, but the weekly newsletter has been even more bonding.
Letter writing art. And while we don’t use a quill and scroll (maybe we should?), I save all the emails in an email file entitled “Journal.” Personalities come through in a different way when writing. Funny stories are shared, and sad ones too. With two deaths in the family this year, it was actually painful to start writing again. But it was also the best shared therapy we could have had.
Sometimes Brynne, my 12-year-old writes the newsletter. Here’s one of my favorites:
Makechnie Newsletter by Brynne
The Makechnie family had a great week. Cope was made student leader, Nelson is enjoying lacrosse, and Brynne and Paige both recited poems at their school for poetry night. Both of them did a great job and now have this coming week off from school. They are going to do many “fun” things, such as orthodontist appointments, cleaning, yard work, walking the dog, going through clothes, and taking out the garbage.
Up in NH we are enjoying the weather! Although some of the weather has been bad, most of it has been warm and sunny, and this week the weather is going to be lovely. Today J-A-Y came to church with the Makechnie family! We think he enjoyed it, but if he didn’t he was too polite to tell us that. Cope had other drama this week too. In Vocal Ensemble she fainted. Amy thinks she was just tired. It was quite dramatic, and Cope narrowly avoided throwing up on Jay’s shoes! That would have been terrible! Happy Passover!
Donations are what keep this newsletter running!!!
Ha. Brynne will give you the real dirt!
The day will come, when the darlings leave us.
It could be by boat:
Or a Ford truck:
Someday, my fab four won’t live under the same roof or swim in the same ocean:So. We must stay in touch!
Write to one another. Every week. Because you can. I can guarantee, you won’t regret it!
The idea of eating our way across New Hampshire was all Glenn’s fault, who knows the way to The Professors heart: food. More specifically, after reading an article about the best doughnuts in every single state, he decided we needed to do our duty and find out.
You know, some people visit every state to run marathons. Apparently, doughnut tasting is more up our ally. I’ll have you know, I’m still running! In fact, doughnut-tasting family reunions is why I HAVE to run!
While Glenn, Kim, and darling children were visiting from Saudi Arabia (yes, it’s true. they really live there) we decided to make a day of it: find the best doughnuts in New Hampshire AND taste test across state lines.
Of course we didn’t hit all the hot spots, but we did taste test at EIGHT establishments. For heavens sakes, is this what your family vacations look like?
Are you ready to visit New England yet? Here goes: the great New Hampshire, Vermont Food Tour of Summer 2016. Courtesy of us. The piggies.
Muriel’s Donuts in Lebanon, NH. This was the establishment that started it all. Rated as “#1 donut of New Hampshire,” the donuts were only 40 minutes up the road. Muriel is a cute, elderly woman working out of a tiny, but tidy, hovel, serving up warm, buttery, fluffy, melt-in-your mouth donuts (how the heck do you really spell “donut”?) Recommendation: Cinnamon sugar donut. Were they good? They were pretty darn good.
Before the cinnamon sugar…
2. King Arthur Flour Company. After the donuts we were ready for lunch! Oh man, for the love of all things baking – this store and cafe is a DREAM. Due to the large amount of flour I already had, I limited myself to one purchase: Amy’s Recommendation: a bag of Crystalized Ginger Bits ($15) for scones. Can’t wait!
The Professor’s Lunch: Brie and Apple Sandwich on Homemade King Arthur Flour Bread for $7-8.
3. Ben and Jerry’s! This is a serious operation that includes a tour of the facility, complete with holstein cows in the pasture and an earth conscious message. It’s like a tiny amusement park that hosts hundreds and hundreds of people a day. This is because, well, the ice-cream is fantastic and the tour is fun! And the gift center is full of earthy tie-die hats and shirts. Amy’s Recommendation: Chocolate Therapy! ahhhhh, prepare to get wrecked.
4. Chocolate made us want more chocolate. It was off to Lake Champlain Chocolates in Waterbury, VT. Featuring a “full selection of chocolates, a hot chocolate café, award-winning house made ice cream, hand-whipped fudge, Vermont souvenirs, and plenty of factory seconds.” Amy’s Recommendation:Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate, 54% Cacao, topped with Whipped Cream.
5. Next door? The Cabot Cheese Company in Waterbury, VT. Here we sampled no less than thirty cheeses. Amy’s Cheese Recommendation: Lamberton. I have no idea what that is exactly, but it was gooooood. Satisfyingly stuffed, we drove up the road to…
6. Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury-Stowe, VT. Oh my goodness, what a charming country store and mill, complete with free cider samples, gallon jugs to purchase, 50 cent apple cider donuts, and more Vermont cheese. Here is where my heart truly melted. I have to say, these were the best donuts of the day! Amy’s Recommendation: Fresh Pressed Cider and Apple Cider Donuts.
Cope: “This is like, low-key, the best cheese I’ve ever had”
Arthur-approved cider so you know it’s good!
7. Simon Pearce Glassblowing and Restaurant, in Queechee VT. Needing a reprieve from food, we stopped to see the glassblowing and drool over the handmade pieces we’ll never be able to afford 🙂 Also cool, is the water mill that provides the power for the entire Simon Pearce operation. The restaurant is upscale and pricey, but well worth a visit for special occasions.
8. Dinner? The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, NH. The Skinny Pancake specializes in a plethora of savory and sweet crepes priced between $9-$12. Atmosphere is intimate and family friendly. Amy’s Recommendation: for sweet, The Lovemaker, featuring strawberries, nutella, and whipped cream (do you like the name? :). Can’t go wrong. For savory, The Pizza Crepe. Huge kid hit. And guess what? Any crepe can be made with their gluten-free batter!
9. It was a good thing Morano’s Gelato in Hanover, NH was closed, but I’ve got to include it here because it’s hands-down the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, including my samples in Europe – it’s THAT GOOD. Amy’s Recommendation: Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk or Hazelnut. The combination is unbelievably swoon-worthy.
Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk Gelato for $3.89
We rolled ourselves home and collapsed into bed after a full day of gluttony. If you need Boston recommendations, I could do that too 🙂 But this is a bit more off the beaten path and a way to experience authentic New England in New Hampshire and Vermont.
We’ve been swimming and running ever since – I swear! But I’m considering a change of profession to food critic.
Enjoy! Questions? I’ll attempt to answer. Hope your summer is as tasty as ours!
19 years ago, for our honeymoon, The Professor and I drove a couple thousand miles from Salt Lake City and put down roots at a boarding school in a teeny tiny town in New Hampshire.
“We’ll stay 2-3 years and than fly away to a new adventure.”
Turns out boarding school life in rural New Hampshire was adventure enough. It’s become my home and the best place I could dream of to raise a family next door to hay fields, show donkeys, and holsteins. moo.
It’s also true that I left part of my heart out west. This year our family reunion was in Idaho and Utah, a blessing given the circumstances with Eric, Cassie and Scout. I took almost a 1000 photos and boy howdy, what a hard task it was to choose my favorites.
If you’ve never been out west, may these images inspire you to explore this beautiful world, especially with the ones you love.Flying over the midwest
The Professor is somehow always in the mix of flying and leaping children. He starts it.
Bear Lake, Idaho. Home of my childhood summers.
Vast amounts of food was served to small, and often screaming, children. Love them 🙂
Family photos taken
My sister, Andrea. The darling.
My fab four
Cope and Savannah. Bestie cousins, born 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day apart.
Bear Lake is not complete without a cemetery tour given by my father. Here we are told the stories of our ancestors. Some kiddies find it more riveting than others 🙂
The farm where my father grew up and where I roamed as a kid.
The milking parlor that used to be our clubhouse
This cow wasn’t interested in my photo shoot
The Professor in his element. We ate. A lot.
The three beauty queen cousins born within months of each other. All going into their senior year.
My dad. The Grandpa.
Brynne and The Professor went flying.
The cool kids
Grandma brought a treasure chest filled with magic and goodies. The teens made a treasure map for the wee ones to follow. Fun times.
Sweet Scout likes peas
The teens left us in Bear Lake for a day while they traveled to BYU-Idaho in Rexburg for a college admission tour. See Nate, of East Idaho News, driving? He assures me they didn’t really travel like this! RIGHT?
The rest of us hiked in Tony Grove, Idaho. There was snow!
And beautiful flowers And the surly Professor who wasn’t actually surly except for the camera 🙂
And my TWIN brother! Do you like his hair? I too could be a silver fox. But I’m not so brave. Oh, the issues we women have.
Back to flowers
And meadows and reflections of life Beautiful Bear Lake close to sunset After Bear Lake, it was back to Utah where the teens left me standing in the street as they drove off into the sunset. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?
There are so many LDS churches in Utah you can walk to church with your hand in your dad’s. I like that.
There’s also A LOT of ice-cream! Iceberg was a huge win!
My boy, Nellie Mak, has decided he wants to be a barber. His first willing victim: a cousin!
I have FAR TOO MANY selfies on my phone!
Another college tour: BYU in Provo, Utah. This is Cope’s first choice school and an extremely competitive one. The average GPA: 3.8. The average ACT: 28. Application process: this fall.
My college apartment, in front of the window that The Professor once broke with a snowball. It was true love from the start 🙂
A trip to Salt Lake City, isn’t complete without a tour of temple square. I love The Christus.
The conference center where the prophet and twelve apostles speak twice a year for General Conference. Also home to theater, musical events, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These organ pipes are the largest in the world. It is a tremendous building.
The Salt Lake City temple where we were married – for free! Swoon.
Atop a mountain in Draper, Utah, where my brother, Patrick, and wife, Natalie, recently moved.
Siblings. My sister, brother, and me.
My boy and his Uncle Patrick
Beautiful Utah skies
And back to Idaho
And more beautiful western skies
Be still my heart.It was very difficult to think we could have a “fun” reunion, with the loss of Cassie. But it was also comforting to feel that with every hike and lake swim, she was with us. I imagine she always will be. We tried to stay “up” and provide an unforgettable experience for our children, as they gathered, laughed, and sometimes cried, with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. What a blessing it was to be together, surrounded by the great beauty of the earth, and to remember the creator of it all.
Sometimes I should care more, but I just don’t. Where to go to dinner? I don’t really care (as long as it’s not McDonald’s). The Professor wants to choose the color of the van interior? Have at it. You want some input on a new living room rug design? Either one is fine. I just don’t care. It feels inconsequential. It doesn’t matter. Yes, sometimes I should care more. For example, I’m prone to impatiently hacking my hair off every few months (I really shouldn’t.)
But there are other Amy Absolutes:
Thou shalt not have a DVD player in the car. Because children should be bored occasionally, daydream, and look out the window. Maybe even talk to me.
Thou shalt not do all the chores. Because a working family is a happy family! And the mother is not the slave of the family.
Thou shalt not speak rudely to mom and dad. Because honoring thy mother and thy father is a worthy endeavor.
Thou shalt not use my toothbrush. Or I will never speak to you again. The Professor has had to ask for forgiveness on multiple occasions.
Oh yes, these things do matter. Technology use is my hot-button. I can get more fired-up about technology rules than most political candidates. Kids and iPhones. No. Why in the world would I put that device in my child’s pocket when there is a world to explore? When technology addiction is rampant, when a child’s brain is so malleable and still forming?
No, we shall frolic and sing with our bonnets and aprons on at all times….
The hills are alive…
I’m sad and terrified when so many of our children do not know how to read a textbook and pull out cohesive “take-aways.” When The Classics are “boring.” When Google is so easy, that “hard” is avoided at all costs. When English courses have to cut out whole books, curriculum, and reading because our teens just don’t have the brain power to sit still, absorb, and ponder Anna Karenina. I liked this post.
And yeah, I blame technology for some of that. I read less because of my phone. It sits on my bedside table, putting me to sleep and waking me up. All the dings, alerts, and Twitter notifications that go off in our pockets, pulling us away from absorbing, focusing, and being “all in.” I see the effect in my classroom every.single.day. I fight that battle every.single.day.
Two years ago I wrote about my gollum-like fascination after finally getting an iPhone. It’s been life-changing. I can actually find your house now with that nifty GPS! I keep an on-line calendar, use reminders, check Instagram, comment on Facebook and blogs, schedule appointments – I LOVE my phone. I love it. I love it too much. Which is why I wanted to keep it out of the hands of my darlings as long as possible.
“My friends make fun of me everyday,” The Boy tells me. After revealing he had to ask permission to use technology at home, his friend literally rolled on the floor laughing. Now, every time he sees The Boy using his iPad at school he says, “Nelson, did you ask permission??!”
Come on now, are technology rules SO WRONG?
Last month when I assigned a homework assignment, it involved downloading the Adobe Voice app. Every single student whipped out their smart phone. I realized maybe my high school kids were right…they were the oddballs. But aren’t oddballs adorable?
My oldest darling, Cope, is a junior in high school. She has a flip phone, which is “absolutely mortifying.” The Boy, a freshman, flat out refused. He would rather not have a phone than to be seen with something “so lame.” Which sounds terribly materialistic, but there are a few things in a boy’s life that really matter (girls, meat, shoes…and phones?)
Let us back track to last week when The Professor said, “I think we should get you a new phone for Mother’s Day.” My contract was up, you see, and I’d been drooling over the new and improved camera feature. I didn’t object to The Professor’s wishes 🙂
Yesterday, we giddily (read: me) visited a Verizon store (where the customer service is out of this world, awesome) and discovered that not only could I get a new phone, but we could upgrade to a better plan (text me! I now have unlimited texting!!!!) and also transfer my daughter’s phone number to my older iPhone and pay LESS than what we were paying for her flip phone.
What’s a mom to do?
We took the deal.
Yep, I sold my child’s imagination for a few silver coins. The world is ending.
I had a moment. “Wait, wait, wait! I only want her to be able to take photos, text and call – THAT’S IT!” It turns out we can control the cellular data (for $5/month!) but if she has wi-fi? Well, it’s free reign.
I felt ashamedly resigned. I rationalized like this: she’s a good girl. she has a good imagination. she still loves to read. and sing. and yeah, she’s a bit addicted to youtube videos but mostly if they involve Lin-Manuel or cheesy BYU studio C outtakes. Also, I know that technology, used the right way, is AWESOME. We can change the world right from home!
At least, as far as I know. Maybe I don’t know. Maybe they’re all tech addicts at 3a.m. If you know of such behavior, you better tell me.
We held out for almost 17 years. Maybe it was time to extend the leash a little further. In a few short years, mom isn’t going to be around to set the parameters (I weep.)
The best part was having our stellar Verizon gal, Kelly, transfer Cope’s old number and plan to my older iPhone, knowing her flip phone would suddenly stop working. She was going to freak out. When Cope came home from school I showed her my new phone, which she drooled over, as I casually asked, “I called you today – why didn’t you call me back?”
“Something is wrong with my phone.”
“You must have dropped it.”
“No, mom, I swear. I didn’t drop it!”
“How sad,” I said. She sighed.
At this point I very slowly took out my old iPhone. Before I could say anything she screamed. And started hopping up and down. It was rather wonderful.
After having yet another technology discussion (I like to be thorough 🙂 ) she reached out her hands, snatched the iPhone, and whispered, “Precious.”
Heaven help us all.
Alas, it’s not all roses around here. The Boy has taken this injustice very personally. We obviously have favorite children.
“Mom,” he says, following me around. “You’ve got to let me have Snapchat now – you gave Cope an iPhone!”
That, my friends, is the latest battle. What say ye? Do tell.
Happy February! Am I the only one happy that January is over (in 4 short hours!)? Now that sickness has swept the house (last one standing!) we can move on to the month of love!
Speaking of love, I bring you the “Yes, I’d Love To!” Jar.
Many months ago I heard about this idea on a podcast (wish I could remember which one!) The darlings became my guinea pigs. The idea is simple:
1. Put a jar on the counter
2. Label it: “Yes, I’d Love To.”
3. Every time someone asks you to do something, respond with “Yes, I’d love to!”
4. For every “Yes, I’d love to” response, put a cotton ball (or something similar) in the jar
5. When the jar is filled up, go for ice-cream
Of course the darlings liked the ice-cream idea. And it became somewhat comical how fast they could fill the jar up – like in five minutes – by asking ridiculous questions and rushing to make a basket.
I told them we had to play for real.
My older kids humor me, even when obviously feeling “I’m-way-too-old-for-your-games-mom.” (I like to live in the dream world where they actually like my cheesy games.)
And so we began.
“Nelson, would you please get me a fork?”
Instead of, “Get it yourself,” he caught himself. “Yes, I’d love to, Brynne,” in yes, a somewhat sarcastic voice. But he still handed her a fork.
“Mom, would you please get me some milk?”
Instead of, “I just sat down” or “You have legs” I caught myself trying to ever-so-cheerfully set the example with, “Why yes, I’d love to!”
“Cope, would you please cut me an apple?”
Instead of a flat, “No,” Cope darling sighed, but eyeing that jar in need of filling and with ice-cream fairies dancing in her head, responded: “Why yes, I’d love to.” Add some eye-batting. And a high-pitched Cinderella voice.
Maybe we’re just competitive. Maybe we like games. Maybe we just wanted ice-cream, but the jar began to fill. And seeing the jar fill, made us want to fill it faster.
At first I wondered if I was just teaching them to be fake or only acting for a prize.
But then again, we nudge our children all the time to do things they don’t actually feel like doing. “Say thank you,” “Tidy up your space,” “Be kind to the new kid,” “Write a note.” In fact, isn’t that what parenting is all about? Isn’t this part of the future training of America? Do the thing you really don’t want to do because it’s just the right thing to do!
Also, because it was on my brain, a quote from philosopher and psychologist, William James:
“Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.” -William James
Oh yes, I love it. Armed with James and his mighty words of wisdom, I felt completely justified in the training of my guinea pigs with the “Yes, I’d Love To” jar.
Based on research for Better Than Before (fabulous new book on habits) Rubin found if we want to feel a certain way, we can act that way first.
It’s really hard to change our emotional state just by wanting to change it (though Mindset surely is powerful.) But it might be easier if we ACT first and let the emotional state follow.
Wasn’t that so true when I was at home with little kids. Just the act of changing out of my pajama bottoms and doing my hair as if I was going to a real job – which motherhood surely is – changed my whole day from slogging through to more-happily mothering.
It works. It really does. When I’m irritated and snappish with a child, it works wonders for me to laugh. Or hug. Or smile.
“Fake it ‘Til You Make it” works.
Isn’t it the truth that when we speak more kindly, we feel more kindly?
It doesn’t really matter if we want to get a fork for our sister. Get the fork. It makes her happy. And guess what…we all know acting kinder makes us happier, too.
Brain research supports this idea. Act the way you want to feel. Not the other way around. If you’re walking around yelling and slamming doors, that only makes you want to yell and slam some more doors. Your brain says: “I must be really angry!”
Harvard research says that the act of giving thanks actually makes us feel happier. Such a simple and quick fix for general grumpiness.
I used to hear that boys should go “punch something” to get their aggression out. Perhaps they should make some cookies for the neighbors instead.
Feeling shy? Introduce yourself! I swear it works wonders. Suddenly we’re confidently chatting our way through an awkward social situation.
This experiment suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, because they can’t make angry, frowning faces. Crazy, huh?!
This phenomenon happened to me the other day.
I was feeling pretty miserable. My energy was low. Consistently telling myself how much I hate January doesn’t help. I had to take a car full of kids all the way to Concord, be in charge of an youth activity, and then drive everyone home again. Growling would just not do (because not all of the occupants were my kids 🙂 ) I wanted to lay back down on the bed, read, and be served warm toast. Instead I got out of my sweats and pulled on a pair of jeans. I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on some mascara and started the carpool. By the time I got home I was a totally different person. I was actually happy.
Was I being fake? I don’t think so. I think I was choosing to be the person I wanted to be that night.
The aftermath of the “Yes, I’d Love to” Jar was this: over time the darlings lost interest in putting cotton balls in the jar. But I did notice that the “yes, I’d love to” phrase hung around for much longer. It still comes out of everyone’s mouth once in awhile. The jar works best if it’s on the counter for awhile and then put away for a season. It’s like a special toy – best to be pulled out only occasionally. And then when it’s pulled out again, it’s fun.
So I ask you – How do you want to feel?
Then act that way.
The jar hasn’t been out for months. But I think it’s time again. The dishwasher needs emptying 🙂
The problem with educating your children is that they become…educated. When Cope came home from Ocean Classroom (and after a period of love and kindness) I was informed we were doing it all wrong – “We need to get chickens again and eat our own eggs. And we need a goat. Mom, that face wash is ruining the ocean! And FOR SHAME – YOU’RE USING PLASTIC???!”
Enthusiastic she was saving the world from her wasteful and consumerist mother, I had a silent counter-argument… just wait, honey. just wait until you’re a mom packing lunches and walking through knee-deep snow to water chickens only to find them slaughtered by a weasel and golly gee, can’t a girl use her favorite face wash? Oh, and yes, let me skip outdoors to milk the goats daily. I shall wear braids and an apron. And sing.
Sometimes it’s fun to be patronizing.
Now the girl is taking Psychology. She spent Sunday afternoon educating her mother. Hey parents, leave those kid alone.
“Mom, what do you think of this: in the UK there are adventure parks called The Land, designed in the 40s, where kids can make fires and uses knives and saws.”
I said: “Fires?”
Apparently this is a thing. This adventure playground looks like it was inspired by a junk yard. “It’s one of dozens in the UK fostering an endangered human behavior…RISKY PLAY.”
“Kids who are not at risk or who don’t feel like they’re at risk (at danger) or don’t find risk in socially acceptable ways – like handle scissors before age 6, flip pancakes, chop potatoes – they will either become afraid of everything and not know how to handle real life situations OR they will seek out risk in socially unacceptable ways like doing drugs…”
She spoke passionately, wearing her brand new smarty-look glasses and gave me these gems to consider:
“If you’re always hovering and giving stuff, helping, never letting them fail, they’re much more likely to feel entitled, angry, and ungrateful.”
I took mental notes. No more hovering. No more stuff. Fail, darlings, fail!
“If you never let kids feel like they can handle themselves than they’ll never be able to handle themselves.”
This discussion made me think of my own childhood, a more relaxed time, where I was a free-range child in a Nebraska suburb. We roamed unsupervised for hours at a time. When I was 5 years old me and my twin brother walked to school. Alone. It was a mile there, a mile home. We often got side-tracked. It was glorious.
Our mother drove us maybe once a year. No matter how late we were running – and we were often running – We walked in sun, rain, and snow with other unsupervised children.
Once I arrived at school at 9:30 (school started at 9.) “Where were you?” my kindergarten teacher asked. “Just walking to school.” I remember how big her eyes got.
In second grade I picked up a dead squirrel in the road, and brought it to school for show ‘n tell (my teachers loved me).
We got into all sorts of mischief. Those memories remain some of the happiest of my life.
Oh, guess what else we did? We jumped on trampolines! (okay, okay, I broke my neck but that was a fluke.)
As I’ve grown up and become a mother, it’s less socially acceptable to let my children play or walk places independently. Parents get arrested for such things. We’re meant to feel like we’re sub-par parents unless we’ve got EYES ON THE CHILD every single second.
Once, when Cope was six months old, I gave her a fork to play/eat with. The women came out of the woodwork – OH MY GOSH WHAT ARE YOU DOING????!!!! YOU GAVE HER A FORK!!! AHHH! SHE’LL POKE HER EYE OUT AND DIE!!! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? That fork was snatched so fast out of her hand it made both our heads spin. Publicly shamed, I didn’t make that mistake again. We gave her forks in private. And she learned to eat with it.
I partly blame the media. With the speed of news, we hear about every kidnapping, car crash, accident, drowning, and child murder that ever happens. The thought sends chills and horror through my body. But guess what? Kidnapping rates haven’t gone up. Child accidents haven’t gone up. Just because we walk our third-graders to school or teach them never to talk to strangers, doesn’t lower their risk of being kidnapped. The rates have remained the same since the 70’s.
Cope quotes Rosin again, “We’re always saying kids are growing up so much faster now – they’re not. They’re just mimicking adult behaviors. And then when it comes time for them to exercise responsibility and become adults they don’t know how. They can’t.”
My own mother studied human behavior extensively in the 90s. She hated the 1980’s self-esteem movement. “Telling yourself how wonderful you are all the time is stupid,” I can hear her saying in my head. “Teaching kids how TO DO THINGS makes them feel good about themselves.” Which was why I scrubbed the disgusting kitchen floor every Saturday. And golly gee, I do feel good about myself!
By skipping milestones (not letting our kids cross the street, get jobs, walk to the store alone) are we actually depriving our kids of becoming capable? How sad. Because that’s not the intention of any parent I know.
When I was in college I had a roommate who went home after one week. I felt terribly for her. She just couldn’t hack it. She told me she had never done her own laundry or dishes before. She was too scared to find her classes. I was shocked her parents would actually let her come home. I imagined my parents saying, “Are you joking? Suck it up. After a semester we’ll discuss.” (obviously there are exceptions to every situation!)
Want more? Read this: How To Land Your Kid in Therapy by Lori Gottlieb: “Why the obsession with our kid’s happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods.” Yikes.
Obviously I need to be a tad more neglectful, let the darlings feel a little more discomfort, fail more and bigger – let them discover that they are perfectly capable of getting right back up.
I vow to try.
But children, beware. Does this also mean: no more driving to school with your forgotten gym shorts, requesting a teacher, hounding the coach because your didn’t get enough playing time, or worse…writing your homework essay? (for the record, I’m batting 50% at these four.)
“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau
Oh yes, it is that time of year. When I feel absolutely giddy about GOALS.
But did you know? Only 8% of all people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?
On Sunday, we had a family meeting, I excitedly gave each child their very own Goal Binder (yep, I know how to have FUN!) We gathered round and made covers.
First, we reflected on 2015. What was great? What wasn’t so great?
We all agreed, Tenny getting hit by a car was a low point 🙁 Also, Paige did not achieve “cutting stuff.” I don’t know what to tell you. Except you can learn a lot about the people living under your roof…
Next, we wrote down what we wanted to accomplish in the next six months.
To make it a little easier, we divided our goals into categories: spiritual, educational, physical, and personal.
After all the reading and listening I’ve done this year, I’ve learned:
The best way to keep a goal:
Be specific (“be healthy” is not specific. “Eat 5 fruits and vegetables every day” is better)
Set a deadline
Write down the “next action step”
Be accountable to someone other than yourself
The “next action step”
Writing down the next action step is crucial. For instance, you want to run a 1/2-marathon in May? Then maybe your next action step is to download a 1/2-marathon program. Maybe it’s driving to the Runner’s Ally to buy a pair of shoes. Maybe you need to ask a friend if she’ll be your running buddy every Saturday for the long run.
Want to eat 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day? Perhaps the next action step is to write down some fruits and vegetables that you will actually eat, on your grocery list.
If your goal is to hang family pictures on the wall, then your next action step might be: “Go to Lowe’s and buy nails” or “Gather pictures I want to hang.”
The point is: break big goals up into small, easy steps. Post in a place you will see them.
Wisdom says it’s best to only have 5-7 goals at one time. Otherwise we get overwhelmed. But hey, even 1 or 2 goals is great.
Being accountable to someone else
I have to have running buddies – not every day – but at least once a week. It’s huge for my progress. We text each other, check in, sign up for races together.
My friend, Kelly, wants to run her first 1/2-marathon this June. She schedules her run in her calendar. This appointment cannot be broken! We also email throughout the week to talk about any issues and to keep her pumped up! Accountability, my friends, works.
I should probably have a “cleaning-the-house” accountability buddy. But. Nah.
After the six month goals, we made a list of the goals to accomplish in one year:I encouraged specificity and next action items (working on that 🙂
Next came some fun speculation. We looked into the future. Where do you want to be in life? Who do you want to be? We wrote goals down for:
the next six months
the coming year
the next five years
the next ten years
the next twenty years In five years, Paige wants to start her Personal Progress Program (our church’s fantastic youth program), play on her mama’s soccer team(!), and make high honor roll. Her mama approves!
In twenty years, when she is 28, Paige plans on having eight children. Hey, I said be specific!
In 20 years, this darling hopes to be “low-key” wealthy. “Enough to be comfortable, but not mad rich.” Made me laugh.
It was great to see Brynne wants to be brushing her teeth 2 x a day in 20 years 🙂
And it’s good to know I’m going to be a grandmother surrounded by many many little tots.
Thank you, darlings, for giving us a small peek into your personal goals!
There are tons of goal-setting methods out there, countless “how-to” posts and articles. But however you want to improve, I suggest just starting. See where it takes you. Find a method that works and begin, even if you’ve failed before. Procrastination fosters big dreams but kills big goals.
Did you know? A person will set the same New Year’s resolution 10 different times without getting it done?
I love goals, but I’m also reminded that there is a time and place to JUST STOP. To BE STILL. To be happy right where we are right at this moment. I have struggled with contentment for a long time, always wanting to be better at being me. All this “becoming” and growing up has led me to a good place, but now? Stop. Breathe. Say thank you.
We are doing a wonderful job being. Just being. It’s a form of gratitude to sit still and say “thank you for this. And that’s all.”
There are a thousand ways to be a good mother, even if it’s different from everyone else around you. Be happy with that. We don’t always need to be a “BETTER” version of yesterday. Sometimes, we just need to BE.
Maybe that’s a goal for 2016.
Goals shouldn’t make us more busy. No, instead, writing out goals should help us focus on the things that matter most. Goals help me not drift or become too driven by my own ambitions.
“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits . . . You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. . . .” -Flannery O’Connor
Happy New Year – to your best year!
And of course I’d like to know – do you write out goals for New Year’s?
Paige has been asking for an elf on the shelf for years. “They come to your house and watch you and you can’t touch them and please please please, I NEED an elf!”
Inspired by my friend, Lindsey, and this post, twin elves arrived at our house while the girls were at school. There was much shrieking! After Paige read the note she said, “no, no, no we can’t TOUCH THEM!” So they ended up moving themselves every night after we were in bed. They are magic, after all.
To get into the Christmas spirit we did our family annual “secret santa.” How tricky could we be? Always fun!
Sometimes the elves got into the pretzels, but mostly they reminded us to do nice things. I found this hysterical.
We bought our tree from the local fire department, decorated it, and had a fight about the ornaments…we repented later with tears and apologies. Yep, just keeping it real here.
Our church youth group went caroling at a retirement center. After a shaky start, we sang with gusto and had a great night 🙂 Our elves continued to move, hanging out in odd places.
Our tree has a duct tape star, made by my Nellie-mak many years ago. He now thinks it looks trashy. I refuse to get rid of it!
Paige left little snack crumbs for the elves. If we get mice I’ll blame it on Christmas.
Our elves speak Spanish!
Brynne proved to be my real Christmas elf, addressing Christmas cards. Whew.
Apparently, our address is difficult to find:
Did you know, one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy!
Making cookies makes me happy…
It’s one of the most fun things we do as a family in December. Even when Nelson tries to walk out of the picture. Note the weather? AWESOME.
My children were grumpy there was no snow whilst I not-so-secretly expressed my great glee at 50-degree December temps. It makes the morning run so much better. And I know…the white stuff is coming. Christmas favorites.
It was an odd year, too. My children are getting older. They have amazing opportunities! Nelson left before Christmas to go ski in Canada with his Nordic team.
Cope went to Germany to au pair for her nice and nephew!
I think she really ate a lot of treats and bratwurst. Incredible experience!
Finally, all my children came home.
Christmas Eve is always special. We read the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2, Matthew, and The Book of Mormon. This is our angel declaring the good news!
Andy Rooney said, “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.” This is the “before” shot.
I bought myself some Wicked Good Slippers from L.L. Bean 50% off. Life is complete.
After the presents were open, The Professor left us Christmas morning for a basketball tournament in England! What???! But guess what? They won! And strutted the famous crosswalk in front of Abbey Road Studio. Proud of our #hornets!
We’ve missed our daddy. Especially when the basement flooded. I can’t talk about it yet.
But… It snowed! And the kiddies were happy. I’m adjusting. It’s beautiful! And our dear Mr. Goody plowed me out when I got stuck in the driveway. Hey, I’m a feminist and all that but I sure like men with tractors! Obsessed with brussel sprouts this season. I’ve got a knock-out recipe…
Days before it snowed we had a photo shoot. My parents arrived from Arizona. Yahoo!
Striking a pose. Ewwwww…my feet are getting wet! Mom, I can’t sit down on the wet rocks – my pants! So he sat on his sister’s hand. “This is so wrong,” he said. But aren’t they cute? Walking down the catwalk That’s enough, paparazzi.
So there you have it. Our Christmas. Food. Our beloveds. Snow. Presents. Love.
My friend, Scott, sent me this article by Tim Urban, an author/illustrator. It’s called “The Tail End.” He writes: “I’m 34, so let’s be super optimistic and say I’ll be hanging around drawing stick figures till I’m 90. If so, I have a little under 60 winters left.”
But his bigger point was that he’s used up about 90% of his time with the people he’s loved best: his parents and siblings.
I’m thinking about my children now. They spend so much time together now. But these long December days together are dwindling. They are going incredible places. How many more moments do they have with each other? How many more Christmases will we spend together?
Gee, aren’t I a bundle of fun???
I’m just saying: The Tail End has made me feel more intentional this season, more mindful of this time that is flying by.
When you actually draw a picture, marking out the days you’ve had with your parents, siblings, children, best friends, like Tim Urban did, it becomes starkly clear that although you might not be at the end of your life, you may be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important, and the most loved people in your life.
So this season, I especially liked this:
First there was a little family. Now there’s our little family. Your little family.
I hope that this Christmas season we made the most of our time together. But if not, remember: tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a NEW YEAR!
The most important part of Thanksgiving dinner has always been the people seated around the table. Though pie is surely a close second.
On the eve of this Thanksgiving, I’m feeling thankful for those around my table.
Two months ago our Cope sailed away on schooner Roseway. That was weird. Interesting how the whole family dynamic shifted.
My friend, Lindsey, who sailed the ocean blue many many years ago, nodded her head at the strangeness. “Yeah, and she’s the oldest of your kids. She’s your captain. Your captain is missing.”
Yeah, that was right. Our captain was missing!
The mates missed their captain.
In the end, it wasn’t all bad. 1st mate, Nellie Mak, had to start high school without her. I was sad about this fact, but many others thought it terrific; the boy would have to navigate high school on his own. And he did just fine.
The best part of having someone gone is realizing how much you like having them around.
Brynne was particularly excited about taking over the captain’s sleeping quarters. She got busy right away, cleaning and organizing all the captain’s drawers, throwing out what she deemed “nonessential junk.” (isn’t that thoughtful? ha :). She made the bed, fluffed the pillows…and then slept in her sister’s room exactly once. It just wasn’t the same.
In the meantime, Cope and her crew mates were having a most amazing adventure (and thank you to all the ocean picture takers; none of these are my photos!) GoPro included!
And the girl was happy. She saw the world in a way she has never seen it before. Lucky! She learned many a sailing skill. For instance, how and where to barf over the side of a boat is an art form: “Not on the high side and definitely not into the wind!” She sailed in stormy seas and calm waters. She had spiritual experiences and felt close to the divine. She witnessed almost magical creatures. Best of all? She missed us, too.
She wrote home often (we were lucky!) while being tossed and turned by the waves. She understood what a big deal it was, for a hand to stretch forth and say, “Peace. Be Still.” And her soul was stilled, too. The crew stopped at many an island And had a 14-day journey from Florida to Puerto Rico with no land in sight (“that was about the coolest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”)
She stood at the helm, learning how to sail Roseway, (“much harder than it looks,”). She had a watch group that was on every 8 hours, 24 hours a day. “If you’re off just one degree you’re in big trouble! Now I know what all those conference talks are really about…”
At night, they were required to be locked into a harness when on deck. Because, as their instructor told them, “If you go overboard in the middle of the night, we’ll never find you.”Cheerio!
This was an adventure, but it was also SCHOOL with no electronic devices for two months (makes a mama happy!) They studied Maritime Literature, Maritime Science, Maritime History, Nautical Mathematics, and Seamanship. The closer to the Caribbean they sailed, the warmer it became.
As ocean water was the only way to get clean, baths were super fun! It was truly a life-changing adventure she will never forget.
And she got a wicked-good tan.
The anticipation of greeting our girl and her mates felt more exciting than Christmas!
It’s been a tough fall for our community. We’ve lost friends in a variety of ways. We’ve all been contemplating how exactly we are supposed to navigate loss. Some people come home. Some people don’t. Some still wander.
With Cope gone, this feeling felt especially heightened. I had the morbid mother thoughts, what if she never came home? How would we go on without our captain?
It was also heartening to see the way our community rallied around each other. As one friend put it, “If I’m getting sick, I’m getting sick here.”
When things were beginning to calm again, our beloved doggie, Lord Tennyson, was hit by a car (our van!) when he decided to test the whole New Hampshire Live Free or Die motto, by making a run through the electric fence and into the road. He did live free (but nearly died) .
It was terribly traumatic, with three kids in the car, going to school. I held him in my arms as he bled from his mouth, nose, and left eye and I could not stop crying. I realized that we could not lose our best beloved!
When the kids were in school (worried sick) The Professor and I drove to the vet. The Professor was sure it was the end. I could not handle this assessment and forced him to think more positively, darn it!
Tenny was away for three days. Every time I came home I missed him. He wasn’t there to greet me. He wasn’t there when I left the house. He wasn’t following me around the kitchen. I hadn’t realized how much I talk to my small and furry friend 🙂 His muddy, annoying paw prints all over the kitchen floor were suddenly endearing.
So it is with children, isn’t it?
The vet was “pleasantly surprised” that he recovered so well. His left eye was sutured shut for a week so that he looked like a pirate, (so fitting for our captain’s arrival.) He may or may not see out of his eye again, but he lived to bark another day.
It’s gut-wrenching to have your people (and beloved pets) leave you. Sometimes it’s needful. It’s good. But before Cope left, I kind of thought that other kids left home, not mine. Aren’t we still that young couple with babies in diapers? What a terrible realization…they will leave. Every last one.
Good thing I like The Professor so much. Even when he’s cranky (kisses, honey! 🙂
A friend wrote to me, after I posted about Cope leaving on her ocean trip:
“Hi. I hope I did not sound patronizing in my note to you. If anything, your post touched a nerve and I am in a rough place over this “growing up and growing a way” stage. My deepest fear has been overwhelming me lately and I am at a loss about how to cope with it. *** is being what I hope is typical of 21…she is pulled away and doing her own thing. Sometimes that shows as being thoughtless . Her own wants and needs top everything and it is painful, to see and to experience. I desperately want her to WANT to be around me on occasion and to feel connected, and she is on her own course. Yes, growing up and having “wings” is good – I am just praying that her foundation is with me as well, and that we can have a good relationship into her adulthood. Ocean seems so long ago, and …she came back. Now I am waiting again….and my heart hurts.”
Sometimes my heart hurts, too.But other times it sings.
One way or the other, I believe this: we all make our way back home.
On the eve of this Thanksgiving, we are cherishing the captain’s return. This Thanksgiving there are no empty chairs. Or dog beds.
I am thankful for those seated around my table. I’m also thankful for those who have departed, who are on different life journeys, to places we cannot yet comprehend. In a different way, they are with us, too.
“We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another…that we may all sit down in heaven together.” -Lucy Mack Smith
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we enjoy one another and give great thanks to be surrounded by the ones we love so much.