Category Archives: home

Would You Like a Valentine? {some easy favorites}

Let’s start with the treats, shall we?

1. Dark decadent homemade chocolate. With only three all-natural ingredients, this chocolate is so easy to make, very tasty, and GOOD for your body!


2. The Valentine Fruit Heartfruit-heart

3. A Valentine Breakfastpuffpancakes

4. Oreo Truffles and Chocolate Covered Strawberries DSC_0096

5. My Favorite Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie  (thick, soft, and delicious!)DSC_0070-1024x680

6. Ipod Valentines (comes with a free printable!) Yes, ironic given my technology rants 🙂


7. My favorite Valentine tradition: the annual heart attack! I thought we might be getting too old for this, but we did this again last night and nope, never too old for this activity. Cut out heart, write someone nice for each person in the family, and then read them out loud. By the end, EVERYONE is smiling: Grandpa, Uncle, Dad, teenagers, and pre-teens. Even the dog got a valentine! Hang them on the wall and you’ve got a reminder that you like one another.

paige1 momReally?



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?


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



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 and enter the coupon code maisymak.

Enjoy technology, make some rules, stay strong.


The “Yes, I’d Love To,” Jar

unnamed-1Happy 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.

unnamed-2 unnamed-3

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.

An avid Gretchen Rubin fan, I loved her advice on episode #42 of her podcast: Act the Way You Want to Feel.

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 🙂



Giving Thanks For Those Around the Table {our captain has come home!}

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.21514238710_9077ed7728_k That was weird.21702166825_341453a866_k 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!

21711410531_aa2d356702_k 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.

21875132735_0208668129_k 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.21687426488_f52189c36c_k She saw the world in a way she has never seen it before. Lucky!22558649980_3dc617710a_k 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!”22872751082_f1d8bb8536_k She sailed in stormy seas and calm waters. She had spiritual experiences and felt close to the divine.22412118245_12343fcd3e_k She witnessed almost magical creatures.21597567873_9cf2ac535e_h 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.” 22733008222_b0839a4c6c_k And her soul was stilled, too.23103932742_1e91418660_k The crew stopped at many an island22218588485_769ebe5c31_h 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.”22031712999_731af85a3a_kCheerio!

22757763871_67232d081c_k 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. 22467899878_0a793ddaa5_kThe closer to the Caribbean they sailed, the warmer it became.

IMG_3279-1 As ocean water was the only way to get clean, baths were super fun!22698193850_d26566e15e_k 22218590875_2418eed932_k 23091755876_91372dedcd_k 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.IMG_3036But 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.

And don’t forget to enjoy lots of pie, too 🙂



Anna Karenina, Beans, and Dishwasher Love

Miles Run:  O
Toe still says NO.

So I found other things to love…
I love that my 13-year-old still lines up her dolls and favorite animals
And reads Anna Karennina in bed

I love blackberries picked in summer mixed into muffins in winter.  If we had a working oven I would love to actually cook them.  seven more days until working oven…then maybe I’ll love lessons on patience.  

I love blackberries in smoothies…and that it’s almost blackberry season again!
I love that Brynne was scared because she was the youngest on the team and had never played basketball before, but she still put herself out there. I love that she knows what brave is.

I love that the boy wants to be like his dad

I love that I have a book problem.  I don’t love that we have a closet problem. 
I love protective armor

And pick-up-sticks

And small creatures even though my mom says they’ll destroy my house
I love sweet sorry notes.  It reminds me that I need to write one tonight.
I love walks in winter with strollers and babies, and I’m loving spring walks even more

I love crazy socks and knobby knees
And pets so real they talk

I love beans in mashed potatoes.  Do you remember doing this?  I hope you do.

After three looooong weeks, I love that the dishwasher is fixed.  It required the man coming into the house and flicking the breaker.  He didn’t even say, “duh.”  I appreciate him keeping that thought to himself.  

But my poor children.  They’re just crying their eyes out, wishing they could go a few more weeks doing the dishes by hand.  Shame, that.

My Love Affair With the Vacuum

I have a love affair going on with the vacuum.  It began innocently enough – these things always do.  It happened after I was married, after the honeymoon phase, when the cares of responsibility were great.  When my husband was busy at extra-help sessions and I was the lone force holding down the dormitory, molding twelve teenage boys into men.  I’m sure that’s how they see it.  

While they knocked on the door to ask for parietal visitations (a girl visitor), a note signed, or to use my microwave, I was upstairs putting my wee ones to bed.

“Yes!” I’d yell down the stairs in response to the use of the microwave.

“No!” I’d yell down the stairs in response to “can I watch t.v. during study hall?”

Those were the days.

After bedtime I would crawl downstairs, dead-tired, and go check in all the boys, track down the missing ones, then come back into our faculty apartment.

And that’s when falling apart could well happen.  She could come undone.

Our carpet was a dark teal.  It showed every crumb, speck, sand granule.  I have a clear image of dried play-doh all over the carpet.  It was red.  Toys, books, dried spaghetti.  I would inwardly beg for the millioneth time, for housekeeping to drop by and work their magic on my filthy carpet.

Then Daddy would come through the door and life looked a wee bit better.  He never said, “What did you do all day – can’t you clean the house?”  Without many words we would start to clean the downstairs.  It was a nightly ritual I began to enjoy.

Because at the end, the vacuum was pulled out of the closet.  I always wanted to get to the vacuum first – I would actually rush to find it.  With the flip of the switch it began to transform my life.  With a brush stroke across the dark teal, the dirt and crumbs and occasional toy would be instantly gone.  Life was CLEAN again.  And yes, the tired mother had accomplished a great task!  Order was restored, we could begin again.  Tomorrow was another day and as God as my witness, I would never be dirty again!

Until the next day when the hurricanes would whirl their way downstairs and fling their spaghetti and drop muffin crumbs for the invisible birds.  I learned quickly NOT to vacuum wet rice.  No, it was much more effective to wait until it was dry.  No, the vacuum would come later, and all would be well in the world.

So you see, it was an appliance that was hard to compete with.  The mixer might make me chocolate-chip cookies, but the vacuum has transformative powers that outweigh even chocolate.  And that’s saying a lot.

This love affair continues today.  I do not sweep.  Unless it’s an emergency, we’re having company, or dear vacuum is in the shop.  I take it there frequently, for tune-ups and so forth, to show reciprocal love.

Most (all?) household chores I find tedious, but not vacuuming. 

Sometimes, in my zeal to feel good again, I vacuum too quickly

And there is SO.MUCH.STUFF.  Microscopic Squinkies (if you don’t know what those are you’re really missing out); Polly Pocket shoes, dresses, and swimsuits.  Popped balloons, earrings, small scraps of paper, shoelaces, rubber bands, hair balls…

The children know:  If it’s on the ground, it’s fair game.  I will go after it.  Little is spared.  Socks, necklaces, cereal, erasers, hair ties, candy, doggie, small toes?  Tough cookies.  Mom!!!!  What?  I ask.  Move your feet!

In my zealousness this week, I vacuumed up Cope’s memory stick.

And I had a choice.  To tell or not to tell?  An inner debate ensued.  She had left the memory stick out.  However, she had left it out on the end table.  It was a little bit a stretch for tough cookies.  Hmmm.  How much did she need that 68-page story she was writing?


I went digging.

And believe me, opening a vacuum bag in this house is not only enlightening, but disgusting.

But I found it.  It so closely resembled a mouse I had to fish it out quickly and be done with it.  What else was in there?  A purple hair tye, a blue band-aid, a dryer sheet?

Brynne and I couldn’t resist handing it over to Cope without cleaning it off first. She shrieked in protest, making the entire experience worth it.  

I put in a new bag and went on my merry way.  In less than five minutes I had accidentally vacuumed up Brynee’s ipod charger.  Dagnabbit.  Another inner debate.  Brand new bag.  ipod charger.  I showed mercy and opened that bag and fished it out.  Much less disgusting.

And then I was down to the very last bag.  It was a nice, expensive one.  The cloth hyper-allergenic bags I only buy when I’m feeling not-so-poor (translation: once).  

So off I went, vacuuming and singing a song that resembled that of Snow Whites cleaning up after her messy little dwarves.  I even opened the cupboards and pulled out the vacuum attachements, vacuuming up all those little crumbs that manage to populate shelves on every level.

But the attachment hit a bottle of bacon bits.  And I feel I need to explain and justify. The only reason I had bacon bits was because it was on a list of food storage items one should have in case of emergencies.  I guess it gives flavor if all you have stored is twenty-five-year-old wheat and dried black beans like we do.  So we have a few expired bottles in the basement, at least three years old.  A child saw “BACON BITS” and squealed with joy, asking for a treat.

Mmmmm, child liked bacon bits and ate them with her little fingers for secret snacks.  And then she put the bottle back in the cupboard without tightening the red lid in any sort of way except to plop it on top and leave it there.

The bottle spilled DOWN.  Down, down, all across and in-between the cereal boxes.  Down through cracks and holes and into other opened boxes.  Oh, cross thoughts filled my head – Ain’t nobody got time for that!

But hark!  The vacuum was on.  And so we began again, inhaling large amounts of bacon bits, getting every last one on the bottom of the cupboards until once again all was clean and tidy.  Order again restored.  And the mother was happy.  Task accomplished.  I put the vacuum away and tossed that empy bottle of bacon bits.

The next day, when it was time to feel that peace and renewal that comes from a clean home, the vacuum cleaner was pulled out.  Away we went.  Except this time a great smell of…bacon wafted through the house.  The entire upstairs was filled with the smell.  Down the steps I went, vacuuming rugs and carpet.  

It has been five days.  And still the bacon smell wafts.

I have no other bags and the mall is ever so far way.  “What is that smell?” Brynne asked after school.  “It smells like…bacon!”  As she scurried to the kitchen, she found only disappointment.  There was no salty fat cooking, the smell was simply our own special brand of potpourri.  And somehow coming from the vacuum.  A curious thing.

The dog usually barks at the vacuum, but now he follows me around sniffing, sniffing, practically salivating at the blue, whirring appliance.

How long can this bacon bits smell go on?  We have two guests coming to stay the night tonight.  Do I vacuum early and hope the smell goes away or vacuum right before they come?  How will the smell of bacon affect their psychology?

Sometimes it just feels good to get these things out in the open, to rid yourself of the secret.  But my love has no shame.  This special thing we have goin’ on is here to stay.  Do you, perhaps, have your own love affair…something we should finally know about?

One would think husband would be jealous of such affection.  Strangely, this love affair is approved of, even encouraged.  Go on, he says, get your vacuum love goin’ on.  And so, with happy skipping steps, I look forward to my daily vacuum validation.  Love is very splendid thing.  


Please Be Careful of My Feelers

My friend, *Jenny (name change) is a wonderful person.  She’s gentle, quick with a smile, active in the community, a mindful mother.  There are so many reasons to love this woman.

The other day, Jenny and I were talking about some kids at school.  An 8th-grade girl’s name came up and Jenny closed her eyes and shook her head. “I do not like that girl.”

The scene went like this…a few years ago Jenny volunteered to be a parent chaperone at a ski and skate friday at the elementary/middle school.  

As her child skied down the hill, Jenny followed.  But she lost control and fell, sliding down hard on her back and landing at the feet of a group of 8th grade girls.  

Oh moment of horrors.

The 8th grade girl looked down at Jenny, snorted with derision, turned around and giggled uncontrollably with her friends.  Every once in awhile she looked back over at Jenny and giggled again. 

The scene played in my head:  There is a mom on the ground, possibly hurt, definitely wounded.  There is a teenager who sees her fall, but refuses to help. Instead, she turns away and laughs.  

This girl set the tone for the rest of her friends, too.  Too embarrassed or self-conscious or unaware, they too, did nothing.  They kept their backs turned.  And laughed at a mother laying in the snow.  

Jenny crawled off with all the dignity she could muster.

“My feelings were so hurt,” Jenny said.  “I was mortified.”  I could tell, by the look on her face and her red cheeks that it was still a humiliating and terribly low moment.

Can you just feel her pain?  It’s like being in eighth grade all over again with girls talking about you in the locker room.

I suggested that perhaps she could have thrown a snowball at the back of her head.  Nooooo…..

A somewhat similar situation happened to me a few weeks ago.  At church (of all places) we brought in different colored shoes to represent different values we are trying to emulate.

I brought my favorite green shoes.  They’re cool.


Actually, you can hate them. I still love them.

As I put my shoes out to display, we asked a girl if she would wear them or stand by them and represent that value.  She looked at my green shoes and made a face.  Then said, “No.  Those are so ugly.”

And all the girls, aged 12-13 burst out laughing.  And honestly, the way the girl said it, it was kind of funny.

I even laughed a little at the way she just blurted it out.  

It didn’t change my opinion of my green shoes, but I was rather shocked that a 15-year-old girl could be either so tactless or so insensitive.

And hello, didn’t she know my green shoes were killer?

But I also have to admit, a teeny part of my feelings were tinged with hurt.  It was as if she said, You are so ugly.

And perhaps the worst part was that all the other girls laughed.  And it felt like they were laughing at me.  

I was amazed at how my feelings could be hurt by a comment flung out by a 15-year-old girl.  A comment that I neither agreed with or cared much about.
Do you remember when you were 5?  Do you remember what it felt like to be 10? 15?  18?  26?  We have changed so much and yet we still feel things the exact same way we’ve always felt like.

I imagine that even when I’m 75, I will still be able to have my feelings hurt by a 15-year-old girl.  I bet even a 5-year-old could hurt my feelings when I’m that old.

The other leader in the classroom apologized to me afterwards and we talked about what our response should have been rather than open-mouthed shock.  That kind of thing usually doesn’t happen at church.  Usually we’re better behaved than in real life.

I couldn’t help thinking that there used to be a time where adults were respected and more revered, at least publicly.  And even if you had contempt for an “elder” you held your tongue and showed respect.

Wasn’t there such a time?
Remember that Anne of Green Gables scene, when Marilla scolds Anne:  “She is MY guest and YOUR elder. What you should have done was hold your tongue!”  Oh, we love Anne’s spunk, but imagine what a hellion she’d be without Marilla.  Imagine the person she would not have become.

The Chinese take care of their parents, they revere them and have strict obedience.  Perhaps that culture is changing too, but books like THE GOOD EARTH and authors like Amy Tan show a completely different way of treating their elders simply because they are older and they’ve earned respect.

I realize that kids probably do not read this blog.

Maybe they don’t know that we have feelings.

And, kids learn and emulate the behavior of their parents and their elders.  And there’s the paradox.  WE have not taught our children to be respectful, because WE either we are not respectful or don’t expect it from our wee ones.  They do not revere or respect adults because our culture teaches kids to be rude, opinionated and self-centered.

Of course, not all children are rude and insensitive.  But in my experience, polite children are an anomaly.  When I come across a polite child I’m rather amazed and give kudos to the parent. Because manners are no accident. And if a teenager asks me how I’m doing?  I might just fall off my seat.

The New York Times wrote about children roller skating around restaurants, disrupting patrons while their “helpless” parents looked on. also wrote about the terrible rudeness in public.  

Interesting don’t you think, that our kids have more than any other kids in the world?  Interesting that they are the least sensitive to others?  I would also venture to say that we just might have the most unhappy children of any generation.

And if kids are that rude in public, can you even imagine what it’s like at home.  It sounds like my kind of hell.  I’m not kidding.  

Isn’t it just about the golden rule?  

Do unto others as you would have others do to you.

Do you want children roller skating around your table while you’re trying to have a romantic meal with your mate?

Isn’t it more simple than we make it?  We respect others.  We don’t tolerate the disrespect of other adults in the presence of children (even if they’re idiots 🙂  We say please and we say thank you.  We don’t yell out the car window when someone cuts us off in traffic. 

Or…do we?

Sometimes I think that adults forget that adults have feelings.

My mother used to tell me a story about the man who hit the dog, then the dog bit the boy, then the boy chased the cat…I can’t remember the exact story, but the point was:  Our actions create a domino effect to everyone else around us.  For good or ill.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”  -Gandhi

Or, as this quote has slowly evolved into:  Be the change you wish to see in the world.

What kind of world do we want to live in?  

I guess I want to say that even though I’m an adult, I’m also a person.  

I have feelings.  Or as we stay in this house, “You hurt my feelers.”
We should teach our children that basic fact.  Adults are people.  They have feelings.  Often, tender feelers.

Maybe then our kids would be more apt to reach down and offer a hand to the mother on the ground.  Or sit quietly instead of hurting the feelings of my dear and adorable green shoes.

Love and kisses.


A girl’s best friend

Paigey…what are you doing over there?
Feeling a little sleepy?

Dogs are messy
they run away
they cost money
they smell
they bark at the neighbors
chase leaves
eat your chickens
Dogs take lots and lots of time
to train
to clean
did I mention chasing?

Sometimes I’m still shocked we ever got a dog

It’s been so worth it.


Love at Home: Me and Darth Vader

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
be it ever so humble,
there’s no place like Home.
 T. Howard Payne

I never realized how much Darth Vader and I have in common. My children often view me as the evil empire.  Me and Darth Vader, hand in hand to wonderland.  It makes the heart sing, don’t it? 
However, I’m trying to be less Darth and more Yoda-like.  Wise.  Fewer words.  Calm.  Perhaps short and bald with cute pointy ears, is my destiny?  

The last few weeks I’ve been making an effort to bring out the love in this house.  

And along comes Valentine’s and cupid to get us all in the mood for love.  I love Valentine’s Day, even the tumultuous ones.  Because love is hopeful, it can always be just around the corner no matter the circumstance.  

I went to a beautiful funeral on Tuesday, for a really great man, Paul “Benny” Benson.  Everyone loved him, and the biggest reason was this:  He loved them first.

I want to be more like Benny.  

Two days later was Valentine’s, and I thought of Benny’s widow.  All day she came to my mind.  “Widow” sounds like such an old woman’s word, doesn’t it?  But Cindy is only 56, and that sounds might young to me now.  She has many more Valentine’s days ahead of her. 

It’s hard not to be with the one you love, the one you think you love, the one you lost, the one who doesn’t reciprocate, the one who “got away,” the one you haven’t even met yet.

And so we must feel lucky and wonderful to be with the ones we have.  Husband has been trained to honor the “contrived holiday” of the money makers.  Dearest husband. 
Of course love does not need to be crafts or chocolate (thought that always brings out the love in this house).

I decided I would try one new valentine craft with the girls. ONE.  Not TWO.  NOT FIVE.  For you see, I am reading Katrina Kenison’s Mitten Strings for God, Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry.  Read it.  It’s already changing me, helping me feel more love when I’m not so HURRIED.  So on Valentine’s, it was one craft.
Even if you are not crafty, creating bootiful works of art with your children is quality time, I tell you.  Glue on fingers, tissue paper squares, markers, and glitter.  And the best thing is, whatever you make, they will think it simply the most amazingly beautiful thing they ever saw.  And that will make you feel loved.

thesunnysideupblog will tell you how to make this.  She had the patience to make 10.  I had the patience for one.

I have to write myself notes so I won’t be a snapping beast.  Love at home is not an accident.  I don’t think it’s easy either.

I don’t know how this really happened but Paige’s 100 Day project left us with leftover dye.  And opening your fridge in February to find Easter eggs makes winter feel lovely!

We had a family night where we talked about having more love for each other.  This goal on the wall comes from Cope’s Young Women’s program where the girls work on qualities such as Divine Nature, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability.  We made it into a poster and signed it if we agreed to participate.  There were some pretty miraculous things that happened this week between the kids.  It made my heart feel soft.
Brynne’s pot holder, made with love for her mother.  I will love it forever 🙂

This was Paige’s first school valentine experience.  It’s hard to write all those names.  “I know how to spell FROM,” she now says. 

Lot of red and blueberry fruits makes for a delicious valentine’s smoothie.  The green is bonus.

Staying up late the night before Valentine’s left me thinking, “Amy this is overkill.”  But the sugar cookie is

Heart attacking each other all the way up the stairs helps remind us why we love each other.

Paige has learned how to spell Brynne.  This is the first thing she has made at school that she didn’t make for M-O-M.  It still melted my heart. to pieces.

Perhaps not specific, but I’ll take it over Nelson’s last year’s heart, “I like mom because she cooks good.  sometimes.”

Whatever happens,
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
whatever happens.

-Sabbaths 1998:1, from Given by Wendell Berry

We is trying.