Category Archives: parenthood

Our Technology Contract!

If you’re like our family, Christmas brought presents in the form of technology. (Hallelujah, the boy proclaims – you finally got me a phone!)

With a fresh year upon us, it’s a perfect time to review the tech rules are in this house. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve all had to evolve, discuss, negotiate.

Our contract for Brynne (7th grade, iPod only) looks different than her high school siblings. She has to ask before she uses her iPod, which is kept in my bedside drawer. It’s more like an after school snack rather than a permanent fixture on her body.

The older, high school kids carry phones and do homework on iPads. Their tech contract:

Dear _________________________________

Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology. With this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your devices have the potential to do great good. They also have the power to cause great harm, not only to yourself but to others.

As a tech user in the Makechnie house, you agree to the following:

  1. Technology is used under the supervision of your parent. Other than homework and seminary, you must ask permission to use your iPad (not your phone.)
  2. Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen, not in bedrooms or behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place, we will discuss.
  3. All apps must be approved.
  4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. 
  5. We will be able to read your texts and conversations at any time.
  6. Technology is put away and off your body at meal times.
  7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. 
  8. Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.
  9. Never search for or post anything that you would be embarrassed for your parents or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! If someone shows you pornography, FLEE.
  10. At 8 p.m. phones are to be turned in.
  11. At night, after homework is done, iPads are to be turned in.
  12. On Sunday, we have a technology Sabbath. This is so we remember what one another looks like and that the scriptures are actual books. Even God, who was incredibly busy creating the world and animals and people, rested on the seventh day!
  13. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations.
  14. When using technology, and another person enters the room, close your device and acknowledge the person (it is also polite to stand up in certain situations).
  15. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. Ask: How does this make me feel?
  16. If you break your device  (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.
  17. If you break one of these rules, your devices will be taken away for a period of time.  They will be returned to you when your parents deem it appropriate.
  18. There will be times when we ask you to put your technology away for an extended period of time. Taking breaks are good for your brain! (See HERE and enter @maisymak for 20% off.)

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

Love, Mom and Dad

Signed:

Signed:

We had quite a negotiation session regarding this contract. Honestly, they think it’s super strict and totally unnecessary (go ahead, submit an eye roll 🙂 ). But we parents take tech really seriously. It is a WONDERFUL tool, but it can also be dangerous and addictive on young, growing brains. So we have rules because we love the darlings. The end.

Make your own contract by cutting and pasting the one above, or using the original tech mama’s TEMPLATE.

Kelle Hampton’s, PDA With Your Device? Get a Room idea is hilarious and adorable. I might get crafty and make one! Check out the Unplugged Motel, where family tech spends the night:featured1-1024x683It was especially hilarious to see the expression on my boy’s face when I suggested making the tech motel for the family. Still laughing.

Also, check out THIS LINK, or better yet, watch it with your kids!

Here’s another cute idea: crate your phone!

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

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

Enjoy technology, make some rules, stay strong.

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Just Because We Can Save the Day, Should We?

Halloween started out as magically as it always does in New Hampshireunnamed with this scene lighting me up daily. The foliage was spectacular this year.

We crunched through countless leaves, breathed the crisp wood-burning air, and debated over just the right costume.

As the kids are getting older, Halloween is also evolving. This year I only had two trick-or-treaters. Eldest was somewhere on the ocean blue, and Boy was deemed too old and went to a dance. Where once there was four trick-or-treaters, now there are two.

Hermione was practicing her spells and getting her hair ready. Apparently, even wizards have to do their own hair!unnamed-1 But tragedy struck early when Hermione lost her wand at Hogwarts. We were right on time for a fun-filled evening when halfway to the first house when she realized she was missing a very special accoutrement.

“My wand!”

I looked at my watch. “How about we go look for it after we trick-or-treat?”

The thought was too horrible to imagine. You see, after spending every penny she had ever earned ($36), Ms. Paige bought a Hermione wand. For three months she had looked at it daily, inserted batteries, and taking it out to wave around so the little magical tip would light up. And then every night she put the wand back in its special wand box.

For three months she had dreamed of walking around in the dark with her long wizard cloak, flashing that wand in the dark and lighting up the world. Go trick-or-treating without it? For shame!

So we went back to look for it.

We looked up and down and all around. It wasn’t in The Professor’s office or in the dining hall or dropped outside, or with Moaning Myrtle in the girl’s bathroom.

She put on a brave face until the panic was too great and mighty tears fell.

Soon, half of Hogwarts was looking for Hermione’s wand!

“Honey, I’m sorry, but I just don’t know where it is.”

“No, no, no!” she sobbed. “I need my wand!”

We were now, at 6:30, quite late for trick-or-treating.

When all seemed lost and Hermione’s devastation had wrecked her Halloween, Brother saved the day: he found the precious wand in-beween two couch cushions.

Never was there a happier Hermione. Tears were dried, hugs given, and finally we set out into the night.

unnamed-3 Hermione and the soccer player gathered their many treats.unnamed-2And said hello to Daddy who was dressed as a football coach for a Halloween Saturday night game!

With only a few houses left, we walked through crackling leaves and held out our pumpkins for a few more tricks or treats.

Throughout the night, many children wanted to hold Hermione’s wand. I have a very sweet Hermione. She has a very soft heart. She didn’t want to, but she handed it to children who waved it around to light up the sky with that special lit tip. She watched it carefully, nervously. You see, it had already been lost once and Hermione was feeling even more particular and possessive of her prized possession.

All was well until we came home and what should Hermione discover? The wand’s tip was broken. It lit up, but the clear plastic tip that sat atop the wand was gone.

Now, my sweet and soft-hearted Hermione could not handle this discovery. The great depth of despair was heard round the neighborhood, I’m sure.

“I’m sure we can fix it, ” I assured.

“No! We can’t!”

“This is the worst Halloween!” she sobbed. “I hate this Halloween. It’s the worst in the whole history of Halloween!” The sobbing went on for a full half-hour as I scoured Amazon for “harry potter replacement tip bulbs” to no avail. Tricky magic wand makers. You can’t buy a replacement tip, but you can buy the whole wand!

Hermione was so out of control that she was banished to bed. She cried so loudly that we could not be in the same room. Finally, when she was quiet and hiccuping I laid next to her on her bed. Her cheeks were wet, her hair soaked with sweat and tears. The sadness hung heavily in the room. Poor Hermione.

I kissed her cheeks and left. I went back to the computer and clicked on the Hermione wand. Only $36. Free shipping. I put it in my cart. But just before clicking, “Buy,” I let the mouse hover.

What was the right thing to do here?

For the first time I realized Amazon was not my friend.

When I was a kid and my toys broke, my parents most definitely did not rush out to the toy store to buy a new one. They were sad with me and said, “I’m sorry.” And then went back to reading the newspaper. They did not have an Amazon with a “1-Click” shopping option.

But…how happy I would make her, my girl who is truly appreciative, who says, “thank you so much mommy for being such a nice mommy,” almost daily. Who kisses my cheeks and never forgets to hug me good-bye. She isn’t a spoiled brat. She would truly appreciate this gesture.

Still. I hesitated.

If I clicked, was I being a hovering, helicopter parent whose child wouldn’t be able to leave for college? Was I enabling? Or was I just being nice? I remembered the news story I had heard on NPR that we spend way more money because of the ease of clicking “buy now!” 

It’s just so easy.

I pushed back from the computer. I did not click, “buy.” And I was sad for Hermione.

The next day Hermione came downstairs. She was still down in the dumps, still mourning the magical tip of her special wand.

“I’m sorry about your wand,” I said. And then went back to doing the dishes.

That’s life, isn’t it? It sometimes really stinks.

A few hours later, Hermione had bounced back. She waved her wand around a couple of times. Adjusting.

One of the hardest things about being a parent in the land of more-than-plenty is saying No when you are able to say Yes.

There’s nothing in my nonexistent parenting handbook that says, “For best results, Do EASY!”

I wouldn’t fault a parent for buying a new wand, but I am curious. I could have saved the day, but I didn’t.

And just because we can, should we?

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Can Changing Your Vocabulary Make You Happier?

My friend Eric has ALS.  Just about everything about it is awful. But sometimes we talk about the upsides. For instance, he knows what his family means to him. Life is about experiences together, rather than things. It’s heartbreaking to watch Eric’s physical body slowly stop working, and yet he’s still able to be positive. How does he do it? It has everything to do with his mind.

I’m also a podcast geek.

You may see me out running, pulling weeds, or driving in the car talking to an invisible person, nodding vehemently, or shouting “YES!” I’m likely listening to a podcast; there are just so many people to learn from out there in the world.

A recent favorite was Michael Hyatt’s, Watch Your Mouth. Ka-zaam! It was right in line with everything I’m interested in: being proactive, making better habits, becoming happier. This episode was about changing our vocabulary…which of course comes right from the brain.

As a man thinketh, so is he.

Our words have power. We know they affect others, but do we also realize they affect us? Do we realize our words affect our behavior? Even if we don’t say them out loud?

The mind is a powerful thing. We see the things we want to see and the more we use certain words, the more they become engrained in our brain and actions.

Think Eeyore versus Tigger.

Imagine if we made the mindset shift from “I have to” to “I get to.” I’m convinced our marriages would soar. Our children would smile more. Our families would flourish. Change the family? Change the world.

Using Eric and Hyatt’s list as a guide, here are my personal pitfalls; can you relate?

1. Driving: Eric can’t drive anymore. And he really liked driving his truck. I, on the other hand, view driving back and forth to school, church activities, parties, soccer, etc. as a huge waste of time. However, a mother recently told me she didn’t mind driving her child to school 35-minutes one-way every single day. “I have her undivided attention and she has mine. We don’t have to even look at each other. We just talk – it’s the most quality time we have.” Hmmm. Mindset shift. Instead of, “I have to drive the kids to school,” we could say, “I get to be the last person who says I love you just before he plunges into the middle school wing.” We go from burden to opportunity. (Besides, no driving = no Target! and what kind of life would that be?)

2. Work and School: I recently heard on Gretchen Rubin’s fabulous podcast Happier that people see a huge dip in their happiness on Sunday morning around noon. That’s when we begin to think about the work week ahead. Oh man, I get it. But what if we said, “I get to go to work on Monday and impact kids?” or “I am so lucky I get to go to school. I’m so lucky to get an education.” Ask anyone who’s job hunting or unemployed. They’ll tell you: “You are so lucky to have a job!!!” As a mom working at home, I can say, “I get to get up early and start breakfast, pack lunches, and spend time with grumpy-pants.” I get to! And some moms don’t.

3. Exercise/Running: You might be surprised (or glad!) to hear that I too constantly struggle with motivation to run and/or workout. Even though it’s a habit, I still catch myself saying, “I have to go run.” My goodness, how lucky are we, that we have legs! Sometimes I practice being grateful while running. “I’m so lucky for these strong legs that can run miles and miles.” Because I run early, I’ve witnessed the sun rise. I’ve interacted with moose, snakes, chipmunks, snow falling, raindrops, a mother goose and her goslings, too many barking dogs 🙂 Change your vocabulary from “I have to” to “I get to run today!” and you’ve got a game-changer.

4. The To-Do List: How many times a day do we say, “I have so many things to do.” Well listen, that’s just never going to change. And To-Do’s are a matter of choice. We get to choose what we want to do and when we do it. We are in charge of our calendar. “I get to vacuum the floor at 8 a.m. today.” “I am choosing to bring dinner to my friend because I love her.” “I am choosing to drive to Lowe’s and buy lightbulbs.” Changing our vocabulary might not make us LOVE buying lightbulbs, but the vocabulary tweak is important. Life doesn’t just happen to us. We choose our what, where, and when. Any hey, no lightbulbs? No light.

5. Making Dinner: “I have to make dinner. AGAIN” could be changed to, “I get to go to the grocery store where there are literally tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and Goldfish crackers to choose from. I get to peruse cookbooks and blogs or cook my mother’s tuna fish casserole! Tweak “I have to” to “I get to have dinner tonight. I’m so lucky to that every time I open my cupboard there is FOOD, glorious food!”

6. Travel: Recently I found myself dreading, “I have to plan this trip” while picking up a European guide book. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But I realized I was dreading the planning because I don’t know how to plan a trip to Europe. I’ve never been there. No one is picking us up at the airport, holding my hand, walking me through customs. I believe fear and indecision is the crux of much of our “I have to” vocabulary. But once we make a decision, we can make the mind shift. Not everyone gets to go on vacation. We get to.

7. Medical/Dental Appointments: “I have to pay how much for braces??? Did you say $6000 per kid?” And then everytime the bill comes or everytime I hand over the HSA card I’m thinking, “I have to pay $1000 for that?” Guess what? No one makes us go to the doctor. No one makes us get braces for the kids. Change the vocabulary to “I’m so lucky to have access to healthcare while people around the world have no doctors, no access, no dentists, no nothing.” “I’m so lucky we have enough money to make monthly installments for my daughter’s very expensive mouth. Her smile is going to be so beautiful. I’m so glad I can help her.” (cut the sarcasm!)

8. Parenting in General: We’re tired. I know we are, but it’s too easy to get snarky, snappy, and annoyed. It’s too easy to eye-roll, to make habits that last the lifetime of a relationship. We do it with infants: “I have to change another diaper.” We do it with our toddlers: “I have to take him outside and walk really slowly and look down every single drain.” We do it with our teens: “I have to have another conversation about texting.” Imagine the change in our relationships if we said, “I’m so lucky I get to spend time with my baby today. (even if she’s a little stinky :)” “I’m so lucky I get to be here when he learns to walk and says ‘Dada’ for the first time.” “I’m so lucky that God entrusted me with such a powerful personality!” “I’m so lucky to be a mother!” Woah. Mind shift.

I’ve found that this small tweak in my vocabulary, from “I have to…” to “I get to…” leads to this magical word called Gratitude. It’s no wonder that happiness is directly tied to being grateful.

I remember the day my friend Eric could no longer lift my son’s bike out of his truck. I remember the day he could no longer take cereal down from the fridge to give to his daughters. He can no longer lift his arms to scratch his nose, swat a mosquito, or wipe away tears. I get to do all of those things.

We went for a walk the other day because he can still make very small movements with his hands to move the joystick of his wheelchair. We were going down the road, me walking, him rolling. I didn’t say it, but I sure thought it: “I’m get to walk. I’m so lucky.”

On the way back, Eric slowed to a stop. I looked down to see a snake slithering across the road and eeked out a small shriek. But Eric appreciated. His eyes zeroed in on the snake. Instead of screaming and running down the road I managed to stay still and watch, as the snake used it’s body to slither across the road, making a seamless “S.” Eric said, “It’s so cool how it can do that. So effortlessly.”

Every day, we get to see little miracles like this. But only if we recognize them.

Lucky me. Lucky you.

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Exercising our Kindness Muscles

This summer I was spying on this couple. I was so taken by them that I surreptitiously took their picture. This type of activity is how I live out my Sydney Bristow double-agent fantasy life.

marriage

We were at a wedding, where everyone was either very hopeful as they watched the beautiful bride and her groom, or painfully cynical that love stories don’t really exist after all. I saw mostly happy people though, raising their glasses of homemade fermented honey, getting happy drunk on bees and love.

But mostly I watched the couple, and the great care they took for one another. They were older, with white hair and sun spots. On their faces they wore experience and life wrinkles. But oh, they were beautiful. They glowed happyHe put his hand on the small of her back. She smiled. He watched her with care. Right in front of me was the couple we want to be in forty years.

They turned out to be incredibly friendly, too. The woman must have known I was taking secret pictures of her under the table because she started up a conversation. Turns out, we had connections of knowing someone who knew someone who knew someone.

She was very chatty and he was very hungry. He said she should get something to eat. She said, “It’s alright, honey, you go on along.” But he didn’t. He stalled, waiting, until finally she followed. And so I continued to watch them. I was so very struck and how very kind they were to each other. That’s all it was. It was kindness.

A few weeks later, Cassie sent me an Atlantic Monthly article entitled Masters of Love by .

Turns out “science says lasting relationships come down to…kindness and generosity.”

Did you know? In June, about 13,000 couples will say “I do.” I imagine all of those couple are looking forward to a long happy life together.

Sadly, only 3 in 10 will remain in healthy, happy marriages.

The rest? Divorce, bitterness, dysfunction.

The article goes on to talk about psychologist John Gottman, who made a critical discovery — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

It has to do with the word “bid.” Throughout the day, we are all making requests for connection. For instance, if I look out the window and say, “Look at that beautiful chicken in the yard.” I’m inviting Husband to respond – not about the chicken but to what I said. That’s my “bid.” If Husband responds kindly, I will feel like being kind back. If he grunts at his phone, doesn’t look up, or says my love of chickens is stupid, well then, I’ll probably want to kick him 🙂

I think this is what is meant when they say, “the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” And vice versa. Because when we are kind to each other, the children get greater love from their parents.

If we wanted, we could become masters of kindness.

As I reflect on recent terrorist attacks, bullying, miserable marriages, and very sad children…I can think of very few others virtues we could “master” that would be of more worth to our world.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

And did you know? Contempt is the NUMBER ONE factor that tears couples a part.

So, this is a marital post? Yes and No.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. I have always loved this day. I will never tire of watching his I Have A Dream speech or my favorite, I Have Been to the Mountaintop.

My kids will go to assemblies today and learn about equality and love. I hope it translates.

This video shows how kindness is easy to talk about, but hard to do. Especially in schools. “The Mean” just breaks my heart.

picstitch

Wouldn’t this be a revolution? If we started being kind? Read Wonder and you’ll feel like starting your own revolution. Kindness glues couples together. I believe it can also glue our society together.

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.”

That’s how kindness works too: evidence shows that the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves. Imagine if children witness kindness in their home – how much more likely would they feel kindly towards themselves and to others?

We might think that kindness is just something some people have naturally. “Or you could think of kindness as a muscle,” Smith writes. Some people may be naturally more sensitive and kind, but just like exercise, we can grow the kindness muscle. We can “MASTER” the muscle. Just like exercise, we have to exercise our kindness muscles to keep them in shape.

Good relationships require consistent hard work. No, this love stuff ain’t for wimps!

Read Masters of Love here. It’s worth the read. It’s geared toward marriage, but I think it holds huge lessons for family, especially parents, as we raise and teach children who observe and then mimic our every action.

Meryl Streep on: ‘Careful the things you say / Children will listen / Careful the things you do / Children will see,’

To paraphrase Carlos Slim: most of us think we need to build a better world for our children, but the reality is we need to make better children for our world.

I think it starts with kindness.

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Mama Didn’t Raise No Martyr: Love Takes Teamwork

When school started this past fall, we were so busy that I got lazy with our chore zones. Suddenly the house was one colossal disaster. House asked, “Amy dear, what have you done to me?”

Realizing my blunder, I quickly put the chore pinwheel right back up on the wall:DSC_0371Whew. Much better. This is for Monday-Thursday.  Friday is FREEDOM. Saturday is something more fun – like a bathroom. And while I’m still picking up socks, wet gloves, and a million pieces of paper, the kids are pitchin’ in. They are just a tad bit tidier too. It warms my heart to hear a child holler, “I just cleaned the bathroom! Who got water all over the mirror???!” It takes such a lot of time and energy to keep a house even semi-clean.

Brynne says that when she is a mom she will have a spotless home with white curtains and white carpet in every room. “My children will pick up after themselves and my house will be perfectly clean!” I thought this strange as I eyed her backpack on the floor, papers and pencils and knick knacks strewn everywhere.

I suggested we start practicing her role as model mother. choresWhat I learned from my mama? She often told us she loved us so much she was going to teach us how to scrub the kitchen floor, weed, do toilets, and play the piano and answer the phone with more than a grunt. We rolled our eyes, but my mother was the anti-martyr and I love her everyday for it.

No, the keeping of a home belongs to the whole family. Lisa reminded me: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.”

Love Takes Teamwork.

Many lament that they just can’t seem to get their children to do anything. Well, that’s hard to believe since there is always something children want.  The best thing about them having kindles, ipads, televisions and computers? Chores get done.carrotsThis picture. It just makes me so happy. When they want something badly enough, kids find a way, don’t they?

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We’ve had so much snow that it poses a huge challenge as we try to get down to feed the chickens. Love takes teamwork!

IMG_1962

I sometimes fear that the girls will get lost in the blizzards and not be able to find their way back. But they always come back.

cope

This girl has the job of shoveling the front walk. We’ve had so much snow that she’s lived out there for a few months now. It’s a bad picture because I was taking it from inside the house. Behind a thick glass door. She’s a good girl. Loves her Mama. Loves Jesus too.

IMG_1977

Forced to feed the chickens all by myself. Boy howdy is it fun to sink up to my knees in snow all the way there and back. It’s so cold, the Downton Flock aren’t laying quite as many eggs. And the snow is so high it actually covers the top of the electric fence that encircles their coop. I pray the fox and weasel are hibernating in some other neighborhood.

hobbit

Forcing self to run outside. Sometimes its nicer than expected. And sometimes every nostril hair freezes and I feel as if my hands are frostbitten and have already fallen off. I dream of warm. Does this picture make me look like I have hobbit legs? I like hobbits.

christian

Speaking of work. One of our favorite boys EVER came to visit us for the weekend. Christian Yemga from Camaroon, graduated from Brandeis with a Master’s in Finance and NEEDS a sponsor and job within 30 days or he has to go back to Camaroon. Please help???! We love him so. Being from Camaroon, he’s digging this cold. It’s -20 tonight.

sunset

And even though it froze my fingers nearly off, I had to take the picture. Paige says “the sky guy has been really busy.”

waterlogueThe cold made me buy my first app – Waterlogue. So now I can turn all the snow pictures into a painting. Frozen in my mind forever.

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It’s cold, but trying to find the beautiful in all this teamwork and love goin’ on. Luckily we don’t have to shovel this hill. Our town works mighty hard for us. Maybe they made a pinwheel chore chart too?

 

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a Scary Mommy finds redemption (in false eyelashes)

therealthing

Today I am a Scary Mommy at Scary Mommy. Is that scary? Thank you for having me, Jill! post script: to all the concerned readers on Facebook…this story was written from a humorous angle. I didn’t include the many, many conversations that followed when the story ended – pediatrician, nurse, pharmacist, school principal, every mother I’ve ever known…I’m sorry if it came across as me not taking this situation seriously. It was scary, but mostly funny.

To redeem self from terrible smoothie concoction fed to children, I’ll tell you about the false eyelashes. I think I’ve found my Superwoman cape.

I have never worn fake eyelashes (fake? false? clueless mommy). I’ve always associated them as accoutrements only blond bombshells can or want to pull off. But when my very-brunette friend Meredith told me she and her sisters wore them for her 40th birthday a couple of years ago, I was intrigued.

How do you wear them?

Do you actually glue eyelashes to your eye lid?

Won’t they fall off?

Don’t you look like a floozy?

What if you forget they are there and they fall off in the cereal?

For years, every time I passed them at Wal-mart or Target or saw eyelash extension deals on Groupon, the curiosity grew. But still, I just wasn’t the type. Was I?

But then I too, began to climb closer to age 40. Something had to give.

Being born with puny lashes, this is just a curse I’ve had to be content with. Or…is that really not true? Having finally mastered the blowdryer after 38 years of life, I now know that “natural” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My hair is proof.

Perhaps with a little more effort, I too, could have eyes that “pop.” Perhaps husband would fall over in swooning delight when I stepped into the sunlight and into his arms…perhaps traffic would stop. Perhaps the show donkeys would bray, the mother hens would lay down an extra egg in my vixen honor.

Perhaps we all need to feel a little Marilyn-glory.

Armed with this new dream, I stood in front of the eyelash display in Wal-Mart. Oh, the choices for the cheap and clueless. Knowing there must be differences in eyelash quality, I was willing to lay down exactly $1, throwing them in the cart with glee, as giddy as that one time I drank Red Bull with Meredith before a soccer game (she is a suspect mommy influence.)

My new eyelashes sat in my closet for a couple of months as I gathered the courage to actually wear them. Finally, after persistent badgering from darling daughters, I decided they would be showcased at my parents-in-laws’ 43rd anniversary dinner at the Red Apple Chinese-American Buffet, encountering hundreds of diverse folk in need of fried wontons and sushi rolls.

Paige and Brynne were thrilled, watching me get ready that night. Paige had lost her tooth that day and was wearing it around her neck in a very special tooth container. She carefully showed it to me as I carefully peeled off eyelashes from plastic.

The directions were easy: Put glue on the lash rim and place on eyelash. Easy enough. But actually applying them to the upper eyelash was comical. For one thing they were too long and extended almost to my temple. The extra was hacked off and reapplied.

First impression? Definitely not Marilyn. More clown-like. Fortunately, I persevered and sought out mascara. And then? Wowza! It was kind of…fun. so different. so not-me. Eyes were actually popping!

As my love language is words, I sought out the validation:

6 year old: You look so booootiful!

9 year old: Um. Yes, Mom, keep it. I love it!

I left the bathroom. And walked down the stairs.

12 year old boy: He gave me a very strange look.

14 year old: No mom. No.

Me: I’m doing it!

Husband: He does fall over. I can’t decide if this is good or bad. He does say, “Wow.”

The whole way to the restaurant he keeps looking at me, wondering who is sitting next to him. I flutter the black bird feathers that sit on my eyes. Oh, he’s definitely swooning.

The closer we get to the restaurant, the more insecure I become, constantly checking my reflection in the mirror.  Panicking, I say, “Should I just take them off?” This is a bad habit of mine. I’ll put on lipstick and then bite my lips until all color is gone and I arrive at an event in chapstick.

“No, Mama,” husband says. “Leave it.”

So I do. And the night goes splendidly. Dear in-laws like the look and look legitimately shocked when I reveal the secret. No one at the sushi bar falls over at my great beauty, but no one points their fingers and laughs either. Born this way!

We went home for bedtime, stuffed with crab rangoons, up the stairs, into the bathroom for some teeth brushing and flossing and potty time and all the rest. To have a record of the momentous night, I pulled out the camera.

While trying figure out the perfect eyelash picture, Paige carefully took out her tooth from the hanging tooth vial around her neck…and accidentally dropped it down the drain.

The lovely life she once knew? Ended.fakeeyelashes

The only picture of the night.

Pure hysteria. Eyelashes were forgotten. Sobbing wails echoed as Brynne frantically looked down the drain. There was no way we were going to find that tooth. But hark – what was that little white thing down there? A tooth? You see, we have a drain problem in this bathroom. Too much hair, toothpaste, Polly Pocket shoes, toilet paper, and who knows what else. It has had more Draino poured down it than any other sink in the state.

But could that clog save our tooth?

And so, I found the lone wire hanger I keep for such occasions and began excavation. I knew it was a lost cause, but we just had to try, right? While Paige sobbed at my side, Brynne exclaimed, “Oh sick, disgusting. What is THAT?”

All I could say was, “Oh sick, disgusting. What is THAT?”

Apparently, in a house of four girls, we lose a lot of hair. Long, lost hair that somehow gets washed down the drain and slowly accumulates for months. And then we get to a crisis point when the water doesn’t drain as it should and I wonder why I don’t try all those natural DIY baking soda drain cleaning methods. All this long hair was twisted and lodged into something black and slimy that made me turn my head and wretch.

I worked for a good fifteen minutes, using my non-existent surgical skills until finally the very tip of the hanger began pulling up a 12-inch long black snake. It was beyond horrible. Dissection began. Which goes to show how much I really do love my children.

Many times we thought we had actually found the tooth somewhere in that slime clog, but it always turned out to be something else disgusting and unidentifiable. As shrieks and “ewwww!” echoed through the house, I pondered my fallen state of fake eyelash sophistication at a Chinese-American buffet only hours earlier.

“It’s gone, Mom. You’ll never find it,” Brynne said in defeat. Paige collapsed on the floor.

Brynne began to furiously write a note to the tooth fairy, explaining the debacle. Please, please, she begged, please come for Paige anyway!

Remembering it’s not the critic who counts, but she who is in the dissection arena, I gave it one last try, and there – in the midst of the clogged slime – was the tooth. I smiled and held it up. TRIUMPHANT!

I’d like to think my lack of drain cleanliness was destiny.

Nasty slimy snake clog was tossed in the trash. Tooth was washed and presented to a awe-struck six-year-old. My girl looked up at me with shining stars in her eyes.

“Thank you, Mama!” she burst out. “You’re the best Mama in the whole world.”

I looked in the mirror, at my long luscious eyelashes, at the small child hugging the life out of me. I was struck by how our Marilyn moments come in so many different ways.

p.s. the tooth fairy forgot to come that night, but she’s just not as reliable as a mother.

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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.

Right?

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.

Parents.com 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.


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Welcome to the Family

Last week was April vacation for the kids.  A whole week with mom!
This is fluffy boy, before his dad got his hands on him.  It’s hard to be shaggy around Gregor.  He frowns and furrows until finally…”Let’s give you a trim – just a little bit.”  Nelson protests and runs away but in the end, his hair gets chopped.
Nelson also wants to gain weight.  It’s a boy thing.  Actually, I used to drink raw eggs in chocolate milk.  I remained a shrimp.  Here he drinks Jillian Michaels’ protein powder in a milkshake.  Alas, I don’t think we’ve produced any Shaquille O’Neals.  Sorry, buddy.

I keep these ducks on my kitchen windowsill.  They remind me of my four little ducklings.  And spring break.
How to motivate children to be sweet cherubs for an entire week at home?  Mom bucks?  Each had $5 divided into little 25 cent “bucks” which they had to pay for fighting, being unkind, or talking back.  They got into it.  Today is payday.  I think we both made out.
My children are obsessed with more pets.  I received a hundred notes from Brynne requesting a turtle.  Sadly, the answer was always the same.  No.

We got a baby instead.  Cope came home on Friday and said, “Mom, you’re now a grandmother!”  This is Robert.  It’s for her school reproductive unit.  (Didn’t this used to be a HIGH SCHOOL project?)  She is paired up with a boy who said she better not make Robert “too preppy.”  

She printed out a picture from the internet and said, “doesn’t he look like me?”  Robert cannot be left unattended for an entire week.  Maybe I’ll get to hold him during track meets.  I don’t call him Robert.  I call him, “Sugah.”
Sadly, we won’t be welcoming any tomato plants into the family.  They all died.  When starting seeds you must get “seed starting” soil, not just “potting soil.” I can’t believe I did this.  Rookie mistake.  I don’t have the energy to start all over.  We’ll see what happens if I just start them outside this year.

Since there was no hope for a turtle, Brynne changed tactics and began writing notes about fish.  Notice the first girl name is, “Amy.”

She had her friends at school write me notes.

She appealed to daddy with “need” and mom with the checkbook.  Interesting.

A beautiful Sunday afternoon prompted a great dandelion project.  It took over a hour until all the little holes in the backyard table were filled.  Then we ate dinner on it.  And swatted the nasty black flies that have hatched.  Sometimes it’s real hard to enjoy spring in New Hampshire.  Pure torture.

So Brynne got her fish.  And she did pay for it.

And since Brynne got a fish, so did Cope and Paige.  Brynne paid for Paige’s fish and Cope used her babysitting money.  Paige named hers, “Violet,” except she says it wrong every time and calls it, “Violent.”  She messes with the water so much the fish has flopped out twice.  Violent probably looks at her like Nemo looked at that braces girl…HELP!  We’ll see if Violent lasts the week.

Did you know dandelion juice stains?  Real.  Bad.  Who needs clean clothes anyway, when you’ve got great art in the backyard?

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The Special Handling of "No."

The other day one of my children had to do the dishes.  One of the duties of dishes is cleaning out the sink.  It’s a gross job, after all the dishes have been rinsed and loaded, and all that’s left in the sink is the slop pooling in the dish drainer.  


“Don’t forget to clean the sink,” I said.  We were hurrying to get out of the house to go somewhere.  We did not have extra time to talk or do anything other than hustle.  Well, this child looked into the sink and said, “No!  I can’t do it, Mom.  I’ll do everything else, but I will not stick my hand in there.”


“It’s part of the job, now get it done,” I said as I helped tie some shoes and scurried to get the car bag packed.


Child shook her head, looked down at the sink and said, “No, I’m not doing it!”  Then she turned around and folded her arms in a most resolved fashion.


Well, what do you do with that?  Too often, my response depends on my mood.  Which I don’t like, but there it is.  Sometimes I am instantly enraged.  I snap and speak louder, sometimes I order it done, sometimes I take the bait and begin arguing and negotiating.  I can guarantee, the child might do it, but the situation will escalate.  Then there is crying, raised voices, and hurt feelings.  And it makes me feel pretty lousy when I reflect on it later.


So, there she stood, arms folded.  A defiant “NO!” was right in front of me.  No is actually a rare thing for my children to say.  They are pretty obedient, but there are occasions like this where I think, Oh crap, now what am I supposed to do???!  I decided to apply some John Rosemond parenting style (Author of two of my favorite parenting books, The Six Point Plan to Raising Happy, Healthy Children and Making the Terrible Twos Terrific.)


I decided to say nothing.  We left the house and by the look on my child’s face, she was pretty sure she had gotten out of cleaning the sink.  I kept thinking, please let an opportunity present itself quickly.


An teaching opportunity came that very night.  (Of course it did.  There is always something our children want.)  We ran into our wonderful Grandma and my daughter excitedly asked, “Can I ride home with Grandma, please, please, please?”  Riding home with Grandma, getting her undivided attention, and maybe a shamrock shake on the way home…well, it’s a pretty special thing!  Bingo.  The opportunity had come.


“Sorry,” I said.  “You didn’t clean your sink.”


What followed after that was wailing, crying, begging.  The worst thing I could have done was say, “Okay, go ahead but next time…” No, no, no.  I had to follow-through!  I wanted to say yes.  Frankly, our car ride would have been much more peaceful.  But I had to be strong even though she was very sincere, quite repentant, and used some very convincing bartering.  


Child drove home with us, sniffling the entire way in the back seat.  I did feel bad, but mostly I felt triumphant.  That sounds smug.  But I was happy because I had not yelled or argued.  I did not hurt our relationship and she didn’t even think I was mean.  What I hoped was happening was a child seeing that there is agency and there are consequences for every single choice.


What happened when we got home?  She went right to the sink and cleaned it without one word from me.  And the next time she had the dishes?  She did the sink too.  She got it and she got it quickly.


I’ve thought about this several times since it happened.  Especially as our children get older, we cannot “make” them do anything.  If we try to force, we are going to do damage.  But there has to be consequences. Permissiveness can hurt our children just as much as being overly harsh. 


But maybe, I thought, I just need to shut my yap and let the natural consequence present itself.  Didn’t clean your room?  Bummer.  Now there isn’t movie night.  You didn’t eat your dinner?  That’s too bad, we made brownies for dessert.  A tantrum in the supermarket?  Drat.  Guess we’ll just have to go sit in the car until you are done.  I vow to do better.


This situation was followed up with Gregor and I watching the documentary, Buck.  Oh, it’s such great stuff!  Buck is what the late psychologist, Carlfred Broderick, would call a “a transitional character.”  Instead of passing on the abuse he endured as a child, he rejected it.  


Buck is the original Horse Whisperer, the inspiration behind the bestselling book that I must now read.


I was very taken with this whole concept.  He works magic in minutes with horses, using nothing but some flags, body language, and a very soft voice.  It is immediate, how this transcends to how we work with people, especially our children.


There is no bribery (it doesn’t work in any long-term scenario, he says), no manipulation, no hurting, hitting, no yelling or even the hint of a raised voice.  I’m sure Buck gets frustrated and annoyed, but he always approaches from a place of humility and compassion.  He’s no pushover.  He’s firm and he’s strict and he means business.  The horse knows it!  The horse learns to follow, respect, and love the guy.  Buck is teaching horses with people problems.  He’s also teaching people with people problems.  He sure taught me.

The inspiration for the book, The Horse Whisperer, Buck helped Robert Redford nail his Hollywood movie role.  See the Buck trailer Here.  

And yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for the cowboy.



Buck Brannaman says, “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see… Sometimes, you will.” 
It’s like that with our children, don’t you think?

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Doing the Hard Things

It’s a hard balance knowing when to push your kids and when to back off and let them make their own decisions.  They are getting older.  The decisions are less about physical harm (you will get burned if you touch that stove!) to more emotional, social, and moral.  It’s especially hard when the consequences are painful but you know they need to learn from it.
This was the case a few weeks ago when Nelson was going through a rough patch with basketball.  He’d had a tough day of soccer, then basketball, and then fell on the ice.  He said his knee hurt, he limped, and he absolutely COULD NOT play in his game.  Though I do believe his knee was sore, I suspected there was a larger issue.  I thought he was nervous and just wanted to forget he had ever signed up.
My dad with Brynne on his lap…thank goodness.  Watching sports with my two little girls can be such a treat (not).
The big day came and Nelson came home from school.  Nope, leg was still lame, couldn’t play.  I had been thinking about it all day, had discussed it with Gregor, and decided that he should have to at least try.  There were tears, anger, “I can’t do it!”and mom and dad saying, “You just have to try.   You’re part of the team.  If you really can’t play then you can sit on the bench with your team.”
“I don’t WANT TOO!”
“Tough.  You’re going.”
I have to say that I’m a rather impatient person when it comes to illnesses or injuries.  It’s a weakness I’m working on.  
But I made him go.
Then I watched from the sidelines.
Was it the right decision?
Nelson was happy when I wrapped his leg with an Ace bandage.  It made him feel a little more secure and he got some attention from his teammates.

And then…he was off.

He played the whole game.  Afterwards, when we asked if his leg hurt, he shrugged and said, “a little.”

There are only six boys on Nelson’s team.  He is not the best player.  He is not the worst.  He does not practice on his own every second he can get, like some boys do.  He is small, is not overly aggressive, and he hates to lose.  He takes it very hard.
In this case, I think we made the right call.  We made him do something that was hard.  And it worked out.  I think it was good for him.  I want my kids to do hard things.  In fact I want a big sign in my kitchen saying, “We Do Hard Things.” 
But it won’t always be my decision.  I’m still not sure I have the right balance.  In high school my parents let me quit track.  To this day, it’s my biggest regret.  I threw away a lot of opportunity when it really mattered.  I failed in that decision, but I also learned from it.  I think it made me stronger, more resolute about the kind of person I wanted to be.
It’s hard, this parenting thing.
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