Category Archives: Thanksgiving

The Gratitude Drug

Today husband had four stitches put in his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cope, we love you.

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

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

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

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

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

Fascinating, no?

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

For starters: Sunsets

Children hopping off a school bus

The change of seasons

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

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

There was another dopamine hit:

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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Thankful in Our Hearts

This fall. Well, it’s been good and really hard and full of transitions. My brother said that his grief over losing his wife has not been linear at all. Those five stages are all over the place. It hits at strange times; the first time I saw a mum for sale at the grocery store I almost burst into tears. I couldn’t tell you why.

This week we had a guest who told us of an experiment: for two weeks, instead of asking God for anything, the only thing he did was thank God for all the things he had. I looked around the family and thought we had a splendid idea!

Many things have gone by the wayside this fall. I can’t keep up. When I forgot to make a Halloween breakfast, Paige thought the world had ended. When we didn’t go apple picking even ONE TIME this fall, Brynne was appalled. Even our lame tooth fairy has been extra lame. Boo.

But – hark! I did find the Thanksgiving tree. We made our leaves, wrote down what we were grateful for, and burned our fingers with the glue gun while gluing them on.

unnamed-1Do you pray? We don’t talk much about praying, it seems, but I pray all the time. And it usually begins and ends with please…(ie: me asking.)

Being thankful instead of asking seemed especially appropriate as my inbox has been inundated with BLACK FRIDAY SALES! GET IT NOW OR YOU’RE A BIG LOSER! I have to admit, when I see those emails pop up in my inbox my heart does a little pitter patter and I simply MUST HAVE. No, no, no. Be patient, young one. This is the season of gratitude! Should we not be thankful before we start asking??? Can’t we at least wait until Friday?

So, the experiment began. While praying, we would only thank and not ask. It’s only been a few days, but an interesting change has occurred in my heart: I’m sincerely grateful.

Even with challenges, when it was really hard not to ask, I found myself grasping for reasons to be grateful, and also thinking, maybe if I word this just right God will know what I’m really trying to ask. Am I warped?

For instance, Paige was really sick. She’s got these humongous tonsils that trap all the germs from all the places. She constantly gets strep and is constantly on antibiotics. So when Paige was crying and her throat was burning, I said, “Let’s say a prayer together.”

But I was a bit stumped. If I wasn’t going to ask, what could I say? After a long pause, I began, “We’re thankful for…our health, and good medicine, and…our warm beds, and prayer…and faith.” I wondered if I wasn’t asking, would she get better anyway?

She’s better. She ate a Thanksgiving feast tonight and smiled. And we gave our thanks.

I found myself saying “thank you” in my mind over many things that went wrong.

We are cleaning out my father-in-laws house and it’s a monster job, with multiple trips to the transfer station. Instead of asking for strength, which I’m always asking for, I said, “I’m thankful for this strong, healthy body, that I can move these heavy bags and that we are almost done…”

It became almost a  game to turn every situation into a Thankful Moment.

I became calmer when I might have been impatient, like when Nelson was painting the bathroom with a roller for the first time, and driving me down the road for the first time, and both were a little terrifying. “We are thankful we didn’t crash and made it home safely and I have a boy who can paint the bathroom! Hallelujah.”

The challenge was on tonight, when I sat down to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner after a long day of working and cooking, and a child who shall not be named, spilled a full glass of water right in front of my plate and I ate the entire meal with water dripping down on my lap. All I could think was…”I’m thankful we have water.”

The holidays are hard without the ones you love. But because I’ve lost, I was especially grateful this evening to be surrounded by the ones I still have. Like many of you, I know things I didn’t know before. It’s given me more empathy for those who have lost more than I have. I’m thankful for that, even though it makes me sad.

As we ate our turkey and mashed potatoes and this strange delicacy canned by my one and only mother-in-law, Heather, we laughed and cried a little, too. “We’re so thankful for our family, for the ones here at this table, for those who have come before us, and for those who are far away and no longer with us. We are grateful for eternal families.”

Thankful. Even when it’s not perfect. Even with cold water dripping on your lap 🙂

Tonight, I did not ask for anything. I only said thank you. And it felt just right.  unnamed

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

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A Thanksgiving Round-up: food, mustache man, and a gaggle of girls

Last week, as Thanksgiving loomed, we gave thanks to oddly warm temperatures (60 degrees!) and the week ahead: the promise of a turkey dinner and a house full of cousins.

photo

Hogwarts went on vacation and we were feeling free and easy, shopping for Thanksgiving yum-yum. Our giddiness is the only way to explain this photo.photo 1

The conversation went like this: “What do I do with my lips with SWAG on my face?” “I don’t know. I have a bow-tie on my eyebrows.”

And yes, The Professor is sportin’ his very own handlebar mustache.

We’re thankful No-Shave November has passed. Or are we?

That night, on Thanksgiving eve, a monster snowstorm arrived.

It snowed and snowed and snowed. Like 100 feet. Or a couple.

It snowed until the wind blew and the power went out. And we bonded over Uno and candlelight.

The earth was covered in white.

And who’s thankful for the electric company who works all night to restore power to the whole state?

The power came back on for a few hours in the morning, just long enough to vacuum. Hallelujah!

Snow and no electricity couldn’t stop our Thanksgiving spirit, oh no. There was one option: sledding!

photo 2 (2)

“Smile! This is our Christmas photo!”

What do you think, old boy?photo 1 (2)

I forgot how much fun it is to careen down a hill backwards at 100 mph. It’s a hoot!photo 5 (2)

All Thanksgiving morning the power was out.

Oh dear, what about that traditional turkey dinner?

Luckily, Hogwarts let us bring the fixins’ to them. The turkey was in the oven!

unnamed Meanwhile, the cousins gathered round. cousin photos courtesy of B.Makunnamed-1 And showed their own swag. Or something like that?unnamed-2 Then they made gang signs

photo 4 (1)

The power was still not on at the house. We salivated over vegetables we might never eat.

photo 4

But there were those addictive sugared cranberries. The tart with the sugar – they POP! So good.

briebitesWhole wheat cracker, brie cheese, sugared cranberries. Life will never be the same.photo 5

And since soup can be cooked over a gas stove, we had The Professor’s famous Squash and Black Bean Soup. No, really. It’s so good it will knock you out of the kitchen. And I don’t even like squash.

By 1:00pm the power was back on. The turkey was transported.

photo 1 (3)

And carved to perfection by the brothers in hats.photo 3 (2) photo 2 (3)

Grandpa wore the turkey hat and recited a turkey poem. He said grace over our good life with good food, good friends and family, and thanked God for the ones who have come before us. Amen!

Grandma missed Thanksgiving with us as she was deployed to Nashua by The Red Cross to set up a shelter for those without homes or electricity. I mean, is she a good woman or what?

cornWe continued the tradition of two kernels of popcorn by each plate. A small cup is passed around and everyone says something they are thankful for. I reflected on an email from my father who sent a story he heard on NPR, of Syrian refugees crossing the great ocean. There were men, women and children, sailing for a new land, for any place who would take them. I was especially thankful that day for a family who takes the refugees.

Then the man with a handlebar mustache raised his finger and spoke of match making. photo 4 (3)

Making a match with this plate of food.photo 3 (3)

More points to be made…photo 5 (1)

We ate until we could eat no more. And then we ate pie.

New Thanksgiving dessert: an apple tart courtesy of bon appetit! We were too busy eating to take a final photo of the cooked tart with homemade whipped cream and Tucker Mountain Maple Syrup. Will have to make again…

photo 2 (1)

photo 1 (4) As tradition dictates. Thanksgiving night concluded with a VERY rousing game of Pounce!

photo 2 (4)

Amazingly, we all came away as friends.  (Auntie Kim, we missed you!!)

But wait! The fun didn’t stop there! Grandma came home exhausted from Red Cross service to babysit all eight children with Grandpa, while the parents of children escaped for an overnight trip to Portsmouth. In a hotel! With electricity, running water, and toilets that flushed!

Dreamy.

I even got a great run in for the Holiday Streak (you’re still in, right??? Do tell!)

photo 1 (5)photo 2 (5)

We came home to electricity, happy kids, happy grandparents, and gratitude up to our ears! Thank you, thank you dear Heather and Art!

photo 3 (4)

The Thanksgiving extravaganza ended with a warm fire and a dance party.

This year, instead of making a Thanksgiving Tree, we wrote out our thanksgiving on post-its to cover the fridge. There’s Snow, Christmas music, Hot Chocolate, Barbies, Mashed Potatoes…

photo 3 (5)

Gratitude runs deep and far. Happy Thanksgiving…and hello, December!

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Cousins,Turkey and a Little Gobble Wobble

Happy post-Thanksgiving, pre-Holiday madness peace and good cheer, friends!

I hope you had a lovely holiday. Here’s a little recap of our Thanksgiving adventure: This year was different for us as we bid adieu to the show donkeys and pet chickens and traveled to Needham Massachusetts, just outside the big city of Boston.

I enjoyed people-watching all the way down; families stuck in traffic on 128, traveling to turkey destinations. The study included many electronics, nice clothing, and anticipation-laden faces…FOOD. GIVE ME STUFFING!
We arrived to squeals of cousins jumping up down – there just isn’t a better greeting than than! Then two brothers got down to business. Here, Uncle Brendaen wears his duct tape apron made by Nelson. Nelson received a product-review and will be accepting orders for Christmas.

I’ve had my eye on the brussel sprout for a few weeks now. I don’t recall ever eating one in my life, but as we must all be a little more daring in life, I popped one in my mouth. And then another. And then another. These were so scrumptious! I shall be adding them to my cooking repertoire.

The beautiful root vegetable, as delicious as it looked

Dearest Grandma

Dearest Cheese Spread. And those olives. Oh yummy. This was our big assignment. I think it was doable. Thank you, Market Basket.

Dearest Grandpa

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the squealing and happiness of cousins. They fling themselves into each others’ arms like they’ve spent a torturous lifetime apart. Wherever they are, wherever they go, there is bound to be uncontained giggling, shrieking, NOISE, happiness, the occasional pout, crying, hugs, and did I mention the volume? Here we have the kid’s table. Shockingly, we were even able to light a few candles. It was a full ten minutes before anyone starting burning the rolls and playing with hot wax. On the plus side: No one was sent to their room early.

And then the adults got down to business. Jill and Brendaen put out a tremendous spread of yum! I regret not getting a picture of our beautiful hosts together. 

As much as I enjoy cooking and having a house full of people, I didn’t mind driving to a beautiful house, with a small assignment, and sitting down to eat. Quite nice.

The obligatory tryptophan-induced nap 

And Daddy tickle

Next we moved on to the musical performances where each child performed. This year we had piano, singing, the flute, cello, and violin!

And a play that involved four little girls, a horse, a pumpkin, and indian corn. And much laughing.

What an awesome instrument. In my next life, look for me with a cello. I hear God in those strings.

This little spitfire played a little diddy entitled Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but she made sure we knew it was entitled How Great Thou Art. Loved it.

After the music we ate the PIE, but sorry, there is no picture. We ate it all too quickly.

Cousins in our family cannot get together and not play their favorite card game ever: Pounce! Hours of fun on the floor.

As night fell, the children went right to sleep (hahahaha) and the adults went for a winter walk, stopping at 7-11 for some hot herbal tea, and looking at houses and architecture in the neighborhood. Afterwards we adults ate Thanksgiving leftovers, stayed up way too late (way past my 10 o’clock bedtime!), and discussed Cambodia, refugees, Hmong culture, food, and good books. You know, the usual.

The next day we all took a gobble wobble around the streets of downtown Boston, enjoyed all the shoppers with their black friday shopping bags and old men playing chess outdoors. We ate the best chinatown pork buns, and walked miles, vowing to walk the freedom trail this summer. Yes, life is grand. We then headed home, fat and full.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. Gregor said he was thankful for mobility, the ability to travel to family and be together. Though we didn’t get to see everyone this year, the ability to travel rather easily is a great blessing. We’ll catch ya’all next time.

And now I must go. The children are pulling out the Christmas decorations – today is tree day!

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you travel or stay put? Did you eat too much, too? However it went down, I hope you felt thankful…

Until next time,
xoxox.

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No More Strangers or Foreigners, Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!
I love this time of year.

The kitchen is already filling with smells of Daddy cooking delectable eats in anticipation of the big day. It is perhaps our best Thanksgiving tradition: The men cook.

This year I’m dreaming of the heaps of food at the dinner table, but I’m also watching the news, thinking of the refugee. 

We who live in America, amongst such wealth, have much to be thankful for. It is hard to watch the news and see Syrian refugees looking for a place to call home. It is hard to see the faces of the mothers in the Philippines, holding small children, who didn’t get evacuated. Typhoon Haiyan survivors hang their laundry to dry in their destroyed villages. 

I thought of the refugee when we made our Thankful Tree this weekend.
Every year our tree is a little different, but I think this one is my favorite. I ran outside in the frigid cold (sadly, the weather has turned. boo) to find the perfect branch. I found one that had snapped off a tree during a storm. It wasn’t perfect but suited our family just perfectly.

We cut perfect imperfect leaves and wrote out blessings. We burned our fingers on the glue gun, yelped, laughed, and read our blessings out loud. Some of us felt chipper, others not so much. It is a simple tradition, and one of my favorite parts of the season. We looked back on Thanksgivings past. Some of our family members are not with us on earth any longer; it makes every holiday a little more bittersweet, a little more meaningful.
I wonder who wrote that one? I hope your running is going strong! I’m so thankful to have legs.

Thankful for home.

Duct tape. Truly thankful.

My brother-in-law, Seth, is a Vietnamese refugee. I wrote his story, A Boy of Two Lands

for the November/December issue of LDS Living. Ann got the cover, darn it 🙂 

When Seth was born, the Vietnam war was raging. I was born in 1975, the year that Saigon fell. The U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, taking thousands of refugees with them. Thousands more tried to flee the country, often throwing themselves and that or their children at the mercy of the South China Sea.

Communists took over the country. Children were indoctrinated and taken as child soldiers. Each of Seth’s seven uncles were thrown into concentration camps for a time.

Seth’s mother, Tai, was afraid for her only son. She knew the only way for Seth to have a better life was to escape.

It is estimated that 800,000 Vietnamese made it to refugee camps. The world would come to know them as Boat People. Thousands made it to land, but it is estimated that thousands more never made it across. 

Knowing the risks – sharks, cheap canoes not made for oceans, weather, pirates, murder, trauma – Tai put her only child, her precious 8-year-old son on a small canoe in the middle of the night. Seth remembers her last words: “Chung ta se gap lai,” or “We will see each other again.”

Seth was born during the lucky year of the pig. He was “the lucky one,” so surely he would make it. Seth and his Uncle, Binh, set off into the cold ocean water. Twice, Thai pirates invaded. With knives in their mouths, they stole everything except the engine. But Seth and Binh made it to a refugee camp in Malaysia.

There they waited. Who would take a small refugee boy from Vietnam? “We would go anywhere,” Seth said. “To any place taking refugees.”

America answered. There was a family living in Boston. My in-laws had two small boys of their own, but felt like they should do something for their brothers in sisters languishing in refugee camps. They were a young couple with hardly any material possessions, but they had food and roof over their heads, and that’s what the refugees needed.

Heather, my mother-in-law, said it truly was a world-wide disaster. Fisherman couldn’t fish in the South China Sea without bringing up bodies. 

Fate shone on the lucky one. Seth’s name “seemed to leap off the page” of the huge bound book of refugees so long it could have been the book of life. This was the boy they were supposed to have.

Heather sent a telegram to Seth and Binh: “Do not worry anymore. Stop. You have a home in the United States. Stop. We are waiting for you. Stop.”  She then began to fast and pray.

Seth arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1981. One of his new brothers was my husband. The stories they tell of growing up are both gut-splitting hysterical and poignant. My husband can do a Vietnamese accent like no other. 

Many years later, Seth saw his first mother again as she lay dying in a hospital bed in Vietnam. The story is quite remarkable, the details too long to write here…you’ll have to read the article 🙂 But I’m really hoping it becomes available on-line soon!

If you walk into many a nail salon, the employees will likely be Vietnamese. I have asked some of these women about their experiences. As they wash, buff, and paint my toenails, they tell me sparse details. Many include small canoes on cold ocean water.

And so, on this Thanksgiving, I have been thinking of the refugees. 

On Saturday I heard a man speak about hospitality. And suddenly I remembered how easy it is to help a human being: Give someone a place at your table. 

Hospitality and Hospital have the same Latin root: “Healing.”

How easy it is to never get face to face with our brothers and sisters. In the computer age, we can work from home, sit behind computers, hit buttons to open the garage door – we have to go out of our way to interact with people! 

We may not be able to travel the world or lead a relief effort. We may not even be able to serve in a soup kitchen. But we can be hospitable. We can offer a piece of bread, a table, a chair. We can offer a place at our table.

We often hold back from inviting others because we think we are “lacking.”

Is our house too small? To the lonely it’s a palace.

Is our house too messy? To the displaced it’s called home.

Is the meal too simple? To those who eat alone, it’s filet mignon.

To break bread with someone is so simple. Yet it can be a holy experience.

In Luke, Jesus appeared to two disciples walking down the road to Emmaus. Their eyes did not recognize Jesus for a long time. It wasn’t until they broke bread together that they recognized him. We will all have our walks to Emmaus. Listen. Pay attention to someone who needs you. We never know who we’ll be hosting for dinner. 

Many Thanksgivings have been in our home. It is an awesome experience. When families gather, the feeling of love is so strong. So is the chaos. And it’s beautiful. Strangers become friends. Family becomes closer. We have different personalities, different skin colors, eye shapes, mothers, and fathers. We come from different lands, different walks of life, religions, and experiences.

But no matter who it is, when we sit down across the table from one another, when we break bread, we become a family. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigner, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” –Ephesians 2:19

And to me, that is the beauty of a meal. That is the great beauty of the Thanksgiving. 

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. May you have a blessed day!




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Thanksgiving

The month leading up to the holiday of thanks, there were many reminders that life can change very quickly; the snap of the fingers, the blink of an eye.  It came in the form of a childhood friend’s death, a mother’s crippling depression, a father’s diagnosis, a plane crash.  Capped off with a hurricane hitting the east coast terribly hard.  These all circled around me in the periphery, yet hitting so close to home I was often in tears. 

My go-to strategy are my running shoes.  Thank goodness the pies weren’t made yet!  Instead of pie I ran on open country roads.  Endorphins, my friends. It’s a good, good thing.

Questioning, wondering, hurting, and eventually thankful for what is left.  God is so good to us and pain is humbling, isn’t it?

Life changes quickly.
We do not know the time or the hour when life will be so different than today.
And so, on Thanksgiving day my heart was very full.  We were surrounded by happy cousins, shrieking girls, funny uncles, adoring aunties.  The family was so happy.  So wonderful.  
I felt still.
If I only had today, then at least I had today.  And that was good enough.
I am thankful for a sweet girl who makes me do crafts like Gobble Gobble napkin holders, bursting with excitement as we prepared for loads of friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles.  She reminds me that crafts can be fun.  These are just my level.

Thankful for my boy and Baby Sydnie (thankful for her parents came too 🙂 arrived from New York as our indomitable 62-year-old Grandma Heather was deployed from New Hampshire to New York by the American Red Cross to clean up after the hurricane.  She will be gone for a minimum of 21 days unless the clean-up goes quicker than expected. Indomitable woman, I say!
Thankful for brothers.  And that the brothers and the grandpa cook the feast.  And then the stove died. Sigh…never fear, we found some ovens!

Thankful for beauty
And soup.  Black bean and squash soup made by Gregor.  I don’t even like squash, but I love this.  I will have to sneak into kitchen next time and take photos and steal recipe for you.  I often say, “we don’t need all those extras to make it look pretty.” He just looks at me.  After you taste it, a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of cilantro is obviously a necessity.

Thanksgiving morning came early-bird early with a cousin bonfire.  Nothing like a little marshmallow breakfast.

Or…some burnt sugar on a stick
But we’re not picky (um..sorry, sister. We were going to keep this an auntie secret 🙂

This is my twin brother, Peter!  Oh my goodness, he sure loves his baby girl. 

A table was set
For some sweet potato pie

A feast consumed

Thanksgiving comas ensued…triptophan?  “All I know is that turkey makes me tired,” Gregor says.
Dear, dear Grandpa. We spoke of Grandma, wondering where she was on a cold New York night, who she was having Thanksgiving with in a hurricane ravaged area.

Special guests wonder why that girl can’t put the camera down.

Did I mention pie?
Or whipped creme?

Parting is such sweet sorrow.  But maybe they’ll get more sleep.

In the indomitable Grandma’s latest email she asked that we appreciate and love each other on the special day of Thanksgiving because not everyone has a family that feels such love for one another.  I often ask, how did I get so lucky?  

I don’t know, but I feel more committed to be a better mother, wife, sister, friend today.  Because tomorrow?  Who knows.  Life changes quickly.  So today, it should count.  I am thankful just for today.

Happy Thanksgiving…and tomorrow dear mothers, I’ll give away that book!  Today I sure am thankful for you too.  xo.  

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Thanksgiving Book Love Giveaway

My husband cooks the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy.  He pores over Bon Appetit for days, visions of turkey and pie dancing in his head.  The Makechnie boys are the chefs in this house. And I like that just fine.
We mamas will wrangle children, roll out pie dough, try new recipes for green bean casserole, and laugh a million laughs around the table while making turkey napkin holders.  It’s grand.  We may go for a run too.  Even grander.
I love my womenfolk.  I love mothers.  And to share the love, I have one more book giveaway….leave a Thanksgiving gobble gobble comment of any kind before Saturday and Paige might just pull your name from the hat.
It’s such a good book with over 60 mothers contributing, including a forward by parenting guru extraordinaire, Linda Eyre, #1 NY Times bestselling parenting author.
Also…visit 71toes (beautiful write-up and where I get so many great parenting ideas) and sunnysideup (lovely, lovely home and family and mother) for the same Thanksgiving motherhood giveaway!  Three chances to win a great book.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends.  May the odds be ever in your favor.  I will never get tired of saying that.  If you don’t win but still really really want this book, let’s talk.  

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Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Thanksgiving was different this year.  Instead of our usual house packed-full-of-Makechnies, it was rather quiet.  Alison left for New York with Sydnie (have I mentioned severe baby withdrawel?), my mom left for Arizona, the Makechnie brothers came and went for a funeral.  Ian is out at school, Seth and Vince went to Hawaii, Kim and Glenn are about to have a baby…I was feeling rather sad about this; I’ve decided that I like our home bursting from the seams on holidays.
Thankfully, Steven, Tiffany, Johnny and Jessica flew in from California and Alana came from Massachusetts.  On Thanksgiving eve, we did nails.  Mine were embarrassingly terrible.  I’m very hard on my hands.  They need some extra love and attention.
Then we had a feast a day early at Grandma’s.  This is the only picture I took.  Can you believe it?
Thank you for coming to visit us!  

Thanksgiving morning there was no turkey trot for me.  Instead we trotted up to Smugglers’ Notch Vermont to meet up with our other Neeham Mass. cousins.

Cousin time!
See all that great snow?  We had a low-key, thoroughly enjoyable, Thanksgiving meal.  The four smallest had their own table.

The big ‘uns had the big table.  Good food, good company.  The meal ended abruptly when Nelson said, “Um, Mom?  The toilet is leaking.”  Brendaen jumped up from the table and ran into the bathroom to discover it was not “leaking,” but “overflowing.” Housekeeping was called.  Girls shrieked.  And Nelson was thoroughly schooled in art of toilet plumbing.  He walked away a better man.

There was a kid room with four beds for all eight children.  Party!!!!  They stayed up too late watching Barishnakov dance in The Nutcracker.  They woke early so they could squeeze in those final moments together and make sure they were overtired and cranky for driving with parents.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.
And then…Black Friday was upon us.
And we were in Vermont.  Taking pictures of farm houses.

And ducks.

And beautiful Lake Champlain in Burlington.  It was gorgeous.  The kids were cold.  This is the best I could do.

Burlington Vermont.  What a fun little town.  They even had a mall that we walked through.  Just so we could be part of the crazy shopping experience.
Next up was Stowe Vermont for a stop at Ben and Jerry’s.  I was starting to get antsy for a run by this time.  Have you noticed that?  The more you do something, the less you can live without it.

Finally, we were in Sharon Vermont, the birthplace of Joseph Smith.  Every year there is a live nativity and a Christmas lighting.  This is the first year we went.  For unto us a child is born…

The lights were beautiful.

We liked the real sheep and donkey.  We liked the music, the apple cider doughnuts, and the cool air that made the hot cider taste even better.

And then, after an unusual, but happy Thanksgiving, we were ready to come home and sleep in our own beds…and wake up to get ready for the next holiday (and a long run.)  But I’m too tired to think about that. Tomorrow I’ll think about it.  It’s off to bed, full of Thanksgiving.  Hope your gobble was just as grand.
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Family Competition

In general, it’s probably not good to be too competitive with your family members.  Especially if it’s always one-sided, not fun, and the outcome is bawling and tattling.  On the other hand, many a great athlete credits an older or younger sibling for pushing them so hard.  Mia Hamm, women’s soccer great, comes to mind.
Sometimes, family competition is quite motivating.  For instance, when Cope’s 7th grade co-ed team played Nelson’s all-boy soccer team?
I’ve never seen Nelson bring his A-game like he did.

No way was his sister getting to the ball first.

“Hi Cope.  My ball!”  Cope was thoroughly put out.

That little boy in the goal.

I almost gave a half-time speech, “This team is NOT going to beat you…” but unfortunately, we were down 2 players, and missing key players to make anything happen.  Basically the 5th graders kicked our 7th grade booties.  I thought Cope might throw herself into the Blackwater she was so mad.

And then there was the other competition where my 8th graders played Gregor’s high school boys JV2 team.  “You’re going down,” I promised.
“Try to control yourself,” he said.  “No kicking the benches or throwing tantrums.”
We even had 2 hired refs!
It was so cold the kids could hardly feel their feet, hands, cheeks, or any other body part.
They felt awesome though, to play high schoolers.
Our winning streak ended right there and Gregor was quite gracious.  Unlike I would have been 🙂

My middle school players are in white.  Proctor in Green.  No way were they going to let us win this one.  I was so proud of my kids.  It capped off a great season.

Even though she was only a 7th grader, the other coach and I agreed – Cope had to get on the field to play her daddy’s team.  Intimidated and wide-eyed, she did awesome.

Other competition:  Pumpkin decorating.  Luckily, they all took home a prize at the church trunk or treat.  Everyone was happy.  Except Paige who forgot hers in the trunk.

Does this honestly work for any family?   It is such a cute dish that I inherited from my mother-in-law. Filled with Halloween treats.  
Sitting on the counter?  Yeah right.  There was grabbing, hiding, hoarding, and a scramble to get it first!  Before it’s gone and someone else gets more than you.  Piggies.   Talk about family competition.  It’s put away now, until G and I are on our own, fighting over the last Twix bar in our eighties.
We are covered in a foot of snow and it’s still coming.  It’s beautiful.  I texted my running buddy at 4:47 and went back to bed until 8:30.  Quite possibly a highlight of my life.  Tomorrow is Turkey Day, where we will show great gratitude for all the blessings we have been given.  We will be polite and gaze around the table, thankful we are all there, eating and laughing together.  I love it.  
There will be no family competition.  
Unless it involves that last piece of turkey sitting in the fridge for a late-night turkey/cranberry sandwich. 
Game on.
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Omaha!

So I flew into Omaha Nebraska the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I was the first one to arrive.  I helped do some yard work, then went grocery shopping with my dad.  I started laughing at the register because I suddenly noticed that over the loud speaker the big Nebraska Husker game was on full blast.  The cashiers all had red Husker shirts and jewelry.  How could I forget that Husker football is the BIGGEST past time and hobby in the great cornhusker state?
Then, off to get Eric and Andrea at the airport.  Allison would come later that night.  I wish my brothers Patrick and Peter could have been there.  My mother was in a panic b/c my brother, Eric, had asked her to tape the Husker game and she couldn’t get the VCR to work. Luckily, a friend came through and taped the game.  Otherwise, Eric wouldn’t be speaking to her.  She even bought husker red and white popcorn!

Eric totally posed for me 🙂  What a pal!  “Eric, hope you still look that good when you’re a dad.”  You are so funny.  Cassie, I think you do need a quote box just for this boy.

The only child present was Autumn Andrea McDonald, my sister’s 2 month old sweetie.  She has a small hemageoma (benign tumor) on her forehead that is supposed to go away by the time she’s two.  She’s the sweetest baby and I loved rocking with her and watching Eric soothe her when fussy.  I would have liked to take her home.

We went to the Winter Quarter’s Temple on Saturday.  My mother, in her new shoes.  She’s all about comfort.  Heels?  Yeah right.  No more.  She wears these athletic duds for all things casual and formal.  She quoted my brother Patrick saying, “Better than those giant black orthopedic shoes.”  
The new kitchen is behind her.

It was a beautiful day.  Me, Andrea, Dad, Mom, and Allison.  Eric stayed behind to babysit Autumn.  I packed no dress clothes so I could travel with only ONE carry-on.  I tell you, it was worth.  I’ll never check baggage again.
This is a special temple to us.  It’s close to our home and sight of Winter Quarters, the place where hundreds of Mormon pioneers stayed for the winter as they trekked west.  We know many members of the church who personally worked on the temple.

Andrea and I kept trying to get a good photo.
Andrea is 13 months younger than me. And I’m a twin!  Can you imagine having the three babies?  My mother apparently thought it to be great fun.
We have been to the Winter Quarter Cemetary many many times.  This monument still makes me pause. It’s a statue of a husband and wife looking down at their baby they had to bury and leave behind in the cold hard ground during the bitter winter.  Hundred of pioneers, many young children died that winter.

Another shot – from the cemetary

I regret not downloading my mother’s pictures because I didn’t take enough!  Oh well.  We came home and had Thanksgiving dinner – a challenge considering most of the dishes and cooking ware was packed for the big move to Arizona.  The highlight of the dinner:  Giving Andrea the Heimlich manuver when she couldn’t swallow her turkey.  I really did!  She’ll owe me forever.  Here’s Eric, Kristy White, Dad, and Allison playing The Train Game.  Eric won and will never let Allison live it down.
I played UNO with Andrea, Naomi, Sarah Huffman, and Mom.

My mother always has an ear of dry corn for the squirrels
And here is my beloved Omaha home.  I love this house and even though some of my hardest times were when I was living here, this place was always a haven, a wonderful place to grow up with my brothers and sister.  My mom and dad were such good parents.  I love the neighborhood and my mother spent hours on the upkeep of the home and yard.  There is a for sale sign in front of it now.  
I spent many hours on that porch, swinging on the porch swing, watching the sunset, wishing for Prince Charming (yes, I was a bit dramatic:), listening to country music tapes made by Nate and mixes from Clin.  A couple boys kissed me on that porch but I only remember Gregor 🙂  My brother jumped off the roof once while I was sitting on the porch swing with Gregor.  He ran down the hill to meet a car at the end of the road.  We held that over his head for a loooong time.

This is just a pathetic shell of my bedroom.  We moved to this house from across town when I was 14.  I was soooo thrilled to have my own room.  My mom was so nice and let me decorate however I wanted.  I wish I had a picture of its full glory.  I painted the walls a bright pink with a flower border along the top.  My parents had the vanity built into the wall with a pull out drawer for brushes and make-up.  I picked out a black floral bedspread and then the highlight – I found a flower magazine of my mother’s and cut out a million flowers.  Then I glued them all over the walls along both sides of the closet.
I thought it magnificant.  
I had framed posters on the wall – “The Lady of Shalot” and a great train station kiss scene.
It was a great room.
My mother’s backyard.  She spends hours outside making it beautiful.  I used to climb as high as I could climb in big pine tree in the back.  I loved to watch the sunset hitting the flat Nebraska land.  It’s so flat it seems to go one forever.
The shed in the back was made by Andrea’s husband Curt.  Baby Cope and Savannah put their palm prints on the sides of the little windows.  Andrea and I made the window boxes.  Sadly, the shed must stay behind.
I wish I had had time to say good-bye to all the individual people I have known.  I wish there was time to visit Patty and Bill Hamilton’s grave, my dear friends who passed away.
I went for my last run the day before leaving.  It was cold!  But way better than training for cross-country in the horrible August humidity.  Ugh.  
More than the city of Omaha, I will miss the people I’m not sure I’ll ever be back to visit.  Cope is beside herself if I bring it up.
I am however, excited for the next chapter.  
Arizona is hot and 60 degrees right now.  Nelson is excited they have scorpians.  Brynne is excited my parents might have a pool.
Good-bye Omaha! Ciao Bella, as Allison would say.
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