With winter looming, so is sickness. This is how I’m keeping the viral and bacterial bugs at bay. Even with two kids being sick back to back for two weeks (coughing, sneezing, and throwing up,) so far I’m going strong and feeling groovy (please, karma, don’t strike me down tomorrow.)
Exercise. Even when I’m not feeling well, a short run, walk, or workout makes me feel better and I don’t seem to catch as many bugs.
Morning Smoothies. Packed with greens, fruits, chia seeds, fat, and protein, breakfast can’t get much better. May food be thy medicine.
Usually, if I’m not feeling well, one of the above is out of whack. We can’t skip the base! Now, since we’re not superhuman or perfect all the time, let’s turn to our friendly medicine cabinet for a little extra help.
1. Multi-vitamin. No, I’m not pregnant. I just read that multi-prenatal vitamins were good for #hairandnails 🙂
2. Vitamin D. So many benefits, especially during the winter months when we aren’t soaking it up by the sun! Especially good for kids with growing bones, and females.
3. Oregano Oil. May I suggest the pills, NOT THE LIQUID. Trust me. You’ll burp a few times and taste oregano, but this stuff works!
4. Emergen-C. This flavor is delicious and it kicks coming colds to the curb!
5. Alka-Seltzer. When the cold is definitely on the way, I take this. It’s especially good for headaches and general malaise.
I don’t take all of these every day, maybe a couple times a week or when I’m feeling a little off.
Did you get the flu shot? I did because it was convenient and free with my insurance. Does it do much good? I’m not so sure but I’m crossing fingers and toes.
Okay friends, don’t forget your base (those first three listed!) And may you go forth and be well this winter. Sleep! Run! Eat Plants! Stay home if you’re sick so you don’t infect your friends, and that extra rest will get you better, faster.
Last summer my mom said: “We need to stay in touch better. I’ve been feeling disconnected.”
Remember when you and your siblings all lived at home under the same roof? Remember how you knew everything about each other? I never really thought there would come a day when I didn’t know all the details of my sibling’s lives.
I mean, we spent a lot of time together. Oink.
But it happened. We five siblings left for college, missionary service, and marriage.
Including my parents, we are now in four different states across the country.
The Professor’s family is in five different states and not all in the same country!
We read each other’s blogs and Facebook updates, but it isn’t quite the same as a nitty gritty written update about kitchen appliances and how potty training is really going.
And so, last summer, we began a family newsletter.
This happened around the same time I was listening to a Gretchen Rubin podcast. Apparently, her family has been doing this for years. And if Gretchen says it’s a good habit, it is!
We have two rules:
It’s okay to be boring
It’s okay to be short
We’ve been going strong for a year.
Every Sunday we write a little update of what happened during the week, and while no one is actually in charge of kicking off the weekly email, it always gets started by someone.
I tell you what, it’s been even more fantastic than I thought it would be. Surprisingly, family updates are never boring, and they’re rarely short. Once you start writing, you keep writing. And what’s boring to you (grocery shopping with twins), is fascinating to your siblings and parents.
There have been no downsides. On the contrary, we look forward to it every week. We know what’s going on with each other. We are as close as we’ve ever been. That is due, in large part, because we have made a conscious effort to stay in touch. We still text and call, but the weekly newsletter has been even more bonding.
Letter writing art. And while we don’t use a quill and scroll (maybe we should?), I save all the emails in an email file entitled “Journal.” Personalities come through in a different way when writing. Funny stories are shared, and sad ones too. With two deaths in the family this year, it was actually painful to start writing again. But it was also the best shared therapy we could have had.
Sometimes Brynne, my 12-year-old writes the newsletter. Here’s one of my favorites:
Makechnie Newsletter by Brynne
The Makechnie family had a great week. Cope was made student leader, Nelson is enjoying lacrosse, and Brynne and Paige both recited poems at their school for poetry night. Both of them did a great job and now have this coming week off from school. They are going to do many “fun” things, such as orthodontist appointments, cleaning, yard work, walking the dog, going through clothes, and taking out the garbage.
Up in NH we are enjoying the weather! Although some of the weather has been bad, most of it has been warm and sunny, and this week the weather is going to be lovely. Today J-A-Y came to church with the Makechnie family! We think he enjoyed it, but if he didn’t he was too polite to tell us that. Cope had other drama this week too. In Vocal Ensemble she fainted. Amy thinks she was just tired. It was quite dramatic, and Cope narrowly avoided throwing up on Jay’s shoes! That would have been terrible! Happy Passover!
Donations are what keep this newsletter running!!!
Ha. Brynne will give you the real dirt!
The day will come, when the darlings leave us.
It could be by boat:
Or a Ford truck:
Someday, my fab four won’t live under the same roof or swim in the same ocean:So. We must stay in touch!
Write to one another. Every week. Because you can. I can guarantee, you won’t regret it!
It is the bane of every parent’s existence: ALL THOSE PIECES OF PAPER. What do you do with it all? Especially if you are trying to keep clutter to a minimum and have More of Less?
I’ve decided one must be ruthless to survive. A couple of years ago, I got serious. In our family, each child gets one color-coded file folder. This file lives in my yellow, spray-painted filing cabinet next to my desk on the main floor.
At the beginning of each school year, I write the name and school year on the top of the file folder. Throughout the year, I save only the most meaningful pieces of paper. If it doesn’t fit in the file folder? Sorry, it has to go 🙁 What about all of that artwork? We hang art on the wall for awhile, sometimes take a picture, and then wave good-bye (correction: I wave good-bye. Under no circumstances do you ask permission to throw something away!)
At the end of every school year, the yearly file gets plucked from the yellow filing cabinet and goes downstairs to live in a plastic, portable filing cabinet. Each child has one. The plan is that when our children leave the house, they can take their personal plastic filing cabinet with them: What about important documents, medical records, and glasses RX you need to access every once in awhile? Who wants to go down to the basement and try to find it? What I’ve done, is use those same colored file folders (for instance, Cope is always yellow) and write the name and “Records” on the top. This file lives permanently in my yellow filing cabinet upstairs so I can access it easily.
This was one of those pieces of paper I wanted to keep: Nelson’s Adidas shoe design he drew in 8th grade. It went in Nelson’s blue “2014-15” file folder.
This system has simplified life SO much. I’m keeping a record, but it’s simple and automatic. I used to turn all these papers into homemade photo books, but after baby #2 was born, I quickly discovered that paper and photos would literally turn into a full-time job. I just couldn’t keep up. The feeling that I wasn’t remembering my child’s life in a clear and organized fashion hung over me like a storm cloud. This system? No stress.
Would it be nicer to have it all in nice, 3-ringed binders? Perhaps. But this is what I can do.
The kids also have a bin in the basement where I’ve saved a few items like baby blankets, a special toy, or Nelson’s cowboy boots he wore for three years. Some items are keepers; but remember: you must be ruthless to survive in a world that loves STUFF!
When the darlings leave home, they’ll take their one filing cabinet and one bin. That’s it! Cope will probably also steal my shoes, but that’s another battle…
Speaking of organizing files, I have a lot of them.
All of my personal files live in my yellow filing cabinet. Here’s a look at my writing section:
I recently discovered the beauty of the label maker (how can this bring me such giddy joy? I don’t know but it does!!!)You’ll notice the color-coded children’s section up front.
It opens with a Will Rogers quote: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”
Isn’t it funny? Even as adults we’re still trying to impress each other.
Warning: Reading this book may lead to the frantic purging of closets, drawers and cupboards that require multiple trips to Goodwill and the curb. This behavior may also leave you feeling like the weight of the world is off your back … at least that was my reaction after just two dressers.
I often wonder about this phenomenon; why do we feel so much better when we get rid of stuff? What is it about stuff that is so burdensome?
He’s right – it’s important stuff. I’m spreading the word!
The book begins with a story: “Our two-car garage, as always, was full of stuff. Boxes stacked one on top of another threatened to fall off shelves. Bikes were tangled together, leaned against a wall … Rakes and shovels and brooms leaned every which way. Some days we’d have to turn sideways when getting in and out of our cars to squeeze through the mess that filled the garage.”
Oh my gosh, he’s been in my garage!
Reading prompted multiple questions: Why are we working such long, hard hours just so we can buy, collect and store stuff?
Why? What’s the point of it all?
As a society we may be working more, but for what? I don’t want to live in a tree house, but my lifestyle is certainly far more extravagant than my parents, and far far more luxurious than my grandparents and their grandparents! I have a feeling they would be astounded at our wealth – I’ve seen the pictures of their poverty.
It’s hard for us in different ways. We’ve created a lifestyle that requires us to work longer hours, find multiple jobs, and make dual incomes. To alleviate the stress, many of us make it worse: We buy more (dopamine hit!)
And then, to take care of all our stuff, we have to clean it, organize it, buy more containers to organize it, and spend our precious weekends moving our stuff from one location to the other.
STOP the insanity!
We don’t really need to own all this stuff.
These were the words that changed Becker’s world in 2008 while talking to his elderly next-door neighbor as he struggled to clean his garage. While pulling out dusty, underused possessions, Becker noticed his son alone in the backyard. His son had wanted to play with him that morning, but alas, dad was too busy. “The juxtaposition of the two scenes dug deep into my heart, and I began to recognize the source of my discontent for the first time. … It was piled in my driveway.”
This moment is when Becker’s journey into minimalism began.
The whole point is this: “Our excessive possessions are not making us happy. Even worse, they are taking us away from the things that do. Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we are free to pursue all the things that really do matter.”
Using both scientific studies and anectdotal stories, Becker tells us what our closets are telling us:
In America, we consume twice as many material goods as 50 years ago. Over the same period, the size of the average American home has nearly tripled and contains about 300,000 items. On average, our homes contain more televisions than PEOPLE! Home organization is now an $8 billion industry and still, one of out every 10 American households rents off-site storage, “the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real-estate industry over the past four decades.”
We Americans have a personal-debt problem, with the average household’s credit card debt over $15,000 and the average mortgage debt over $150,000.
Debt makes us very very unhappy.
Becker wants us to see our overstuffed homes for what they are: distractions from the source of true happiness like relationships, free time, financial freedom and less stress.
He acknowledges it’s not easy, particularly for families with children, pets, and a lifetime of momentos. It takes a hard look and family agreement to know how to realistically downsize. It can take months and even years to change our habits and actually own less. I’m finding this to be true.
I’ve kept my sun-bleached lifeguarding hair for TWENTY YEARS.
I made these crayfish claw earrings for my sister as a joke in high school or college. She kindly regifted them to me. I bravely tossed them. And now I’m actually sad because they’d make a great gag gift! See? That’s another reason we don’t throw away – sometimes we regret it!
A small white statue with a broken arm. It has sentimental value, but alas, it has sat at the back of my drawer for decades.
Do I really need a dusty tassle?
What this is and where did it come from?
Brynne has also caught the decluttering bug. Outside her bedroom I heard her say, “Paige! You can’t keep it! Does it SPARK JOY???!”
I purged most of our CDs and many many movies that I can stream from Spotify or Netflix.
I’ve still got drawers and file cabinets and rooms to go, but it feels SO SO good to have less stuff.
Read this book! (and no, I’m not getting anything out of this review.) Becker makes such a great case, I’m convinced that if we followed a path of minimalism (owning less stuff) we would reap the benefits Becker is seeing all over the minimalist world: greater joy, more contentment, increased generosity, more high-quality possessions, a better example to our children, less work for ourselves and others, less comparison, less distraction, and freedom to pursue what we were really put on this earth to do.
Though its not a religious book, Becker is a preacher (love that). He’s a seeker of happiness and enlightenment. He recounts the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he can do to gain eternal life. Jesus says to sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and follow him. But when the young man “heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
I recently read in the New York Times, that it’s not possible to be an atheist: we all worship something. A good question for us all: What are we worshipping?
The More of Less was released on May 3 and after its first week, landed on many National Bestseller Lists:
USA Today Bestsellers List: #10 in Nonfiction; #2 in Self-Help
I’m still a paper calendar girl, BUT, am slowly, slowly becoming a Google Calendar fanatic. It has major advantages. My husband and I each have our own digital calendars. They’re synced so that I can spy on him all day long!
My older kids’s school calendar is synced so I know when every class meets, what sports team is playing, and when the SAT is. More spying!
Just today I was at the orthodontist. Usually, it’s: “I’ll call you later and set up an appointment – I don’t have my calendar.” What a pain.
No longer! Now you look at your handy dandy Google calendar on your smart phone and schedule it RIGHT THEN. Done.
Now, let’s add the Reminder feature and you’ll never forget anything again! Here is what your calendar looks like (screen shot of my phone. don’t you like the pretty colors?):
See that red circle with the + sign? Hit it! (and YES, I’ve started scheduling reoccurring chores, like “dust house.”)After you hit the + sign, your screen looks like this: Do you want to schedule a Reminder or an Event? For me, Reminders are things I can check off, they’re a REMINDER I need to do something, versus an Event is some place I need to go (appointments, etc.)
Type in your reminder: (like write this post!)
Choose when you want this to happen: Press “Save.”
You can schedule something for once, once a week, once a month, once a year…it makes life easier!
For instance, I my kids have youth group every Tuesday at 6:30. It’s on the calendar for life.
Our pellet stove needs servicing every July for the $50 discount. I created a Reminder for July 20th. I scheduled it to remind me every July until I die…done! Are you as excited as I am?
The annual piano tuning? Water boiler service? Use the Reminder feature! You can even have it send you an email or Reminder bell if you really don’t want to forget.
This was when I was away from the house and remembered I needed to call the pediatrician and schedule four well-child visits for the year. Rather than scrawling it on a piece of paper, stuffing it in my purse, and forgetting about it, I wrote a Reminder!
Once you’ve scheduled your Reminder, it carries over to the next day until you “Mark as Done. Sometimes my brain goes berserk and spits out a zillion things… Now I have a place for all those thoughts and ideas.
What I’d advise: check your Reminders at the end of the day and have a plan to do something with them. Keep your phone as uncluttered as possible.
If you have no intention of actually doing something, don’t create the Reminder. Or schedule it in a month when you have time to do it. Scheduling without intention is just something to feel guilty about. You will feel overwhelmed, then discouraged, and dread checking your calendar all together.
Now, here’s my favorite feature: the “Mark as Done” button.
After calling the pediatrician, click on the Reminder.
At the bottom of the screen it says “Mark as Done.” It gets crossed out right then and there so that the Reminder looks like this:“Mark as Done” is a happy endorphin boost!
There are many many electronic Reminder apps, but I need reeeaaaalllly easy. Reminders in Google Calendar is easy.
And full confession here: sometimes I see “Dust House” and have no intention of dusting that day. I click “Mark as Done” anyway because I don’t want it carried over to the next day. I know, I’m such a rebel. But it’s almost as satisfying as actually dusting.
Happy February! Am I the only one happy that January is over (in 4 short hours!)? Now that sickness has swept the house (last one standing!) we can move on to the month of love!
Speaking of love, I bring you the “Yes, I’d Love To!” Jar.
Many months ago I heard about this idea on a podcast (wish I could remember which one!) The darlings became my guinea pigs. The idea is simple:
1. Put a jar on the counter
2. Label it: “Yes, I’d Love To.”
3. Every time someone asks you to do something, respond with “Yes, I’d love to!”
4. For every “Yes, I’d love to” response, put a cotton ball (or something similar) in the jar
5. When the jar is filled up, go for ice-cream
Of course the darlings liked the ice-cream idea. And it became somewhat comical how fast they could fill the jar up – like in five minutes – by asking ridiculous questions and rushing to make a basket.
I told them we had to play for real.
My older kids humor me, even when obviously feeling “I’m-way-too-old-for-your-games-mom.” (I like to live in the dream world where they actually like my cheesy games.)
And so we began.
“Nelson, would you please get me a fork?”
Instead of, “Get it yourself,” he caught himself. “Yes, I’d love to, Brynne,” in yes, a somewhat sarcastic voice. But he still handed her a fork.
“Mom, would you please get me some milk?”
Instead of, “I just sat down” or “You have legs” I caught myself trying to ever-so-cheerfully set the example with, “Why yes, I’d love to!”
“Cope, would you please cut me an apple?”
Instead of a flat, “No,” Cope darling sighed, but eyeing that jar in need of filling and with ice-cream fairies dancing in her head, responded: “Why yes, I’d love to.” Add some eye-batting. And a high-pitched Cinderella voice.
Maybe we’re just competitive. Maybe we like games. Maybe we just wanted ice-cream, but the jar began to fill. And seeing the jar fill, made us want to fill it faster.
At first I wondered if I was just teaching them to be fake or only acting for a prize.
But then again, we nudge our children all the time to do things they don’t actually feel like doing. “Say thank you,” “Tidy up your space,” “Be kind to the new kid,” “Write a note.” In fact, isn’t that what parenting is all about? Isn’t this part of the future training of America? Do the thing you really don’t want to do because it’s just the right thing to do!
Also, because it was on my brain, a quote from philosopher and psychologist, William James:
“Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.” -William James
Oh yes, I love it. Armed with James and his mighty words of wisdom, I felt completely justified in the training of my guinea pigs with the “Yes, I’d Love To” jar.
Based on research for Better Than Before (fabulous new book on habits) Rubin found if we want to feel a certain way, we can act that way first.
It’s really hard to change our emotional state just by wanting to change it (though Mindset surely is powerful.) But it might be easier if we ACT first and let the emotional state follow.
Wasn’t that so true when I was at home with little kids. Just the act of changing out of my pajama bottoms and doing my hair as if I was going to a real job – which motherhood surely is – changed my whole day from slogging through to more-happily mothering.
It works. It really does. When I’m irritated and snappish with a child, it works wonders for me to laugh. Or hug. Or smile.
“Fake it ‘Til You Make it” works.
Isn’t it the truth that when we speak more kindly, we feel more kindly?
It doesn’t really matter if we want to get a fork for our sister. Get the fork. It makes her happy. And guess what…we all know acting kinder makes us happier, too.
Brain research supports this idea. Act the way you want to feel. Not the other way around. If you’re walking around yelling and slamming doors, that only makes you want to yell and slam some more doors. Your brain says: “I must be really angry!”
Harvard research says that the act of giving thanks actually makes us feel happier. Such a simple and quick fix for general grumpiness.
I used to hear that boys should go “punch something” to get their aggression out. Perhaps they should make some cookies for the neighbors instead.
Feeling shy? Introduce yourself! I swear it works wonders. Suddenly we’re confidently chatting our way through an awkward social situation.
This experiment suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, because they can’t make angry, frowning faces. Crazy, huh?!
This phenomenon happened to me the other day.
I was feeling pretty miserable. My energy was low. Consistently telling myself how much I hate January doesn’t help. I had to take a car full of kids all the way to Concord, be in charge of an youth activity, and then drive everyone home again. Growling would just not do (because not all of the occupants were my kids 🙂 ) I wanted to lay back down on the bed, read, and be served warm toast. Instead I got out of my sweats and pulled on a pair of jeans. I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on some mascara and started the carpool. By the time I got home I was a totally different person. I was actually happy.
Was I being fake? I don’t think so. I think I was choosing to be the person I wanted to be that night.
The aftermath of the “Yes, I’d Love to” Jar was this: over time the darlings lost interest in putting cotton balls in the jar. But I did notice that the “yes, I’d love to” phrase hung around for much longer. It still comes out of everyone’s mouth once in awhile. The jar works best if it’s on the counter for awhile and then put away for a season. It’s like a special toy – best to be pulled out only occasionally. And then when it’s pulled out again, it’s fun.
So I ask you – How do you want to feel?
Then act that way.
The jar hasn’t been out for months. But I think it’s time again. The dishwasher needs emptying 🙂
“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau
Oh yes, it is that time of year. When I feel absolutely giddy about GOALS.
But did you know? Only 8% of all people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?
On Sunday, we had a family meeting, I excitedly gave each child their very own Goal Binder (yep, I know how to have FUN!) We gathered round and made covers.
First, we reflected on 2015. What was great? What wasn’t so great?
We all agreed, Tenny getting hit by a car was a low point 🙁 Also, Paige did not achieve “cutting stuff.” I don’t know what to tell you. Except you can learn a lot about the people living under your roof…
Next, we wrote down what we wanted to accomplish in the next six months.
To make it a little easier, we divided our goals into categories: spiritual, educational, physical, and personal.
After all the reading and listening I’ve done this year, I’ve learned:
The best way to keep a goal:
Be specific (“be healthy” is not specific. “Eat 5 fruits and vegetables every day” is better)
Set a deadline
Write down the “next action step”
Be accountable to someone other than yourself
The “next action step”
Writing down the next action step is crucial. For instance, you want to run a 1/2-marathon in May? Then maybe your next action step is to download a 1/2-marathon program. Maybe it’s driving to the Runner’s Ally to buy a pair of shoes. Maybe you need to ask a friend if she’ll be your running buddy every Saturday for the long run.
Want to eat 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day? Perhaps the next action step is to write down some fruits and vegetables that you will actually eat, on your grocery list.
If your goal is to hang family pictures on the wall, then your next action step might be: “Go to Lowe’s and buy nails” or “Gather pictures I want to hang.”
The point is: break big goals up into small, easy steps. Post in a place you will see them.
Wisdom says it’s best to only have 5-7 goals at one time. Otherwise we get overwhelmed. But hey, even 1 or 2 goals is great.
Being accountable to someone else
I have to have running buddies – not every day – but at least once a week. It’s huge for my progress. We text each other, check in, sign up for races together.
My friend, Kelly, wants to run her first 1/2-marathon this June. She schedules her run in her calendar. This appointment cannot be broken! We also email throughout the week to talk about any issues and to keep her pumped up! Accountability, my friends, works.
I should probably have a “cleaning-the-house” accountability buddy. But. Nah.
After the six month goals, we made a list of the goals to accomplish in one year:I encouraged specificity and next action items (working on that 🙂
Next came some fun speculation. We looked into the future. Where do you want to be in life? Who do you want to be? We wrote goals down for:
the next six months
the coming year
the next five years
the next ten years
the next twenty years In five years, Paige wants to start her Personal Progress Program (our church’s fantastic youth program), play on her mama’s soccer team(!), and make high honor roll. Her mama approves!
In twenty years, when she is 28, Paige plans on having eight children. Hey, I said be specific!
In 20 years, this darling hopes to be “low-key” wealthy. “Enough to be comfortable, but not mad rich.” Made me laugh.
It was great to see Brynne wants to be brushing her teeth 2 x a day in 20 years 🙂
And it’s good to know I’m going to be a grandmother surrounded by many many little tots.
Thank you, darlings, for giving us a small peek into your personal goals!
There are tons of goal-setting methods out there, countless “how-to” posts and articles. But however you want to improve, I suggest just starting. See where it takes you. Find a method that works and begin, even if you’ve failed before. Procrastination fosters big dreams but kills big goals.
Did you know? A person will set the same New Year’s resolution 10 different times without getting it done?
I love goals, but I’m also reminded that there is a time and place to JUST STOP. To BE STILL. To be happy right where we are right at this moment. I have struggled with contentment for a long time, always wanting to be better at being me. All this “becoming” and growing up has led me to a good place, but now? Stop. Breathe. Say thank you.
We are doing a wonderful job being. Just being. It’s a form of gratitude to sit still and say “thank you for this. And that’s all.”
There are a thousand ways to be a good mother, even if it’s different from everyone else around you. Be happy with that. We don’t always need to be a “BETTER” version of yesterday. Sometimes, we just need to BE.
Maybe that’s a goal for 2016.
Goals shouldn’t make us more busy. No, instead, writing out goals should help us focus on the things that matter most. Goals help me not drift or become too driven by my own ambitions.
“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits . . . You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. . . .” -Flannery O’Connor
Happy New Year – to your best year!
And of course I’d like to know – do you write out goals for New Year’s?
Not that talk. The other one: The Great Tech Talk.
With school in earnest this week, so begins begins conversation about technology use in our home.
As a preamble, I’d like to say this: I love the internet.
As a follow-up: I despise the internet.
It’s complicated, this love-hate relationship.
The love is THIS BLOG. I get to write and publish, and meet other bloggers and writers and commenters from all over the world – Amazing! Wonderful. The love is connecting on Facebook and Instagram and sharing pictures immediately. It’s Google calendar, email, and Lindsey Stirling Youtube videos. It’s recipes and Shutterfly and Airbnb and GPS directions (because otherwise I’m not getting there.) It’s newsletters and research and googling Donald Trump’s hair. Yes, the World Wide Web is simply awesome.
I’m inspired daily and believe there is no greater and faster tool to spread goodness and light than the internet.
I also believe there’s no greater or faster tool to spread evil and destruction than the internet.
Like the despicable Ashley Madison Website whose tag line is: “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” Which boasts 40 MILLION users. I mean, what the heck is going on?
News like this makes me want to crawl in a bunker with my children.
Alas, we cannot hide. There is a battle going on, and we, my friends are the resilient foot soldiers.
Did you know? 11.7 is the average age a child encounters pornography on the web. Some researchers say it’s now closer to age 8. It’s one of the reasons I’m very wary of sleepovers. It’s not that I don’t trust my kids. I just don’t trust your kids – kidding!
The videos are wonderful. They’re brutally honest. But I’d really love to avoid the “recovery” part and start with prevention. I want to protect myself and my children from the great pain of needing a 12-step program.
Just this week I’ve had two older gentlemen shake their heads at me and say, “I’m glad we’re not raising our kids today. I’m glad it’s you and not me.”
Well, we are raising our kids in this generation, and far from being pessimistic about all the crap they navigate on a daily basis, I’m confident about their future. Because our children possess great light. They know the difference between right and wrong. But it’s hard to stand alone. They need to see their parents modeling good and intentional online habits.
So this is where we try.
As an adult, I have to be careful. I adore my iPhone. Its my precious. I’m too often drawn in, checking email too often, feeling a writer’s “high” when one of my posts receives a “like,” as if my worth is measured by comments and likes. I’m not always a great example.
The Professor is my accountability partner. I tell him my goals: No phone checking upon wake up. Early morning is for quiet meditation, scripture reading, and running on real roads. With school starting, I resist the urge to reach for the phone until the kids have left for school. And every single day I fight that urge. The brain likes what it likes.
Seen on Instagram: “Technoference.” New research out of BYU’s College of Family Life and Social Sciences shows that technoference is statistically linked to lower relationship quality AND life satisfaction.
Brilliant Sue, science teacher has written much about How Kids Learn. She’s helped me see the wisdom in kids “buying in” instead of adults being too militant and having all the control. We can’t stem the tech tide – nor should we! Kids will find a way to Google. Paraphrasing Joseph Smith, “we teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.” (and monitor and pray a whole heck of a lot!)
In 2012, Janell Burley Hoffman wrote the iPhone contract heard round the world for her 13-year-old son. I loved it. Not everyone did. Based on some of the comments, you’d think she was the world’s worst home dictator. In my opinion, Janell is a resilient foot soldier. She’s fighting a good fight.
My take is this: we cannot be too careful. The dangers are real. Our family has not been immune. And it breaks my heart that there are images and words that can never be erased.
As our children grow older, there are more tech users in the home. We now iPads, iPods, and phones (but not iPhones. I refuse.) It’s becoming more common to have all homework assignments, textbooks, and reference materials on-line. As such, our kids are on-line a lot. We’ve all become foot soldiers, trying to find the balance between good, better, and best.
As school — and therefore technology use — begins for real this coming week, we will revisit “the great tech talk” as a family. As part of the talk, we sign a contract. Is a contract really necessary? I believe it’s essential.
Do our children have input? Absolutely! To avoid power struggles, I highly suggest it. Tech power struggles have been hard on my relationship with my children. I become the nag. They can’t stand me. So. We continue to discuss and (mostly) agree. We all know the rules. They help shape the consequences.
Our Tech Contract goes something like this (adapted from Hurley):
Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology. Aren’t you the luckiest? 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. Before using your device, you must ask permission.
2. Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen. Devices are not to be used in bedrooms, behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place for homework, we will discuss.
3. All apps must be approved.
4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. Learn to love it.
5. We will be able to read your texts and KIK conversations at any time.
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 bishop or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! No pornography. If someone shows you pornography, FLEE. Come talk to us. It’s destructive. It ruins lives.
10. When you enter the home, put your technology on the black shelf by the front door.
11. At night, after homework is done, turn in your technology to the black shelf or hutch.
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 a car with us, ask permission before using your device. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations. It’s polite. It’s important to learn how to communicate — even when it’s awkward.
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. When we call or text, answer immediately.
16. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. With any website or song, ask yourself: How does this make me feel?
17. If you break your device (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.
18. 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.
Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you. You will make mistakes. We will still love you. We are a forever family. We want you to be happy.
It’s been a great summer. We’ve traveled to foreign lands, gathered for sweet reunions, and swum and swam the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans blue.
We’ve soaked up summer, swimming at the local lake every day, and eating too much ice-cream. It’s been glorious.
Among all the great and grand adventures, something very ordinary occurred in my home that had a tremendous impact on me. Kim, this one’s for you.
In July my dear sister-in-law, Kim, and her husband, Glenn, (my husband’s brother, and my awesome marathon buddy!) traveled all the way from Saudi Arabia with their four young children: Tate and Finn ages 6 and 4, and Kenna and Taryn, 6-month-old twin girls.
Ah, I’m obsessed with the twins.
Let me eat your foot.
What it’s like to live in Saudi Arabia deserves it’s own post. It’s been hard, especially for Kim who is not allowed to drive and has to dress as according to local custom, every time she leaves the Aramco compound. Fresh fruit and vegetables, flour, mascara – what’s that?
Coming back to the U.S. required all sorts of documentation, planning, and luggage (the baby formula alone could feed a small zoo). It was quite dizzying what they accomplished.
Kim, super mother to four delightful children, arrived at our front door very very sick with strep throat.
A few days later, (after rudely sleeping in whilst my guests had been up with babies throughout the night and had fixed their own breakfast,) I stumbled downstairs to say good morning. I found my kitchen entirely too clean, with warm, fluffy pancakes awaiting me (their marital teamwork is impressive!). Glenn was even sweeping the floor.
Kim was at the kitchen table with 6-year-old, Tate. He had a pencil and a workbook. He was writing his letters, carefully focusing on each swirl and twirl of the alphabet, while his mother balanced twins on her lap, patiently pointing at the paper, redirecting when Tate became distracted by a fly, and encouraging when necessary (often.)
I was so struck by this scene.
I could see myself, years earlier, at the kitchen table with my oldest child, Cope: when summer was long and hot, when we had endless hours stretched out before us, when we had a schedule that required no driving to activities. Back then I was stricter about things like bedtime and television (only Saturday mornings)!
Every morning in the summer we read, we wrote, we learned all the notes on the piano. And every day, desperate for entertainment, we took a very slow walk and had a very long bath.
After writing, Kim followed Tate, and I followed Kim, to the piano. I witnessed this mother, a younger (and idealized) version of myself, patiently teaching her child how to play. When he complained, she paused and said she would wait until he was ready. She didn’t yell or take away all his stuffed animals (ala Tiger Mother!) She just waited until he was ready.
I could practically see Tate’s brain and all his synapses connecting as he concentrated. He was so earnest. His little hands splayed out, connecting each finger to a note on the piano. He played his scales and then moved on to Old McDonald Had a Farm. When he nailed the song, his pleasure filled the whole house.
“Watch this, Auntie,” he said to me, grinning.
I felt a pang of…guilt…mixed with inspiration and resolve. I thought of my Paige, the youngest child. Was she was getting the same kind of mothering her older siblings received? Or have I gotten too busy?
It wasn’t that the early days of mothering were simpler or easier. In many ways it was harder, with younger children to look after, a house that always needed cleaning, 12 dorm boys to “mother,” and constant fatigue from not enough sleep. But the difference is we were less busy outside the home. And I admit it, I was more diligent about some things – like printing up all the American Red Cross swim guidelines so I could teach Cope and Nelson how to swim all the strokes and float with their clothes on for two minutes. Now? Ah geez, who can I hire???
Like most families, the youngest child has a very different life then her older siblings. This week, for instance, Paige happily came to preseason soccer practice everyday while I coached. She swung on swings, wandered the playground.
The life of younger siblings life most often means being dragged to this and that. It’s life in the car and waiting. I’m not saying it’s all bad. Life is good for her, but it’s just different. Maybe this is how youngest children get spoiled; parents feel guilty about not teaching them how to clean a bathroom so they reward them with iPads. Am I totally off base here?
As far as summer goes, I’m very anti-commitment. I resent camps, clubs, lessons, and anything that requires driving. We don’t participate in much. Summer is for us, because just wait. School will start and we will go, go, go.
And sometimes I worry that the little one is not getting the best of me.
Oh, we still have charts, a “zone” chore wheel, one on one time, but mustering up the discipline to sit down and be still and teach letters has waned. My older children have moved on, and in many ways I’ve gone with them. It’s so exciting, to be busy with freshman orientation, ocean classroom, and gasp – dating! In addition, a mother has dreams of her own…writing, running, pursuing…it’s hard to know what to forego and for how long.
I’ve already done the Arthur puzzles a thousand times. I can’t get excited about High-Ho Cheerio. There’s also the “been there, done that.” I’ve outgrown play dates and learning circles.
And yet, the littles need it. Does it really matter that I’m bored?
How easy it is not do that hard, mundane “stuff” of teaching the younger ones, as if they’ll just magically pick up “how to fold the laundry” on their own. I now understand how “the baby” of the family often has a vastly different parent than the older ones had. Why the baby doesn’t have his or her own scrapbook. Was mom and dad just too tired to take the pictures?
Like, l totally get why my younger brothers got everything they wanted (they’ll recall it differently, ha! :))
I remember someone telling me that we had to be careful as our children became older, that we didn’t neglect the younger ones. At the time I thought it a ridiculous statement. If anything, it was the babies that took my attention. The older ones became independent while I was nursing and changing diapers. But now I understand. It’s too easy to get lazy, to feel tired, to stop parenting.
Young, new mothers might not understand that their example is every bit important as more “veteran” mothers. As new moms, we often think we have no idea what we’re doing. But we do know! It’s instinct. It’s maternal. It comes. We know what we need to do. How great it is, this two-way street of learning between mothers at all stages.
I called my other sister-in-law, Jill, to tell her about this revelation, of watching Kim work with Tate and how I needed to buckle down with Paige, to read and write and do more math. Jill, the mother of four girls said, “I KNOW! I THOUGHT THE SAME THING!”
Kim, we all want to be like you 🙂
So, as I look towards fall, I know that life isn’t going to stop. We still have to drive, deliver and pick up children from here and there. We’re not giving up soccer practice or going to school or parent-teacher conferences or the grocery store. But I’ve also concluded that there also has to be more “No” for the better “Yes.” There has to be those Nine Minutes. After that we can go back to benevolent neglect (kidding!).
And gee, wasn’t my “baby” Paige thrilled when I told her we were going to read and write everyday just like we talked about at the beginning of the summer and then didn’t do so well because we went to Europe (see, life is HARD :). We were going to make music together and she wasn’t going to love it every second, but like my mother always said, “like that has anything to do with it.” (Thanks, mom!) Also, we were going to do MATH!
Paige only THINKS she detests math. She whined and complained, but this newly inspired mother wasn’t giving in. And just this morning, after weeks of working hard together, Paige showed me her math score: 100%. She was beaming. That my friends, is called self-esteem: doing the hard things and the right things because they have to get done. It makes you feel mighty good about yourself.
This whole scenario reminded me of the expression, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That might be true. But you certainly can remind the old dog of the tricks she already knows. And I’m happy to report, it comes back pretty easily.
To all you tired, new mothers who don’t sleep much, who are a little wide-eyed from this great adventure called motherhood, who don’t think you know what you’re doing: you do know. keep inspiring us older dogs. We need you more than you know.
And dear Kimmy, thank you <3
I’m sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I’m trying to pay better attention 🙂
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.