Category Archives: kids

on not forgetting: we already have a great kid

The other day I asked one of my kids if they knew I loved and was proud of them. It was a rhetorical question, because of course – I DO AND I AM.

But the reaction? There was kindof a shrug. So I pulled over and said, “Wait a second, you DO KNOW THAT, RIGHT?”

Yeah, sure, mom.

It’s been looping inside my mind like a reel: they KNOW I love them, but do they know it’s absolutely unconditional? That NOTHING can separate the love I feel for them? No matter what?

There’s the rub: no matter what

I had a friend who told me that every morning her mom would say, “you’re so pretty.” This was absolutely well-intentioned, but when she went to college, no one said that to her every morning. Am I pretty? began to be a constant, nagging question. It began a serious struggle with worth. Would I still be loved if I weren’t pretty?

Will you still love me if I’m not skinny?

Will you still be proud of me if my best friend makes the team and I don’t?

Will you still love me if I’m attracted to my same gender?

Will your eyes always light up when I walk into a room – no matter what?

Many months ago, when one of my kids was having a hard life stretch, I realized that I really only wanted one thing. I could let go of all the awards, public acclaim, athletic talent, musical ability. The only thing I really really wanted was for my child to rise up every morning and walk out the door feeling truly and utterly loved. What we couldn’t do and overcome!

I am convinced that with this sure knowledge, that even through the hard days, there would still be happiness on the horizon. That’s it. She/He could be ugly, misshapen, failing a class, dumped from a friend group – whatever. I just wanted a child who knew who she was: a child of God. Divine. Created from love. And absolutely and unconditionally LOVED by her parents.

It’s come into sharper focus for me with these school shootings. I see myself standing outside a school, waiting for my child to come out. I can feel the desperation and panic start to rise, just imagining such a scenario. In that very moment, all I would want is for my child to come walking out the door and into my open arms. That’s it. I want them to be alive.

Alive. And running in a field together. That’s all.

I think we sometimes forget what our children need. We are so hell-bent (and I use that word intentionally) on getting them into lessons and schools and teams and social groups that I worry – do they know that without any of those things – we would still love them?

How could they know? When all of our effort, when all of our praise is focused on the accolades?

I’m not advocating false praise, or handing out a trophy every morning – that’s external, materialistic, and meaningless “stuff.” You can love your child and not like them every minute. And true love can be tough love: “you will get a summer job and pay for your own cell phone” because I love you.

I’ve just finished reading the most terrific and heartbreaking book I’ve read in a very long time: EDUCATED by Tara Westover. What she is able to overcome is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read. It also makes me want to weep – Tara is fiercely unique in her ability to get out of a family that is completely dysfunctional and literally crazy. I want to think I would be her, but I doubt my own strength, especially as a sensitive, compliant child. While you read, you can’t help but hurt for all the others left behind.

Amazingly, without ever going to school, Tara studies on her own to learn trigonometry (okay, right there, I’m dead in the water) and takes the ACT, earning a 22. She studies harder and earns a 28. She’d never seen a bubble sheet before.

Remarkably, she is admitted to BYU (where she sees all sorts of heathens showing their knees and ankles 🙂 ). She eventually earns a scholarship to Cambridge (you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!)

A professor observes how uncomfortable she is, how she “knows” she doesn’t belong. Dr. Kerry says,

“You act like someone who is impersonating someone else…it has never occurred to you that you might have as much right to be here as anyone….You should trust Professor Steinberg. If he says you’re a scholar – ‘pure gold,’ I heard him say – then you are.”

“This is a magical place,” I said. “Everything shines here.”

“You must stop yourself from thinking like that,” Dr. Kerry said, his voice raised. “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself – even gold appears dull in some lighting – but that is an illusion. And it always was.”

So good. Pure gold.

I am sometimes heartsick to think of all the ways we mess up our kids after they come to us, as small babies, so completely perfect. For all of our good intentions, it sometimes goes horribly awry. But all is not lost. I think it’s actually very very simple. WE JUST LOVE. Tell them their beautiful – but not just on the outside. Tell them their souls are beautiful, that their hearts are kind. Tell them you’re proud of them – but not just when they excel – but also when they fail. Because failing is perhaps the greatest show of courage; they can fail and they will still be forever and unconditionally LOVED. Teach them what goodness and true love is; use words if necessary.

Our kids are in the arena. They are fighting a daily battle. They are warriors just for enduring. I don’t think we know the half of it. And they sometimes forget – because we do – that they are already golden. That gold should SHINE, not dull, by the light in our eyes.

It’s that time of the year, when many many kids are being awarded, graded, applauded. But not everyone is, are they? I don’t begrudge any of the above. Achievement is important and good for our personal growth.

But in all of our effort to make our kids “great again,” let’s not forget that they already are.

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

In honor of kids everywhere, I’m back with one of my favorite posts: Real Quotes from Real Kids. They say the best things. I give them credit for every funny thing you think I’ve ever said and since it’s Children’s Book Week, it’s only fair to out my darlings as they’ve inspired every book I’ve written and am in the process of writing.

Here are some latest gems:

1. “Mom, I don’t know that I have an hour a week to schedule you in.” (when asked if we could possibly spend some time together.)

2. “I’m NEVER going to dye my hair! (condescending look my way) Anyway, it’s good to look old in my future profession.” (medieval history.) (hmmm…wonder who that was?)

3. “If I ever run an orphanage we’re going to have fun! And I’ll have Daddy cook!”

4. “I’m marking my territory.” (In response to strewing clothes and personal items allllll over the house.)

5. “When I’m at the pinnacle of success, I’m buying myself a Rolex.”

6. “How do you NOT KNOW HOW TO MAKE NACHOS??!!!? It’s a LIFE SKILL!”

7. “WAIT! Don’t leave me at my darkest hour!” (bedtime stalling tactics)

8. “Take the book away! The temptation is just too great!” (more bedtime stalling tactics)

9. “Mommy, (great worried brow) can you get pneumonia from an ice pack?”

10. “Mom. We’re not there yet.” (when asked to reveal love life secrets.)

11. “I loved your book, Mom…I’m just sad I didn’t get my own personal dedication.” (but they did in the acknowledgements!)

The secret to great writing? I think it’s eavesdropping on the children 🙂 Everything is copy.

For more Real Quotes from Real Kids, Go HERE.

Happy Children’s Book Week. What else are you and the darlings reading?

 

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

  1. “I’ve learned how to be patient and now I’m done being patient!”

  2. “Sometimes when I miss you I go into your room and smell your perfume.”

  3. “When I’m a mom we will never use plastic – feel guilty!”

  4. “You didn’t make a snowman with me like you said and I want you to think about what you’ve done and how you’ve taken a bite out of my soul!”

  5. “Our family is so weird! Who listens to this music in the car???”

  6. “I could not be mute! I would negotiate something else with Ursula.”

  7. “I learned a new way to strangle someone today.”

  8. “Can you please not die before my wedding?”

  9. “Thank you for being my mommy!”

  10. “Mother, this is not dinner. This is a wee nibble.”

  11.  “You were meant to have wavy hair, Mama. None of that straight stuff.” *

More Real Quotes From Real Kids HERE

*a husband quote!

I’d like it to be known that I made a snowman with Paige and was not the one responsible for taking a bite out of her soul.

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Seminary: What Those Mormon Kids Are Doing Every Morning

As a Mormon girl, I am asked the best questions:

Can you use electricity? (yes, I am not Amish)

Do you have magic underwear? (um, I don’t think so?)

Do you celebrate Christmas and birthday? (YES!)

Are you Christian? (YES!)

Can anyone attend your church? (Heck yes!)

I really don’t get asked these questions that often anymore. But my children do! And believe me, many of those questions I cannot type out in this forum…:)

But hey, at least they are asking and we are discussing.

Here’s another question we get all the time: Your kids are taking what?

Seminary.

“What’s seminary? Are they monks or something?”

Seminary is a religion class for high school age students.

Does everyone have to do it?

No. Only about half of my children’s Mormon friends are enrolled.

Not everyone thinks it’s important. Or, they think it’s important, but it’s not worth the time and effort. But for our kids growing up in this world, I think it’s essential.

So I say: LET’S DO SEMINARY!

If you live in Utah, Idaho, some parts of Arizona, and other regions of the United States with large concentrations of Mormon high schoolers, you actually get to take a religion class during the day, in a separate building close to your school. You lucky ducks.

But for the majority of LDS teens, class starts before school. I’m sure your teens would shout for joy at the prospect; teenagers love to get up early!

Typically this religion class begins at the beautiful hour of 6 a.m. That’s right, 6 a.m. five days a week. I participated in seminary when I was in high school and luckily, the church was five minutes away. Even as an early bird, it was about the hardest thing I did for four years, especially on the cold Nebraska winter days when it was black as night and I was a frozen, really skinny ice cube.

And there was always the issue of my hair. No matter my grand intentions to look stellar at 6, (uh, there were BOYS in the class!) typically I would roll out of bed mere minutes before rolling out of the driveway looking…like I just rolled out of bed.

It was a happy day for my mother when we had our license. My siblings and I may have broken a few speeding laws and rolled through a few stop signs…and popped a few tires…oh, those were the early morning days that we used to call “cemetery.”

The seminary program has continued. Since we live far away from civilization, I do not have to drive my children to seminary (oh, happy day) but they still get to participate! The internet is one amazing thing. My two teens are enrolled in on-line seminary. They have a real teacher and a real class they connect with every Thursday evening. The other days of the school week they complete a lesson that typically takes between 30-40 minutes.

What exactly are they studying?

DSC_0786For Mormon youth, they rotate every four years between: The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine and Covenants.

img_2217 This year they are studying The Old Testament.

img_2222They can complete the lesson at any time during the day; they don’t have to get up really early, but they sometimes do, to get it done. And yes, they are often very tired.

img_2225 I especially like when they sit and complete a lesson together. img_2212 Enough with the pictures, Mom. I’m trying to concentrate.img_2234Seminary is best done with cozy blankets. And if you’re really lucky, Mom or Dad might bring you a snack or make you breakfast (but admittedly, #slackermom.)

Why would you do such a thing?

Well, here’s my thing.

I want my children to know and love the Lord. I want to raise my children to not only be good, but spiritual. I want them to know that God speaks to us through the scriptures. I want them to know for themselves, that they are not alone on this earth, but that there is a higher power who will get them through their darkest days.

The New Testament tells about the greatest man who ever walked the earth. It tells of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It gives us lessons from the past and hope of things to come.

Last night I considered the wisdom of these scriptures as I peeked over my children’s shoulders:

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthes 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

The language is not only beautiful but inspiring. Sometimes I start to lose hope and faith in this world that we live in. The political climate is toxic. But I hold on to the words I read in my youth from Isaiah: Do not fear, for I am with you.

A few weeks ago one of my children had a really hard day at school. As I worried, this child said: “But I remembered a scripture I had read from seminary. It just came to my mind.” And my heart was filled. This strong, good child was going to be okay.

Honestly, with the things our kids have to deal with, sometimes I wonder how I would get through high school now. Today’s youth are part of a strong and good generation, but they need us to help them be good and strong. Reading the scriptures helps our family and our children. There is a great spirit that fills our home when we read individually and together. We are kinder, closer, better.

As for seminary? What could be better than starting the day with prayer, personal scripture study, and meditation?

Seminary had other consequences I didn’t appreciate until much later: I learned that I could do hard things like get up every morning at 5:30. It helped me go to bed earlier. It challenged my willpower. I became much more disciplined. It raised my confidence in myself. It helped me be obedient to the other things I knew were right. It helped me not be so vain about my hair 🙂

It helped me learn and know this principle: God Honors Those Who Honor Him.

Seminary is early and it’s hard and hardly convenient – and it’s worth it.

So that’s a little insight into our world. I’d love to hear from yours!

Any more questions? Ask!

 

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Waiting at the Kitchen Table

And…a new school year begins. As always, we are off and running. Are you running, too? Let’s take slow breaths and think calm thoughts. This helps stave off the frazzled, panicky, snapping mama that is so fun to be around. Or is that just me?

Last year I remember thinking, “There is nothing more I can add to my plate. This pace is insane.” Well, there is more this year, including more emotion as my darling Cope is a senior. Oh dear, I need to change the subject now…

So anyway, a new school year always reminds me to sloooow down. Which is the definition of irony, isn’t it?

I have two mantras at the moment:

Remember: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Remember: Once your direction is clear, you can give attention to pace.

Priorities became very obvious after this summer. In a crisis, family comes to the forefront every time. Perhaps we needn’t wait for the crisis’ to prioritize.

I’m going to tell you about a very special mother who has taught me a lot about priorities: Ginny B.

Ginny B. has a very wonderful son named Benny B.

If you don’t know Benny B, I’m very sorry. For he’s a good boy to know.

He is one of those boys we point to and say, “Try to be like Benny B.” He is kind and honest and funny and always has a big smile that lights up all the space around him. After high school Benny B. went on to study and play basketball at Brandeis University – and he is still a good boy!

Well, good boys don’t get grown by accident now, do they? Just by knowing Benny B., you have to admire the family behind the scenes.

The Professor and I attended Benny B.’s college graduation a few years ago. I had met his mother, Ginny B. before, but I was very struck of how obviously Benny B. loved her.

I felt  – Envy? Longing? Wishing? When my children flew the nest, would we have  that kind of relationship?

“Benny B., you and your mom seem really close.”

“Oh,” Benny B. said. “She’s my best friend. I tell her everything.”

Say what?

I pounced. “How did you do that?” I asked Ginny B. “Tell me all of your secrets!”

“You know, Amy,” she said. “I just always made sure I was waiting at the kitchen table. No matter how old they were or how late it was, I just always tried to be there when they came home.”

I have a pang of guilt every time I think of Ginny B. because there are few things I like more than climbing into my bed…at like, 8. As my children grow older they are not tucked in at 7:30 every night. Darn it. Hmmm. Could the kitchen table be substituted for say…my bed?

I have decided this is a doable substitute.

I’m waiting, baby! (zzzz….)

Benny B. and the great Ginny: IMG_3712

I don’t know a lot about Ginny B. but I know motherhood hasn’t been all honey dew and butterflies. The family has made a lot of sacrifices for Ginny B. to be able to stay home. They make due on one income. Their home is modest and well cared for. There are touches of Ginny everywhere, from the plethora of hostas lining the front walkway, to the homemade quilts hung over furniture. There’s nothing showy about their lifestyle; only comfortable and welcoming (including a lot of delicious homemade food.)

I’m a mom who needs reminders like this. The pull of the world is strong, my young padawans. There are opportunities to be snatched, and of course we need jobs and money to live. But there’s a point where we don’t actually need to accumulate more stuff or more status or more.

Ginny B. made the decision to be waiting when her children came home. Let the chips fall where they may. This is how the chips fell: Her children love their mother. They are best friends. They tell her everything. And I just love that.

IMG_3921Ginny B. even loves my children, too.

Now, I’m sure Ginny B. and Benny B. have had many “moments.” Ginny isn’t, shall we say, a timid or docile flower. For goodness sake, her hair is red. She’s opinionated and fiery! But gosh darn it, she waits and she listens and the children talk.

IMG_4079Here is Benny B. and The Professor. They both have great hair. If you need hair product tips, just sit quietly and listen to their conversations. It’s both hilarious and enlightening.

Back to Ginny B. waiting at the kitchen table.

Remember the most important 9 minutes?

Now listen: this is not a post to cause you motherhood guilt! For goodness sake, if you can’t always be home when the kids walk through the door, they’re not ruined. This story was just good for me to witness. It is good to see a boy with good hair turn out so well. It is really good to see Benny B. love his mother so much and to be reminded that mothers can’t be outsourced. Feel special, gosh darn it. You’re NEEDED.

Carole, a friend of mine, lost her mother many many years ago, and I haphazardly scribbled this down when she spoke – “I couldn’t wait to get off the bus and run to her, even in high school. Even when she was gone I found myself wanting to tell her things – and I can’t wait for the day when I can tell her all the things I want to tell her.”

The thing is, if we’re not around, they can’t tell us all the things.

My mother was a mom who waited for us (and she likes sleep even more than I do.) Growing up, she placed above the entrance to the kitchen: The Gathering Place. (Take heart: my mother hates to cook!)

But even when we are all grown, and my parents moved across the country, she insisted on a home that was big enough for us all to come and gather. And she still drives a minivan! (She says it’s for comfort, but I secretly think she likes to pick up stray grandchildren…:) ) Even now that I’m a pretend grown-up I know she’s waiting. #lucky.

Benny B. and my boy:DSC_0961Wait for them. And they’ll keep coming home.

Thank you, Ginny B.

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The “Yes, I’d Love To,” Jar

unnamed-1Happy February! Am I the only one happy that January is over (in 4 short hours!)? Now that sickness has swept the house (last one standing!) we can move on to the month of love!

Speaking of love, I bring you the “Yes, I’d Love To!” Jar.

Many months ago I heard about this idea on a podcast (wish I could remember which one!) The darlings became my guinea pigs. The idea is simple:

1. Put a jar on the counter

2. Label it: “Yes, I’d Love To.”

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, respond with “Yes, I’d love to!”

4. For every “Yes, I’d love to” response, put a cotton ball (or something similar) in the jar

5. When the jar is filled up, go for ice-cream

Of course the darlings liked the ice-cream idea. And it became somewhat comical how fast they could fill the jar up – like in five minutes – by asking ridiculous questions and rushing to make a basket.

I told them we had to play for real.

My older kids humor me, even when obviously feeling “I’m-way-too-old-for-your-games-mom.” (I like to live in the dream world where they actually like my cheesy games.)

And so we began.

“Nelson, would you please get me a fork?”

Instead of, “Get it yourself,” he caught himself. “Yes, I’d love to, Brynne,” in yes, a somewhat sarcastic voice. But he still handed her a fork.

“Mom, would you please get me some milk?”

Instead of, “I just sat down” or “You have legs” I caught myself trying to ever-so-cheerfully set the example with, “Why yes, I’d love to!”

“Cope, would you please cut me an apple?”

Instead of a flat, “No,” Cope darling sighed, but eyeing that jar in need of filling and with ice-cream fairies dancing in her head, responded: “Why yes, I’d love to.” Add some eye-batting. And a high-pitched Cinderella voice.

Maybe we’re just competitive. Maybe we like games. Maybe we just wanted ice-cream, but the jar began to fill. And seeing the jar fill, made us want to fill it faster.

unnamed-2 unnamed-3

At first I wondered if I was just teaching them to be fake or only acting for a prize.

But then again, we nudge our children all the time to do things they don’t actually feel like doing. “Say thank you,” “Tidy up your space,” “Be kind to the new kid,” “Write a note.” In fact,  isn’t that what parenting is all about? Isn’t this part of the future training of America? Do the thing you really don’t want to do because it’s just the right thing to do!

Also, because it was on my brain, a quote from philosopher and psychologist, William James:

“Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.” -William James

Oh yes, I love it. Armed with James and his mighty words of wisdom, I felt completely justified in the training of my guinea pigs with the “Yes, I’d Love To” jar.

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

Based on research for Better Than Before (fabulous new book on habits) Rubin found if we want to feel a certain way, we can act that way first.

It’s really hard to change our emotional state just by wanting to change it (though Mindset surely is powerful.) But it might be easier if we ACT first and let the emotional state follow.

Wasn’t that so true when I was at home with little kids. Just the act of changing out of my pajama bottoms and doing my hair as if I was going to a real job – which motherhood surely is – changed my whole day from slogging through to more-happily mothering.

It works. It really does. When I’m irritated and snappish with a child, it works wonders for me to laugh. Or hug. Or smile.

“Fake it ‘Til You Make it” works.

Isn’t it the truth that when we speak more kindly, we feel more kindly?

It doesn’t really matter if we want to get a fork for our sister. Get the fork. It makes her happy. And guess what…we all know acting kinder makes us happier, too.

Brain research supports this idea. Act the way you want to feel. Not the other way around. If you’re walking around yelling and slamming doors, that only makes you want to yell and slam some more doors. Your brain says: “I must be really angry!”

Harvard research says that the act of giving thanks actually makes us feel happier. Such a simple and quick fix for general grumpiness.

I used to hear that boys should go “punch something” to get their aggression out. Perhaps they should make some cookies for the neighbors instead.

Feeling shy? Introduce yourself! I swear it works wonders. Suddenly we’re confidently chatting our way through an awkward social situation.

This experiment suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, because they can’t make angry, frowning faces. Crazy, huh?!

This phenomenon happened to me the other day.

I was feeling pretty miserable. My energy was low. Consistently telling myself how much I hate January doesn’t help. I had to take a car full of kids all the way to Concord, be in charge of an youth activity, and then drive everyone home again. Growling would just not do (because not all of the occupants were my kids 🙂 ) I wanted to lay back down on the bed, read, and be served warm toast. Instead I got out of my sweats and pulled on a pair of jeans. I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on some mascara and started the carpool. By the time I got home I was a totally different person. I was actually happy.

Was I being fake? I don’t think so. I think I was choosing to be the person I wanted to be that night.

The aftermath of the “Yes, I’d Love to” Jar was this: over time the darlings lost interest in putting cotton balls in the jar. But I did notice that the “yes, I’d love to” phrase hung around for much longer. It still comes out of everyone’s mouth once in awhile. The jar works best if it’s on the counter for awhile and then put away for a season. It’s like a special toy – best to be pulled out only occasionally. And then when it’s pulled out again, it’s fun.

So I ask you – How do you want to feel?

Then act that way.

The jar hasn’t been out for months. But I think it’s time again. The dishwasher needs emptying 🙂

 

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

Just because it’s fun. And because a mom needs a record of such things!

IMG_2121

1. “I’m going to marry David Archuletta and we won’t talk – we’ll just sing to each other.”

2. “If Santa doesn’t bring Pringles, Christmas will be ruined!”

3. “Unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that you could be that piggy. You’re just like Dudley.”

4. “Paige, put your dishes in the dishwasher. (sigh…) She has so much to work on. She’s going to be a terrible mother if she keeps this up.”

5. “I need a good pen! A good pen defines a person!”

6. “I want a goat. It’s good for the environment. I will name her Arabella. And I will toilet train her. Mom, will you take care of her when I go off to college?” (no.)

7. “We all know we can go a year without tater-tots…buy why?” (after mom’s decree)

8. “Do you know how much crap I get for having to ask my parents to use my phone?”

9. “Mommy, I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to ever forget it: you are the best mommy in the whole wide world.” (favorite child status)

10. “You know, for a child who bore four children you have surprisingly small hips.”

The Professor did not contribute to this round as I have not seen the Professor in a great while. We think he still lives here. Occasionally there is a sighting and we wave to one another.

unnamed There he is! Hello, Professor! You’re looking mighty cute with that beard and stern expression on your face. This is the season of the winter widow, where the man is on the road and on the court coaching boys to jump high and shoot big. We are proud of the man. And his boys (they are AWESOME.)

So thank you, darlings, for providing me such entertainment. More real quotes here.

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

Together is Better

How we keep warm at cold soccer games: together is better.

*A mother’s disclaimer: she takes no responsibility for the things that come out of her children’s mouths. Unless it reflects positively on her parenting. 🙂

And, because I can’t resist, one of these was said by our dear Professor. Can you guess which one?

1. “I will light you on fire – personally!” (no, not this one)

2. “Oh, this attitude has a lot more to say!”

3. “I think the biggest bummer of the season is you not coming to my soccer game…sniff…actually of my whole life….”

4. “You clearly have not been reading your English novels!”

5. “To make me feel better we should buy me a pair of heels.”

6. “Will you carry my drugs for me, Mom?”

7. “If we have another child we should name her Melinda.” (what???)

8. “Bye, Cope! I hope you don’t drown!…but if you do can I have your room?” *

9. “I DON’T WANT MUSH! I want bacon!” (howled after being informed that breakfast was a bowl of warm and yummy oatmeal.)

10. “Dad! I’m not Anakin Skywalker and I’m not having a downward spiral or turning to the dark side and you’re not my Yoda!”

For more real quotes, you can read here and here.

Happy Monday!

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Because I Love You: Tech Rules in This House

“Dear Children: It’s time to have the talk.

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!

There’s a slew of research on the effects of technology on the teenage brain. It’s not their fault they’re more impulsive, easily swayed by their peers, and feel more invincible  – it’s the physiology of their brain!

It’s not just pornography. Frequent Facebook use makes many kids and adults unhappy. Tech addiction thwarts time well spent, relationships, an explored earth. I don’t want my children’s lives waylaid by virtual interaction. I want them to live in the real world, man!

Technology addiction is a thing. Google it. You’ll get 15,300,000 hits.

The LDS church has just rolled out a “12 Steps to Change” video series, hoping to provide understanding and hope for addiction recovery.

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.

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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.

It’s working.

Our Tech Contract goes something like this (adapted from Hurley):

Dear Children,

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.

6. Technology is put away at all meal times.

7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. (See A Deadly Wandering!)

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.

Love, Mom and Dad

 

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The End of Summer and Start of School (woo-wee!)

The night before school required one more trip to the water…unnamed-2 We were a wee bit excited!

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Woo-hoo! (why are my pictures fuzzy? I must have been jumping, too.)
unnamed-1Mama, the water is cold….! I love how kids never seem to mind those minor details
unnamed-10And just like that, the sun set on summer. We turned toward a new school year, which always requires a new mindset and is always epic in its own way. The Professor and I looked at each: “I wonder what’s going to happen this year.

The next morning the alarm sounded in the children’s bedroom…beep, beep, beep. Horrifying noise.

Paige was most excited about packing her lunch because her mother had bought her a YumBox! The Professor rolled his eyes. “What is this, lunch boxes of the rich and famous?” Hey, I it was reasonably priced ($20 with a coupon,) and a justified purchase as packing a lunch no longer requires non-recyclable plastic bags (and maybe because it was just so super cute!)

unnamed-6 And now I become one of those parents who post pictures of their child’s school lunch. Hey, I get it now – it’s fun!

IMG_1778Paige thinks cutting up little pieces of food is FUN. She practically skips around the kitchen.

Sadly, after I bought one for Brynne, she chickened out: “Mom, I’m in sixth grade! I can’t bring a Yumbox.” Sigh.

IMG_1776Food groups. FUN.

I’m stopping now.

 

unnamed-9The next morning, only two of our kiddies were going to school. We have entered a new era.

unnamed-8I told the boy to stand by his sisters. “Ha ha ha…you have to go to school.” Aren’t brothers the best? Just you wait, Nellie, your time is coming and ninth grade ain’t no walk in the park!unnamed-7

Always my favorite picture…we’re holding this hand TIGHT. It’s the last hand. The sixth grader had already dashed off! But she still gives me kisses.

unnamed-3Meanwhile, the new high schooler cashed his paycheck to buy some preppy clothes. #landsend

unnamed-5And he made his own duct tape keyboard case for his iPad. Do you think he’ll get beat up? (kidding!) Love his creativity. He sure loves me taking his picture.

Happy new school year.

xo.

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