Tag Archives: lessons

Handmade Family Rules

This project has been in the works for some time now, so hanging it on our wall tonight was a really big deal! I read awhile ago on one of those parenting blogs that kids respond better to direction when they are not overwhelmed. I don’t blame them – all day every day they hear, “Don’t touch the candle!” “No yelling in the car.” “No somersaults on the bed!” …the list goes on. Nate and I sat down and came up with nine. Just nine that we thought encapsulated our children’s most regularly-needed instructions. We kept them short and sweet because this mama had a creative plan in mind…

Here are our Family Rules in all of their idiosyncratic glory:

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I love it. It makes me happy, and it’s the obvious centerpiece of our family room, which worked itself out perfectly!

Want to make your own? Here’s how I did it (Please know upfront that I fear most, if not all, things on Pinterest because I know I’m just not that crafty, so if I can do this, you can do this):

1) Find a frame with multiple openings. I got mine at Marshalls about six years ago (and yes, the stock photos of rocks and waterfalls were placeholders until today…so pathetic). I found these guys on Etsy and think their work is whimsical and fun for this project specifically.

2) Create rules in Word and save them in a fun, bold and clear font. I sent my files to Office Max Impress and asked them to print them on transparencies.

3) Get out the paper and let your kids be creative. We used fingerpaints and sponges and made shapes in various colors.

4) Then it’s just a matter of layering the painted paper under the transparency in each photo opening. I taped everything in place, so the back of the mat looks like a gift wrapped by a 2-year old.

5) Hang on the wall and admire!

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An Ode to the Folks

I was reading a website the other day, and the writer included one of those quote graphics that read: “Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out.” I giggled. I shrugged. I turned to see my son emptying markers on to the kitchen floor (approximately 7 inches from the pile of magnets he had just removed from the fridge and the treasure bounty he had dragged out to play pirates, which by the way, was as quickly disregarded as it was thought up), and I said, “No! You will clean up one mess before you make another.” I turned back to the article and, as ah-ha moments often lead you to, I gasped!

Let me start out by saying that my parents freaking rock. I’m talkin’, “who’s-the-first-person-I-call-when-I-am-feeling-my-lowest, please-be-in-my-wedding-party, can-I-borrow-those-stylish-shoes-mom” ROCK! I can’t remember a time that I was so embarrassed by them that I hid my face, or was so mad at them that I threatened to run away. I was always excited for sleepovers with my friends because my house was fun and my parents were a giant part of what made it that way. We had rules and guidelines just like every other family. We had to pray before meals, we couldn’t sing (or whistle or do a little ditty of any kind) at the dinner table, there was no whispering in front of others, you couldn’t roll your eyes or glare or even cross your arms in front of my dad, homework was first priority, cable was canceled in the summertime, and laundry was always to be folded before Saved by the Bell was turned on. I remember riding Hot Wheels in our driveway, going on camping trips and long bike adventures where my brother and I would laugh because my sister had to sit in the yellow plastic seat positioned like six inches from my dad’s butt and that makes a 6-year-old chuckle a bit. We would “climb” Mt. Tom, which now looks like a small sledding hill with trees, and play hide-and-seek in the cemetery by our house (OK, that last one sounds weird). I cherished family vacations and Christmas mornings and ice cream stops for $.50 scoops at Nelsons after 9:30 church. Being a Machler kid was great, for the most part.

All that being said, there are times that I fight with Nate and look down at my kids, not-so-fondly recalling my parents’ “serious talks” from the bottom step in our basement. I watch Mabel hit her older brother and scold him instead out of sheer “you’re older and should know better” mentality, but remember being in that position with my younger sister quite often. I see a lot of them in my own parenting, in my own marriage, in my own decision-making, soul-searching and dream-chasing. I hear their voices in my head when I am challenged with a crossroads (even though they are sometimes atop opposite shoulders). My mom’s mantra is recited internally every time I am insulted, offended or disgruntled by someone’s objectionable opinion (it’s “Consider the source” if anyone else wants to write that down). And I take all of these lessons, mantras, statements, quotes, actions, memories and feelings, mix them up in a bowl, and create my own sense of self.

My kids need to be excused before they leave a family dinner. I always kiss my husband goodbye. My house needs to be spotless before leaving for vacation because – as mom used to say – no one wants to come home to a dirty house. “Because I said so” is my canned response for annoyingly complicated “why” questions such as, “Why can’t the bath toys swim in the potty, mommy?” I create made-up games with my children, use voices when telling stories, and am trying ever-so-patiently to get them to enjoy puzzles. I dress Mabel in clothes I would wear, which are clothes my mother would wear. I drink wine with my husband after rough days at the office and plan future family vacations based on a financial budget wherein I think we can afford being escorted through Disneyworld by Mickey Mouse himself and Nate reels me back in to maybe just standing in line and getting his autograph like other normal middle-income American families. I take my kids out to dinner and buy them an occasional gift from the mall because “you can’t take it with you when you go” – a quote from my father referencing money, death, and (probably hinting at) the lack of expectancies in their will. And, truth be told, I would have it no other way.

I’m a firm believer in “nurture” vs. “nature.” I know I am naturally dramatic and oversensitive and impatient, but I was nurtured to learn how to cope and deal with these traits (good and bad) and to use them throughout life – whatever that type of life might be. I had children, so I use those mechanisms to try and raise them right with good morals and confidence. I want to nurture them as I was nurtured, maybe teaching them to use a touch of humor to brush off negativity or discomfort. How I turned out may not work for everybody, but it’s what I know and I am so thankful for the memories, confidence, work-ethic, and standards that I now have as an adult.

I’m not sure if that quote graphic on that website I was reading was meant to be insulting or not, but whenever someone tells me I’m being “just like my mom” I smile and say, “Thank you.” I hope that – once you get past the gasp and the “ah-ha” moment – you too can see the comparative as a compliment…at least a little bit.

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A Little Love Goes a Long Way

As a mother of two very loved children, I feel obligated to comment on today’s tragedy in Connecticut. Another school shooting. Another mass of babies dead long before their time. Another news-filled day of horrid images and painstaking emotions written on the faces of parents waiting to hug their children. It’s a shame that the word “another” can even be mentioned in this context, but sadly, it is just that…another.

I recall in 1999 coming home from high school and seeing my dad lying on the couch in our basement crying while watching news coverage of the Columbine shootings. I took a simple glance at the TV and went to my room. Today I took a very different perspective on virtually the same news story more than a decade later. Mabel was sleeping in her crib and I was glued to CNN, despite my despise of Wolf Blitzer’s total and utter lack of emotion. Coen kept asking me to play games with him, so I turned down the volume and brought his chalkboard into the living room and we sat and colored pictures of Christmas trees and sunshines and smiling, happy cartoon animals.  As I glanced from the TV back to my son, so full of energy and life, I kept catching myself sucking tears back into my eyes. There are parents who will go home tonight without their little ones. There are parents who will have unopened gifts under their tree this year because one hateful coward felt some sense of societal justice was being served through this massacre. There are parents who need hugs and love and prayer on this day more than any. 

Colleges, high schools, and now elementary schools…all have fallen victim to crimes such as these. What’s next? I cannot fathom a human being with a heart of any size entering a preschool with a weapon. But, then again, I cannot imagine this in any scenario, so I guess I’m just naive. As they interviewed Dr. Drew, he proclaimed that “This Must Stop!” How do you make it stop? Why does it keep happening? There are no tried and true answers, but he advised that we must form a sense of connection as a family, as a community, as a state, a country, and a world. But start small…start with the “as a family” part.

As parents, we all have control over this one. I am proud to see so many of my mommy friends on Facebook posting about how much they are looking forward to giving their children extra long hugs tonight, because this is where we must start. Form a unit of love within your home and it will be spread to the community, and then upwards. “Paying it forward” isn’t just an expression – it can be a community-builder, a life-changer, and a day-saver. Love is the answer. We can all contribute love. 

Kiss your spouse when they walk in the door. Let go of the frustration of a dirty house and play Candyland with your toddler. Let them fall asleep holding your hand. Eat chocolate ice cream before dinner. Give a couple extra kisses before bed and TELL them “I love you.” Use those exact words. Our babies take so much of what we teach them into their adulthoods. Let’s make our lessons good and valuable ones. And let the greatest of these lessons be love. 

I am not often one for quoting scripture, but this one seems too fitting on a day such as today:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~Proverbs 22:6

Thinking and praying for Sandy Hook Elementary today. For those committed teachers who daily gave their all to those kids for a small, unassuming paycheck. For the principal who had five of her own (who I can only assume are beautiful, based on her photo) daughters at home. For the parents and siblings of those precious, young lost lives. My heart is broken today, just as I’m sure my dad’s heart was broken when I walked past him 13 years ago on our couch. Same story, different day. Let’s do our part to make it stop. Love, people. Just give a little love.

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