Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Consensual Living

Imagine you have an appointment with your doctor for your annual physical. The morning of the appointment your eighteen-month old child wakes up in a grumpy mood. What would you do? Would you: A) take your crabby child with you and make her wait with you, as you had planned to do before you discovered she was Oscar the Grouch? B) arrange to have a babysitter? Or C) would you cancel your appointment and wait for a time when your child was in a better mood?

If you just answered "C", you might be a proponent of a growing trend called "Consensual Living", a lifestyle in which an itty bitty toddler has as much say in what to do and when to do it as her parents have.

The core principles of Consensual Living are as follows:

* Everyone's wants and needs are equally valid, regardless of age.
* Children can be trusted to know their own minds and bodies.
* Punishments and rewards are tools of manipulation, unneeded when family members work as a team.
* There is a creative solution that works for everyone.
* Each family member has a positive intent and desires harmony.
* When all are secure that their needs will be met, they will branch out and help others to meet their needs.

I'm sorry, but are these people on crack? This is the formula for producing happy, functioning adults? Oh, brother! This is all so ridiculous that I am getting nauseated from my head shaking back and forth in such appalled disagreement.

Let's start at the beginning: Everyone's wants and needs are equally valid, regardless of age. Um, no. It's true that children have important needs and wants, but childhood is a perpetual state of not knowing what you want, or why you want it, or why you should have it. You just want, want, want. Especially if someone else has it. Then you want what that person has and you want it now! As for needs, children only know a fraction of what they "need". Mostly they think they "need" TV and candy and to stay up late. This is why you set bedtimes and provide them with things like education and medical care, because they certainly wouldn't be lining up to take care of those things on their own.

Children can be trusted to know their own minds and bodies. Which is exactly why, if I let him, Michael would subsist entirely on hot dogs, fruit snacks and candy. And he would never be potty trained or go to bed. Sure, he might conk out on the floor after a couple of all-nighters, but why give in before that? And as for food, what kid wants nothing but veggies for dinner, after which meal he'll voluntarily clean his own plate and turn in for the night at 7:30, waking up the next morning fully rested and asking, "Mother, might I trouble you to help me use the facilities?" Not my kid.

Punishments and rewards are tools of manipulation, unneeded when family members work as a team. So one is supposed to sit idly by while her child sticks a steak knife into the electrical socket? Or hits another child? (According to one Consensual Living couple, they ask their child if he would like to express his frustration some other way, by hitting a pillow or using words, or whatever. And they never make him apologize because, "if he's going to apologize, we want it to be authentic." Huh? So it's better to not apologize at all?) As for "punishments and rewards [being] unneeded when family members work as a team"? Excuse me while I vomit. What child naturally gravitates toward any teamwork that doesn't involve some kind of planned naughtiness? I mean, Michael might coordinate with a friend to get out of the house or into the medicine cabinet, but working together just to hold hands and sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth"? I don't think so.

There is a creative solution that works for everyone. No there isn't, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is good for children to learn that they can't have everything they want, and that sometimes life is hard and they need to compromise with others. If the solution to every problem has to be equally agreeable to all concerned, how is a child supposed to be learning about real life and how to deal with unfairness and disappointment?

Each family member has a positive intent and desires harmony. Have you ever seen my toddler antagonize another child just for the sheer fun of it? If not, you should check out the mischievous gleam that appears in his eye just before he steals a toy or smacks someone with a baseball bat. Positive intent, my foot!

When all are secure that their needs will be met, they will branch out and help others to meet their needs. I admit that my child can be very sweet and charming much of the time, but most of the sweet and charming things he does are things I taught him to do, such as saying "Please", "Thank you", "I love you" and even, heaven forbid, "I'm sorry". But even if every one of his self-proclaimed needs were met, that would not stop him from snatching a cookie from another child or induce him to offer assistance to a person in distress.

Yes, children are humble, sweet little creatures, but they are also the scriptural "natural man" through and through. Why do you think every little person runs around shouting "Mine!" all the time? Selfishness has to be rooted out. The problem is, who is going to do that when all the parents are caving in to the moody tantrums of their five-year olds?

Good heavens, have we really lost our minds so completely? How are we supposed to produce the next generation of responsible, independently functioning human beings if we are too busy giving in to their childish whims and immature feelings? Isn't the job of a parent to parent?

I guess I'm just not "consensual" enough.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Curiosity May Kill the Cat

I was just chatting with a friend who made the offhand comment that it was difficult to find anything about our family adventures amidst all the inane chatter that occupies my blog. (Okay, maybe she didn't put it quite that way, but that's what she meant). So I have posted a poll to the right of your screen. And yes, you have to pick one answer, and no, you can't pick more than one, and if you pick "none of the above" then you should go into therapy, because obviously you are impossible to please. And if you pick the last one then why are you reading this blog in the first place? Doesn't that say more about your lack of intelligence than mine?

Just sayin'.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Isn't It... Er... Romantic?

There are many idiotic ways to propose marriage. I've personally been witness to a few of them, one of the most memorable being a 3 a.m. will-you-marry-me at Denny's. ("Oh, yes, I'll marry you Cletus, but only if my opossum can be the ring bearer!") And then there are the proposal ideas that may have started out with romantic potential, but took a wrong turn somewhere after the ring was bought and got lost in Dummy-ville.

Like this one, for example. It probably started out as a romantic idea, paying homage to the classic ring-in-a- champagne-glass proposal. But somehow the idea was mormonized, resulting in an alcohol-free, non-transparent milkshake instead. Um, yummy.

I mean, I'm sure the first thing a newly engaged woman wants to do is run to the bathroom to wash the chocolate out of her new sparkler. And unfortunately for the woman in this case, there was going to be a lot more cleaning going on then just a quick rinse under some tap water. You see, a ring that is hidden in thick, frosty ice cream is not exactly visible, and when all the in-on-it friends get too antsy to wait patiently for the big surprise and suggest a milkshake-eating contest to hurry things along, the ring might end up taking a slight detour.

And this is how the future bride ended up waiting a few days for her engagement ring to make its appearance via her unwitting digestive system.

Eewwww. I'm sorry, but I don't think I would want to wear anything on my hand that had taken the scenic route through my intestines, no matter how well it has been disinfected. A woman does not want to look at her engagement ring and be reminded of poop.

But the good news is that the couple seems to be amused by the story, which I'm sure will be told for generations to come ("Remember how our marriage started out in the crapper?"). But a ring in a milkshake? Allow me to give a helpful hint to all future proposers out there: Steer clear of jewelry in food.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Revoking Complaining Privileges

My mom is a drug pusher. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I just mean that if I ever had a headache the first words out of her mouth were "Did you take something?" If the answer was no, she sent me off to dig through the medicine cabinet and sling back a couple of Tylenol. No complaining was allowed when it was within my power to fix my own problem. Now, if I had a Tylenol-resistant headache and had already taken the medicine with no help, she would offer sympathy. But there was no complaining allowed until I had taken the drugs.

I was reminded of this recently when she mentioned a friend who was spending a lot of time complaining about something, but who was totally unwilling to do what was necessary to fix the problem (which could be very easily and inexpensively solved). Tired of listening to the day-in and day-out whining, and tired of her advice being ignored, my mom finally told "Brenda" that she was going to stop trying to help her if "Brenda" kept refusing to do what she needed to do to help herself. My mom then revoked her friend's "complaining privileges", saying that she didn't want to hear another whiny word about the situation, and that if "Brenda" called to complain about her plight again, my mom would remind her that she didn't want to hear about it.

Time will tell if my mom can stick to her guns, but I hope she does. Frankly, I think this is brilliant! I can name quite a few individuals who deserve to have their complaining privileges revoked, but I've never had the guts to say anything to them. (Who knows but that I may be one of them? Yikes!) But maybe I should start saying something. I think we may do our friends a disservice when we spend too much time patting them on the back and sympathizing instead of helping them gain the courage they need to overcome their situation. When the power to fix something is within reach, it may be better to encourage a friend by pushing her forward and helping her jump over hurdles (and, if she refuses to move forward in favor of wallowing in her swamp of self-pity, revoking complaining privileges if necessary) than to sympathize and nod our heads in woe-is-me agreement. Support should mean more than just an understanding hand to hold; if necessary, it should also mean a swift kick in the butt.

That's not to say we should look at the problems of others and immediately diagnose them as deserving or undeserving of our compassion. Issues like depression or illness can render even the strongest person incapable of helping his situation. And we should recognize that every person, especially a friend, will reach out for a little sympathy and understanding at times, with absolutely no need or want of a solution. He might just want a listening ear or someone who can support him through a difficult time, not a lecture on what he did to get himself into his mess and a rebuke for not fixing his problems on his own. And obviously there are issues that may be solvable, but the solution is either so difficult or so out-of-reach that sympathy is all that can and should be offered.

But there are definitely times when the best thing to do for a person might be to revoke his complaining privileges.

So watch out, you could be next.

Spring! (Or Why I Haven't Been Blogging)

Spring is finally here... in Southern Utah, that is. It is so nice to be able to step outside without a jacket (let alone a coat and mittens and the million other things that winter necessitates). We are soaking up every minute of sunshine. Michael is thrilled to have been let out of his wintry cage. He is ramped up on cousin fun (and possibly amphetamines - I'm certain he's got to have a stash somewhere). He keeps dragging me outside to run around and play in the dirt. It's odd - we don't really have dirt in New York City. Disgusting filth, yes, but dirt? No.

The flight West was, well, a flight with a two-year old. Need I say more? The in-flight entertainment consisted of one giant exploding diaper and no change of pants, one drink spillage, one airport-purchased salad without a fork (an emergency utensil wasn't even procurable, as the flight attendants spent most of the flight in their seats due to turbulence), one Ipod malfunction causing a sobbing fit for "Einsteins!", and one forty-five minute nap for the two-year old, resulting in one heck of a kinked neck for the not-so-two-year-old. Michael, the little stinker, did not even fall asleep on the drive from the airport, arriving at our destination bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 3 a.m. his time. It took nearly another hour after arriving for him to wind down enough to fall asleep.

We spent a fun few days with Oliver and Kristin while Michael and Clara rekindled their relationship (alternately fighting, screaming with delight, loving and hitting each other). Kristin and I pretty much talked non-stop for three days. I'm quite sure we could set the Guinness World Record for chatting if only the official timing guy wouldn't keep falling asleep. I would post some pictures of our two little lovebirds, but I didn't take any as I was too busy conversing (and it would have required me to set down my horde of chocolate-covered cinnamon bears).

We are now enjoying Grandma and Granddad. It took Michael about thirty seconds to decide that Grandma is much more fun than mom, and he won't even let me get him out of his car seat ("No! Grandma do it!") He is loving the yard, the dozens of new toys, and the bunk bed in the basement. He is also fascinated by the peacock that roams about the neighborhood, running after it and yelling "Bird!" (No one knows where it came from, it just wanders about the neighborhood and is so beautiful that no one seems to want to call animal control. So strange).

So we are having fun. I'm am still in shock over being able to buy a gallon of milk for $1.49 and grapes for $1.29/lb. I even drove a car today, and actually remembered which pedal was the gas and everything. It seems I am still fit for suburban life, city girl though I may be. I mean, cereal for $2? Who knew that was still possible?

Sunday, March 22, 2009


How much money would you say you need to live comfortably from week to week? A couple hundred? A couple thousand? Well, the soon-to-be ex-wife of United Technologies Chairman, George David, thinks that number is around $53,000. Per week.

Just how is so much money necessary to maintain the lifestyle to which Marie Douglas-David has become accustomed? I'll lay it out for you:

Mortgages and maintenance fees for her several homes: $27,300
Travel: $8,000
Clothing: $4,500
Personal Assistant: $2,209
Horse Care: $1,570
Domestic Help: $1,480
Entertainment and Restaurants: $1,500
Health and skin care: $1,000
Dry-cleaning: $650
Flowers: $600
Trainer: $250

As those expenses amount to a little more than $49,000, I'll assume she has allotted herself personal spending money of a few thousand. (Are you throwing up yet?) But according to her statement, this is cutting back (poor thing). She and her estranged husband used to spend upwards of $200,000 a week.

Honestly, the thing that bewilders me most is not the obscene amount of money in play here, it's the fact that someone who spends $4,500 a week on new clothing needs to spend $650 on dry-cleaning. Dry-cleaning what? The cat? Because at $4,500 a week, I'm quite sure she has never worn the same outfit twice.

I think this is a prime example of why the love of money is the root of all evil. Money itself can be a wonderful blessing and can do great things. But when you are spending this much, or even thinking you deserve to spend this much all on yourself, there is a real problem. You'll note she doesn't have any weekly charitable contributions on the list. It's me, me, me, glowing-skinned and designer-clothed, all the way to her black little heart.

Of course, it's easy to say that if I had that much money, I would never spend it that way. But considering the fact that anything besides the dollar movie used to be an extravagance saved for a rare occasion, and now it's not all that unusual to hop up to Broadway for an evening, who is to say that I would never be blinded by that much wealth? None of us is immune to greed.

But seriously, I would NEVER spend that much money in a week. Or two weeks. Or ten. If I ever do, it better all be going to charity, otherwise I give you all permission to slap me silly. And ask me to buy your lunch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mmmm... Pie

My sister and her family are visiting NYC to take in the sights and test out some of the goodies to which David and I have become addicted. In honor of their visit (and the fact that I will be out of town on Easter, leaving David to eat his peanut butter eggs in solitude), I made pie. Only, one should never make pies the day before one intends to eat them, because the siren song of a freshly made strawberry pie is simply irresistible.

So we found ourselves eating our pies a day early, not realizing that we were consuming our dessert very appropriately, as it was March 14th.

Mmmm... accidental Pi Day celebration.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good and Bad

There has been a lot in the news lately about fertility treatments, thanks to Nadya Suleman (aka "Octomom") and the incredibly irresponsible behavior that resulted in fourteen fatherless children being born into the world. The uproar has been interesting to observe. Everyone suddenly has an opinion about who should and should not be allowed to seek fertility treatment, even prompting legislators in Missouri and Georgia to draft bills limiting the number of eggs that could be fertilized and transferred per IVF cycle (drastically reducing the possibility of a successful pregnancy, and effectively eliminating options like cryopreservation or frozen embryo transfer).

I find it fascinating that people are in such a tizzy over this, not because it is unworthy of a tizzy (as you know, I certainly had my own), but because very few people seem to be concerned about how babies come into the world the "normal" way - whether it's teens having babies or "committed" couples who aren't committed enough to sign a marriage license, most people say "we shouldn't judge", "times have changed", "you don't need a ceremony to be committed to someone", "everyone has a right to have a child", etc. And yet, throw one irresponsible woman and her equally irresponsible doctor into the mix and the non-judgmental crowd goes judgmentally ballistic.

I've read most of the comments accompanying recent news articles, and I would say that of the thoughts I've read, more people than not are concerned about fertility treatments, and very few of them have been armed with the facts. Their concern is simply a knee-jerk reaction to one disturbing case of fertility treatment gone wrong.

Many commenters take the opportunity for a good old-fashioned, holier-than-thou rebuke, saying that if God wanted an infertile couple to have babies they would get pregnant naturally, and that it's obviously not in His will for infertile couples to reproduce. (To those people I say, "Hand over your eyeglasses, because it obviously wasn't God's will to keep you from slamming into walls. And don't be taking any Tylenol when you get a concussion, either.")

There is also an outcry from the self-righteous loudmouths who say that fertility treatment should not be an option as long as there are children without homes, as if there are a bunch of babies wrapped up in pink and blue bows, sitting in stork-ready baskets at the adoption agency. These people have apparently never actually looked into adoption, with all its bureaucratic red tape, years-long waiting lists, exorbitant costs, and risks of losing a child to his biological parents after spending a year getting attached to him.

There is one view, however, that I can agree with - the fact that fertility treatment makes it too easy for people to have babies who should not be having them (although there is nothing "easy" about fertility treatment itself). But the same could be said for sex outside of marriage. Yes, too many babies are being born into bad situations, but that doesn't make sex or fertility treatment innately wrong. When used properly, both can be a profound blessing.

I firmly believe that children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony to a mother and a father who honor their marital vows with complete fidelity. I do not think anyone should mess with that God-given formula, ever. But just because some people choose to ignore that ideal does not mean lawmakers should begin interfering, especially because, in this case, the damage they do would be greater than any benefit that might be derived. No matter how "pro-life" it might sound, a bill that severely diminishes the chances for good, stable couples to become parents isn't pro-life. It's anti-life.

It is unfortunate that we live in a world where many will misuse the gifts God has given them. And it is a sad fact that the miraculous scientific advances that have allowed my husband and me to become parents are the same advances that will allow others to do things they shouldn't be doing, and to mess with things they shouldn't be messing with.

There are many good things in the world, things I would consider to be direct blessings from heaven, that are used the wrong way and for the wrong purposes. But that is not a case for eliminating those good things altogether.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random Thoughts

I haven't blogged in a week, which is, like, a record. I'm sure you've been grateful for the reprieve. I don't really feel like putting anything coherent together, so here are my random thoughts for the day:

Why do women wear long, fake fingernails? Especially women who have to type or use ten-key at their job all day long, like tellers at the bank. I have to double-check my account numbers to make sure there haven't been any press-on-nail mishaps with my deposits.

I hate all the cutesy terms people apply to pregnancy like "preggo" and "preggers". It's like "Hi, I'm preggo, and like, so totally thirteen. And, like, totally responsible and sooo mature, too."

Is it really necessary to have Daylight Savings Time? I blame it for the unreasonable amount of grouchiness I've experienced this past week.

Michael said his first unassisted prayers this week. The first went: "Hennly Father, thank you mommy, thank you daddy, and mommy and daddy. Thank you mommy." The second: "Hennly Father, thank you eight, nine, ten, Amen!" The funny part is I'm sure he is honestly grateful for those numbers.

I've decided I should become irresponsible, stop paying my mortgage and my taxes, (and mostly any other bills I should be paying) and just let Pres. Obama take care of me. At the very least I'm sure I could secure a position in his cabinet.

Teaching primary is spending half the time having good feelings about your class, and the other half wishing you had bought the Costco-sized Tylenol.

I was sitting across the aisle on the subway from a woman who had had such a love affair with collagen injections that she looked like a fish whose lips had been smashed with a frying pan. Is this what beauty has come to nowadays?

I love how media outlets fall all over themselves to treat the Muslim religion with respect, but Mormons are always made to look like intolerant nutcases (with totally freaky ceremonies, to boot).

When information about a medical procedure is accompanied by the words "slight discomfort" this means you should arrive dosed up on morphine and expect to spend the hours following getting acquainted with your bathroom floor.

I find it very amusing that at least once a day someone's Facebook status is: "I have so much to do and not enough time", or "I'm so busy I don't know how I'm going to get everything done". Then what in the world are you doing messing around on Facebook?

Why is it that no one teaches their children playground manners anymore? And why is it that I, as an adult, can tell an eight year-old kid who should know better to get off the slide and let the other kids come down, and he can look at me and say, "No!" without batting an eye? Why do parents let their children get away with such behavior?

I haven't stepped foot in a car for four months. And I haven't seen a gas station in all that time, either. I wonder if I'll remember how to drive?

Looking in on your sleeping toddler at night can give you enough warm fuzzies to last you through nearly the entire next day. Sometimes I look in on Michael two or three times, just to stock up.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It Depends on What the Meaning of Emergency Is...

In the news today, a Florida woman called 911 three times to report an emergency: McDonald's had run out of Chicken McNuggets.

I would say McDonald's running out of processed chicken parts was God's gift to humanity, but I will admit to enjoying the revolting things myself every now and then. So while I'm sure the prospect of missing out on the nuggety goodness was disappointing for this woman, she obviously needs a lesson on what 911 is for.

She insisted: "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn’t have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don’t want one. This is an emergency."

Apparently the real trouble came about because she had ordered the McNuggets, paid for them, and then was told the restaurant was out of their supply. A manager, apparently lacking a brain, denied her a refund, instead trying to get her to choose something else from the menu.

Well, that manager is an idiot (and has now issued a public mea culpa). But regardless of how wrong the manager may have been, it was absolutely no excuse for this woman to call 911 even once, let alone three times.

For heaven's sake, Chicken McNuggets are an emergency? Let's hope this woman never stubs her toe.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Apocalypse Now

I have now exercised... drum roll please... eight days in a row! (That crashing noise you hear is the the angel choir skidding into place at the last moment, not having expected their services to actually be needed).

So as you can see, thus far the Wii Fit has been a smashing success. It appeals to my addictive personality in that it is, at its core, a video game, and is thus able to trick me into doing an exercise "one more time" to better my score. And then, lo and behold, I've worked out for 45 minutes without even realizing it! Who knew that was even possible?

I was correct in surmising that the Wii would think me an unbalanced old woman, but I am getting better. And I can hoola-hoop with the best of them, though only to the right - my brain apparently does not work trying to hoola-hoop to the left. Most of the balance games leave my Mii kneeling on the ground in embarrassed anguish, but I'll just blame my lack of balance on an unfortunate genetic gift from my father - flatter than flat feet.

Considering that up to this point the only exercise I engaged in on a regular basis was lifting brownies to my mouth, eight consecutive work-outs is a vast improvement. And while the Wii is just a machine, it knows if I exercised or not, so it's enough accountability to get even my sorry behind off the couch. Plus, I don't want to spoil my perfect record! I'm even, dare I say, excited to get out my Wii during Michael's nap time.

So I guess this means you had better start preparing for the end of the world. My exercising on a regular basis is definitely a sign of impending apocalypse.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Morning at the Museum

Saturday morning seemed like a great time to head to the Museum of Natural History. This is fast becoming one of my favorites, for the simple reason that nearly everything is behind glass and thus indestructible by small wild children. I don't even have to bother with a stroller, because, unlike The Met, Michael can roam free without my having to fear his desecrating a Pharaoh's sarcophagus and cursing our family for generations to come.

The museum is equally as fun for Michael as it is for us. He has developed somewhat of a fascination with dinosaurs since we started going and shrieks "Ohnosaur!" with each new set of bones he sees, running happily from one fossil to the next. Throw in a couple of penguins, some monkeys and a blue whale, and he is in animal heaven.

I have a sudden urge to add "Night at the Museum" to my Netflix queue.

And speaking of movies, at this very moment there is a show filming on the rooftop directly across the street from us. David is fervently wishing he had binoculars so he could get a better view.

Of course, David did get a great, inside view today of an apartment that used to be occupied by none other than Tom Cruise during his "Risky Business" days. He helped a fellow ward member moved into the hunky nutcase's former digs this afternoon. (Inexplicably, David came home with an overwhelming urge to dance around in his underwear...)

There's no place like New York.