Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Perfect Balance

When I was in college, my sister-in-law and I took a yoga class together.  While all the ladies around me balanced gracefully with their legs around their ears, I spent most of the time on the floor laughing.  "Down dog" was about the only position I could execute without falling over sideways.  (If I ever get pulled over for suspicion of DUI I know I'm going to fail the sobriety test.  I couldn't walk a straight line if my life depended on it).

Even after several weeks, I never got better at balancing.  One day, the instructor looked around the room of statue-like poses and in a deeply zen manner said, "Wherever you are is perfect."  And then she glared pointedly at me.  (Okay, okay, so yoga isn't my forte.  But you haven't seen me use one hand to balance two crying toddlers on my hips.  Now that's a skill...)

Ever since that day I've wondered why she couldn't stop herself from that glare.  It's not like I was clueless.  Not only was I fully aware of her superior flexibility and balance (and how well the rest of the class was doing), she had made it painfully obvious that she was frustrated by my ineptitude.  Yoga is supposed to be peaceful and meditative and soul-renewing, not punctuated by glares and irritated sighs.  

Welcome to Yoga, where everyone is perfect... except for you.

Cue entry into parenthood, where no matter what you are going through at the moment, someone will say, "You have it easy now.  Just wait until you have [fill in the blank]."  Two kids.  Four kids.  Toddlers.  Tweens.  Teenagers.  Licensed drivers.  Soccer games.  Music lessons.  Dance recitals...

Translation:  I have it harder than you.   You should be handling this more gracefully.  (Yoga translation: Everyone else is perfect.  You, on the other hand... *glare*).

Look, nobody else is perfect, nor are they handling things perfectly.  Wherever you are isn't perfect, it's hard.

One kid?  That's hard.

Two kids?  Still hard.

Screaming toddlers?  Hard.

Hormonal tweens?  Hard.

Rebellious teenagers?  Hard.

So, before you elbow the mother-of-the-crying-child in the check-out line at Target and say, "Just wait until he's a teenager!", think!  When your child was a tantrum-throwing, snot-covered toddler, it was HARD.  Just because you're far enough removed from the experience that all you remember is lollipops and rainbows, does not mean that someone dodging gunfire in the trenches wants to hear, "Enjoy it now!  You'll miss those bullets someday!"

Parenthood is not a contest.  It's not a game where the object is to rack up the most Persecution Points.  (Oh, I see your toddler wiped his used diaper all over the carpet, but my teenager just snuck out in the middle of the night and wrecked my car!  More points for me!)  It's not a matter of blue ribbons or trophies or angel wings or who made the most sacrifices.

It's a matter of raising humans.  Of making mistakes.  Of surviving and becoming better.  And it needs support, because parenting is incredibly, incredibly hard.  

So, next time you see a mother struggling, don't tell her she has it easy now.  Don't say, "Enjoy that little shrieking brat who is trying to hit you!"  Don't turn up your nose and opine, "Teenagers are so much harder" or "Wait until the hormones hit!"  Say, "You're doing just fine."  "This is such a hard age.  It will get better."  "You're a good Mom.  Keep at it!"

Because lifting others, helping others, wherever you are...

Now that's perfect.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pregnancy: A Guide to Asking Questions

Pregnancy:  A condition that causes strangers, casual acquaintances, and even some friends and family members to behave like complete buffoons.

How do I know this?  Hahaha!  Surely you jest.

For some reason, anything related to childbirth tends to short-circuit common courtesy and tact.  So, as a public service, I present to you a guideline for asking questions.  There is just one simple trick:

Would a similar question (or statement) be appropriate when a woman is not pregnant?

For example:

To Pregnant Woman:  "Do you plan to deliver vaginally or by c-section?"

To NotPregnant Woman:  "What are your upcoming plans for your vagina?"

See?  It's easy.

Still unsure?

To PW:  "Was this pregnancy a surprise?"

To NPW:  "Did you intend to have sex with your husband last Tuesday?"


To PW:  "Are you going to breastfeed?"

To NPW:  "What do you intend to do with your breasts for the next year?"


To PW:  "Did you do fertility treatments?"

To NPW:  "Are your breasts real?"


To PW:  "You look huge!"

To NPW:  "My, you're fat!"


To PW:  "Should you be eating that?"
To NPW:  "Should you be eating that?"


To PW:  *Pats belly*
To NPW:  *Pats belly*


To PW:  "Are you pregnant?"

To NPW:  "Are you pregnant?"

I don't care if the woman is "obviously" pregnant.  Believe me, as someone who has been mistaken for being "obviously" pregnant, nothing is more demoralizing than a person checking out the box of Godiva chocolates that settled just south of your belly button and asking, "When are you due?"

As a rule, I would say that most women like to be (very) well-acquainted with someone before discussing their private parts, their sex life, their weight, or any of their plans for the future.  (Of course, knowing what the college bar scene is like these days, maybe that's just me...)  But think, people.  Think before you speak.  Realize that 99% of what is going on with any woman's body is absolutely none of your business, pregnant or not.

And if you simply must ask a question, try one of these:

"Would you like my chair?"

"You look beautiful!"

"May I help you with that?"

Or my favorite:

"Have some chocolate."

And please, please keep your hands to yourself.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Kids like little holes.  Specifically, putting things in little holes.  Which is how we ended up with a bead shoved all the way down Matthew's ear canal Wednesday afternoon, courtesy of Leah.  Thanks, Leah.

Of course, this is better than tiny objects up the nose (if I had a nickel for every Lego I've removed from Matthew's nose... never mind the marshmallow incident...).  Or at least I thought so, until I found out my son would have to go to the hospital and be sedated so they can remove a bead from his ear.

I can just imagine the waiting room now:

"My son is having tubes put in his ears."

"Mine is having having his tonsils out."

"Mine has a bead stuck in his ear..."

Oh well.  I  can record it in my Great Moments in Parenting, right next to the time I had to call Poison Control on Leah twice in one month ("Wild hyenas would be more qualified to raise children than you are, Mrs. Overly...") and the time Matthew and Leah both fell all the way down the stairs within two minutes of each other while I was standing, oblivious, ten feet away.

At least something in the ear canal won't migrate to his brain while we wait for Matthew's "procedure" this afternoon.  And at least the bead can't go past the eardrum.  (Come to think of it, maybe this is payback for the time Matthew jammed a q-tip through Leah's eardrum).

I don't know if it's because I am operating at Full Frazzle this week or what, but my kids seem to be on a mission to send me to the loony bin. My sweet, girly Leah -- when she wasn't sticking beads in her brother's ear -- peed on my lawn this week.  Yes, you read that right.  The only child with non-adjustable private parts peed on my lawn.

When she got in trouble for stripping off her panties and watering the grass, she wailed over the unfairness of it all.  "But Michael and Matthew peed on the lawn and didn't get in trouble!"

Um, what?

"Matthew, did you pee on the lawn?"


"Michael, did you pee on the lawn?"

"No...  well, not on the lawn.  Just in the window well."

Oh good, because that's SO MUCH BETTER.

Really, I'm just telling you all this because I feel it justifies the fact that I ate nothing but pumpkin candies for dinner last night.  Normally about three of those things is enough to send me into sugar shock, but it's just been that kind of week.

Don't judge.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Every Mother a Critic

I just watched a video of a c-section, because I'm weird like that.  And all I have to say is that is abundantly clear why you are in so much pain afterward.  I mean, good heavens, they go in there and rip things apart without even using a knife for all of it.  They rip things.  Lots of things.  Ouch.

Of course, vaginal births aren't the most fun either.  Really, there is just no good way to get a baby out of you.  Which is one of my questions for God.  I mean, wouldn't childbirth be easier if the exit were, say, a little more exit-y?  Maybe if there were some kind of zipper involved?

Of course, there is no good way to get a baby out of you, but according to the internet, there is a right way.  And it doesn't involve epidurals.

Now, I know "women have been doing it this way for thousands of years" and I have no problem with natural childbirth.  If you want to ride that pony, be my guest.  But, keep in mind, the reason women did it that way for thousands of years is because they didn't have any other options.  Personally, I like to think that, given the choice, Eve would have been like, "Epidural?  Yes, please!"

So, if you choose to give birth naturally, afterward your line is, "I loved my birth experience!" not "I am superior to anyone who has an epidural!" 

Epidurals are not of the devil.  But making other mothers feel like failures is.

Honestly, ladies, enough with the one-true-and-holy-childbirth thing.  As well as the one-true-and-holy-way-to-feed-an-infant thing.

Seriously, in case you've missed it, breastfeeding is a movement now.  Not just a way to feed your baby, but a moral superiority card you can play whenever someone criticizes you for whipping out your Double D's in the middle of Olive Garden.  (Just type "Nurse-in" into google and you'll see what I mean).

Is breastfeeding great?  Absolutely!  Should you be able to feed your baby anywhere and anytime you need to?  Certainly!  But you know what else is great?  Politeness.  Kindness.  Not flashing your boobs at everyone around you just because the law is on your side.

Also great?  Formula!  Isn't it wonderful that so many babies are growing up healthy and strong thanks to this scientific advancement?  So why do mothers go around criticizing other women for not breastfeeding?  "You're feeding your baby something that is meeting all his nutritional needs!  How dare you?!"

Um, yeah.

Unfortunately, the criticism doesn't stop there.  Pacifiers.  Diapers.  Sleep training.  Potty training...  need I go on?

Let's lay aside the judgment, ladies.  There is more than one way to do all of these things.

And more than one way to do them right.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's in a Name?

"That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

Really, would it now?  Because I don't think William Shakespeare would have penned these words if he lived after Utah came along.

2014 Romeo:  "I know you're a Capulet and I'm a Montague, but names don't really mean anything... Wait, what was your name again?"

Utah girl:  "Braxleigh."

Romeo:  "Uh... never mind.  Just forget I said anything."

(Braxleigh is a real Utah name, you guys.  I'm not making this up).

Unfortunately, most of the ridiculous names I've seen lately are for girls, so not useable.  (*Sniff*  Byrklee.  *Sniff*)  But thankfully, luck appeared just yesterday in the form of a small boy knocking on my door.

"Who are you?" I asked, just before his grandmother appeared from around the corner and said, "His name is Draygen."  (sp?)

"Have you been drinking?" I asked.

"No, his name is really Draygen."

Okay, I made that up.  I didn't actually ask if she'd been drinking.

But since I'm such a generous person, I bequeathed the usage rights for the name Draygen (and any of its possible variations -- Dragon, Dragen, Dr'Agen, Draegon, or Draygon) to a friend of mine who is also expecting a baby boy.

This left me with quite a problem, since the perfect boy name is now in the hands of someone else.  Luckily, my sister, who has taken to texting me name suggestions on a daily basis, came through for me today:

"I have a boy bible name for you," she said.  "Izaak."

"Twin brother to Muzak?" I asked.

"Yes, and sister Prozak."

Prozak!  It's brilliant!

Prozak Zyrtek Overly.

What do you think?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Names and Other Issues

I disappeared.  Again.  

Sorry about that.  It's just that I was busy spending all my spare time with my face in my pillow.  

I'm not kidding.  I wasn't just tired, I was I HAVE TO TAKE A NAP RIGHT NOW OR I'LL DIE tired.  (You should have seen me at Legoland this summer trying to nap while standing in line).  That, coupled with 24/7 nausea might have made me a little bit anti-social and grumpy (sorry, neighbors!)  Don't worry, it wasn't you.  It was me.

Okay, it actually wasn't me.  It was baby number 4, due to arrive in early February!!!

We are thrilled, obviously, though I still find myself not quite believing this is for real.  (11 years of infertility will do that to you).  After I took several pregnancy tests I left them in my nightstand drawer and then went back every five minutes to check on them.  For three days.  (Yep, still says "positive"...  Wait, really??  Let me check the instructions again...)

I was convinced that this little one was a girl, if nothing else because Michael never caused this much trouble in utero (even my twin pregnancy didn't wipe the floor with me the way this one has).  We had a name picked out and everything.  But to our great shock, ultrasound says 100% boy!

So now I need name help.  Because I have about 15 girl names I like and ZERO boy names.  Zero.  But, if you are going to help me with names, first, you have to know my rules for naming:

1.  You are naming a person, not a pet.  I just saw some friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook who named their new baby (a human, presumably) "Lynx".  These are the kind of people who make me fear for the state of humanity.

2.  This baby will need to get a job someday.  A respectable job.

3.  You should know how to pronounce his name as soon as you see it.

4.  You should know how to SPELL his name as soon as you hear it.  Nobody wants to spend a solid third of their life explaining how their parents were drunk and playing Scrabble when they decided to spell Michael M-Y-K-I-L-E.

5.  All my other children have biblical names.  Normal biblical names.  I'm not saying it has to be biblical, but it does have to be normal.  No Methuselah or Nebuchadnezzar or Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.

6.  Like I said, it doesn't have to be biblical, but it does need to dwell solidly in the realm of classic or traditional names.  (You really can't have a Michael, Matthew, Leah, and then a Denim Diesel).  

7.  It should be clear what gender the baby is based on name alone.  I know it's the in-thing for parents to be all, this is my baby girl "James", but that's NOT NICE.  Not nice at all.

8.  Naming after a person is fine.  Naming after a thing or a brand is not.  (This is my son "Eiffel Tower Lego" just doesn't cut it).

That's easy enough, isn't it?

Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 19, 2014


You know you're in the throes of a diet when you're making ramen noodles for the kids and you're like, "Mmmm.... wish I could have some."

I mean, they're ramen noodles, people.  They're like little strips of sawdust flavored by chemicals. They're not even part of the food pyramid.    But man, do they smell good!  (Er, sorry, kids.  I think I may have drooled in your bowl a little bit).

I miss carbs.

Plus, I did a really insane thing the other day.  Costco was selling those giant bags of M&Ms for like $5 and I thought to myself, those will be perfect to pass around at the family reunion... in July. 

Yes, I bought two giant bags of chocolatey goodness and they are going to sit in my pantry for a month and a half.  Which means I have to look at them every time I open the door for a piece of oh-so-satisfying sugar-free gum.

On second thought, maybe I should just bury them.  In the Bermuda Triangle.  

Conveniently enough, I'm pretty sure the Bermuda Triangle is residing with Michael's wallet, my favorite charm bracelet, and the lost City of Atlantis just inside the door of my storage room.

Seriously, my kids got in there last week and thought it would be fun to play Tornado.  (I knew I should have been suspicious when I tripped over the Fischer Price baby Jesus on my way to the laundry room!)  So that is today's task -- disaster clean-up.  I'm hoping to find Matthew's black hole that he uses to transport our most prized possessions to a galaxy far far away.  Wish me luck!

But first, to plow the kitchen.  I made the mistake of mopping the floor on Friday, which was really stupid because my kids still live here.  (New task: send the kids to boarding school.  And pick up a snooty British accent for good measure).

It's true,  dahling, nothing attracts sticky messes like a freshly mopped floor.  You might as well put out a sign that says, "Spills wanted."   And never mind about the clean bathrooms.  (How is it that you can have the house totally spotless on Saturday and then by Monday morning it looks like a colony of Tasmanian devils whirled through?  Does no one know how to pick up their own underwear?  Or aim?)

As it is, it's 11:00, which means I have about eight hours to go until it's time for a Family Home Evening treat.  Eight hours with me, the pantry, and two giant bags of M&Ms.

It's going to be a long day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Mother You Are

About two years ago, a friend of mine told me I wasn't doing a good enough job as a mother.

To say I was shattered is an understatement.  This is the sort of comment that you hold onto forever.  No matter how much you try to bury it and forget about it, it's like holding a beach ball under the water -- it always resurfaces, sometimes with such force that it blows out of the water and leaves you flailing as you try to regain control.

When our fifth IVF cycle failed about six months ago, it multiplied.  Suddenly it was like I was trying to hold a dozen beach balls under the water.  Every morning I would wake up and think, "The reason it failed is because I am not a good mother."  And every night I would go over the inventory of what made me a bad mother that day:  I spent too much time on the computer.  I yelled at my kids.  I didn't read any books.  I didn't help them practice their alphabet or their numbers.  I only glanced at my son's homework instead of truly checking it.  I refused to sit on the piano bench while he practiced.

And then I would start picking apart my mothering preferences, feeling guilty over the things I don't like to do.  I hate playing Candyland, for example.  I don't like cooking with my kids.  I never go on preschool field trips because it makes my stomach knot to think of giving up my two precious hours of kid-free time to help herd a group of wild four-year-olds through a quiet museum.  I hate bedtime routines and by the end of the day I'm so ready to check out that I often send my kids to bed with nothing more than a hug and a kiss.

But I realize, I need to stop focusing on the things I'm doing wrong and start focusing on the things I'm doing right.

Not someone else's "right."  My right.

Just because there are some moms out there who love going on field trips with a class full of Mexican jumping beans does not mean I'm a bad mother because it's not on my Fun List.  It's okay that I don't like playing Candyland.  It's okay that I don't get any warm fuzzies from my children dumping the entire salt shaker in the cookie dough when my back is turned.

One woman's idea of what it means to be a good mother is another woman's horror story.  There is no one-true-and-holy mothering style, and no perfect way to be a mother.

I'm not saying I have no room for improvement or that how I am is exactly how I should stay.  But improvement doesn't always mean changing into something new; sometimes it just means becoming something better.

Being better as the mother you are.

And forgetting about the mother you're not.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Breaking Camp

A vacation should consist of the following things:

- Meals I don't have to cook
- Dishes I don't have to clean
- Comfortable beds I don't have to make
- A shower every morning
- An indoor, flushable toilet that is clean and easily accessible
- Sleeping in as much as possible

Camping consists of the following things:

- Meals I have to cook.  Outside (which is 100 times more inconvenient than cooking at home).
- Dishes I have to wash.  Outside.  With cold water unless I want to heat it up.  (I don't).
- Beds that deflate while I'm trying to sleep
- No showers
- Toilets that are not easily accessible (particularly in the middle of the night), smell like a sewer, and are often splattered with evidence of someone's explosive intestinal issues.  If there are toilets at all.
- Sleeping as little as possible.

Add in extreme temperature changes, kids waking up at the crack of dawn after they've kept you up half the night, smelling like campfire and mosquito repellent and wallowing in alternating layers of dirt and grease, and I have to wonder why anyone ever wants to do this.

Does it really need saying?  A vacation is something that doesn't require you to pee in the bushes.

But since I'm headed on one or two camping trips this summer, I read this article with interest:  5 Ways to Make Camping With Children Easy.  (Wait, I know this one... Don't go!)

First suggestion?

Keep glow sticks on the kids at night.

I've done this before.  Fun for the kids, easy for the mom.  Good suggestion.

Be willing to go for drives.

There's the problem with camping right there.  Kids don't sleep.  You don't sleep.  You have to take your little darlings for an hour-long drive just to get them to shut their eyelids.  Fun fun fun.  We're all having fun.

Give your children plenty of light.

I think the glow stick or a flashlight is sufficient.  I don't need to spend time rigging up night lights.

And now the good stuff:

Use two tents.

"Designate one tent to be only for sleeping and changing clothes," the author says.  "The other tent then becomes only for toys and playing."

Say what?

I already had to bring my entire kitchen on this dumb camping trip and you want a separate tent for toys?  I'm supposed to bring toys?  So many of them that I need two tents?

She's actually serious.  Her last piece of advice is don't be afraid to overpack.

No really, she says that.  Don't be afraid to bring more stuff.  Your entire kitchen.  Your entire storage room.  Every blanket you own.  Your medicine cabinet.  Your toy room.

Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with camping if the only way to make it less miserable is to BRING EVERYTHING YOU HAVE AT HOME?

Can't we, you know, just stay home?  Or in a Marriott or something?  

Don't get me wrong, we can still go outside.  I'm not opposed to nature.

I'm just opposed to it getting on me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


This weekend I took a break from the calorie counting thing.  Partly because we were visiting my in-laws and it's nearly impossible to maintain a diet when you are away from home, and partly because EASTER CANDY.  Need I say more?

I keep clicking on these little internet headlines that say things like, "To Lose Weight, Never Eat These 7 Foods Again."  I've read about 10,000 of them, and they all say the same thing:  If you want to lose weight, don't put anything delicious in your mouth again.  Ever.

Seriously, these lists are like:

No sugar
No dairy
No gluten
No bacon
No happiness
No smiling
No reasons for living

What can you eat?

Tears.  Lots of salty tears.  (Wait... no.  Salt is out too).

The only things I can easily get behind are the prohibitions on coffee and alcohol.  But that's mostly because I've been doing that for 32 years with no problem.  Also because I'm convinced that alcohol drinkers are insane.  ("This is made out of rotten barley and smells like death.  I think I'll drink it!")

Yeah... no.

Other people who are insane?  Marathon runners.  I mean, I respect anyone who can run for 26 miles without stopping to have a heart attack, but you do know where this ridiculous tradition originated, don't you?  That Greek guy Phillipedes who spent days running back and forth as Battle Messenger Boy and then had to tack on an additional 26.2 miles to say "We won!"?  And he did.  Only it was more like "We wooooo...." because he keeled over dead.

So I'm not sure how it is that we got from "Guy runs 26 miles and dies" to "Ooohhh, good idea!  Let's try it!"  But seriously, I do not understand you people who like to run for hours.  Three miles on the treadmill is plenty for me.  And by "plenty" I mean "so much more than humanly necessary."  

But maybe that's because I believe in moderation and pithy phrases like "less is more."  Unless we're talking about candy.

When it comes to candy, less is never more.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Part of Motherhood

This viral video -- a tribute to mothers -- is bouncing around the internet so fast it's like Pong on amphetamines.  And I think I'm the only woman on the planet whose reaction wasn't to immediately embrace it as my cosmic thank you for doing what I do.

Being a mom is a hard job.  I get it.

No, really, I get it.  I've spent the last two nights with my fevered daughter wiggling around in my bed. I was awake so many times and handled so many requests that sleep started to feel like a mythical dandelion seed I was chasing in the wind.  And my daytime hours?  Here is a list of what I accomplished yesterday while I was holding my sick little girl:  Nothing.

But you know who had my sympathy yesterday?  My husband.

Know why?

He wasn't feeling well either, and yet he got up and headed off to work because he has too much on his plate to take a sick day.

Now, look, I've had plenty of days as a mother that are straight out of the dictionary definition of hell.  I've had a fever of 104 while I cleaned up someone else's barf.  I've endured migraines while handling endless requests from noisy toddlers.  I've dealt with more bodily fluids than a seasoned RN.  And I do it for months at a time without a single ounce of "help" from my husband.  (Not because he won't help, but because he is gone, working his butt off to support the family).

Yes, there are days when I don't get a single, isolated, teeny-tiny millisecond to myself.  There are days when I'm pretty sure my brains are going to start leaking out of my ears.  There are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days -- long ones that sometimes stretch painfully into weeks.  (I remember a time when my twins were infants and someone had a fever for 17 days in a row, for example).  I've had days when I was so tired I was literally walking into walls.  I've been barfed on and pooped on and used as a kleenex.  That's just how it is.  That's just part of motherhood.

Do I deserve a gold star for this?  Do I deserve the salary of a CEO?

Being a mother is noble and wonderful and incredibly, intensely important, yes.  I am irreplaceable.  But these little winks to the supposedly all-consuming nature of motherhood irritate me.  Why?  Because they are not honest!  Being "on-call" 24 hours a day is not the same thing as actually working 24 hours a day.  Yes, I have spent many days sacrificing every single one of my personal wants and desires, but that is not all the days of motherhood -- it's only a part, just as being a mother is only one part me. 

I've had dozens of days that were wonderful, days when there was nothing more fun than being a mom.  Days when everyone was happy and cheerful and we made good memories together, when we piled on the couch in a heap of books and giggles and ate cookies straight of the oven when we were done.  I've had days that were full of swimming and trips to the zoo and outings to the world's best museums.  And time to myself?  I've had hours of it.  Hours when the kids all miraculously napped at the same time and I took a relaxing bath, ate chocolate, and chatted on the phone with my best friend.  Hours when the kids were playing at a friend's house and I shopped by myself.  Hours when being at the park meant talking with a friend while we glanced at our kids occasionally and said things like, "I'm watching!" and "Good job, sweetie!"

You know how many hours my husband has had like that at his job?  Let me get out my pencil and add it up... carry the one... yep.  About zero.  None of his coworkers nap in the middle of the day, you see, and he can't send his boss to "quiet time" for an hour while he surfs the internet  A phone call to a friend while someone hovers over his desk waiting for a report?  Nope.  A movie in the middle of the day?  No way.  A nap?  Dream on.

And when he gets home from work, do you know what he does?  He helps me with the dishes.  He sweeps the floor.  He mows the grass and pulls the weeds.  He reads bedtime stories and kisses owies and tucks kids into bed.

And he does it all even though no one ever makes youtube videos about how amazing he is or how hard he works.  Even though no one writes articles for the express purpose of telling the world he deserves a hugely overestimated compensatory salary for his sacrifices.  He does it even though every television show, every movie tells him that fathers are stupid and clueless and unnecessary.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't honor motherhood -- we absolutely should!  But I grow tired of every tribute to mothers gobbling up the myth that they give up every second of their lives to their children -- for free!  Part of honor is truth, and that is not found in inflating duties or exaggerating difficulties.  Mothers "never get a break."  Really?  If that's true you need to put Junior down more often.  "You're on your feet all day."  Every single day?  Let your kids get their own dang drink.  "You work 24-7." You mean having a child means you don't get to sleep for two decades?  How are mothers even alive?

Yes, motherhood often means more than sacrifice; it is sacrifice.  It can be mind numbing and heart wrenching and leave you with a sort of bone deep tiredness that feels like it will never go away.  But there is also joy.  There are times when your daughter will bring you a bouquet of dandelions just because she loves you and when your son will hug you for no reason at all.  There will be kisses from stuffed animals and kisses from tiny lips that smell like strawberries.

That's the payment.  That's the "salary."

But it's not the reason we do it.  We do it because it is noble and good and because we love our children.  And we should thank our mothers because what they do is noble and good and because we love them.

But there's no reason to falsely inflate something that is good on its own.  There is no need to exaggerate the merits of something that is already entirely noble and worthy.  (I sure as heck do not "work" 135 hours a week, and I didn't clock in that many hours even when I had infant twins and a toddler!)  There's no need to place a monetary value on motherhood and what it's "worth" because it is already worth everything to the little people who come with the package.  What more justification do we need?  Mothers do not need to prove anything to anyone.

And they don't need to stretch the truth.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday

A little blast from the past, in the form of an old post called The Privacy Clause.  I'm re-posting it because it's basically what my life is right now.  Except now I have two four-year-olds banging on the bathroom door.  (What is it with bathrooms and four-year-olds?)

I knew I should have read the fine print when I signed up for motherhood. I glossed over the "Lack of Privacy" section of the contract because I read it immediately following a gynecological exam where the only nod at modesty was in the form of a 2x2 piece of tissue paper that I think was supposed to cover my left elbow. Thus, worrying about privacy seemed pretty meaningless after I'd just been hanging out with my feet in the stirrups.

But seriously, Michael is 4 now, which means I WOULD JUST LIKE 5 MEASLY MINUTES TO USE THE BATHROOM BY MYSELF! Whew, sorry, was that me yelling?

We've had a dozen conversations in the past week about privacy and modesty, highlighting basics such as the fact that it isn't polite to barge in on someone who is in any degree of undress. For some reason he has taken this as some sort of quest to bring down the bathroom door. Man the battle stations! Mom is using the potty!

"Michael, I need my privacy while I use the toilet. Please stop banging on the door!"

"But mom, I need to be in there!"

"No you don't! Go away and I'll be out in a few minutes!"

"But I need to be with you!"

"Go find something else to do for a few minutes."

He tests the lock.

"I'll just stand right here and wait for you!" he says.

Ten little toes appear beneath the door.

"Are you done yet, Mom?"

"No, go away!"

"Because you need your privacy?"

"Yes, because I need my privacy."

"I don't know what privacy means, Mom."

You and Julian Assange.

"Are you pooping or peeing, Mom?"

Should I confess I'm holed up in the bathroom reading snatches of Harry Potter 7? Hmm, nope.

Now where is that candy bar I stashed under the sink?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Not Personal

Today I woke up knowing that, before the day was through, somebody was going to take to Facebook to announce a "pregnancy."

How is that, you ask?

Why, it's April Fools' Day, of course!  What could possibly be funnier than waving a "positive" pregnancy test around in a little AFD game of Most Gullible Friends?

Hahahahaha.  It's so hilarious.  I mean, you not only get to see which friends actually care about you, you get to make fun of them for believing you would tell the truth about a huge, life-changing event like pregnancy...

But you know what?  Even though I personally consider this kind of thing to be thoughtless and tacky, and even though it's incredibly painful and upsetting to me as an individual, it is not personal.

And I don't need to make it become so.

I've been thinking about people taking things too personally for a few months now.  It started when I read a snarky comment in Dear Abby written by a reader who took offense to Abby's annual Christmas greeting to her Christian readers, because, as a non-Christian, she wasn't included in the warm wishes.  (And here I thought we were still in generic "Happy Holidays" mode after a bunch of non-believers felt miffed that other human beings would take the time to wish them well with the words, "Merry Christmas"...).

Not long after that I read an article on the Huffington Post written by a mother who used her public forum to pressure Nordstrom into stopping the sale of an offensive pillow.  What was so offensive about it?  Printed on the front were the words "To h*** with beauty sleep, I want skinny sleep."  An upsetting message, to be sure.  It upset me so much I laughed out loud at the sentiment.

And finally, in the news recently, a local company came under fire for their plumbing ad, which featured a toddler standing next to a toilet, holding a rubber ducky in his hand.  "No job too small, we fix it all" was the slogan.  Marketing perfection, in my opinion.  Anyone who knows a toddler knows that there is no siren song more compelling to him than the splish-splash of a toilet, and, as a mother who has spent many a day playing Go Fish in her bathroom, I can completely relate.  Not only would I remember this ad, I would use this company the next time Buzz Lightyear embarks on an exploratory mission of Planet U-Bend.

But one Utah mother was so upset about it she not only asked the company to change their advertising, she called a local news station to report their insensitivity when they didn't respond quickly enough.  You see, 20 years ago, when her toddler was 14 months old, he fell in a toilet and couldn't pull himself out.  He later died from the effects of his injuries.

I completely understand why seeing an ad with a toddler standing next to a toilet would upset her.  She experienced a tragedy, and she is totally justified in feeling the way she does.  However, she is not justified in demanding that no one -- no matter how unintentionally -- be allowed to remind her of her pain.  She is not justified in stopping a company from using a universally relatable image to market their business just because it dredges up bad memories for her.

We all have reasons for feeling the way we do.  We all have life experiences that are painful.  The writer of the Nordstrom letter, for example, had struggled with an eating disorder in her past -- of course she would see destructiveness in anything that appeared to present skinniness as the ultimate virtue!  Like her, we all have triggers that remind of us of tragic or difficult times in our lives, and like her, we all fail at times to see the humor in certain situations because they are heartbreaking and gut-wrenching and deeply personal to us.  But they are not personal to everyone.  Demanding that no one be allowed to do anything that reminds us of these experiences, demanding that no one be allowed to see humor in something we do not, is selfish and egotistical.

This does not mean we can never ask for greater sensitivity or more kindness.  Heaven knows we need more kindness.  We all need to be more sympathetic and make more and better efforts to be aware of what others are going through.  But more than anything, we need to stop taking things so personally.

Because, truly, it's almost never about us.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Make Room

Women have a tendency to put too much on their plate.  And by "women" I mean "every female but me."    Me?  I'm L-A-Z-Y -- unless we're talking about a literal plate, in which case, yeah, fill it up!  And make sure you top it with whipped cream!

But I'm surrounded by women who like to do things.  Voluntarily.  Hard things like marathons and PTA meetings and cloth diapers.  (Cloth diapers... sorry.  I just can't relate.  I live in 2014 for a reason, people).  They grind up flax seed to put in their food and I'm like "I looked at kale once."  (I did.  I thought it was for decoration).

Hey kids, you want sugared cereal for dinner??

But, because I see so many women who are totally stressed out and struggling and overwhelmed, I've been analyzing this taking-on-too-much thing for quite a few years now.  And it comes down to this:  how much does a woman do because she feels like it needs to be done, and how much does she take on because she cannot see herself as a good person if she doesn't?

In other words, how much is truly necessary and how much is just an extension of us being hard on ourselves?

I'm not talking about the day-to-day tasks that everyone has to do; I'm talking about the extra stuff, like coaching T-ball and coordinating the bake sale and making homemade gifts for all the kids' teachers and knitting hats for homeless kittens and volunteering at the rec center and training for a triathalon and... visiting teaching, say what?  I don't have time for that!

We've all heard the story of the Savior's birth and we have all been admonished to make room for Him in the inns of our lives.  But sometimes I think we look at "making room" as the act of shoving as many blankets and pillows into as little floor space as possible so we can offer Him three square inches of floorboard.

Maybe "making room" needs to be less about moving things around and more about getting rid of the things that do not have eternal importance.

So, if you don't have time to do your visiting teaching, make time.  Get rid of something.

If you can't make time for daily family scripture study, get rid of something.

If it's been months since you had a Family Home Evening, get rid of something.

Yes, there will be times and seasons in your life when you simply cannot take on anything else for a period of time (ask me about the time soon after my twins were born when I cried because I just wanted to fold the laundry and I. could. not. get. it. done.)  But, when a Prophet of God asks you to do something, when the Savior of the World stands at your door, knocking, stop saying, "My plate is already full.  I don't have time for anything else."  Get rid of something less important so that you have the time.

As Julie Beck said, "[Women] who know do less... [They] choose carefully and do not try to choose it all."  So choose what is necessary.  Choose the things of God, because the things of God are the things that matter.

Make room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Case of Fire, Fake Class

Michael asked a question at dinner which led us to having a discussion about fire safety.  As a parent, there is a fine line you must walk when you are discussing issues of safety -- impressing upon your children the seriousness of a given situation (and how they should respond to it) without scaring the dickens out of them.

"Mommy, is our house going to burn down?"  Leah asked, horrified.

"No, it's not going to burn down.  Well, it could...  But it won't...  It's extremely unlikely...  But if it does, Mommy or Daddy will help you get out."

Smooth, Mom.  Very smooth.

"Can I take my babies and my Sparkle Mouse?  What about my Hello Kitty purse?  Is my blankie going to burn?  If Sparkle Mouse burns will you buy me a new one?  Do you remember where you bought my Hello Kitty purse so you can buy a new one?"

"Leah, our house is not going to burn down.  Well, I mean, it could.  But it's not going to.  But if it does (gives a list of instructions)."

"Will we build a new house if our house burns down?  Will it look like this one?  Can I have a new Sparkle Mouse?  Mommy, if our house burns down will I die?  I don't want to die."

Meanwhile, over in boyville, Michael laid out his more, um, natural concerns:

"Mom, if our house catches on fire while I'm in the shower, can I run outside naked?"

"No, Michael, you can't.  Just grab a towel off the hook when you jump out of the shower."

"But what if I have to go to the bathroom?  Can I poop on the lawn?"

Really??!!  Your house is burning down and you want to know if you can poop on the lawn?

"Michael, if there is a fire, can you at least pretend to have some class?"

Because if you poop on my lawn I'm going to kill you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Weighty Conversations

Yesterday morning I spent 45 minutes on the treadmill.  I said no to an after-dinner ice cream sandwich even though I had the calories left to eat one.  I did not have a single brownie from the pan that has been sitting on my counter since Sunday.

And I've been living like this for almost three months.

I'm telling you this to explain all the news articles about pigs winging their way over an icy hell.  And also because it will help you understand why, when my 7-year-old said to me yesterday, "Your stomach looks like it's getting bigger, Mom!" I thought briefly about punching him.  

It did not help me feel better when my husband came home last night and said, "Look how loose my pants are getting!" What did he have for dinner?  Pizza.  What did I have for dinner?  Two measly ounces of pasta with fresh tomatoes.

I told him I was going to treat myself to a calorie-free Fresca before bed. "Are you going to have anything?" I asked.

"I'm still really full from dinner," he said.

It turns out that I really know how to scowl. 

Earlier, he had pocket-dialed me from the pizza restaurant where he went to pick up dinner for his coworkers (it's tax season so it's dine-at-the-office time).  I could have hung up on him, but instead I started crooning into his phone, "Daaaavvviddd... this is your conscience...  Don't eat too much pizzzzzaaa."  In hindsight I should have been like, "Get the gelatoooo."

Okay, not really.  I love and adore my husband and I want him to be successful in his weight loss efforts!  Just not, you know, more successful than me

Kidding!  (Sort of...)  But really, why is it SO MUCH HARDER for me to lose weight than it is for him?  He's all, "I'm down 17 pounds!" and I'm like, "I looked at a cookie yesterday and gained three pounds."

Even workouts are easier for him.  We tried this Jillian Michaels workout together a couple weeks ago and he said afterwards, "My abs are a little sore."  Yeah, um... this workout literally crippled me.  For three days I could barely move.  When I had to go to the bathroom at church I chose the handicapped stall because I needed a bar to hold onto just to lower myself to the toilet.  And I don't even want to talk about what I looked like trying to get down the stairs.  

Let's just say I've had a preview of myself at age 90, and it's not pretty.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Agency, Part I: Satan's Plan Was NOT to Force Us to Be Righteous

*This post discusses LDS theology.  For more background or information, visit*

There are a few subjects that make me twitch, but none of them as thoroughly as the topic of agency. I dread this topic.  Any time it comes up at church I become very interested in the backs of my hands.  I tap my feet and shift in my chair and think of excuses to leave the room.

It makes me crazy.  Even more so than our once-a-year habit of slogging through the hymn "Ring Out Wild Bells" as if the past 365 days were a rotting corpse in a coffin.


"Satan's plan was to force us to be righteous," somebody will say.  And then everyone will nod in agreement because that's what they've heard all their lives and have accepted it without thinking it through.

There's just one little problem.  It's not true.  And not only that, but if you think about it, it makes ZERO sense.

In Moses 4:3 we learn that in our pre-mortal life, Satan rebelled against God and "sought to destroy the agency of man."  Check.  By forcing us all to be righteous, right?  Well, not exactly...  Verse 1 says that Satan wanted to "redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost..."

For some reason Latter-day Saints have spent decades assuming (and being taught - this idea has even made its way into a few church manuals) that this means Satan's plan was to force us all to be righteous (after all, how many ways are there to make sure everyone gets saved?).  But it's just that -- assuming.  Nowhere in the entire Standard Works does it say a single word about this being the case.  And since nothing answers questions like going to the source, let's look at what the scriptures do say, starting with the subject of truth:

In Doctrine & Covenants 93:30 we learn that "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence."  In other words, truth is truth, regardless of what we think about it.  It is unchangeable.  It is unaffected by what people say (even brilliant, incredibly knowledgeable people) what they do (even very nice and well-intentioned people), and what they wish it were.  It cannot be changed by royal scepter, government edict, or even popular vote.  It is truth.  And it is eternal.

Continuing in verse 31, we read that herein -- the fact that there is absolute and unchangeable truth -- lies our agency.  If there were no truth there could be no agency.  There could be no choice because there would be nothing to choose -- no truth or lies, no good or evil, no right or wrong.

So what would you do if you were Satan and you wanted to save everyone?  You wouldn't force them to be good; that's ridiculous.  You'd destroy truth by doing away with the rules.  You'd save everyone regardless of what they do.

No truth = no law = no sin = no choice = no agency.  (And, conveniently for Satan, no God).

Sound familiar?  Probably because you've heard Satan's minions spouting versions of it before:

Nehor (Alma 1:4) telling people that "all mankind should be saved."
Korihor (Alma 30:17) preaching that "whatsoever a man did was no crime."
The Amalekites (Alma 21:6) saying "we do believe that God will save all men."
The Lamanites (Alma 18:5) supposing "that whatsoever they did was right."

And you're still hearing it now.  Satan's fingerprints are everywhere:  Moral relativism.  Situational ethics.  "Find your own truth."

The only sin these days is calling truth truth and a sin a sin.  But the good news is that, through it all, truth is still truth.

No matter what you call it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mr. Sandman... Get out of My Bed!

Last weekend I headed south with the kids for a little tax season sunshine.  I had big plans.  Good ones, too.  Plans that did not include spending night after night alternating between "The Neck Scarf" and "The Roundhouse Kick."

You'd think that, by the time they are four years old, your kids would know how to sleep without flopping around like dying fish, but no... Even without my husband here to take up half of the bed I still spent three nights with Matthew's feet in my face.

Leah was the first to start with in with a fever, but Matthew held onto it the longest.  After three days of his being glued to my lap with a temperature somewhere between 100.5 and 103.9 (thank you, ear infection),  Leah finally pouted, "Mommy, you like Matthew more than you like me!"

Thankfully his fever finally broke for good last night in the middle of one of his pre-dawn snow angels, and he's been happy as a clam ever since.  We even ventured to the sand dunes today, right after Michael came inside to tell me, "Mom, I accidentally kicked my flip-flop up on the roof."  I almost left it up there just to teach him a lesson (this is not the first flip-flop he has flipped out of reach) but then I remembered that Barbie doll my brother tossed up on the roof when we were kids and how her hair melted, and besides, I didn't want to come home from the sand dunes with tennis shoes full of sand, so we got the ladder out and rescued the flip flop.

A bit later at dinner, one of Michael's cousins accidentally knocked over a water bottle and spilled the entire thing in Michael's lap.  This meant he had the choice between being wet or wearing his five-year-old cousin, Lily's, spare stretch pants for our adventures at the sand dunes.  I initially counted his decision to choose comfort over coolness as a bonus, since these pants didn't have any pockets on them to hold extra sand.  But, then we came home and he understood "Go take a shower" to mean, "Climb in Mom's bed, fully dressed.  And make sure you're under the covers."

Seriously.  After doing this --

-- he was wearing his sand-covered stretch pants UNDERNEATH my covers.  Not to mention the fact that his hair -- which was so full of sand it will be red until 2029 -- was resting comfortably on my pile of freshly laundered clothes.  Apparently, the universe was playing the Telephone Game when she registered her 1950's song lyrics.  The line is "Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream" not "climb into my bed and make sure to leave enough sand for a midnight sand castle."

Ah, well...  At least tonight I won't have anyone's feet in my face.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hey Mom, Look at Me!

Do you want to know what I found most strange about the Academy Awards this year?  No, it wasn't John Travolta introducing Broadway superstar and Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel as "Adele Dazeem" (what in the world...?) and it wasn't even his bad hairpiece (Dear balding men of the universe:  Own your hair loss, don't let it own you).

No, it was all the nominated actors who showed up to the ceremony with their mothers.

Yes, I know, it's supposed to be sweet. "Awww, look how cute!  Leonardo DiCaprio loves his mommy!"  And it's certainly nice when mothers support their sons.  But if Leonardo DiCaprio were my son, I wouldn't want to support him so much as wash his mouth out with soap.

His film, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is a record breaker: 506 F-words packed into its 180 minute running time.  That's almost 3 F-words a minute, for those of you trying to do the math.  (At that rate it's a wonder there is room for any other words).

And it's just the beginning of the movie's debauchery.  According to the Parent's Guide on IMDB, the movie's R-rating is not so much an adherence to a particular standard as it is a technicality.  With enough graphic and depraved sexual content to cause the devil himself to squirm, Scorcese's Best Picture nominee doesn't belong on the Oscar podium as much as it belongs in the sewer.

And yet, DiCaprio wasn't the only "Wolf of Wall Street" actor who brought his mother to the ceremony.  His co-star, Jonah Hill, (nominated for a performance that included... um... nope, I won't tell you.  There is not enough brain bleach in the world to allow me to unread what I read) also hit the Red Carpet with his mother on his arm.


Hey Mom, look at me!  Well... uh... maybe after this scene... no, after the next one.  Oh, and plug your ears...

I can concede that some stories should be told no matter how shocking their subject matter (Schindler's List, for example, or this year's Best Picture nominee, 12 Years a Slave).  But just as long strings of expletives do nothing to enhance a conversation, graphic portrayals of sex and violence do nothing to enhance the storytelling.  We do not need to see a whip slashing into someone's back to know what happened.  We do not need to see the up-close and disturbing details of a sexual encounter.  True achievement in film-making is not just found in knowing when to hold the camera steady, it's in knowing when to avert its eye.  An expert filmmaker should be able to make us feel without always having to see.

And yet the entertainment industry continues to produce and fawn over films that shock instead of inspire, that debase instead of uplift.  They forget that showing reality is not the only means of knowing reality.  Some things are better left unsaid.  Some things are better left unseen.  And some things are better left uncelebrated.

Especially by Mom.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reason More, Worry Less

This is the headline of a news article that has been spreading like wildfire among my friends.  Sad?  Horribly.  Tragic?  Definitely.  The cause of a lot of needless worrying?  Absolutely.

It is exceedingly rare for an infant to die while sleeping in his car seat.  You know how I know this? Because it is such a noteworthy event that it makes the news.  This particular case was featured on the news when it happened seven years ago, and yet, here it is, making the rounds on social media as we speak.

Why is that?  Why do we feel such a need to latch onto a singular instance of a very uncommon tragedy and let it change how we parent?  

Statistically speaking, a lot more babies die in their cribs than die while sleeping in car seats.  A lot.  According to the CDC, 4000 babies a year die in their beds in the United States alone.  But no one is suggesting we should stop putting our babies to sleep in cribs.  As for sleeping in car seats?  There aren't even any official statistics for deaths of babies who were sleeping in car seats because it is so extremely rare.  Do a little googling and you'll come up with a few isolated cases grouped in with the infants who were accidentally left in the car for hours on end or those who had underlying medical issues, but it is incredibly uncommon.

Life is not without risk, but as Lenore Skenazy likes to say, there is a difference between "risk" and "risky."  How much of our parenting life is built around "protecting" our children from teeny tiny risks that have a teeny tiny possibility of crossing their paths?  How much of our parenting is a knee-jerk reaction to an isolated tragic story?

Think about it.  How many of you tell your kids not to talk to strangers or not to walk to a friend's house on their own?  How many of you have ever spent time worrying your kids were going to be kidnapped (or, when they disappeared for a few minutes -- as kids are wont to do -- worrying that they were kidnapped?)  Why?

According to the last official statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice, which were taken during the study year of 1999, there were 262,100 child abductions that year.  Scary, right?  262,100 children is a lot!  But consider this:  203,900 were family abductions -- that is, abductions perpetrated by a relative -- 78% of them by a father or mother (for example, during a custody dispute).  In contrast, during the same study period there were 58,200 non-family abductions.  In the vast majority of these cases the kidnapper was someone the child or his family knew - neighbor, friend, caretaker, etc. and 99% of these children were returned to their parents alive, 90% of them within 24 hours. Of all non-family abductions, only 115 were considered "stereotypical" kidnappings; that is, the child was kidnapped by a stranger who had the intention to keep the child permanently, demand a ransom, or kill the child.

Now, be honest with yourself.  When you worry about kidnapping, you are not worrying that a neighbor or a daycare provider is going to run off with your child (after all, you know these people), you are worrying that the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is going to drive up with a lollipop and smoothtalk your kid into his Venus Fly Trap.  You are worrying about those 115 out of 58,200 non-family child abductions that are classified as "stereotypical" kidnappings.  .2% of kidnappings.  .2%.

Kids are much more likely to be harmed by someone they know than by a stranger.  And yet we spend infinitely more time drilling "stranger danger" into our kids' heads than we do telling them how to act if a friend or neighbor (or relative!) asks them to do something they don't feel good about doing.  Be reasonable! Think things through.  Don't fill their heads with worries about strangers and neglect to arm them against real dangers and real risks.

I'm not saying we need to start obsessing over our neighbors - we don't.  Most neighbors are good and decent.  Most neighbors would protect your child from harm.  But remember -- most strangers would protect your child from harm.  So teach your kids to talk to strangers.  Teach them that they can ask strangers for help if they need it.  Teach them to run away if a neighbor or friend (or stranger) does something that makes them uncomfortable.  Teach them that no matter what anyone tells them, they can always talk to you, because you will do everything in your power to protect them.

And as for the baby snoozing in her car seat?  "Never wake a sleeping baby" is my motto.  Because if you wake her up, well...

Talk about a risk.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Sometimes while I'm running jogging trying not to die on the treadmill, my kids like to park themselves on the floor next to me and make helpful comments like, "Mommy, why is your face so red?"  "How come you're talking to yourself?" and my personal favorite, "Are you doing your exercise?"

Nope, just watchin' a show on the Ipad and felt like I needed to turn it into a full-body experience.

Michael has taken to talking about how many calories we're eating at every chance he gets, which is about as annoying as it sounds (we try not to make a big deal of it, and he doesn't have any idea that the calorie-counting is for anything beyond "Mom and Dad are trying to be healthier", but there is simply no way to get around the fact that we are weighing portions of our food at dinnertime).  He even asked his primary teacher if her refusal of a Dum Dum sucker meant she is counting her calories as well.

Son, there are a few things you should never ask a woman...

I really hate obsessing over food and talking about how much I am or am not exercising (seriously, this is me):

But I gotta say, I was really disappointed when I went to the dermatologist last week and he didn't ask me about my exercise habits.  I mean, I know he's a skin doctor and all, but this is the first time in my life I that I wouldn't have had to hem and haw and make a joke about doing half a lap around the gym back in 1999.

I've been exercising, dang it!  I want credit!

Actually, all I really want is more calories to eat.  Specifically calories of the Cadbury Creme Egg variety.  Which is pretty much the only reason I get on the treadmill.  Spend 30 minutes on the treadmill and you can eat two Cadbury Creme eggs!!  Wait... what?  Is that all?

I want my 30 minutes back.

But I'm trying to press on, even though last week I did have a bit of a breakdown after a terrible morning and ate 720 calories worth of sugar in like 5 minutes.  I texted David to tell him of my failure and he wrote back.

"I'm so sorry.  :(  Sounds good, thigh."

Oh, I get it.  Nice work on the subliminal messaging there, Autocorrect!

But you can be quiet now.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Words with Enemies

Last week, along with the rest of the internet, I wrote a post about Frozen.  I felt compelled to do so after reading a blog post by "Well Behaved Mormon Woman," Kathryn Skaggs, that made me want to stand up and start yelling to the world that Mormons are not all crazy people who wander around with some Haley Joel Osment-like ability to see gay people in the subtext of every Disney movie.

I disliked her post for many reasons -- I think her concerns were misguided and overblown, she came across as very paranoid and inconsistent (if you don't approve of a movie you shouldn't keep taking your grandkids to see it), and she managed to add a huge stack of dry wood to the "Mormons are crazy" fire (I hate it when people do that!).  But mostly it upset me because her post is going to be the means of building rifts, continuing deep misunderstandings, feeding misconceptions, and, for some, leading to despair.

And I honestly don't think that is what she meant to do, which is why I feel immensely sad for her. Having lived life for awhile now, I know that there are few things as soul-crushing as being misunderstood.

I have no idea what her intentions were or what good she hoped to achieve by her writing.  I have no idea what life experiences have colored the way she sees the world.  I don't know anything about her except that she claims to be a "well behaved Mormon woman."  But I do know that the vile and vitriolic way that people have responded to her blog post is unacceptable and needs to stop.

I understand that some issues (like homosexuality) are so personal and so painful that it is nearly impossible not to become defensive any time the conversation inches toward the chopping block.  Every time I read internet comments about fertility treatments, for example, I turn into this:

dear lord please grand me the power

But, I have to remind myself that these commenters don't know me.  They don't know or care what I've been through.  They don't know about my conversations with God, and they certainly don't know about His answers.  If I only see in these people what I'm looking for -- that they are a bunch of self-righteous jerks -- then I'm not really seeing them at all.

If it's ideas you are fighting against, you will never change hearts when you are using words meant to injure and demean.  Hateful words can never change hearts.  They can never inspire good.  They can never do anything but damage and destroy.  But kind words?  Compassionate words?  They soften.  They enlighten.  They help us understand and love each other in spite of our differences.

No matter what side of an argument you are on, no matter how right your ideas are, if you lace them with venom and hate, you are wrong.  Being right is important, yes.

But it is never more important than being kind.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Frozen in Hiding

You've probably heard by now that Disney's smash hit, Frozen, has a hidden agenda:  A Christian one.  No, wait... a "radical homosexual" one.  Oops, I mean an anti-feminist one (I admit, I did not have the attention span to get through that one).  Pretty much the only sense I've read about the messages contained in Frozen is this from Seth Adam Smith: that "good art has multiple meanings and interpretations" and whatever you choose to derive from what you see is just that -- a choice.

Well, here is what I choose to see in Frozen, and it's a little something that starts all the way back in the Garden of Eden.  You've heard the story before:  Satan convinces Eve to have a little afternoon snack from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam joins in the noshing, and pretty soon they find themselves buck naked in the middle of a huge garden with their Father calling after them.  So they do what any naked adult would do when the throw-together-an-apron-made-from-fig-leaves plan doesn't work:  They hide.

Only trouble is, fathers are pretty smart when it comes to their kids and don't need to see a hand in the cookie jar to know the source of all those crumbs around the lips.  So, after giving Adam and Eve the chance to explain themselves, God has it out with Satan, rolls out a list of consequences for his disobedient children (goodbye easy life), and then makes them more suitable clothing from the skins of an animal.

Considering that there was no death in the Garden of Eden up to this point, it's reasonable to surmise that these clothes were made from the skins of a sacrificial animal; that is, an animal that was sacrificed as a symbol of Christ's saving sacrifice for us.  Adam and Eve were then given clothes made from the skins of this animal, and as such, their nakedness was covered by a representation of the atonement of Christ.  (Interestingly, the Hebrew word for "atonement" is "kaphar," which literally means, "to cover").

So what does this have to do with Frozen?

Elsa was born with a power that is both great and terrible.  As a small child she explored and tested her ability to freeze the elements and make it snow, but, when her sister, Anna, is accidentally injured in their play, Elsa is hidden away and told to conceal the truth about herself at all costs.  She is left alone with a power she fears and does not know how to control, and which bursts out of her when she allows herself to feel any emotion.  "Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know..."

When the truth about her power is finally revealed, she runs away thinking that she can continue to hide, that she doesn't need anyone or anything, and that being on her own with no rules is the "freedom" she has longed for.  She has no idea of the frozen wasteland she left in her wake when her sister, Anna, comes to urge her out of hiding once again.

"You don't have to be afraid," Anna sings.  "We can work this out together.  We'll reverse the storm you've made."

Elsa is panicked.  "I can't!  I don't know how!"  Her emotions overtake her and Anna is gravely injured, her heart frozen.

In the end, Elsa and Anna are both saved when Anna sacrifices herself for her sister -- Anna because her frozen heart is thawed, and Elsa because she no longer has to hide herself or her power.  Because of the love of her sister, and because she stops hiding, she is finally able to control her power and the whole kingdom is blessed because of her.

Satan wants us to hide.  He wants us to conceal who we truly are.  He wants us to be ashamed of what we feel and what our struggles are.  He wants us to cut ourselves off, refuse help, and destroy ourselves from within.  "You can't tell people you are depressed," he whispers, "What will they think of you?"  "You can't tell people you have an addiction.  What will they say about you?"  "You can't tell people you are gay."  "You can't tell people you have a drinking problem."  "You can't tell anyone you are hurting."  Hide.  Hide.  Hide.

It was only because of the love of a sister and coming out of hiding that Elsa was able to learn to control her powers and experience real freedom.  And it is only because of the love of God and coming out of hiding that we are able to be fully covered by the atonement of Christ, as Adam and Eve were, and be made truly free.

What do I see in Frozen?  A message to stop hiding.  To let it go.

And let it be covered.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sanity, Where Art Thou?

Last week was not my week.  It started with someone puking (Matthew) and ended with someone puking (Leah).  I was not only late to the airport to pick up my niece and take her to an important life event (entering the MTC), I lost my car keys, credit card, and cell phone, all separately and within 5 minutes of each other RIGHT AFTER USING THEM and almost couldn't get out of the airport parking lot.  Matthew developed mysterious hives twice, Leah painted my new leather couch with glitter nail polish that I can't get off, Michael flooded the bathroom and broke my hair clippers in the middle of Saturday haircut night, and I found a peed-in pull-up in the lego bin.  Again.

But at least I have this picture to look at after new missionary, Katie, bequeathed this sparkly scarf and hat to my dress-up box.  Isn't he beautiful?

I'm serious - look at those eyelashes!  (Why is it always the boys who get the longest eyelashes?)

But, the good news is that, at the end of it all, my niece, Amy, came and (as part of her graduate studies in psychology) administered a 2.5 hour test to Michael which proved that he does, in fact, have an attention span longer than a flea's.  Who knew?  Plus, she brought me flowers, just in time to let David off the hook for Valentine's Day!  Now he can focus on more important things... like chocolate.

Except for that pesky fact that I'm not supposed to be eating chocolate.  At least not as much as I want to eat, anyway.  (Of course, if I ate as much as I wanted to eat I'd earn myself a guest-spot in the Macy's Parade as head balloon.  Which would be awesome, let's face it.  New York City?  Yes, please).

As it is I will just have to console myself by drinking this calorie-free, tasty-but-probably-liver-dissolving, peach-flavored Fresca and calling it a "treat."

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dumb as a Rock

According to a new survey, 1 in 10 women would refuse a marriage proposal if they didn't like the engagement ring.  This confirms what I have always suspected:  women are stupid.

Ha!  Okay, not all women are stupid.  But I really hate it when they act like selfish spoiled brats.

"Oh darling, I love you so much, but unless you are willing to go into extreme debt so I can show off to all of my friends, I won't marry you."

What in the world...?

When David and I were first thinking about tying the knot we were poor college students whose diet consisted mainly of Pasta-roni and grape Kool-Aid.  I told him I wanted a cubic zirconia and a washer and dryer.  Instead he used his tax return to buy me a beautiful diamond ring (isn't he a cute little accountant?).  Is it small?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  Yes.

You know what made it perfect?  The man who gave it to me.  He could have fashioned a ring out of aluminum foil and I would have treasured it.  Even if he didn't get down on bended knee to give it to me.

But according to the same survey, 1 in 5 women were disappointed with the way their future hubby proposed.  The reasons were all over the board:  He didn't do the one-knee thing, the proposal wasn't "special" enough, he didn't ask her father if he could ride off into the sunset with her, the ring wasn't big enough...  13% of these women were so disappointed by the lack of spectacular proposal that they wanted to cry.

You know what advice I would give to their future husbands?  Run.  Far away.

I understand that the events surrounding a marriage are something girls like to dream about from the time they discover a pillowcase makes a great wedding veil.  There is nothing wrong with having dreams.  But there is something wrong if your dreams are causing you to be constantly disappointed by the reality of the man who loves you.

So, adjust your expectations.  Appreciate what you have.  And if there is something that is incredibly important to you, tell your man about it.  (If I could get women to understand one thing about men it would be this:  THEY DO NOT READ MINDS).

If the perfect proposal is important to you, tell him.  If you want input on your engagement ring, tell him.  If you want him to ask your father for your hand in marriage, tell him.  You are not allowed to be disappointed if you have not told him what you want!  And as for a giant rock, if you think he should go into debt or spend all of his life savings to buy you a ring, you need to quit being so self-centered.  It's not about the ring, it's about the promise that goes with it.   Jewelry means nothing.

But the man you marry means everything.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Random Thoughts: Love Edition

Love is in the air, everywhere I look around.  Love is in the air, every sight and every sound...

Well, if by "love" John Paul Young means "vomit" and "everywhere" he means, well, everywhere, then yeah, that about covers it.  I really don't want to discuss the sights and sounds, though.  I've had quite enough of that, thank you.

Luckily, Matthew's three-day barfing streak appears to have come to an end.  Which is good, because I was getting really tired of the 3 a.m. laundry thing.

But seriously, what better way to say "I love you" than to spend three days cleaning up vomit and, um, that other-end thing that usually accompanies said stomach contents upending themselves on a regular basis?  Yeah, it's official.  I love the little guy.

Which brings me to this post:  Random thoughts about love.

But first, I have one other important thing I need to say:  I really hate the phrase, "You go, girl!"  Like, really.  I would be fine if no one said this to another woman, ever again.

Thank you.

Ahem... where was I?  Love.

Love is not an obsession.  It's not an intense attraction.  It's not tear-your-clothes-off passion. Thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for confusing a generation of young women about what it means to love someone.

Soooo tired of people saying, when it comes to love, "It just happened."  No it didn't.  You made it happen.  You chose to fall in love.  In the same vein, if you are no longer "in love," you chose that, too.

We watched Star Wars, Episode III last night.  Can anyone give me one good reason why Padme actually would have fallen for Anakin Skywalker?  What's that?  No one?  That's what I thought.

I'm convinced that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet as a cautionary tale and not as some epic romance.  Because otherwise he is the dumbest man who ever lived.

I heard a "love" song on the radio today.  It included the lyrics "I hate you, I really hate you, so much that it must be true love" and "You're an a**hole, but I love you."  If you're looking to analyze how relationships go south, I suggest starting with this song.

Pushing Daisies is one of the most romantic TV shows.  You know why?  Because the central love story involves two people who cannot (for reasons too complex to explain here) touch each other.  It's amazing how much more romantic it is (and how much stronger the connection is) when a man and woman actually have to develop a relationship instead of just hopping into bed and thinking that counts for something.  Also, the show features lots of pies.  Mmm... pie.

I like Valentine's Day.  There, I said it.  I know there are a lot of cranks out there who like to look down on people for buying into the Hallmark hype, but I think it's nice to set aside a day for the sole purpose of telling people we love them.

And as long as we're talking about Valentine's Day, Conversation Hearts are not worthy of consideration for the Food Pyramid.  I swear I once picked up a bag of the chatty candies that consisted of nothing but "Toilet Bowl Cleaner" flavor.

Godiva chocolate, on the other hand...

Speaking of love...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Dieting is one of those things that consumes you.  I mean, literally takes over your life to the point where all you can think about is food.  What am I going to eat next?  How many calories do I have left?  What am I going to have for dinner three weeks from now when I finally get to put aside the calorie counting for one meal?  Why do those chocolate cake donuts have to have 500 calories apiece?  Why???

It's like when I was potty-training Matthew and Leah at the same time (do not try this at home).  I felt like I was the living embodiment of those old anti-drug commercials where someone was frying an egg: This is your brain.  This is your brain on potty training.  This is your brain stopping by to inform you that your son just peed in the pantry.

But you know what helped?  Chocolate.

You know what helps when you're dieting?

Yeah... nothing.  It's not true, what they tell you.  Everything tastes better than being skinny feels.

But honestly, I've been soooo good.  And by that I mean I haven't tried to kill my husband even though he always has like 500 calories left at the end of the day.  However, I think the universe is conspiring against me. Exhibit A:

At church on Sunday I was sitting next to a woman who opened her purse to reveal a GIANT BAG OF CHOCOLATE.  Rolos.  Snickers.  Twix bars.  It was all there.  "Do you want one?" she asked innocently, as if she couldn't see my tongue hanging out like I'd just turned into a Labrador retriever.

But I was good.  I only took one teeny tiny 42 calorie bite-size Snickers.  Phew.  Self-control asserted. 

And then she started handing me more chocolate.  And not just like "Here, save these for later" chocolate.  She was UNWRAPPING Snickers bars and handing them to me.  UNWRAPPED SNICKERS BARS.  IN MY HANDS.

What was I supposed to do?  Let it melt?  Say, "No, thank you."?  People, she was handing me UNWRAPPED CHOCOLATE BARS.  I mean, if I hadn't been dieting, this would have been a dream come true.  "Yeah, baby, keep it coming!  Momma needs a pair of size 16 pants!"

As it was, I was panicking.  Which felt weird, you know - panicking over food.  But I'm obsessive about saving calories for a treat at the end of the day, and if I eat my treat at 3:00 in the afternoon, what am I going to do when 8:00 comes around?

In the end I ate two candy bars, slipped two into my purse to mingle with the used kleenexes, and was able to find the appropriate words to refuse a fifth.  But now I have Post Traumatic Snickers Refusal Disorder.  I mean, I refused chocolate. FREE chocolate.  What is the point in living?

Please don't say it's flax seed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

"Being a mother is not the most important job in the world."

Nor is it the hardest, according to columnist Catherine Deveny.  Even if motherhood were a "professional" job, she says, "there is no way [it] could be the hardest when compared to working 16 hours a day in a clothing factory in Bangladesh, making bricks in an Indian kiln, or being a Chinese miner. Nor could it ever be considered the most important job in comparison with a surgeon who saves lives, anyone running a nation, or a judge deciding on people’s destiny."

Well, yes... if you think that this life is all there is.

But if it is indeed true that God's work and glory -- that is, His whole purpose for creating this world and sending us to live in it -- is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man," well, then raising children is a heck of a lot more important than turning in your quarterly reports on time.

But even placing religious beliefs aside, I find Ms. Deveny's arguments difficult to swallow:  "If being a mother is that important," she says, "why aren’t all the highly paid men with stellar careers not devoting their lives to raising children? After all, I never hear "being a father is the most important job in the world".

It couldn't be the simple fact that if fathers and mothers both devoted 100% of their time to raising children we'd all starve, could it?  Nope.  If parenthood were truly that noble, we'd all sit around in glowing family circles while the government dropped manna from Washington on our heads...

Ms. Deveny insists that declaring motherhood the most "important" job "only encourages mothers to stay socially and financially hobbled [and] alienates fathers..."  But she doesn't understand that the two roles go hand in hand, that one cannot diminish the importance of fatherhood by elevating motherhood, just as one cannot diminish motherhood by elevating fatherhood.  There is no one without the other, as much as society would like us to believe otherwise, and there is no more important job for a man than being a father.  That he goes to work to support his family does not change this fact.  It simply means that meeting the needs of his family is a necessary part of his fatherhood.  To suggest that his doing so somehow exposes the insignificance of parenthood in general is unbelievably clueless.

What Ms. Deveny fails to recognize is that when we speak of motherhood being "harder" or "more important" than other jobs, it is not a statement of comparative day-to-day tasks and which is technically more difficult.  It is a statement of value.  It is an understanding that these children will grow and influence hundreds and thousands who come after them.  And beyond that, it is an understanding that there is more than this life and more than this world, that raising children is about souls and eternities -- not bodies and time.

"No other success can compensate for failure in the home."  No other job will ever be as important or as meaningful as raising your children.  When we are all dead, it won't matter if we sat at a desk or performed heart surgery or worked in a coal mine.  It won't matter if we were a CEO or a CPA.  But it will matter if we taught our children to choose good.  It will matter if we raised our children to do good.  And it will matter not just for them, but for generations who come after them.

That sounds pretty important to me.