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.