Thursday, November 26, 2015

I'm Thankful For...

This Thanksgiving season, I've been trying really hard to be thankful for my body. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about things I love about my body. A lot has changed since them, mostly the result of having another baby. Since then, my appreciation for my body has waned, so for the past month, I've been working on getting myself back to a place where I truly appreciate my body and understand its sacred nature.

Our bodies can do so many amazing things that it's easy to take them for granted. Scotty and I have a friend who recently went into remission after a battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. As a result of his chemotherapy treatments, he lost the feeling in his finger tips and began to struggle with simple tasks like opening a package of crackers or taking the lid off toothpaste. I think we fail to realize that something as mundane as the ability to grip is actually a very prominent skill. Seeing our friend struggle with something that comes so easily to us has really opened our eyes to the types of things our bodies can do. We never really know what we have until it's taken away.

So on this day of gratitude, I want to make sure I give proper thanks to God for the body He gave me, and I want to make a commitment to treat it better, speak of it with more respect, and worry less about its imperfections because even though it has flaws, my body is amazing!  

May 2014

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Words of the Proclamation

"We, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim..."

I'm down to my last two posts for my proclamation class, and here's my struggle: I still have too much to say. There are so many fantastic topics to address. Choosing my final two is hard. I'm sure I'll write many more marriage and family posts in the years to come - it's my passion, after all - but somehow I have to draw this particular project to a close, and I don't know how to do it!

The final two...

I just can't choose!

When I received my textbook for this class in the mail, I was really excited to read it. I'd read excerpts from it in other classes and had already considered buying it for my personal library. I was really excited when I learned that it was the required text for my proclamation class because that meant I had to buy it.

I was so enthusiastic about the book that I ordered it really early. When it arrived, I had to force myself to not read it, but I took a sneak peek (several sneak peeks, actually) and read all of the chapter headings. There were quite a few chapters I looked forward to reading, and one that stood out to me was "Some Linguistic Observations on 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World.'"

Last week, I finally read the chapter.

...aaaaaand it turns out I'm not all that interested in linguistics.

(Or am I? I've yet to decide).
Either way, I enjoyed the chapter because I believe that the language used in the Proclamation was well thought-out in a revelatory process. Having studied The Family: A Proclamation to the World quite extensively, I've picked up on some words that I, personally feel are very powerful and meaningful. I'll share a few here.

The first word that stands out to me is BELOVED. The proclamation teaches that each of us is a beloved spirit son or daughter of God. The word "beloved" was also chosen by God to describe Jesus Christ when He repeatedly said, "This is my beloved son" (Matthew 3:17). To be described with the same adjective as the Savior is a great honor. Our Heavenly Father loves each of us dearly, just as He loves Jesus Christ.

The next word I am drawn to is PARENTS. The proclamation states that we are beloved by heavenly parents. Not just a Father, but a Mother as well! We don't know the specific details of this sacred partnership, but I love knowing She is there, and I can't wait to meet Her! A Mother in Heaven! Can you imagine?

There are two words that are frequently repeated in the proclamation, and they are DIVINE and DESTINY. "Divine" appears in the proclamation five times, and destiny appears three times. "Divine" speaks of where we come from, and "destiny" speaks of where we are going. God is in both of those places. We were in His presence before we came to this earth, and we will return to Him. One of the greatest teachings of the proclamation is that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

There are many more meaningful words in the proclamation, but those are some of my favorites.

Dallin D. Oaks and Evelyn S. Staley pointed out that the proclamation uses religious rather than academic language (2012). President Boyd K. Packer described the document as being "akin to scripture" and "revelatory" (2008), so it's no wonder that the language of the proclamation is very scriptural.

Oaks and Staley also indicated that the majority of the proclamation is instructive rather than mandative. It does not present a list of rules and commandments, but instead, outlines principles and direction (2012) and goes very much along with Joseph Smith's popular statement, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves." For example, the proclamation teaches that "God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force," but it does not say that there is a specific number of children a couple should have or how soon. The guidance in the proclamation is general rather than specific, and I am grateful that God gives us the opportunity for self-governance through clear principles.

I think that focusing on the words used in the proclamation has given me a better understanding of its precepts, and it has allowed me to contemplate, more deeply, the teachings of the document.

This post was inspired by "Some Linguistic Observations on The Family: A Proclamation to the World," by Dallin D. Oaks and Evelyn S. Staley, published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thoughts on Four Kids

There are varying opinions on which number of kids is the hardest. A lot of surveys have indicated that three is the hardest, but I have heard from mothers who have struggled with other numbers. It obviously depends on your life circumstances and your children's temperaments.

I struggled so much when I had just one kid.

I don't care what anyone says. Having one kid was hard! If it wasn't hard for you, count your blessings. For me, I had to learn to work in an environment without praise. I had always done well at school and at work and had been complimented and rewarded for my efforts. Then suddenly I was a stay-at-home-mom, and my infant certainly wasn't giving me positive feedback. I quickly discovered that I was not a natural nurturer. I had a hard time taking care of another human being. I didn't have the skills, and in many ways, I didn't even have the desire.

Before having kids, I never once thought that I wouldn't be a fantastic mother. I never thought it would be hard. I thought I had some special gift or something, and that I would just be a good mother. I didn't know I needed skills. I didn't know that I would feel lost and not know what to do at times.

Somehow, things got better, and I feel like I did a decent job as a mother of two. I didn't struggle as much with two, but things started getting a little more challenging when I was pregnant with Zoe. That was about the time Daisy began to be difficult (she was in the 2-3 age range). Daisy became extremely defiant right as I hit that magical number of three.

I like to say that having three kids broke me. It was so hard. I don't even have the words to explain how or why it was hard, but I really, truly struggled. I didn't think I'd ever feel like I could handle a fourth, but I knew that there would be a fourth, so I lived in constant fear of the timing of my fourth child.

Then one day, I suddenly felt peaceful about having a fourth. It literally happened over night. Of course, that was also the time I started feeling like it was time to go back to school, so I spent a lot of time discussing this with God.

"Help me out here. Am I supposed to have a baby or go back to school?"

Well, God works in mysterious ways because He wanted me to do both.

When I was pregnant with Eva, I made the decision that three was going to be my hard number. I wasn't going to let four be hard. This became a bit of a prideful issue for me. I was going to rock at having four kids, and I was going to do it while going to school.

I had Eva in April, and for a while, it didn't feel much harder than three. I was pleased.

But now Eva is seven months old, and I feel like I'm sinking. Jim Gaffigan was spot on. "Imagine you're drowning, and someone hands you a baby."

That's exactly where I am right now.

I'm struggling.

I have a baby and a toddler, which is always a toxic combination. I have three kids in diapers (two in full-time diapers and one in night-time diapers). I have one kid in all-day school, one kid in half-day school, and one kid in special ed. preschool. 

I am a a taxi driver. No one gets the naps they need because the second they fall asleep, I have to load them in the car to go pick someone up. Therefore, everyone is cranky all the time. My kids fight constantly, and there's always at least one of them crying.

My house is always messy. I don't mean "untidy." I mean downright messy! I have laundry stacked against the walls. The floor is covered in toys and food. If we had to vacate our house in the middle of the night, we'd be in big trouble (even though I clear a path every night just in case). If there is any time during the day when Eva isn't crying to be held, I have to use that time for homework, not housework.

I feel like I constantly have to choose between my children. One of them needs a diaper change, one of them is rolling toward the stairs, one of them has a comb stuck in her hair, and one of them has a bloody nose. Who needs me the most?

This morning I had this moment where Daisy was at the kitchen table hovering over an empty potato salad container because she kept saying she felt like she was going to throw up, I was sitting on the living room floor changing a blow out diaper which I thought was only a wet diaper, Nicky was running around the house looking for a package of wipes (because we can't seem to keep track of a single package of wipes even though we purchase them in bulk and have ten packages laying around), the oven timer was going off because our baked pancakes were done, and I could hear the distinct sizzle of the eggs burning on the stove. I was holding Eva's legs in the air so she wouldn't spread the mess further, and I thought, "I'm stuck... again."

I have that feeling constantly: I'm stuck.

I am trying so hard to do everything right and keep up the juggling act, but I'm always stuck. I have at least one emotional breakdown every day. I'm not in a good place.

This stuff is hard, and even though I've gone from one kid to four kids, I haven't gotten better at it. I'm still struggling with not knowing if I'm doing a good job. I still lack the ability and desire to nurture. None of it comes naturally for me. I still feel lost and don't know what to do most of the time.

I may have decided that having four kids wasn't going to be hard, but that wasn't really something I got to choose.

It's hard.

Every day it's hard.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wholesome Recreational Activities

"Successful marriages and families are maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

I love that "wholesome recreational activities" (which I'll refer to as WRAS) is important enough to be listed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World right along with things like faith, forgiveness, and love. To me, that indicates that WRAS are part of a balanced family life.

When considering WRAS, it's important to note that there is a greater amount of gratification from activities that require personal effort than from activities of pleasure that are provided by the environment (Widmer and Taniguchi, 2012).

For example, reading to your children requires a certain amount of effort, resulting in building a relationship and developing a life skill. Watching TV and eating pizza together doesn't necessarily build higher levels of social knowledge or skills (Widmer and Taniguchi, 2012).

(I'm not saying that we shouldn't watch TV and eat pizza together, but if that is the only thing we ever do with our families, we are stunting our family growth).

The best WRAS are ones where we invest rather than simply consume (Widmer and Taniguchi, 2012).

Research has found that optimal experiences (or "the best" experiences) involve some sort of challenge and growth. In fact, people become bored if their activities lack challenge (Widmer and Taniguchi, 2012).

In studying this topic, I took some time to think about some of the things my family has done that have challenged us or helped us develop better knowledge and skills. I quickly realized that everything we do right now is challenging because of our children's stages of development - even watching TV and eating pizza - but there are some things that provide more knowledge than others. Here are a few things I thought of:

Running races together...

June 2014
 Scotty and I both took second in our age divisions in this 10k. A few weeks later we got a ribbon in the mail for First Place Couple! (Possible only couple, but we like the ribbon anyway!)
The Spartan Race was one of the best dates we've been on!
 Our first (and only) family 5k since Eva was born.

 Living room basketball...
Scotty plays on his knees, and he can still reach a foot over the hoop.

Is it fun or is it pure torture? I haven't decided yet, but we always seem to look back on camping trips fondly even if we froze all night and woke up to icy water bottles and a case of hand, foot, and mouth. 


  August 2014 
This was the hardest hike we've done as a family. It was brutal and took hours and hours. We had to stop for naps on the way out.
  Phone Pics 
Scotty's typical hiking attire involves no less than two children. Confession: we haven't been on a single hike since having Eva.
Riding bikes...

Building with Legos...
  Three Things 

Playing at the park...
  May 2014 
 We've been able to teach our kids a number of skills at the park: how to swing, how to cross monkey bars, how to climb, how to get along with friends, etc. The park is an excellent classroom for life skills!

Playing board games...
Board games teach a number of life skills. Plus they are a challenge. We haven't played Risk with our kids yet, but we definitely will someday!

Now that I've reflected on some of our experiences with wholesome recreational activities, I can't help but think that the kind of WRAS that are most beneficial to our families are the kind wherein we suffer a little bit.  Also, there is a lot of the great outdoors involved. 

Research has shown that families who believe they can do outdoor activities have a better belief in their ability to solve problems at home (Widmer and Taniguchi, 2012). Interestingly, all of our hiking, running, and camping experiences have involved extensive problem solving (and a lot of crying), but we initially believed we could do it, which was why we tried it in the first place.

In many cases, I think the best WRAS are only labeled "the best" WRAS after we've come home and recovered. They're not always fun or positive until we've had time to process and learn from them. 

I'd love to hear about some of your experiences with WRAS. What has your family done to have fun together? What things have you done that have challenged you and provided learning experiences?

This post was inspired by "Wholesome Recreational Activities: Building Strong Families," by Mark A. Widner and Stacy T. Taniguchi, published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How I Overcame my Milk Dud Addiction

Sometime within the last three years, I discovered that I had a weakness for Milk Duds. They were never my candy of choice - not something I would pay for, by any means - but then, somehow, perhaps by raiding my kids' Halloween candy, I learned that Milk Duds are the best thing on this earth, especially when washed down with Vanilla Coke.

(I'm currently "off the sauce." No Vanilla Coke for me. Sad face).

Milk Duds became my "must-have" for game nights and movies.
People always talk about how Milk Duds are hard to chew, but that was never a problem for me. Occasionally I would end up with a box that was somewhat older and the candies were a little harder, but then some boxes were so soft and gooey!

Yummy, yummy, yummy!

Well, the other night, I was eating Milk Duds in bed and watching a movie. I had a big, old wad of chocolate-covered caramel in my mouth when I suddenly felt my crown lift off my tooth.

Since I have teeth dreams regularly, feeling that sensation of my crown coming off was like living a nightmare.

I had to reach in my mouth, pull out a huge glob of ooey gooey Milk Duds (let's be honest, I was eating more than one at a time), and dig through it to find my crown.

Now, for the past three days, I've had to live with a rotten little nub of a tooth exposed in my mouth while awaiting my dentist appointment. Thank heavens it was my back molar that no one can see.

After my crown came off, I did a quick Google search to see what I needed to do when my crown fell off. During that search, I stumbled across the phrase, "If you swallowed the crown..." and then I started thinking, "Oh my gosh! What if I had swallowed the crown?"

Because... think about it!

I have terrible dental insurance. A crown costs around $700-1,000. I paid for this crown entirely out of pocket.

What if I had swallowed it?

As soon as I thought of this horrible scenario, I immediately turned to Scotty and asked, "If you swallowed a crown, would you try to retrieve it?"

That was a question neither of us wanted to think about or answer.

And that, friends, is why I threw away half a box of Milk Duds. It's not because they ripped my crown out of my face. It's because I could have swallowed that crown, and our financial status, while adequate for our every day needs, is not such that I can frivolously consume my dental work and not bat an eye over it.

I can't eat Milk Duds ever again... unless we're millionaires.

Update: After a discussion with a friend, it has been decided that if I ever swallow a crown, I will induce vomiting. Glad I have a plan. I didn't even think of that. It's good to have options, ya know?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Removing the Venom

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of... repentance [and] forgiveness."

Indiana Jones and I hate snakes. The thing I dislike most about snakes - and perhaps Indy would agree with me - is that by the time I realize there’s a snake nearby, it’s already way too close to me. Fortunately, I’ve never crossed paths with a dangerous snake.

(Did I just jinx myself?)

There are often stories told of people who get bitten by poisonous snakes, and they immediately seek revenge on the snake by hunting it down. Since they waste vital time pursuing the snake, the venom seeps deep into their bloodstream, and by the time they receive medical attention, it’s too late. They lose a limb, or worse, their lives.

Elder H. Burke Peterson told one such story in General Conference in October 1983. Then he said: 

What will you do when hurt by another? The safe way, the sure way, the right way is to look inward and immediately start the cleansing process. The wise and the happy person removes first the impurities from within. The longer the poison of resentment and unforgiveness stays in a body, the greater and longer lasting is its destructive effect. As long as we blame others for our condition or circumstance and build a wall of self-justification around ourselves, our strength will diminish and our power and ability to rise above our situation will fade away. The poison of revenge, or of unforgiving thoughts or attitudes, unless removed, will destroy the soul in which it is harbored.

There are two important lessons I have learned personally about the venom removal process of forgiveness:

Lesson 1: Forgiveness cannot be conditional upon an apology.

I realized a few years ago that I was holding on to hurt and anger and waiting for an apology from someone. I wanted that apology something fierce! I felt like I deserved it. I knew I had been deeply wronged. I felt like I was excused from the act of forgiveness as long as that apology was pending.

It’s much easier for me to forgive someone who says they are sorry. There’s just something about the admission of guilt that puts me at ease. Consider it a character flaw; I want you to be sorry! I just do! And when I know you are, I get over it.

I knew, though, that I was never going to get an apology, and if I didn’t move on without that acknowledgement of wrong-doing, I was essentially holding myself prisoner. Freedom could only be attained through forgiveness regardless of whether the offender apologized.

Sitting around waiting for an apology is like trying to hunt down the snake after it bites you.

Lesson 2: Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

I think many people struggle with forgiveness because they are not able to reconcile with the offender. Reconciliation requires a restoration of trust and includes ongoing contact. The result of forgiveness can be reconciliation, but reconciliation is not required. In some cases, reconciliation is not possible because the offender is deceased, in prison, or living far away. It may also be that reconciliation is not healthy or safe (Walton and Hendricks, 2012). 

Forgiveness is separate from reconciliation. Likewise, forgiveness should not be mistaken for legal pardon, condoning, or forgetting (Walton and Hendricks, 2012). 

Noted researcher Everett Worthington stated, “Forgiveness does not occur within a relationship. It occurs within the forgiver” (2006). Sometimes forgiveness has to be one-sided.

There are several models of forgiveness that have been outlined in scholarly literature. Some are interpersonal models with reconciliation as the goal. Others are intrapersonal, such as Worthington's (2001) cognitive-behavioral, five-step process which I will summarize here.


1. Recall the hurt. It’s human nature to try and protect ourselves from pain, and to do this, we often try to deny or forget the discomfort of the offense. To forgive, it’s imperative to acknowledge the wrong-doing and be clear about the manner in which you’ve been hurt.

2. Empathize. In order to forgive, it’s important to try to understand the transgressor’s feelings.
  • Was the offense committed knowingly or was it an honest mistake?
  • What were the pressures that influenced the offender to commit the offense?
  • Is there an understandable reason for the offender to disagree with the victim about the seriousness of the offense?
  • In what ways might the offender have been victimized in the past?
  • What pain might the offender be experiencing regarding guilt and remorse? 
3. Altruistically give the gift of forgiveness. Be humbled by your own shortcomings and offenses. Show special gratitude for the occasions when you have been freely forgiven.

4. Commit publicly to forgive. Forgiveness is more successful when the victim verbalizes the commitment to another person. This can be done by telling a friend or counselor. Other options are writing in a journal or writing a letter.

5. Hold on to forgiveness. As time goes on, it’s normal to still be occasionally haunted by the pain of the offense. When thoughts revert to the painful injury, the victim is reminded that the decision to forgive has already been made. Forgiveness does not replace painful memories. The pain should be a reminder to move forward instead of revisiting the transgression committed (Walton and Hendricks, 2012).  

I share the following story with permission:

A close friend of mine was molested by her father as a child, and eventually, her father took his own life. She has often been upfront with me about her father’s actions, but she has never spoken of him with animosity. It has always been evident that she loves her father despite the pain he inflicted on her. I asked her recently about her forgiveness process. She told me that her process is cyclical. Sometimes she is at peace, and other times, she still feels the pain of his choices.

I don’t know if she has come to the place where she has fully forgiven her father, nor do I believe that her pain is evidence that she has not forgiven him. I know that either way, she is removing the venom. One way my friend is healing is by being involved in suicide prevention. She has found a crucible perspective in her adversity, and she’s using a foundation of personal experience to help others.  

I think forgiveness can be likened unto the seed that Alma spoke of. If, in our hearts, we simply plant a desire to forgive, and if we let the desire work within us, the forgiveness process will begin to unfold. It may take time, but the seed will swell. It will increase our understanding, and we will know that the seed of FORGIVENESS is good (Alma 32).

The ultimate example of forgiveness is, of course, Jesus Christ. Elder Marion D. Hanks said:

Christ’s love was so pure that he gave his life for us... But there was another gift he bestowed while he was on the cross, a gift that further measured the magnitude of his great love: he forgave, and asked his Father to forgive, those who persecuted and crucified him.Was this act of forgiveness less difficult than sacrificing his mortal life? Was it less a test of his love? I do not know the answer. But I have felt that the ultimate form of love for God and men is forgiveness (1973).

Upon the cross, the Savior didn't hesitate to remove the venom. He didn't wait for an apology or excuse himself from the act of forgiveness due to the severity of the snake bite. I admire Him deeply for that choice, and I know that that is a man who loves without question. 

This post was inspired by "Repentance and Forgiveness in Family Life," by Elaine Walton and Hilary M. Hendricks, published in Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, 2012. This piece of writing is part of my Family Proclamation project for FAML 100 at Brigham Young University Idaho.