Sunday, November 6, 2011

I've moved. Again.

I decided I needed to simplify and streamline my personal blogging. Please take note of the new blog address: http://michelle-dot-el.blogspot.com/

(I've pulled all the posts from this blog into my new blog.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tackling a Tonsillectomy

Well, I did it. It's over. I'm so relieved, but also still a bit ragged from it all. There were so many blessings that came along the way, but also some challenges that sort of caught me by surprise. I'll probably write more later, but today, I'm writing some practical tips for tackling a tonsillectomy for a friend who is soon to go through this. This one's for you, Brit.

- First of all, the anticipation is in many ways the worst part. Yes, this is a hard surgery, especially for adults, but it's also a rather predictable one. The process that your body will go through to heal is common and repeated. I did a ton of reading and the patterns I heard about played out for me. And so, as the scripture says, "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." Or at least not fear as much.

- I will say right off the bat that I asked for priesthood blessings, and was completely shameless about asking for prayers. And I think that is why I went into surgery at peace. I also knew it was the right thing to do. That peace I exhibited surprised both me and my husband, but if that can happen to me, the queen of anxiety and worry, that can testify to you of the power of prayers and priesthood blessings and preparation.

- The recovery process is not like other surgeries where it's linear, getting better each day. The first few days are, relatively speaking, not the worst part. The worst pain hits around day 5 and can last for several days. If you know and remember that, it will make a huge difference mentally and emotionally.

- As such, I would highly recommend making sure you have help lined up for a full two weeks, somehow, if possible. I hired someone, a newlywed friend who didn't have a job, to come in. She did my dishes and picked kiddos up from school and helped with laundry and let me cry on her shoulder. I also had her read scriptures to me. That time listening and discussing my faith really helped me keep a better focus through it all. And she was just THERE so hubby could work and I could know that I was not going to be alone. I also knew myself well enough to know that having different people coming in and out would add to significant stress for me. I personally needed that consistency. Sadly, our plan to watch movies all day was eclipsed by the fact that I slept every late morning/afternoon.

- But happily, our plan to record all the crazy things I said on drugs never played out. I was scared spitless about taking narcotics; I've had a horrible experience with Lortab and was sure my experience with Percocet would be even worse (all of my sisters and mom get sick with these kinds of drugs). But I took anti-nausea meds faithfully throughout the time I took the meds, and they seriously made a HUGE difference during those hard days. I will say that I experienced the side effect of some pretty intense emotional downs, and that was something for which I wasn't prepared. There was one morning where I could. not. stop. crying. Again, knowing that this could happen is half the battle. Just factor in the weirdness of being on drugs as part of the process, and that can help. Figure out what amount you need for relief, and then stay up on that. It will help keep the pain at least bearable.

Other options to talk about that I had on hand to use are topical lidocaine suckers and/or a rinse/mouthwash. I didn't really use these, but I have heard others have. I bought Cloroseptic (didn't use that either). My doc uses Mobic (one a day is what I took) along with the narcotics. I think that helped during the worst days, and I used it alone as I weaned off the narcotics (my goal was to be done with the narcotics by the two-week mark, and I think I stopped taking them around day 12...by that point I was only taking them every 12 hours or so. I wasn't afraid to use them, but I also was anxious to get off of them.)

- One of the most important tips I can give you is to DRINK AND EAT (I'd say prioritize in that order) NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT HURTS. If you have seen Harry Potter, the scene from #6 in the cave was the mental picture I created for the woman I hired to help. "No matter what I say, Harry, you make me drink." That was her charge, and that was my challenge every day, every couple of hours. I bought cases of water that sat in my room, and had pretty much every known type of liquid nutrition known to man. I drank a lot of vitamin water, not so much Gatorade, a lot of regular water, some juices (don't do acidic ones! OUCH!), and some dairy (more later on...it can produce mucus that isn't comfy at first -- you'll figure that out).

Follow your doc's orders about what to eat or drink (some say no dairy at first, and some say only soft foods, etc.) But force yourself to do both. (Mine said it didn't really matter, although my own ENT who also does surgery takes a very conservative, soft-foods only approach, which was my choice...I pushed that for almost three weeks because I'm paranoid like that). Keep hydrated at all costs. And for me, consistently eating food not only meant that I never took meds on an empty stomach, but it kept strength up, AND helped me emotionally and mentally to not let the pain take over my life. My surgeon said without question that those who eat and drink heal faster. The pain also gets more out of control if you get dehydrated. I didn't lose weight for the first week and a half. It's been the last couple of weeks that I've struggled to maintain because I'm doing more but still haven't been eating normally, or enough. Food takes time to get reacquainted with. ;)

- I filled my freezer with pureed foods...fruits, juices with yogurt and cottage cheese, soups, pureed oatmeal. I wish I'd done more savory foods...too many sweets got old really fast. I wish I'd done more good hot cereals for variety and substance. For the first few days, I did a lot of broth with Ritz crackers dissolved in it, but that got old. Gatorade with yogurt was an interesting creation that I liked for a few days. But I didn't really want more popcicles and ice cream; I wanted real foods. (I am still craving protein, still trying to catch up on what I felt my body missed...it took me a while to feel brave enough to eat, even though my doc said I could eat whatever.) If your doc is ok with it, and you can tolerate it, protein drinks are a good option -- lots of calories and protein in only a few swallows. I used the plus version for an extra 100 calories. But again, I got sick of the sweet stuff. So think about that..think about what foods you can puree that you can have on hand or have someone make for you. (Later in the process when I felt a little more brave I made a potato soup with a bag of shredded hash browns boiled to serious softness in chicken broth (enough water to cover potatoes and then with bouillon cubes to match the amount , then mixed a can of evaporated milk and shredded cheddar cheese until smooth and bubbly.) You'll want to let any hot foods cool. I'm still feeling a little tender with really hot or really cold foods.

- Other tricks I used -- vaporizer (don't know if it made a difference, but I wanted to do all I could to keep my throat moist while I slept), gum (keeps saliva going and is something for my mouth to do), sleeping a lot (even though you'll want to be careful about not sleeping for too long at one chunk...want to keep up on meds). I also gave myself a LOT of time to eat. It usually took me 1-1/2 hours from start to finish to eat my meals. But the more you can focus on just your basics - drink, eat, sleep, the more your body can do its job.

- Get yourself some prune juice. This can help counteract the effects of the meds. I mixed mine with my daily pureed oatmeal, and even once blended it with pureed cottage cheese. (I'm not sure if you want to call that creative or desperate.)

- I don't know if this is normal (and sorry if this is too graphic, but I wish someone had told me they had experienced this), but I had serious green post nasal stuff that worried me. I was given antibiotics, but I honestly think it may have simply been my body's reaction to the surgery, a sort of natural lubrication response. It got lighter and better as I healed. And I never showed symptoms of a sinus infection, so that's what I'm guessing. But it was that kind of unknown stuff ("Is this normal?") that was hard for me. Don't hesitate to call your doc's office and ask questions. My nurse and I became really good friends. :)

- I tried to be careful not to bend over. I also slept with my head slightly elevated. But I am not sure whether those are things that make a difference or not. I just tried to be cautious and to do things that to me logically meant keeping any unnecessary extra blood flow to my mouth. I hear ice packs can help, but I never used them. The meds helped me through and my mental preparation for the bad days made a difference, I think.

- Please don't beat yourself up if you get discouraged through this. Plan on having and asking for not only the physical help and support, but also emotional help and support. Call me if you need to, and let yourself need what you need for weeks. It's a big deal, and people around you might need help remembering that it's going to take some time for normal to come back. For sure plan on two weeks, but then another two weeks to slowly ease back into life. I'm four weeks out and still tired, but feeling a little more like my whatever-my-normal-was-before normal.

You are strong and mighty, dear Brit. You will do great. And as my friend said, ultimately, it's in God's hands. Lean on Him lots during this. Look for the little blessings each day. Remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. But be sure to give yourself the space to say, "Baby, this is hard. I need to hunker down, and I need help. And I need time to heal."

I hope this helps. If you have questions, please ask! Or if I remember more, I'll share.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pre-Op Prep

Yes. Surgery. It's in my future. On my anniversary, actually. ("Honey, how would you feel about having a date with me at the hospital?") He's such a good hubby; so grateful he's willing to help, as unromantic as this will be.

I'm having my tonsils removed. I know, I know, it's an awful surgery for adults. Let's instead be hopeful. At least maybe I won't get strep any more. And maybe it will actually help me feel better?

I've had five strep diagnoses this year. Two of them may have been sort of false positives, but still, that's a lot of strep for someone who has never had it. I've also had chronic tonsillitis, as I recently found out. So they are coming out.

And I'm actually a little excited. The last two months have been AW.FUL. So, like my ENT said, if there is even a 50% possibility that doing this could help me feel better, it might just be worth it.

Right?

RIGHT?

Good answer.

And so, I'm stocking up on every form of liquid nourishment I can think of, and gratefully using my new BlendTec (birthday gift from the parents and from a year of 'no gifts from hubby to save up for it) to create different pureed foods. And I'm dreading being out of commission for two weeks, but I'm anxious to just get this over with.

I've discovered, however, that a lot of the eating experience is in the texture of foods.

Ah, well. Bring it on.

If you have any pureed nutrition ideas, bring them on!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beauty Redefined Billboard Campaign

One person -- or in this case, two people (twin sisters) -- can make a difference! I know I'm not alone in being disgusted at all the billboards and other materials (magazines, TV ads, etc. etc. etc.) that objectify women's bodies and communicate the message that worth = looks/weight/size etc.

Lindsay and Lexie Kite, Ph.D. students in Communications, have decided to take action to help give women different messages. This week, twelve billboards are going up along the I-15 corridor in Northern Utah that will be a contrast to the bikini beer ads, the plastic surgery ads, and others that line the freeway.

One of the things I love about what the Kites are doing is that they are teaching media literacy. Too often, people just absorb the messages from the media without looking at them critically, analyzing the dynamics, and challenging falsehoods with which we are bombarded. Once I talked with them, I started realizing how completely saturated our world is with these messages. I also feel more determined to help my children understand the truth about who they are, and how different that truth is from what they hear and see in the culture around them.

To learn more about the Beauty Redefined campaign, see beautyredefined.net

You can also read an interview I did with the Kite sisters.

And here is a recent news story about the Beauty Redefined billboard campaign.

 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My many selves are giving Google+ a +1

I have known for a while that I am a nerd, but this whole Google+ experience has sort of confirmed that for me. I love being part of a test run of this software. Bugs? Bring 'em on! Feedback is the name of the game, and I am a feedback fan. I love watching a business seek it and respond to and implement it. The Google+ people send videos to report on progress, post posts seeking specific input, and share glimpses of what is coming down the pipe (or is it pike? -- could someone settle that for me once and for all?) And I love learning from smart, true tech people...and let me assure you, there are a lot of such people engaging on Google+. Fun. Sometimes I still regret not getting the computer science degree I had originally declared.

My social and networking self is loving circles. LOV.ING. This is a different model from Facebook or LinkedIn -- no glaring "Only add this person if you know this person!!!" kind of message. Don't get me wrong; I think there is definitely a place for such caution, but I've been surprised at how much I enjoy the more open community-building that is happening on Google+. Other people can do my networking for me. I think that part will surprise some people, and, on the down side, it does make it hard to know who is a real possible contact you want to have, and who is just spamming accounts for connection. I still prefer leaning on someone else's recommendations before adding them to my circles.

As a business person, I think this kind of market competition and strategy implementation is a blast to watch. I can't wait to see what Facebook does in response (hint: it will have to be better than one-to-one video capability via Skype). I am anxious to see how Google+ will fit in strategically with  other Google features. I'm chomping at the bit to see how businesses and other organizations will be able to use Google+ (as of now, only individuals are allowed to use Google+).

The strategy, too, of building the anticipation through limited invites and the pretty-public-now field trial has fascinated me. To have this much attention and this many participants before launch is, in my view, brilliant. I also thought this article had some interesting points about how Google+ will be able to be used by professionals in ways other social media tools have not: Google+ Aims for the Professional

And my SEO enthusiast self is really wondering how this could impact the world of search engine dynamics. I've already seen some people report significant differences in their site traffic because of Google+. I'm sure some of that is coming from the novelty of the tool, but I will not be the least bit surprised if that impact also has a shelf life.

Just a few months ago, I couldn't imagine anything pulling people away from the investment they had made on Facebook. If anything will pull people away, Google+ is it. What a surprise? I guess we should have seen it coming.

And who knows what the future will hold?

Fun.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The body on the brain

I always find it interesting when different people end up posting about similar topics. I just posted something on having an eternal perspective about my body (hard to do sometimes with chronic illness and as I age), and then I found this post at Segullah called "Your Body is Special."

And then there was this post on Deep Beauty at Women in the Scriptures. (LOVE!)

Which then reminds me about the interview I had with the Beauty Redefined twins a few months back. (I'm so excited for their new billboards!) (This post is worth a glance, too -- the "Day of Beauty" video is amazing, and, of course, so is Stephanie Nielson (NieNie).)

And, hm, look at what was open in my browser tabs. I actually had it open for another reason, but "The Reflection in the Water" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is a perfect talk for this topic.

Add to that another post that just came to mind that was published just over a week ago at Mormon Mommy Blogs: "Dressing Like Barbie." If you read my Mormon Women post, you'll see that it was yet another post by Mona at MMB that got me thinking about Elder Bateman's quote, which is why I wrote that piece.

Obviously, a lot of people have the issue of what I call the doctrine of the body on their minds right now. (And that isn't even all the posts that are out there!) Clearly it's something we need to hear repeatedly.

Any other posts you want to add to the list? What are your thoughts on how to have a healthy relationship with your body?

Eyes to See

The last few months have been hard. It's interesting how my ability to cope with my chronic illness comes in waves. I think I go through stages of the grieving cycle over and over again. Different things can trigger the process.

But times like these leave me searching more fervently in my life for the hand of God, for His tender mercies. I find that I can cope better with the hard times when I can know and feel that God is aware of me and my life.

I wanted to record a few of those times I have recently had.

- I was well enough to enjoy a delightful little getaway with my hubby (more on that to come). (This is more than just a small miracle.)

- Our kids stayed well until pretty much the minute we got home.

- Hubby and #2 stayed well and were able to go to Washington D.C. (together with #3, who was one of the two who got sick originally).

- While hubby and #2 and #3 were out of town, #1 and I have had wonderful, one-on-one time together. (I have never had such concentrated time with my son!)

- We had a tender mercy when my son slept in last week on Sunday. We had stayed up late the night before talking (awesome). He was going to find someone with whom he could attend church (I attend a different ward that meets later, what with my weird sleep issues and all). But he fell back to sleep, so he ended up coming with me. Nevermind enjoying sacrament meeting with him (I'm usually alone so that was a treat), but the Relief Society fifth Sunday lesson was a combined lesson with the young men! So I got to sit by my son in Relief Society. (In over two decades of Relief Society attendance, I've never seen that done. I liked it.) What are the odds of that? Wow.

- A few weeks ago, I hit a pretty bad "low." (It was on Mother's Day weekend, but not Mother's Day driven.) I went to church so weighed down, so weary. The night before, I'd had one of those prayers pleading for strength, for something to help me feel a little more connected to heaven, on that heavenly radar screen as I like to say it. I went home between sacrament meeting and Sunday School to take meds (antibiotics). I came back to find my usual class full, so I slipped into the back of the other class.

And wouldn't you know it? The second I sat down (I'm not exaggerating), the teacher quoted something that really felt just for me. It blew me away. That day, there were also a string of simple kindnesses shown by people that helped me feel God's love. (It's a reminder that little things really can make a difference.)

I was grateful for my mother-in-law who recently shared some of the tender mercy moments she has noticed as well. I felt the Spirit so strongly as she shared.

God is real. He is there. We just need to pray for eyes to see.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some healthy recipe ideas

I like to browse recipe ideas to get ideas of my own. This had some combinations that sounded quite yummy.

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=15467876

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"We are here to mess up!"

I'm not always a fan of Mondays. I really, really love Sundays and sometimes it's hard for me to get back into the routine.

But today was good. After my usual late sleep, I got up and got the kiddos. I helped #3 with homework and then went on a date with her (my new Monday tradition, I hope). We just ran errands and got her a cheap treat (required for dates -- both the cheap part and the treat part).

I made Mexican food for a belated Cinco de Mayo something-or-another (this included my first attempt at homemade guacamole. Yum.)

And then it was Family Home Evening. I wasn't sure what we were going to do, but as is often the case, things unfolded in a beautiful way. #1 was asked to share some of his Duty to God goals. And then I had the thought to ask #3 to share what she learned from her research earlier in the day, which was about antioxidants and how eating a fruit or veggie in each meal (and each snack) can help prevent free radicals from forming (free radicals are formed when we eat fats AND carbs).

Anyway, she looked a little puzzled as to what this had to do with a spiritual lesson, but there was a parallel that hubby and I had noticed earlier in the evening as we talked about the article she had read. According to this research, it's better to eat one fruit or veggie at each meal. The benefits of doing a little in a consistent way seem better than cramming a bunch of fruits and veggies into one sitting.

It brought to mind what Elder Bednar talked about in the 2011 BYU Women's Conference. I wasn't there, but read this article that summed it up.

“I believe many, if not all, of the most satisfying and memorable accomplishments in our homes, in the Church, in our jobs and professions and in our communities will be the product of this important spiritual pattern — of small and simple things,” Elder Bednar said. “We should find great comfort in the fact that ordinary people who faithfully, diligently and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.” ...

“The spiritual pattern of small and simple things bringing forth great things produces firmness and steadfastness, deepening devotion and more complete conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel,” he said. “As you and I become increasingly steadfast and immovable, we are less prone to zealous and exaggerated spurts of spirituality followed by extended periods of slackness.”

We read Alma 37:6-7, too.

#3 curled up next to me and started to cry. She was feeling bad that she hasn't done so well on her prayer and scripture study. (She's 9.) We encouraged her and told her that God knows that we need help remembering. That's why we have family night, and scripture study, and church meetings and the sacrament, and....

#2 jumped in as we talked about how we are all imperfect in her classic, upbeat, quick and clever way. She stood up and raised her hands above her head as she yelled, "We are here to mess up!"

Yes, I am a blessed momma.

p.s. We had fun tracking the Thanks a Million, Mom ecard to see if it really would make it to a million. It did, after everyone else was asleep.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

Well, at least I'm writing a bit on holidays.... (So much for my noble intentions for writing more here about my life.)

I love being a mom. I love it more and more as each month and year passes. I think that is because I'm growing into this role more and more (I hope I am, at least) and also because I realize more and more how quickly they really DO grow up. It's killing me, actually, to think about it. I wish I could go back and mother my little ones with what I feel I know now, and I worry that it'll be like my LDS mission...where I finally felt like I knew how to be a good missionary when my mission was over.

My alarm clock yesterday was my 9-year-old curling up in bed next to me. Quickly behind her was her brother and sister, with gifts in hand. #3 had covered my computer desk with notes and coupons. I will have to take a picture. She is my notes girl. I think that is her language of love.

This is the ecard I selected for my own momma. I made a list of some of the reasons I am grateful for her.

A Million Thanks

(By the way, I'm letting it run to see if it really does go up to a million. But yes, I turned the sound off!) ;)

Mother's Day content abounds, but here are a couple of favorites:

The Influence of Mothers

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

All of my wonderful plans to help us all prepare for Easter pretty much fell through the cracks. (What a week. What a month.)

And all our wonderful plans to celebrate Easter with my fam fell through the cracks Saturday night around 9:30 when our daughter was diagnosed with strep.

It is now 1:30 a.m. (did you know I have a sleep disorder? (that's the simplified explanation)) and I have no idea what we will eat to celebrate the day (because, you know, I wasn't planning on cooking). It may be chicken nuggets. We do have eight pounds of yummy-smelling strawberries for the fruit parfait thing that I was going to make for the extended family event. (But my children don't like pudding so we'll have to do our own something here.)

But, you know, we'll still be together as our own little fam, and that is good.

Hope your Easter is wonderful!

p.s. See my other blog for my favorite Easter hymn, and another interesting little video.
p.s.s. I also share memories of a very special Easter at Mormon Women: Who We Are today.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Break! And pre-Easter wonderfulness....

It's spring break around here, but you wouldn't know by the weather. We had snow all day. It looks like next week will be better.

I was able to bring in the Easter season in an amazing way, though. Hubby and I saw a performance of Rob Gardner's Lamb of God. Amazing. I left in tears and the lump in my throat lingered for a while. It was really powerful. And also great because I got to support my dad, who sang in the choir. Someday I hope to be able to participate myself. I miss singing.

Here are some videos that can give you a glimpse. But I'll tell you, there is nothing like hearing music like this live. The choir was at least double the usual 60, and the acoustics were amazing. And I don't know that I've ever heard such angelic sopranos.



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Close to the surface

Had an amazing evening Thursday. Don't have time to explain much, but I talked to a couple of women after a dinner/speaker meeting I attended. One was a mom of seven and the other was a mom of five. A mom of eight came up a few minutes later.

We were talking about what a blessing it is to have children, to be mothers. I was so grateful to feel of their spirits and their faith.

And I shared with them, as is not uncommon for me, about how we have wanted more children but haven't been able to because of my health. (I don't feel like there is any benefit in holding that close to my chest -- I think we can benefit from sharing a little of our hearts and lives as women, and I also want people to know where my heart is on this. It pre-empts the comments like "Oh, yes, three is the new six.")

I still am mourning that reality. Tears were welling in my eyes as we talked. They were so kind and gentle and encouraging and I'm grateful. It's wonderful to me that perfect strangers can be such good sisters in a moment like that.

It's hard to have that ache and not be able to fill it.

I know it's not the same as infertility. I know I'm incredibly blessed to have the three I have. But that doesn't take away the reality of the longing I still feel.

I take comfort in this comment from Sister Beck. (Again, I know my situation is not the same as those couples who are infertile or those women who aren't yet married and have a double-whammy ache in their hearts. But this still helps my sometimes-aching heart.)

I know of many couples who desire to have children and aren’t given that blessing. Their challenge is the challenge of not having children, and we need to be listening and supportive and encouraging toward them. And I also believe that the desire to have children in the single sisters and in these couples probably won’t go away if they’re righteous, because that is a God-given desire. It speaks to their very natures and the training they received in the heavens. So that longing will not go away. But the Lord will bless them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Coming up for air...

...but only for a moment.

This was my Friday:

Up at 12:15 (for those who don't know, I have chronic fatigue and insomnia -- not a good combination! I compensate (read: survive) by sleeping until lunchtime or later).

Appointment at 1:00 p.m. (I have an awesome therapist who's helped me deal with said health issues. Seriously, she's been an angel in my life.)

Return shirt at Costco on the way home. Do errands at Costco. Stand in line to cash rebate check. Give up on cashing rebate check because line was too long.

Drop off Costco schtuff at home. Talk to neighbor while doing so, who called to say she would pick up the children. During conversation, we realize that it's better for me to do so, so I scramble to do so.

Appointment at 4:00. Foot doc this time, with #3. (We were late. Note to self: Don't set appointments so close to after-school time.)

Run into grocery store on the way home to pick up dressing for salad for high priest group dinner.

Veg for 10 minutes (which was 10 minutes too long) watching what the kids were watching to take a breath before the dinner.

Make dinner for the kidlets, make salad for our dinner. Run to dinner. Have a great time at dinner. Get call from #3 at dinner to get us to skedaddle home for piano recital.

8:00 recital.

8:45 get children to bed.

Whew.

Last nite, we had a busy day, but then just hung out at home together, which was lovely. Tonite, it was Grandma's. And tomorrow should be fairly 'normal.' But then it'll be back to really busy this week.

So...here we go!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Extracurricular Activities

Tonite, the chillens had a piano recital. Short and sweet, just like I like 'em. But I am proud of how they are progressing. It was fun to watch them play. I was especially happy to see how well #3 did. She's been a bit stressed about piano lately, and I thought she hit the ball out of the park tonite.

I am of the opinion that extra-curriculars need to be carefully monitored and controlled so as not to take over too much of our family's life. Piano, however, is for us a required thing. We both feel strongly that having some musical training can enrich one's life and also enable one to be able to serve others. I also just know too many people who regret quitting piano when they were young.

Of course, if we felt inspired to do something differently, we would, but that is currently our modus operandus.

Not long ago, I asked our Young Men leader about advice he would give to the parents of youth. His response interested me. He said he wished more parents understood that sports or other extracurricular activities have taken over so much of the young men's time than many don't participate fully in the youth programs. And then he said something that has really stuck with me, which is that spiritual growth that can come from the Church's programs can't be found in the same way through sports or other activities. Yes, discipline can be learned, but there are things that can be missed.

I also think about the counsel from Mormon Church leaders on these things. For example, consider this from Elder Oaks:

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.
Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. [See the full talk, "Good, Better, Best" for some sobering statistics]


The flip side of this is that there are statistics that say that teens who are involved with extracurricular activities have higher levels of self-esteem. And I can speak from personal experience that being involved in sports in junior high was something that helped me through a very difficult time in my life. I don't want to swing too far to the conservative side of things and have my children miss out on some important opportunities or experiences. I really think that ultimately inspiration from God is the answer, but I'm always interested in others' thoughts on topics like this.

So, what say ye? How do you find the balance between giving children opportunities and keeping priorities and family life intact?

How to avoid an internet addiction (or at least obsession)

So this is a topic at the forefront of my mind right now, and not just because of this article at Mormon Women: Who We Are. Actually, it's really on my mind all the time. How can I use the internet wisely in ways that don't interfere with my family roles and responsibilities, and my spiritual priorities? If you are reading this, you, too, are on the internet at least enough to stumble on my pretty obscure blog. So, would you take just a second and share how you work to keep that balance? I love the internet for so many reasons, but it's all too easy to let it take over more of my time than it should.

Me? Right now my goal is to essentially stay off the internet when my kids are home and awake. That's my goal. I've set this goal before and not done well, but I really feel like I need to draw some hard lines so my fam can know and feel that they matter more. It's all too easy to say, "Just a second, sweetheart...."

So, please share what works for you.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

p.s. On beauty: To women -- Just say no!

I really appreciated the concrete tips that the women of the Beauty Redefined project give for how we can be more media literate, and essentially say NO to the lies that media often portray about women, worth, beauty, ideals, youth/aging, etc. etc. etc. They share strategies for both girls/women and for the boys/men who care about them (and/or care about these issues and being part of the solution rather than part of the problem). (Here's another interesting article I recently read about that, directed at men.)

But every time I drive by a billboard or see a magazine, I think WHY ARE WOMEN DOING THIS? (Yes. I know I'm shouting.) It's all too common, I think, to hear people blasting men only for the problems of the objectification of women in the media and in real life. And yes, that is happening. But good golly, what are WOMEN doing to contribute to this problem?

I loved this video from a woman in the music industry who has simply chosen to say no. She kind of just tells it like it is. Listen to "Puppets" by Finnish singer Jonna. I think it's not only women in the media industry who need to hear this. We ALL do. Are we letting ourselves be puppets? Are we letting culture define what is beautiful, what is acceptable, what is reasonable?



What helped Jonna change? She converted to Mormonism and caught the vision of the power of purity, virtue, and modesty. Awesome.

For more about Jonna's conversion to Mormonism, see this MormonTimes article. You can read more about her life, career, and beliefs in this Mormon Artist interview.

On aging, beauty, and the battle to love our bodies

I played basketball a couple of weeks ago. It was awesome. (I bet you didn't know that my dream as a youth was to play bball. When I filled out my little fill-in-the-blank journal in junior high, the "I spend most of my time thinking about" line was filled in with one word: basketball.)

But I am not sure playing basketball is in the regular cards for me. I thought I'd try it out. I got bruised and scratched, but that didn't matter much. But the reality that I could fall or get bumped hard and throw out my already-messed-neck did worry me.

I came home and wept. I mourned the loss of my young, vibrant, active, very athletic self.

Maybe I sound like a wimp, but given my chronic health issues, I feel like I have to be careful with this body that is already sort of on the edge. I have children. They need me. I don't need some random injury from Relief Society basketball to complicate my already complicated (and, it sometimes feels like delicate) life.

Having chronic health issues can present a real identity crisis to a do-er. But I'm realizing so can aging. We come here to eventually die, and the natural way to get to that place is through aging.

And it's hard not to fight that reality.

I'm reminded of this amazing talk by Elder Merrill J. Bateman. I've never forgotten the graph that he put up that showed the following:

Data from physiological studies illustrate the muscular strength of the human body from birth to old age. A horizontal axis marks off ages from birth until we die, and a vertical axis measures the muscular strength of the body. At birth a graph line begins near the bottom of the chart, showing how a baby’s strength is small relative to that of an adult. Strength then increases rapidly as the human body develops from childhood to adulthood. The strength of the physical body peaks near 30 years of age. It is well documented that muscular strength in both males and females begins a long descent after 30 as the body slowly deteriorates until death occurs.

(I should note that this talk was given to young adults, most of them single, which is another topic for another day -- re: the importance of the single adult years and critical decisions. For a teaser about what else is on my mind, see this article. Wowza.)

Anyway, this statement from Elder Bateman was recorded onto my soul.

As one looks at the chart, one might ask: Why the long, slow decline? Are there lessons to be learned? The answer is yes! ... As one experiences the downhill portion of later life, the inevitable aches and pains serve an important purpose. They help one put off King Benjamin’s “natural man [or woman]” as we learn to yield to the “enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). The aches and pains of later life teach humility, the meaning of long-suffering, the importance of patience, and an appreciation for the qualities of kindness and love, and they help one learn moderation in all things. It’s interesting. These are the divine attributes. For the faithful, the slow deterioration of the body serves as a refining instrument for the spirit.

Alas, yet again, we see the message. We are here to learn, grow, and be refined. We are here to become, not just to do.

This ties in, I think, to other things that have been on my mind, like the culture that focuses on physical beauty at all costs. I had the opportunity to interview two women (twins, actually) who are doing doctoral research on media and body image issues for women. (Edited to add this direct link: See more about their Beauty Redefined project here.) The statistics they share are sobering. (Another woman wrote her senior paper on this topic and she also shares a boatload of sobering statistics.)

Other people are also feeling pressed to address this topic. BYU Women's Services had a whole semester focusing on Recapturing Beauty. Stephanie Nielson (NieNie) was their keynote speaker.
(If you have thoughts on this topic, BYU Women's Services is having an essay contest [edited to add direct link]... deadline is March 1. As mentioned in that NieNie video link on mormonwoman.org, the cash prize is only available to students, but anyone can submit an essay.)

It seems to me that if we are not very, very careful, we can buy into a culture that encourages the avoidance of the very things that Elder Bateman says are designed as part of this mortal existence to help us grow spiritually. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that taking care of our bodies isn't a good thing. But obsessing about not looking 20 anymore, or spending great amounts of time, energy, and money to try to pretend that aging isn't happening is, I think, a real problem. (Again, read the studies these women are sharing. See how it's affecting the rising generation, too. And if you don't read anything else, read this Newsweek article about how girls who are comfy in their own skin at a young age (even if obese) end up being healthier in the long run.)

Our answer is not to fight against the clock, but to work with it. Our strength lies in accepting our mortality and learning from it, not resenting it. Our power lies in having our identity grounded in who we are -- children of God -- rather than solely in what we do or how we look.

It's a battle, and we are bombarded on all sides, from within and without. Truth is power, but we have to really discipline ourselves against our natural tendencies to hold onto youth and ideals of perfection in unhealthy ways.

So, how's your battle going? Do you love your body or is it more your enemy? What helps you learn to accept your body and work with it, rather than fight and resent it?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ah, well

So much for the goal that I would be blogging more. There's always the irony of journaling (or, in our day, blogging) -- when you are busy with all that life brings, you don't always have (or take) time to write. But it's during those times that you want to (and should) write to capture all of that life that is happening.

I wished I had kept updates during all the dishwasher and strep and hubby trip time. It was insane, but we had some serious tender mercies through that time.

Someone doorbell ditched us dinner on the day that both hubby and I had to stay home from church because we both had strep. The day that our son gave his first talk! I cried.

My home and visiting teachers brought us dinner. Twice. (Home and visiting teacher are married, so we have double coverage there. ;) )

The disposal guy never came, even though I called him. Twice. (Or maybe it was thrice.)

Why was that a blessing? Because Mr. Really (Really!) Nice dishwasher repairman fixed it for me while he was here. Just because. SOOO nice. (There is a longer story there...if it weren't for him making an extra effort, our appointment would have been canceled and I would have had to wait another week to get the repair done.)

And did I mention that this dishwasher is only a year old? No, it was a year and two weeks old when it died. BUT I actually had purchased the extended warranty (which I rarely do)! So all the repairs cost us zero dolares. The paper goods, however, well, let's just say I'm stocked up for the next unexpected emergency. With the strep and everything, and then hubby out of town, I just didn't have it in me to hand wash dishes. (I know, I'm a wimp, but you do what you can, right? I was actually pretty proud of myself for just letting myself see my limits and let them be.)

- - - - - - -

Yesterday, I woke to the sound of children playing outside. Is there anything more lovely than a summer day and children playing with abandon?

- - - - - - -

I was proud of myself on Friday. My son went on another winter campout and I just waved and didn't stress. I am convinced that part of why Scouts exists is to help mommas let go of their boys. (Note to self -- pack the better sunscreen and encourage son to apply every hour. These boys came home FRIED after ice fishing for several hours. We're talking swollen faces, blisters, and inability to eat. Fortunately, the sunscreen we packed for #1 worked enough to keep the serious stuff at bay for him, but I still have never seen him so burned. Owie. But how blessed this boy is to have leaders who invest so much of their hearts in these young men and their spiritual and physical progress.


- - - - - - - -

Saturday night, there was a stake Valentine's dinner for the adults in our neighborhood. It was lost somewhere in my brain last Sunday, I think. We ended up cleaning the garage together, hubby and I. (And listened to the BYU basketball game. Go Cougs!) I know. We are romantic devils, aren't we? Wanna hear how romantic we really are? I've asked him to not buy me gifts for the next who knows how long so I can get a turbo blender. (I'm backward, I know. Usually a gift like a blender would put a man in the dog house. (Watch the video. It's funny. Unless you are sensitive about gender-related joking. Then don't watch it. I laughed so hard I cried. But remember, I'm a girl who couldn't care less about girly gifts.)



And here's the second one, if you liked that one.

- - - - - - - -

We finally finished our family read-aloud book. I'm happy to report that we were all good to our word; no one read ahead! It was a fun read. I can't believe how long it took us, though. Any suggestions for the next one?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Falling Apart

I.

Drip. Drip. I was finally going to get to bed a little earlier (which isn't saying much, I know) when I heard it. Drip. Drip.

"How long has that been there?" I wondered, as I felt underneath my bathroom sink.

After several minutes of fiddling, I realized one of the parts of the cold water fixture had corroded. The more I fiddled, the worse things got.

DripDripDripDrip.

Panic.

It's not like I could do much in the early hours of a Sunday morning. I cleaned out the garbage that was under the sink (uh, am I the only one who never looks under their sinks?), put a little container under the leak, showered, and got ready for bed.

Plop. Plop.

The container was a third of the way full after an hour.

HOW LONG HAS THAT LEAK BEEN THERE?

More panic. I switched the little container out for a little garbage can. It was 3/4 full in a couple of days.

II.

I looked at the pile of dishes last nite, debating about whether to just put them off. I can't do it, I realized. I can't leave that mess for the fam to wake up to. For me to wake up to. Ignoring the deep pain in my head, I quickly emptied and reloaded the dishwasher, loaded the soap, closed the door, and pushed the button.

Silence.

III.

Even an hour or two before my appointment, I still at war with myself. But I don't feel that bad. I've never had strep. This is stupid. I need the rest anyway. I mean, really, when don't I have a sore throat lurking and a headache creeping into yet another day? They just sort of come with the territory with this whatever-it-is-that-I-have thing. But I figured I'd get the stupid strep test, get another 'normal' result, and be on my way (to get a new dishwasher, grumblegrumblegrumble). At least I could say that I did something, even if that little idea that popped into my head out of nowhere really was the Spirit. But I still felt like a fool as I sat in the doctor's office as I waited for the result.

The test was positive.

IV.
The quick email from the claims department really impressed me, but the message they sent sent my mind reeling. Your homeowner's insurance has expired. I checked with the underwriting department and they confirmed that no payment has been received. This will affect your claim of 1/9/2011. (That would be the possible lake effect we have sitting under my bathroom vanity from part I above.)

- - - - - - - -

Needless to say, it's been a long week. It started with the leak (and with me consequently not being able to get out of bed to make it even to my later schedule's sacrament meeting), was mixed in with a sick child (yet another reason why going to the doc for myself wasn't really on the radar screen), is complicated by a disaster zone in my house that has been exacerbated by the sickness we've had going on (now with piles of dishes I don't have the strength to do...and now hubby feels sick).... It just feels like things are falling apart around here. [Update: I forgot about the car repairs that hubby found out we needed this week, and I'll add the fact that hubby got a positive strep test on Friday.]

Truth be told, they kinda are.

(But here, I try to sort through some of the little tender mercies in the midst of the craziness.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My favorite things

I have a goal to post more of the little day-to-day things of my life, so I can remember and cherish them. (My children are just growing too fast! I want to savor it all.)

It's already tomorrow (Wed) as I write this, but for me it's still today (Tues) so, today, some precious moments included:

Hearing my baby (age 9 now) singing some happy song. Can't even remember now (see why I need to write things down?)

Finally being able to take #2 to school. She's been sick. But wow, she's maturing a lot with how she deals with hard things. I'm so proud of her.

Watching #2 and #3 throw a bday party for their Build-a-Bears.

Making dinner according to what #3's Build-a-Bear's favorite food is. (Tacos, in case you were wondering.)

Bagging the Easy-Bake cake idea (why did I buy that thing in the first place?) and instead giving the girls each a little cup of fondue chocolate with some pretzels and mini-marshmallows. OH THE JOY that was on their faces.

Curling up with #2 to read her Revolutionary War stories. Really amazing to read about youths who did some amazing things. (Consequently, she couldn't sleep. Ah, well. I then got to cuddle with her while she read The Friend to get her mind off of the war track.)

Lest you think I forgot #1, I didn't. It was just one of those days when he was pretty much in his own world working on homework. But I was proud of him for the way he focused on it.

Sometimes I hate the whole homework thing, to be honest.

Fave other little thing -- at the store, hearing a child in the other aisle singing, the smiley-frowny face song from Primary.

And getting lots of healthy food from the bulk bins at WinCo. (WinCo, where have you been all of my life?)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm baaaaaack.

Well, maybe.

Life these past months came with enough of the usual and the unusual that blogging just sort of took a back seat. But I'm sort of feeling the bug again, so I may be back.

Holidays were good, but still busier than I would have liked. My health took a downturn during the break so that was a bummer (but it was going better before then, so that is good -- I just think I overdid it).

#3 got strep on Christmas day, which was a bummer, but truth be told, being able to lay low and take it slow on Christmas was good.We love being together. We had a fun make-up day with my side of the family last week, too.

Church schedule for our fam is back to the early schedule, which means I am back to not going to church with my family. Definitely a bummer. But I get to worship with some of my dear friends from our former ward, which is so very good. I call it a compensatory blessing in my life to have this strange opportunity to expand my circle of friends and associates at church. This will be the fourth ward I have attended in the last four years.

And since I'm on this bummer/good theme, just flip the two around in order and then go read this post. It may very well be my favorite post on motherhood. Ever. (Doesn't matter if you aren't a mother. You should read it.)

That's all for now. (Bummer? Or good?)