Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Parents Need to Know

I wish I could give you a more accurate source than this. But I saw it on Facebook and it was so fantastically true that I wanted to share. Please read! I think it just gave me the validation I've been seeking for being a Stay-At-Home-Mother even when our finances are a crazy mess.

Written by a Pre-School Teacher – It says it all!

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our pre-schoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvellous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.

That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.

That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.

That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.


That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like lego and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.

That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. 

They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Just because they're funny

Laugh a little.

On Forgiveness

We've all heard Elder Packer's description of the Savior paying the debtor's debt, describing for us how the atonement works to satisfy both the demands of justice and mercy. Our repentance can be complete through the atonement. (Video included at the end of post, in case you haven't heard/seen it.)

Last night I read from Lund's "Work and the Glory: So Great a Cause," a conversation between two brothers about this principle. One brother, Joshua, wants to understand how the atonement can make things better if the past cannot be changed. This is his brother, Nathan's description. Bear with me as I share this excerpt with you. My personal epiphany follows.

"Now to my example with Charles. Let's suppose that he is playing stickball with some boys. They are in a field across the street from a general store. Charles knocks the ball with a solid hit. It soars out of the field, across the street, and right through the window of the general store."

There was a bemused smile. "That sounds like Charles, all right."

"So here we have an interesting situation. The storekeeper has lost an expensive glass window. He wants to be paid for its replacement. He wants justice. And that is only right. But you are the father. You want mercy for your son. This wasn't a malicious act. He's only six. He wasn't thinking. He didn't understand the consequences of his actions. Should he be blamed and punished? And if so, how can he possibly pay the damages? He earns no money, has no resources of his own." He stopped and waited a moment before saying, "Do you see the conflict now between mercy and justice?"

"Well, I probably would have put it in different terms, but yes."

"So how do you resolve it so that both mercy and justice are satisfied? Would you make Charles go to work at the store until the debt is paid?"

"He's only six," Joshua protested.

"And that wouldn't be very merciful, would it? So be merciful to Charles. Just tell the storekeeper that Charles is only a boy and that he—the storekeeper—will have to replace the window himself."

"No, that's not fair, either."

"Now you're beginning to see why the Book of Mormon says that mercy cannot rob justice. That would not be right."

"What if I paid it?" Joshua suddenly said.

"Ah," Nathan said softly.

Joshua shook his head ruefully. "Every time you say, 'Ah,' I feel like I just stepped into a trap. Ah, what?"

"That's your answer, Joshua. If you pay the storekeeper, will he be satisfied?"

"Of course."

"He won't insist that Charles actually make the payment?"

"No, not unless he's a dolt."

"One more question, then I'll make my point. If you pay for the window to the satisfaction of the storekeeper, is everything all right now?"

Again, Joshua sensed he was being led, but there was only one answer to that. "Yes."

"But you haven't changed the past," Nathan said quietly.

Joshua saw it now and it hit him with full force. It showed in his eyes and around the corners of his mouth.

"Nothing in the past has been changed, Joshua, but mercy has been shown and justice has been satisfied." Nathan went on, slowly now, choosing his words with great care. "Suppose, then, that Jesus Christ went into the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, and there he suffered so intensely that he paid the price for all those terrible things that Joshua Steed did in the past. Suppose that he suffered enough that Joshua's beating of his wife was paid for, not by Joshua, but by the Redeemer. Would Jessica be satisfied with such a payment? Not from you, but from the Savior?"

"Jessica would," he finally said. "Others might not, but Jessica would."

I've understood this from the debtor's point of view. And I'm eternally grateful for it. But today, I came to understand it from a different point of view.

We all have people to forgive in our lives. We always will. In my life, there is one particular person whom I have a hard time forgiving. In fact, each time I think I've forgiven him, something will come up, remind me of how much he hurt me, and I have to go through the process of forgiving him all over again. The details of how and why I need to forgive him are irrelevant. Suffice it to say that at his hands I suffered my life's (to date) greatest betrayal and abuse.

Now, no one would deny that I have been wronged. (The potential exception being the very person who wronged me.) And being wronged, I have every right to restitution. It's only just. Knowing the past cannot be undone, what would I ask of this person as payment, if I could? That's a hard one, because really I'd wish the wrong never happened. Since that is impossible, I would want him to feel—really feel—what I felt, what he did to me. I would want him to suffer as I suffered because of him. I'd want him to apologize with real sincerity; to feel so sorry for what he did, so sorry for what happened to me and what I went through. I'd want him to try, in whatever ways possible, to make my life better as an attempt to make up for his sin against me.

Remember the analogy. Seeing how this person (let's now call him Charles) either cannot or perhaps will not do these things, what am I to do? Just let it go? I deserve restitution. And God is perfectly just. He would not rob me of that. He probably agrees perfectly that I have a right to all those things I would ask of Charles.

Here's my epiphany: Christ did all that! Christ made the payment. He felt what I felt, perfectly. He suffered as I suffered. He feels so sorry, with perfect sincerity, for what happened to me and what I went through. And He is doing everything He can to make my life better. PAYMENT HAS BEEN MADE!! It didn't come from Charles, it came from Christ, but unless I'm "a dolt," I will recognize that my wrong has been righted. I have received my restitution. And how can I reject payment from someone who, disregarding this situation, has done so much for me? I can't. Of course I accept His payment in behalf of Charles.

So you see, forgiveness doesn't mean I've given up my right for justice. I haven't given up anything. I have received payment in full. Forgiveness only means that I stop holding a debt against Charles when that debt has already been paid. (That doesn't mean I have to trust Charles to play with a stick near my shop again, though.)

Wow. Just wow. I'd never thought of forgiveness this way before. But it is so, so perfect.

Elder Packer's explanation of grace:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Just another post about a post-baby body

Post-baby body image seems to be the talk of the day, what with celebrities and royalty and even some women near home "showing off" their incredible bodies after having a baby. And I think all the media is adding one more superhuman feat to woman's already absurd list of things we should be doing and ways we should measure up. I've read some really good articles about this issue already, but since writing is therapeutic for me, I'm doing it anyway. If you're sick of it, tough!, skip this post. If you'd love even more commiseration, sit down and see a piece of my thoughts today.

I dreamed of being pregnant for so, so long. Seriously, ever since I was a teenager and our stake did that Pioneer Trek thing and made every "family" carry a "baby" a.k.a. watermelon along the way. One night, I had baby duty so the watermelon was resting in a makeshift sling across my torso, and some older fellow smiled at me and said, "You are going to make a beautiful mother one day." And that solidified my ideal. (To be clear, of course, I didn't want to be pregnant as a teenager or before marriage.)

I wanted to be that beaming, glowing mother-to-be who looked like she swallowed a basketball because she didn't put on weight anywhere else. And I wanted to be the beautiful, beaming new mom, and the put-together baby mom, and the fit mom who taught her toddler to read and write and be reverent. Yes, these all seemed like reasonable goals.

Let's take it from the top, shall we?

1) Beaming, glowing mother-to-be: We tried for five years, had three miscarriages, and all sorts of hormonal injections before a pregnancy "stuck." Then there was the actual pregnancy: see Our Pregnancy Story. My OB, who has been doing this for 30 years, has named my pregnancy "The Pregnancy From Hell." There was nothing glowing about it.

2) Looked like she swallowed a basketball: I looked more like Bella Cullen. You'll just have to trust me on this, because I refused to have any pictures taken when I was pregnant. I sure didn't put on weight elsewhere, but it looked nothing like those happy basketball-tummy ladies.
 3) Beautiful, beaming new mom: Yeah, I had a pretty traumatic delivery and did that marshmallow-thing afterward, which made me look like this.

 4) Put-together baby mom: I may have actually pulled this one off, at least in public. I was lucky enough (it's all luck, ladies) to lose my baby weight within weeks. Hooray! And it stayed off as long as I kept nursing (which is a story unto itself). My baby shower left me well-equipped to deal with baby messes in style. But at home, I still looked like this.  I started filing these pictures away in a special folder titled "frumpy."

This is me "cheating." (Suck it IN!)
"Ahh! That's better."
 5) Fit mom teaching toddler to read and write: Ha! I'm so failing this one. First of all, what the heck does "fit" mean? Does it mean I fit into my clothes? Pre-maternity - I can't pull those jeans past my thighs. Maternity - a bit too baggy. Anything else - questionable. Sometimes I "fit" if I cheat by using compression tank tops. But normally, I just look like my pregnancy pooch is flopping over my jeans.

My pregnancy pooch, by the way, is likely one of the uglier you've seen. I had a vertical c-section and a vertical incision for an ovariectomy just one month before. They taped and stapled and glued that incision together while my baby kicked at it trying to break free. I didn't HAVE stretch marks before that surgery. Now, after nearly two years, so nowhere near as bad as at first (brace yourself), it looks like this. 

There ain't no way anyone can call that "fit." Probably ever again. In truth, this is actually pretty good; you can't even see the scars from the staples in this picture. (Bad lighting is always best in the bathroom, don't you agree?)

 As far as teaching my toddler to read: Pshaw! Maybe in a year or so when she stops eating the letters and crayons. 
Well, now that it's all out there, literally, let's talk about it. I feel let down. Partly because my own expectations were so unreasonable. But then, no one ever showed me what "reasonable" was. We go into pregnancies thinking only of cute maternity clothes and that bundle of joy we'll get at the end. Where do we ever learn the TRUTH? That pregnancy sucks in a multitude of ways, different for everyone; and that sweet newborn is needy and demanding and all too quickly becomes mobile and can climb furniture and get on top of other furniture to reach the things you finally thought were safe;
"Before you were born..."
and that every day is The Most Exhausting Day of Your Life EVER. And you never get a break, not a real one;  and that the body you loved - the one you flaunted and used to attract a husband - is squishy in places that can never be firmed without costly surgery. Good husbands still find you attractive, and help you feel attractive, but when you look in the mirror (especially when I look in the mirror), all you feel is depressed.
This is NOT to say motherhood is awful. Oh no! On the contrary, it is beautiful and magical (every moment that it isn't hair-pulling crazy). You get to watch this tiny person learn and grow, and talk and walk, and develop independence and creativity. And you get to be the most important person in her universe. And the giggles and tickles, the kisses and cuddles, the "I need you" cries and the sleepy smiles make it all so perfect.

Except when it isn't. There's a flip-side to every coin.

But I'm talking about body image. How do we (because I'm assuming there are mothers who relate to me) see ourselves as beautiful again? 

One of the strongest reminders for me came from a YA fiction book, when a minor character explains how he lost his arm. It was wounded and infected and amputated. "An arm for a life," he said simply. "Seemed like a pretty good trade." 

To quote the movie Hook: "I just had an apostrophe!" "You mean epiphany" "Lightning just struck my brain!" "That must have hurt." - My beautiful pre-baby body was sacrificed so my daughter could have a beautiful body. Seems like a pretty good trade! I try to remind myself that these scars are here because she lives.

Which, of course, reminds me of Isaiah, when the savior says, "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands," so I will never forget you, what I did for you, and how much I love you. Isn't it interesting that Christ, who has the power to make his body perfect, chose to keep those scars? As a sign of love. To us. So when I see my scars, I try hard to think of the sacrifice made so my daughter could live. And that the scars remain, not only to remind me, but to remind her of what I did for her, and how much I love her.

Does it make me insecure? Absolutely. Society is so busy telling us and showing us what our "perfect" post-baby bodies should look like. And I don't look like that. Hard as I try, I never will (vertical slice through the abs doesn't go away).

But what if I stop paying attention to the media? What if I stop looking at photo-shopped pictures and look in the mirror instead. And actually believe my husband when he tells me I'm beautiful, or pretty, or sexy? What if, when my daughter points out body parts and wants to compare hers to mine, I don't refuse to let her see my "belly?" What if I show it - like it's normal - and if she ever asks why it's different, I simply answer, "Because that's what it took to make you. And I love you."

Then my daughter has at least ONE real example of what to expect when she wants her own children. If I don't hide it, but wear my "stripes" with pride, it is no longer something shameful or gross; it just is what it is. Because, after all, this motherhood thing teaches us selflessness. Even if that lesson costs me my vanity, apparently. And if I hurt inside a bit every time I see her smooth, perfect tummy, it's not jealousy really, it's a reminder of loss: I gave so she could have.

(Somehow I think that lesson will follow me through the rest of time... "I give so she can have." That's intimidating.)