Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Bodies are such amazing things. As I watch my son, Soren, grow and develop, I discover anew all the amazing things a body can do. He is fascinated with the different textures of things he can touch. He is experimenting with the different sounds he can make and the other ways he can communicate his desires. He is very pleased when I understand him and he gets what he wants. What a change from the motionless blob he was at birth! When he's tired, he presses his face into my chest and oh! how I love to feel his warmth. I love to feel him in my arms, just as I love to feel Scott's arms around me.
I know that one of the very important reasons God sent us to this earth was to give us bodies. I know that God has a body and that we are created in His image. Our bodies, although not perfect, are wonderful gifts from a Father who loves us. They were the crowning glory of His creations. Nothing man has made can approximate their marvelous abilities. I know that they are sacred, as all gifts from God are, and that I am responsible for taking care of mine. (I'm sure that nodding off and falling on my butt in the shower this morning was not being a wise steward of my body but hey! at least I'm washing it.) I do love my body and want it to last a long long time!
I'm looking forward to being grateful for my taste buds in just a moment.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Thursday we went to see the Pioneer Day fireworks at Liberty Park. We walked down there at about 8:00 pm and nabbed a great spot at the lake front. We spread out our blanket and played logic games. My sister, Brianna, made up lots of code-related puzzles. Scott's were very clever and sometimes terribly tricky. Soren was up way past his bed-time but refused to sleep. Still, he was very cheerful. He enjoyed looking at the enormous, spotted Great Dane sitting behind us and at all the kids waving glow sticks around. When he got tired, he cuddled into Scott's chest or my lap. That was a rare treat. The fireworks were amazing. It was fun to celebrate our heritage and be together as a family. That's what I love about holidays: they bring us closer together as a family.
Friday, we all went swimming. Scott blew up a kiddie floaty for Soren, which he really hated. Brianna liked it, although it was way to small for her, and Soren got a kick out of watching her flail about it in. Then we spent the afternoon playing games. Scott has been such a good sport about having my sister around. He treats her like another member of our family. I know my mom was worried that he would get irritated having her around but he's been so kind and cheerful. I love her a lot and spending this extra time with her has been one of those tender mercies of the Lord. I didn't get to bond with her much before I left home. It's been wonderful to have time to catch up with her and talk about the things that are truly important to us.
Brianna left Friday evening to spend the weekend with our Aunt Karen. And so today has been completely laid back. With all the fun things we did the past two days, it was nice to have an unhurried day. We spent the morning reading on the couch while Soren played with his monkey ball on the floor. Then, this afternoon we took a walk to the park. We had a picnic and tried to feed the ducks. I say tried because they were uninterested in anything we tried to give. I guess that Saturdays are a popular duck feeding day and that they were already bloated by the time we got there!
As always, I am grateful for every day that I have to spend with my beautiful family. I know that we will be together forever, sealed in the temple as an eternal unit. Still, the mind-boggling amount of time we will share in the future does nothing to diminish each precious day. Scott and I were listening to a favorite talk by Russel M. Nelson the other day. In it, he talks about how we should not take those we love for granted. He says that when we recognize God's hand in the construction of our families, we will find more joy in those most precious relationships. And it is true! I know that my Father in Heaven brought Scott and I together because He knew that our marriage would bring us great and everlasting joy. He sent Soren to us because He knew that our posterity would strengthen that bond and increase our happiness. He made our family possible and has given them to me forever. I am so grateful for this most wonderful gift!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The performance we went to last night was a survey of Polynesian dance and music. The really cool thing about it was that so much of the dancing was gospel-related. They had a dance about Joseph Smith's First Prayer as well as a dance about Christ's teachings to the rich man. The really cool thing about this is that gospel stories are actually an integral part of their culture now. When the church was bran new, missionaries were sent to Hawaii. In spite of the difficult time the missionaries had learning the language, the gospel took off in Hawaii and from there spread like wildfire through the islands. There has been a vast church membership in Polynesia for more than 150 years and it is a much greater percentage of the population than almost anywhere else in the world. Those scripture stories are important to the people and so they encoded them in their dance and music. It was very inspiring to watch and listen as the pure truths of God's church where presented.
I am grateful for cultural diversity and all the different beautiful means of expression through which we can approach and convey truth.
Monday, July 21, 2008
A pioneer is someone who leads the way, making it easier for others to follow. We often think in the Mormon church of the pioneers that made the trek out West, fleeing persecution and searching for a safe-haven where they could make their home and worship according to the dictates of their own conscious. They tamed the wilderness in Utah and set up the headquarters of our church, making it possible for us to belong to God's true church today.But those are not the only pioneers that have impacted my life. I have recently been very impressed with the legacy that parents and grandparents leave behind. They form righteous traditions that become a lasting heritage. In my talk, I talked about some of my family members that made difficult changes in their life, making it easier for me to follow. I talked about my great-great-great-great grandfather, Moses Clawson, and the early saints following first Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young as prophet. They were pioneers, showing us that no matter whom the Lord’s mouthpiece, commandments still come from God. Because of their faithfulness, when Gordon B. Hinkley died this past year, it was natural for the members of the Mormon church to transfer our loyalty from Gordon B. Hinkley to Thomas S. Monson. I also talked about Scott’s family and how his older sister was a pioneer. She was the first person in their family to go on a mission and she got a lot of flack about it from her extended family. But she went and made it easier for Scott to follow. I also talked about my mom and how she was a pioneer in establishing a healthy and eternal family relationships and how my home today is modeled after the one she showed me how to build. I was very grateful for the topic because it helped me not to take for granted the blessings I have received from my family’s pioneers.
Scott spoke about how we are all adopted into the family of Christ when we become members of the church and how because we are all spiritual brothers and sisters, we can all take pride in each other’s heritage. He told the story of the Hmong saints and how he was proud to share in their heritage and how excited and proud they were to share in the pioneer heritage. It was really moving.
I appreciate the way our church is organized so that all its members have an opportunity to both teach and learn. As always, it's when I'm called upon to teach that I learn the most.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Today my sister and I constructed a tent in our living room. I once thought that my free imagination was gone, bridled by the daily grind of "responsible", adult life. To release that inner creator was one of the main goals in our family's month-long novel writing adventure. I wrote a novel in one month and allowed myself to make horrible mistakes and liberating discoveries. It was fun today to use that explorative mindset in a much more messy way. And I am here to say that adults have imaginations just as powerful, if not more so, as children. The tent I made today in my living room is far more unusual and unique, structurally sound, enticingly interactive, and aesthetically appealing than any I ever made as a child.
We just finished it. I can't wait for Soren to get up from his nap so I can see how he likes it. Oh! I think I hear him now!
As a parting shot, I want you, dear reader, to know that the boundless capacity for creation we have as humans is because we are also children of God, the creator of us all. We can be as He is someday and we get to practice right now. So create something!
Monday, July 14, 2008
At first we rigged up a bottle with pureed baby slop in it and aligned his midday feeding with sacrament meeting, in an effort to keep his mouth plugged and us in our pews. However, we quickly realized that only keeps him content for a few minutes. Once he has downed the baby food and nursed, he remembers again how exhausted he is and begins to wail in earnest. Juggling him from gimmick to gimmick has ensured in the past that Scott and I do not get much out of any meetings and that we are more crazy than rejuvenated by the time the last hour ends. I'm not complaining, I hope. I have learned many valuable things from this tiring experience. I was just a little tired of learning patience. So every Saturday night we have prayed for inspiration or for a crazy fluke.
This last Sunday, our prayers were answered. It sounds like such a simple thing, but I am grateful for wheat puffs and the marvelous Sabbath experience they provided my family.
Wheat puffs: wheat :: Popcorn : corn. They are a simple food, whole grain, with lots of air that dissolve easily on contact with the mouth. Soren is old enough to start chewing little pieces of real food so wheat puffs enable him to enjoy a new and interesting texture without fear of choking. He rolls each tiny kernel around in his mouth for about a minute, greatly elongating the feeding process. So instead of giving him his daily dose of yogurt and oatmeal, we drew his midday feed out to fill the whole three-hour block. Each time he got a little cranky, we popped a wheat puff in his mouth. Then during the last hour, he nursed and nearly went to sleep!
We have been trying to teach him that there are other ways to find comfort besides eating but we've decided just to give up during church. He's learned that he doesn't need to eat all the time at home but since it is impossible for him to take the naps he so badly needs during church, a reliable form of comfort is desperately needed. I really feel that the Lord answered my prayers when I found that big bag of wheat puffs on sale at the store and decided to try them. I learned so much during church yesterday! I felt at peace again, able to contemplate and fellowship without being completely frazzled. I'm just so glad that we finally found a method of appeasement that works for our family.
You could be a further answer to my prayers by adding any of your own tricks and suggestions for keeping babies happy in church.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Yesterday Soren and I went to Book Babies at the library. I am getting to know a lot of the other moms in my community and I love this chance to be with them. Soren enjoys exploring the other babies--we're still working on not poking their eyes out--and I appreciate the fun interaction this setting provides for us.
After Book Babies, we rode the train to Scott's work and had lunch with him. I made In and Out muffins to share with his co-workers, who are all excellent and uplifting people to spend time with. We took a walk around temple square after lunch and enjoyed each other's company and the beautiful environment that surrounds the church headquarters. Scott was talking the other day about how grateful he is for his work environment. An old friend came to visit us for the 4th of July and he was complaining about how the people he works with are selfish and crass. Scott doesn't work with anyone like that and it is a huge blessing in his life and in mine. He always comes home happy and excited about the things he is accomplishing, never drained by a negative work environment. I know that not everyone can work for a religiously oriented office. It's not something we ever thought we would be doing. But I am glad that the Lord had a better plan for us and that he has given us this enormous blessing.
On the bus ride home, we got to interact with lots of kind people. People who helped me with the stroller, who were obviously excited about life, who were willing to share of themselves with me. I love to learn from other people. There are so many different, interesting, and good ideas out there and the more we partake of other people's ideas and learn about their experiences, the more truth will rise to the top. It sounds silly, but I'm glad I'm not the only person on this earth. I mean, duh, but I love people! They are all children of God and I can learn from each of them. I am so glad that my Father in Heaven has allowed me to interact with His children.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I've started a new habit that has greatly enhanced my life. Each day, during the baby's second feeding, I choose a general conference talk from the archive at lds.org and I watch it. Usually I let it run through a couple of times, paying close attention the first time and then doing some housework while it plays again. This repetition helps the words to really sink in and, while my hands are doing something mindless, I can be pondering the messages that God wants His children today to hear. General conference is the organized decimination of God's words for us at exactly this time. I am so grateful that He speaks to us today and has seen fit to give contemporary guidance for my life. I am grateful that I have easy access to those words, because they have power to guide, heal, and bless me on a daily basis.
I have been doing this for a few weeks, now, and it was only yesterday that I learned how big a difference it makes in my life. A friend recommended a television show to me that is available to watch online. Even though I don't normally watch any TV, I was curious and looked it up. I used all my down time that day watching episode after episode and, as a consequence, never took the time to include my daily conference talk. The show was degrading and false, a poor substitute for the pleasing word of God.
That evening, when Scott came home, I was cranky and glum. I couldn't figure out why I was so upset, but I just wanted to snap. There was a void and I was angry at my husband and my baby for not being able to fill it. The atmosphere in our home was very tense. I was casting about, trying to find something that would make me feel better when I remembered the missed talk. I asked Scott if he would sit and watch one with me after we put the baby to bed.
It was Elder Holland's April 2008 talk about continuing revelation. I don't remember much of what he said but I do remember that as soon as I heard his voice, knowing that he is a mouthpiece of God, I was soothed. The Holy Ghost bore testimony to me of his calling and of the truth of his words. When I invited the Holy Ghost into my heart, it became soft and full of peace.
This habit has invited the Holy Ghost to reside on a more permanent basis in my home. There is quite a contrast between inviting the world into my home and inviting the Spirit of the Lord. I am so grateful for this particular tender mercy of God: that He has a mouthpiece on the earth today, Thomas S. Monson, and that I can receive His words, and through them His Spirit, in my heart, my home, and my life.
Monday, July 7, 2008
So I've been thinking about the wonders of technology and all the gadgets I have that make my life a lot better. I am grateful for my electric lights and my computer. I am grateful for the internet and for the stove. I am grateful for the microwave. I am grateful for a hot shower in the morning and a flushing toilet. I am grateful for my washer and dryer as well as my dishwasher. It's easy to be grateful for those things because I remember when I didn't have them. It makes my life very pleasant and comfortable to have those things in my very own home. I am grateful for my stereo and (though we don't use it often) our car. I'm sure Soren is very grateful for the television; isn't that depressing?
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I was sitting in the foyer of our church building during Relief Society holding Soren on my lap. He'd been screaming for the entire church block and I'd given up on trying to be in any of my meetings. I was feeling very discouraged and he was exhausted and wanted to go home and to bed. I felt so much self-pity; I wanted Sundays to be rejuvenating and strengthening and I felt that they sapped all the energy and patience out of me instead. All I could think about was "Why me?"
A kind man came out of Elder's Quorum and went into a little room off the foyer for a moment, then came and sat on the couch with me, wanting to see the baby. Soren was in top form, sputtering and wailing, completely inconsolable. The man offered to hold him and tried several positions in an attempt to sooth him. Soren was just so tired and nothing was quite like his comfortable and familiar bed, so he kept crying. The man smiled and kept trying new things, all the while talking about how wonderful babies are. I was shocked that he could be so good-natured about it!
Finally, he gave up and gave Soren back to me and I rocked him on my lap. We got to talking--just small talk--and I asked him what was in that room he had gone into. He said it was the kitchen (weird place for it) and that he had gone to get some salt. He explained to me about some medical condition he had that made him very weak if he didn't get enough sodium.
"Bleh!" I said. "That sounds gross!"
He said the most astonishing thing. Perhaps it will seem quite simple to you but it was a much needed revelation to me. He said, "It's all right. Some people have it much worse." Then he smiled and we didn't talk about it anymore.
He had every opportunity and right to moan and make me aware of his misfortunes. I've often felt that talking to people about my problems makes me feel better about them. I know that isn't true. Elder Holland said, "No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse" and so of course complaining can't make our problems better. But I've never really met anyone that so whole-heartedly embraced that idea. And he seemed so happy.
Eventually Soren fell asleep on my chest. It was only for a couple of minutes and I was so worn out, I think I would have missed the glory of the moment entirely if I'd stayed in my spiral of self-pity. But the man I was talking to said, "Isn't it all worth it, for one moment like that?" And I looked down and Soren and my heart swelled with gratitude. He was so dear to me in that moment. His mouth was hanging open and his thumb was half-way in; he was drooling all over my chest. His little body was limp in my arms and his eyes were closed. He was so warm and soft. I almost missed how wonderful it was!
I am so grateful for my precious son and I am grateful for a stranger that helped me slow down and enjoy the tender mercies of the Lord rather than focus on the negative aspects.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
I have been reading a lot of books about parenting and developing a very firm paradigm of babies and the best way to care for them. In my pride, I've cultivated an unhealthy scorn for parents whose philosophy is on the other end of the spectrum. I thought it was in a good spirit, that I just wanted to tell everyone about the mindset and patterns that saved my sanity and changed my baby's temperament. And I was gloating about how peaceful and predictable my life was, forgetting the times when Soren is completely miserable. He's pretty easily placated (except at church) and I figured it was because I had become such a wonderful mom.
So when we set up a babysitting co-op with another couple in the ward, I figured caring for their five-month-old boy would be a piece of cake. They would bring their fussing, confused infant and I would take him and offer comfort, stabilization, and rest. He would love my home in which everything is orderly and calm; my confidence would lull him to a serene state.
It was quite the opposite. Alisha brought her tiny little boy Wallace over at around 6:00 pm. He was cheerful and played on the floor with toys for about five minutes after his parents left. Then he began to cry, looking from Scott to me and back to Scott again, wondering where in the world his beloved parents were. I put him through the gauntlet of tricks I try with Soren. First, I picked him up and rocked him, making soothing noises. He cried. Then I offered some toys to him, demonstrating the fun noises they could make. He cried. Maybe a change of environment would make him feel better? I put him in the swing. Nope, he just cried. His mother had just barely fed him, so since he didn't want to play with toys or people, I figured he must be tired. Poor thing, so exhausted. I could offer him the gift of sleep. I laid him down in Soren's bassinet and rubbed his back gently. He cried harder. I clung to my paradigm, figuring that there could be no other solution to his pains. He just needed time to grow accustomed to a new place to sleep. I wouldn't overstimulate him or disturb his sleep pattern by pulling him out so soon. I just kept rubbing his back and shhhing him. And he just kept crying.
Finally, knowing that his mother wouldn't want me to just let him cry, I changed my strategy. I gave up on my perfect "fool-proof" soothing rituals and offered the methods I had so often scorned in other parents. These are things I don't offer Soren to sooth him, because I am trying to teach self-soothing methods, which he has taken to really well. First I tried to sneak a bottle into his wailing mouth. He continued crying. Then I swaddled him and offered a pacifier. He cried. Finally I stuck him in a sling and took him for a walk. He whimpered, but at least he wasn't crying. That lasted about 15 minutes, then he picked up again.
Needless to say, when his mother and father came to pick him up at about 8 pm, I was happy to hand him over and embarrassed to see how happily he settled into the nook of his mother's hip. How could I have ever doubted this loving woman who so obviously loved and cared for her child, even if it was in a way different than the way I cared for mine? Soren and Wallace are very different people and I feel lucky to have discovered the routines, games, and techniques that sooth and entertain my son. Just because they work on Soren does not in any way mean that they are superior. I forgot that the only necessary ingredient in parenting is love. If we love of our children as our Father in Heaven loves us, we can never go wrong.
I'm not sure if any of this makes sense but I am very grateful for the things I have learned from this experience. I am grateful to have learned that I do not know everything and I am not a fool-proof parent. This will prevent me from getting stuck in my mistakes, being too blind to see them. I am grateful that the Lord has not asked me to be perfect yet, but to rely on His perfection rather than the flawed philosophies of men. I am grateful for the example of the Savior and hope that I can follow His commandments as I raise my children.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I know that He has a plan for us. An integral part of that plan is the sacred gift of agency that He will never take from us. Our Father in Heaven would like us all to make the choices that will bring happiness but I know that He will never force our hand. He has given us the power to choose, knowing that sometimes we would choose wrong.
However, He does not want those wrong choices to mean the end of our progression. He has provided us a Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins. He has made reconciliation with the Father on our behalf so that, if we are willing, we can cast aside those wrong choices and take up again our true potential. Jesus Christ has shown us how to live so that we can become like our Father in Heaven. He has shown us how to love and to gain spiritual knowledge. Most importantly (I feel), He has shown us how to love. God is love and if we would be like Him, we must learn to love our Heavenly Father and to love each other.
I know that Jesus Christ's atonement has the power to make all things right. With our misused agency, anguish and suffering has entered the world. I know that Christ will make those things right when He comes again in glory to rule and reign over all the earth.
I am grateful for this testimony. It is this faith that gives me hope for myself and those I love. It is this faith that gives me hope for all of humanity. It is not a faith in man, who is flawed, but a faith in God whose love and wisdom are perfect.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Scott and I just moved into our new ward about two months ago. I know it takes time for relationships to form but there are some members of our ward that have done an amazing service by roping us into their activities and projects. One woman in particular has impressed me as a true example of compassion and awareness. Her name is April and even if I didn't think she was one of the coolest people ever, I would be forced still to tell you about how thoughtful she is. Only a few weeks after moving into our new apartment, she showed up on our doorstep in the middle of the day when I was home alone with Soren. She said that she was going on a walk and wondered if I wanted to come. She knew that being a stay-at-home mom is sometimes a lonely job, especially when you don't know anyone in your area. Since then, she has invited me to participate with her in lots of daytime activities and filled me in on all of the fun and free things to do in our city. She loves to read and has all kinds of great tips for saving money. She is gregarious and practical. Her daughter, Sequoia, is cheerful and only a little older than Soren. She likes to watch SciFi shows and has great taste in books, movies, and food. We have a lot in common and I hope that she is as excited about our budding friendship as I am. After all her kindness to me, I wouldn't want to impose myself on her.
The reason I have her on my mind is that she had a party this morning for new moms. It was such a good idea! She invited a lot of bran-new stay-at-home moms to her house and had crafts and food and toys. Unfortunately, not very many people came. It was actually just April, Alisha, and I but we had a lot of fun just fellowshipping together. I am very grateful for the instant sisterhood that the church provides us with. I can't imagine being a stay-at-home mom without the support and structure of the church. I would never meet anyone or do anything! Relief Society is a wonderful blessing in that way. Anyways, we had a lot fun at the party talking about new mom stuff. Alisha and I are actually planning on doing a babysitting swap! That way we will be able to date our husbands again! Yeah!
I invited both women (and their babies) to come swimming with me tomorrow. I'm just really happy today because I feel like I'm making friends. And I'm grateful for the willingness of kind women to reach out and include me so that I can be involved. Isn't this exciting?