Friday, May 30, 2008

World Record Holder

My kids always give me a reason to be impressed. Whether it's the number of times Zack can cry in one day, or the number of potty-related comments that can be spoken during one family dinner, or how messy Darcey can get with one cup of ice cream (see below), my kids tend to be extremely good at a lot of the things they do.

Check out this potential world record:

Last Day of School
School day starts: 8:00 a.m.
School day ends: 9:30 a.m.
Time of the first "There's nothing to do": 10:38 a.m., by Brad

Yes, folks, I got the first "I'm bored" of the summer, clocking in at a whopping one hour, eight minutes after school let out. Oh yeah, my kids are over-achievers all right. I'd like to see your kid beat that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hey Guess What? We're Going to Europe!

I know that everyone says time goes by quickly, but I honestly think time is skipping days on me here. I can't believe that we are leaving for our trip in just six days. And I can't believe I went this long without blogging about it.

The main reason that I haven't really been effusive about this upcoming trip (to Europe, no less) is because I didn't want to come off as pretentious, or showing off, or anything like that. I might be a little sensitive to that because I have wanted to go to Europe for a really, really, really (add about 15 reallys here) long time and if someone I knew was going, I would be happy for them, tainted with a little tinge of green. I don't think of myself as a jealous person usually, but I don't know if you can help it just a teeny weeny bit when it's something that you simultaneously want very badly and are unlikely to get.

So as we were in the exploration phase of going on this trip, I didn't have a problem talking about it, because it was little more than a pipe dream. But once we started making firm plans, I felt a little bad. I mean, how many people get to fulfill a childhood dream, right?

This was the topic of a book I just listened to, "The Last Lecture." The author is dying from terminal cancer and gave a speech at his college (where he is a professor) that exhorted everyone to live out their childhood dreams. And unless I ever become an astronaut, which I guess might still be a remote possibility, for me the only other childhood dream is to learn French and go to France.

I got this dream when I was in, I think, sixth or seventh grade. My family went to a water park called Wet 'n Wild in Florida and while we were there I was in line behind two girls that were speaking French. I was captivated by it, the language sounded so beautiful and melodic that I decided right then and there that I wanted to learn to speak French. In fact, I loved hearing it so much that (okay, here comes the embarrassing preteen part that I'd love to forget I ever did) I followed them around from ride to ride so I could stand behind them and eavesdrop on their beautiful conversation about how to get rid of the stalker behind them. Good times.

So I patiently (or not) bided my time until 9th grade when I could finally take French, and man, did I love that class. I always did well in it, and I never got tired of learning it. I was disappointed when Mme Cassard quit in my senior year and was replaced by an extremely young new teacher that wouldn't let me do an independant study of French with her, which would have given me enough credits to get some kind of special recognition on my diploma. Maybe a gold star or something. Not that it matters or anything, but I'm a sucker for recognition.

Traveling to France remained an unachievable concept, especially once I married a reluctant traveler and had children. It also didn't seem like something that people like me did - none of my friends summered in the Riveria, after all - we are all more likely to go to Disneyland than Disneyland Paris. But when my parents moved to England, the world got a little smaller. All of a sudden, there were Mudgetts going to Paris. And Rome. And Munich and Amsterdam and Bruges. I mean, these are the kinds of places where you can get legal drugs and film cool indie movies. Almost by definition it should mean that Mudgetts shouldn't be there. And yet, they were. And if they could do it, so could I.

But it took 7 1/2 years to do it. Whenever Ryan had a break from work, it was because he had been laid off after a movie, and we couldn't afford to go anywhere. And when we had some money, it was because he was working, and we couldn't afford to take the time off. And every 3 years, we had another kid, prolonging the time when we would be able to afford a trip like this. This last year has kind of been like the perfect storm of travel possibilities. We had our (almost free) trip to Kuala Lumpur last year to whet our appetite, causing Ryan for the first time ever to be excited about traveling. We made enough money to be able to save up for a big trip, which is the first time we've had two nickels to rub together in a while. And then Ryan's one steady client finished their project, leaving Ryan with some honest to goodness free time. So we decided to bite the bullet and buy tickets to Europe.

And then time went warp speed until right now. I swear it feels like its been about two weeks since we decided to go, instead of the three months or so it has actually been. I've been planning and organizing and reserving and itinerizing (with just enough time left over to make up new words). I've taken us on sample road trips, sample day trips, and sample museum trips, in order to practice our travel skills before the trip that counts. I've sample packed twice. I've driven Ryan crazy with changing plans (which is not his favorite thing) and he's been extremely generous with me by allowing me to pretty much do what I want. As long as he doesn't have to try sample jet lag or sample boatsickness, that is. He does draw a line somewhere.

So where are we going, you ask? Glad you did, because here's our itinerary!

Day 1 - Leave for England
Day 2 - Arrive in England. Yes, the flight is that long. Recuperate and try to stay awake for my brother Tim's graduation.
Day 3 - See what really happens in my parent's town. Eat at the infamous Strike Zone. Have tea and scones at a British tea house.
Day 4 - Day trip to York.
Day 5 - Go to church at my parents ward.
Day 6 - Ryan and I take Darcey and Zack to Milan, Italy, while my parents take Brad and Noah to Berlin for a granparents weekend.
Day 7 - Assuming we can figure out how to get from the airport to our hotel in Milan, we spend the day looking around and eating as much gelato as our stomachs can hold.
Day 8 - We take a bus tour of Milan, including a visit to see the Last Supper and Milan's gorgeous Duomo. More gelato.
Day 9 - Leave Milan and take a train to Switzerland, where the rest of the family will meet us in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, south of Interlaken and smack in the middle of the Alps. Have some cheese.
Day 10 - Take a train up the North Face of the Eiger to the top of Jungfrau, a 10,000 foot mountain. At the top, we can ski, sled, take a dogsled ride, see the largest glacier in Europe.
Day 11 - Explore small mountain town of Gimmelwald and also Murren. Eat fondue.
Day 12 - Either bike ride or train into Interlaken to visit an open air folk museum, the St. Beatus Hohlen caves, and take a boat ride on the lakes. Also, possibly go to church in Thun, on the far west side of Interlaken.
Day 13 - Long train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Paris. We'll get to our campground at 3:30 pm, so we'll probably go into the city to do the Arc de Triomphe and possibly stroll down the Champs Elysees. I can't believe I'm actually saying that sentence - I'm going to be strolling down the freaking Champs-Elysees!!!!
Day 14 - Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle cathedrals and historic Paris walk. Rest time in the Luxembourg Gardens. Drink chocolat at Angelina's on Rue de Rivoli.
Day 15 - Orsay Museum, which is regarded as better than the Louvre, then rest time in the Tuileries (more gardens). Afternoon, Sacre Coeur cathedral and see the street artists in Montmartre. Then, my mom and Tim and I take a pastry class by a French chef.
Day 16 - Theme park day, either Disneyland Paris (closer and more expensive) or Parc Asterix, a less touristy, more French park. My parents are going to Reims for some WWII history for my dad.
Day 17 - Versailles day trip. Visit the Louvre, which is open late.
Day 18 - Eiffel Tower, then rest time in the Champs de Mars. Walk down Rue Cler.
Day 19 - Possibly church, followed by a walk through the Marais section of Paris. Afternoon, some streets are closed for rollerbladers, so the boys are going to bring their ripsticks (like skateboards) to skate with everyone else.
Day 20 - Leave bright and early for the airport. Get home very late that night.

One night I want to leave the kids with my parents and do a night boat tour on the Seine, and see the Eiffel Tower and everything all lit up. The nice thing is that my parents have pretty much done the touristy stuff before, so they don't care if they miss the Louvre, say, because a baby is crying.

Ryan is most excited about Switzerland and beautiful scenery in general. Also, museums.
The boys are most excited about skating on the streets of Paris. Literally, it's top on their list. Which stinks because they are not the easiest thing to pack, but I'm going to have to suck that up. They also want to buy their friends Eiffel Tower keychains.
Zack is most excited about bringing his new Lego Indiana Jones toy, which means I'm going to spend 20 days searching for Indy's 1/2 inch diameter hat that is always popping off.
Darcey is most excited about skipping naps, eating unfamiliar food, being in a stroller for hours on end, and getting carted to a bunch of places she won't remember. But she's not complaining about any of it.

Here's my list of what I'm most excited about:
Taking pictures
Being in Paris
Eating crepes and fondue and scones and all the other delicious food that Europe is famous for
Things that are older than, say, three or four hundred years, which is about the maximum (non-Native) American history
Seeing things that I've always read about
Figuring out what makes a famous piece of art famous
Beautiful scenery, too
Speaking French to actual French people
Taking a cooking class in Paris
Sitting in a park on a lovely afternoon, watching children skip and hold hands and sing Frere Jacques (my parents sold me on that one, they've done it before although the song may not have been Frere Jacques)

I'm sure I have a thousand other things that I am looking forward to that I can't articulate. Most of all, I just want to be there. To be somewhere different and new and beautiful. I am so thrilled that we get to do this, and don't worry, I'll keep you updated on our travels!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Gets Me Off The Phone

I was on the phone with my mom the other day, when I heard the loudest crash I've heard in a long time, followed by an almost inhuman scream. I had to cut my mom off mid-sentence, which almost never happens just because a kid of mine got hurt. They get hurt all the time. If I stopped my life every time one of them gets hurt, I may as well do nothing other than follow them around with a box of Band-Aids and a cold compress. But this one sounded like a possible emergency, so I ran upstairs.

When I got to the bathroom, this is what I found:
The soap dispenser on its side.
Dirty footprints on the sink.
Zack lying on the floor, completely naked.

Immediately I had a red alarm-type light start flashing in my head, saying "Blog! Blog! Blog!" And as soon as I assessed the damage - no blood, no broken bones, one gigantic goose-egg smack on the bottom of his chin - I actually had to stop myself from laughing. Not that anyone could have heard me laughing over the screaming that was going on (Side note: parents, would you agree that bathrooms have to be the worst place for a child to scream? The echoing noise in that room will be the reason I need a hearing aid by forty.)

So, yes, judge me if you will, but I was honestly ready to laugh at the scene I saw. Putting the picture together pre-crash, here's what it looks like:

Zack probably had to go to the bathroom. Once in there, he decides, for some unknown reason, to take off all of his clothes. At 11:00 in the morning. Naked, he then makes the brilliant decision to climb onto the sink, most likely so that he could see himself in the large mirror. Then he does something crazy, maybe the Macarena or jumping jacks knowing this kid, and slips off of the counter, cracking his chin on the edge on his way to the floor. And that's where I found him, lying there, naked and screaming.

I had to get my camera. But don't worry, I made him get dressed before I took any pictures.

Here's his chin, immediately following the incident:
And here's him with his all-natural, homeopathic cure-all for any ill, the Band-Aid. Buy stock in that company, folks. You heard it here first.

And one more, a day later when his chin is a lovely shade of dark purple. Ryan calls him Bluebeard the Pirate.
So now you know what it takes to get me off the phone with my mom, a potentially horrible accident that turns out to be not only minor, but also a photo op, with a side order of embarrassing story to tell at his wedding. Oh yeah, this was a good day.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Random Quirks of Life

Parenting makes you look at life a little differently, or maybe it makes the different things about life more apparent. Here's some things that have been on my mind lately.

Sentences I never thought I'd hear myself say:
"Stop biting the rolls of toilet paper!"
"Don't kill him. He doesn't like to be killed. No killing!" (that's from Ryan, who was refereeing a lightsaber duel)

A Dream I Had:
We were all on our way to Jerusalem for the big Jesus Look-alike Contest. It was in celebration of his 2000th birthday, called J2K. If lightning strikes me for having that dream, it's going to strike my brother who is stationed in Baghdad. He took it one step further, asking why hasn't Fox come up with this idea as a reality show? Can you imagine the psych ward patients who are convinced of their divinity, giving tv interviews about why they shouldn't have gotten kicked off the island? (I'm paraphrasing Dan there, the sin be upon his head.)

According to Zack, the singular of "ear wax" is "ear whack." Use it in a sentence: "I hate ear wax. I had one little ear whack."

The parenting ideas most likely to make me and Ryan millionaires:
1. Edible tape, to wrap around soft tacos to prevent them from falling open and spilling their contents all over the plate and/or floor.
2. Edible crayons. Your kids are going to eat them anyways, they may as well have some added nutrients, right? Plus if they're meant to be eaten, you've made a product that has to be replaced a lot more often than regular crayons. Genius!
3. Band-Aids that are meant for injuries with no blood involved, like bruises, very shallow scrapes, your generic "owie" and the occasional hurt feeling. These would be really colorful, have no little pad for catching blood, and only stay stuck for about 30 minutes, which is about the maximum amount of time before the kids either get tired of the band-aid or injure themselves somewhere else. They would also be edible, so that I don't have to keep fishing used Band-aids out of Darcey's mouth. There's pretty much nothing on earth that I wouldn't rather have an edible version of. (Couches, fake plants, light sabers, carpet fuzz, etc.)
4. Ryan would like to set up shop as a "Child Psychic," which is a psychic who can tell a child's future. It would sound like this: "Move your bowl away from the edge of the table, you're going to spill it." Bam! Splash! "See, I told you!"
5. Nursery chairs with seat belts. There's nothing more pointless than trying to keep nursery-aged kids in their chair during class on Sunday, they bounce out of their seats like their butts are made out of rubber. So a seat belt is almost a neccessity, to keep them strapped in and not moving so much. Granted, there will be a lot of kids that end up on the floor still attached to the chair, but that's a small price to pay.

Brad: Noah, lets get up early and take our showers and get dressed really quick so we can go outside and play baseball tomorrow! I want to practice pitching, and if you want you can be my catcher.
Noah: Sure!!
Brad: Okay, but if you get hurt, it's not my fault, got it? Just so you know ahead of time.

In teaching the kids what to expect when we go on our trip to Europe this summer, Noah had two big French translation questions. 1) How do you say "Your hair is brown?" and 2) How do you say "beef jerky" in French? You know the French, they're famous for their beef jerky.

Noah was writing a talk about Abinadi, who taught (amongst other things) the Ten Commandments. He announced: "I know what the Tenth Commandment is! Don't pray for a million dollars if you don't need it!"

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Get Ready For It - Women's Conf Day Two!

So I believe that my last post (the first day of women's conference) is the most commented one so far, which is amazing because it is one of the longest and, in my opinion, least entertaining posts so far. I mean, there were no embarrassing faux-pas, no blood (or swingsets) involved, no kids saying/doing anything funny/mean/stupid, etc. None of the cheap tricks I normally use to ensure readership. Here's my theory: I threw down the proverbial gauntlet and issued a challenge, and you were compelled to read my conference report out of some innate need to prove your manliness. And then you commented, just so that everyone knows that you are manly men (and manly women, of course.) So congratulations on the new manly hair on your chest and great big muscles, your new-found ability to read maps and sadly, not being able to find things you lost in the house. And you can rest easy in the knowledge that with your new manliness you can beat up the other readers of my blog that chose the girly way out, and couldn't finish the whole thing. Way to go!

Here is the second installment of women's conference. I wrote these notes a little clearer, so I could transfer them whole to this blog, which means this is going to be incredibly long. Good luck, and may the force be with you.

Day two started out with a headache - maybe my brain wasn't used to all of this spirituality and it couldn't handle it all. Well, I was not to be deterred. I got to the conference really close to on time (which is still late, but not late enough to beat myself up over) and made it to a seat on the wrong side of the Marriott Center, so that I was staring at everyone's backs. But I was so high up anyhow that it's not like even if I was facing their fronts that I could see facial expressions or anything. They could stick their tongues out and do a big 'neener-neener' and I'd only know from watching on the Jumbotron.

I can't remember if someone spoke before Julie B. Beck, the R.S. General President, but I started writing down my own thoughts before I had any notes from her talk. Here's what I started with, then on to Sis. Beck's talk.

Sometimes I think that we do as much as we can in order to prove how much the church means to us. Instead of making our devotion being shown by our actions, we need to focus on our inward focus of our spiritual commitment and relationship with God. Our service in the church is more about how serving others can change our hearts, not about getting a job done.

It’s not about staying home with my kids so that I can call myself a stay at home mom but so that my time at home can benefit my kids and that I can benefit myself through service. Service! That is an amazing concept - it is service and serving my family that will cause my growth, not just the fact that my body was home during the day.

Julie B. Beck
If our kids go to school, we have the responsibility to strengthen our school so it is a fortification for our children.

Alma 48:7 - 10 Alma prepares his people for attack from the Lamanites, and it gives a good model for how we should prepare our homes and families for attacks from Satan.
1. preparing the minds of the people
2. strengthening the armies of the nephites
3. erecting small forts
4. putting greatest concentration of men where they were the weakest.

Story of Mary and Martha - we can do all the busy stuff, or we can focus on the thing that will never be taken away from us. The work of the gospel is half ours; our job is to influence, which is better than managing. We have to create places of resort, small forts because our enemy is deceitful and determined. Prioritize, do what we can, we have a job to do.

I didn't take a lot of notes during her talk, but she quoted a lot of scriptures. My favorite part was the small forts - make my home a small fort that is safe for my family to dwell in, strengthen them, prepare ourselves for the attack, and focus on our weakest areas, whatever they are. I loved this concept.

"Feed thou our Soul" Melanie Ashton - Class on prayer

Pres. Kimball said remember is the most important word, because when you remember how much the lord has done for you you know how much he loves you.

Doesn't the lord wish we had the overwhelming desire to get back to our heavenly home? We can find ourselves in a lockdown condition when we fail to take advantage of inspiration and revelation from the lord.

When you choose the gospel of Jesus Christ you get rid of a lot of worldly choices. You only have to choose once to live the principles. You should choose to pray, it would help you narrow down your choices of good, better or best.

You can't make a withdrawal without having made a deposit. When you want an answer to your prayer, how much oil have you put in your lamp?

Thank for blessings, seek inspiration, help with a goal for that day, then at night check back. He would be pleased that you included him in your day.

Pray when you are alert, awake, unhurried.

The more you pour yourself out in personal prayer the more you will know there is someone on the other end. He knows you but you must be willing to come to him in humility.

Isaiah 48:15-16
Lamen3: 25 - wait for him

1John 4:18 - fear is torment

What about when you don't get an answer? If you are living righteously and acting with trust, act on your problem. The lord will give you the stupor of thought or a feeling of peace. He won't let us go too long without letting us know.

Preach My Gospel - ch 4 - how to recognize the spirit

Jacob 3:1-2

Prayer should be the first response and it will be when we remember.

After we pray then seek the lord's will. Prayer is the act when we communicate our will and the lord's will. Prayer is a form of work; some work is required to receive blessings allotted to us. (Bible dictionary)

Ezra 7:10
We have to prepare our hearts, and then when we receive direction, we must act on it.

Choose to pray then commit to obey.

Don't pray for tasks equal to our power, pray for power equal to your tasks.

2nd speaker - Shelley Davies

In her home, every day she asked her children to tell her their “happies and sads” – some happy things and sad things that happened to them today.

Who cares about your happies and sads? When was the last time you were in a genuine encounter with your heavenly father? Do we get so involved in the daily tracings of our life that we forget who is there, ready to save us, ready to take us? Have your prayers ever been repetitive?

3 n 24:7

Weariness, laziness, self-solutions, guilt stops us from praying.

Exercise takes work
Be thou humble and the lord thy god will lead thee by the hand
Dc 112:18

If he is going to lead me by the hand, I have to reach up.

There is an innate desire in us to connect. Even better than connecting with other people is our desire to connect with heaven.

Proper stretching to heaven strengthens our knee muscles and lengthens our reach

1. Go to gratitude well
2. Remember relationship
3. Offer and offering for others
4. Wait on his will

Spells “GROW”

1. Go to gratitude well. My soul doth magnify the Lord. Pray a prayer just of gratitude. Anger bitterness, jealousy, the ‘why mes?’, the ‘I wants’ spill out as the heart enters the waters of gratitude, awe, thanksgiving, love take the place. Sadness is replaced with new purpose. The lord will anoint your eyes to see his hand in everything.

2. Psalm of Nephi.
Intertwining of lives and relationships began in the pre existence.
He knows us, he knows our names, our struggles, the desired of our hearts, and we are intertwined eternally. He knows our voice.

Nothing will startle us more than we pass through the veil and realize how much we know him, how we know his voice.

Pause to remember, picture a loving father, and then talk to him. Be specific and honest will give us specific and honest counsel.

In our self-putdown sessions we obscure who we really are. (WOW!!)

3. Make an offering for others. Enos is an example of praying for others.

A cleansing request to forgive. A need for understanding. A prayer for his power on their behalf. A prayer that lands us on their doorstep.

4. Wait on his will.
Aligning our will with the father, praying to know what to pray for. The miracle is in the fact that god gave us an answer.

Isaiah 30:41
Run and not be weary etc

"I'll Follow Him In Faith” Carmel and Lloyd Newell

Establishing spiritual patterns in the home through family home evening - Carmel Newell

If for no other reason, we hold fhe because the prophet tells us to.

1. Prepare
Do you spend as much time planning for your family’s success as you do with your social or work life?

Here are some easy resources:
-Lessons for church callings
-Church magazines
-Gospel doctrine reading assignment
-Faith in god, duty to god, for strength of youth
-Preach my gospel manual
-Elderly family or ward members, have fhe with them
-Church website
-Scripture reading

2. Be Creative
Give it a little thought and prayer, most of this stuff you're already doing.

We know our family better than anyone; we know what they need, their weakness and strength.

Create a pleasing environment, clean, nice smells, pretty.

3. Teach Doctrines
Instead of preparing a talk, prepare to speak. Prepare our hearts to teach instead of preparing what to say and then force feeding it to our kids. We need to have a soft heart and a correct attitude in order to teach at fhe.

2 Nephi - we teach of Christ, we talk of Christ, we prophesy of Christ. It is the best example of what to teach at fhe.

With so little time and so few opportunities what words of doctrine from me will fortify them against the attacks of their faith which are sure to come? (Eyring talk)

4. Who should teach?
Not lectures, designed to promote discussion and participation by everyone.

Teaching no greater call
Testify in family night

5. Play together
Opportunity for application of principles taught.

The best activities don't have to cost money or take a lot of time, but they will make the best memories.

Lloyd K. Newell

Building Spiritual Patterns in the Home

The effort is more important than the outcome.

The greatest job in the world is to build a home - the spiritual environment.

Spiritual patterns:
Scripture study
Family prayer
Family councils
Temple blessings
Sacred music
Paying tithing

Spiritual Patterns:
They fortify during trial
Strengthen against temptation
Evolve over time
Passes from one generation to the next
Help define who we are
Give us a glimpse into joys of eternal family life

Can unite family members
Give sense of stability, security, identity and cohesion; calm us during struggles and challenging times.

Need not be burdensome. Try watching kids act out scripture stories

Barriers to creating spiritual patterns:
Lack of immediate compensation or reward
Wonder if children are benefiting from efforts
Unrealistic expectations
Forgetting or too busy
Paralyzed by unreal picture of perfection in other families
Previous failed attempts

If all of our problems were hung on a line, you’d take yours and I'd take mine. (I don’t remember the point he was making with this, but what a great quote!)

Children respond when they see parents trying, doing their best.

Overcoming barriers:
Persistence is key
Gain a testimony of spiritual pattern
Work ahead of distraction
Make a specific plan
Involve all family members in the process

Making time for private religiosity along with church activities – private religiosity is more effective for teens

Lds youth view spiritual patterns in the family as a security and strength

No matter the outcome of our sincere efforts, the lord blesses us for trying

What we are becoming because of our efforts and desires is how we will be judged. He will make up the difference.

The lord's way of love and acceptance is better than Satan’s way of force and coercion, especially in raising teenagers.

Establishing spiritual patterns can help make our homes peaceful, joyful, and sanctuaries from the world.

Our families will be armed with spiritual power and protection.

We can't use outcome-based evaluation. We can't be judged on our children’s actions, just on our own efforts. has all spoken word messages.

Third Class - A Partnership of Equals

One of the mistakes we make is going right at the thing we think is going to make us happy - we are never going to have a perfect marriage if we aim at the perfect marriage. We have to have service, righteousness, and doing the right thing at that moment. Turning our will over to God, the only thing that is yours to give and you can actually give to him.

What are the primary enemies of equal partnership?

Self doubt

The opposite is temporary, that covenants are not eternal.

We are never harsh with each other in our home.

Each harsh word or misunderstanding dragging each person down. Causes you to say why try?
I can’t do it (exercise, study scriptures, temple attendance) so why try?

If we buy one more thing, we'll be happy. Trying to satisfy each urge as if it would make them happy. Addiction to material goods. Addiction causes equality to end because both must avoid self-indulgence. Addiction to failure has so much self-doubt that it turns into an indulgence.

This show isn't that bad, this book’s language is bad but I like this, I deserve these shoes, why not?

So focused on personal problems that they were able to more forward in their relationship. So involved in their own problem don't look at anyone else's problems. I hate that boss, my husband won't help with the kids, I never got what I deserved, my husband is gone all day Sunday, why me?

Instead of self-doubt, why try, say “I can do it”
Self-indulgence, why not, “I can take control”
Self absorption, why me, “I can forget myself”

We must turn to the Lord, place our faith in the savior, and can have the atonement heal our spirits.

Both must give everything to the lord, so they can give everything to each other. How?

1. Say what He wants said
2. Do What He wants done
3. Sing redeeming love

Say what He wants said. The words he puts into our hearts, our relationship will flourish. Speak with tongues of angels, conversation that will lift and edify our hearts.

Unfortunately, you're on your own to come up with examples of "Do what he wants done" and "Sing redeeming love" because this was the point at which I was about to faint with hunger so I left to track down some food. Everyone kept coming into the Marriott Center with salads from Costa Vida (a Chipotle-type of Mexican restaurant) and it looked so good. I left my stuff at my seat, figuring I'd only be gone five minutes or so, and got in line at the stand. This official BYU lady then turns around and says, pointing at the person in front of me in line, "She's the last one!" They were closing, and had been attempting to close for 30 minutes, and the lady had kept letting 'one more person' through the line, but I was the last straw, I guess.

I'm usually pretty good when I miss a meal, especially when I'm good and distracted like today, but I was so disappointed to find all of the Marriott Center food places closed, that I almost started crying. Sign of low blood sugar, anyone? Yikes. I also had a really hard time deciding what to do next - walk somewhere else to get food? But what about my stuff which I left by my seat? How far am I going to have to walk? Should I just walk to my car and go home? But what about my stuff? I even went so far as to start walking one direction, get about 100 yards, stop, turn around and walk back to the Marriott Center, turn around, etc. I finally decided to walk to the Wilkinson Student Center where they have a great big food court. It is approximately the distance between Winter Quarters and the Salt Lake Valley, or at least it felt that way when it's the end of two really long days and I haven't eaten since the snickers bar at 11:00. I ended up grabbing some taco bell, hiking back to my seat, and collapsing there about ready to die from hunger and exhaustion. I know, you'd think I'd just run a marathon, but given my current level of inactivity, I almost had.

The nice, and not unexpected, thing was that my stuff was all still there. I didn't expect it to be stolen, but I could have seen someone moving it so they could sit there. The previously empty seats next to me now had three ladies sitting in them, who were just as friendly as could be. They must have thought I was an absolute pig for the way I scarfed down my food, but it didn't occur to me to attempt to restrain myself until afterwards.

If you want an extra strong dose of the spirit, be in a room when 20,000 go dead silent and rise because the prophet of the lord just entered. I was sitting near the top of the stadium and didn't see him enter, but knew the second he came in. Someone must have been watching for him. What if no one had seen him enter? What if he had walked in silently and no one noticed? Someone had to be the one to see him walk in first and stand up so everyone else would also stand. When the time comes that Christ comes again, will I be one who sees him come in, or will I not notice until everyone around me stands and blocks my view? Worse yet, what if I'm the one who keeps sitting and talking, not knowing the power and majesty of the one who is in our presence? I need to prepare my family to be watching for Christ’s coming, so we can be the ones who let others know he has come.

Pres. Monson

I wonder how many peanut butter sandwiches have been prepared for the men to eat while you have been gone?

Washington Irving poem 'that one is woman' who takes more joy from other's joy than their own, hides other's infirmities better than their own.

Common threads that weave through all our lives:

1. Each one is living a life filled with much to do. Don't let the important things in life pass you by. Find joy in the journey now, instead of looking forward to the day when you can do it all. There is no tomorrow if you don't do something today. Don't procrastinate what matters the most. Don't save something for a special occasion, every day of your life is a special occasion. Use crystal glasses and wear new clothes to the grocery store if you want to. Every day say to yourself that today is a special day.

Try to keep the list of things you regret missing short. Childhood won't last long. The bitterest tears shed over graves is for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. Harriet Beecher Stowe.

2. Adversity
Why would the Lord allow you to go through the trials you have? It’s not difficult to be happy on those perfect days, but life wasn't meant to be easy or always perfect. We learn through heart breaking challenges and difficult choices.

To finish life's race means enduring challenges to the end of life itself. Like stones in a tumbler, we can become more beautiful from the things we suffer, endure, and overcome.

With enduring comes a willingness to press forward.

No pain that we suffer is wasted. It helps us learn patience, fortitude, and humility. (Orson f. Whitney)

The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees, the further the sky the taller the tree. Poem.

3. Service, love, kindness to others.

We feel inadequate and ineffective because we can't do all we think we need to do. Instead reflect on the things we do.

I was happy walking in the sunshine after the conference. It felt so nice to have the weight of life lifted from my shoulders. Over and over again these two days I was told, let it go, don't try to be perfect, don't feel guilty, set priorities and arrange your life so you are putting your energy and time into things that will bring you closer to those priorities.

I sat with a group of ladies during pres. Monson's talk that had traveled from California and Colorado to be here. Their take on the conference was that it focused a lot on how we can be an influence for good, how we have to be an influence because the world will be too and you know what the world is going to influence our family with. I definitely got a lot of that as well, but I think we also take from it what we need, and I think for me that was priorities. How am I spending my time?

It was poignant to realize that the badge of honor doesn't come with being a stay at home mom - to comes to any mom who, working or not, devotes their life to being an influence, teaching and training their kids, sacrificing the non-essential for the essential, no matter how fun the essential is. I kind of thought that I got special kudos for giving up a career. But that was just one decision and it doesn’t mean that then whatever I do with my time will automatically be right.

I also realized that there is not one thing about my life that if I just got rid of it, I'd be set. Ryan is not a big TV watcher, so he would always get on me for how much TV I watched. The thing is, though, TV isn't the problem. Neither is reading blogs on the Internet, playing solitaire, listening to my ipod, working on scrapbooks, or doing crossword puzzles. These are all symptoms of my problem, not the problem itself.

I think the real problem is that I am always looking for something to fill my time. If there is a lull, I'm turning on the TV. If I have free time, I'm working on a hobby. If the kids are playing quietly without me, I'm doing something without them. I multitask. If I could get an ipod surgically implanted, just for convenience, I might consider it. None of these things take a lot of energy, and they can be fit into a day surrounded by all the things that have to get done. But they don't just fill in time; they fill every nook and cranny of my day like melted butter on an English muffin.

There's not a minute that goes by that I’m not doing something - even if it's as minor as lying on the couch and listening to an audio book or doing a crossword while I'm waiting for the next women's conference class to start. I don't like time that's not filled, so I fill it with fluff and time wasters and feel like it's not a bad thing because I'm not doing something bad with my time, but I'm also not doing something good with my time either. Reading one more article on the Internet is not going to turn me into a wise and informed citizen. Watching one more episode of House is not going to get me closer to a medical degree. I fill time with things that are not going to get me any progress on my priorities.

Here's where some serious reflection will do me some good. What do I do with this knowledge? I know for an absolute fact that I could banish the Internet, TV, and ipod and I will just find something else to fill the time. Bad habits aren't dropped in a vacuum - they are only replaced by other habits. Part of me knows what that should be - I should sit on the floor and play with my kids. I should invite them to cook dinner with me. I should read to them and color with them and get craft projects out for them to do. I should read my scriptures more and pray more and meditate more. But all of those things sound like the 'perfect mom' concept that I also need to let go of. I can't do it all, and the idea of doing all that is overwhelming.

Regardless, I feel good. My spiritual bucket has been refilled, I have some reserves now to draw on when things are frustrating. I have a good perspective on life and family, and my only hope now is to make this last as long as possible. I read a quote today that said, Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be
in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. I am feeling that right now, and I'm hoping I can make that last. Otherwise, they're going to have to hold Women's Conference more often. (Although I doubt you stalwart blog-readers could handle that!)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Women's Conference Day One

I had a supremely fantastic day at Women’s Conference at BYU today, and I want anyone within the sound of my typing to go next year if they possibly can. I felt like I had an IV pumping goodness and peace and satisfaction with my life directly into my body, and let me just say, it felt good!

I brought my Palm and a wireless keyboard Ryan bought be for Christmas, so that I could do some on-the-spot blog writing. Turns out, that’s a little too powerful a tool for me, and I ended up taking 17 pages of notes. Yikes. I wanted to give an overview of the important things I heard in classes today, a taste of what it’s like to be at the conference, and some of my thoughts. But there’s no way I can post 17 pages worth, even I wouldn’t read that much, so I’m going to try to edit it and make this work.

In a nutshell, here’s what I learned:
1. Don’t attempt to eat during the 30 minutes between classes, you’ll never make it in time.
2. God knows that I am good enough. Let go of the guilt and need to ‘do it all’ and decide where my priorities lie.
3. It’s a really long walk to the far side of the stadium parking lot. Really, really long.
4. If I want to hear the voice of the Lord, I need to simplify my life, get rid of the noise and focus on what is good and righteous.
5. If there is a good deal on scripture totes at the BYU Bookstore tent, be prepared to deal with larger crowds than Woodstock. It seems that tote bags are all the rage this year.
6. A guardrail will do better for protecting my children from pornography than having an ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff.
7. Always sit in the center of the row. They’re going to make you scoot to the center anyway to make room for everyone else, so you may as well sit there in the first place.
8. I can come closer to Christ through temple attendance, and I can make my home more like the temple to invite His spirit.
9. If you want to be simultaneously smart and tacky, get up and leave the final session before the closing prayer. You’ll beat everyone to the parking lot by at least 2 whole minutes and as a bonus, you can enjoy life with no conscience!
10. Whatever sacrifice it takes to get to Women’s Conference next year, do it – It’s totally worth it!

I knew I’d be late for the start of today's conference. I had told Ryan that I wanted to attend women's conference this year now that his schedule is wide open. He is using his new schedule to go snowboarding once or twice a week, so I figured there was no reason in the world that I shouldn't go to the conference this year. So I gave him the dates, told him to write it on his calendar, and then reminded him at least once a week, so there was no chance of forgetting.

Earlier this week, though, he said he was thinking about going snowboarding on Tuesday. "Really? You can take three days off of work?" Turns out that even though he knew I was going to be gone on Thursday and Friday, he hadn't really processed what that would mean - that he would be home and most likely not getting a lick of work done.

I had a merry little laugh at his expense, until I realized I had done the same thing. I knew I wouldn't be here on Thursday, but I still forgot to arrange for someone to swap volunteer days at the school. It would have been effortless to do, and yet, I just totally blew it, and ended up having to work at the school this morning. I also would have left without taking Zack and his best friend (and occasional "brother" according to him) Jonathan to preschool at 9:45. Thank goodness Rachel is so much more on top of life than I am - even my own life sometimes!

So I got here at 9:30, the first speaker started at 9. That's okay, I figured, I going to be learning so much anyway my head won't fit into the door when I get home! I picked up my name badge and schedule, then listened to the last 3 minutes of Sheri Dew's talk, which sounded absolutely fantastic and I instantly regretted missing it. Can there be anyone more inspiring than that woman? Every word out of her mouth is dripping with wisdom and experience. She is in her, what, fifties maybe? Forties? Anyhow, never been married, she's the president (or something) of Deseret Book, wrote Pres. Hinckley's autobiography, served as a counselor in the RS general presidency. She couldn't have more going for her. But you've got to think that she wanted to get married - an assumption of mine, but a logical one in this church. And to not be, when theoretically she might have wanted to, what a trial!

Would you trade something that you really want for the wisdom and growth that comes from that denial? As much as I look at her and salivate at the thought of being that inspirational, that fraught with wisdom, that able to fill a room with the Spirit, what kind of trial would it take for me to get there? I don't know that I have that kind of stamina, and I kind of don't want to find out. I think that makes me a spiritual chicken, but I think the most I can ask of myself is to have faith to handle whatever trial I do end up with, and not have aspirations to anything bigger. I wonder if it is possible to gain that kind of wisdom through just small trials, minor everyday trials - if you are, I don't know, spiritual enough or in tune enough or knowledgeable enough, can you turn a relatively painless job layoff into a wisdom-supersizer?

Through the kindness of a couple of women from Arizona, I was able to find the Wilkinson Student Center for a class called "Cherish That Role That is So Uniquely Yours: Parenting for Young Mothers." I must have subconsciously gravitated towards them to ask because they were about my age, one was pregnant, and maybe I could sense that same air of freedom from children that I think I'm exuding. "I'm Free!!!" There's no one here who needs me to pour them a cup of milk! If anyone here has an "accident" I'm not responsible for either cleaning it up or trying to prevent the next one. I'm sitting next to two women who also left their kids home with their husbands. We all agreed that while we are here learning, the guys are home learning too. But we're having more fun.

Sue Egan:
When her kid dumped potting soil on the carpet, she would vacuum, then add "vacuum carpet" to the list so she could cross it off. To do lists of daily tasks and lists of goals etc are great, but she had the inspiration to trade it for this to-do: "Invite the spirit into your home." Things that could bring the spirit became another thing on the list to be crossed off, that’s not the right way to look at it. What things should I do to invite his spirit throughout my day so that I can find more peace and joy as a mother?

She felt too frenzied to achieve something concrete and visible so that others can see her accomplishments. She cleared her plate of things that looked good to others but robbed her and her children of peace.

How to invite the Spirit so you can have peace and joy:
- Ask to be taught to recognize spirit thought out the day.

- Make time for quiet reflection, meditation, etc.

- Pray with real intent to ask the spirit to teach, on worst days didn't ask for anything just poured out soul and thanked for blessings

- Choose peace, choose joy, choose patience. Choose to laugh at things. A wholesome sense of humor is a safety valve.

- Each time you fold a piece of laundry think of how that child blesses your life.

She tells a story of a little girl playing soccer, complaining about her eyeballs being cold, twirling on the field, skipping holding hands, kicking the ball out of bounds but raising her arms above her head in victory. (I picture Rachel's daughter Audrey doing just that, it was a great picture in my head.)

Those days when we kick the ball into left field the Lord is saying "Good Try". When we don't accept those words of encouragement we are turning down the peace that is available. We can't wallow in our imperfections. "Good try, keep trying!"


So my big mistake today was attempting to get something to eat. I left the first class and scurried over to an outdoor tent that was selling soda for $2.50 (shouldn't religious people not be scalping soda like that?) and I got a bbq chicken sandwich. There were about 50 people in line in front of me and while the food was pumped out really fast, there were only two registers. When I got up there to pay, thinking how smart I was for having cash and not a credit card to slow everything down, the cashier ran out of tens, fives, and ones, so I stood there for three minutes waiting for change as they stopped moving anyone through the line. I had people looking and staring at me, wondering what I was doing eating my sandwich and holding up the line. By the time I got my $13.25 in change I scurried across the open area to the Harris Fine Arts Building.

I got directed to a line, which wound up a staircase and then wrapped around the building. I knew this wouldn't end well, since the room we were assigned to only held 400 people, and here were about 1,000 in line. Or so. I'm not so good at estimating, I lean toward exaggerating.

After standing in line without it moving until the time he class started, someone at the front of the line directed the front of the line to head back down he stairs, so did a giant non-fun conga line back downstairs, where we eventually ended up in an overflow room. I got the fourth to the last seat, and there were still lots of people behind me. I was glad that I didn't have to get all bent out of shape for missing a class - they definitely pulled through and found a place for us to go and I was glad they didn't just turn us away.

"Draw Near Unto Me and I Will Draw Near Unto You"

Brenda Nelson Miles

How crazy we get when we get rushed and stress. We fill our lives with so much noise - when do we find time to be still? It must affect our ability to receive inspiration. Some books she recommends: Simplify by Carolyn Rasmus and Gerald n Lund, hearing the voice of the lord.

We need to stop ourselves and not the world, plan ahead so we have enough time to get things done, so we’re not stressed.

Find times to block out all external noise. Stay focused on reason we're doing things and not make them too complicated and time consuming.

Worldly desires and pride - Satan’s greatest tool to cause man to spend so much time on himself that they only care what they can get out of life and not what god would have you do. Solution is humility meekness service and sacrifice.

Helaman 3:34-36 - yield our hearts to the lord, soften them, if we harden our hearts Satan can get a better hold on them. Serving others gives us a softer heart. Mormon 8:39 - its hard to think about worldly things when you are serving others. Ask if the thing is worldly or celestial?

Forgetting: Satan tries to get us a little at a time. He can get us so involved that we can't find time to do what we need to do to feel quiet. Are the things that keep you busy taking you where you want to go?

Prioritize, develop good habits. So many good things that we need to prioritize - essential things before non-essential thing. To do lists should represent priorities not just things that need doing. Prioritizing is harder for young mothers - maybe 5-10 minutes at a time, during naps, turn off TV, put down novels, and limit computer time in favor of scriptures, prayer, meditation, etc.

The second speaker, whose name escapes me, quoted Brigham Young: Women of the church can do it all, they just need to do it in sequence.

She also read the poem "The Race" by DH Groberg (here's a link to it: )

The line in the poem "All you have to do to win is rise each time you fall" just makes me want to cry, it is so inspiring. So I did, lots of crying today. That should surprise no one.


My third class was "Pornography, Satan's Snare." As the mother of three boys, one of whom is rapidly approaching puberty as you can tell by his moody tween behavior, I have been concerned about protecting my kids from pornography. Especially since our family spends so much time on he internet, I want to make sure that as parents, we are doing what we can to keep the world from having an undue influence over my kids. I also think pornography is a particularly dangerous thing in our church - Utah has the highest number of internet searches for pornography related websites, and while it would never occur to most of us to even purchase, let alone consume alcohol or drugs or cigarettes or anything you could get addicted to, pornography is sneaky, coming into your home where you feel safe and your guard is down.

It sure is an awkward topic, though. I heard one woman sitting behind me say that she was surprised by how many people were even attending this class, given how little we like to talk about the "S" word. I have a great relationship with my parents and I can talk to them about anything, so I mentioned this topic to my dad once. I quickly found out that as relaxed and open and progressive I might be in wanting to shed light on a private vice like pornography, that changed a little when he forwarded me a (well-meaning) newsletter from Dr. Laura Brotherson. She had included a blurb about how to teach your children about sex, which is what he intended for me to read, but the title of the email was "Sexual Self-Confidence." Yikes. I totally don't want to be getting a lesson on sexual self-confidence from my father. I told my brother Drew about this and he said, "We're WASPs, what do you expect of us?" I think I'll keep stick with my repression, thank you very much.

Jill Manning:
Snares vs. weapons
Snares - designed to get you entangled or entrapped, involved in difficulties, they are deceptively attractive, a passive way to lure someone in, will inflict enough pain to hold someone captive but not enough to kill immediately
Weapons - designed to kill immediately

It is to Satan’s advantage to use snares, keep people trapped for a long time while trapping more and more.

World wide web has literal and figurative meaning. 30% of online porn consumed by women, young adult females more accepting of porn than their fathers were one generation ago.

Four Ways to defend against pornography:

1. Become informed about the issue, know the enemy - close eyes literally while opening minds to the problem of pornography, online bullying, and predators. On women’s conf website there will be a list of handout of resources - books, cds, etc.

2. Arm and empower youth with truths about body, healthy sexuality, intimacy and relationships. Too many of us are leaving us and our homes wide open. Healthy sexuality is addressed too late, only once or not at all. For most people with problems, sexuality was not discussed or provoked great discomfort as a taboo in their homes growing up. Teach sexuality from infancy. Teach it throughout child’s development. Teach respect for one’s body, self-care, honesty integrity, how to be a good friend, setting boundaries boundaries, differences between men and women, self-confidence. Talking about this will not trigger problems. A buffer effect happens when topics are discussed openly and it's not a mystery. They have a reference to debunk or decode the lies, and have a vocabulary to talk about things that they see when (not if) they are exposed to something.

Satan’s agenda distorts our bodies by using slang terms. Always use real words.

Find resources that teach based on age. Most children are exposed between ages 7-13. Whose voice will get to them first? While we sit there feeling uncomfortable talking to kids about sex, Satan and the industry has no problems getting there first.

3. Clear media standards. Children need to understand what is or is not appropriate to consume.

Media plan
1. Open dialogue. How do we define what is or isn’t appropriate.
2. Model these choices - give message and then avoid inappropriate content - if it's not good enough for a child to watch we shouldn’t either
3. Help children identify feelings that come with good and bad content.
4. Identify plan of action if someone comes across something inappropriate. Turn it off, change channel, tell someone, plan how to avoid in the future,
5. Keep TV and computers out of bedroom and watch things together. Open policies - of Internet and email use – one family account or know the kids’ passwords, and make sure they know you know and are reading. They can have plenty of privacy in other areas of their lives. Watch cell phones too. Don't keep children alone on virtual world.

4. Use technology to your advantage. Filters, parental controls, etc. Pause parent play website - arm parents with instructions how to use controls on TV or consoles etc. Clearplay DVD players. Netnanny filter - #1 filter - or check Internet filter

Second speaker: Dr. Jeffery Robinson - spoke on how to help someone who already has a pornography problem (the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff I mentioned earlier.) One thing he said that I could apply to my life was that people with problems don't overcome them by hating themselves. You never hear someone say, "I just hate myself so much that I'm going to change!" It's usually the hatred and the anger and the guilt that feeds whatever your problems are. I won't ever lose weight if I hate myself every time I eat ice cream. The self-hatred is just going to make me feel bad which is going to make me eat more ice cream. Being mad at myself for not being the perfect mom is not going to motivate me to make the changes to magically become the perfect mom.

Final session was with Bro. and Sis. Bateman, who are currently serving as Provo Temple President and Matron. Here's the highlight of the talk for me personally - how we behave in the temple (Christ's home) is an example of how we should behave in our home if we want to feel the Spirit there like we do in the temple.

Temple pattern can help home
1. People speak in quiet voices in the temple. Our home should have soft voices that invite spirit
2. Everyone is trained in responsibilities. It is a house of learning. Parents should take time to teach importance of task then show how it's done, they complete task together, then they learn to do it themselves.
3. Every shift begins with prayer. Every day should begin and end with prayer.
4. Everyone is treated with kindness. Workers feel love for patrons.
5. Quality of order - everything is in proper place, rooms are ready for new day, there is beauty in order and cleanliness. An orderly home commands respect and the children will contribute. Produces a home that is conducive of feeling the spirit.

I don't know if I've ever had a compelling reason to keep my house clean before, but this one feels valid to me!

I'll have 5 more classes worth tomorrow, I can't even believe my luck at being able to spend time in such a fulfilling way. If anyone wants the unexpurgated version (i.e. long, rambling, full of typo's and ten times more information) let me know and I'll email it to you. Although I'd be surprised if anyone other than maybe my dad reads this far. And he's still steamed I brought up the email he forwarded.