Dear Wise Readers,

Just pretend that you’re Dear Abby (except with the kind of morals that you don’t tell people that they should be proud of the life they’ve chosen for themselves even though it’s riddled with sin and selfishness), and hit me with your best advice.  These are real questions, some dumber than others, that would greatly benefit from your insights.  Pick and choose, or if you’re infinitely smarter than I am, go ahead and answer them all.  (I made up little pseudonyms to sign off each question because maybe that will make you forget that there’s ONE person out there with all these issues.)

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  1. Will my laundry situation improve or get worse if I buy more towels and sheets?  We seem to always be running out.  —MAYBE MORE IS BETTER
  2. I’ve been asked to give a talk in church on a big ol’ topic that could take hours to discuss, but I’ve been given 13 minutes.  How do you narrow it down without feeling like you’ve left out some really important stuff?  —CAN’T SHUT UP
  3. When I walk from room to room in my house and see huge projects that need to be done in each one, I get a little panicky and shut down.  I know you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, but how can I get my brain to just think about the one bite instead of the whole blasted elephant?  —I THINK I’M GOING BACK TO BED NOW
  4. Another laundry question.  I have serious doubts about whether or not the clothes that come through the laundry are dirty or not.  I wonder if many of them have even been worn or if maybe they just fell off a hanger.  Is there any way to minimize this problem without being a 24-hour monitor that has to question and sniff each item of laundry as it is placed in the dirty-clothes pile?  —HAMPER GOALIE
  5. Does anyone have good ideas for cold-weather after-school snacks?  I keep trying to think of a warm snack, but everything I think of is cookies or desserts.  Any ideas for healthy, cozy after-school snacks I can use during the Winter months?— BECAUSE A BAGEL IS GETTING OLD
  6. I have a lot of dried beans in food storage and I really need to learn how to use them this year.  I love soups and stuff, but I never remember to use my beans in time.  They’re supposed to soak overnight, right?  How can I work them into my regular meal schedule?  —OVERWHELMED BY BUCKETS OF BEANS
  7. This one’s a little heavy, but how does one apply the Atonement to all the “little stuff”? It’s easier to identify the application when there are big issues, major sins, or heavy burdens.  I wish I understood better how to hand over all my small struggles (the recurring shortcomings or undeveloped attributes) and tap into the Savior’s ability to “fix” it.  Any thoughts?  —TRYING TO GET IT RIGHT

Tinkerbell in training.

I’ve been conducting a private birth-order study in my own home.  Recently, lovely blog maven Melanie announced that she’s expecting a girl, and she was a little bewildered by the announcement after raising two boys.  My comment to her and our subsequent communication about it has made me reflect on what it meant in our household when pink suddenly appeared in our future and how it has all played itself out.

Grant has always been a high-energy and in-your-face kind of kid.  He loves balls, cars, and most things boy.

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Eighteen months later Clark made his entrance. Clark is a darling combination of bouncy and bi-polar (not medically diagnosed, just a parental observation based on swings between glee and despair).  He loves dirt, messes, destruction and all things that make mothers think about electro-shock treatment.

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Almost two years later, the ultrasound technician said, “It’s a girl,” and I thought, Yeah, right.  I don’t make girls.

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She didn’t have a chance.

And I spent the several next months in denial until I finally broke down and ordered two boxes of girl clothes on eBay.  Then I could blame some other froofy mom out there for the purchase of all those pink items.

She made her cute squishy and lovable arrival that fall, and oh boy was she different.  Both of my boys nursed like they were insatiable vacuum pumps.  She nibbled and snacked and cooed and dozed.  My boys wanted to be held and talked to and fed again.  She would lay on a blanket and blink and rest and smile.

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I’m still amazed by how much of her girl side is just in there. She did not learn princess-love and fascination with ballet from her brothers, and it would be almost as unlikely to have gotten it from me, who purposely tried to limit her exposure to such things.  Pink and purple are her “most favorite colors in the world.”  And she likes to tuck her dolls carefully into their strollers while she makes dinner in her play kitchen.

But she has not been unscathed by two larger-than-life brother personalities.  She’s a tough little cookie and knows how to hold her own when challenged.  She definitely has a voice, and she does not like to be interrupted.  When Matt leaves for work, she demands a hug and a kiss and then calls out after him, “Bye, poopy stinky daddy.”  She’s fearless on playgrounds and wants to try everything her brothers do.  Today I was cuddling her and she was being all cute and dainty and giggly, then out of nowhere she says, “Mom, I’m going to pee on your nose.”  Yep, she’s got brothers.

Here she is today after she tried on her Tinkerbell Halloween dress.

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Right after I took the picture, I called out to the boys, “Hey guys, come look!  I found a fairy in my office!”  They came running to see, and got in her face a little, and Natalie punched Clark in the nose.

And then a few minutes later she sulked in tears because they wanted to watch the Backyardigans Halloween special instead of Dora the Explorer.

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I think she’s picking her nose.  That‘s my little fairy princess, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  (Good luck, Melanie. I hope this glimpse into your future has been educational.)

Twinkle, twinkle little snark.

Today I am reflecting on the forces of the universe, how the stars all align, the seasons come and go, and how there is some unwritten rule that your best intentions are going to get kicked in the pants by cruel changes of circumstance.  Some call it “Murphy’s Law.”  I like to call it bad words in my head.  Let me explain, with a lovely model I have invented called the IF, THEN, BUT Theory:

If  . . . Then . . . But . . .
Your children are temporarily entertaining themselves, You might think it would be a good time to get on the phone and call the friend you’ve been thinking of, Then you will be trampled by a herd of deranged possessed toddlers who demand your immediate attention.

You begin to feel ambitious and, heaven forbid, a little bit social,

You might decide to host a large dinner party at your house and send out all the invitations,

Then you and everyone in your family will get the flu, and then you’ll be two days away from the party wondering how in the world you’ll get everything ready because you haven’t even showered in four days, much less cleaned your house.

You and your husband have been working very hard to get your budget issues under control,

You might actually get to the point where you have eliminated all your debt and barely started your savings,

Then you’ll have a chimneysweep come to your house who says “Dear God!” out loud several times, and then you find out that you should have all burned to the ground by now, and it will cost you over $3000.00 to replace your fireplace.

You feel unusually productive one day, You might change all the bedding in the whole house:  strip it, wash it, replace it, and congratulate your self for your domestic feat of champions, Then all THREE of your children will pee unlimited fountains while they sleep and all the beds will be ruined that very night.

I’m just wondering if the stars line up like this on other people’s side of the universe or if I’m just the unluckiest* person on the planet.  Show me a little IF-THEN-BUT action in the comments, because misery loves company. :)

*And by unlucky, I mean more blessed than half the human race with a warm home, beautiful family, and the love of God, but still just a little grumpy lately.

General Conference Book Club Week 4: President Monson (Priesthood)

This may seem like a strange pick this week, but unfortunately the reading schedule is somewhat dictated by my own needs.  President Monson gave the talk “School Thy Feelings, O My Brother” during the Priesthood session of General Conference.  I absolutely do not question his judgment on this, but I just want to add that anyone who thinks anger management is largely a men’s issue has not spent much time in the mind of a stay-at-home mom.

I struggle with anger.  I do not have temper tantrums.  I do not hit my children, scream violently, or throw objects, but I get mad.  And it is a challenge for me to let those feelings go so that I can move on with my day.  At a point of great humility, I went to Borders and asked the info desk for a book on Anger Management for mothers.  He eyed me suspiciously and probably wanted to push the red Child Protective Services button under his counter, so I tried to explain that it wasn’t about violent anger, just angry feelings.  Basically, I wanted to get past looking at my children with exorcism eyes.  Anyway, enough about me . . .  How does this talk speak to you?

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“If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry.”

“Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything.”

“May we make a conscious decision, each time such a decision must be made, to refrain from anger and to leave unsaid the harsh and hurtful things we may be tempted to say.”

President Monson’s talk was delivered during the Priesthood session.  You can read it here, or watch it here or listen to it here.

If this is your first stop at our book club, click here for more information.  Join the fun.

The fruits of a name: glory or shame?

imgShakerFruitTreeIn the local news, there has been a story this week of a man who has been accused of some horrible stuff.  I went to bed uneasy last night after reading the article, but I didn’t pay close attention to the details.  Today I got a phone call from a well-meaning neighbor letting me know that the accused person lives right by me.  After an initial shock and some back-and-forth detective work, we both determined that it couldn’t possibly be my neighbor, but it is his adult son who lives elsewhere in town.  They have the same name.

I’ve felt a little heavy-hearted today, as I always am when I read or hear stories of abuse or crime, especially when children are involved, but this time there’s a more personal sadness to the story.  I like my neighbors.  They are kind and thoughtful and have done nice things for my family.  They are an older couple and they have shown faith and determination while she has undergone cancer treatments on and off over the last year or more.  I can’t imagine the turmoil they must be experiencing knowing that their son is accused of a shameful act.  And I especially feel bad for the father who is known by the same name.  His son has dragged his name through the mud.  His parents will no doubt now feel deeply embarrassed, perhaps ostracized by many.  And that goes without mentioning the pain and turmoil it will surely wreak within their own family dynamics.  I am sad for them.

And yet I realize how often we are careless with our own names.  We perhaps do or say things that, though not criminal, smack of selfishness or reckless abandon.  We fool ourselves into thinking that our choices are ours alone and don’t affect others.  This news story has reminded me that this is not so; Whatever I do with my family name reflects upon my whole family, for better or for worse.

And any of us who considers ourselves Christian does so with a direct connection to the name of Christ.  I have entered into a covenant to take His name upon me, and therefore, He graciously (and obviously at certain personal risk) allows my life to be connected to and associated with His.  When anyone who knows me to be Christian sees me serve and love and show kindness, I glorify His name and honor Him.  When I choose to be selfish or undisciplined or quick to judge, I tarnish that name.  And though He himself cannot be diminished by my poor choices, I blatantly misrepresent Him and I hinder the expression of glory that could and should be for Him.

I remember as a missionary in Argentina, I wore a small black badge every day, pinned directly above my heart.  There were two names on it:  My family (maiden) name and the name of the Savior.  I can recall the tangible responsibility it symbolized.  My identity was wrapped up in theirs, and I knew that whatever I said or did would represent them in some way.  We all wear one of those, you know— at least figuratively.  I make mistakes all the time, but I do better if I remember who I stand for.  I’m certainly not implying that our imperfections mean complete, overwhelming failure or cause for shame.  The Savior does not expect us to be perfect, but his mercy is perfect and his atonement can make us perfect if we repent and submit to Him.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said:

“One day you will be asked if you took upon yourself the name of Christ and if you were faithful to that covenant. . . . We are all allowed—even encouraged—to achieve the fulness of the stature of Christ (see Eph. 4:13).”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson pointed out how, with each obedient act, there is an increase in our blessings and in our ability to honor His name:

“Our willingness to take upon us the name of Christ and keep His commandments requires a degree of faith, but as we honor our covenants, that faith expands. In the first place, the promised fruits of obedience become evident, which confirms our faith. Secondly, the Spirit communicates God’s pleasure, and we feel secure in His continued blessing and help. Thirdly, come what may, we can face life with hope and equanimity, knowing that we will succeed in the end because we have God’s promise to us individually, by name, and we know He cannot lie.”

I’m amazed how generous He is with His name.  I hope I make Him proud of how I use it.