Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: Worth the Wrestle

You may be wondering where I've been lately. Truth is, I've been struggling. I have never suffered a loss so impacting as that of my mother, and I am currently deep in the trenches of the grief experience.

I didn't realize it until now, but grief actually gets harder before it gets easier. A few months after the loss, you actually experience more pain than you did initially. I know this because not only am I living it first-hand, but I'm also currently in therapy where a professional counselor has helped me attach a name to what I'm going through and elucidate the whole process.

Side note: Psychological therapy is wonderful and everyone can benefit from it. I highly endorse it.


The first phase of grief is shock, and you tend to feel more numb than anything. You lose your appetite, you have emotional outbursts, but you're mostly in denial. It's a protection mechanism.

Once all the dust has settled, you're left in the protest phase, and that's where I am now. It's exactly what it sounds like. You are angry, you yearn for what is lost and you can barely think of anything else. You experience an increase in the shock symptoms mentioned above as well. On top of it, the physical effects of grief begin to take their toll. You feel extremely tired, you are in physical pain and you have a constant headache. You move into disorganization, and you can see above just how fun that phase is.

So, if you're wondering where the heck I've been, the short answer is at the bottom of a deep, dark pit of despair.

Naturally, a trying experience like this can easily result in a questioning of faith. I'm about to get real honest here, so be prepared.

Spiritually, I have felt torn between wanting to be my very best and continue to do all the right things so I can be centered with my Savior, who can continue to carry this burden for me. Also, there is a motivation to one day be worthy of being with my mom again, because there's no doubt she made it to heaven.

But another part of me -- the depressed part -- is too tired to go on. This part doesn't see the point in studying the word of God, attending church, praying or anything "churchy." This part of me is so exhausted, she just wants to cry, sleep, feel angry and do nothing. And often, this is what happens.

When a representative from Deseret Book reached out to me to review Sheri L. Dew's new book, Worth the Wrestle, I was hesitant to accept. Don't get me wrong -- I love Sister Dew and her inspired, prophetic words, and it seems like they always find their way to me whenever I need them. But I could tell by the title that I would feel moved to make some changes once I finished the book.

Problem was, I didn't know if I would be physically able to act on my impressions. See, depression is a tricky thing in that it immobilizes you from doing even the simplest tasks. So, I didn't want to open myself to receiving a spiritual prompting and then find myself unable to follow through with whatever it would require. Something to do with my perfectionism and fear of failure, I guess.

A little over a week ago, leaders of our stake came to our congregation to deliver sermons and lessons specifically targeted to our needs. I had been so frustrated with this new depression, as I drove myself to church that morning, I lamented out-loud. I said, "God ... I am going to church today, even though I don't want to. Please send me some comfort, peace -- anything so I  can know that this is all worth it."

I've found in my life that when I am very sincere in my prayers, I get answers. I know others may not experience this and I don't intend to pass judgment on them for their struggles. I can only speak for myself and for me, this is true. I consider it a spiritual gift, one I honestly do not tap into enough.

Within hours of asking, my prayer was answered. What topic did the stake president choose to address with the adult Sunday School? Was it something to make me feel even more inadequate, like the importance of scripture study, service, church and temple attendance, fulfilling callings -- all the things I had been struggling so mightily to understand their value?

No. His lesson was about depression. And not how it's some shameful, hush-hush thing tied to unworthiness, but how it's actually a common, widespread issue many people suffer with and how we need to be more open, understanding and loving in how we accept and manage it in our families and congregation.

We watched the video below and discussed it. Many people shared their personal experiences. I wanted to, but I couldn't. I could only sit with tears streaming down my face, fully knowing that God is aware of me and loves me.

Later, my mom's cousin Kimberly, the stake Relief Society president -- she leads the women's organization -- presented a lesson to us about the very concept Sister Dew addresses in her book. And actually, she specifically mentioned Worth the Wrestle, which was a big fat sign from God that I needed to just buck up and read the book.

So, I did. Amazingly and miraculously, I did. The book is short and written in a conversational way that makes it quite easy to read. You can just imagine Sister Dew sitting across from you in your living room, holding your hands and talking to you in a direct yet loving way. It feels like conversing to your best friend as you take in her poignant words.

The premise of the book is simple -- no one is going to pass through life without ever questioning what they believe. No one. Life is just hard, and the things we encounter will often confuse and deter us. But, it's what you do when you're in the midst of the refiner's fire that makes the difference. Do you acquiesce to your doubts, or do you wrestle with them? Wrestling requires humble seeking, studying and praying in earnest. It's difficult and uncomfortable.

Throughout the book, Sister Dew shares many heavy questions she's had regarding Church doctrine and history, and how she humbly searched, studied and prayed on repeat to get a personal witness from God on these matters. It's humbling and also encouraging to read how such a spiritual giant as Sheri Dew can have struggles akin to my own. It gives me hope that I can also find reassurance.

Chances are, you are also going through something that's causing your spiritual foundation to shake. Maybe it's a death, or divorce, or a health challenge, or a loved one who is causing you pain. If you're not struggling with something, you will be. It's just the nature of life. And when those storms come, you can be prepared. Worth the Wrestle asserts that not only can you come to grips with your faith amidst a crisis, but that it's worth it to hold onto it. It just requires you to do some serious legwork.

I now feel empowered to slowly but surely take those steps back toward God, back to those things that once brought me comfort and strength in difficult times before. I know I can do it, and I know my questions have merit. God is ready to answer them if I am willing to do the work.

I believe it's worth the wrestle.

This post is sponsored by Deseret Book. Expressed opinions are, as usual, 100 percent mine.

Friday, February 17, 2017

When breast ISN'T best: our baby formula story

“This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal, with a prize of a gift certificate."


Before I had my first baby, Audrey, I was certain I would do everything right. I would have a non-induced vaginal birth, I would never put my baby to sleep on her stomach, I would use all-natural soaps and detergents and I would for SURE breastfeed until she was at least year old.

Well, right off the bat I ended up with an emergency C-section. I should have known right then to scrap all my carefully-laid plans, but I clung to the rest of them. I truly wanted what was best for my baby, and I was determined to make it happen!

Within the first few weeks of Audrey's life, it became very apparent that my daughter wasn't tolerating my breast milk at all. Each time I would feed her, it would only be about 15 - 20 minutes before she would start screaming her head off in pain. She also threw up a LOT. I mean, Exorcist-style projectile vomiting every day. I couldn't keep up with it all.

In addition to the cracked, bleeding nipples and latching trouble that accompany newborn nursing, I was also recovering from a C-section and couldn't easily hold Audrey in the traditional cradle hold. That little problem further complicated things for us. She seemed to only want to eat from a bottle, so I started pumping a lot and this reduced my milk supply. Plus, she was still crying and throwing up frequently.

All these issues led to crying spells, exhaustion and immense guilt on my part. So, it wasn't long before we decided to switch Audrey to a non-lactose formula. As soon as Dillon and I made this choice for our daughter, things started looking up. My baby was suddenly happy and stopped upchucking every drop of milk she ate. She slept better and cried a lot less. And we all began to bond so well! It was clearly the right decision for us. And although I did breastfeed my next two children (and I LOVE breastfeeding), I am so glad baby formula allowed Audrey to thrive.

bottle feeding, formula feeding, baby formula

Since that experience, I have made a point never to make a mother feel guilty for choosing to formula-feed. It turns out, sometimes breast isn't best.

Of course, in theory it is. According to this WebMD article, breast milk contains "a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat -- everything your baby needs to grow." La Leche League International's Web site also asserts that breast milk is full of antibodies which allows it to support a baby's developing immune system. The human body is a living miracle!

But for some families, breastfeeding is either too difficult on the mother and/or the baby, or it's not possible due to food allergies, adoption, low milk production and a host of other factors. Thankfully, scientists have developed a solution to these problems -- baby formula! It really is a healthy alternative to breastfeeding and nothing to be ashamed about. (Also, science is cool, am I right?)

Today, there exists a wide array of baby formulas for a variety of needs. I remember staring at the massive wall of baby formula at the grocery store and having no clue where to start. It's always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician on matters like this, but Diapers.com is also a very thorough resource for helping you select the best baby formula for your child.

Speaking of Diapers.com, they're giving away a $50 gift card to their Web site, which you can use to purchase diapers (duh) as well as just about any other baby-related doo-dads! Serious when I say they have everything. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me your favorite part of parenthood or taking care of babies. It's that simple! You can also earn an additional entry by sharing this post on Twitter. Please use the Rafflecopter widget below! The giveaway starts TODAY and ends in one week, on February 24 at midnight!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Love and loss.

I've started this blog post several times, not sure exactly how I want to proceed to tell the end of my mom's cancer story. I've decided that chronologically is probably the best way.

Thanksgiving 2016, my life changed forever. That day, I arrived at my parents' house early in the morning to help with Thanksgiving dinner. I knew my mom was pretty sick, which is why I was preparing dinner at their home and not my own as I did the year before. But I didn't fully grasp just how sick she was until that day.

I walked in to find a hospice bed in my parents' bedroom, a Do Not Resuscitate order on the fridge, and my mom, who looked nearer to death than she ever had before. Gauntly-thin with sallow skin, immobile, in pain.

I always knew that day would come, but I hadn't planned on it being so soon. My brother was newly-engaged, my sister had a new baby, Christmas was around the corner ... there were too many life events for my mom to miss if she were to die in the near future. Maybe this is just palliative care, I assured myself. She is going to get well enough to make it to the wedding in January. That's what she was saying, too. That's what we were all saying.

My dad, sisters and I pulled off Thanksgiving dinner that day for about two dozen people without a hitch - except for the 10 pounds of mashed potatoes that were accidentally prepared. My mom was able to come out and join the family for some of the time, but she mostly laid in her bed.

I went home that evening feeling all sorts of emotions -- fear, anxiety, sorrow, anger, guilt -- and the cycle of these emotions continued for weeks afterward. Physically, my stomach was wracked with near-constant pain and I wasn't sleeping. I was rock-bottom depressed.

The Christmas season came and went with Mom deteriorating rapidly. By mid-December, she was hardly eating and could not get out of bed without the assistance of a walker or wheelchair. We took our last family picture on December 17th and my sister and I had to dress her, style her hair and apply her make-up for her. She was very sick that day. We took the picture in my parents' front yard and my mom was only out of bed for about 20 minutes, yet the whole event took an enormous toll on her.

About a week later, on Christmas Day, Mom couldn't get out of her bed at all. We all gathered at her bedside to help her open her gifts -- things we all knew she wouldn't be able to use much or at all. She was so weak, she couldn't even remove tissue paper wrapping from a gift bag. I created a photo book for my parents as a Christmas gift, and I had to hold the book and read it to her as if she were a small child.

My heart was so broken for her, for my kids, my siblings and especially my dad. It was very apparent in that moment that we were all too young to be going through this.

A few days later, my mom's brother came to town to see her. At my dad's request, we gathered on New Year's Eve to discuss her funeral arrangements. The reality of the situation became even more harsh at that point and we were all very emotional.

The next day, January 1, we met up again at my parents' home to bless our sweet mother with peace and comfort in her final days and say our goodbyes while she was still lucid. That was easily the hardest thing I've ever gone through. No one wants to weep over their mother, the woman who bore them, cared for them and taught them all they knew. No one wants to watch their children lay across their grandmother's frail body to hug her for the final time.

The following day was my parents' 32nd wedding anniversary, so I stopped by for a visit then. In her frail voice, my mom slowly explained she'd eaten some Bahama Bucks shaved ice a little while before I came over. I asked her how she liked it, and she flashed me a thumbs-up. It wasn't long after that she became too tired to converse and fell asleep again.

We were able to see her a few more times during that week, but the last day she was fully lucid was Saturday, January 7. I had blocked out the whole day to spend at my parents' home and I'm so glad I did. My dad and I actually had some pretty good conversation with Mom that day. For some reason, she wanted me to administer her medications (she was picky about who she trusted), so I was able to give her some Dilaudid in a dropper just like a little baby and squirt some Biotene in her dry mouth. My dad noticed her ears were kind of dirty, so I swabbed them with a Q-tip. After I was done, she said "Thanks, Jenna" and I told her she was welcome, and she said "I'll talk to you soon."

That was the last thing she ever said to me. I left the room with a lump in my throat.

On Monday, she was completely incoherent. My dad and sisters said she hadn't been awake since the day before. I knew it would be soon. I delivered her burial clothes to the house -- a white temple dress worn by my Granny, her mother, many years before. It was the only thing small enough for her gaunt frame. The skirt and blouse she normally wore to the temple was far too big.

The next morning, at 4:00, I woke suddenly. A feeling of peace washed over me. I felt like my mom was probably drawing her final breaths at that time. I went back to sleep and woke a while later to find my phone ringing -- it was my dad. He told me Mom had passed away around 4:30. She was 55 years of age.

The days following her death were full of miracles large and small, many I don't feel I can discuss due to how sacred they are to me. From Tuesday to Friday, Dillon and I spent every day with my family, helping my dad with funeral arrangements and other household responsibilities. We ran errands, organized things, and talked a lot. We grew closer as a family than we ever have been.

Back at home, women in my church community were cleaning my floors and bathrooms, delivering meals and groceries, and taking care of my children. The doorbell rang with frequent flower deliveries. My phone and Facebook were flooded with messages of condolence, comfort and kindness. I have never gone through something so hard as losing my mother, but I have also never felt more loved and supported in my life. It is a precious gift I will always cherish, this feeling of being carried.

My mom's service last Friday was so beautiful and well-attended; she was loved by so many people. Again, it was a very difficult day, but it was made lighter and memorable because of the kindness of others. My parents' church congregation put together the most beautiful display of my mom's special things and photographs. They also prepared a beautiful luncheon with centerpieces of pink carnations, my mom's favorite flowers. My best friend compiled a slideshow of hundreds of pictures from my mother's life. My in-laws purchased a beautiful pink flower arrangement to accompany a large portrait of my mom at the front of the chapel.

When I was growing up, I never considered the possibility of my mom dying. Even until a few years ago, I thought Mom was invincible. Her cancer diagnosis two years ago woke me up to her mortality, and then, last week, I actually lost her. It seems impossible. I still catch myself wanting to call or text her several times a day, even though it's been about a month since she could even use her phone. My heart aches when I think of a future without her in it.

I do believe my mother is in a far better place now, doing very important work. I know she is looking out for us as the "pennies from heaven" have been raining down on us. And I know I will see her again.

However, it's still hard not having her here with us now.

But through this trial, I have learned more about love than I had in my 29 years of life. I learned that love means cleaning your mother's ears out while she is on her death bed. Love means going with your dad to the funeral home to help him choose your mom's casket. Love means watching your friend's toddler for hours while she spends time with her bereaved family. Love means bringing food and flowers and sincere condolences. Love means letting your friend sob on your shoulder. Love means attending her mother's funeral even though funerals are hard for you. Love means creating a beautiful arrangement of flowers for the casket because you care for her so much. Love means praying for your friend over the pulpit at church as she mourns the loss. Love means mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who need comfort.

Love is tender, kind-hearted, patient and without judgment.

I know, because I have felt it. And not just any old love, but charity -- the pure love of Jesus Christ.

I have experienced loss, and I will experience more, because that is part of life. But I have also experienced love in the purest form, and it has truly made the loss more bearable.

My mom's obituary: http://www.horizonfuneralcare.com/single-post/2017/01/13/Liz-Haney

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Friday Favorites: "We're With You"

This is a sponsored post. Expressed opinions are mine.
So, you all know I'm LDS (Mormon). As a kid, I had mixed feelings about General Conference, the twice-yearly meeting for all members of the Church where we receive counsel from our leaders. I liked that I could watch church in my pajamas on television (since the meeting is broadcasted), but it was EIGHT WHOLE HOURS of speakers spread out over the course of a weekend. I would often get so antsy and be ready for it to end by the time Sunday rolled around.

As a teenager, I started to enjoy it more as I found the messages more pertinent to me. But sometimes, I felt like I couldn't relate at all to the leaders I was listening to. They were all much older and I felt that they couldn't possibly understand what a young adult like myself was going through and the challenges I faced.

Recently, though, I've noticed an encouraging change of perspective from church leaders, especially regarding the social issues of young adults (or "millennials," I guess). I've observed an increased outreach from "them" to "us," a bridging of the gap, so to speak. And I love it.

I just received an opportunity to read and review a new book by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called We're With You: Counsel and Encouragement from Your Brethren.

from Deseret Book

The book contains excerpts of speeches given by church leaders that pertain mostly to young adults in today's world. It's a unique concept I haven't really seen since President Gordon B. Hinckley released his book, Way to Be. President Hinckley led the LDS Church when I was a teenager and college student, and he always had a way with the youngsters.

Even though I'm an old married lady with three kids, I'm actually still young (not quite 30!), so a lot of  We're With You resonated strongly with me. Especially the parts about enduring challenges, because as you know, my mom has terminal cancer. Lately, it's been really hard; I'm not gonna lie. There's a reason I haven't talked about it much, and the reason is it's too painful and too sensitive an issue. I struggle for the better part of every day with the reality that my mom's days are numbered. The anxiety I suffer due to this struggle has created a variety of symptoms for me that are crippling. There is nothing fun about this, let me tell you.

I often bitterly wonder why my mom has to go through all this and why our family has been hit with this immense tragedy and suffering. When I started reading this book, I was in a very dark place and in desperate need of answers. So, I took great comfort in the words of Elder David A. Bednar, who said this in the section entitled, "When Blessings Are Delayed:"

I do not know why some people learn the lessons of eternity through trial and suffering—while others learn similar lessons through rescue and healing. I do not know all of the reasons, all of the purposes, and I do not know everything about the Lord’s timing ....

But some things I absolutely do know. I know we are spirit sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. I know the Eternal Father is the author of the plan of happiness. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I know Jesus enabled the Father’s plan through His infinite and eternal Atonement. I know that the Lord, who was “bruised, broken, [and] torn for us” (“Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King,” Hymns, no. 181), can succor and strengthen “his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). And I know one of the greatest blessings of mortality is to not shrink and to allow our individual will to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7).

So much of this book comforted me and reignited my faith in God and Jesus Christ. It was just what I needed. When I finished, I thought of my siblings who could all benefit from this great book. I thought of the teenage young women I used to work with at church who are now in college and dealing with the struggles mentioned in this book in their daily lives. I thought of my friends.

It's so refreshing to read the words of God's ordained leaders, curated just for me and people my age. I loved We're With You and recommend it to any millennial Mormon who feels like they could use a little extra nudge in life, someone to root for them and encourage them to keep going when things get tough.

The BEST turkey recipe ever!

Guys, I have a confession.

I hate turkey.

Well, I should amend that -- I used to hate turkey. Every Thanksgiving, my mom would go through all this trouble to thaw and cook a massive bird that always turned out flavorless and dry, no matter what. ALWAYS. And we'd all smother it in gravy and choke it down because it's Thanksgiving, you know? But in reality, we couldn't wait until the leftovers would pass into the trashcan.

Last year, Dill and I took on the task of hosting Thanksgiving for my family. I strongly considered skipping the turkey altogether, but I knew my dad would never go for that (he's big on the turkey tradition). I figured, in this age of Google, I should be able to find the best way to cook a turkey. And it probably wouldn't be too hard. I mean, I got through AP Physics in high school and there's no way baking a turkey could be any more complicated than some of the labs I completed for that class.

I scoured the Internet and read everything I could about basting, not basting, brining, not brining, deep-frying, smoking ... and I was two seconds from placing an order with Honeybaked Ham when Dill located this blessed YouTube video from renowned chef Gordon Ramsey.

We watched Gordon do his thing. It didn't seem too difficult, honestly. I had been really concerned about brining the dang bird in a bucket and failing miserably. So, anything that didn't require a brine was a winner in my book. Once the video was over, we decided to proceed with Gordon's method.

You guys. YOU GUYS. First of all, butter. Lots of butter. That is a sure sign your turkey is going to be delicious beyond your wildest imagination. Second, garlic. And onions. And lemon. And parsley. And BACON. YES, BACON.

The bird smelled divine as it cooked. I had high hopes it would taste as delectable as the scent wafting on the air. Maybe, for once, I would actually LIKE turkey!

It looked picture perfect when we took it out of the oven. Once we started carving it, it became apparent it was going to be so moist and delicious. And holy cow, it really was! The butter on the outside gave the skin a crispy texture, yet the inside was perfectly supple and oh so flavorful. I couldn't wait to dig into those leftovers!

If you're still unsure about how to do your turkey and you're tired of bland, dried-out meat every Thanksgiving, give this method a try. You really won't be disappointed, I promise!

Here's the link to his site where the full recipe can be found. Bear in mind he uses English measurements for temperature -- the Fahrenheit conversion is 420 degrees for the initial roasting and 350 degrees for baking. It's also 30 minutes of baking for every 2 pounds, roughly.

Get to it!

UPDATE: I've had a few complaints the above link isn't working all the time. Try this one if you can't get the one from Gordon's site to work: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/510522/gordon-ramsay-s-roast-turkey-with-lemon-parsley-and-garlic

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fire of faith.

Last night, America did something unthinkable -- we elected President Business from The Lego Movie.


Yeah, we really did.

Ironically, when The Lego Movie came out, many speculated that President (and later, Lord) Business was actually supposed to be Mitt Romney. In retrospect, though, I think the comparison to Donald Trump is far more accurate.

Anyway. Enough about vapid, power-hungry characters made of plastic. 

Come January, we're going to inaugurate a president who ran on a platform of fear and distrust. Fear of minorities, immigrants who steal our jobs and rape us, refugees who are smuggling in bombs, women who bleed from mysterious places and The Establishment -- "drain the swamp!" "Make America Great Again!" He sold it like magic snake oil and a majority of Americans bought it, some willingly, but many did so out of fear.

The funny thing is, his opponent Hillary Clinton also ran a campaign based in fear -- fear of the lunatic Cheeto and his nationalist followers who wanted to take America back in time and strip its citizens of their basic civil liberties. Never mind the fact she's a career politician who isn't exactly the paragon of honesty and yeah, what was the deal with all those deleted e-mails? Never mind that -- it was, "We are running against a MADMAN and we have to beat him to SAVE AMERICA!!!" Thanks to Trump's abysmal debate performances, her argument was compelling.

And so, many people who didn't really like Trump voted for him out of fear, and many people who didn't really like Clinton voted for HER out of fear, and at the end of yesterday, we all sat on our couches scared crapless because we elected a lunatic Cheeto ... out of fear.

As you may have deduced from my past posts, I did not vote for either of those candidates. I voted for Gary Johnson. I drafted many a blog post about why I was voting for him, but I ultimately decided not to publish anything. Why? Sadly, my failure to explain my position was also a response to -- you guessed it -- fear. I'd read and heard far too many insinuations that third-party voters are idiots who spoil elections. At first, I fought the good fight against the character assassinations. But I eventually grew weary. I became sick of the nastiness I received for taking the position of a principled voter. I gave up.

We third-party fiends caught a second wind when Evan McMullin surged in Utah following the release of the Trump tapes. Utah found its courage and said, "No, we aren't going to vote for this man who brags about sexually abusing women. We're going to choose someone better." Other states followed suit and Johnson also saw a rise in poll numbers at that point. For a good while, it looked like Evan McMullin would actually win his home state, and maybe the whole election would be miraculously thrown to the House.

But then, that ever-reliable fear crept back in. Voters who had firmly decided they could not vote for Trump upon hearing his vile admissions decided they were more scared of Hillary Clinton in the end. Back to Trump they retreated.

And then, there were the WikiLeaks e-mails, proving that Clinton is all about that "pay-to-play," that she talks out of both sides of her mouth, that she cheated in the debates and unfairly targeted Bernie Sanders. But her supporters turned a blind eye, because Trump was scarier, and Trump had to be beat. They dug in their heels and voted for her anyway.

In the end, we basically had a stalemate. Very little support went to principled, honest candidates Johnson and McMullin, and the rest, equally divided, went to those fearmongers. Trump pulled out an electoral win, though the popular vote has him nearly tied with Clinton. Two sides of the same coin.

We voted out of fear, and yet, here we are. Scared. And it wouldn't have mattered who won. We would've been scared either way, just for different reasons.

I hope in vain that despite all the things Donald Trump has said, he will act differently. I hope he won't rack up even more debt, nor end free trade, nor completely disregard the Constitution, nor scorch the earth with nuclear warfare. I hope he will advocate for our God-given natural rights, including those held by minorities, disabled people and women. I hope he will be diplomatic and kind. He's indicated otherwise, but I hope he can change. And quickly.

However, a small part of me wants so badly for this to cave in so we realize the two-party system is an enormous failure and we can start over. It might hurt,  and it would probably be devastating. But how long can this go on, anyway? A collapse is bound to happen. Better to yank off the bandage quickly than peel it slowly, ripping out one hair at a time, I think. Maybe Trump and his Republican establishment will do the honors.

Alas, I know in reality that revolutions are not five-alarm fires ignited by combustion and doused in gallons of lighter fluid. A fire of revolution is like the hand-built kind you make when you're camping, crafted out of tiny sticks and dried leaves and started with the strike of a simple match. Those kind kindle slowly and catch fire in time. They start from the bottom and work their way up. And though they take time and patience, they endure.

This revolution begins with us, the millennial generation. It starts in our homes as we teach our children that the government doesn't own them, that this nation was built on principles of liberty and justice and sealed with the blood of our patriot forefathers. It proceeds to the community, where we have these difficult conversations with our friends and neighbors. It continues to the civic level when we vote for candidates and ballot measures that decrease the government's power and influence. Once the fire gets to a certain point, it can't easily be extinguished. The flames burn and grow, consume and refine. And unlike a blaze crafted from the wrath of the afraid, it is pleasant and inviting.

If you're feeling scared right now, cold, abandoned, and forlorn -- come huddle by our fire, the fire of the liberty movement. It's small, but its warm. And it's getting bigger.

It's a fire fueled by faith and hope -- in God, in our inspired Constitution, in our ability to choose good over evil without the forceful hand of government. Those of us around it welcome you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, so long as you're not going to hurt anyone else.

The outcome of this election has hopefully taught us something very valuable: it's unwise to vote out of fear. And it's time to stop voting against people we dislike and instead, vote for what we believe in.

We just have to find the fire inside us to do it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

5 Sacrament Meeting Survival Tricks

I'm a Mormon. "I know it, I live it, I love it--" but, I also have to survive it every Sunday for the first hour and 10 minutes of our church services.

Called sacrament meeting, this portion of church worship is arguably the most important part, since it involves the sacred ordinance of the sacrament (much like Communion or the Eucharist). It also requires the congregation to sit quietly in the chapel while we sing hymns, pray and listen to speakers and musicians. Afterwards, the kids get to go to their own program, so this is really the only part they struggle with.

Now, I've been a Mormon for my entire life, and as an adult, I'm fully capable of being reverent during sacrament meeting. My kids, though? Not so much. Particularly my younger two, who have very high energy levels. Once we arrive to the church building, about 20 seconds passes before they are squirreling around, trying to escape the pew and causing a general ruckus. And since we're considerate folks, we often end up taking one or both out once they're disturbing others around us.

Teaching reverence to children is important, but not easy. Since they differ in age, level of energy and capacity to understand, Dill and I have different expectations for each of our children as they learn this valuable concept. But these ideas are some we've used with great results, and maybe they'll help you, too!

1) Google Images Search

One of the trickiest parts of sacrament meeting is keeping the kids quiet during the sacrament ordinance itself. I don't like to bust out snacks or toys during this portion because I want to teach them to think of Jesus and sit reverently so as not to distract other people with their activities. It's only about 10 minutes long.

What I've found to be effective is to search "Jesus Christ" on Google Images and let my antsy kids swipe through the pictures on my smartphone while the sacrament is passed. There are literally thousands of images and many different depictions so they don't get bored too easily. Just make sure SafeSearch is on, because people are freaks sometimes.

2) Quiet Book

Last Christmas, my mom bought this quiet book by My Growing Season -- plushy pages with soft features and silent activities -- for Clara, my youngest. Let me tell you, it has been a game-changer! It's just about the cutest thing ever, and Clara loves it. It keeps her busy for a good chunk of time, too. We keep it hidden in our church bag during the week so that it's still fun and interesting every Sunday. I also like how it's gospel-themed -- not a must, but great for keeping the focus on spiritual matters.

If you're crafty and would rather make your own quiet book, check out this pin from the blog, "And Next Comes L." Any project with "No-Sew" in the title is a winner to me! And this one is just adorable.

3) Boogie Board

We used to bring tons of coloring books and a box of crayons to church, but before long, we found out it's quite a hassle.  It's super-annoying when the crayons roll down into the crack at the back of the bench and get lost on the floor of the row behind us. Plus, coloring books are bulky and take up too much room in our church bag.

We recently picked up one of these Boogie Boards and it's been great! Compact and thin and reusable. What's not to love? The kids can play tic-tac-toe, hangman, or just draw quietly. And with the click of a button, everything vanishes! I don't know exactly how it works (LCD or something?) but whoever invented it is a genius in my book. They're also great for road trips, doctors' visits, and anything that involves lots of waiting.

4) Magformers

These toys are amazing! Magformers are little colorful plastic shapes with strong magnets in the sides, so you can stick them together to create two- and three-dimensional objects of all sorts. They seem to be the perfect ergonomic size for little hands, too. And they best part is they travel well, because you can stick them all together in a stack that doesn't break apart.

5) The Friend magazine

This Church publication has been in print for as long as I can remember, and it's always a favorite with the little ones. They now divide the magazine into two sections -- one for older kids, and one for those who are just starting to read. Since I happen to have a child in each of these age groups, it's perfect for our family! The Friend has tons of great stories and articles as well as activities the kids can do. If you would rather not subscribe, you can always download any issue from the Gospel Library app for free.

What about you? Do you have any tricks for occupying your kids during sacrament meeting? Let's hear 'em in the comments!