Monday, October 8, 2012

The BIG CHANGES for Mormon Women . . .and a little Mirthful Monday

Hi all :)

I got invited to participate in a group blog about Mormon spirituality. It's called Into the Hills and it focuses on Mormon spirituality at different phases (i.e. Mormons who are happy with their religion, Mormons who are still members but have questions, and Mormons who in their "post-Mormon" phase of life).

I have my first post up over there today and it is all about the BIG CHANGES for Mormon Women. You know, the fact that the Church changed it's policy and said women can serve missions at 19 now? (Oh, it also said that boys can serve at 18, but that seems to be not quite so big a deal in the Bloggernacle. . .) Anyway, head on over and check out the new blog :)


Have a great day :)


p.s. Since it's Monday I'm sure you could all use a little mirth so here it is. Brought to you by the awesomeness that is Mormon Probs (follow them on Twitter or Like them on Facebook; there, now they can't get mad at me for using their pic!):

Friday, August 31, 2012

Living with Atopy: My Preschooler's Journey to Diagnosis

This is the first in a series of posts about my son's life with Atopy or Atopic Syndrome and what solutions have worked for us. 

This is my boy, Mr. J:

He is now five years old and pretty happy and healthy. But not always. From the time he was born he just seemed to struggle. He had a ton of cradle cap. Cried all the time. Didn't nurse well. Struggled with rashes and eczema. Couldn't gain weight. Excessive amounts of drool. Chronic ear infections. Never slept for more than 45 minutes. Sometimes as little as 20 minutes. Would scream like he was in pain for no apparent reason.  At nine months he weaned himself and stopped growing almost entirely. He was declared borderline "failure to thrive" (which has been linked to caregiver depression *cue massive load of mother guilt*) and our doctor got serious with us.

She put him on a high fat diet and an antacid. He started to gain a little bit and we breathed a sigh of relief. We hoped Gastroesaphogeal Reflux Disease was our silver bullet.

But. . .

His eczema only got worse. His fussiness didn't stop. He still didn't eat well and he drooled everywhere. His sleep got worse and he started having multiple night terrors a night. One particularly frightening one was when he was about two and we found him in his room with his toddler bed lifted half off the ground and getting ready to drop it on himself. There was also the time he bolted from his bedroom and almost fell headlong down the stairs. He would scratch like a wild animal. We would put mittens and sock on his hands, but he always managed to pull them off. His sheet were covered in blood most morning. He was still a wreck.

I came across some information on Obstructive Sleep Apnea and he fit the profile. A couple months shy of his two-year-old birthday we got his adenoids out and the drooling stopped. But everything else was still awful.

It's hard to express the toll this took on the family. We were all exhausted because whenever he woke up his screams filled the whole house. He would cry so hard the other kids would end up crying too. My oldest, Princess N, had anxiety attacks because of his crying. We were all on the edge because Mr. J was always on the edge. Seriously. Three years (that 36 months or 1056 days) of constant stress and lack of sleep.

We tried everything for his eczema but he didn't tolerate most creams. They usually made the rash worse and stung a heckuva lot. He would cry and scream and hide and hit and pinch and kick--anything to avoid them. So we tried all the natural alternatives. Oatmeal did nothing. Baking soda was not helpful. Petroleum did nothing. We had a little luck with coconut oil--the real cold-pressed,virgin stuff. But nothing was consistent.

We tried elimination diets (dairy, soy, and gluten), none of which did a thing for him.  When he was almost three we did a scratch test and he came out allergic to cat pelts (but not the fur. How is that possible??) and pretty much EVERY tree, grass, and weed. But no foods and no silver bullet. We started him on Claritin.

His sleep issues were what was making us the craziest so I eventually decided to try and get him in to the Pediatric Sleep Clinic at National Jewish Health and since the wait was shorter for a pediatric eczema consultation we went that route. It was four months before his four year old birthday.

Wow. What a difference a specialist can make. It took a few months of regular visits and observations but, seriously, in a couple months Mr. J was diagnosed with Atopy (an autoimmune disorder that is probably genetically driven and centers around the interactions of eczema, asthma, and allergies). We found a series of medications (4 daily and three for emergencies) that works for him and, most of the time, he is healthy. He sleeps all night now (turns out treating the asthma--although he had to contract a severe, RSV-type infection for us to diagnosis it-- was the silver bullet for that one). His rashes are still a regular thing but we know what to do with them. The allergies are handled. He has caught up on all the charts.

I am still amazed.

Things aren't perfect now. We have to be absolutely vigilant with his eczema care regimen and the more sports stuff he does the more we have to deal with his asthma. The side effects from some of his medicines are tricky--especially the ADD type behaviors. But, things are so much better now. We can handle it. We have resources and answers. That's good.

Anyway, that's his journey to diagnosis. Other posts in this series will include information on each aspect of his disorder and what we do to treat it--especially his eczema. I'll include tips and tricks for medication and explanations of differing theories about atopy.  Lots of info coming you way!

If anyone who has a child with atopy comes across this post, please leave me a comment and tell me your child's story! I want to know how it's gone for you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

Hi all.

It's been a while since I wrote. Don't worry; I'm not doing any sort of catch-up post. I'll just say this:

Depression is holding steady. Still rears it's ugly head from time to time, but for the most part I am stable and functional and, dare I say it?, happy.

I feel like I'm entering a new phase of life. My kids are getting older. We're almost out of the diaper decade. What direction my life is going to take from here I'm not sure. What direction my mental health will take from here I'm not sure. But I hope it's in a healthier direction.

So I might not be writing here as much. Well, okay, I haven't been writing here as much. So I might be writing here more but not about mental health so much as mommy-blogging content. Keep me in your readers, though.

Thanks for sticking with me, you few loyal readers out there.

And thanks for stopping by, all you folks who stumble on this little blog by way of the Great Google.

And, hey, since it's technically still a Monday I'll end with a something to make you smile: The Piano Guys! Can't get enough of them :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mirthful Monday: Hugh Jackman Style!

For some reason, I find Hugh Jackman singing this song uproariously funny. Enjoy!

Or if this is more your style, enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: The Power of Quiet

I recently finished reading Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking and really, really enjoyed it. I"m married to an introvert, three of my four children lean toward the introvert side of the spectrum, and I myself am a bit of an ambivert (with introvert leanings). I almost wish I owned it in hardback (I bought the Kindle version) because I find myself wanting to go back and consult it.

So for Thoughtful Thursday this week I thought I'd put up one of my favorite quotations. This one comes from a section where Cain talks about the importance of "core personal projects." These are projects that we care so much about (and since there is a strong correlation between introversion and being a Highly Sensitive Person that element of caring is very important) they transport us beyond ourselves and bring us fulfillment. One way to think about what kind of project can provide that road for you is:

Pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.
Food for thought, hmm?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Back in the (Medication) Saddle Again.

So I'm back on my meds and have been for about three weeks. I went through my family doc instead my psychiatrist since the psych isn't covered by our insurance and I don't feel like shelling out $100 every couple months. And because the psych's office was hard to work with when it comes to refills. The family doc and I have a good relationship and she trusts me enough to give me a year's worth of refills and check in occasionally.

When I got the refill I felt relieved--there would be a buffer between me and my feelings and the world again--but I also felt a little sigh of disappointment. I guess I'm disappointed because this means I'm still depressed which sometimes just seems like a euphemism for broken and/or abnormal. But I keep reminding myself that it isn't. It's a medical condition and lots of people have those.

The emotional straw the broke the sanity camel's back was a blow up at the Little Cannoli. She's almost two and has been going through some of the ups and downs of toddlerhood. I mean, she's still a great kid and usually even-keeled but she still has tantrums and screams and cries. Princess N was having a resurgence of her anxiety and her phobias are ratcheting back up again (although, praise Heaven, things have been calming down over the last few days; I hope it lasts!) and I was expending a lot of energy helping her through it. Supergirl E was going through a growth spurt so she was starving, tired, and full of sore muscles. Mr. J was just getting back on his medication for his atopy (I keep meaning to blog more details about his condition and what we've learned but I haven't gotten to it yet!) and the side effects of that are hyper-emotionality, increased impulsivity, and aggressiveness (think ADD). Since he's already a pretty high energy kid it is pretty taxing.

Anyway, like I said, what convinced to go back on the meds was when I lost it at the Little Cannoli. I yelled at her. Well, screamed at her. I realized I was losing control and handed her off the my husband and he worked from home that day while I took Princess N to the doctor (asthma and allergy testing, just in case there were underlying physical contributors to her anxiety) and then cooled down for awhile.

You know that moment in Monsters Inc. when Sully yells at Boo and sees himself yelling at Boo and realizes that he's a complete scumbag for scaring kids? It was like that. Nothing makes you feel worse than doing wrong by your kids.

So I'm back on the Paxil in hopes that it will improve my sleep (it's very hard to get to sleep and when I do I don't sleep very deeply), dull my sensitivity to noise and clutter, and just help me relax. Since going back on the meds I actually feel more tired (which is odd since I think they contain a stimulant) but it might just be because my body was running at anxiety-fueled hyper-speed for the last few months. . . I don't know. I gotta get more sleep; make up for the poor quality sleep I was getting for the last couple months.

I feel less these days--but mostly in a good way.  Medication does not equal failure. Medication equals medical condition. I just have to remind myself :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Stop It.

So I really like alliterations. Especially in blog titles. So I came up with another weekly (ish) feature, Thoughtful Thursday. Today's installment:

Go here for the whole thing :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tell It Out With Joyful Voice!

Happy Easter! Because of Jesus Christ we can go from this:

To this:

He is risen!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mirthful Monday

Alright, folks.  Not only is a Monday here but it was extremely windy last night (read: no sleep!), two kids have colds, we just finished Spring Break, and the weather is THIRTY degrees lower today than it was yesterday. I am exhausted and the clouds and lack of sunshine (while I am deeply grateful for the rain they will hopefully bring) are lulling me back to sleep.  I need some mirth. Fast.

So here's a picture of my kids and I at one of the natural springs in Manitou Springs, CO (where we went for Spring Break). People used to come to Manitou for the water and all of its "health" benefits. That stuff was pretty nasty, but I managed to convince my kids to try some. It was like an early April Fool's!

Or, if the thought of that tinny, salty water with the healing properties of snake oil won't do it for ya. . . just remember:

(Dear Person Who Thought to Stick This in the Cave of the Winds Gift Shop: you made my day. Seriously. Like a hundred times over. This was awesome!)

p.s. If any of you dear Readers ever go to Manitou Springs, be sure to eat at The Heart of Jerusalem restaurant. SO yummy!

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Riding out A Bad Monday

Well, it's almost midnight on Thursday. . . four days since my last post and I feel compelled to update. The week has gone like this:

Tuesday: extreme fatigue and lots of snappishness, but I tried hard to keep it under wraps since I knew that it was the result of Saturday's mishaps and Monday's pathetic-ness. Met with some writer friends and acquire a little hope.

Wednesday: frustration and anger, in mass amounts. There was also lots of deep breathing. Until the soccer game that afternoon. At which point all the children set to whining and I decided to give them all extra chores while admonishing them for their brattiness. Did some Visiting Teaching that evening and it really improved my mood.

Thursday: Better. A lot. Pretty much normal. I also got a thank-you note from a bunch of parents (who weren't mad at me) and that made my day. A  simple thank-you can do so much! I even cleaned bathrooms and vacuumed and did laundry. If I'm doing housework, I must be feeling better.

I also came across an article tonight that explained why this whole Odyssey of the Mind might have been so deeply hurtful to me. Some of it is because I'm not the kind of person who is open to ambient touching, so when that parent grabbed me by the shoulder and spoke forcefully to me it crossed a really big line for me. Another reason is because I am a bit of a Highly Sensitive Person (it's a genetic/temperament thing) and, as this article explains, sometimes when an HSP perceives punishment they overreact. Sometimes by being too nice. This phenomenon is called pathological altruism and is described in very dramatic terms by this article.  While I think a lot of that was overblown and I didn't identify with it at all, this part really struck me:

Dr. Oakley couldn’t help doubting altruism’s exalted reputation. “I’m not looking at altruism as a sacred thing from on high,” she said. “I’m looking at it as an engineer.”

And by the first rule of engineering, she said, “there is no such thing as a free lunch; there are always trade-offs.” If you increase order in one place, you must decrease it somewhere else.

Moreover, the laws of thermodynamics dictate that the transfer of energy will itself exact a tax, which means that the overall disorder churned up by the transaction will be slightly greater than the new orderliness created. None of which is to argue against good deeds, Dr. Oakley said, but rather to adopt a bit of an engineer’s mind-set, and be prepared for energy losses and your own limitations.

Train nurses to be highly empathetic and, yes, their patients will love them. But studies show that empathetic nurses burn out and leave the profession more quickly than do their peers who remain aloof. Give generously to Child A, and Child B will immediately howl foul, while quiet Child C will grow up and write nasty novels about you. “Pathologies of altruism,” as Dr. Oakley put it, “are bound to arise.”
Now since the whole thing went down last Saturday, I don't think I've pulled any pathological altruism. But I think things were so painful because I was already acting in pathologically altruistic ways. I was already over-scheduled and stressed, but I kept bending over backwards to help out the kids, parents, and coaches because I thought it would be nice and because, well, I had a couple negative interactions with one coach and I was trying to fix things. I mean, this is the coach who yelled at me Saturday and then I went out and bought her a thank-you gift for all her help. Then she yelled at me some more. Something is backwards there.

This is hard for me to understand, though. I mean, aren't we always supposed to be kind and turn the other cheek? Aren't we supposed to be quick to forgive and quick to help? Isn't that what it means to be Christ-like?

This is the part where all you readers raise your hands and say, "Wait, Laura! Don't you remember the oxygen masks? Put yours on first!"

I know. I know. But sometimes there isn't time and sometimes I think I already have it on, but it turns out I don't. Sometimes regular life is more complicated than a crashing airplane--especially when life starts resembling said airplane.

Hmm. . . food for thought.

Anyway, the other thing I'm working on remembering: failure is part of the plan. Things aren't always supposed to work out. Failure is part of what Heavenly Father had in store for all of us. And it's okay.  Because of Jesus.

My goal for Friday: stop over-thinking-- at least for a little while :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Bad Monday.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised--it is Monday, after all--but today has been a bad day.

Actually, Saturday was the bad day. Today is the fall out day.

Long story short, I wanted to try Odyssey of the Mind with my kids and I've been working with the school since last autumn to get the program organized and rolling. I was hoping OM would be a good way to help my very (truly) creative kids apply their ideas and learn some life skills. I thought it would be a good way to make friends for them and begin to network with other parents. There was some good that came out of it, but mostly things have been slowly falling apart over the last month and then last Saturday (competition day) things blew up. I'm trying not to go into details because I know it's not Christlike and because I don't believe rehashing events is going to change how I feel about them. Some people did some things that really hurt me and hurt my kids because I made some mistakes that they felt jeopardized their chances of doing well in competition. One parent went so far as to grab me by a shoulder and question me as to why I would screw things up that way. Another parent left me a phone message with her yelling in to the phone. They also yelled at my children and said rude things to them.

It was humiliating. It was hurtful. And I can't shake it.

I'm really, really sad about it. I'm angry about it.

And, me being me, I turn it all on myself.

My kids have also been train wrecks today.  Lots of tantrums, screaming, crying. A complete mess.

All day my mind has been endlessly questioning my existential value. I'm such a failure; why should anyone ever bother with me or listen to me or believe me? I'm obviously a failure as a mother, too, so why do I have children? I'm pretty much a screwed up human being with no economic value, no true skills, and am therefore of no value to society. The world be a better place if I wasn't in it. (It is embarrassing to be this pathetic. Suicidal over angry parents? Sheesh I'm a loser.) There's a part of my brain that keeps saying if only I had a job, all of this would be different; that people like to crap on stay-at-home moms because they are obviously less than regular people. After all, why would you stay home and be jobless unless you were incapable of contributing to the greater world. One parent over the weekend passive-aggressively said to me, "Isn't it nice that you have the luxury of being at home and volunteering. That's just so, well, so nice for you." It's only a good thing to be a stay-at-home mom if your kids are perfectly groomed socially savvy over-achievers. And, by the way, as the mom you should be those things too. My kids aren't those things. I'm not those things.

The urge to self-harm is big. My brain keeps mapping out spots to cut and telling me I deserve the pain, that I should be punished. Of course I haven't done any of that--that's a line I have yet to cross and firmly plan not to. But I am spending a lot of energy reminding myself that the crazy is doing a heckuva lot today and I need to not get sucked in.

I really have been trying to let it go. I've been trying to distract myself. I keep telling myself that if I can choose to not stew over it then my brain will eventually let it go. There has been some good exercise (which helped). There has been prayer (was also helpful). There has been meditation and napping (also helpful). I keep hoping the hurt feelings will dispel or their intensity will lessen. But it keeps coming back--like the tide rolling in and out every 30 or 40 minutes.

It's just that I don't have a good response to the existential questions. I mean, seriously, what is the point? What am I doing? Everywhere I look I see half-finished projects and good intentions, but very few results. I have no way of proving that I'm not a complete waste of space.

That hurts.

*As an aside, I think that one reason I'm having trouble letting it go is because I know that those other people are right in some ways. I did screw up a couple times and they had every right to be angry at me. People have rights to their feelings.  I'm sure that in their hearts they feel their actions and words were perfectly justified. And I can't argue with that. They have every right to see the world  the way they see it. But feeling that way makes it very hard to defend myself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

30 Things About Being Thirty

Well. It happened. I have officially left my twenties. GAH. What a decade of turbulence. It college, early marriage, and the diaper decade all rolled into one. All of which makes me happy to have left the New Adolescence behind. (That's 1 Thing)

But. . .

I have now officially joined the establishment. Seriously. For my birthday, I helped set up and pull off my ward's Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet. For fun I wash the dishes while watching Cake Boss. To unwind I scrapbook pictures of my kids. I have four kids and have been married for a decade--and both facts have ceased to amaze people. I am settled. (That's 2-9)

But. . .

This new settled state (my recent SSRI ups and downs aside; BTW, doing much better now) has given me something I never expected it to: a new ground from which to take off. Sure, I'm tied down to a husband and kids so I won't be backpacking around Europe or driving the length of Route 66 any time soon, but, well, I'm also not spending a heckuva lot of energy worry about if anyone will ever really love me. (The answer to that one is both yes and no.) And I'm not constantly worrying about what to do with a new baby or if the changing color of their poop means something. (The answer to that one is also both yes and no.) I'm in a new phase. New opportunities are appearing on the horizon. Not only do I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel, I can actually see it. And it's inspiring. (Things number 10-21 just happened there.)

A Few Remaining Things About Being Thirty:

*It's not that old.
*My husband, sister, and best friends will always be older.
*I don't have to keep up with pop culture because no one expects me to be hip anymore
* Lots of other awesome people are thirty like Jessica Biel and Brittany Spears (and the fact that I just referenced those two chicks really makes me sound old. . .)
*All my favorite songs are playing on the radio again--they just happen to be during the retrospective hours
*Fashion trends from my childhood are back. As soon as people start pegging their jeans and wearing multiple layers of sock again, I will be psyched.
* I actually know how to cook.
* I have read enough great books to enable me to find more of them
* I can eat chocolate for lunch and--as long as my kids don't see me--it absolutely doesn't matter!

And that, my friends, is true freedom.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mirthful Monday (and Me Monkeying with my Meds)

Okay. So it's a Mirthful Monday. Here's some funny (but not as funny as the last Mirthful Monday). (Also worth the parentheses: Can I just say that I am so, so, so, so ridiculously grateful that I have never peddled scentsy/stampin' up/or what-have-yous. Seems so awkward!)

And then the other part of my headline: I've been monkeying around with my meds.

It started five ish months ago, when I last saw my psych, who suggested I try going off my Paxil. I don't know that  my psych really believes I have/had the crazies. She's never seen me at my low so I don't think she really understood what she was saying. When I first started seeing her I was in a proactive, well-adjusted place. I have not always been well-adjusted. True, I've never been hospitalized or done anything dangerous. . . but still. She mentioned it in passing and I declined  saying that I wanted to get through the insanity that usually comes with weaning and she said all right and wrote me a scrip for another four months. Well. The Little Cannoli weaned five months ago and there was no drama. Then the meds ran out at the end of January and refills through my psych's office are crazy-inconvenient and usually require a $100 visit. So I didn't bother. Since I was on the lowest therapeutic does I just swallowed my last pill one night and didn't take any more. Because it's not like the psych wanted to see me or prescribe me my med. Or maybe it's because I was tired and frustrated? Because I wanted to show the psych that I really do need the meds? Or, maybe, because I wanted to show myself that I don't need them? It was an exercise in impulsive frustration and self-loathing.

I'm pretty sure that is not what my psych wanted to have happen.


I have to admit I was really shaken up just by her suggestion that I go off my meds. I mean, I've been doing so well why mess with it? What ever happened to, "If it ain't broke don't fix it"? Then I remembered something: I am broken. Even with meds. I'm depressed. I have a mood disorder.  A medical condition. That means I'm broken. If I didn't need fixing then I wouldn't need the meds, right?

All that didn't sit well with me, though. On the Paxil, I didn't feel broken. I felt functional--even a little awesome some days. But her suggestion made me feel like a fake. And, too, there's all this research out there about temperament and I'm pretty sure I'm a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)--which at this point still sounds like pseudo-science but it feels very true to my experience, minus all the stuff about being shy. Of course, the new hip thing with being an HSP is to avoid medication and say to myself, "This is my temperament. I need to honor it and let it do what it needs to do so I can be who I am." That means I get easily overwhelmed, cycle through a lot of emotions, don't multitask, and need a great deal of down time to process my life. The current thinking is that a lot of the world needs to bend around me and make exceptions for my temperament (some researchers even think HSPs are leading the world to new evolutionary heights!). But that's not how life works. That's not real. Real life is that people around you do what they do and you need to be on your game all the time so that you can push back when you need to and keep moving forward, always, so that you don't get trampled or left behind or screw things up.

When I'm on my meds none of that is true. I don't get as overstimulated. I don't get as tired. I don't react as emotionally (I can't tell you how many times I've cried over the news in the last month.  My husband has put me on a no-CNN-or-NPR media diet.). It's kind of nice.

Of course, on my meds I'm also not as creative (over the last couple weeks, as the last of the Paxil has cleared my system, I've felt my writing brain reawaken; I'm scribbling thoughts and snippets of prose in little notebooks all over the house; who knows if they are any good). I'm not as driven--but I also don't get as stymied by all the different directions I get pulled in. On my meds I'm not restless; I'm focused. I feel a pleasant and desirable placidity, but I also feel muted. Muted isn't always bad, though. It can actually be very, very restorative. The medicated me is very good for my husband (definitely HSP; whoever said opposites attract had no idea what they are talking about) and children (at least two of whom are HSPs). The unmedicated me feels a little self-indulgent and exciting. I kind of like it (?).

There has been some self-medicating through all this. Mostly in the form of sugar. One of the things I miss most when I'm medicine free is the little energy lift that comes with the SSRI. I've been considering a "medicinal" dose of Diet Coke. But then soda is really bad for you. So I've been noshing out on various kinds of sugar. This last week, during all the post-Valentine sales, I stocked up on dark chocolate. . . and have eaten about a bag and a half of Dove Promises in the last two days. I'm pretty undisciplined about when I eat it so I've gained a couple pounds, am incredibly bloated, and it's starting to screw with my sleep. Now I'm contemplating diet pills.  Which would basically be trading one FDA approved and researched pill for some hackneyed, unregulated, pill? Not awesome. (And no, I'm not actually taking a diet pill. But I am thisclose to climbing on that roller coaster. The inner monologue likes to rant about how fat and ugly and desperately unattractive I am. Medicated, I can tune that out. Seriously. It's like, Hmmm I think I'm fat. Well, that may or may not be true. But if it is, fat happens. It's not the end of the world. Which is waaay preferable to diet-pill-contemplation.) And Facebook. I've been spending a lot more time Facebooking, which I think is a mild mental/emotional stimulant. (Have you read about this study? FB = worse than cigarettes or alcohol. Cue Ensign, New Era, and The Friend articles!)

 Obviously I'm of two minds about all this. There is probably some middle ground which involves mindfulness, stress management/reduction, and maybe even a low dose of some sort of medication. But right now I guess I just feel like I'm going to ride this out a see what happens. Maybe there is a middle ground that I can stumble into somehow. Maybe now that I am no longer in the constant upheaval of birthing and nursing babies (the Little Cannoli is almost two!!) there is a way to be a little self-indulgent and still be that dependable, unexciting person that my family needs.

Or maybe the farther I get from my last little white pill the swifter I'll descend into the swirling mass of mental self-immolation that I like to think is no longer a part of me but probably still is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mirthful Monday: Mormon Swear!

This video was pretty funny. I don't do much Mormon swear (I'm of the opinion that you might as well say the real word or avoid the sentiment altogether), but I am guilty of an impassioned "Holy Buckets!"--which is about as Mormon as it gets. And I should probably admit that I am guilty of the occasional cuss, but don't tell my mother because I really don't want to get my mouth washed out with soap. Again.


Anyway, on to the funny:

Happy Monday!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Kids + Books = FUN! (A book club for your elementary school)

All right, so I said I wasn't going to volunteer for anything new this year and thus far--13 days into the new year--I have kept to my promise. But one volunteer opportunity that I've been working on since last fall is finally coming to fruition and I wanted to blog about it.

Feeling like my children needed more extension opportunities (that's teacher-talk for enriching and extra-curricular learning activities; usually teachers mean a gifted and talented program; I just mean something that will encourage my kids to actively think.) I talked my school into investigating the Junior Great Books program, which my oldest had really enjoyed doing at a previous school. They agreed to, so long as I was willing to run the program. I investigated the JGB program, but felt like the cost and required training were prohibitive. And, hey, I happen to have a Literature degree and what does it qualify me for if not to talk about books? I got together with a couple other moms and we put together our own 6 week curriculum--complete with integrated arts activities.

Last Tuesday we had our first meeting and it went great. I plan on posting the details for each week as we go through them. We ended up with around 70 kids (out of a school of around 300)enrolled. We split it up according to grade level. I'm running the group for the Kinders (I have 12 of them), another mom is doing the first graders (a group of 15), a third mom is running the group for second and third graders (she's got 23 kids), and a fourth mom is handling the fourth and fifth graders (there's about 19 of them).

For our opening discussion we had each child bring a favorite book and tell one or two sentences about it. Then we read a fabulous children's book by Ed Young, Seven Blind Mice. I read the book aloud, but only showed the abstract pictures to the children and had them try to guess what it was the seven blind mice had found. Before I got to the end I stopped and read the book again showing all the pictures--at which point it was obvious what the mice had found.

Our discussion question(s) for the week: How does not having all the information about something change the way you look at it? How can we avoid being "blind mice" when we read? The older groups also discussed the proverb at the end and talked about what a proverb is, suggesting their own. They also talked about how their ability to see changes the way they interact with the world.

Activity: For our hands-on activity, I brought a random selection of toys and some bandanas. Without showing the kids I hid the toys under the bandanas and had the kids feel them and try to guess what was under there. Then I put the kids in groups of two or three and had them sculpt stuff out of play doh (here's a great recipe for homemade play-doh; super easy and super cheap!) which they then hid under the bandanas and had the other kids try to guess what they were.

Five-year-olds aren't known for having long attention spans, and they moved through the discussion and activities pretty quick. As a backup plan I brought five or six of my favorite picture books and a bean bag. I had the kids sit in a circle and we passed the bean bag while singing "Reading a Book is Fun to Do". (This tune is a staple for Mormon kiddos, so my daughter was the only one who knew it; but the other kids picked it up after I sang it to them once.) When the song was done whoever was holding the bean bag got to pick a book for me to read. I then did a fairly dramatized reading of the book, encouraging the kids to act it out with me. They chose There's a Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer (who, BTW, looks a lot like his much-loved Little Critter character). The kids had a great time making scared faces, brave faces, and boo-hooing like the nightmare.

This was actually a ton of fun. Kids will always surprise you with their thoughts and the way the relate to/interpret the world around them.

So, tell me: what are your favorite books to read with your kid? What do you do to make reading fun?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolutions (What I'm NOT going to do.)

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. Maybe it's because I'm already really good at stressing myself out, but giving myself one more list of things to do (and they are usually really BIG things) just seems like a prescription for nuttiness--and we all know I have plenty of that already!

Also, I may be a lot like Calvin. I think most of us are. After all, it's always easier to talk about how other people need to change than to change ourselves.

But change is actually something I'm a big fan of. Well, let me restate that: self-induced and self-aware change is very thrilling to me. Change that comes from the outside is usually pretty frightening and makes me at the very least catty and at the very worst non-functioning. So, in the spirit of embracing self-aware change in my life (because maybe if I embrace self-aware change I can keep the bad change away??), I am making a single resolution: stop volunteering for stuff.

If you know me in my personal life, you know that I spend a lot of time starting projects and not always finishing them because I end up volunteering to do some other project for someone else. For instance, I have the beginnings of 5 novels written (and some of those novels are almost completely outlined) but I have no finished manuscript. This blog is another good example. I still have it up as a resource and because I intend to post on a number of topics but, well, I don't because I'm spending time planning my Primary lessons, or getting ready for the book club at my kids' elementary school (that I'm helping with), or putting together stuff for the Odyssey of the Mind program I'm running, or running my kids between soccer practices and piano lessons and doctor/orthodontist appointments, and who knows what else!

Now, I firmly believe this is a phase of life thing and that spending time with my kids doing enriching and challenging activities is a great thing but that doesn't stop me from being jealous when someone else finishes a project that doesn't involve their children. Hence my resolution: stop volunteering for stuff!! All those things that keep me crazy-busy and up till all hours of the night are things I volunteered to do. I can make better choices.

My resolution last year was to finish up some unfinished projects. I almost completed one (catching up my kids journals). I made some headway on another (family scrapbook). I started shopping a manuscript for a children's book (it's gotten one rejection, one "ask again later", and one I haven't heard back on yet). And I started exercising again and got rid of my back pain. Also, none of my children died or went hungry or naked and my marriage is intact. See? It was a GREAT year!

I'm hoping my resolution this year to STOP VOLUNTEERING FOR STUFF, LAURA!! (I'm putting it in caps as a way of yelling at myself, not as you, my lovely readers!) will aid me in accomplishing last year's goal of actually finishing what I start.

Wish me luck! How about you? Got any good what-not-to-do resolutions??