Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the New Year

I'm not a huge participant of New Year's celebrations.  The fact is that I'm not a late-night person.  If I don't get to bed before 10 pm, I have a hard time sleeping at all and just feel gross the next day.  I've always been this way; this isn't something brought on by motherhood or being over thirty.   I've never been much of a late sleeper, either, even when I do go to bed too late.  I physically can't sleep in--I get too hungry (even when I'm not pregnant, when I'm pregnant, this is ten times worse) by about 6 am to stay in bed, and I always always have to use the bathroom around that time, so it's pretty impossible to sleep in.  Which is why I'm not a huge fan of New Year's celebrations.

But I do enjoy one aspect of ringing in the new year.  I love to set goals for myself.  I love fresh starts and new beginnings.  Even if the goals I set are the same, or very similar, to the goals I set the previous year, it gives me a time to start fresh and try again to do better.  Most of my goals aren't anything you can accomplish, set out and finish, say they're done, and move on anyway.  I tend to set goals that are continual circles to keep on with personal growth.

1.  I will lose the baby weight after this baby is born by eating better and starting an exercise program, to be determined at my six week date from having the baby.
2.  I will read the Sunday school reading assignments and the reading for Relief Society every week.
3.  I will read the books for my book group every month and keep up with the other books on my "to-read" list on Goodreads.
4.  I will (with my husband's help) keep a tighter reign on the budget so we can get 75% or more of our debt paid off this year.
5.  I will try to go on a date at least every other week with my husband.  This is hard for us because his schedule changes weekly and it's very difficult to find babysitters on weeknights or during the day, which is when he's usually available for a date.  Friday and Saturday nights are rarely free for him as he has to work.
I'm excited about the new year and the chance to work on improving myself again.  Here's to 2013!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Every Christmas since becoming a mother, I've reflected on what it must have been like to be the mother of Jesus. I think about all the things mothers face, both temporal and spiritual.

Temporally, we deal with dirty diapers, wiping runny noses, endless sleepless nights, endless piles of laundry, food preparation, and other household duties. We manage chaos, quell fights between siblings, and try to teach them to be good people. We hug our children when they are tired and crying, we kiss away the pain when they hurt themselves.

Did Mary do all these things? What was Jesus like as a child, I mean, really like? Was he ALWAYS good? I mean, he was perfect, so it seems right to assume that he was perfect as a child too. Does that mean that he never cried? Or did he cry when he fell down and got hurt?

Spiritually, we are to guide our children to make righteous choices. Jesus was perfect. How much guiding did Mary need to do when Jesus was a young child? Was the veil closed to him at a young age? Or was it always open?

What was it like?

Ever since having my kids and realizing the difficulty of raising them, I often ponder on this topic during the Christmas season and what a beautiful thing it is to be a mother.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How the Gospel Comforts in Times of Tragedy

Post after post on Facebook have been tributes to the innocent children and adults killed in the shooting last Friday.  I already posted some thoughts on this and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change the hearts of the people, which in essence, will change the world.  In addition to that, this gospel brings us comfort in times of tragedy.

Many people question where God is when such tragedies occur.  Some of my favorite writings have always been those of President Spencer W. Kimball.  One such writing is called "Tragedy or Destiny" and discusses this very topic--how we can still know God is there when horrible tragedies occur.

Could the Lord have prevented [this] tragedy?  The answer is, Yes.  The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will.  But he will not...

...If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity.  But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective....

...In the face of apparent tragedy, we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail.  With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and work, preparing to return and share God's glory.[1]

The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings us peace in the face of tragedy.  Also, consider these words, taken from "The Salvation of Little Children" by Bruce R. McConkie:

Are all little children saved automatically in the celestial kingdom?

To this question the answer is a thunderous yes, which echoes and re-echoes from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus taught it to his disciples. Mormon said it over and over again. Many of the prophets have spoken about it, and it is implicit in the whole plan of salvation. If it were not so the redemption would not be infinite in its application. And so, as we would expect, Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Celestial Kingdom contains this statement: “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 137:10)

It is sometimes asked if this applies to children of all races, and of course the answer is that when the revelation says all children it means all children. There is no restriction as to race, kindred, or tongue. Little children are little children and they are all alive in Christ, and all are saved by him, through and because of the atonement.

Why do some children die and others live? Are those who die better off than those who remain in mortality?

We may rest assured that all things are controlled and governed by Him whose spirit children we are. He knows the end from the beginning, and he provides for each of us the testings and trials which he knows we need. President Joseph Fielding Smith once told me that we must assume that the Lord knows and arranges beforehand who shall be taken in infancy and who shall remain on earth to undergo whatever tests are needed in their cases. This accords with Joseph Smith’s statement: “The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth.” (Teachings, pp. 196–97.) It is implicit in the whole scheme of things that those of us who have arrived at the years of accountability need the tests and trials to which we are subject and that our problem is to overcome the world and attain that spotless and pure state which little children already possess.[2]
I cried when I heard about the shooting.  I have both a five-year-old and a six-year-old right now.  I have two other older children who are school age as well.  But I never felt like I needed to rush to the school and pull them out or felt afraid to put them back in school on Monday.  I think I felt reassured by the Gospel's teachings regarding the Plan of Salvation.  They bring comfort during times of great sorrow.  I'm grateful to have the Gospel and the knowledge of life after death and the tiny speck in the line of eternity that mortality represents.  It truly is a Gospel of Peace.

[1] Tragedy or Destiny?  Spencer W. Kimball

[2]  The Salvation of Little Children, Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign April 1977.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Love One Another

Friday's awful tragedy in Connecticut has left me pondering.  I tend to spend way too much time online and often I get sucked into reading stories and the comments that follow or spending time on question and answer boards.  In response to Friday's shootings, the debates are raging over gun control, awareness of mental illness, and school security.

I truthfully don't know all there is to know about gun laws in this country.  I only know what the second amendment says about having the right to bear arms.  I do know how to shoot a gun, not well, mind you, and I don't own a gun and nor do the majority of the people I know and spend time with regularly.  But it seems to me (personal opinion, not based on any facts or statistics or laws) that guns do not cause people to act heinously, nor does access to guns.  Guns aren't the only type of weapons out there--people can find out how to make a bomb from the Internet--not to mention knives, axes, screwdrivers, rocks, baseball bats, automobiles, etc.  In fact, if you think about it, since guns came about, people have owned them and used them and it's only been in the last few decades where we've had a rise in the number of such mass civilian shootings.  So I'm not sure that gun control laws would be the solution to this problem.

Mental illness is a big issue and a very real one too.  However, from what I understand, not all the shooters in these types of cases were dealing with a clinical mental illness.  Many of them had simply felt victimized or "screwed over" in life and had a lot of rage.  I guess excessive rage can be a form of mental illness, but anger is something we can all learn to control.  However, most people can't be forced to learn to control their anger, even if a judge assigns them the punishment of taking anger management classes.  They will still choose what they get out of such a class.  I do know there are a lot of people out there who deal with very serious mental illnesses, but the majority of them aren't going and shooting up an elementary classroom.  So is mental illness really at the root cause of such a tragic occurrence?

That brings me to school security, or security in general, I guess.  Many of the people on the sites I frequent are blaming the school for not having enough security.  However, if you really think about it, what could they do to make a school more secure?  People suggest metal detectors.  Many schools already have them.  People suggest a police officer guarding the one entrance to the school.  A gunman with rage could easily take out one cop.  Many schools already have screening processes (most do not truly make schools safer, either, as someone without a history of crime would easily pass the process).  The school my children attend has one open entrance during the day, all other entrances are locked and require a key card (worn by teachers and staff) to open, and the one entrance goes straight to the office where you have to check in.  However, you can easily see how this could be bypassed.  A gunman intent on getting in a school could take a teacher or staff member hostage and force entry by the key card or they could skip the office altogether and not check in.  In the case of many school shootings, the shooter was a student.  A metal detector may have helped in such a case, but there are ways to get past even that.  Clearly there are ways to get past such devices or there wouldn't be any "terror scares" in the skies in America anymore since airports have such heavy security that we must all pass through.  And personally, I don't want to have to go through such security just to drop off something to my kid at school or check them out for a doctor's appointment.

So then what do we do?

In order to fix these problems, we need to focus on where everything begins–the family.  If families would stay together and teach children to love one another, they would grow into adults who would do the same thing. There is a lot of anger out there–a lot of people harbor anger and grudges and cold hearts. Even on Internet forums (even on Facebook where we KNOW each other!) you see name-calling and bashing and unkindness. When parents are unkind and uncivil, their children learn that. Even if they have a tight-knit family, if they are teaching these attitudes and habits, that is what children learn and they will behave the same way. It’s become okay to act out in rage over the smallest, silliest things. When you hear of stories where a parent becomes outraged over something, most people stand there nodding their heads in agreement–that parent was right to react that way. Road rage, kids’ sports, etc., the list can go on and on. Yet we as a society have become more accepting of such behaviors because we feel we are “entitled” to being mad when our feelings get hurt. We have forgotten about forgiveness and love and those two things together have the power to change the world. Banning guns, treating mental illness, increasing security everywhere…those all seem to be logical solutions, but the solution truly lies in changing men’s hearts. Until that happens, we will always be hearing these stories in the news.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what will change men's hearts and keep them from turning cold.  Gun control, mental illness awareness, beefed up security might make a tiny dent in the problem, but the real problem lies in men's hearts.  That is where the change needs to happen.  Taking the Gospel, a gospel of love, to all the world is the only thing that will initiate true change.  Not an easy thing to do, for sure, but the way I see it, all these other things are like putting a bandaid on an arterial cut--not going to do a whole lot of good.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You ThinkSelfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to this book, mostly because of the raving recommendation I got for it.  I really thought that, given my view on having kids, it would really jive with me.  However, the nature vs. nurture premise of it really bothered me.  It's not that I don't believe the results of the twin and adoption studies that showed nature was more powerful than nurture--I'm sure there were such results as the author claims.  However, I disagree that parents have little effect on huge things like alcohol and drug use and teenage sex and pregnancy.  Parents have HUGE impacts on things like that and to say they don't, you might as well say, don't bother having rules or teaching morals or training your kids to work hard because nothing you do will count for anything.  That goes against scripture, which says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it."  In church we are told as parents that what we do teach our kids matters a lot and I tend to believe what the gospel teaches parents over what some economist doing research finds on the subject. 

There isn't a whole lot of detail in his research given about the studies, just that he found that the studies he looked at made it seem that parenting doesn't matter.  And that wasn't what bothered me most--it was the fact that he went on for chapters and pages about nature winning over nurture but then he goes back and says that we should discipline our children.  Why, if the lessons won't stick?  A lot of what he is calling "nature" isn't nature, it IS nurture.  If I was raised by parents who are very pessimistic and also very self-disciplined, and I turn out that way, it's not genetics that caused me to be that way, it's learning from how they acted to act the same way.  Genetics don't cause you to be a pessimist or a perfectionist.  That's learned behavior because it's behavior you CAN change if you put your mind to it.  If it was truly genetics, it couldn't be changed, like eye color or height.

I did like the section where he talked about how the population and the economy have a reciprocal effect on each other and the section on grandparents was interesting.  However, this book was rather a disappointment for me as I thought it would be taken in a completely different direction.

Again, if nature so rules over nurture, then what is the point of me doing the best job I can as a parent to teach my kids right from wrong (something they don't know when they come) and teach them self-discipline and hard work and how to manage money, etc.  If nothing parents do matter, then nothing anyone else does either in the life of a human being and teachers can't affect a student and peers can't influence them either because "they are who they are".  What nonsense!

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