Tuesday, July 28, 2020

If you give a mouse a cookie...

I should never read other people's parenting stories. Yes, yes. I know. That's how we all learn to parent better. By listening to other parents' success stories and at least trying out the strategies that worked.

My kids. My kids are different from other kids. I love them. Deeply. Fiercely.

Monday I kept Kip home from school because he had a nose sniffle, and in an era of COVID it seems prudent to keep kids home when even mildly ill.

Tuesday, Paul pitched a fit about going to school, probably because Kip stayed home Monday. He did have a rough night of sleep (he woke up at 3 am having wet the bed and both he and Sylvia took showers before heading back to bed). Reasoning one 'mental health day' wouldn't be a big deal, I let him stay home, then made him read and write all day long. I didn't think it was a terribly fun day and assumed he'd be rested and ready to go back to school.

I have read so many stories about parents who, good-naturedly allow their children a day off now and then just because school is hard some days and sometimes you just need a break. Their cotton candy children go back to school the next day refreshed and ready to learn.

Those are so not my children. My children are the kind where if you give them an inch, they take a mile. If they sense any hint of compromise, they'll argue for the sun.

So we come to this morning. Paul again pitched a fit about going to school. He punched his little brother most of the way to school, until I (sternly. No, I'll be honest, yelling) told him I'd drop him off where we were if he didn't stop and he'd have to walk all the way to school. Then, when we got to school and the other two dutifully went to class (though not with out Kip also asking to stay home again), Paul sat in the car and refused to leave.

I parked the car and played a game on my phone. Then I realized Paul was too entertained by the game so I turned it off and just sat there. I got bored waiting (I'm honestly terrible at the wait them out thing) so I walked into the main office "looking for forms" (which they didn't have). Paul still refused to go to class, but at least the office was aware of where he was, and they offered to help if I needed it.

When we went back out, Paul locked me out of the car, so I went and stood in the sun where it was at least a little warm. Paul followed me out, begging for a fidgit. I emailed his teacher to ask what was appropriate, then tried to convince him he could go to class and I'd talk to her about it later (we have a parent-teacher conference with her this afternoon). That didn't convince him either. Nor did a phone call from his dad (the absent-minded professor, who set an alarm for this morning for a 5 am meeting that's happening Friday, and then forgot his computer charger). I finally bribed Paul with a cup of coffee. That worked. On the way into the office he offhandedly reminded me I hadn't signed a permission slip he needed that day.

So much drama.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

We didn't start the fire

Yesterday was my 42nd birthday. I was looking forward to posting on twitter and maybe even facebook, "Today I am the answer," referencing Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

But given the combination of a global pandemic and rioting in my home country, it seemed a tad gauche.

It's absolutely surreal watching what's going on in the US right now. I watched a protest in Salt Lake City (SALT LAKE CITY!) over the murder of George Floyd and other acts of police violence against Black people. It was...unpleasant. I'm not sure what people wanted from the demonstrations, but the response of police was disturbing. It seemed like the police were saying, "we are the ones with the power here."

It doesn't seem right.

The level of violence, and the constant undercurrent of violence was disturbing, too. Watching it all unfold on a street I used to ride the bus down to get to school, and in front of a library I loved visiting when I lived in Salt Lake filled me with a sense of dread, and yet I couldn't look away.

I finally made a birthday cake to celebrate Derrick's and my birthdays, and we ate it tonight. His birthday is in April, but with Covid-19 happening I just couldn't pull myself together to bake a cake. The kids were still home at that point as well, so it's not like I had time around homeschooling. He asked for a pineapple coconut cake with orange buttercream frosting, which I was also a bit nervous about making. The previous times I've made it we were in the US and I had slightly different ingredients on hand--cake mixes and orange juice concentrate mostly. I tried a new recipe--the pinacolada cake from smitten kitchen with pineapple curd filling and orange buttercream frosting just made with normal orange juice. It turned out okay. The cake's a bit heavy, but it tasted nice, especially with the pineapple curd filling to really boost the flavor of the cake.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I always get so much from talking to you

I love my grandma Mimi's hands. When I was a child I used to sit next to her during sacrament meeting and play with the veins that wound over the back of her hands and looked so much like rivers, trying unsuccessfully to make one side or the other deflate. Her hands were always busy doing something, so I loved those moments where she’d let me just hold her hand. Hers were the hands that taught me to knead bread, to make frosting flowers, and how to sweep the floor and clean a toilet. She taught me to use a dictionary, and edited every essay I wrote for a year with those hands, marking up papers with her red pen until I had learned to write a grammatically correct sentence the first time. She grew tomatoes and daffodils, made grape juice (thick as milk) and jams from apricots, plums, choke cherries, and any other fruit that came her way. She could learn to do anything--she baked and decorated wedding cakes, birthday cakes, cinnamon rolls (only occasionally with cumin), and 4th ward brownies; she quilted and sewed and crocheted everything from baby dresses to temple altar cloths, and she gave all of it to the people around her as if to say, "Here, I love you, I made this for you."
Mimi taught us to speak. Professionally, she was a speech pathologist who worked with resource kids, and she understood the importance of speaking well. Everyone around her was subject to correction, no matter how old or young. She was a terrific writer, but so busy making and teaching she rarely took the time to put down her own stories.
I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I still do.
Marie Hansen was the third child of Louis Manervan and Tressa Love Hansen, born in Mills, Utah, a town that exists today primarily as an exit on I-15. Her family were farmers, and when she was about seven her older brother broke his leg, forcing the family moved to Panguich, where there was a hospital. She helped her family picking peas for 25 cents a bushel. I imagine she was an energetic, industrious child before, but I'm sure that experience cemented her work ethic deep in her bones. While she was there she was put back a grade by a teacher who didn't think it worthwhile to educate "pea pickers." Another, more observant teacher, realized she was following along with the older children and moved her up a grade. She later graduated (early) from Delta High school; in 1970 she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Speech pathology and Audiology from the University of Utah, and a year later earned her MS, all while raising her seven children.
In addition to her own children, she had a hand in the raising of 24 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren, and one great-great granddaughter, along with countless neighborhood kids. When Marie was ten her mother gave birth to a daughter, Paula, and then developed 'milk leg,' and Mimi helped raise Paula, too. For 61 years she was married to Sterling Yates Nielson, and mourned his absence for the last 11 years of her life. I am sure they are ecstatic to be reunited.
The last time I talked to her, the day before she died, she wondered aloud if she'd done enough in her life. I wish I'd been there to hold her hands, now knobby and spotted, with veins popping out even more than when I was a child, as I told her yes, she had done enough. Even so, my ever-generous grandma asked her body be donated to the University of Utah for medical students to learn from. After ninety-one long, busy, ever productive years she's still teaching.
She was an incredible woman, a force of nature. She created our world, shaped and molded us, and always, always loved us. There is no monument to her but us, but our hands, which must now bear one another up and take on the work she can no longer do. We love you and will miss you always.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

I gave a talk today

I know blogging isn't so much a thing anymore, but hey, this is where I can put something like this up. Since I'm pretty happy with this talk, I'm going to post it here.

We Believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

So begins the final portion of the Wentworth letter, a document written by Joseph Smith that lays out the foundation of Mormonism. Yes, I'm going to use the term “Mormonism.” today to refer to the Christian movement that Joseph Smith started that eventually splintered into multiple churches, one of which we now belong to, which calls itself “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” I hope you all can forgive me. In any case, the Wentworth letter ends with thirteen articles, which we now call the thirteen articles of faith, and which many of us memorise as children (or are currently memorising) and the first one states our doctrine of the Godhead as three separate personages, God the Father, his son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy spirit.

This doctrine is one of those that marks us out as different from other Christian sects and is why some consider us not Christian. I'm not really interested in why, though. I personally believe that between the account of the first vision and multiple scriptures in the New Testament that our belief in three separate individuals is warranted. I think focusing on how this makes us different from other sects is, ironically, at odds with the doctrine of the Godhead itself, as it's something that is used to divide us from others rather than uniting us.

So, I would like to turn to unity and what our understanding of the nature of the Godhead teaches us about it. How is it possible for three distinct individuals to be united as one as the Godhead is described by Joseph Smith? And how are we to be united as one body of saints?

In John 10:30, while in the temple preaching during the feast of the dedication Jesus says, “I and my Father are one.” Some time later, during the great intercessory prayer that he gives at the conclusion of the last supper (found in John 17:21) he prays over the Twelve “That they may all be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Since clearly the Twelve did not become physically one with each other or with God and Christ, again, I think this is indicating the Lord expects his disciples to become one with each other in spirit and in purpose. He asks the same of us today.

How is that to be accomplished among his disciples? Just a couple of weeks ago we studied the Last Supper. Just a few minutes ago we took part in the ordinance that came out of the Last Supper. Every week when we partake of the sacrament we promise that we, “do always remember him [Jesus Christ], that we may have his spirit to be with us.” We promise to keep his commandments, and to take his name upon us.

This is part of the oneness. By remembering him, by taking on his name so that our actions are taken under his behalf, and by accepting his spirit, or the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we promise every week to become one with Jesus Christ. We are, as a congregation, unified in that covenant and in renewing that covenant every week.

Unity is about the type of relationships we develop with those around us. During the last supper, Jesus twice gives the commandment to love one another. The first of these scriptures (in John 13:34-35) we sing regularly in the hymn, Love One Another. Loving one another is a definite theme in Christs teachings throughout his Earthly ministry, but I think it's significant that in the final hours of his life he emphasised Love so strongly. I've heard in my life a lot of discussion of the different words for love that Jesus uses that would have had slightly different meanings in the original language and yet are all translated into the word 'love' in english. I'm not enough of a scholar to be able to explain that to you today, but I do want to point out that Christ is talking about Godly love, and that Godly love is different from the love that we typically share with family or friends.

It's easy to love some people. It's easy to love those who listen to us, or who are like us in significant ways. I find it easy to love people who are kind to me, who say nice things to me or who do nice things for me. I don't want to discount the importance of these things within healthy, happy relationships. We all need those things, and we all need relationships that provide safety and acceptance and validation. The Trappist Monk, Thomas Merten said:

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

But God's love is different. Dieter F. Uchdorf said in the 2009 October general conference:

“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely. He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.”

When I was in college there was a girl in my class who was difficult to like. I'll call her Robin. Robin was not well-liked because she was abrupt and seemed to expect people to dislike her. She had a disability that made her difficult to talk to and, as is the case with many very smart people, she was more than a little arrogant. Her arrogance seemed as much a defence against a world that she assumed saw her as worthless. In any case, she wasn't well-liked and really didn't have any friends that I knew of. I'm a pretty awkward person myself and I remembered spending several years in my early adolescence friendless and remembered how miserable that time was, so even though I didn't much like her either I tried to be nice to her in the ways I've been taught to be nice to people.

You're probably thinking this is going to be a heartwarming tale where my efforts at kindness were received gladly and we learned to love each other and through the influence of my caring support Robin saw her worth as a person and her heart grew three sizes and whatnot. Yeah, that didn't happen. For the first two years I knew Robin I tried to engage her in conversation and unfailingly greeted her when I saw her around campus. And every time she rebuffed me. And she was not nice.

So after two years I gave up. I started ignoring her.

Once I respected her space and once she perceived that I wasn't being a fake friend she did respond to that. She's still a difficult person, but we are friends to this day because we're on equal footing. I thought I was showing charity, but it wasn't until I stopped making our friendship about making me feel good about myself that we could actually be friends. Robin taught me a lot about love and about friendship.

I believe unconditional love is a prerequisite for unity within our community. I don't think it's sufficient, but I do think it's where we have to start. I think much like faith, love is without work is dead.

As it says in James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

What are the works we are to be engaged in if we want to create a unified community? Let's back up a few verses, and start with verse 14 of the second chapter of James.

14-17 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

We live in a time of exceptional bounty. There is enough and to spare for everyone on the planet. There is enough food produced to feed 10 billion people. There is no good reason for people to go hungry. There is plenty of work to be done and plenty of money to pay people for their work. There is no good reason for people to be jobless or homeless. The degree of inequality between people and the concentration of wealth in the coffers of a few speaks to the inadequacy of our economic system to provide the necessities of life to everyone. We don't often talk about the immorality of that, but I do believe it is immoral when there is enough that we allow poverty to persist. It is most assuredly a huge barrier to the creation of a unity when we don't value people enough to provide the basic necessities of life.

It is my belief, and my personal opinion that we should use whatever tools are at our disposal to combat poverty and the multitude of social ills that follow it. The thing is, I can't alleviate poverty through my own individual actions. However, I can support using the government to address the problem of poverty.

And if you want to argue with me about it, feel free. I will be here in the chapel after church. Just be forewarned, I'll probably force a music score into your hands and make you sing with the choir.

I'm going to end with my testimony that the Lord loves each of us, whatever our circumstances, whatever our faults, whatever our sins. He loves us constantly in a way that we can perhaps glimpse a few times in our lives. He asks us to develop our capacity for love and for charity, to love those with whom we disagree, to sit with the publicans and the sinners of the world and show them their worthiness. I am grateful to have landed in Firle ward, where I do feel loved, where we do disagree and do so in love and with respect. I hope that this testimony I've offered today gives you a better idea of what I mean when I call myself a Christian, and what I mean when I say I believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Yesterday on the way home I cried on the bus. There was this young Muslim girl who I smiled at and she offered me her seat, which I didn't take because hey, I'd been sitting all day long and she was there first. And somehow her kindness juxtaposed with how terrible the world is right now--with looming climate change and rampant, violent white supremacy, a massacre of Muslims in Christchurch--it was just too much. Of course I didn't have a tissue, so I spent most of the bus ride trying to subtly wipe away my tears. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Animal jam

We showed up late, as usual, though early by our standards since they were still passing the sacrament. After the end of the sacrament Sylvia and I slipped into two seats in the overflow area. After a few minutes I looked over at Sylvia, just to see what she was doing.

Sitting on the chair behind her was a gecko.

Pausing here for a moment. For those who haven't been around my house in the last year, let me fill you in: Sylvia is obsessed with geckos. She's always loved animals, and from the time she learned to write she's been making lists of the tens and hundreds of pets she wants. And not in a theoretical, little kid dreaming of the future when she gets to make the rules kind of way; in an earnest, literal, this-is-my-life's-goal-and-I'm-going-to-chase-that-dream-now kind of way. (She's a bit headstrong.) As a parent interested in keeping my sanity I've put the kibosh on most pets, though we do have a dog and four fish, all of which are (curiously) my responsibility. When Sylvia learned that there were geckos down in the park she could catch and bring home as her pets, well, let's just say we've had a lot of geckos visit our house.

I tried not to make a scene. I think I managed to squash my squeaking without unduly disturbing the meeting. I made Sylvia get up so I could grab the gecko, at which point I spotted a second gecko on the chair.

That's right. My daughter brought not one, but two geckos to church.

I dragged her and the geckos outside and made her release them. Sylvia was thoroughly annoyed, we both yelled (though I did try to be firm and kind for a good 10 minutes. I just don't have the patience for more than that) and in the end I went back in without her after I'd judged the geckos had a good head start.

After sacrament meeting was over I collected Sylvia from outside, took her to class, and then went to my own classes. All fine, all good.

After Relief Society I went to pick up Sylvia from the Primary room. She was standing at the podium with one of the other girls in her class.

Both holding geckos.

(We had a playdate with the girl, who lives down the street from us, the next day. Yes, there were geckos involved.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sittin' on the dock of the bay

So, I was going to write something about things I think about, since my words are not precious and my thoughts need someplace to go. Maybe I will later, since there are many things I find interesting to think about. My brain turns my thoughts over and over in my head, which would polish them and hone them if there were any place for them to go. Since they stay in my head they just get smaller and smaller. I really should put them down so they don't all disappear.

Today, however, I need to record events.

Kip woke me up. He came in and asked me to help him take his pants off. I asked him, "Did you pee in the bed?"

He said, "No. My pants are boring."


Turns out he wasn't the one who peed in the bed, Paul was, but Kip was the one soaked and wet. After I dropped him in the shower with Derrick I took Rosie down to the park, though Paul came down with me to the oval. When I told him I was intending to walk more than just to the oval he went home. It was nice to have his company for at least a few minutes.

I got ready quickly when I got back because I'd stayed too long, talking to Rick and letting Abby play with Rosie. As soon as Derrick left, though, Paul begged to ride his scooter to school. It didn't take much to convince me to let him and Sylvia go. Yesterday (or maybe Monday?) Sylvia refused to let me inspect her bag (which I now know contained a frog in an ice-cream container that she didn't want me to confiscate). Rather than let me take away her frog, Sylvia and Paul walked to school. They claimed they were "one minute late" though Rick said he'd seen them after 9. Regardless, since they'd made it once and were close to on time I felt like I could probably let them go again, especially since they were on scooters instead of on foot and should have been faster.

I did some dishes, then took Kip to Pri's house, and then headed to work. Just as I was finishing talking to Mark about the work for the day I got a text from the school informing me that they'd recorded an absence for Paul. I was annoyed, but figured they'd walked slowly and spent too much time looking for geckos, and thought I'd give them half an hour more to get to school. Oh, and a few minutes for me to drink some tea.

So, after finishing my tea and talking to Cesca and to Mark about the drama (in my totally undramatic, I'm sure everything's okay but man isn't this annoying way), I called the school. They confirmed that Sylvia and Paul weren't at school, wanted to know where I thought they'd be, and immediately sent a couple of staff members out to look for them. As soon as I informed them that Sylvia and Paul should have been there but weren't it was like they went to defcon 4. They wanted to know where I'd left my kids and where they usually walked, and if they couldn't find my kids they wanted to call the police, and, AND I had to talk to the principal about it.

Fortunately, Sylvia and Paul were easy to find--they were on linear park, just where I expected them to be, and just where I'd told the school to look.

Unfortunately, thanks to this, I now have a meeting Monday morning with one of the school administrators to discuss Sylvia and Paul's path to school. It sucks that when my kids do something bad I'm the one who gets called on the carpet.