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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fear for Free

Take that elf down from the shelf, friends, Christmas is over. I don't have one of the little guys so I have to mark the end of the Season of Using a Naughty Overpriced Plastic Doll to Scare Kids into Behaving in a different way. Mainly by daily threatenings to return all gifts to Santa. (But since 2/3 of my children are no longer believers and 1/3 has a bad case of selective hearing, my threats are nothing more than idle if even heard).

Here's a question for you Elfers out there though:

How does a naughty elf encourage good behavior?

I mean, I get that it's fun to have him/her do silly things every night (actually this a lie because the thought of having to remember to do one more thing EVERY NIGHT in the month of December and then to have to make that one more thing a creative one, STRESSES. ME. OUT.), but how does that translate into outright fear of misbehavior?

Take for instance, this picture:
Shelf Elf
really, Pinterest?

Every morning this is the conversation I have with my children, "WILL YOU PLEASE PUT THE CAP BACK ON THE TOOTHPASTE SO IT DOESN'T GET ALL OVER THE COUNTER?? AND SQUEEZE FROM THE BOTTOM. SQUEEZE. FROM. THE. BOTTOM!!" How could this possibly help lower the toothpaste covered counter incidents in my home?  My heart is pounding just looking at this picture because, really, I don't have enough kid-created messes to clean up, I'm going to make some of my own? Do you know when this would be cleaned up at my house? June. Maybe. If my ultimate goal is to scare my kids into never misusing toothpaste again, how could this possibly help?
Or here's another Pinterest suggestion:
Funny & Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas - much needed!!!
Have your elf steal from you. Because it's not enough you paid $30 (if you got a deal)  for this creep, now he's going to take your cash, charge up your credit card, AND teach your kids it's okay. This is the guy Santa's sent to keep an eye on them, right? So either Santa's been snookered just like everyone else who's bought into Elfie/Mr. Jingles/Harvey (or whatever pseudonym he's using at your house) or Santa's standard have seriously slipped.
Or how about this:
Cute website for elf ideas.
You want to know what my kids' reaction to this would be? Not, "Mommy, mommy look how funny Elfie is!" or "Can I drink syrup through a straw too?" No, their reaction would be "Straws as a syrup delivery device? Why did I never think of this before? Who needs pancakes or waffles? Let's cut out the middle man! Girl 2, you get the straws. Girl 3, you watch for Mom while Girl 2 and I drink our breakfast. If there's any left, you can have some too."
Call me dense or clueless or the meanest mom ever, but I just don't get it. I mean, I'm not against fear. I'm pro-fear. Kids should be scared into being good. But how does a mirror defacing, purse invading, syrup sucking doll accomplish this? Especially when he's kept in a box for eleven months out of the year.
Here's how it's always worked at my house (and the house I grew up in). The kids have a week after Christmas to get all their fighting and naughtiness out without too much retribution. Hopefully they're distracted enough by all their new crap that things don't get too out of control. But starting January 1st, Santa's elves start watching again. But only Mom can see them. They're always peeking in windows somewhere. And they're are windows everywhere. Go ahead, think of somewhere without windows (okay, outside, but the elves are already out there). Dungeons, right? And let's see a kid misbehave in one of those.
The elves are always watching. ALWAYS. And there's more than one of them.
Fear can be free, my friends. Free. All you have to do when naughtiness is about to erupt is calmly say, "Oh, I think I just saw an elf peeking in the window." Stops them in their tracks. Now the focus has gone from being bad to being outright scared of something they can't see but can see them. Fear of the unknown, people, is the greatest fear of all.
Follow your statement by quietly signing a few of the creepier lines from Santa Claus is Coming to Town. "He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. SO BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKE!"
Boom. Elves go from rosy cheeked pranksters to a cross between Edward Cullen and Chucky.
Happy New Year and You're Welcome. 

WARNING! This method may not actually induce good behavior. Side effects include nightmares, fear of dark hallways, fear of being alone, fear of windows, desire for window coverings, and fear.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mormonism for Drunks

Last weekend I went to Vegas to see my friend Kelly from Cleveland.
We went cooler places than the airport,
but we forgot to take pictures at those places.
It was one of the few bright spots at the end of a hard year. And, let me tell you, Kelly from Cleveland knows how to do Vegas. There's no hanging out in her mother-in-law's basement like yours truly. Nope. There's shopping, and eating good food, and winning money, and staying at nice hotels.

This is not how I do Vegas.

But Kelly from Cleveland let me live vicariously through her, asking me be her personal shopper and buying me a delicious steak at a restaurant with singing frogs and waterfalls that was not Rainforest CafĂ©.* I did, however, miss out on the club with the ladies taking waterless baths and the man wearing the bear head who may or may not have worked there.

Again, this was not my typical Vegas visit to the in-laws.

Kelly's husband Chris and her friend Kathleen also ate delicious steak  with us and later her friend--I'll call him Drunk Larry (mostly because his name is Larry and because he was, in fact, drunk)--showed up to drink some wine and eat our delicious leftovers. We had a very fine time and Larry--as he himself pointed out--was hiLARRYous.

During our lively conversation there were some questions asked/statements made about Mormons. I did an okay job of answering them, but now that I've had a few days to think them over and Larry's had a few days to sober up, I think I'd like to give it another go. I'll leave it to anyone who wasn't at that dinner who may read this blog to guess which questions asked/statements made were from the one among us who was not entirely sober.

You're a Mormon? Where did you park your horse and buggy?
At Brigham Young's house...back in 1858.

The typical form of transportation used by Mormons now looks like this:**
Based on this picture, 2 out of 9 Mormon children will have broken arms at any given time.
Is there such a thing as a Mormon high school?
Yes, in some parts of Utah and Idaho. Except it's called public school and isn't actually owned by the Church.
In many parts of the world though, high school age kids attend what we call seminary which is usually held in our church buildings. This is religious instruction that generally happens before school where there isn't a high concentration of Mormons. In Utah, Southern Idaho and parts of Arizona this instruction takes place during the school day in seminary buildings located near high schools and is officially known as released time. It's part of a student's class schedule, but no credit is given for the course. Except in Heaven.

Are there black Mormons?
Yes. Here's one right here:
There are more, but I'm not gonna lie. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--just like most other predominately white Christian churches--has a difficult history when it comes to Black Americans and because of that we don't have nearly the number of black members I would like to see us have. I found this cool site though, if you want to know more about black Latter Day Saints.

Are there gay Mormons?
Yes there are members of the Church who struggle with same-sex attraction. This one is hard because of our belief that gender is eternal and that marriage is between a man and a woman (as a side-note, not all faithful members agree with this). Sex outside of marriage is also considered a sin, thereby resigning someone attracted to another of the same sex to a life of celibacy if he/she wants to remain a fully practicing Mormon.
It's a difficult subject and one that the Church has not always been sensitive to or open about. I think this website is a huge step in the right direction toward a more compassionate approach to same-sex attraction.

Do Mormons get Botox?
At least one of us does:

Have you seen Book of Mormon, the musical? Is the history in it right?
I haven't seen it so I don't know for sure. But if it's about a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith who, in 1820, read in James 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, decided to put that scripture to the test by asking God which church to join and was answered over a number of years with visions of God, Jesus, and angels and actual gold plates from which we get our Book of Mormon that does not include any dancing, singing, or stages; then yes, the history is correct.
Even telling you about it makes me think, this must sound crazy to someone who hasn't heard it before.
But no crazier than a virgin giving birth to the son of God and that same son coming back to life after three days and a lot more people (including me) believe those stories.
You can read Joseph Smith's experience in his own words here. It's kind of long and doesn't have the same humor as Matt Stone and Trey Parker's version, but I'd venture to say it's better.
Does your Mormon God (fill in the blank):
My Mormon God does the same thing as your Jewish/Catholic/Muslim/Christian/whatever God. They're all the same guy, we just recognize and worship Him in different ways. Mormons are different than other Christians in that we don't believe in the doctrine of the trinity. We believe God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings and that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone.
There's a lot of people who don't like that about us, but I'm okay with that.
If I were a Mormon I wouldn't have lost my phone.
It's true if you were Mormon you probably wouldn't have been drunk, making it easier for you to not lose your phone. But Mormons lose things too.
We even lose things bigger than cells phones. Like jobs or homes or spouses. Sometimes we even lose children. Bad things happen to Mormons just like they happen to other good people. And life can be hard and sometimes we're sad.
But we have this scripture from the Book of Mormon (not the musical) that helps: 2 Nephi 2:25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
And we have our belief that there has to be opposition in all things. In order to know joy, we have to know misery, in order to feel pleasure we have to feel pain, in order to love we have to grieve.
It doesn't necessarily make things easier when we have hard times, but it brings some peace knowing God isn't mean and basically just wants us to be as happy as He is.
There were more questions, but I can't remember all of them and some of them weren't entirely appropriate. Basically it comes down to this: Mormons look a lot like you. Except without the alcohol or coffee. Or the cursing (at least not as much). And maybe a few other things--like more kids--but not always. (For the record, Drunk Larry has one more of those than me).
So there you go. A little slice of Mormonism in a nutshell.
A very small slice in a very small nutshell.
There's really a lot more and you could probably find a lot better answers in some other places, like But feel free to ask me any questions you may have. I will be happy to answer them if they're asked in a way that doesn't hurt my feelings.*** (Hard questions I'm okay with. Mean questions I'm not--I'm funny that way).
* Also there was fry sauce to go with our magically delicious French fries which gives me hope that the fry sauce phenomenon has crossed the Utah border and is finally making it's way West toward me.
** Most Mormons do not actually drive red Econo-vans. That was a joke... they're usually white.
*** To be clear, my Cleveland friends' questions did not hurt my feelings. Drunk Larry's surprise at finding himself dining with a Mormon was an entertainment highlight of the summer. And my summers are pretty entertaining.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One Last Good-bye

I got this puzzle for Christmas:
If I knew how to do that magic with pictures where you circle something important and draw an arrow to it, I would circle the place in the right hand corner that says 1000 Pieces. 1000 is a lot when it comes to puzzle pieces. Especially if you don't like puzzles.
But if someone you love has cancer and she gives you a puzzle, you do that puzzle. Because there's nothing else you can do. (In case you haven't heard, there's still no cure for cancer). And I figured if my aunt could survive a surgery wherein most of her insides were removed and then chemo on top of that, I could probably do a 1000 piece puzzle.
So I spent a few weeks (we'll call them January) sitting at my dining room table trying piece after piece until I fit two, then three, then four and the image of Christ came together. I thought a lot about Him as I built that puzzle, knowing He answers prayers, hoping He'd answer yes to mine, fearing He couldn't.
I got about 900 pieces in when my cousin's kids came over and this happened:

See those pieces on the outside? Those are the pieces I had left. See that pile in the middle? Those were all put together. See that half-finished border? That's what remained in tact when the three year old decided to play "waterfall." Can you believe I still love that kid? You would if you knew him.
I looked at that pile of pieces for a few days, not ready to put them back in the box, but also certain I couldn't start over.
It was about that time my aunt got the news her cancer was back. Not that it had ever really gone away, but we'd been fooled for a few weeks into thinking it had. I was with her that day. We hugged and we cried and then, we planned. "Let's make photo books for your grandbabies," I said. "It will give you something to do." Something to leave behind was left unsaid, but understood. 
Then I went home and started sorting those pieces, ready to start over.
I finished the puzzle in February, working overtime to get it done before the cousins came over--just in case the little one wanted to play waterfall again.
If I could do that magic circle thing I'd point out the two empty spots. The two missing pieces never found. I suppose there's an analogy there--something about Christ being able to fill our missing pieces. I don't know. I do know you can't ever really finish a puzzle without all the pieces.
That didn't keep me from leaving it on my dining room table for months. Every time we had company my husband would ask if we could put it away, but I'd say no and so we fed our guests around it. I kept hoping to find the last two pieces, just like I kept hoping for a miracle, even though I could see the cancer winning.
I took the puzzle apart and put it back in its box two weeks ago after my aunt hugged me goodbye. The pieces weren't found and I didn't get the miracle I wanted.
But I'm grateful for all the unexpected blessings along the way.
In the end, the missing pieces weren't important. I could still see who's in the picture.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Careful What You Wish For...

Dear Me and Every Teacher Who Ever Said, "Put the Book Down, Girl 1,"

We did it! Hooray for us! My voracious reader has informed me that reading is boring, there's nothing to read anyway, and she doesn't want to do it anymore.

Hallelujah, right? It's not like reading could help her get into college or get a good job or expand her world view or anything. Glad we broke that terrible habit.

Know what she does want to do?

Sit in front of the computer googling and emailing. Her "grab and go" skills have also greatly improved when it comes to taking advantage of my unattended phone to text her friends or play Fruit Ninja.

That's when she's not begging me for her own phone and listing the endless reasons why I am the worst mother in the world for not letting her have one whilst reminding me that she is, literally, the only girl on the planet without some kind of device that starts with i.

So, you know, well done us...

With Sighs of Exasperation,


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Remember Me?

Dear Blog,

Remember how I used to write you? I'd sit down and tap, tap, tappity-tap away at least once a week and produce something for the masses (all 100 of them) to read. Most of my posts were okay, some were really good, and one or two were pretty awesome. Collectively they all gave me a sense of being connected to a worldwide community and they made me a better writer.

That was before Home School. Before my aunt's cancer. Before the call to be Young Women's President*.

That was back in the heady days of triathlons and novel writing, Tuesday breakfasts and people watching for blog material.

Back in the days before people got tired of writing more than 140 words at a time and having to wait  hours--or even days--for comments. The Pretwitteristic Age.

I miss those days.

I think we should make an effort to get together more often.



* Young Women's President, for those uninitiated in the ways of Mormon lay clergy, means that I was asked by my bishop (pastor) to be the president of our ward's (aka: congregation) organization for girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen. For me, this means planning weekly activities and Sunday lessons for roughly thirty girls and lots of other time consuming things that I don't get paid for. It is also the best church job ever, despite the fact I can't curse in this blog anymore because, you know, I'm an example now.