Monday, December 08, 2014

Thanksgiving thankful tree

I stole my friend Tamsin's idea and we had a "Thanksgiving tree" this year. I took some of the stockier weed things we were cutting down in the backyard, took off their leaves, and put them in a vase of stones. Then I bought some luggage tag things that we wrote on and hung from the branches (I guess ideally they would be leaf-shaped, but it's fall so I am okay with having a leafless tree).

It was good to remember what we were thankful for. Here were the things I was thankful for:
forgiveness - this sounds dramatic. I was kind of rude to someone on the phone and later I said I was sorry.
baby toys/chairs
loving family
good food
people who believe in me and my abilities
pizza and restaurants
domesticated animals - I was thinking of chickens and cows specifically, but dogs are nice too.
a strong body
easily-cleaned couch - Piper spit up a huge amount one morning.
that Piper is alive and well - I tried to walk Piper and Koko at the same time, and Koko knocked over Piper's stroller while she was in it. Luckily she landed in the grass and was fine.
online shopping
home-cooked food and a clean kitchen - I wanted to capture more than this - that I have a good habit of cooking and cleaning the kitchen, and that I'm mentally healthy enough to keep up that habit.
breastfeeding - it is really convenient
running water
our dishwasher
Adam's list:
our two working cars
good friends
online palettes
our cute baby
funny internet videos
baby cooing noises

our visitors:
warm blankets
good books
I bought some more Thanksgiving history books (I'm not sure why but I just love reading about early colonists' lives).  Our Thanksgiving display improves! Now I just have to find a way to use up those decorative squash...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

roll cloud

Another baby pic post up. Here are some bonus pictures:

icey hike!
I think that is a roll cloud. I could be wrong. 
I thought artists made up the clouds with lots of fine dots/grains. But then I saw some!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rituals for Atheists (or anyone, really)

One thing I've been thinking about is if I didn't believe in God, what religious rituals would I retain? Or in other words, what does science have to say about religious rituals or values?

  • Spend time with family, get closer to family. This one seems pretty obvious. A common way to spend time with your immediate family is through family dinners, which are correlated with a lot of positive things, and have a pretty good effect on lessening depressive symptoms and helping children feel they have a stable environment. One problem with family dinner research is that it is hard to separate families who eat together from families who are middle- and upper-income brackets. This article explores the limitations of such research. There's also the BYU study about how daughters who played videogames with their parents exhibited more pro-social behavior and felt closer to their families. I like the Mormon tradition of having a night set aside to spend with families (Monday night is "family home evening"), and I think it logically follows that if you spend more time with your family, they will know each other better and feel closer to one another (whether or not your family members like being close to one another is up for debate though).
  • Gratitude. Being thankful for things in your life and for the things other people do for you is associated with feeling happy and optimistic and such. There's a time and place for cynicism, but personally I don't struggle with being a realist and I could use a dose of optimism some days. Daily prayers encourage us to be grateful, but if you don't pray, you could have some of the benefits of prayer by taking a little time each day to think about what you're grateful for.
  • Goal-setting. This isn't a religious ritual per se, but when I pray for something I feel like it's a goal I've set and I start to think of ways I can help make it happen. Of course, sometimes I pray for things I have no control over, but I think that the act of praying for something can make you more receptive to having ideas about how to help that desire.
  • Prayer. I'm not sure if you have to believe in God in order to pray. There are benefits to praying, like if you pray for your spouse or friend you are more likely to forgive them, and some people experience less pain. Maybe part of the relaxing effect of prayer is having faith that God is taking care of you, and that praying will help you in your life somehow. When I pray for someone, it motivates me to see things through their eyes and have more compassion towards them. I'm not sure what the secular equivalent to prayer would be--maybe meditation?
  • Knowing your family narrative helps adolescents have a fallback identity. In my religion family history work is part of our missionary work, since we believe that we can perform saving rituals (like baptism) on behalf of the deceased. Most people don't know very many dead people, so you start with your own family members. 
Those are a few I've thought about. I think there's probably a benefit of knowing other people who live near you (like the people you meet at church) and having adults other than family members interact with your children.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

How unfollowing everyone in my Facebook feed improved my Facebook experience

A few weeks ago I got sick of everything in my Facebook feed. Everything was vanity. First I was only going to hide articles from other sites, because I decided I wanted Facebook for people news. Then I realized I was getting a lot of updates from people I didn't care about that much. So I went through all my friends and put them in groups, and unfriended a bunch of people I barely remembered. I felt sentimental about people I had met as a child and teenager though, so I kept most of my friends from my growing-up years, even though I have little in common with them (but I put them in a separate group).

But it wasn't enough! I was still getting stupid stuff in my news feed. So I unfollowed every last person in my news feed. Sometimes it was hard to unfollow someone, but I kept reminding myself that if I really wanted to know what someone was posting, I could always visit their individual page. As I started unfollowing people, friends I didn't even know were active on Facebook started popping up in my news feed (like my aunt!). I unfollowed everyone and soon I realized that my news feed could have an end. For good measure I unfollowed everything I had liked, and I unliked almost everything. It was such a relief.

Maybe completely breaking with Facebook would be good for me, but I like hearing little updates from my friends and family in our post-blogging social media world. Dividing my Facebook friends into groups was very helpful, because now I can choose who I want to hear from. If I only want to spend a few minutes on Facebook, I click the "family" friend group. If I'm bored I can explore the other groups, but I have to make a conscious decision to continue.

This method of sorting one's feeds has its pros and cons. I don't think anything is filtered this way, so I see everything any one person in the group posts, likes, or makes friends with. In some ways I like it better, because I can be sure that I'm not just in an echo chamber where I see what I like, and I can know that I'm not just seeing the most controversial posts.  But the ordering isn't based on when the post was made; if someone comments on a post it comes back to the top again. Redundancy of posts was one of the things I hated in my original feed, and I still have no way to fix this problem (although for my friends with blogs, I don't really read your feeds much anymore, I just read your blogs). I also wish that more of my Facebook friends would stop sharing pithy quotes and photos and start telling me more about how their day was or what they are thinking about.

But on the other hand, I've enjoyed reading articles my friends have posted in the past and using them as a starting point for discussion. The majority of the posts I read on Facebook are made by 3-4 people (if you post or share to Facebook more than once a day, you know who you are), and I don't feel like I am any closer to those people than the people who don't post much, but I might have more topics ready for conversation since you are on my mind more.

I don't think I'm done with Facebook experiments--some time I want to try commenting on everything in my feed, just because. And maybe there's a browser extension that can hide all the stupid "x is friends with y and likes z" I have in my feeds now.

Friday, October 31, 2014

baby vids

There's some video of my progeny laughing over on my family photo blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

God may not be omnipotent

I've been inspired to examine my beliefs about the world and God, and I started on this process in part 1 of what may become an ongoing series. I find it frustrating to make assumptions, but as this Dinosaur comic illustrates, every one of us has to make assumptions about the veracity of our physical experiences and the reliability of our sensory input in order to try to make sense of the world and survive and stuff.

The other day I was singing "The Spirit of God," which at one point says "the knowledge and power of God are expanding." Wait. If they're expanding, that means they're not infinite! So we have an LDS hymn that basically states that God is not omniscient or even omnipotent. This makes God easier for me to understand, because otherwise, why would They put Their son through all that suffering if They could just change the rules with all Their omnipotence. God's desire to rear little souls makes more sense to me this way too, because then our experiences, when exalted, can expand the knowledge and power of God (maybe too much of a stretch?). God knows all the rules of the physical and metaphysical universe, but maybe They didn't make them, and at least can't break them. So the answer to my question of "why would God make such a ridiculous rule about the price for repenting of sin?" could be "God didn't make that rule."

There's a great speech by BYU's Dr. Paulson on the problem of evil that my sister recommended to me. In it, Paulson states:
[Joseph Smith's] revelations circumvent the theoretical problem of evil by denying the trouble-making postulate of absolute creation—and, consequently, the classical definition of divine omnipotence. Contrary to classical Christian thought, Joseph explicitly affirmed that there are entities and structures which are co-eternal with God himself. On my reading of Joseph’s discourse, these eternal entities include chaotic matter, intelligences (or what I will call primal persons), and lawlike structures or principles. According to Joseph Smith, God’s creative activity consists of bringing order out of disorder, of organizing a cosmos out of chaos—not in the production of something out of nothing.
Basically, he's saying that, according to Joseph Smith, God didn't create the world ex nihilo, but that he organized it out of existing matter (although there's still the question of where that matter came from). My husband Adam and I were talking about the limits of God's powers--there are all sorts of quotes about how God has power over all the earth and is outside of time--but there's room for interpretation in it. God knows our thoughts, God knows everything on Earth, God can make stars and planets, and "all things." But perhaps there's room for God to be "bound," not just by when we keep covenants, but in other situations like how Jesus had to suffer for all of our sins, and how God cannot look upon sin with the "least degree of allowance."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fall goals follow-up

Okay, time to follow up on last week's goals. Or you could look at more baby pictures!

Hot breakfasts

I ate hot breakfast every day for a week. Most mornings I had an egg on toast and some oatmeal with a banana and almond butter. The banana was sweet enough, and the almond butter added enough interest that I didn't feel the need to add more sugar. It felt like a lot to eat every morning, but I was trying to get enough calories. Since I've been breastfeeding sometimes I'll feel dizzy in the afternoons, and usually eating something helps (breastfeeding moms supposedly need 500 extra calories/day). I still felt dizzy one day though, so maybe it's more of a hydration issue.
a typical breakfast
I got tired of frying eggs, so I decided to try out the egg cooker my grandma gave me about a year ago. It's actually really handy! I loved how I could stick an egg on it and have a soft-boiled egg ~5 minutes later. Here's what it looks like:

The honeycomb part is where the egg rests (there are spots for seven eggs). Beneath it is a hot plate. You put a certain amount of water on the hot plate (determined by how done you want the egg), put the special dome on top, and it beeps when all the water has evaporated. It's quick and there's almost no mess to clean up either. It can also poach eggs but I haven't tried that yet. At first I thought having a one-trick appliance was stupid, but after using it every morning I grew to really like it. 

I want to continue eating hot breakfasts most of the time, because it isn't that much more trouble and I believe it is both cheaper and healthier. But I'm also okay with eating an occasional bowl of cereal, like this morning when I overslept and was in a rush to get out the door. I still want to try making a big quiche to gradually eat in the mornings, and I want to try some other oatmeal toppings, like cashew/coconut/sugar/hot sauce. I did try having my egg on my oatmeal one morning, and I thought it was gross. 

Vegetarian meals half the time

Eating vegetarian 3-4 nights/week has been really easy as long as I put it into my meal plan. This last week we had big pasta shells stuffed with feta, egg, and spinach, with tomato sauce and mozzarella on top (kind of like spinach lasagna). Last night I made dragon noodles with cabbage. And eggplant parmesan is on the menu.  

20 minutes of exercise

I want to continue doing abdominal exercises. My back still is sore all the time even though I've been taking Piper for walks in her stroller instead of using a baby carrier. I think I need to throw in some other exercises too though (probably elliptical).

No Facebook from 12-5

I did pretty well on this one. A few times I caught myself idly clicking on Facebook in the afternoon, but most of the time I closed the tab before it even loaded. I was surprised at how automatic my Facebooking had become. There were a few times where I had something specific to do on Facebook where I did go on, like "I'm going to look up how to spell that person's name and then close it." Sometimes I found myself looking forward to 5pm so I could check Facebook. I think it was good for me to limit my Facebook time though, because it forced me to work on other things, like organizing my pantry or making a big pile of computer parts to recycle. So I'm going to continue this one too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

reducing waste

I'm kind of enamored with the idea of zero waste, but I don't know if I could ever make that happen. I know, I know, I'm in charge of my own life, right? If I REALLY wanted it I would stop making excuses and do it. But I think if I had the goal for zero waste it would be overwhelming and I would give up. I know that I can make small changes though. I've been trying to reduce the amount of junk mail I get. Every time I get a piece of junk mail, I try to unsubscribe. I could just use catalogchoice, but I've come so far contacting individual companies that I'm not sure if I want to give my information out to another company. We have a lot more days where we simply don't get any mail, which I like. Every piece of mail I receive feels like a burden to recycle or file (but I do like receiving mail from humans!). The blog post I linked to made me look at packaging in a completely different way. We use materials that last hundreds of years (plastic) to temporarily transport things from one location to another. Also, recycling is awesome but it still uses a lot of energy and anything that is recycled is basically downcycled, meaning that fresh paper gets turned into recycled paper, etc.

I have been looking into composting because I know that's one way to reuse a lot of the things I put in the garbage. The thing with composting though, is that it feels so "go big or go home." You can't just compost a little. We could start a compost pile in our backyard, but I feel like since we will be selling our home in the next year I don't want to create any problems there. I looked into countertop composters as well and they all seemed very expensive to me (for a process that could occur naturally outside with a little preparation). One thing that does work is putting scraps down the garbage disposal. This page has some information about if it's better to put leftovers down the drain or in the trash. Basically, it comes down to if your wastewater treatment plant composts biosolids or burns them. In Provo they are composted. I sent a message to Spanish Fork asking about it, but I don't know yet (update: they do use leftover biosolids as fertilizer, hooray!). Spanish Fork also has a compost facility that theoretically accepts compostible waste. Simply putting our kitchen scraps down the drain would probably be the easiest thing for us at least.

I like the idea of reducing my waste because it seems like it works pretty well for reducing consumption of machine-processed foods, or encourages local consumption of such products. I have this pastoral image of biking to the farmer's market every week and buying all my food there (but half the year there isn't a farmer's market, and I'd still need to buy staples like spices and flour at a grocery store, and I haven't biked anywhere for a year).

One more thing I can do to reduce my waste is to simply buy less stuff, or at least when I buy things online, to consolidate my purchases to reduce the amount of packaging in shipping, and also to buy things used (like clothes?). I've also been trying to reduce the amount of stuff in my life, but I feel very attached to some things. And plastic is everywhere, and I'm not sure how much it's worth it to try to avoid it entirely. And tissues! I need tissues. I wash diapers for crying out loud but washing handkerchiefs seems so gross to me (would I have to bleach them?).

I don't have a specific goal for waste reduction yet, but I'm thinking about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some goals for fall

My friend Tamsin likes to do challenges on her blog, like not wearing jeans for a month or going to bed on time, or going for walks every week. I was reading a post on Feminist Mormon Housewives (yeah, that's a thing I guess) about how being a stay-at-home parent doesn't have any adrenaline-rushed deadlines, so it's easy to let things go. I think little goals are a pretty good antidote for that. I've been doing some goal-like things lately; here they are!

Eat more vegetarian meals

I started this one two weeks ago and it hasn't been too difficult as long as I plan the meals ahead of time and have a recipe. I made African peanut stew, Hoisin noodle salad, black bean soupcurried chickpeas and spinach, and quinoa chili. Most of those links go to Budget Bytes, which is probably my favorite food blog so far. The meals are delicious, not too demanding, and each entry has a printer-friendly short-form version of the recipe, as well as step-by-step photos. I think I want at least half of my weekly dinners to be vegetarian, like 3-4/week. I love meat but I need to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to "eat meat sparingly."

Exercise for 20 minutes every day

I was doing pretty well on this for a while; I was reading while doing a little light exercise on our elliptical every morning before breakfast. I got out of the habit last week, and my back hurts a lot. I think my abdominal muscles are probably still weak from giving birth, so I want to do this workout three times a week until it's easier to go for longer walks while carrying Piper.

Go for one week without eating cold cereal for breakfast

I love cold cereal, so maybe I just want to torture myself? Lately I've been trying to challenge my ideas about what breakfast should be. It seems like a lot of breakfasts are just starchy dessert, which while delicious doesn't have a lot of nutrients (I'm looking at you, waffles and pancakes). Yesterday I had a fried egg on toast and this morning I had a spinach-cheese omelet... but I still had some oatmeal and brown sugar on the side. Maybe I'll experiment with some other hot cereals and having more fruit with my breakfasts. Plus, cereal is pretty expensive for what it is, and part of me feels like paying so much for processed corn is stupid. I'm not really sure how to have a protein-heavy breakfast without sausage, bacon, or eggs though.

Don't look at Facebook in the afternoon

At the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to not look at Facebook in bed, because it was procrastinating my sleeping pointlessly. I'm doing pretty well on that. Sometimes I get in a weird cycle of feeling a little bored and just zoning out on Facebook on my laptop though. I like that Facebook helps me feel connected, but I want to do other things in my day, so I think I'm going to say no Faceebook from 12:00-5pm.

Feel free to ask about how my goals are going! Also please let me know your favorite vegetarian or breakfast recipes/ideas.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Things I definitely believe in and things I don't understand

I'm doing a series of posts where I examine what I believe and why I believe it. It feels like an overwhelming task, but I feel like some of my beliefs are nebulous and namby-pamby.

I mentioned on Facebook that I choose to believe in God. I don't think science can provide evidence either way. For every argument that "humans/nature is so complex it had to have a creator!" there is an equally compelling "this system is so stupid if someone had created it they would have been smart enough not to make it this way." So the way I see it, it really is a choice, and for me, believing in God gives me aspirations beyond things on Earth. 

What God is:

I believe that God is a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. God made the Earth, and everything on it. I also believe that since God organized all the matter on Earth that he did so using the physical laws everything on Earth is subject to. I believe that God made the stars and other planets. I admit that I'm confused about how God could make the universe, because then He (They? She?) would have to exist outside it. Like Joseph Smith, I believe that spirit has matter, or at least is a phenomenon explained by the interaction of physical elements. However I was recently contemplating how an individual's atoms change completely second-to-second, showing that consciousness isn't accounted for by individual atoms. I don't completely understand the science there, but if it's true that my soul isn't made of atoms, what is it made of? Admittedly this is blowing my mind a little and I'm not sure if what I believe about the science of consciousness would really change my actions anyway, so I guess I'm shelving that for now.

If we're an advanced form of primate, God is an advanced form of human. Or maybe a better analogy would be that we're caterpillars and God is a butterfly, except that transformation is contingent upon how we act and what we choose to believe. I kind of hate that God is a completely different kind of human, because it means that whatever He does, He can explain it by saying something like "my thoughts are not your thoughts" you poor shortsighted human. I don't know if God works this way, but I'd like it better if His laws made logical sense to a human. If God is all-powerful, He should be able to explain His awesomeness in a way that stupid humans can understand. If the human-monkey God-human analogy is correct through, there are probably some aspects of God that were are completely incapable of understanding, which seems unfair. I do think there are aspects of my religion I can understand better by thinking about them though. 

What is sin:

 I wanted to define sin in a way that I could look at any action and determine whether or not it was a sin, like "does it cause suffering for myself or others?" But I went through a lot of edge cases and I couldn't find a specific definition that fit all the things I consider a sin or not a sin. My husband suggested that a sin is "intentionally disobeying God, or going against His will." I don't like this definition as much, because it's more complicated, but I think it does account for theology pretty well. It explains why there's so much emphasis on knowing and aligning onesself to the will of God. It's possible to sin even if you haven't formally studied religion/God's will, because everyone has the light of Christ, or a conscience, to make them feel guilty initially for wrong things. I don't think that guilt is a good ultimate indicator for sin though, because we can feel guilty about things that are right, and not feel guilty about things that are wrong. It seems like God should have given us a measurement more precise than a feeling for knowing what is wrong. One example that comes to mind is that victims of abuse often blame themselves or feel guilty for being abused, even though being the victim of abuse is not a sin. Conversely, some sociopaths feel no guilt for things like murder which most people would feel guilty about. Those are extreme examples, so here are some less extreme ones. Some people feel guilty for eating food they enjoy, even though eating is something humans need to do to survive and I think you might as well enjoy it (as long as you're not hurting yourself). I don't feel guilty for eating meat, generally, even though in some cultures and religions this is considered a sin. 

I feel conflicted because the evidence seems to contradict my religious belief, so I feel the need to change my belief. Maybe it should suffice that the feeling of guilt is an indicator that I should examine my actions and decide if they were actually wrong. 

Going back to the definition of sin as intentionally disobeying God's will, I like the definition because it does account for wide variety of human behavior. It accounts for how little children can do terrible things, but still be "without sin," because their brains are theoretically not developed enough to understand the concept of God and intentionally disobeying him. It ignores the consequences of actions; "the Lord looketh upon the heart." At the same time I feel kind of cheated though, because if I were to try to institute a similar scheme of discipline with my child(ren), I wouldn't be able to, because I can't mind-read and tell when someone didn't mean to do something (because a cunning child would constantly say "I didn't mean to" in that situation). Given this definition of sin, it seems futile to try to judge when another person sins. But we need earthly laws to prevent society from falling apart (probably?). But since we can't mind-read, we have to look at what the consequences of an action were to determine if it was right or wrong. 

How does the atonement work?:

Anyway, I was trying to decide what sin was to figure out how the atonement works, because the atonement still seems magical to me. The atonement makes it so we can repent from sins and change ourselves. God complied with earthly laws to make the Earth, and God complies with spiritual laws when it comes to the transformation of our souls. This is the part where Jesus comes in, and the reason it had to be Jesus is because he's half God; I believe that God is both Jesus's spiritual and physical father. Somehow Jesus's demigod status makes it so he could be the first person to become one with God (basically when he was resurrected?). Jesus talks a lot about how he is the way and the truth--his unique situation as half-human, half-God, made it so he could explain how to do it to us stupid humans. The part I don't understand is why he had to suffer for our sins, or even what it means for him to suffer for our sins. When we do something wrong on Earth, we suffer the natural consequences, like going to prison or whatever. So if Jesus really does relieve our suffering, it is our psychological suffering. The atonement covers any kind of psychological suffering, even suffering unrelated to sin. I think this can work just be believing in it, and indeed, the idea that faith, or belief, is essential for the atonement to work in one's life makes for a satisfying logic loop. The atonement may be a placebo, in that its power is directly influenced by our belief in it, but I believe the power of placebos is practical and nothing to be ashamed of. 

The part of the atonement that is still magical to me is why God needed someone to suffer for all the times someone rebelled against Him. One way I can explain this to myself is that God is a collection of "intelligences." Like a big brain? [note: the following is not LDS canon. LDS canon is that God has a body of flesh and blood.] We are child souls of the collective that is God, and our goal is to become part of God. But since God is a consciousness, it hurts to have lots of parts that don't agree with each other. God needs to be consistent with Himself, so He can't contain everyone that wants to become part of Him. So... Jesus has to transform these souls into God in a process that causes him pain, but he does it anyway because it's God's will and he's the only one who can do it? Well, I still don't get how that works, but luckily I don't have to decide everything I believe in today, so I think that is enough for now. I will continue contemplating what I believe.

Part 2

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

I wasn't a good grad student

There's a new baby photo post at my private people-photo blog. Our August was unusually rainy and I got some photos of one particularly gorgeous sunset (yeah, they're phone camera photos, whatev).
our stake center haloed by the sunset
the lines going downward are rain
when I feed Piper this is what Koko does half the time
I got rid of a bunch of old school papers lately and it made me reflect on my time as a grad student. Looking back on my papers, I seem really stubborn and a little stupid. Why would I sometimes ignore my professors' suggestions, when obviously they are experts on what they want to see in the papers they're grading? I think that I was trying to break away from doing whatever pleased my professors/teachers. I did that and got the good grades in most of my undergraduate years. But now that I have more distance I think that I was trying to hard to be my own academic mind, per se. Maybe it was necessary for me to see my own ideas as worthwhile, rather than as a tool to impress someone. I was both self-conscious about my lack of experience in literary criticism, and of my superior dedication to empirical research. I was both proud and self-deprecating. Quite possibly I have the same problem now but I'm too close to myself to see it.

Lately I've been reading a Harry Potter fanfiction called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It's really good! I think I like it even better than the original Harry Potter books, although there are a few parts that are annoyingly self-satisfied (like most fanfics). My favorite parts are when characters use their awareness of cognitive biases to improve their situations. 

Piper has been lovely. She sleeps through the night and doesn't cry too much. I have no complaints.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baby post over on private blog

Hi readers, I just put some photos of Piper on my private blog. If you want to see it and you're not on the whitelist yet, message or e-mail me your gmail address! It's private mostly just to keep trolls out.

Piper has been doing really well at things babies have to do, so my life has been pretty okay. She sleeps at night for 6-8 hours and she eats well. The other day I wrote a post on my gaming blog and Critical Distance linked to it. It made me feel like a real writer again! Like... maybe I could be a mom and still have ideas about things other than nursing bras. I have been working on mom skills too though, like how to use different baby carriers, and we've been cloth diapering so I've been learning how to use and wash those.

I have been kind of reevaluating my organ practice time, because it's kind of a pain to take Ada along. I think I might either stop playing organ for a while, or try to get by with maybe 1-2 organ practice sessions/week. I've also been trying to practice sightreading more deliberately, i.e, setting a tempo and sticking with it through a whole song that I've never played before, and trying to keep my eyes on the music. I hope it's something I can get better at. I think as a teenager I just thought that sightreading was a talent I didn't have, but I'm becoming more skeptical of that idea.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Babies are demanding

I had a baby four weeks ago. In the spirit of "small Whistler" I will call her Piper here. I have feelings about my skills as a parent. On good days when Piper sleeps and eats well I feel like parenting is easy. On days when she fusses for hours and I'm short on sleep I feel like a very unskilled parent. Probably one of the most frustrating things is when she cries and I don't understand why so I can't comfort her. In those times I feel like it's a miracle that so many people have survived babyhood and exist at all. And how does anyone have more than one child? But the other day a woman on my walk said she wasn't the biggest fan of "the newborn stage" and it gave me hope that maybe there are other stages of child development that I will enjoy more. But every time I find myself wondering at how difficult raising a baby is, I think about how it will only be MORE difficult if/when I have other children, which then makes me even more discouraged.

One of the most overwhelming things is when I feel bad for feeling bad. I mean, I prayed to have a child for a few years, and now that I have one, I don't even enjoy it that much? But I'm trying to think of it like a process? For example, if someone wants to go to college, and gets to go, and then they complain about their classes, we're not like "well you WANTED to go to college so stop WHINING." So I think it is possible to both want to have a child and not enjoy being a parent all the time. I just hope that when my child is older I actually enjoy that too, instead of just constantly wanting her to grow up.

Another thing I've had to adjust to is being flexible with my schedule. No matter how much I try to plan on feeding at a certain time, I have to be ready to drop everything at a moment's notice and pay attention to my daughter. That seems pretty basic but it makes me feel kind of out of control? Luckily I am finding ways to manage it; this morning when she wouldn't sleep I woke up and practiced piano for a bit, so I didn't feel like being awake when I wanted to sleep was a total waste of time. And I mean, it's not actually a waste of time to soothe a crying baby either, it just starts to feel futile after a while. Various sources inform me that Piper is cute, and the other day I think she actually smiled at me, so maybe there's hope that I won't see her as a milk-sucking leech for much longer.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Enjoy it while you can

When I talk about how much I sleep, it seems like everyone tells me to enjoy it while I can. Lately this "enjoy it while you can" advice has been applied to other things too, like reading, or eating uninterrupted, or going on a date. It's getting to the point where I feel like my life will end after I give birth. Can I go out to lunch? Can I go for a hike? Can I be counted on to perform simple tasks? No, nope, there is no way to have a newborn and do anything else. 

Intellectually, I know that new mothers don't magically disappear. I know because I have seen them post to Facebook and sometimes I see them walking around. There is some sort of life after birth, but from what I hear it doesn't include any sleeping, watching TV, reading, or cooking. My life will be at the mercy of a capricious baby, whose demands will compete with my own and I will be lucky to survive it. 

But at the same time I think that I will have some time to myself. If newborns really do sleep 18 hours every 24 hours, even if I "sleep" for 12 of those hours I still have 6 hours to do other things with (even a large amount of mess and laundry does not take 6 hours to take care of). Maybe I'll be too exhausted to do chores, but then I can at least watch TV, right? Anyway, I am enjoying my life while I can, and I hope I can enjoy it with my daughter in a few weeks too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A clean kitchen

I visited my parents for a week in February and it was wonderful. My mom had the week off and we spent time shopping for baby clothes and maternity clothes, going on walks, and talking in the car. She cooked dinner for us and I was struck by how pleasant the kitchen was to be in, especially since my mom cleans the kitchen up right away after a meal. After a vacation is frequently a good time for me to make changes to my daily routine, so I decided that I would try to keep my kitchen cleaned right away after I made a mess.

It's been two weeks and I love how my kitchen feels less like an energy-draining clutterfest and more like a place where I can make anything I want. Sometimes I will actually make something without it feeling like a huge ordeal since I get to start with a clean kitchen. I'm less resentful of my own messes when I'm still enjoying the food that made the mess (there's nothing worse than scrubbing curry out of a pan when you've already eaten all the leftovers). And since my new rule is "clean it right away" I don't have the option to do it later or procrastinate it.

Another habit I started after my vacation was making a "power hour" list of non-repetitive chores that I want to do at some point, with the goal of working on something from the list each day. I have a lot of non-repetitive chores at the moment since I need to clear out the upstairs room for the new nursery. So far I've gone through lots of old files and shredded many of them, I've gotten rid of a huge desk, and I've moved some stuff around (some of it is just going downstairs and some of it is in my "donate" pile). I like having the list because if I think of something, instead of having it hanging over me as all this stuff I'm meaning to get around to, I can break it up into smaller chunks and feel like I've worked on something (even though I'm still sleeping about 10 hours a day and I need to take lots of breaks). I still don't know where to put some things, like all my scouting stuff, but I know it's an issue I want to work out so hopefully I can think of a solution while I'm doing other things.

Monday, February 03, 2014

confronting my own sexism about the value of motherhood

When I found out I was having a girl, I didn't feel especially excited. In fact, I felt a teensy bit disappointed. I felt like, "oh, she'll probably grow up to be a stay-at-home mom like me." Don't get me wrong, I am fairly confident that my future daughter will be lovely and awesome; I think this is more about my feelings about what it means to be a mom.

I feel like I shouldn't feel this way. I know, objectively, that being a stay-at-home mom or any kind of mom is a big sacrifice, and moms are awesome for sacrificing themselves for their children, and that many mothers find their lives rewarding and worthwhile. I also know that being a mom will be messy and full of cleaning and child-wrangling. It seems like a lot of work that doesn't get accolades. Moms who brag about their kids are seen as annoying, and whining about momchores is seen as kind of petty; there's very little outside recognition for being a successful caretaker. I guess since I've never experienced being a mother myself, I don't have the feelings of "I love [my] children and this is so rewarding!" All I have right now is what I see other moms doing on mommy blogs and on forums and most of the time it doesn't sound especially exciting to me? It sounds like thankless work that is never over.

It's hard for me to admit that being a mom doesn't sound all that fun/cool/rewarding because I know lots of people who are moms, and some people who would like to be moms but aren't. I am grateful to be pregnant, but I still feel anxious about becoming a caregiver. Parenthood feels like a big self-inflicted burden. I'm not just anxious, I'm a little scared. I know that I'm going to mess up in my future parenthood, and all my research and study can't substitute for real-life experience.

I'm also subject to "worldly" arguments/trolls that women who stay at home and have kids aren't contributing to the world. Of course women who raise children are contributing to the world--where else is the next generation going to come from? But I feel like the way parents affect the world through their children is harder for me to appreciate than someone who works and "makes a living." Someone working at a job affects lots of other people every day, but the effect is small in comparison to the effect a mother has on her children. But men in this situation get to have careers and be a parent who affects their children deeply, which doesn't seem fair. But fathers (or whichever parent is away most of the day) might not affect a child as much as that child's primary caregiver (maybe they do?)?

When it comes down to it, I'm afraid of change. I'm committing myself to becoming a mom for the next 18-30 years, depending on how many children I have. One thing that has cheered me up is knowing that many women pursue a career after their children are grown. Having a child doesn't mean I'll never have a "real" job again, and some women work while their children are still growing up. Although if I were to go back to work, I'm not sure what I'd do. I'm confident that if I had a job, I would do well at it, but my various job experiences don't point me towards a specific job title. Even if I wanted to get a job, I'm not sure if I could get one.

TL;DR: when people ask me if I'm excited to have a baby, I guess I should say that I am excited--but I'm also nervous and anxious about it.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Looking back on my infertility

So, you know that I'm pregnant now, and it took about two years for my body to get pregnant. I'm excited/nervous about having a baby, and I feel blessed to have this opportunity. But at the same time, I can't help thinking that there are plenty of other couples who have to cope with infertility, and I want to sort out my thoughts about that.

I know that two years of infertility is fairly common. Other families I know have had to wait 6, 10, or over 20 years to have children. Some couples never have children even though they want them (even though the Ensign infertility stories never end that way). So in some ways I feel weird being like "Hey, God has blessed me with this pregnancy! Sorry God didn't bless you the same way." I guess you could say the same for getting married, or other life "milestones," but to me, dating and going to college were things I felt like I had a little bit of control over. With my fertility, since it was unexplained, I feel like my getting pregnant had very little to do with me, and a lot to do with divine intervention. Which seems really unfair to other couples that aren't getting that divine intervention, I guess? But everyone is different, and has different trials. So even though my infertility isn't a trial I'm experiencing right now, and hindsight is 20-20 and all that, I'm reflecting on how my relationship to infertility changed over the course of last year.

At the beginning of last year (2013), I was having a hard time. Every month I was hopeful that I would get pregnant, and it seemed like being hopeful just made each month more disappointing. I was very open about how I was having a hard time with it though, so many of my friends and family started (or continued) to pray for me, which I'm grateful for. The hardest part for me was when my husband said in a blessing not to worry about it and that I'd have children in the Lord's time, and I just needed to be patient (and then our home teacher told us the same thing). I felt like that should have been a revelation I should have received. I felt some comfort when I prayed, but not a reassurance that I'd have children. I felt like I had to be okay with my life even if I never had children. Looking back on it, I'm reminded of D&C 46:13-14: "To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful." Only instead of about Jesus, it was a revelation about me, and I had to believe it.

Anyway, I decided to stop defining myself by my infertility so much. I got more into organ playing and baking weird breads and other self-improvement-type things. I think accepting myself the way I was was an important part of not being bothered as much by my failure to get pregnant. As time went on, infertility seemed like less of a huge obstacle in my run to make a family, and more like a landmark in my life's journey. I expected each month that I wouldn't get pregnant, which made it less disappointing. When I was ready, we went back to the fertility specialist, although I got pregnant before we tried artificial insemination.

The month before I got pregnant, I felt healthy enough to fast, and instead of fasting desperately for a child, I fasted for patience (I had completely forgotten this was mentioned in the blessing). So as you can imagine, I was really surprised when I became pregnant. In some ways, I'm worried that the child I have will be some terror that will really teach me patience. At the same time, I'm looking forward to it. I know that I didn't have to bear the burden of infertility for very long, and I hope that I'll be sensitive to other couples in my life who are in that situation.