Thursday, December 29, 2011

Heavenly Mother in Young Women's: What you hadn't noticed about the personal progress program

The LDS young women's organization (for girls aged 12-18) has something called Personal Progress, which is a program in which the girls complete a series of experiences (small) and projects (larger) designed to help them increase their faith and skills. The experiences and projects are in 'values' (categories) such as faith, individual worth, good works, and integrity. The booklet has a list of suggestions, but girls can also design their own experiences. When a girl has completed the designated things, she is awarded a medallion.

When I was a young woman, there were 42 experiences and 4 big projects (20-30 hours each), and it had to be completed over the course of all six years, because the girl could not start on the next portion until her next birthday. At the end of every two years, if a girl had completed everything for those years she could earn one of the class medallions. If she completed everything, she could earn this "Young Womanhood" medallion --->
A pretty lady standing by some flowers. (Here I could make all sorts of comments about symbolism of juxtaposing a girl with flowers, or the apparent focus on the outward appearance of the girl depicted...but I don't really want to. I will just note that this is the old medallion, the one I got, but which very few of my peers did.)

A few years ago they revamped the program, and now there are 48 experiences and 8 (10 hr) projects--6 experiences and 1 project in each of the 8 value areas. They also took out the timetable, so girls are able to work through all of the goals at their own pace, no waiting for birthdays (and losing momentum). They have done away with the intermediate medallions, and changed the final medallion (more on that in a moment!) and they have now added honor bees.

An honor bee is a charm which the girl can earn after she has earned her medallion. She can actually earn as many as three bees, and does so by doing more goals, or helping other girls complete their experiences and projects.
It's a lovely idea, the extra charms for going the extra mile, but what I particularly noticed was that it's a BEE. You know, a symbol of Mother Goddess.

Better still is the new medallion. It is a combination of several symbols: the temple, the beehive, the laurel wreath, the rose, and the ruby. Young women are divided into three classes: Beehives (12-13), Mia Maids (14-15) and Laurels (16-17). Bees and beehives are a symbol often found in the church as a symbol of industry. The symbol for Mia Maids is a rose (something about purity or beauty I suspect, though I'm not certain). Laurels are named for laurel wreaths, as the ancient greeks used to crown champions. The temple is where a young woman wants to go, and a ruby reminds her of Proverbs 31, which says that a virtuous woman's worth is far above rubies.
This medallion is also available in the girl's choice of gold or silver, which is just nice, because some of us prefer silver (also, aside from my personal preference, silver carries female energy while gold carries male, so silver is more appropriate than gold anyway).
The temple is a symbol of Heavenly Mother.
So is the bee.
So is the ruby.
And trees (like laurels) and flowers (like roses) are often seen as symbols of the Divine Feminine as well.
In other words, this new medallion positively GLOWS with Heavenly Mother. It is FULL of Her. She is everywhere. When these girls earn and wear this medallion, it is not just a symbol that they have completed a set of projects (though that is notable): it is a symbol of their potential to become like their Heavenly Mother. To become goddesses like She is.

Now we just need to teach the girls what it is that they are wearing.

Monday, December 19, 2011


My birthday is in July, so my birthstone is the ruby. It's a pretty gem, intense and dark, and very expensive (more expensive than diamonds actually, last I heard). It is a very sturdy stone, second hardest on the rating scale after diamonds.
And it's red. My favorite color is pink. I almost never wear red. So I never really wanted anything with my birthstone on it...
And then I learned that the ruby and the sapphire are actually the same stone on a molecular level, they just come out in different colors. Actually they come in a wide variety of colors, but for some reasons the red (or sometimes pinkish) ones get called "rubies" and all the other colors are called "sapphires"...the blue ones are plain "sapphires" and the others are "green sapphires" or "orange sapphires" and so on.
these colors are all sapphires/rubies

This year I was reading about the properties of various gemstones. I have never really believed that a rock could have power, but the more I learn about the universe, the more I believe that the whole energy field notion actually has some merit. And so I decided to read up on the ruby, and see if I could make friends with it.
I found some interesting things.
The ruby

  • brings integrity, devotion and happiness 
  • brings and increases love
  • very protective of home and children
  • is a stone of high energy and power that promotes healing on all levels [link]
  • is a stone of nobility 
  • brings love, confidence, loyalty, and courage
  • instills stamina, vitality and strength
  • re-energizes one after exhaustion 
  • helps to reduce negative thought patterns
  • is a good stone of protection. 
  • helps you feel more like giving to others and doing so with love and joy in your heart. There is no room for resentment in ones heart who is being of service to others and this stone does not allow that to be a part of your heart. it helps you relax as you caretake others because you can trust you will not be trapped in any way in that role. It helps all to be warm, caring and help out with the needs of others. it also helps one with devotion to others. [link]
  • considered to be the most powerful gem in the universe
  • the symbol of vitality and royalty
  • contentment and peace [link]

I most frequently found the ruby associated with motherhood, home, service and healing. For these and other reasons, I and others have come to feel that the ruby's energy field is a reflection of mother, or, more accurately, of Mother.
I thought also of the fact that ruby is also the most expensive gemstone--more than diamonds--which puts me in mind of Proverbs where it asks "who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is above rubies." I have thought much on that, and about the idea that equating virtuous women (us) with rubies is actually equating us to Heavenly Mother and our potential to be like her.
Making this connection has been powerful for me, because of the ruby being MY birthstone, I now feel an additional connection to the Divine Feminine that I hadn't before. Not just a connection in terms of being more interested in Her, but a connection in terms of seeing Her in myself.

star ruby
You know something else interesting? The ruby (aka sapphire) is the only stone which may have a star in it. I haven't reached any conclusions about deep meanings in that, except I bet that there is one. (What do you think?)

Depending upon which type of gold you have the ring set in, (yellows or silvers) the ruby would bring with it these healing properties as well. The yellows carry the energy of the Sun or a masculine energy, while the silvers carry the energy of the Moon or a feminine energy. [link] Ruby rings should be worn on the left hand so as to receive the life force and have protection. [link]
It seems that I should be in the market for a left-hand, silver-set ruby ring. Don't you think?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Second Week of Advent: GRACE

[image source]

This week I am considering grace.
This is a virtue that gets a lot of air time in most Christian faiths, but not so much with Mormons. I think this is unfortunate, but I also think I know why it is.  In the Book of Mormon, there is a verse which says
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

I usually hear it read this way:

we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL WE CAN DO.

I think it should be read this way:

we know that IT IS BY GRACE THAT WE ARE SAVED, after all we can do.

Works are important, I don't doubt that for a second. James wrote that faith without works is dead (James 2:25). But the simple fact is that we are still saved by grace. Works do matter, and we should do good works, in fact we should do all that we can do...but we should never forget that no matter how much we do, it will not be sufficient on its own. We still need Saving Grace, even after all we can do.

Christ says "my grace is sufficient for all men" (Ether 12:27) and so it is. We should not stop doing our best, but we also should not forget that grace is personal (just as "our best" is personal and will vary from one person to another), and that Christ's Grace will fill up the parts we cannot fill, so long as we invite Him in.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meditating on Hope

On Sunday night, I lit some candles in a darkened room, and made my quiet space for pondering and meditating on hope. As I've mentioned before, I need to find something to focus on if I want to think without distraction...I cannot just "empty my mind." I like to use a candle for this purpose, as looking into a candle flame helps keep me centered and mindful.

As I thought about hope, a phrase came to me repeatedly, the "perfect brightness of hope" mentioned in scripture. I also thought about hope as a virtue, large enough to be worthy of combining with faith and love (or charity as the KJV states). It's something significant. We use the word 'hope' in a flip way so often, and yet the true meaning of hope is anything but flippant.
Hope is the belief, anticipation, or expectation of something...but not just of anything. Hope is the expectation of something good. In other words, I think that hope is inherently positive, and might even be a fair synonym for "optimism." It is the expectation that goodness will come to us, the belief that people are good, the trust that God will fulfill his promises. If faith is the belief in things which are not seen, then I think hope (the next virtue in the sequence) is the expectation of goodness which is not yet realized.

I have always been a fairly optimistic person. It is interesting to consider this trait in light of being not just a happy habit, but an actual virtue.
What do you think about hope?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent: HOPE

Mormons don't typically celebrate Advent, but I frankly don't know why. Perhaps it was an effort to set ourselves apart from other churches (since Catholics and many Protestants do observe it). When he came home from his mission in Norway, my husband brought an advent wreath, which is a round candleholder which holds 4 candles. Our family has always lit the advent candles, one on the first sunday, two on the second, and so on until Christmas. (This year, since Christmas falls on a sunday, Advent begins earlier than usual.)

In some traditions, each week is marked with a virtue, most commonly (from what I understand) are faith, hope, love, and peace. This year, I am choosing to observe Advent with my own adaptation of that. Each week I am choosing a virtue (not necessarily the traditional ones), and during that week I will study, ponder, and strive to practice that virtue. Since I am in charge of the children's primary at church here, I am also doing our "sharing time" lesson based on the virtue of the week.

This week, the theme is HOPE.

I showed the primary kids this picture, and we talked about prophets foretelling Christ's coming, and about how believers had to have hope that He would come. We talked about us now having hope for His return.

the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best
a person or thing in which expectations are centered
to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.
to believe, desire, or trust
to feel that something desired may happen

As I said, I'll be putting some study, pondering, meditation, and so forth in this week. Theoretically I will write something about my thoughts in a few days. But for now, I invite you to join me in celebrating Advent.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WIPs and FOs

Yeah, I've written a "discussion post" (3-4 paragraphs, with full citations) and also an "application paper" (3-4 pages, full citations) every week, and this week I'm finishing a 10+ page research paper about Benedict Arnold (and my--referenced and cited--reasons for why he did what he did)...and I have 5 kids under 5 full time. We've also had a couple of rounds of sickies in the last couple of weeks, so I suppose that's why I haven't posted anything HERE in a while!
With all that said, in the last month or two I HAVE gotten some other things done. These things--and the excitement and feeling of fulfillment that comes along with completing a project--have been contributing factors in my decision to put grad school on hold. I want to be present with my kids, I want to make things for them (and for me and for my home). Babysitting is not my favorite passtime and never was, but it pays well and if I don't have assignments to worry about then it's not stressful.
In the meantime, here's what I've made lately (if you have ravelry and like to see details about knitty things, I'm putting those links too)
First, the FOs Finished Objects:

PA110005Sweater (vest) for Bear. Rav link. The yellow and red yarn came in a box full of leftovers from a friend, I bought the blue to make enough for a sweater...he picked the style, kept changing his mind (asked for buttons then asked for a zipper just after I'd done the last buttonhole) and so on. I had to entirely invent the thing because I couldn't find a pattern at all. When it came down to it, I was thrilled when he wanted it to be a vest instead of a sweater...I was getting tired of the color. I like smaller projects and/or variegated yarn.

009 Rav link Bear wanted a hat like Wolf's, one that would keep his face warm when he's on the 4-wheeler with the carpool to school (oh yes that's how things are up here! even at -2 degrees folks). This time he asked for yellow, so I redistributed the remaining yarn from the sweater and turned this out in just a couple of weeks. I love how fast hats go.

PB110002I had this idea about making a sort of beret/snood/hairnet thing, (rav link) that I could use to pull my hair back when I didn't feel like doing anything with it, but which could also keep me warm when going out... I'm not sure if this entirely is what I had hoped for it to be, but I think it's pretty regardless. I love the extra room that leaves space to pull it down to my eyebrows and over my ears (it's not as chic looking when I do that, but it is warm). It was a pattern written to be done on a hat loom, and I adapted it for needles, so they featured me on the pattern homepage in ravelry (anyone can see this link). I feel very special now. ☺

Also, on a non-knitting front, I've sewn two new pairs of fleece pants for Bear. The boy grew about 3 inches since spring I think, and all in his legs, his pants were crazy short! I have two more cut out too... (black and green) which I plan to get to hopefully next week before I start focusing on Christmassy things.

006 And this one is a WIP Work In Progress... (Rav link) A couple of weeks ago I saw a friend's long scarf (long enough to go around 2-3 times) and I thought, yeah, I need to make something like that for me. The coldness here really calls for something over the face, and I like scarves better than toasty hats... I knew I wanted to do it with bulky yarn though, because 6 ft of scarf would take a looooooong time with skinny yarn!
Then literally days later I received a box in the mail from a friend, and she had tucked in a sweater. She had come by it for free, it didn't fit her, she thought I might be able to use it. It was gorgeous, and so soft, but when I put it on it fit about like a potato sack... so I carefully picked out the side seams, and then pulled on the corner and thub-thub-thub-thub-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb... Now I have four HUGE balls of awesome bulky yarn! So then I needed a pattern. I found one I liked, with the thought that perhaps I could finally learn how to do cables (the rav pattern page promised that it was an easy pattern). Sure enough, there were 19 rows of cabling to start it off, and by row 15 I had intuitively grasped how it worked and didn't need to look at the pattern anymore. And then of course my normal nature kicked in, and so rather than knit the middle 5 1/2 feet in plain rows, I did some more crisses and crosses... and then some more, and then a crazy lot, and then fewer, but never stopping...I'm 18" into it and I have no idea what will criss or cross next. Except that I'm pretty sure it will always be symmetrical... I don't know if I know how to let loose THAT much! 020

Monday, November 7, 2011

Everything is Holy Now

I heard this song recently, and it has struck a resonating chord with me.

(and if you are the sort who doesn't want to watch a 5 minute video, in spite of the powerful message that I promise is in it, the lyrics are the italicized parts throughout this post.)

Of course I have always known that sacredness, and communion with the Divine can be found in nature; that was one of the things that drew me to paganism.Prophets throughout the ages have gone into the wilderness, upon the mountaintops, or into the forests to talk with God. Obviously assorted locations and objects have been deemed holy or sacred by various religions over the centuries too.

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

I asked my 11 year old son how much of the world he thought was holy. He thought about it for a few minutes, and said "well, there are a lot of shrines in Japan and stuff, so maybe 0.05%"
I told him about how trees are an ancient symbol of the Feminine Divine. He thought for another minute, and then said "so maybe 10-15%, because they have cut down a lot of trees, plus there are deserts and stuff."
I asked him if he thought God could be in the ocean. If he thought God could be in the mountains. If he thought God could be in the wind.
"Oooh," he said "holiness can be everywhere huh."

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Indeed, I believe so.

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

My son  has been studying biology this year in school. He loves to chatter on to me about mitosis and photosynthesis and the other things he is learning about. I have always found these things impressive, but when they are presented in a textbook they seem mundane...just another vocabulary word to learn for the test. But take a step back and think about what they really are. Indeed, they are miracles.

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

It is not just that we can sense the holiness of Deity when we see that glorious sunset. The sunset itself can be holy. It is not just that we can feel a closeness to Deity when we sit in the forest, listening to the birds and streams and smelling the dirt and pine needles. The birds and water and dirt and pine needles themselves are holy. It is not just feeling a closeness to heaven when we look at a new baby, but the baby himself is holy. In fact it is not just nature and babies and "good people," but we are all holy. We all have a godseed in us, the potential to become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. For small times (or lifetimes) we may not live up to that potential, we may not let that holy spark shine, or we may not know how to let it shine (some of us may not even realize that it is there), but that does not change the fact that it is there.
The sunset is holy.
The sea is holy.
The trees are holy.
The animals are holy.
Our children are holy.
We are holy.

Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done

Obviously this is probably a bit of a paradigm shift for you, it was for me. But to perceive everything as inherently holy, everything as inherently a miracle, that adds a whole new richness to my life and to my spirituality. When holiness and sacredness were things that had to be found, or sought, they seemed "too special," like the china that my Mother in law keeps in the cupboard 363 days a year, and only gets out for Christmas and Easter. But when sacredness surrounds me every day, it does not cheapen the holy, rather it raises my everyday to a higher plane.

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our Samhain

One of the things I love about living in Alaska is the wild meat we're able to hunt and butcher ourselves. It was actually on Mabon that we got a call from a neighbor who had some caribou they had shot but could not fit it all in their freezer, and they asked if we wanted some. So we spent our Mabon evening butchering and freezing caribou.
Since Samhain is a time of giving thanks for the harvest of meat (and showing gratitude for the animals' gift of their lives for our sustenance), I thought it was appropriate to eat some of our caribou tonight.
We had actually had a caribou roast just a few days ago, so instead of cooking another one, I chopped up the leftover meat, added in carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and peas, and poured over the leftover gravy to make a savory caribou pie.

Samhain is also a time to ponder on death, and to remember our loved ones or others who have died. I had planned to make "dead bread" but we had a last minute shuffle (something came up and with very little notice we ended up celebrating a night earlier than planned), so that fell through and it was just the pie.

The boys drawing their pictures
you can see our element candles and the remainder of the caribou pie...
However, we did do something to remember our departed loved ones, and that was to write messages or draw pictures for them, and put them in the fire so that the smoke could carry our love and thoughts to them. My husband wrote to his granddad who passed away this last year. I wrote to my babies who died before I was ever able to meet them. My sons all drew pictures.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Embracing Faith Transition

Thank you Joanna Brooks for putting words to something I have felt often of late.
(This is an excerpt from a piece she wrote for the latest Exponent II magazine, called "Embracing Faith Transition" )

Here are the last few paragraphs.

My faith is not the same faith I had when I was sixteen years old. It isn’t without wrinkles, puckers, and scars. It isn’t perfect now, but really, it wasn’t perfect then either. It is not effortless, and it never has been. If I stood my faith naked before a crowd, some might say it isn’t very pretty. Not pretty at all. But it is my faith. It is hardworking, scarred, and muscular. It has been cut, pierced, torn, and reorganized beyond recognition. It has been fed, and it has fed others.

My faith is strong in the way a survivor’s body is strong. To survive, I let go of some once-precious parts of myself, parts of myself that others may have thought were special and beautiful. But these parts were not healthy any more. They were making me sick. And my survival was more important than holding onto them. They have gone, and my faith has a new silhouette.

My faith has been through some major transitions, and it continues to change. It may not be pretty, but just look how many miles my faith has carried me. I can say: I have lived, I have lived, and my spirit is stronger still.

Of late my faith is changing, is transitioning. I don't know precisely how it all will come out. Part of me has feared to say anything, lest I make others uncomfortable or worried about me, yet honesty and authenticity demand that I speak. Know that I am not doing anything rashly. I am studying with my mind and my heart, seeking the Spirit, searching the scriptures, and trying to follow as I feel led. "A mind, once stretched, can never return to its original dimensions" said Oliver Wendell Holmes, and so too with spirituality and faith. I learn things, I experience things, I understand things in new ways, and I cannot return to the simple faith I had when I was younger. I share my journey with you here both for the sake of honesty, and also because I know that I am not the only one who journeys. I have updated the "My Faith" tab here on the blog. I have added a section at the end for the series of posts which traces my journey. I claim Mormonism as my heritage, my culture, and my center, but I am no longer the vanilla mormon that I was. I'm butter brickle, or strawberry swirl, or cookie dough fudge crunch, or perhaps all of them all mixed up. I'm more complicated than I was--as is appropriate for one who is no longer a child--and my faith is more complicated as well. This is part of why I wrote about being a Big Tent Mormon--because I think that the time is coming--or has come--when it will take a big tent to hold this mormon.

(PS, are you suddenly craving ice cream? Because I totally am. mmmmm.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mother's Necklace

I have a new mother's necklace. (I ordered the beads and made it myself too.) It's different from any other mother's necklace I've ever seen (and, actually, there is a charm for my husband too, so it's more of a "family necklace" I suppose). In any case, I thought I would share:
Dragon ~ Wolf ~ Bear ~ Eagle

Friday, October 21, 2011


Somewhere in my late teens I started signing my name as "jenni b" because there were always multiple Jennies. Due to the pronunciation, that naturally morphed into "jennibee." After I married, my new last name still started with a B, so "Jennibee" remained. When I opened an etsy shop to sell cloth diapers and other baby things, I settled on the name "lilbees," making myself the mama bee. Readers who have been here more than a few months know that for a couple of years my blog title was "Musings of Mommy Bee."

And so the bee became my inadvertent symbol. I wasn't particularly drawn to bees, didn't even particularly like them, but it's what I ended up with. (My sons are the Wolf, Bear, and Eagle, my husband is the Dragon...and I'm a little of these things is not like the others!)

In the Book of Mormon, the honeybee is called "deseret." Before Utah was a state, the mormon settlers named their territory "Deseret" and their motto was (and still is) "industry." In thinking on that, I concluded that, in spite of my 'totem' not fitting in with the rest of my family's, it did seem appropriate for me. A few months ago I was feeling disgruntled about it though, and decided to do a little reading about bee symbolism and meanings.

Oh wow.

The Bee is a symbol of the Goddess/Feminine Divine and of female warrior energy.
In addition to industry and productivity, it represents achieving the impossible, making or bringing order, royalty, wisdom, celebration, fertility and the honey of life, sweetness of truth, community, concentration, organization, planning and saving, working with the spirits of the deceased, industry, prosperity, purity, birth, death, resurrection and reincarnation, communication with spirit(s), helping earth-bound spirits move on to their proper place, luck, misfortune and Otherworld wisdom.
The bee is connected to *Bridgid, Ra, Vishnu, Krishna, Indra, Aphrodite, Demeter, Cybele, Artemis, Diana, Rhea, Zeus, Dionysus, Pan and Priapus.
(see The Bee Goddess, The Bee, Wyldcat's Animal Guide, and OneSpiritX) (and if you don't know what all those gods/goddess represent, well, you should study up, some of them are pretty cool. I helped you out--see the end of the post)

Recently I listened to an interview at Daughters of Mormonism, and the interviewee was talking about Hugh Nibley's book Abraham in Egypt and a section called "The Deseret Connection." She explained how the book told of the things the bee symbolized in ancient Egypt: power, life, fertility... it was a symbol of the royal line. When Joseph married Asenath, she (as the daughter of a priest and part of the royal house) brought the bee into union with the House of Israel. Most mormons believe we are part of the house of Ephraim, which means that the bee is part of our birthright.

So I've made friends with my bee self. I've decided I like her after all. In fact, she's pretty much awesome. Which is why on my new charm bracelet (filled with symbols which are meaningful to me), there is a bright, shiny, bee.

*Bridgid--threefold goddess of hearth and fire (Celtic)
Ra--the sun god (Egypt)
Vishnu--preserver of the universe (Hindu)
Krishna--an avatar of Vishnu, the embodiment of love and supreme joy (Hindu)
Indra--lord of heaven, god of war, storms, and rainfall (Hindu)
Aphrodite--goddess of love, beauty, and sexual rapture (Greek)
Demeter--goddess of harvest and growing things (Greek)
Cybele/Sybil / Rhea--earth mother goddess/mother of the gods (Phrygian/Roman)
Artemis / Diana--goddess of nature, wild animals, fertility, and childbirth (Greek)

Zeus--king of the gods, god of sky and thunder (Greek)
Dionysus--god of wine, agriculture, fertility, theater, spiritual intoxication, secret rites (Greek)
Pan--god of nature, shepherds and flocks (Greek)
Priapus--god of gardens and fruitfulness (Greek, imported from Asia Minor)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Next Stage

Eagle is now 23 months old; just weeks away from the age Bear was when I got pregnant with Eagle.
But I'm not pregnant. Yes, I am fertile (it took 22 months this time instead of 20), but we're not trying to get pregnant; actually we are actively preventing pregnancy. Maybe forever.

If you had asked me a year ago (as my husband did), I would have said no way was I ready to be done having kids. Ever since my teens I had been planning on 5 kids at least... Even with my slow start and wider-than-anticipated spacing I was 28 when Eagle was born, so I could certainly have another child or two before 35! But when Eagle was just a couple of weeks old, Hubby said something about how we were outnumbered now (more kids than parents), and he thought maybe we should be done having kids. I figured he was tired and stressed with the newborn, and brushed it off. When he brought it up again a few months later,  I began to think about it.

Initially I hated the thought of being done. Only three children? But I have so much to give! I'm pretty good at this mommy thing, I know how to handle lots of kids, shouldn't I give a good home to as many kids as I can? Pregnancy is not that hard for me physically--I don't get that sick and my body doesn't fall apart. Birth isn't hard on me either--in fact it's exhilarating.

And then a friend gave me a piece of very sound wisdom. Some kids need more than others (and I do have a couple of high-needs kids). If a mother has a finite amount of energy (which I think she does!), then no matter how much love she has, it makes sense to go with a family size that is appropriate to her energy. Sometimes that might mean 9 children, and sometimes it might mean 3. As I considered the possibility that I might actually have my quiver full with [only] three children, I began to accept that it was probably true.

So we made the decision to be done with having babies. I admit I made it more mentally than emotionally--part of me keep thinking "we're just done for now, in a few years we'll have another one or two." But I set it in my head and then let it marinate... and it took a while. Some days I would think "ok, I can wait 3 or 4 or 5 years, but I want at least one more" and other days I would think "how nice would it be to have no kids in diapers?!" or "we'll never have to buy a bigger van!"

And then, one day last winter, my sister called and told me she was pregnant. And for the first time, instead of thinking "I wish I were" I thought "I am so glad I'm not." And that was a massive turning point. I had never experienced not wanting to be pregnant in a particular moment. It was weird, and also it helped me realize that maybe I could make this transition.

I don't know precisely what the future holds, but I do know that it does not hold pregnancy for me--not for several years at least, and very probably not ever again. Some days I still struggle with the finality of it, but I also feel confident that this is the right choice for us at this time.

I have an IUD now (because breastfeeding was messing with my charting, and we did not want to allow the possibility of an 'oopsie'). Even though I intellectually knew that I wanted to do this (Hubby and I discussed at length and agreed on this option), it was still hard emotionally. I felt as though I had voluntarily given up my "full bloom" of fertility, as it were, in trade for a forced infertility. Like I had handed in the fullness of my womanhood for premature old age. I appreciate that that probably sounds like hyperbole, but I really felt it keenly. It didn't hit me until I was in the CNM's office getting ready to have the IUD put in, and then I bawled and gushed to her (a veritable stranger) about it. I suppose she doesn't get that very often! I cried much of the day after I came home too. I had not expected to react that way--after all, an IUD can be removed! But the next day I calmed down enough to do a closure ritual for myself, and felt much better for it. It was shortly after this time that I had my epiphany about the three phases of womanhood which I wrote about here.

I may be finishing with one stage of my life, but I still have many stages to live and enjoy. Perhaps I am done with pregnancy and birthing (for myself), but of course motherhood goes on. My children are young, there is much to do with them. As I exit the baby stage, I can enter another stage--a stage I have been thinking about (but putting on hold for six years)--a stage where I can reach out to other women and teach and support them as a doula and a childbirth educator. It's actually pretty exciting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"...or whether I speak of myself"

I think I ruffled some feathers recently when I said I disagreed with something that an apostle had said over the pulpit at general conference.

Allow me to clarify.

When I said I am a Big Tent Mormon, I was not saying that the church can't set standards for membership, or that temples should be opened to the public, or that policies should be changed. What I did say was that I think the title of Mormon should be self-selected, and that we should accept it for those (all those) who select it.

All of us--including leaders at every level--are human, and potentially make mistakes. We have been counseled again and again to seek personal confirmation on the things our leaders tell us. In the early days of the restored church there were disagreements, even heated arguments between various members and leaders. Ultimately, we have been given a simple method for determining if something--anything--is from God, or simply the teaching of a man.

study ~ measure it against the gospel as found in the scriptures
ponder ~ think it through logically, determine if it makes sense, and fits in with other things you know to be true
pray ~ ask for a personal verification of the validity (or falsity) of the matter

If it does not measure up, then it is opinion, not gospel.

"Scriptures are like packets of light 
that illuminate our minds 
and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. 
They can become the key
to open the channel to communion 
with [Heaven]."

--Richard G Scott

I cannot guarantee that everyone will find the same answers. But I can guarantee that this process will bring valid answers. I generally believe in the good intentions of people. I generally give the benefit of the doubt when something sounds off to me. And then I go through the process. But I will always claim the right to differentiate between Truth and opinion, and I do not hold myself subject to the latter.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wave of Light

Join us tonight in lighting candles from 7-8pm (in your time zone), 
in remembrance of infants lost before or after birth, 
and of their families who miss them still.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Attachment Theory

This excerpt was from two different assignments, the first comparing an older developmental theory with a new one, and the second was to explain a developmental theory, along with primary people involved with it, and the strengths and weaknesses of the theory. Some information overlaps between the two parts, and since these are excerpts it won't always have nice pretty beginnings and endings. But a couple of people have expressed that they'd like to hear about these topics, so here goes. ☺

“Attachment is an integral part of human nature from the cradle to the grave” John Bowlby

Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory posited that individuals progress through stages as they age. Within each stage, they face a crisis or choice, and the way in which they resolve it will affect them throughout their lifetime. John Bowlby took particular note of the “trust verses mistrust” conflict of the infant stage, and developed attachment theory. Attachment theory agrees with psychosocial development in the belief that development is affected by experience as well as biology. It specifically considers the way in which a small child interacts with his or her caregiver—and the way in which the caregiver responds to the child--in relation to the wellbeing and subsequent success of the child. Mary Ainsworth developed the “strange situation” study, which allowed researchers to empirically study attachment behaviors in infants. While Bowlby and Ainsworth’s research (as well as Erikson’s first stage) focus primarily on infant-to-caregiver attachment, some contemporary theorists are extending attachment theory to adult relationships as well.

“In the 50 years since Bowlby and Ainsworth’s initial work in attachment theory, its basic premises have become well recognized and largely accepted into mainstream psychology and into popular culture as well” (Berghaus, 2011). While studies such as Ainsworth’s give clear validity to attachment theory in infants, modern researchers disagree on whether it is appropriate to apply the theory to adults. Some theorists—as well as popular culture--do so readily, but Barry J. Berghaus does not. He cites studies showing that the attachment style of a person in infancy does not necessarily predict their attachment style as adults; in fact, the correlation ranges from .20-.50 (Fraley, 2010). Berghaus explains that “attachment theorists simply accept/presume that internal working models exist, and from there assume that internal working models have a causal relationship with behavior” (2011). So, in spite of the popularity of attachment theory, Berghaus maintains that attachment theory—at least in relation to adults--is actually more philosophical than empirically based.
Attachment Theory was named and first written about by John Bowlby (Bretherton, 1992), however both Mary Ainsworth and Harry Harlow made significant contributions to it by doing formal studies which validated parts of the theory (Bretherton, 1992; Harlow, 1958). It is a contemporary theory, with the earliest written works being published in 1958, and research continuing in the present day. Bowlby was unique at the time for suggesting that there was a “possibility of helping children by helping parents” (Bretherton, 1992); in other words, that children who were not developing ideally could show improvement if their parents responded to them more reliably or affectionately. Bowlby believed strongly in the role of nurture in human development, and emphasized social networks as well as the parent-child relationship, and “[called] to society to provide support for parents,” (Bretherton, 1992), but those parts of his theory have often overlooked or ignored by subsequent researchers, who have focused on one-to-one attachments. “Bowlby also took great pains to draw a clear distinction between the old social learning theory concept of dependency and the new concept of attachment, noting that attachment is not indicative of regression, hut rather performs a natural, healthy function even in adult life” (Bretherton, 1992). While some recent theorists argue whether attachment theory can appropriately be applied to adults (Berghaus, 2011), others have found positive correlations between secure attachment in early childhood and increased IQ scores, or secure attachment patterns in adult romantic relationships (Fraley, 2010). The correlations vary in strength, and thus they can be hotly debated.

Though attachment theory seems to apply for small children in cultures around the world (Bretherton, 1992), the percentages of children who develop each type of attachment varies, almost certainly due to cultural norms about parenting (for example whether the children are routinely left with a non-parent caregiver, or how often they are held). Since children in diverse cultures can still become healthy adults, one must question whether one style of attachment is necessarily better than another, or whether the important thing is simply for the parent to be reliably responsive to the child. Attachment theory might have a more universal application if the definitions of types of attachment were broadened.

One area where attachment theory does not seem to work is with autism. The “ideal” form of attachment (secure attachment) is defined in part as a child who experiences separation anxiety when the parent leaves, and seeks comfort from them when they return, but autistic children often refuse physical contact because it overstimulates them, and may prefer to be solitary, even when very young (Grandin, 1996).


Berghaus, B. J. (2011). A new look at attachment theory & adult “attachment” behavior. Behaviorology Today, 14(2), 3-10. Retrieved from

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Retrieved from

Fraley, R. C. (2010). A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research. Retrieved from

Grandin, T. (1996). Thinking in pictures: and other reports from my life with autism. New York: Vintage.

Harlow, H. F. (1958) The nature of love. First published in American Psychologist, 13, 673-685. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Cognitive Development Theories. Retrieved from

Lifespan Learning Institute (Producer). (2009). John Bowlby attachment and loss. Retrieved from

Susskind, J. (2005). Social development. Encyclopedia of Human Development. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Na-na is Sleeping

I'm weaning Eagle. He'll be 2 next month and I'm ready for it. We've dealt with chronic thrush on and off for nearly a year (I nearly weaned him a couple of times) and I think we may just be giving it back and forth to each other. I need to start sleeping through the night and he's old enough to do so too.

I was going to wean him in conjunction with our move--I did that with Bear and it worked quite well. But it was not working well for Eagle. Perhaps it was because he was 6 months younger than Bear had been, and perhaps it was because this was a much higher stress transition, but he seemed to really need the comfort and attachment (and I did not have the energy to stick to non-nursing comfort measures) so that fell through.
I still wanted to wean him around his birthday, but wasn't sure how best to go about it.

Then I came across the book Nursies When the Sun Shines, which was written by a mama who was nightweaning her toddler. Basically she explained to her daughter that the nursies (or, as Eagle calls it, "na-na") goes to sleep when the sun goes to sleep. She used this method for nightweaning, but as soon as I saw it I realized that it would help us for full weaning.
Because we live in the arctic! So by late november or early december we won't have any real daylight at all. The sun will sleep 24/7. (Technically at solstice we have two hours between sunrise and sunset, but it doesn't amount to much light.) Following the light and dark seems better than picking an arbitrary day (like his birthday) and going cold turkey then.

So we've been going on a couple of weeks now, We started just after equinox, with nearly equal parts light and dark. We change by 7-8 minutes per day. On Sep 30 (the first day), sunrise was just before 9am and sunset was just after 8pm. Today sunrise is 9:45 and sunset at 7:30 (you can see a full calendar of the times here if you're curious). The first week we mostly focused on not nursing at night. Some nights went better than others, but he's adjusted pretty well, especially because he knows that he can still have na-na in the daytime. It's simple to just point to the window and show him that it's dark, and he'll cuddle up and accept it. He has been nursing more during the day, but I expected that. This last week we've been cutting out the bedtime nursing, as it's getting dark right about bedtime and if we're running late or he's not feeling sleepy then he may get pre-bedtime na-na, but it's gone to sleep before he does, so he can't nurse to sleep. We have had a couple of late nights and more than a few tears, but I know they are only tears of frustration (he's held and cuddled and has a water bottle and so on) and he is learning to go back to sleep without nursing.

I definitely feel better about doing this gradually and with a toddler than I would with a younger child. I still hold to all my reasons for extended breastfeeding, and I'm glad we stuck it out in spite of teeth and thrush and all the rest. Sometimes I feel guilty for pushing my kids to wean when they still love nursing, but I know that by age 2 their need for it changes to a want. And after two years my want for sleeping through the night I think validly becomes a need (especially with grad school and all those kids I babysit!). He's not a baby anymore, he'll be alright.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I believe in living authentically.
I believe in being honest with the world about who I am and what I believe.
Over time, some of my beliefs or feelings about various things have shifted, and I have always tried to be honest about those changes. Nearly a year ago I "came out of the broom closet" with my intention to integrate aspects of paganism into my spiritual path. I have continued on that path. I celebrate the sabbats and actively participate on the MotherWheel blog, I shared my story on a Daughters of Mormonism podcast, I have connected with the Feminine Divine in a lifechanging way. I have associated with friends who have inspired me in my authenticity with posts such as this and this and this (and I am proud to acknowledge that I am one of the 'coven' mentioned in the first post, and I am the friend 'Buzzy' mentioned in the last).

Today I would like to share something else that is a deeply-felt part of who I am. I suspect that some of my readers will be uncomfortable about it. It may "shatter the safe sweet way you live" because it certainly goes against some familiar habits, but that does not make it any less valid or important. I hope that you will read on with thoughtfulness.

Most people know that I am Mormon. What a lot of people (including some Mormons) don't know is that there are many kinds of Mormon. I fit with some, not so much with others. Some accept all the kinds, some not so much. But we are all Mormons, and as a "Big Tent Mormon" I accept them all as my Brothers and Sisters. ♥

The Open Stories Foundation (the npo which funds Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters podcasts, as well as helping arrange assorted "Open Mormon" or "Big Tent Mormon" conferences around the country) produced this Shared Values Statement this last summer, which they shared at the SLC conference. I strongly recommend listening to Carol Lynn Pearson's excellent speech "No more US verses THEM" which was delivered at the same time.
This is the Shared Values Statement:
  1. We claim the right to self-identify as Mormons if we so choose. We may claim this identity based on our genealogies, upbringings, beliefs, relationships, and other life experiences.
  2. We believe that one can be Mormon or claim a Mormon identity without necessarily adhering to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization.
  3. We acknowledge the richness of Mormon heritage, teachings, and community in all of its diversity.
  4. We seek spaces where we as Mormons can live lives of intellectual and spiritual integrity, individual conscience, and personal dignity.
  5. We acknowledge and honor different spiritual paths and modes of religious or non-religious truth-seeking.  We respect the convictions of those who subscribe to ideas and beliefs that differ from our own.
  6. We recognize the confusion, distress, emotional trauma, and social ostracism that people on faith journeys often experience.  We seek constructive ways of helping and supporting people, regardless of their ultimate decisions regarding church affiliation or activity.
  7. We affirm the inherent and equal worth of all human beings.  We seek spaces where Mormons (and all people) can interact as equals regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.  In this spirit of egalitarianism, we prefer non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical means of organization and affiliation.

I am here to say that, as a self-identified Big Tent Mormon, I agree with these statements. I believe that God loves everybody, and actually I'm no longer convinced of the idea that there is only "one right way" to find or worship God; it seems logical to me that a loving Parent would accept his children via whatever route they come.

I believe that it's time for us all to accept the term "mormon" in a broader way. As columnist Joanna Brooks so brilliantly explained:
What do you call a Catholic who grew up going to CCD but now attends mass only on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter, and supports gay rights? Catholic.

What do you call a Jew who loves bacon, doesn't believe in God, and attends shul only on High Holy Days? Jewish.

And so with Mormons. Some people are active, orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, others are orthodox Fundamentalist Mormons, or there are those who are mormon by culture or heritage, whether or not they are literal believers in the doctrine. There are Reform Mormons and New Order Mormons and the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS), and I'm not saying that they should all be considered LDS--they should not because they are other sects. But they should all be considered Mormons.

Just because the CoJCoLDS is the biggest sect doesn't give them/us any right to say that the others who are different have no right to the name "Mormon." If we have a right to do that, then the Catholics have a right to say that nobody else is Christian--they were here first and they're the biggest!

It's just a matter of logic I think.

Over the last year or so I have come to know a variety of people who are not orthodoxic/orthopraxic LDS, and yet still identify as Mormon by culture or heritage or belief, they just don't fit the current LDS mold. One couple I know is fundamentalist (not in a compound someplace, but a very normal couple who believes that the modern leadership has gotten lost and that it's better to stick with the early leaders). They identify as mormon. If I believe that Joseph and Brigham were prophets then I should accept them as fellow mormons, don't you think? Because they are. And so are the feminist mormons, the gay mormons, the social mormons, the cafeteria mormons, the tattooed and pierced mormons, the non-literal believing mormons, the inactive mormons, the former mormons, the polygamous mormons, the buddhist mormons, the pagan mormons...and of course the literal-believing/orthodox mormons.

Elder Ballard's talk at this last LDS general conference led me to feel the need to speak about this. Of course the LDS church has every right to determine who is or isn't a member of their records, and to be possessive of their (copyrighted) full official name. I'm not arguing that for a second. But the larger term "mormon" isn't copywrited; it was a nickname in the first place, given by others, and which (intended or not) has come to mean a much broader group. So yes, I am saying that I disagree with Elder Ballard on this particular point.

As per the Church's style guide, "The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838.
While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use."
Find and good. I am on board.
However, in that same guide, they go on to say that "The term "Mormonism" is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death." THAT is where I heartily disagree.
It is hypocrisy to say "please call us christian" on the one side and on the other side to say "you can only be called mormon if we say so."
We ARE christian. And we--the much broader-than-just-LDS-members group--ARE mormon.

I'm sure there are those who will consider me fringy or even apostate for thinking these things, but the more I study Christ the more I believe that we should look at the world through love colored glasses, and invite people into the tent rather than shutting people out.

Juliet said "what's in a name" and I admit it seems kinda paranoid that an organization as big and strong as the church would get uptight over a little thing like a nickname... I appreciate the desire to be called by one's proper name (trust me I do, I've been mis-called my entire life!). But when it comes to nicknames, or looser cultural designations, such as the term "mormon," I think that self-classification matters a whole lot more than what somebody else says. If testimony is individual and personal, should not classification be equally personal?!

So I choose to welcome all sorts of mormons into my big tent, realizing that we are different in many ways, but that that thing we have in common, that "mormon" thing, is glue enough to make us family. Even if some of the second cousins seem kinda weird. ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Five Kids Under 5

I have a child who is not quite 5 and a child who is not quite 2.
In addition, since coming to Kotzebue I have begun babysitting full time for some other kids...
Here is roughly what my normal weekday looks like:

Babysittee 1 *"Pink" arrives (girl, age 2 1/2)
*Lest anyone think the color assignments are sexist, I actually just let each kid pick their favorite color from the options available.

Babysittee 2 "Orange" arrives (girl, age 2 1/2)
*To further validate the fact that they picked their colors, I would have given her green, but she picked orange, so that's how it goes.

story time. I may not do a ton of formal organized playtime, but I try to make sure to read a few stories to the crowd every day.

10:30 or so
snacktime all around

12:15 or so
Babysittee 3 "Blue" arrives (boy, 4 1/2--sibling of Orange). His mom brings him from morning preschool, and also takes Bear back to afternoon preschool. Before Orange and Blue started coming, I used to pack up Bear, Eagle, and Pink onto a 4-wheeler to take Bear to class. It's much easier now with the carpool, although I now have so many little ones in the house that it's nigh on impossible to pack everyone safely onto the 4-wheeler if I did need to go somewhere. (This got tested last week when there was a last minute fallthrough from my after-school carpool, and I had to pile everyone on in a hurry to go get Bear after school. However Wolf was home in time to come along and help hold everybody on. In case you lost count, the 4-wheeler was laden thusly: me, Eagle strapped on my back, Orange sitting in front of me on the seat, Wolf in the back center with Bear on one side and Blue on the other, and Pink on his lap... yes indeed, that was 7 people on one 4wheeler, and most of them under age 5. Welcome to the Alaskan bush!!)

1pm ish
everybody finishes lunch. Theoretically all the 2year olds take naps. Some days this goes better than others. Bear is off at preschool, and Blue usually watches a movie or plays lego video games. Assuming everybody naps, I get in a couple of hours of school work. Depending how well they are getting along in the morning, I sometimes can work then too; but much of it falls to evenings. Hubby gets two evenings a week to work on his classes, and I get two.

3:30 or 4pm
Bear and Wolf get home from school, the littles have mostly wakened up (or I wake them at this point).
Snacks for everybody usually again
Work on making dinner

All the babysittees go home.
Feed my family dinner
Enjoy the fact that I do bedtime with only my own kids instead of all the extras. ☺


I am making $400/wk with these kiddos, which allows me to have a date with my spouse EVERY weekend. This is priceless, as we have not had regular dates in five years. It also allows us to save up a bit, with the intent to be able to have a big long fun road trip/vacation next summer without going into any debt. We have bills enough to pay off right now, and the idea of being able to get ahead rather than just making ends meet is very exciting.


Of course, then there are the actual logistics of having five kids under 5 in the house for 40+ hours a week. Sometimes it feels overwhelming--they can move fast and if they split up they can sure make a lot of mess in a very little time. Pink seems to be fond of books but not careful with them, so I have to keep an eye on her lest she rip them (she's damaged a couple). Eagle enjoys recruiting people to help him pull things off shelves. Pink and Eagle (and sometimes Bear) like to take off clothing... I can deal with this so long as they leave the unders/diapers on, but Pink went through a bad spell a couple of weeks ago... yeah, right now I'm pushing a strong must-wear-clothing policy. It IS below freezing outside folks. But we got some new stories and a little indoor trampoline that's good for everybody's wiggles, and I'm thinking of ordering one of those little fabric fabric tent&tunnel toys (I figured the babysitting income included some budget for broadening the toy selection here!)

I have learned some things by having this many little ones.
Firstly, if I had twins or triplets, I would change some of my parenting techniques. I would push for more of a schedule for my littles, rather than following theirs so much. I like the flexibility and non-stressed nature of just going with the flow, but with a stack of kids I kinda need them to nap around the same time or else they'll wake each other up!
Secondly, diaper changes. I line the three diapered ones up, and change them one after the other. The cost of electricity here is so expensive (50cents/kwh, which is quadruple what we paid before), so I switched Eagle to disposables. I feel guilty almost every time I change him that I didn't stick it out with cloth, but ultimately the cost of just drying the diapers would have cost more than disposables, and he's near potty learning anyway. So I line up the kiddos and change one after the other. They each have different brands of diapers and wipes, and that has been quite educational. I can share a couple of tips:
  • Only huggies brand wipes are worth anything (the others it takes twice as many wipes to do the job, so they don't end up being cheaper, and they are not as soft). 
  • And when it comes to diaper brands...Frankly, I can hardly tell a difference between the expensive huggies, the cheap luvs, and the super-expensive 7th generation organics. They all seem to do the job equally well, and they all seem equally soft (as paper diapers go at least). So there you have the extent of my feelings on disposable diapers (and seriously, if you can line dry, or your electricity is normally cheap, I still recommend cloth!) 
And finally, this is the brilliant bit of organization that makes mealtimes and snacktimes more or less sane. I cannot take any credit for this, it was my mother's idea when she had 4 kids under 5 (although she wasn't babysitting any of them!):
Cup colors! We had the tupperware tumblers, and each of us had an assigned color (I was red, for the record). I've done the same thing here only taken it a step further: dish colors!
<------I got this set of little plastic ikea dishes/utensils from ebid, and everybody picked a color, and now I always know what belongs to whom. I can rinse things off but usually only need to really wash them once a day--even though we have multiple meals, because I can always tell whose is whose. The bowls are about custard cup size, so it's good for little ones. The plates are salad/dessert plate size. The cups I actually don't use so much, because the little ones have sippy cups... but the forks and spoons are great.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Yep, I'm pretty universalist. 'Love one another' meant everybody, not just the people who look/think/believe like you do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Infant Case Study

This is the first of several excerpts from my grad school papers that I will share here on my blog. We were asked to read a short case study about a two week old infant, Sam, and then discuss factors that may be affecting his development (both explicitly mentioned in the case study or which we can logically infer). I'm not sure if it's kosher to re-print the actual assignment, so I'll give a short version here:
Sam was born six weeks early via cesarean section. He received oxygen support at birth (though not since), and spent three days in the hospital. His parents, Jane and Roberto, are first time parents. They live in a rural area and do not have many friends or neighbors. Jane drank periodically throughout the pregnancy, but increased toward the end when Roberto lost his job. She has requested 12 weeks off work following the birth, but is considering returning to work sooner. Sam wakes to eat every two hours, but never eats very much and does not sleep through the night. Jane's mother has offered to come live with them for a while to help out.
I felt that we would be expected to write about FASD, but in spite of the obvious potential for it I thought it was unlikely. So I took a chance on a different tack.
The professor said "Excellent. You brought in a lot of relevant information from expert sources and included several things I did not know." And then he selected it as one of the model papers to share with the class this week.
Without further ado:

Given the premise that Jane was consuming alcohol during her pregnancy with Sam, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). While that is a possibility that should not be overlooked (and it would be wise for both Sam’s parents and his medical providers to watch for symptoms over the coming months or years), the case study does not provide sufficient data to point to FASD as a likely diagnosis. However there are things which the case study does point to.

Sam was born six weeks prematurely, so his difficulty breathing in his first minutes of life can easily be attributed to having underdeveloped lungs. His respiratory struggles could also be attributed to his cesarean birth. The pressure of the process of vaginal delivery stimulates the infant’s circulation and respiratory systems (Berk 2010), and babies born via cesarean are as much as twice as likely to need oxygen support as are infants born vaginally (Kamath et al, 2009 and Yakov et al, 2006). The case study also does not indicate why Sam was born via cesarean section; it is possible that he was already under distress prior to delivery, and that could also account for his need for oxygen support immediately after birth. Particularly since he has not needed respiratory support since that time, it is not likely that he has any long term breathing issues.

Sam’s cesarean birth may be important in another factor, which is how Jane has attached to him. Hillan noted that women who deliver via cesarean often have a harder time connecting with and attaching to their babies, perhaps due to the separation they experience during the hospital stay (1992), the interruption of the natural hormonal cycles experienced during vaginal delivery, or to the stress or pain of the experience of major abdominal surgery. Berk also notes that “the appearance and behavior of preterm babies can lead parents to be less sensitive in caring for them” (2010). These difficulties, combined with Sam’s fussiness and her own postpartum hormonal changes, are probably exacerbating an already overwhelming time for Jane in particular.

It is normal for a child of Sam’s age to need to eat every two hours. Because his diet is wholly liquid (whether breastmilk or formula) it is easily digested. Easy digestion is important for a newborn digestive system, but it does mean that digestion is also rapid, and that Sam will be hungry again soon (Pantley, 2002). There is nothing abnormal about his wanting to eat this often, but if Jane and Roberto are not aware of the normalcy of this behavior in their child, it may be stressful or worrisome to them.

It is also normal for an infant two weeks old to wake up frequently in the night. At this age, it would be unhealthy for him to sleep more than four or five hours at a stretch, and that is significantly less than “all night” in the eyes of most adults. In fact, it commonly is “a full year or even two until [a] baby will settle into an all-night, every night sleep pattern” (Pantley, 2002). This frequent night waking, though normal and appropriate for Sam, can put extra strain on Jane, especially when she returns to work. Therefore it would be wise for them to consider ways to help Jane get more rest. One alternative might be to breastfeed and bedshare, which would allow Jane to sleep while Sam eats. Another alternative would be to have Roberto (or Jane’s mother) take care of giving Sam bottles when he wakes at night, so that Jane can sleep.

Jane and Roberto are clearly under a lot of stress. Not only was Roberto recently laid off, but Jane, like most other mothers in the United States, is probably unpaid during her maternity leave (Geissler, 2005). The sleep-deprivation of having a newborn, along with the probability of difficulty connecting to her fussy baby, all combined with the financial stress of their situation has probably left her feeling obligated to return to work before the twelve weeks are over.

The stress of Roberto’s lost job during the pregnancy led Jane to drinking, but it also would have elevated her cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol during pregnancy can lead to premature birth (Field & Diego, 2008). Sam’s precipitous arrival was probably a cause of stress in its own right, as they were probably not prepared for him to come a month and a half before his due date. Field & Diego also explained that “analysis on the mothers’ prenatal cortisol and the newborns’ cortisol levels suggested that the mothers’ prenatal cortisol was a significant predictor of the newborns’ cortisol levels,” and further noted that “infants of high prenatal cortisol mothers have shown temperamental difficulties such as crying and fussing” (2008). This fussy behavior was particularly noted during the first few weeks of life (Field & Diego, 2008). It is probable that Sam’s fussiness is due to high cortisol levels, a residual effect of Jane’s having had elevated prenatal cortisol levels.

Finally, Jane and Roberto desperately need some support in their new role as parents. Berk quotes findings stating that “babies who are both preterm and economically disadvantaged require intensive intervention,” and that the effective interventions include “parent training sessions” along with “medical follow-up” (2010) The case study made no mention of Jane and Roberto having taken any childbirth classes, and it is probable that, in their socio-economic situation, they have not taken any parenting classes or read parenting books. Not only do they need the moral support of friends and family, but they also need the mentoring of professionals or more experienced parents. If Jane’s mother can come stay with them, it would probably be very helpful for everyone for her to do so

It sounds as though Sam got off to a somewhat rough start in life (with his premature arrival, cesarean delivery, and need of breathing assistance). It also seems that Jane and Roberto, as first time parents with little or no experience or education about babies, are feeling overwhelmed with all the changes in their family. However, Sam seems to be healthy and normal now. The family and Sam’s pediatrician should watch him to see if any symptoms of FASD develop, since it is known that Jane was drinking, but he does not show any signs of it at the present. It would be good for Jane’s mother to come provide help and support for Jane and Roberto for a few weeks or months as they adjust to this new life, and ideally they should seek other friends in their area, perhaps other young parents, who can be part of a new network for them. If Sam does end up showing symptoms of FASD, then it will be particularly important for Jane and Roberto to have a network of support as they undertake raising a disabled child.


Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Field, T., & Diego, M. (2008). Cortisol: The culprit prenatal stress variable. International Journal of Neuroscience, 118(8), 1181¬–1205.
Geissler, J. (2005, July 26). U.S. stands apart from other nations on maternity leave. USA Today. Retrieved from
Hillan, E. M. (1992), Maternal–infant attachment following caesarean delivery. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 1: 33–37. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.1992.tb00053.x
Mayo clinic (2011). Fetal alcohol syndrome: Symptoms. Retrieved from
Kamath, B. D., Todd, J. K., Glazner, J. E., Lezotte, D., & Lynch, A. M. (2009). Neonatal outcomes after elective cesarean delivery. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 113(6), 1231-1238. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181a66d57
Pantley, E., (2002). “Newborn babies and sleep.” The no-cry sleep solution: Gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Yakov, R., Yee, W., Yue Chen, S., & Singhal, N. (2006). Oxygen saturation trends immediately after birth. The Journal of Pediatrics, 148(5), 590-594.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Read to your Kids

Reason #339 that you should read to your kids every day?

In the middle of the night, when Eagle woke up and was sad because I would not nurse him (we're nightweaning), he went and brought me a book (and then another and another).
And I "read" them to him in the dark, from memory, because I knew the books without having to turn on a light.
And the boy was happy (even though he couldn't see the pictures any more than I could see the words) simply because mommy was reading to him.
And he went to sleep.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last Night

Thank you my little one.

I know you did not want to be awake any more than I did last night, but I also know that the time has come for you to nightwean and learn to sleep through the night, and so I was holding and rocking you as you cried, rather than just nursing you back to sleep.

And because we were awake, and because we were in the living room (due to your crying, and my desire to let everyone else sleep), I saw light outside in the sky.

And because I saw light, and because I knew what it was, I put on our coats and hats and bundled you inside my coat and took you outside.

And we walked over by the water, where we could feel the wind and smell the saltwater and hear the rolling surf and be out of the yellow glow of the streetlights.

And we looked up, in the glorious darkness of this week's new moon, and we watched the greens edged with purples of the northern lights as they danced in the sky.

photo from here, no I didn't take it, but it was taken here in Kotzebue and it is what they looked like last night

As I walked home, I fell to wondering:
If the Sun shows us Father God and the Moon shows us Mother Goddess, what is the Aurora? Is it the Spirit? Everywhere and moving and bright to see if only we can free ourselves of the little earthbound lights all about us.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Live Deep

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, 
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, 
To put to rout all that was not life 
and not when I had come to die 
Discover that I had not lived.
~Henry David Thoreau

I will not die an unlived life. 
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. 
I choose to inhabit my days, 
to allow my living to open me, 
to make me less afraid, more accessible, 
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. 
I choose to risk my significance; 
to live so that which came to me as seed goes forth as blossom 
and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.
~ Dawna Markova

The first quote I learned from Dead Poet's Society when I was a teenager. In college I cross-stitched it with a pretty border and hung it on my wall.
The second quote I just found this week.

This is my mindfulness.
This is my serenity.
To live deep, and not in fear.
To love freely.
To take what comes, and make it better.
To be a force for good.
To be the change I want to see in the world.
To go
To do
To be

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