Friday, April 27, 2012

The Tongue of Angels (Friday Favorites)

After I posted about talking to myself last week, I listened to this talk (thanks for the recommendation, Cheryl!).

Wow, was it a powerful reminder of the power of words for good and ill -- both those we speak to others and those we say to ourselves.

The Tongue of Angels by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
(click on the "watch" or "listen" links on the right side to hear the talk instead of read it)

some of my favorite parts:

God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed. 1 Like all gifts “which cometh from above,” words are “sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.” 2

It is with this realization of the power and sanctity of words that I wish to caution us, if caution is needed, regarding how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves.

There is a line from the Apocrypha which puts the seriousness of this issue better than I can. It reads, “The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.” 3 With that stinging image in mind, I was particularly impressed to read in the book of James that there was a way I could be “a perfect man.”

Said James: “For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

&

May I expand this counsel to make it a full family matter. We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don’t say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child’s view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child’s faith in us and their faith in God. Be constructive in your comments to a child—always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget—and to forgive. And try not to compare your children, even if you think you are skillful at it. You may say most positively that “Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,” but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty. Praise each child individually for what that child is, and help him or her escape our culture’s obsession with comparing, competing, and never feeling we are “enough.”
&

In all of this, I suppose it goes without saying that negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak—or at least think—critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Almost All the Kids (Wordless Wednesday)

(My oldest hates the camera)
And six girls born in seven and a half years:

How did I get so blessed?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q&A Thursday: Health Effects of Many Pregnancies

Here's a question for you and your friends who also have big families: Have you suffered any long-term/permanent physical problems because of so many pregnancies?
I myself have been very blessed with healthy pregnancies and if I were to answer this on my own, I'd probably say something like this:

Nope! Not unless you count a stomach full of stretch marks and the extra weight I've got hanging around. The stretch marks are definitely tied to the number of pregnancies, but that extra weight would probably have accumulated anyway because I like to eat.
But I was grateful to receive this question because I was curious what my friends' experiences have been with their multitude of pregnancies.
Melanie and her cute family

First, I should post a disclaimer. There are health problems that prevent women from conceiving and carrying a child to term. By virtue of the fact that all the women in my group have six or more children, we have largely avoided these problems. The gals who helped me answer this question are a unique group who have been able to have lots of children. That's not always the case with everyone, and we all want to be careful to note that just because we've been blessed to avoid any permanent health problems does not mean that will be true for all women.

In the course of our discussion the following points were brought up:

1. Our society views pregnancy as a medical condition or something that takes away from good health rather than as a natural, normal part of life. Hence, contraception is considered preventative care. All you have to do is read the comments on any newspaper article about Michelle Duggar to get a sometimes vulgar taste of this view. Since there are fewer and fewer women having lots of children -- .5 percent of women had seven or more children according to the last census -- multiple pregnancies are seen as unusual and scary. My friend Amy had this to say to counter this perspective: "One thing that annoys me, though, is the way society believes that bodies aren't made to have babies (or at least more than a couple). For some reason, exercising your muscles by using them makes them stronger, but exercising your fertility makes you 'weaker?' This hasn't been my experience at all. "

2. There are many positive health benefits to multiple children. I was surprised as I did research just how many documented, scientific benefits there are to having more children:
  • More children born means less breast cancer. Studies have shown that each birth to a woman reduces that woman's chance of developing breast cancer by seven percent. In fact, if women in the developed world had as many children as those in the developing world, the breast cancer rate would be cut in half. (source)
  • Women with more children live longer. A study done in Australia showed that "women with six or more children were about 40 per cent less likely to die during the 16-year follow-up than women with no children" It also showed that the more children a woman had, the less likely she was to die. "Compared with women who had no children, those with two had a 17 per cent decreased risk of death. For women with three children there was a 20 per cent decreased risk, and this pattern largely continued with additional children." (source)
  • Research shows that fetal cells from each child remain in the mother and may spur healing. It's new and it's intriguing:
    In what any ethicist might declare to be legitimate ‘embryonic stem cell therapy,’ the baby’s fetal stem cells migrate to the mother’s injured sites and offer themselves as a healing remedy, becoming part of the mother’s very body. Pinctott writes that such cells have been found in “diseased thyroid and liver tissue and have turned themselves into thyroid and liver cells respectively.”

    Pinctott calls the evidence “striking” that a baby’s fetal cells “repair and rejuvenate moms.”

    Genetics specialist Dr. Kirby Johnson of Tufts Medical Center, Boston, and professor Carol Artlett, a researcher at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, back up Pinctott’s ideas. Their research shows that when a woman becomes pregnant she acquires an army of protective cells - what might be called a gift from her child - that remains with her for decades, perhaps till the end of her life.

    Johnson and Artlett spoke to NPR’s Robert Krulwich in a 2006 interview. In their research, Johnson found that a teaspoon of blood from a pregnant mother contained “dozens, perhaps even hundreds of cells… from the baby.” Science has shown that at the end of a mother’s pregnancy, up to 6 percent of the DNA in her blood plasma comes from her baby. (source)

Amelia's adorable family -- will all these kids actually extend her life?

More personally, a couple of us have family tendencies towards severe PMS, and multiple pregnancies and nursing in between have kept our families more peaceful and calm because they are not subject to monthly motherly mood swings. That's a definite positive!

3. Of all the comments, only three have had what might be considered permanent or long-term problems. These are their comments:
  • I was glucose intolerant with the first three kids, full blown gestational diabetes with the last two, of which I needed to use insulin with the last. So far had it has gone away after the baby is born, but I'm more predisposed to develop regular diabetes some time in my life. In my mind, however, I was born with a higher risk, since diabetes runs in both sides of my family and I think pregnancy just uncovered that risk.
  • Yes, but I've had poor health most of my life anyway, so I don't think my answer is a fair contribution to this poll.
  • For me, I feel like the older I get, the harder pregnancy is on my body. Towards the end of my 5th pregnancy I had some pretty significant vision changes, and although it improved a bit after delivery it has been debilitating. With pregnancy #6 I again had even more problems with the same thing. My baby is now 10 months old and, unfortunately not much has changed or improved either.
4. Most of the problems we've experienced as a group are fairly common to pregnancy (no matter the number) and most resolve themselves after delivery. These include:
  • Varicose veins. One mother expecting #10 says, "I have varicose veins but they started up part way into my 2nd pregnancy and by my fourth were about as bad as they are now so even if I had stopped after only a few kids I'd still have them. "
  • Stretch marks (though at least one of us has none -- wow!)
  • Low Iron
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Incontinence during pregnancy when laughing or sneezing
  • Extra weight and more belly fat
  • Pregnancy mask (brown splotchy marks on the face from hormones and the sun)
  • Gestational Diabetes (just a few mentioned this)
  • Sacroiliac Joint Disfunction (one person had this)
  • Tiredness and difficulty sleeping during pregnancy (you think?)
5. Many of us feel that labor and delivery are much easier in later pregnancies.

6. It is hard to separate out what challenges we've had might be due to multiple pregnancies and what might be due to age or family history.
We know women who've never had children who have bladder issues and varicose veins, for instance, and the challenges of pregnancy are tougher in an older body whether that child is your first or your tenth. In Amy's words: "Women who have had many babies get told that they have worn out their bodies, when I believe the difficulty of their pregnancies could be very closely compared to that of women of the same age having their first or second."

7. Many of us feel we are in much better shape physically because the responsibility of having so many children has made us more determined to stay in shape. Most of my friends with large families are very attentive to their own health. I've learned a ton about healthy eating from them as well as regular exercise. My own journey to lose weight and get into running the last few years was motivated most of all by knowing I needed to be stronger for the sake of my family -- if I die, I don't know who would take over! But more than that, I have got to be at the top of my game physically and spiritually to be able to take care of this wonderful and immense responsibility.

Ana exercises daily, eats amazingly healthy (much better than me!), bakes bread every week, and manages to stay sane, even with nine kids!

So there you have it -- some of the positive health benefits of having lots of kids along with some of the negative stuff that we've experienced. I'd love to hear more perspectives on this subject -- what has your experience with pregnancy been? Has age or the number of pregnancies had a positive or negative effect on your health? What do you think of the studies I discovered?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Talking to Yourself

Last year, with the help of Weight Watchers and running, I lost 35 pounds. I was on track to lose the last 25 when I found out I was pregnant and it was time to put that goal on hold for a while.

I gained 30 pounds during pregnancy, which means that even at the end of that pregnancy, I weighed less than I had a year before.
Two weeks after Cami's birth, I found I had 14 pounds to lose to get back to where I was last summer.
I lost ten pounds in March and five pounds so far in April, leaving me looking like this:
Wow, it feels great to be making so much progress!

But at the same time, this process is discouraging and overwhelming. I've had to fight stress and sleep-deprivation and ravenous, irrational hunger for every pound. Some weeks, the scale hasn't moved much despite my best efforts. Fitting in the running hasn't been easy.

But I've learned something in the process and it is this: Be careful what you say when you talk to yourself. I've had to consciously change my thoughts.

Instead of "Only ten pounds down. You've still got thirty to go. I don't know if you can keep it up that long," I've tried to say, "Ten pounds is awesome! You're one-fourth of the way there!"

Instead of "You barely lost anything this week. A half pound a week? At that rate, it will take you SIXTY weeks to lose all that extra weight. Might as well give up now." I've tried to say, "You'll do better next week. A half pound is a half pound gone and at least the scale is moving in the right direction."

Instead of "You're slowing down this month. All that work the last two weeks and you're only barely back to where you were last summer. Can you really keep this up for however long it takes?" I've tried to say, "Now, you're one-third of the way there. Look how all your smallest clothes fit you again! You didn't get very long to enjoy this size last summer, so celebrate it now. Best of all, any weight you lose from this point on is a brand-new low for you."

I still find those negative thoughts creeping in, but deliberately changing them has helped me be patient.

This morning, I saw a new number on the scale -- one I haven't seen in a decade. And hey, aren't I looking great?

Friday, April 13, 2012

What is your calling in life? (Friday Favorites)


I read this article while running on the treadmill (reading while running is the treadmill's saving grace):


Some of my favorite passages:

Doing God’s Work

First, we need to explore what we mean by a “calling in life.” The idea of a professional calling was brought into focus by Martin Luther, who revolutionized how the world looked at work. Prior to Luther, people viewed work as a necessary evil at best. Luther, however, saw the fallacy in this attitude. His study of the Bible convinced him that work is how we participate in God’s providence toward His children. Lee Hardy, a scholar of Luther’s teachings, noted, “As we pray each morning for our daily bread, people are already busy at work in the bakeries.”1

Luther also taught how to find your calling. It was pretty simple: your calling was to do whatever your station in life dictated. If you grew up in a cobbler shop, your calling was to make shoes. And doing so, you participated in the work of God by covering the feet of His children. Luther believed that virtually any type of work could be a calling, so long as it rendered service to mankind.

John Calvin elaborated on Luther’s ideas in a way that may make them seem a little more applicable to us today. For Calvin, it wasn’t our position in the social structure that determined God’s calling for us. Rather, he argued that God endows each of us with particular talents and gifts, and that it is our calling to discover those gifts and seek ways to use them in the service of our fellowmen. As he put it, “For as God bestows any ability or gift upon any of us, he binds us to such as have need of us and as we are able to help.”2

&

Joseph Campbell, a professor of literature who studied and taught about hero myths, introduced the phrase “follow your bliss” back in the 1970s. The idea was that heroes don’t chase money or prestige; they look into their hearts to find their passion and then pursue it.5 Now you see the phrase “follow your bliss” everywhere. Later, Campbell developed misgivings about how people were using the phrase. It was reported that he quipped, “What I should have said was, ‘Follow your blisters.’” You may do the most important, exciting work in the world. Nonetheless, some days will be mundane and no fun at all. You will be called upon to sacrifice. Don’t expect deep meaning without paying the price for it.
& my favorite, for obvious reasons:

Allow me to share a simple experience from my mission. As I was nearing my release date, I anticipated a sense of loss when I could no longer give all my time to serving God. At a zone conference, I raised my hand and asked the mission president, “After our missions are over and we are no longer full-time servants of God, how can we keep a sense of purpose?” Before the mission president could answer, his wife leapt to her feet and said, “I’ll take this one.”

I will never forget her response. “When I do the laundry,” she said, “I am building the kingdom of God. When I scrub the floors, I am serving the Lord. When I tidy the clutter, I’m an instrument in His hands. I do a lot of mundane jobs, but if my eye is single to God and I’m trying to serve my family, then I feel as much purpose in my work as a missionary can.” Those words remind me of what King Benjamin said about laboring in the fields to support himself—a decidedly unkingly occupation. He said, “I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God” (Mosiah 2:16).

Read the whole article here: What is your Calling in Life?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Now we just need more chairs (Wordless Wednesday)

We've been feeling a little cramped around our old dining table, designed to seat 8, now that we have ten eating at the table. We've talked for years about how to find a table that would suit our needs and decided that my husband would build one.

Last fall, we bought two pedestals on Ebay for an amazing steal (the guy only made $10 on each of them after he paid for shipping), and this past month, this is what my husband created for our family:

It's actually two tables hooked together. Each square table seats eight, and pushed together, they seat 12 or more comfortably. When we have guests or want more flexibility, we can unhook the two tables and seat four more people.

I'm loving the table! I love that it has a mixture of both dark and light wood. It ties the maple we have in the kitchen with the cherry we have in the neighboring great room, and gives us the flexibility to switch to another chair color or style later on if we like.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

In Honor of Easter

Wow -- this video is so moving:



Here are the lyrics:
"I Will Rise"

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

You can share your feelings about Jesus Christ at this link.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Farewell (Friday Favorites)

Last weekend, as part of our Church's twice-a-year General Conference, the Relief Society presidency was released and new sisters were called.

Sister Julie B. Beck served wonderfully with her counselors Barbara Thompson and Silvia Allred.

In honor of their service, here are some of my all-time favorite quotes from Sister Beck:

"Sisters, get over yourselves!" (from the Mormon Channel Q&A about Visiting Teaching)

"This isn't a problem that can be solved on the blogosphere." (from the Q&A about Charity)

"The difference between Young Women's and Relief Society is that in Relief Society we don't get up and clap for you anymore" (paraphrased from a training my sister went to)

"I have learned that a good woman with the help of the Lord can usually work two to two and a half shifts. However, no one can work all three shifts. You have to prioritize where you are going to spend your energy." (2010 Women's Conference)

"A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important. A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence. But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently." (from this talk at General Conference, April 2010)

"Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are “becoming less valued,” in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.” Faithful daughters of God desire children. " (Mothers Who Know, General Conference October 2007)

&

"Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all." (Mothers Who Know, General Conference October 2007)

So much wisdom here.

One of the best talks by her that has been a great help to me in prioritizing and finding balance in my life is this one:

Choose Ye This Day


It was given just ten days after Sister Beck's father died. I'd be honored if you'd read it.

I will miss Sister Beck and her counselors, but I look forward to getting to know the new General Relief Society Presidency.

Do you have a favorite quote by Sister Julie B. Beck?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Q&A Thursday: Fitting in Exercise

Today's question is from Shannon:

When do you find time to work out? We have 4 kids and swear they hear the treadmill turn on and everyone needs something right now!
Shannon, I hear you! I have four preschoolers right now and it's hard enough keeping up with the house and the laundry and things that can more easily be interrupted, much less try to exercise for a decent amount of time.

My favorite time to exercise is first thing in the morning. Get it done and out of the way, shower away the sweat, and then move on. Unfortunately, that's not a time that works for me very often. When I'm already waking at night with a baby, I just cannot force myself out of bed any earlier than our 6:45 family scripture study time. Over the years, I've tried -- I keep thinking that I just need more will-power or dedication! But no matter how much dedication or will-power I throw at it, unless I'm sleeping soundly through the night, I can't wake up early.

Last year at this time, I found the best time for me to exercise was during quiet time and naptime. My kids were used to my unavailability during that time since I had been using it to nap (Katie didn't sleep through the night until about ten months old). Once Katie was sleeping well, it was so easy to use that time for exercise -- and it didn't even feel like a sacrifice because those hours were gifts I hadn't had before. My husband works from home about half the time so if he was home, I got to run out on the streets. When he wasn't home, I used the treadmill.

When summertime came, I was pregnant so those afternoon hours were needed again for rest. It was also too hot in the afternoon for outdoor running. I moved my exercise time to the morning and got it in before the kids woke up.

Right now, mornings are out because Cami's waking at night and afternoons are out for the same reason. So I go in the evening. I shoot for 8:00. All the little kids are in bed by then and the house should be calm (but not always -- sometimes I feel like I'm abandoning a sinking ship when I leave to meet my running partner). Other nights, I go at 9 or even 9:30. One night, I even went at 10:30 because that's what time it was when I finally got the laundry folded and Cami settled down. It's not ideal, but it's working. Late evenings are when my family needs me least, so that's when I go.

Three things are really helping me stick to it:

1. I don't skip any days except Sundays. I've made a commitment to do at least fifteen minutes a day. I find the hardest part is just getting started. Knowing all I "have" to do is fifteen minutes helps me get going. Once I'm out running or walking or doing a video, I usually do more than fifteen minutes.

2. I've found it motivating to have an event on the calendar. I know if I don't get in the training, I won't be ready. And I hate wasting money, so once I've paid for something, I want to make sure I get my money's worth out of it.

3. I have an awesome running partner this time. We can't do all our runs together, but we're meeting often enough to keep each other motivated. And a good hour's conversation means I hardly notice my protesting muscles.

What have you done to make exercise a priority? When do you fit it in? How do you make it work with young kids?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Ten Pounds Down!

March has been good to me. I set four goals at the beginning of the month:

1. Kneel to pray morning and night
2. Take a picture every day
3. Track everything I eat using Weight Watchers
4. Exercise for at least 15 minutes six days a week

I had great success with 1, 3, and 4. Getting the camera out? I think I get a 30% on that one.

My days have gone better with more meaningful prayers. I prayed before, but not always on my knees. Finding the quiet time morning and night to really think and pray has made a huge difference in the quality and tenor of my days.

As for #3 and #4, I'm thrilled to report that I met both goals! With a little help from Weight Watchers and more self-control than I knew I had in me, I lost ten pounds this month.

Here's me at the beginning of March, two weeks after giving birth:

And here's me ten pounds lighter, just last week (aren't you impressed I'm dressed in the same outfit?):
Just four pounds to go and I'll be back where I was last summer, when I ran my marathon:
Then it's just 25 lbs or so until I'm where I want to be. It feels so great to have a plan and to be making progress.

As for goal #4, the exercise one, I have been so happy by my quick progress back into running. I hadn't run since November, and I thought it would likely take all month to build back up to three miles. When Cami was 2.5 weeks old, I was able to run a mile on the treadmill with just a few short walk breaks. Not long afterwards, when she was three weeks old, I was able to run a slow but steady three miles! I've been running between 3 and 4 miles four days a week ever since. I'm slower than I was, and my muscles feel out of practice, but it's feeling wonderful to be getting back in shape.

I'm aiming for this half marathon in June (want to join me?). The main obstacle I'm worried about, ironically, is not the miles -- 13.1 seems like such an easy distance in my mind now, such a contrast from my fears last year. Rather, my main concern is Cami. I don't know if she'll be able to go four hours between feedings by June. But I'm training as if she will, and I suppose the back-up plan could be for me to take a quick "feed the baby" break halfway through (or maybe -- novel thought -- we could try a bottle?).

I've set four more goals for April and I'm hoping to have more success on the scale. Wish me luck!

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