Monday, April 29, 2013

Faith journey: Break from Mormonism

It seems like every time I write one of these things, I take a swing in the very opposite direction of where my post seemed to place me on the spectrum of faith and doubt. Each time however, the swing seems to be smaller, so that is a sign that things are settling. So, don't think this represents any final statement of where I'll be in the next few months or even days. Also, I think it is time to call the faith crisis officially over. At least the crisis part. I think I've come to an acceptance that things are never going to be the same again and that things will still be just fine. Moving on.

For the last few months (pretty much since I wrote my last post) I've been on a break from all things explicitly Mormon. I still hang out with Mormon friends (thanks you guys for still being very nice, while I recognize that most of you hope we would come to church on Sunday, I've almost never felt like a "project") and still undoubtably practice many cultural habits instilled by Mormonism (although I am resistant to the label "cultural Mormon"), but no scriptures, no church (although we did go to the ward Easter egg hunt), no prayer in any recognizable Mormon way, and no garments. I've even given up most of my Facebook ties to "neo"-Mormon groups, like FMH and Mormon stories (those have actually been some of the hardest parts to give up). I also have a weekly cup or two of coffee at FUS (still with too much cream and sugar) and have had a few sips of wine (which I find absolutely disgusting).

As an extended aside, I have to say that the "rewards" of not following Mormon behavioral and doctrinal guidelines have been pretty disappointing. Coffee is pretty gross, doesn't really give me a big boost and brings with it plenty of habit forming properties that causes many non-Mormons to reject it (which was surprising to me) without doctrinal reasons. I could probably get to really like it, just like I could probably really get to like alcohol, but there are still plenty of non-Mormon reasons that keep me from wanting to do either one (but especially the latter). Not wearing garments will probably be nice in the summers of Tunisia, but wasn't a big deal in the endless winter of Wisconsin. I still feel guilty for being a dishonest, lustful, short-tempered human without having to connect any eternal consequences to those actions, perhaps even more guilty than before, because now I don't have a demonic figure to partially blame for tempting me, just good old human weakness. We still go to a church (Unitarian-Universalist) every Sunday or Saturday night (by choice, of course) and we still make a pretty significant financial donation to that church (although not 10% it still feels significant on a grad school stipend) and we've made a conscious effort to donate an increased amount to charities. Of course, feeling like we are going to church/pay for church without any sort of social or doctrinal pressure to do so is a nice feeling. Free childcare, even for Lulah (she is starting to stay longer and longer) during the main sermon is actually probably the best reward of our switch. I always hated having to try to keep my two year old quiet for what was supposed to be the most spiritual part of the week for the people sitting around me and feeling like a hypocrite because even I often found it boring and completely understood why he didn't want to sit still. I know part of the idea of that is probably to teach the kids discipline in sitting quietly, but I feel like the FUS model of easing children into that gradually, with a more child-friendly portion early in the sermon before older kids head out classes is much more reasonable than an hour of speaking from the pulpit.

Anyway, that was never the real reason I started on my faith crisis and have consciously avoided Mormonism for the past few months and plan on continuing to do so into the future. The real reason is intellectual elitism, a desire to be seen as cool by liberals and post-pubescent urge to rebel against my parents.

Feel free to stop reading there if that justifies your suspicions or you're not really interested in what I think are the real reasons I'm on an indefinite leave from Mormondom.

One of the main reasons, at least in my mind, is that I felt that I just needed a break. Every time I tried to come back to Mormonism, thinking that I'd gained some perspective and some emotional space, I realized that I didn't, at least not enough. I still have internalized the message that you are either fully in or fully out (although I recognize that other messages have been presented, the invective against "cafeteria Mormons" has a longer and more established history than "be as candid about your questions as you need to be," at least in my mind). I wasn't comfortable just "focusing on the good" as I saw it, because that meant leaving out so much of the other teaching of "living the gospel as it is told by Prophets to be."

Another is that I've recognized the value in doubt. This deserves its own post, but the intellectual benefits to moving outside of the Mormon box and the larger box of certain or firm faith, as opposed to the social of self-justifying benefits, have been significant and meaningful for me.

Another main reason, is my realization that I just don't have a testimony of the unique truth in the LDS church any more and probably even in Christianity at large. The last two pillars of my LDS testimony, the Book of Mormon and the Atonement, simply aren't there any more. The intellectual and spiritual process that brought me to this point is too long and convoluted to put fully here, but the essence is this: I no longer have the conviction that the way truth is laid out in the Book of Mormon and embodied by the Atonement is an accurate reflection of reality in any meaningful way. Obviously the idea of a God who, by His own sacrifice, paves the way for us to return to a state of purity and peace is an appealing and beautiful one. I've simply come to a place of acceptance where I no longer see myself as clean or unclean, just...human. I feel like defining people by their actions "active/inactive, worthy/unworthy, full tithe payer etc." is neither healthy nor reflective of reality as I perceive it. While I still believe in right or wrong, I have a testimony that I am not made less human or less alive when I do something that is wrong, I just become a person who has done something that is wrong. I am responsible for it, but I am not cosmically degraded for it. I believe that when I do right I am bring myself closer to a place of peace and wholeness, and when I do wrong I take myself away from that place. I don't need any divine assistance to change, I just need to use my own willpower and self control that is my inheritance as a rational human being. Anyway, the Atonement no longer fits into my worldview, except perhaps as a great symbol of sacrfice in an attempt to gain empathy for others, but that's a hard symbolism to parse out from the greater "payment for sin" narrative.

That actually leads into my last main point for this post. I find much of truth in the LDS church and a lot of reinforcement for principles of which I have a testimony, such as peace, equanimity, tolerance and social justice in its teachings and scriptures. However, I so often felt like I had had to wade through water so deep, filled with patriarchy, racism, homophobia ("Too much tolerance is a sin" Really Elder Packer?), and images of a vengeful and petty God, to find them sometimes, that I would rather just go to sources, such as consistently uplifting, affirming and cringe-free sermons we get at FUS, where I get them straight, not tangled up in so much metaphor (as I see it) that can often be as damaging as it is helpful and focused on the here and now and what I can do today.

Maybe some day I'll gain the spiritual maturity to go back to my spiritual heritage to find my truth in the form that connects me to my past, as Thich Nhat Hanh recommends without it being emotionally or spiritually damaging, but that time is not now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Schooling and Madison

I really hated school last semester. It took me a long time to get into a groove, I missed my baby, and it felt very disconnected from reality/ivory towerish and that bothered me. I contemplated ways I could drop out of grad school... but we didn't really have any other great options so I kept going. This semester has been so. much. better. I think it may have to do with the confidence from a very successful first semester, or maybe that Lulah is not so dependent on me, or that my classes are more interesting (Global Feminisms, anyone?) I'm buoyed up even more because I scored a fellowship for next year (FLAS, yay!) and so I will get paid more than if I was TAing and I don't have to work, just go to school, like this year. I'm getting to know my advisor better, and she has been really understanding about my family situation and encouraging me to figure out what will work best for us (she also had a daughter in grad school). It doesn't hurt that we get to spend 6 weeks in Morocco, mostly paid for.

Besides the two very long final papers looming in my immediate future (as I write this, one has been turned in and one is almost finished), this semester has been so manageable as far as workload, once I reduced my class count to three. Arabic has been ridiculously easy (our teacher is kind of a slacker) which kind of bothers me because I'm not learning as much but has allowed me to focus on my seminars. I am actually thinking grad school student life is not so bad as it seemed last semester, if you can live on the stipend check (we can) and you do the bare minimum (which I say is what I'm doing, but actually I'm probably doing a bit more, though  not as much as my classmates certainly). My cohort has a really cool friendly vibe and now that I know everyone a bit more I do not feel quite as weird and freakish as I did when I first started. We live in the magical kingdom of Eagle Heights and I think we'd be hard-pressed to find another community as diverse and nifty as this (our newest Swedish friends are a radical leftist professor/psychologist couple who dig communal living and Judith Butler). Atticus  and Tallulah play on the playground with kids from Bangladesh, Taiwan, Japan, Libya, Chile, Spain, Turkey, Ghana, Jordan, Sweden, Germany, China... and those are just the people we've talked to! I regularly get to speak Arabic on the bus with some random person who initiates a conversation while I am deeply immersed in Al-Kitaab -- "why on earth are you learning Arabic?" is usually how it begins. We hear multiple languages on a daily basis and are trying our best to be good neighbors to the two Pakistani computer science students who I am sure are kept up at night with our (sometimes) shrieking children but are super gracious and say they are heavy sleepers and can't hear them at all.

And you really can't beat the location of living in a nature preserve on a gorgeous lake with well-kept paths but only a 15 minute bike ride along the lakeshore to a vibrant city center with a multitude of delicious restaurants and one of the biggest farmers' markets in the US. Everything we need is walking distance... we are a mile from Whole Foods and Target, 3/4 mile from FUS and the pediatrician, and preschool is up the hill. We knew Madison would be a great place to live, but did not realize just how much we would find our place here.

Dignity and abortion

Against my better judgment I accidentally entered a Facebook debate with a friend's mom. Looking back, I should have realized the lost cause earlier on and not engaged, but I was getting so frustrated that I could not help myself. She was spewing ridiculous notions, and I could not hold back, but in the end, I did not even respond to her last comments because I could not handle how she could not see things that were to me obvious. But I suppose that happens when you discuss something as sensitive as abortion.

Yep, I had a Facebook debate with someone's mom over ABORTION. Why? Read above. It began with me mentioning how the LDS Church changes in response to political environments (and agitation by activists), and I mentioned a few things (how we banned polygamy to get statehood, granted the priesthood to blacks after the Civil Rights Movement, how we are engaging the feminist movement, etc.) and I made the mistake of mentioning the changing of the abortion rhetoric. Yes, the Church HAS changed its position on abortion in the past four decades from when the first official statement came out. They took a statement out that said abortion in the case of rape was permitted if carrying the baby to term caused grave psychological harm, and they added the clause about abortion in the case of severe disability of the fetus that would prevent the baby from living long after birth. But that is neither nor there. What the debate made me think about more was how we frame the abortion debate -- how we talk about the "sanctity of life" -- is really inconsistent and problematic. We can't talk about how awful and disgusting abortion is, and then tell a rape victim it is ok if she does not want to carry to term a fetus that she was forceably impregnated with (PS -- said mother Facebook debater also made the statement that rape victims should carry their pregnancies to term and birth their forcibly-impregnated babies because there are so many couples out there who want to adopt. *headdesk*).

So, scenario we have a Mormon (or evangelical, for that matter) women who is raped and "choosing" an abortion, who will already be socialized into thinking how awful and disgusting and murderous abortion is, and how can she reconcile the cognitive dissonance when all of a sudden she, as a young woman is forced into making a difficult decision, and when you see abortion as murder, how are you going to feel when it is you lying on that table even if it's been "OKed" by the men in suits? Even if you hear that it's not bad and not your fault, I just can't help but see how psychologically damaging this is, and really is a social structure that re-victimizes the victim that we need to address.

On the other hand, I'm not saying we should all just go out and get abortions, no biggie. Abortion IS a big deal, I think you can ask ANY woman who has undergone an abortion, and she will probably tell you it was horrible and she would not recommend it as a form of "birth control" as some of the pro-life movement sees how women are using abortion. It rarely (if ever) is a woman saying, "oh darn, probably should have used birth control. Let me just hop on over to Planned Parenthood and obtain a fun and pain-free abortion!" There is an amazing website (that I've since forgotten the name of and can't find) that tells the stories of women who have chosen abortion, for various reasons, and why they choose it and what the experience entailed. Reading some of those stories was really interesting to me and changed my paradigm quite a bit. As someone who used to say "I'm pro-choice but I wouldn't ever get an abortion" it was really eye-opening to me. Because you know what? Maybe I would should I in some other life be poorly-educated and pregnant with a child of an abusive man, or a scared 16-yr-old in Lubbock, Texas in an abstinence-only sex education program, or even if in this life if the fetus I'm carrying is severely deformed or has a genetic disorder that would drastically compromise the quality of its life.
90% of abortions in the US are performed in the first trimester, and most in the first month. Many times it simply entails taking a pill, and what feels like a really heavy period. I've seen the rhetoric about how the case against Dr. Gosnell is so obviously a sign that all abortion should be legal because it's all terrible and disgusting. What happened in Philadelphia was truly horrific, and I think any pro-choice activist would agree that it was a complete violation of choice, not a sign that the pro-life movement is completely right and we should be ashamed of our support of such a horror. These women were poor, (mostly) African-American women who had little other recourse in their situation. Some were scared off by vitriolic protestors at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood, many traveled hours and hours because they had no facilities in their towns and were already well into their pregnancies by the time they asked off work and procured childcare and transportation, many just simply accepted that they were the scum of the earth as they had been told their entire lives and thus it was natural they were being taken care of in such a facility. Many had rarely seen what a proper medical facility should look like. And you know what's crazier is that SO MANY people knew about what was going on in there, including many pro-life advocates, but they did not really care because it wasn't a high-profile, big-name clinic like Planned Parenthood which I guess is more fun to protest at, and the women who were receiving care there were, of course, poor and minority women so whatevs. I think this awful violation of women's rights is a clear sign we need to both reframe our thinking of abortion and work harder to ensure that it is not only legal but easily-accessible, safe, and dignified. No matter the situation, a woman deserves her dignity, and what many pro-lifers seek to do is destroy what little shred she has left.

And there are so many other problematic issues that arise from framing life from embryohood and seeing abortion as murder. For one, if you truly think a fertilized egg and early embryo is a "person", why not go after fertility clinics? They are dumping embryos by the thousands on a daily basis. Is that mass murder? A holocaust? Genocide of white, middle-upper-class fetuses? I read a case in a seminar I went to about how in some states in the South (Alabama and Mississippi, I believe) lawmakers were trying to define an embryo as a person, which in turn would lead to the technical, legal necessity of criminal investigations of homicide for every miscarriage. There are even some cases now where women are arrested for negligence if they miscarry or their babies are stillborn (always poor, usually if they are drug-users, which is again, totally inconsistent because some babies are stillborn to healthy, non-drug-using women and some women who use drugs don't have stillbirths, so how can you isolate drug use as a factor let alone arrest women for it?) When we frame abortion as a sanctity of life issue and see fetuses as persons, we are really missing the inconsistencies (and harm) this stance perpetuates. What abortion really should be about is avoiding it through comprehensive sexual education, cheap and easily-accessible and reliable contraception (helllllo, male birth control pill, where the heck are you?), while ridding society of that disgusting and pervasive thing we call rape culture and empowering teenage girls and women to be able to make decisions about who to have sex with and when (including economically, there is a horribly pervasive practice of survival sex, sex that is not necessarily prostitution, but necessary to acquire your next meal or housing, etc. because you are economically dependent on a man for these things).

If you want to talk about abortion, let's also talk about how mothers are far from supported in our country. How having a baby is the number one leading factor of driving a woman into poverty. Let's talk about how we have ZERO mandated maternity leave (ok, there is FMLA but most poor women don't have the financial stability to take 12 weeks off unpaid when they are living paycheck to paycheck, I often had clients at WIC who went back to their job at a fast food restaurant or Walmart less than a week postpartum, so next time your cashier is subpar and you want to get huffy with her, think about that she might have just had a baby a week ago is bleeding profusely from her vagina, her breasts are leaky and she's dealing with the emotional trauma of being separated from her newborn for eight hours at a time, because she MAY be).. State-supported, subsidized high-quality childcare anyone? Meh, not in the free world. Do you even realize how expensive daycare is?? Really, really ri-frickin-diculously expensive. Is it any wonder some poor women choose to not work... their welfare benefits far outweigh what they would make at minimum-wage jobs minus daycare costs.

So, the solution: move to Sweden. Always.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Week of April 14

Sunday: We ended up going to both services at FUS today (both the 9am and the 11am) as there was a special musical hour for kids at 9 and a special choral performance at 11am. I think we were all a little too tired to enjoy the 11am performance, but at least our kids were being watched for free.

Monday: I had another dentist appointment as I work to get a tooth ready for a crown. Cait took the kids out for a long play time whilst I was gone.

Tuesday: Cait had a long day of school. We went and played with Atticus's friend Juna for a long time, either this day or the next. I went to a patience cultivating course at FUS that night, which was really great and deserves it's own post.

Wednesday: We had a playdate with out new friend Jenny and her daughter Judith and then I had my first assembly meeting as the new assembly chair. It did not go as planned. The whole thing requires a lot of explanation so I'll try to get to that in another post.

Thursday and Friday and Saturday: Sick days for the kids, with very limited outings. I went to parent teacher conferences at Atticus's school, where everything seems to be going fine. On Saturday I went to FUS in the afternoon and was an usher for the first time, which was nice.

Sunday: Another sick day at home with the family. By the afternoon it seemed like the kids were getting better enough that we were able to go to our friend Brad and Jenny's half birthday celebration.

Homemade mac and cheese goodness

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Week of April 7


Cait went to a brunch with people from her PhD cohort and I took Atticus to FUS. On our way back we watched some people play softball on what was one of the few really nice days so far this year. Then Cait came home and we met with some Mormons for a between conference lunch picnic. We didn't watch much of conference live, but we listened to a few talks on a walk later on in the evening as we walked the kids to sleep. Before that, though, we spent a lovely day outside.

What we wore to FUS. Atticus did not want to smile. He has on Cait's tank top as a dress.

The weather turned nasty again, so we spent a long time at the community center. Now that I've signed up to be the Assembly Chair (more on that in another post for non-Eagle Heights people), I feel more obligated to use the community center for whatever reason. We played with Jenny and son and made some new friends in Swedish Jenny and her daughter Judith.


Atticus finally started preschool again. I took Lulah up to the community center and she played there in her pajamas for a while. Then the rain really let loose. We had a doctors appointment for a 1-year checkup for Lulah (17 lbs, 9 oz, in case you are wondering), but it was raining so hard, we wouldn't have ventured out if I didn't have to go and get Atticus from preschool anyway. I was so soaked by the time I got Atticus, I figured we would just keep on going. Luckily after the checkup and playing in the very nice waiting room, the wind had let up, so armed with a warm cup of coffee (I drink coffee now, sorry), I pushed the kids back home (the kids were in the mostly covered Chariot the whole time).


Brad and son came over in the morning and we had a play date. We went up to the community center in the afternoon, but Tallulah especially was getting bored of it.


School in the morning, playgroup in the afternoon and making pancakes for dinner while watching Atticus's friend Gretel.


I had my first meetitng with the FUS "Reduce Gun Violence" ministry team, my very first ministry team at FUS, which I am excited for. Cait got a massage. I went to a concert with my friend Charles from Mormon church, it was a guy named Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe. The concert was fun and the music was good, if different than what I am used to. I tried to suppress all my white guilt which told me I was a hypocrite for grooving to Zimbabwean protest music.

Me with my friend Charles at the concert 

We hung out all day and, Cait took the kids shopping and then we began our extended FUS weekend by going to the service and potluck in the evening (we ended up going to all three of their services, because they were all different).

"Mommy, there is an ant crawling on me."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Painting Eggs

I know this one is really late and out of season, but it is nice to remember that this is technically spring, even though it supposed to snow today.

We used the extra dye to tie-dye some tee-shirts, which looked really cool at the time, but have sense faded and now look semi-cool.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why SAHMs are a problem

I've been thinking lately about the Sheryl Sandberg assertion that women don't become CEOs and senators and partners in big name law firms because they don't "lean in" enough to the system. They don't assert themselves enough at work, strive for the promotions and make their accomplishments known to their employers.

The Wall Street Journal published this article by Jody Greenstone Miller in response (there has been quite the debate), and it really illustrates my own thoughts on the issue. Women don't lean in because it requires them to sacrifice quality of life. The capitalist system of achievement is based on masculine concepts of success... making more money and being better than other people. There is little room for cooperation, collaboration, and quality of life issues. I don't know how many hours a week most business people work in order to enter the upper echelons of corporations, but after seeing my brother-in-law work himself sick at Bain a few years ago, I imagine it's a lot.

The problem is what we value. We value someone who is hard-working, so that must mean we value someone who works 100 hours a week over someone who works 30 hours a week. We don't value work that doesn't make money -- or work we don't value isn't lucrative -- it can go both ways. We devalue parenting, we pay teachers and librarians and hotel maids terribly, this plays out in so many ways. After divorces, women and children are much more likely to end up in poverty than the man in their lives. The whole way the system is structured is problematic. The system needs to be changed. But money talks. And we listen.

What this has to do with SAHMs: there was a comment on my friend's Facebook when she posted this article. The woman was talking about how yeah, she leans in to the system, but not in the way that Sandberg intends. She leans in by allowing her husband to take advantage of her reproductive labor and translate it into further success for himself (which she benefits from as well, though not in the same way). She made the point that her husband works, a lot, and he can because she is behind the scenes at home providing all the support: ironing his shirts, raising his tiny humans, cooking his meals, packing his lunch, (proofreading his business school applications). She lends this support, and in the case of highly intelligent and capable women, she can contribute a great deal to his success. By doing so, she is giving him an unfair advantage over those individuals who don't have a partner doing all that work: the women. His female colleagues who are also parents usually do not have this kind of 24/7 support. They lose out of promotions, on raises, on opportunities because they simply cannot be at work 50 or 60 hours a week (or more). I suppose some can, those who make significant amounts of money and have reliable childcare, but we give women the hard choice of raising their children or raising their salary. Men can work this much, and feel guilt-free, because that's our society's ideal of masculinity: work hard and bring home the bacon, don't worry, your wife can handle everything else. This aforementioned commenter talked about how her husband doesn't do anything to help at home, because "every 1.5 hours he spends cooking is 1.5 hours less he could be working to get that advantage to get that job to get that job security." It shouldn't have to be an either-or. Women are losing out, for sure, but men are too. They are losing out on being a part of their family, they are losing out on cooking a meal for their children and giving them baths at night and smelling their freshly shampooed little heads.

By emphasizing this division of bacon-bringing-home husband and stay-at-home wife, we are creating a false dichotomy of the traditional family that capitalism has told us is ideal, because it is pretty efficient to have men being able to dedicate their entire lives to this system. It makes a lot of money. But it doesn't contribute to quality of life, it doesn't allow women to enter into decision-making bodies and have their voices heard, and the solution of simply having women enter the masculine-idealized workforce and create a society where children never see their parents sucks too. We need women to lean in, sure, but what we really need is men to lean out a bit. And to her credit, I think Sandberg addresses that, when she talks about her husband sharing responsibilities in the home. But I think it goes beyond individual couples rearranging labor assignments in the home, though I do not think this is a bad thing. I think we need to accept that our system is broken and needs fixing. We need to acknowledge our own complicity in the brokenness.



Addendums: I acknowledge that a) this reeks of upper-middle-class privilege, and most working class people do not have these luxuries, both spouses work 40 hours a week to simply pay the bills (if their are even is a partnership intact), and b) that I have a husband at home that is performing reproductive labor so that I can go to school and isn't that just as bad? I argue that no, it's not. I'm taking on far less than many of my classmates, and I'm sure my male colleagues who also have children, because I didn't want Tim to take on all (or even most) of the household duties. I leave about 20 hours a week, and other than that, we are a pretty much staying at home family. I often cook, clean, and perform solo parent duty pretty often while Tim volunteers or writes (or fills out job applications, which is a recent task). And while at first I resented this because "hey I shouldn't have to be doing the dishes! that's an hour less I won't have to study!", I see now that this is exactly what I find problematic. And obviously, there is logic to this in some way because yeah, I have studying to do and papers to write, and Tim doesn't, but it definitely requires balance, which is what I think we have achieved this year (or are working slowly towards...)


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week of March 31

A week ago Friday: I forgot to post this in our last update post, but last last Friday we went to a lovely Seder at the FUS church that was oft interrupted by our non-Seder friendly kids. But we were able to split listening/participating time and then we all enjoyed a very lovely meal together.

Sunday: Cait had a long night studying, so she slept in while the kids and I went to FUS. I went early to help volunteer with the Easter egg hunt, but I was a little late and they were already ready. I did help supervise the hunt a little bit, and Atticus and Lulah had a fun time finding eggs. FUS apparently hides empty eggs and lets kids turn them in for a treat bag. Not as exciting, but no ugly fighting over eggs, so that's nice. I then took Atticus and bussed to pick up my bike at REI, where I had dropped it off for a tuneup. We came back just in time for dinner and then dessert at our friend Brad and Jenny's.

Monday: Today was a day of catching up on housework and trying to outlast the last few days of real cold. We did get outside a little bit, Cait took Atticus shopping and I took Lulah for a run.

Tuesday: A really long day at school for Cait, including a meeting about prelims, which put Cait into a fresh bout of doubting whether grad school is the right path for her. An ongoing discussion. The kids and I spent a long time up at the community center, where I voted in the local municipal elections and the kids playing the gym and out on the playground (it was warm enough for 45 minutes without coats). Atticus made a new friend who also was really excited to play with Lulah, which was funny to see from a boy (sometimes older, mostly Asian, girls want to play with her, but rarely boys). Then we came home for a very late nap for Lulah and some of our fresh asparagus for dinner. Hurray for fresh fruits and veggies in season! We're going to try to go to mostly fresh fruits and veggies this spring/summer/fall, because we were mostly good about avoiding them this winter when they were all out of season. We have already signed up for what appears to be an excellent CSA.

Wednesday: We had a playgroup in the morning that was a lot of fun and good for Atticus who is still on spring break from pre-school and missing the social interaction. And then Atticus had Ballet in afternoon and we played in the community center for a while. Cait went to a viewing of Les Mis with some Mormon women at night and still can't stop talking about it (it was her first time seeing it [I haven't seen it yet]).

Thursday: I and the kids had an extended play date and lunch with our friends Nina and Juna. Juna is in Atticus's preschool class and apparently also starved for social interaction from the last few weeks. The weather was really conducive to outdoor play for the first time all year, and it was great to see the kids playing in the big sandbox behind the house on their new slide and sand toy. We played outside for a long time and then Nina invited us to her house for lunch and with the kids playing together so nice and Lulah falling asleep peacefully in my arms, we stayed until Nina and Juna had to leave for a birthday party a few hours later. Cait went to a lovely yoga session at night.

Friday: Another really nice weather day. We spent a lot of time playing outside. Cait took Atticus and Lulah to a playdate with his friend Abdo while I stayed home and cleaned the house for pizza night. Unknown to us, there was an activity schedule long before ours for Friday night, so a lot of regulars didn't show up, but we got three new people, Steel, Laurel and Karen, that we kind of knew but got to know a lot better through some really good discussion as pizza night went much later into the night than it regularly does. As a bonus, Atticus, after being great all night even without any of his regular pizza night friends, fell asleep very nicely in my arms while the discussion went on.

Saturday: We were all a little tired from the long night on Friday, so we stayed close to home. Cait did take the kids to a seed fair at the community center and came away with a lot of good seeds and I took the kids outside for some good playing in the light rain and still fairly warm weather. It is great to see that Atticus's reluctance to playing outside all winter was due to the cold and snow and not to a loss of love of wandering around exploring. We listened to a little bit of General Conference. At night I went to our friends Steel and Laurel's for a nice movie night and discussion. Entre le Murs was a great slow-paced film about a teacher in an inner-city Paris school trying to reach these kids who obviously have a tough life. I loved that the teacher had no big answers and often made really bad mistakes while trying to do something to help the kids. It reminded me of my efforts in parenting.

Postpartum sex

One lovely part of being active in the FMH Facebook group is you get links to gem like this.

Let's talk about sex, friends. Let's specifically talk about sex post-partum. Let's talk about how there is no way in hell my barely-pushed-a-freaking-human-out-of-my-vagina self is going to get on my hands and knees and mop the floor so Tim can objectify me. Let's talk about how my husbands' sexual "needs" are in no way a priority for me during these months, and that is the way our biology made us. There is an evolutionary reaon why the same hormones that produce and express milk suppress your sexual drive. There is a reason women do not want to have sex postpartum. It's because our bodies are not supposed to! So, why do we feel the need to buck our physiological signals and force ourselves to feel "sexy" during a time our libidos are non-existent. Heck, we're eight months postpartum and only having sex like once a month**. I've embraced my own needs as a mother of young children. I hate the rhetoric that I need to dress up and perform for my husband, that since he is a man he has these needs that must be fulfilled. He didn't have sex for the first 23 years of his life, so I think he can chill out until I start ovulating again and my libido returns from hibernation (and if can't, he knows what to do sans my body). It's natural birth control, and evolution's ways to keep mothers alive by spacing their babies out. I know some might argue it's also our biology for men to have sex all the time to spread their seed, but yeah, I think we can have more faith in our men and put a little less pressure on our women.
Is this lifestyle totally exhausting? Stay awake and go to bed with your husband? Make him baskets and buy special candy and freaking make Sharing Time activities to spice up your sex life? Maybe some peoples' relationships need these props. But I like Tim's brain and he likes mine, and though yeah, we fight over silly things like interest accruing on student loans and burning the pizza on pizza night, our marriage is doing pretty well and I love our open communication and understanding. These websites (which apparently are very popular and Mormon women LOOOOOVE them) just seem so immature and infantile. It makes these women's marriages seem like middle-school relationships where they have to work so hard to keep their boyfriends happy so they won't "break up" with them and "go out" with another girl. Yikes. Really.

** this post is several months old, we have sex AT LEAST twice a month now!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

March 17-30

So, I'm not sure what happened to blogging in these weeks. Sometimes you just lose motivation and get a little busy, and sometimes it just all seems rather silly.

Anyway, a few events from the past few weeks that we would like to remember:

St. Patrick's day parade and Children's museum trip: This was a very full Sunday (that also included a trip to FUS in the morning I think), but a really fun one.

Mosque Trip: We took a trip to the local mosque with some of our new friends from Libya. It was a nice experience and everyone was really kind to us, but it also served to remind us how not-Middle Eastern/North African we are. No photos because it was dark outside and we weren't supposed to take any inside, we think.

Cait's lecture: I think she should write up a big post about this herself, but Cait gave a lecture at the LDS Ward's Relief Society birthday celebration about the state of women internationally and early Mormon feminist activism. I wasn't invited, but I'm sure it was great.

Split Sunday: Cait had helped buy the food (she didn't pay for it, but was on the shopping trip) for the linger longer in our LDS ward and so she wanted to go to that and I had volunteered to be a greeter at FUS, which was my first attempt at being a part of the active volunteer community there, so we split up churches on Sunday. We had plans to go to a cool maple syrup family exhibit thing, but a big snow storm hit, so we called it off.

The next week was Spring Break and the highlight of that was our Chicago trip, which was great.

And then we had an Easter Egg hunt at the LDS church on Saturday, which was also a lot of fun.

More photos:

Ready for summer

What mom, I'm just watching some Baby Signing Time over here, give me a break
Here's a video of the slide we bought with Lulah's birthday money. It's now outside in the sandbox.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Homemaking apps

I mentioned a while back that getting my homemaking on was one of my New Year’s resolutions. For the past little while, I was trying more of a Zen Habits inspired approach to housework, where the main point was to stay aware and not get to structured, but it wasn’t going well. I haven’t learned to focus enough on homework and need to work through some bad habits of distraction (Facebook, blogging, reading, whatever) to get to a place where I feel that I can use an unstructured approach to housework.

I got a new iPhone for Christmas (link) and I figured that I could combine my love of useful apps with homemaking and hopefully make some improvements. While I still try to focus on being in the moment and being flexible to the demands and desires of the day, I have found the added structure really useful, and I think I have improved a lot in my homemaking recently and I think Cait would agree. I still have a long ways to go to be the kind of homemaker I would like to be, but I’m sure there are plenty of readers of our blog that are in the same position (I know there are some who are great homemakers already), so I thought I would share what has worked for me.

This is not an advertisement for these apps (although, if you do get them, use the buttons in each description and I get some money, I think), I'm just sharing what has helped me.

Homeroutines ($4.99)

This one is my primary housework app. It is a little pricey (I got it on sale) but still, I would pay $5.00 for how much it has helped me. In concept, it is pretty simple. I break down tasks into morning, afternoon, evening and night and then daily and weekly tasks.

And then there is a monthly rotating deep cleaning schedule, where you focus on a different area of your home every week. I have a hard time keeping up with this schedule, but I am certainly doing more deep cleaning than I used to.

I have probably 100 tasks total that I aim at getting done every day, but I don't ever really get close. But  getting everything done is not really the point. I've found this app especially useful in just keeping me motivated and focused, not having to wonder to much about what to do next in the seemingly endless list of household chores. It is rather sad, however, to see the app so full of stars at night and then be empty in the morning.

Astrid (Free)

This is a really great app that everyone should have. It is seriously one of the best free apps I've found, and I can't believe I haven't had it for longer. It is basically just a really well organized to-do list, with the ability to organize things into lists. The kicker is the voice control (for those of us without Siri, at least), which works really well. Pick this one up if not any of the others.

Astrid Tasks/To-do List - Todoroo Inc.

Mealboard: $1.99

This is the one app I want to be using more. I don't use it as much because I am not as good at planning or cooking meals as I am at some other aspects of homemaking, but I want to get better. You can either use this as a simple meal planner, or you can get advanced and use it as a recipe book and even as an automatically updating grocery list. I think this has the potential to make me into a much better organized cook.

iPad link:
MealBoard - Meal and Grocery Planner - Ray Bernardo

iPhone link:
MealBoard - Meal and Grocery Planner - Ray Bernardo