Friday, April 28, 2006

It can be done!!

My sister after having 4 beautiful girls, finally has a boy! My other sister that was present, said there was a collective gasp from everyone in the room followed by a loud "IT'S A BOY!" Welcome little Justin Scott Sullivan!! I can't wait to come and play next week (and shop for boy clothes)!! You can check out pictures here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lame? Or Consistency. . .

This past Easter weekend was our Stake Conference. Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve was here. AMAZING. There is a lot I could share but I'll just share a few tid-bits. Elder Bednar several times mentioned. . ."I think you're realizing that I tell it like it is. ." That's for sure. He talked about REALLY "Feasting on the word", as well as the basics of prayer, scripture study, family togetherness. He said so many times when he asks if people are having family prayer, family scripture study, FHE, he gets handed everything--"It's just so hard with everyone's schedule", "we try but. . .", "We're just so busy." He flat out said, "I'm here to tell you that that is LAME." Called us out on the carpet right there. LAME. No holding back. It's so true isn't it?? Any excuse I try to come up with for why we can't quite figure out a good time for FHE is LAME. We just need to do it! Matt and I were quietly smiling to each other that just a week ago we set up a new plan with the girls for family scripture reading. . .so we're sittin' good right? We've done great so far. One thing (well several things) he said really impressed me. He spends more time at conferences in countries where they don't even have the scriptures yet (not translated, not in each home), than he does in countries where pretty much each member home has them. Wow. I need to be more thankful for that.

The other thing has to do with consistency. Consistency with our children, with our own prayer, scripture reading. He shared several stories of his own 3 boys (only 3? See, it's ok I only have 3.). Humorous stories of early morning reading with kids hanging off the couch upside down, half asleep and the only the good about it was that they all quit giggling about the funny word in the scriptures long enough to have a short prayer. It won't be perfect every time. It may be quite awful some, or a lot of the time, but the key is consistency. He said that if you asked his boys about their scripture reading as children they would not say that it was an amazing spirit filled experience every time, but they would say that they never missed.

He told about a painting he has hanging in his office of a large wheat field (fitting for a Nebraska Stake Conference.) If you stand up close to it, the little strokes look like rather boring, little lines. Not really going anywhere or doing anything. Just a plain little shade of yellow, or white, or brown. A lot of them. But when you stand back, it's a masterpiece. Blending, and highlighting, beautiful. He said "it's consistency in simple things that is the key."

So, when all that I'm doing seems plain and boring, not going anywhere and seemingly unimportant and maybe distracting even. . .maybe just maybe when I stand back and take a look years down the line I'll see the masterpiece.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Am I nuts?

Ok, don't answer that too quickly.

Whitney just turned 1 in March. Amazing what a brain can do in just a year. Yes, she's had tons of changes, but this is about ME!! How can I forget how awful it is for me to be pregnant? I am nauseous, throwing up, laying on the bed for at least the first 17-18 weeks. I do pretty well for the rest of the pregnancy but that first 18 weeks dims out the rest. Whitney's delivery was my hardest and longest labor/delivery. She was a sunny-side up baby and refused to turn until the very last second, then turned herself back around at a not-so-great moment (crowning anyone??) She was a nightmare (I love you to pieces, Whitney but it's true) for about the first 3 months. We finally figured out she was intolerant to Milk and Soy. Read more on that fun time HERE. My other kiddos were basically neglected because I was so exhausted and worn through from dealing with Whitney. Thank goodness they are very independent and very understanding. So why, oh, why do I wonder if we need to have another baby?

How do you know when you're done? Anyone out there done? How'd you know? Somedays I feel like we're definitely done, other days I wonder if there's room for another one? two?

Here's my thoughts. . .Madison and Molly were just 2 years, 1 day apart. It was great. I think that has to do with their temperments. Madison is a fairly obedient, mature kid. She would do what I asked and usually obey if I said not to do something. (She would sit right by all the buttons on the stereo and point to them and say, "No, No, Mommy.") Molly was a more difficult toddler (that's a nice way to put it). That's why we waited 4 years for Whitney. I'm not sure how Whitney is as a toddler yet. She's pretty independent but a good babe.

I'd like to move out of the baby stage. It was hard to go back to that after having a 6 and 4 year old. Why not just have them close right? At some point I'd like to be done with diapers and on to the bikes without training wheels, soccer games, school concerts, etc. I love my kids like crazy but I would also, someday, like to be able to go on vacation with just Matt and I. I know I'll miss the craziness but I also look forward to the time when it's just Matt and I again. Is that totally selfish of me? I think it's ok to miss that time you have with just you and your spouse. And I don't want that to START when we're 60. So, I've kind of set 35 for when I want to be done having kids (that also being the age that you're officially "advanced maternal age"). So, if we got pregnant (assuming it will be as quickly as the past) this summer, Whitney will be just two when the baby arrives. We usually try for summer as the time to get pregant since that's the time of year when I have the most "free time" to be sick (the only work I have during the summer is my Friday morning office). If I'm going to get sick, that's an ok time to let the hurling begin.

I've spent some time thinking about it (not to that prayer/fasting place yet), but I really have no push either direction. I feel great where we are at, but I wonder how it would be with another one. Sometimes I can't get over how nasty that first part of pregnancy is. Ok, I know that's kind of awful to say since many, many women want to get pregnant and can't. Matt says it's up to me since I'm the one that takes the brunt of it (pregnancy, childbirth, most of the initial baby stuff). He's fine with three, he'd be fine with another one.

Sometimes I think I'm crazy thinking that I can handle another one. Somedays I can hardly handle the ones I have but as my friend Julie said the other night, I don't want to get to heaven and have 2 or 3 more kids sitting there fuming mad because I decided not to have anymore, and they ended up in the crack house.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Travelin' on

I first have to say that I love google. Thanks to google for helping me find all the links (the words or phrases in the darker shade of blue (ok, sometimes they're pink too?? Maybe the changes I made to the template actually worked??)). . .
So, I kinda consider myself a little bit "traveled." I mean, I meet some people that have never been on an airplane, so I guess I'm more traveled then they are. Here's a fun website to make a map of your travels. Out of the country I have been to London, Edinburgh (Scotland), and Israel (Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Galilee and every little town in between). I was going to make a map of that, but it looked awfully sad with the tiny little red dots on the big map of the world.

Here's what's in the works in the next couple of years. . .

Arizona--My Dad moved down to Tucson a couple of years ago and we need to visit (sometime when he actually IS in Arizona--he's doing tons of traveling with his new company)

North Carolina--we SO need to go there. My brother got remarried a few years ago and we've been trying to coordinate a family trip with everyone to rent out a beach house soon!!

New York--Ok, I'm crazy. My brother actually has access to an apartment not far from Times Square (he's up there probably 1 week a month for work), and I haven't gone yet!! We're also trying to coordinate a siblings/spouses trip for a long weekend!! Let's GO!!

Ok, here's where I've been. . . (I didn't count the "drive-thru" only states, and yes, I would like fries with that.)

Alabama--Point Clear, right on the coast. I went with my Dad when I was about 10 or so on a business trip. My little sister Julie and I got to go. I remember thinking how cool it was. We stayed at "The Grand Hotel" (If you look at that link, that pool was NOT there when we went--maybe I need to go again!), we played at the pool and the gulf, and one day we even went deep sea fishing. Dad got seasick so he slept, but we had a great time.

California--Anaheim, Santa Rosa, San Jose, San Fransisco, etc. The first time was for my sister Lisa's wedding at the Oakland Temple. Her husbands family is in Santa Rosa. We've been back several times since then. LOVE it there. After I graduated from dental hygiene school, Matt and I took 3 weeks off to play with my sister and her family. We did way too much "outlet" shopping and drove down to Disneyland too. Marine world, the aquarium, Six Flags, Paramounts Great America, all the sites in San Fran, the redwood forest, fun, fun, fun!! My sister Heidi moved to San Jose just last summer so now we have another great reason to visit! Matt and I secretly dream of moving there someday (after we win the lottery to afford a small 1 bedroom home). We also usually go to Lake Tahoe with Lisa and Scott (his family has a cabin/home there) every March to go skiing. It's a great house right on Donner Lake (yes, named after the famous "Donner party" cannibals), and the skiing/snowboarding/sledding is great.

Colorado--When I was young we had a time-share condo in Vail. We would usually go once in the summer and once or twice for skiing in the winter. Beautiful. I love Colorado. My favorite picture of my Mom and I is when we were at the condo in Vail.

I also remember (vividly) when we all went horse back riding as a family bonding time. Right. I cried and cried because my horse kept wanting to eat and I dropped the reins about a thousand times. My brother kept trotting right on ahead without us, and everyone kept going in different directions. Yep, lovely family bonding. For some better memories, when I was young, we were in the Denver Temple district, so we used to have night-time bus rides to Denver and stay at the temple most of the day, then do other activites before we headed home. One time, we even toured the Denver coin mint. I've been to Colorado for several other activites too, my dad scored great tickets for the Colorado/Nebraska FB game when I was at BYU, so me and three others drove out. It was great and Nebraska won (thank goodness--or else we would've feared for our lives--those fans are little drunken crazies!)

Florida--The first time was for a trip to Disneyworld when I was about 9/10?? All of my sisters and I went with my Dad when he went on another business trip. I remember playing at the beach and taking pictures. I think I tried to stand in the water as it rushed up on me and act all serious like I was a model or something. Oh my. I also went when I was a Senior in High School with my Dance Team to the National Competition. My mom came as one of the chaperones too. We had a fun time, I got to be in the 'opening number' for the show, cool, but, I missed seeing most of Sea World that day, so that kinda stunk. They had a night at Universal Studios for just the Dance Team groups, so we had the run of the place. I LOVED the back to the future ride and convinced my mom it wasn't so bad. Boy, was I wrong. She eventually forgave me. We've been back to Disneyworld for a few trips with my siblings and all the nieces and nephews. Those were some of the best trips ever. We want to go back soon!!

Georgia--Atlanta. I went to Atlanta shortly after graduating from Dental Hygiene school. In my senior year, a classmate and I presented a "table clinic" that won the competition so we were able to go to the National Dental Hygiene Meeting in Atlanta that year. It's a fun town and we were able to go on a few tours of the city. The Coca-cola factory was fun. They have a huge room at the end where you get to sample all of the sodas that they manufacture throughout the world, some great, some not. . so. .good.

Idaho--I went on a trip one summer with my Dad and younger sister. En route to Washington state, we stopped in Moscow, Idaho (not quite the same as Red Square), where my Dad's family settled when they came from Switzerland.

Illinois-Chicago--My first trip to Chicago was on another Youth Temple Trip. We also went to the Sears Tower. My good buddy Cimony also lives just outside of Chicago and Lisa (Oh Judy!) and I took a trip to her place to "celebrate" our 30th birthdays. We ate a lot of great food and even took in a show at The Second City Comedy Club. Hopefully we'll be back soon for a girls weekend. --Nauvoo--growing up in Nebraska, one of our youth conference trips for church was to Nauvoo. I remember seeing the Old Nauvoo Temple site with the corner stones. It's amazing to travel there now to see the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple. My mom and step-dad Joel are now temple worker-missionaries there. We traveled there for the open house of the temple before it was dedicated and made a road trip to visit last summer with my sister and her family from California. The kids had a great time and we had a wonderful experience at Carthage on the anniversary of the matryrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. We also surprised my Mom by showing up for Christmas last year, and singing carols at her door.

Iowa--hello, it's right next door to us. Been there, done that.

Kansas--yep, right below our fabulous state. Several trips to Worlds of Fun (on the border of Kansas and Missouri), when I was a kid.

Maryland--Matt's mom grew up in Maryland, so soon after we were married we took a road trip to Maryland. It's beautiful and we had a fabulous time at the Baltimore Aquarium and visiting family. We took a trip back when Madison was about 18 months old. We went to Ocean City and Madison got to meet her Great-grandparents. Hopefully we will get back for a visit this summer or fall.

Minnesota--The summer before my senior year, I went with a young womens group (back when it was called Summiteers) on a canoe trip to the boundary waters. It was a week long canoe trip. We spent all day on the water and all night covering our sunburns and mosquito bites, oh, and ate some yummy food. It was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun too. That shower I took when we got back to the main camp after a week was the best one I ever had. Also, I was a demonstrator for Stampin' UP for a few years and went to a fun convention in Minneapolis. Matt and I also made a road trip to Minn. for the baptism and wedding for a friend of his. Of course we took in the Mall of America too!!

Missouri--Several trips to Kansas City when I was young--Worlds of Fun, and shopping too. Before we were blessed to have the Winter Quarters Temple, St. Louis was our temple district. Also, my brother graduated from Washington University so we had a fun time as a family when we were there for his graduation.


Nevada--a convention trip to Las Vegas and a trip for my brothers first wedding. Fun town, maybe a girls weekend is in order? Matt and I always take our roll of nickels to blow in the slots (it's "entertainment" right?)

Oregon--Matt and I took a trip to Portland in '98. Great town. That's a possibility of a place I could live. It was beautiful weather the whole time we were there.

Pennsylvania--My little sister (smarty pants) graduated from Swarthmore University. Most all of the siblings were there for the graduation. Madison was about 5 months old and did great on the trip. It was while we were packing up her room that her then-boyfriend, now hubby Sterling, introduced me to the addicting game of Snood.

South Dakota--I've just barely been into South Dakota. Before a canoe trip down the Niobrara River in Nebraska, we walked around and ate in a small town there. One of these summers I need to take my kiddos to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills area. It's crazy that we live this close and have never been!

Texas--my only trip to Texas was a great family trip for Thanksgiving to my Uncle Carls house in Plano. Almost all of my Dad's side was there.

Utah--MANY, MANY trips to Utah for the summer when I was a kid. Long, forever rides in the family truckster to Ogden and my Grandma Batemans house. She spoiled us, fed us full and we played cards like crazy. My Grandpa had a stroke when I was about 6 or so, but he had a little card holder and could beat us at hearts every time. I can still picture all of us around the table together. I was at the BYU for 2 years. Myself, Oh Judy and our friend Cim took over Heritage halls and terrorized our other roommates in great form. Then we headed over to the Richmond Apts. (really just a big, overpriced closet) for another year. Good times. I can still smell the wretched boiling pot of our roommate Shu. (I still need to write that blog)

Virginia--When we made our trip to Maryland (the first time), we took a road trip to Richmond to visit my sister Lisa and her hubby Scott while he was in Dental School at MCV. We played endless games of Gin Rummy and stayed up WAY too late.

Washington--My Dad grew up in Pullman. We made a few trips there while I was young. I remember being in my Grandma's house and eating my Dad's favorite dessert "baked Alaska". We also had a fun trip to my Uncle's cabin and lake. I remember my Aunt Lynn pulling us on the tube and purposely freaking out my uncle (on the wind surfer) by leading us right over the tip of it. I don't think I've ever seen a face quite like that. LOVE Aunt Lynn.

Wyoming--oh, the endless state of Wyoming. What other state could make 8 hours feel like 15? I will have to say that somewhere in there is a really old gas station that is actually called "Major Gas." Cim and I took pictures of it once when we were driving out to BYU. It was good for a few laughs as we drug ourselves across the state.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Will you be my frontal lobe?

WARNING: This post contains scientific material.
Bonus: There will NOT be any sort of exam.

I attended a CE (continuing education) course last Friday, about Prescription and OTC drug abuse and addiction. I usually take my crossword or sudoku book to these things but this one was actually interesting. So here's the low down. . .kids have brain damage. Yes, Bill Cosby was right, it's "BRAIN DAMAGE!" So all the stupid things I did are excused right? Well, not really, but there is some pretty interesting medical reasons why teenagers do some dumb things.

Here's where the science comes in. . .so, in the central part of your brain is an area called the limbic system. It develops earlier that previously thought. This part of the brain is most concerned with reward. That makes sense huh? Kids and teens are HUGE on reward. Me, me, me. This part of the brain also controls sensory and physical development. (ok, the physical development was a little later in me, but that's beside the point.)

They have also found that the "frontal lobe" portion of the brain develops later than previously thought. This part of your brain controls judgement. The specific areas are involved in inhibitory control of behavior. Basically being able to stop yourself from doing something stupid, that you know is wrong. The speaker showed several teenagers from a documentary saying that they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they couldn't really come up with an answer for why they did it, other than they tried it and got hooked.

Here's where the speaker said something that made total sense and I wish more parents could hear it. "PARENTS NEED TO BE THE FRONTAL LOBE FOR THEIR CHILDREN!" (Now, this doesn't mean they can go off the deep end like "Jane's Dad." I'm talking about being reasonable here.)

I was recently released as the 2nd counselor in the Young Womens program of our church. I can't believe the struggles that young girls go through now. I thought I had it rough. I've been to several events at the high schools and I just want to smack half of the teenage kids across the head for the things they are doing and saying. And even me, a grown mother of 3, felt insecure around some of those girls. I would often tell my girls over and over what amazing young women they were and that I was so thankful for the strength that they were able to show amidst all the trauma and "drama" that goes on around them. Of course in every group there are some that struggle. One in particular had a mom that was a "friend" first, and by her own admittance had chosen that road and found herself in a tough position, "It's too late. They already walk all over me."

I also have big issues with parents being "friends." I love my kids but I also love them enough to be a parent. I can be fun and play and talk with them about anything but when it comes down to it, I'm their mother. There are a couple of commercials running now that I love. The first one talks about this exact thing, the tag line says, "Your kids have enough friends, they need a parent." Imagine that, what a novel idea right? You birthed that child, how about take care of it like a parent!!! I can't remember what company it is for but there is also one running now talking about kids and drinking. I was floored that it actually was saying it's NOT ok for kids to be drinking ANYWHERE. It's NOT ok for them to be drinking at your house, so you "know where they are". YEAH! Someone is getting it. This was another thing our speaker talked about. We mainly focused on prescription drugs, etc, but he also mentioned a lot about alcohol, as well as the OTC drugs. There are too many people that say "It's ok, kids are going to experiment. I experimented, so they will too." He said emphatically, "IT'S NOT OK FOR KIDS TO "EXPERIMENT". With ANYTHING! Sex, drugs, alcohol, prescription pills." Think about what is happening in their brain. Even though they may understand what is right and wrong, their brain may not have the ability to emotionally do the right thing. (Hopefully they are in an environment to allow the spirit to guide them.) Not only may they be reacting because of the reward system in their brain, but their inhibitory control is not developed yet.

One area of the brain that drugs affect is called the "amygdala" and is crucial in emotional and behavioral learning. He told a story of a man he had helped get into rehab. He had a genius IQ, and had been hooked on heroin since about age 14. He was in a 6 month program and our speaker got a call from one of the doctors when the patient was ready to go home. They had no idea what to do with him or where to send him. His emotional and behavioral maturity was that of an 7 year old. He had been using heroin so long that this area of his brain had no chance of recovery. Once the drugs were out of his system, they had a reality check of what state his brain was really in.

Here's another interesting thing about the "reward pathway" in our brain. There is an actual molecular switch that is thrown in the brain when there is a hit on the reward area that is tied to whatever it was (drugs, alcohol, shoplifting, sex, pornography) that caused the surge in dopamine. Once that switch is thrown it cannot be turned off. This is why even just "experimenting" is so dangerous. Our speaker was giving a speech to some dental students about drug abuse and had brought a cocaine addict that had been clean for 20 years. During the speech he showed a picture of the white powder. After the lecture was over the addict came up to him and told him that even after 20 years, just seeing a picture of the cocaine made him crave it. No wonder we live in the world of drugs, alcohol and pornography that we do. It's everywhere, and even those that have struggled and made it out of addiction, have to deal with seeing those images everyday, and trying not to fall back into it.

I'm so thankful to have the word of wisdom and the standards that our church holds. I would often tell the YW that even if they don't have a testimony of it yet, to live it, and if they needed to, to use the church as the "excuse", or even me, their leader, of why they can't smoke, drink, have sex, etc. If we could get them to the point where their frontal lobe could work for itself, (and they can come to an understanding of the gospel principles or even the actual medical reasons that it happens), they would be able to realize how smart those decisions are, and how the spirit can guide them to a testimony of it.

What a blessing to have the spirit to guide my life and that my children are able to be in an environment to feel the spirit and recognize when it can help them know if something is not a good decision.

Ok, I'm off to get busy being an appropriate frontal lobe. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thawing out

Old man winter has had his last hurrah. We enjoyed our few snow days, and the kids wore out their sleds and snow boots. Only one week later most of the snow was gone (just compare the above photo to the one from the post below--the grass is LOVIN' that big drink!!) and thanks to some fabulous 50-60 degree weather we were officially back into spring (complete with our first tornado warning). One thing Nebraska is known for is the crazy weather. They always say, if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes, and it will probably change. The past few days we have bounced from a perfect spring, sunny day, to hurricane like winds to crazy hail and rainstorms. I LOVE the spring rain. Even if it does wake me up at night I love to hear it tapping against the windows and listening to the thunder and watching the lightning reflect off the windows. When I was growing up we had a large "picture" window in my living room. We didn't have any homes behind ours for quite a while so we had a great view. On those thunderstorm nights we would turn off all the lights and climb up on the back of the couch and smoosh our faces against the windows to watch the "show." We especially loved the loud thunder that made you jump a little bit as it seemed to shake the whole house.
Nebraska is also known for it's flatlands so that makes for unbelieveable lightning. You can see it stretch all the way across the sky and down to the ground. It's one thing that makes me still feel like a kid. I feel like I'm still back on that couch with my head resting on my hands watching the "show" as we OOH and AAH.