Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Testimony of God's Love for Women

My heart is burning and bursting right now. It is 3 AM on a Sunday morning and just last evening (Saturday) I attended the worldwide General Relief Society meeting broadcast for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was an evening full of Sisterhood, peace, love, and spiritual enlightenment as church and Relief Society leaders spoke and shared the messages which the Holy Spirit had impressed upon them to share. I am grateful for their messages, for their testimonies, and for their boldness.

Now it is my turn to be bold, to share my own testimony that Jesus Christ lives; that He is my Savior, and that He loves me.

I cannot count the number of times in my life I have heard church leaders try to impress upon us exactly how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love women. I’ve heard them say it many times, but never with so much force and conviction have I truly seen and felt that love for myself.

A couple weeks ago, I was having a really rough time. As the mother of three small boys ages five and under, I felt—as I often do—utterly overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for and nurturing my family with the love, patience, energy, and understanding which I felt I should be doing but at which I feared I was failing miserably. After a long day, I was expressing some of my frustration to my husband, who had my six-month-old baby on his lap, facing me. At one point I looked at my baby and he looked back and smiled a winning smile which melted my heart as it usually does. But it was the words my husband spoke next which really arrested that particular moment in my memory.

He said, “Look, dear. Look at your baby. That is the look of true love right there.”

And right then I felt the beginning of a swelling in my soul, which has been growing ever since, and the ever-growing realization that it is true. That my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ really do love me.

Do I deserve that love? Probably not. But they love me nonetheless, because I need that love.

And this morning I want to pronounce to my Sisters everywhere, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love women. Sure, they love all their Children. But they love Women especially, with a special love, with an extra measure of love that is ours and ours alone.

Why? Because we are the caregivers. We are the mothers. We are the wives. We are the daughters. We are the sisters. And in all these roles, it is women that the children of the Lord turn to when they need to be succored, to be nurtured, to be loved. And were it not for that extra measure of love bestowed upon us by our Creator, we would not have enough love to give to others who need it.

Oftentimes people in the world who wish to challenge the Church and question the role of women within the organization like to point out the fact that our church does not allow women to hold the Priesthood nor perform Priesthood ordinances. Instead, the Priesthood is reserved only for the faithful men in the Church. The world looks upon this fact and believes that women are somehow being cheated, that we are being oppressed. This is false.

In fact, I have come to believe that we as women have been given our own parallel “priesthood” within the Church and—by extension—in the world. It is different from, but no less equal to, that Priesthood Power granted to the Lord’s faithful male follwers. It is that same love of which I wrote before. Just as Christ laid his hands upon His Apostles’ heads in ancient times to confer upon them the Preisthood and Power of God on Earth—which was restored to Joseph Smith in the Latter-Days and passed down by the laying on of hands to this day—so has Christ placed His hands upon the hearts of the women of the Church and conferred upon us the Love of Christ. In other words, Charity is our priesthood. And we ought to be fulfilling our duties in this area with the same resolve and dilligence which we expect from the Brethren in fulfilling their Priesthood duties.

Within a home, a man may be the head, but the woman is the heart. Men are the heads of the Church under the authority and direction of the Savior. But without women—without the Sisters—His Love could not be poured out so abundantly as it is. It is through the women of the Church that Charity prevails. It is the Love of Christ which inspires and empowers us to serve and bless the rest of the world with that Love. It is our calling. It is our sacred trust.

I humbly and fervently pray, in the name of my Savior and Brother Jesus Christ, that I may fulfill that Calling throughout the rest of my life with the same resolve which I feel right now.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Know Your Food: Comparing Natural Sources of Saturated Fats

Yep. Another post on saturated fats. And more particularly, comparing natural sources of saturated fat. I wrote last time about my thoughts on using bacon grease as I did away with butter in my house due to my baby's dairy sensitivity. I was curious to look at other alternatives as well, however.

I want to be clear, that I do not entirely oppose the use of vegetable oil spreads (but read your labels carefully!), though I was a the BENECOL brand (simply because that was the comparison I came across and was surprised by my discovery as previously discussed).

I am on the hunt for good, all-natural spreads and oils with less saturated fat and more of the "good fats." It's a challenge for me, because olive oil-- which is supposed to be the healthiest oil-- does not agree with my system very well (I suspect at least a minor intolerance). But I will discuss liquid oils further in a future post.

Back to the solid stuff.

Any moderately experienced baker will tell you that liquid fats just don't perform the same as solid (saturated) fats when baking. That's why trans fats became so popular in the first place, as everyone thought it was going to be a healthier alternative to saturated fats. Of course we now know they were wrong. But if you're not going to use trans fats when you bake, you have to use a saturated fat.

If you want a natural fat to use when you bake, butter and bacon grease are not the only options. You could also use another type of grease from another meat (though none, so I hear, are as good-tasting as bacon), or another option-- particularly attractive to vegetarians and those seeking to limit their intake of animal proteins-- is coconut oil. I have not yet personally tried baking with either bacon grease or coconut oil, but I intend to soon (I'll let you all know how it goes).

Now some notable comparisons of butter vs. bacon grease vs. coconut oil:^

*Butter contains the highest amount of saturated fats by a wide margin; bacon grease contains the least.
*Butter also contains the highest amounts of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats; coconut oil contains the least of both of these.
Going strictly by percentages, coconut oil contains the highest percentage of saturated fat and the lowest percentages of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Bacon grease contains the lowest percentage of saturated fat and the highest of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
*Coconut oil and butter both contain a significant amount of lauric acid, believed to raise HDL cholesterol; bacon grease contains only a negigible amount of this beneficial saturated fat.
*Remember the arachidic acid discussed in my previous post? The one that causes irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system? It's in butter, but not in bacon grease or coconut oil.

So which is the healthiest option for baking? You be your own judge.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Latest Indulgence

Coconut M&M's Candy: 18.6-Ounce Bag
Yesterday while out windowshopping at various stores, I came across these beauties...COCONUT M&Ms! I can't believe I didn't come across these before (tells you how often I get out).

*M&Ms in my absoulte favorite flavor-- COCONUT.
*In my three favorite colors combined!

It's like they know me...scary...

I absoutely had to try them. So I forked over the $.89 or however much they cost (can't remember) and snacked on them as I sat down to nurse the baby.

Now I want to buy a whole big box full.

Only I can't bring them home, because if Nick sees the picture of the "Lady M&M" on the front of the bag, striking her flirtatious pose, he'll probably end up saying something like "you're hotter than that," followed by getting all mushy with me and then I will feel obligated to share my new acquisition.

I guess that's what I get for having a husband... ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Know Your Food: Saturated Fats Are Not Created Equal

For several years now I've believed in being aware of the ingredients in the foods I'm eating and making informed food choices. But I'm starting to realize more recently just how much there is to learn before I can be truly informed in every aspect. As I embark on this quest, I thought I might as well share my findings here. So here is part one, regarding saturated fats.


Pretty much everyone should know about saturated fats, so I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence here. But what you may not know, and what I just found out, is, there are many different chemical types of saturated fats, and they are not all created equal.

Thanks to my baby's apparent milk intolerance (or possible allergy), I have eliminated most milk from my diet and continue to seek alternatives to the dairy I am still consuming. Having already eliminated milk, ice cream, and yogurt (though I do sneak a little in here and there), I figure the next thing to go is butter.

I've been using real butter for over a year now. I like the idea of "keeping it natural," versus using margarine or some other margarine-like spread. But of course, butter is dairy. So I need a replacement.

This morning I started thinking about using bacon grease. It seemed a little odd (gross?) at first, but then I started rooting around online and found out that it's actually quite common to use bacon grease in place of butter or even shortening.

Now you're probably thinking, "bacon grease?! Seriously?! Do you have a death wish, woman?"

Actually, as it turns out, switching to bacon grease makes a good deal of sense for me and my family. It may not be the right choice for everyone (if your body is threatening to shut down due to high choloesterol or heart disease, by all means keep away from the bacon grease!), but in moderation in an otherwise healthy individual it can't be any worse than butter.

Granted, we have probably been consuming too much butter in this house anyway; but the way I see it, switching to bacon grease should actually be better, since it takes a lot more effort to render the grease and we won't have as much of it, and so will use less of it in order to make it stretch more.

But on to my discussion of saturated fats not being equal.

At one point during my search this morning, I encountered a website entitled, a very handy search engine designed to give you the "skinny" on pretty much any food; it will break the food down for you, not only revealing all nutritional facts you might find on a food label, but also breaking the food down into its individual chemical components-- fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and so on.

So here I was on this website, looking at a comparison of bacon grease versus a "heart-healthy" margarine spread known as BENECOL Light. And I eventually scrolled down to the section outlining the fats and fatty acids content. I was impressed at the number of different chemical compounds represented in this list. You can look it all up for yourself if you're curious.

But to make a long story short, BENECOL Light contained two saturated fats which were not present in the bacon grease, and which-- after more research on a site called Chemical Book-- I found out can actually be hazardous to human health: arachidic acid and behenic acid, both of which turn out to be potentially harmful irritants to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.

Bacon grease contains none of these hazardous fats; but the BENECOL contains .021g or arachidic acid and .01932g of behenic acid per 1 Tbsp. serving. It doesn't seem like a lot, but then who sticks to just 1 Tbsp. a day?

Granted, the bacon grease has a whole lot more saturated fat in all than the BENECOL, so for some people the BENECOL will still be the healthier option (though if you're using the BENECOL 5-6 times more often than you're using the bacon grease, it's really a toss-up). But be informed that you may experience some slight irritation to the eyes, skin (including the throat I presume), and respiratory system as a trade-off for improving your cholesterol.

It's all about being informed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ingenious response to the question, "Is Santa Clause real?"

A year or so ago, G (4 years old at the time) asked us for the first time if Santa Clause was real. We had not been expecting that question at such a young age. But, honesty won out and we did our best to explain to him the legend of St. Nick and the development of the Santa Clause we now know. We talked about stories and pretending, and how "it's fun to pretend." But we must not have done a very good job explaining, or maybe we equivocated a bit too much. In any case, six(ish) months later, G asked again if Santa Clause was real, and this time I simply said, "What do you think?" He said, "I think he's real." And I just left it at that.

After pondering this question several times in the last year, a lightbulb went off just today. So, this is how I plan on explaining Santa the next time one of my kids asks:

"You know how you like to play pretend that you're a super hero and we all play along and pretend with you? It's a really fun game to play, isn't it? Well, Santa Clause is like a game. A long, long time ago a real person named St. Nick started going around to children's houses on Christmas Eve and leaving presents for them while they were sleeping. He only did it in his own village; but eventually, people in other villages saw what he was doing and they started doing it in their own villages, too. It was so much fun, eventually all the parents started leaving presents for their children on Christmas Eve. But because it was more fun to pretend, and because the parents wanted to remember the original St. Nicholas who first started the game, they would tell their children that "St. Nick" left the presents. Eventually, the name "St. Nick" changed to "Santa Clause," and people started inventing many other stories about him, like how he rides on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and lives in the North Pole. It's all pretend, but everyone loves the game so much that we all play it together, and we continue to pretend it's real even when we know that it's really not. Dad and I both like the game, so we decided to play it with you and your brothers. What do you think? Do you like the game? Do you want to play, too?"

And there you have it. No need to thank me for saving your bacon when your children ask the same ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A gift and a trial

I have to write about something that's been eating at me for a while. I hope I can do so succinctly and clearly; I suspect I will probably fail, however. It's a difficult subject for me to write about, being very emotionally charged, and it will probably cause some strong emotions in some of my readers as well. I apologize for any adverse effect my words may have, but I cannot apologize for the feelings behind them, because if I did I would also have to apologize for being human and that would be condemning Someone who-- of all beings-- is and always will be above reproach.

I have three boys-- three beautiful, intelligent, amazing children. They are the joy of my life, as well as-- so it feels at times-- the bane of my existence. But I love my children. I am glad I had them. I would not trade them for anything.

Whenever I think of having any more, however, I can hardly stand the thought. It stresses me out. I've reached my limit, my maximum capacity, and doggone it can I just be done already? Pretty please?

I'm done. Sooooo done. I've had my babies. Now, I'd just like to be able to enjoy raising them and watching them grow up. The idea of being a "new mother" over and over and over again does not appeal to me. At all.

Mother Nature begs to differ with me. Because I-- apparently-- have been blessed with the perfect body for conceiving, bearing, and nurturing babies. Conceiving when I wanted to conceive has never been an issue for me. My pregnancies, while far from pleasant, have also been a relative breeze compared to those experienced by other women of my acquaintance. When breastfeeding, I have always had an abundant supply and strong, eager nurselings. I delivered three big babies vaginally-- two drug-free-- and one weighing over eleven pounds.

Any woman who has struggled with infertility, difficult pregnancies, complicated labor, or a myriad of breastfeeding challenges, would no doubt tell me that I have been blessed with an incredible gift.

So why would I want to throw that gift away?

To be honest, I don't. I just wish there were some way I could share it when I wanted to, with other women who-- quite frankly-- would probably do a better job raising their children than I do but who through no fault of their own have been unable to have children of their own to raise. Why, if I feel unequal to the task myself, can it not be acceptable for me to have babies for someone else instead? I'd do it, too, if only I weren't so worried about the accompanying feelings of guilt and trying to explain to such a baby why I kept three babies and decided to give him (or her) away, even if by doing so he would be given every conceivable advantage versus staying to be raised by me. And while I realize the craziness of ever acting on the thought (especially considering I am not an unwed or teen mom but rather in a committed monogamous relationship with a loving and supportive parental companion) , the fact that I'd even consider it maybe tells you how desperate I am for some relief from constantly bearing and-- more specifically-- caring for one baby after another.

If anyone had asked me, as a youth, to try and guess what my biggest trials might be as an adult, I never ever would have thought to say "having too many children." On the contrary, I thought I wanted at least half a dozen. I had no idea...

As I stated before, when I think about adding more children to our family, I feel so stressed and overwhelmed and utterly incapable. On the flipside, whenever I tell myself it's okay to be done if I need to be, I feel a sense of peace and contentment that is difficult to ignore.

At other times, however, I think about quitting and I just feel so sad and guilty. Mostly because I start thinking about all those women out there-- several of whom I know personally and love deeply-- who would practically die to be in my shoes and would probably be shocked if they heard that I harbored so much angst over having more children when they had struggled or were still struggling to have just one child to call their own. Who might even feel anger at the confession that there have been days where I would seriously consider trading places with them (moving forward, of course; because I would never want to give away the children I already have).

And this is where I begin to question myself. And the biggest question is, WHY? Why do I feel so strongly that I want to be done?

After baby #2, the answer would have been easy. Baby #2 was so hard on me, psychologically speaking. I believe I suffered from post-partum depression and anxiety, which led-- for a time-- to feelings of doubt in my ability as a mother to more than one child, as well as feelings of detachment and resentment towards my second son which-- happily-- eventually went away, but the lingering effects of that psychologically imbalanced period continue to haunt me at times even three years later.

All through my pregnancy with #3, I worried that the same thing might happen again. I did everything I could to prepare myself psychologically for the new addition to our family, and all the new challenges he might bring with him. Well apparently I did a pretty good job (or just got lucky), because at six months post-partum I feel pretty darn good (most of the time). And of all my babies, so far I have enjoyed #3 the most.

As a matter of fact, I have thoroughly enjoyed each of my boys, strictly one-on-one. But it's been the combination of all three that I find to be so difficult. At least this time around I feel more up to the challenge, and I can see a possible "light at the end of the tunnel" which was completely hidden to me before after baby #2. It's not so bad, most of the time. I can handle it, but only thanks to an amazing support system consisting mainly of my husband, my in-laws, and the occasional friend or church member (which are often one-and-the-same). I'm glad my boys will be able to grow up together, close enough in age to be able to relate to each other and enjoy doing things together.

But it has been hard. Hard to be patient. Hard to stay calm. Hard to be loving and nurturing. Hard to be cheerful. Hard to be everywhere at once, attending to more than one need at a time, finding that balance. Many days, amazingly, I do fairly well. But other days are living nightmares and I get to the end of the day (or even just halfway) feeling like a complete and utter failure to my children.

I just never want to go through this again. And if I ever have another baby-- if I get my way-- it will be at least five-seven years from now, and it will be just one (preferably a girl). And if I have another one after that, it will be another five or so years beyond that. You get the idea.

But then, what if God has other plans? And that is why I figure I really have this trial in my life to begin with. Because I still have not fully learned to trust in Him. That He knows what I need most in my life and when I need it. And I am having a very hard time relinquishing what little control I feel I have over the course of my life.

If I finally came to embrace His plan for me, do you think He might let me be done? ;)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Six months! (plus a day)

C is half a year old! Already! Hard to believe...

He is now somewhere between 12-month clothing and 18-month; which means 12 month barely fits and 18 month is just a wee bit big, but he will grow into it quickly. It's crazy, though, because the clothes that C is just now growing into were clothes that G was wearing as a 1-year-old--and I thought he was a big baby!

He's not nearly as chunky as Z was as a baby, but he must be really long for his age. And I just realized I need to make an appointment for his 6-month well-baby visit still...oops...

He is a pretty happy, sociable little boy and loves to smile and laugh. He even tolerates a certain amount of "abuse" from his big brother Z, though I do my best to prevent any real physical harm. The other day, though, Z jumped over the baby as he was laying on the floor and before I could stop him, his shoe scraped across the right side of C's face, near his eye. Ouch. I put C in the playpen quite often to keep him more protected, except Z has almost figured out how to climb in with his baby brother. *sigh*

About halfway through this last month, C started rolling from his tummy to his back. I first noticed it one day when he woke from his nap and started fussing, but I couldn't get to him right away. After a brief time, I realized he wasn't fussing anymore, and I looked in and he had rolled onto his back (he sleeps on his tummy) and was cooing happily at the ceiling. Since then, he's rolled into his back many times. He has yet to figure out how to reverse the process, however.

I've tried a couple times to introduce a little solid food, but he's still thrusting his tongue out when I try, so I'm not pushing it. The first time I tried was a couple weeks ago when he was being trated with an antibiotic and I decided to try mixing a little probiotic powder with applesauce to give to him (ended up having to more-or-less force it down, though, since he kept spitting it back out). Then I tried giving him a little mashed-up banana this morning, but he pushed that out, too.

We've been giving him lots of practice sitting with support the last few weeks. He likes his "bumbo"-type seat, and we also have sometimes propped him up on the couch (with close supervision). But finally today at the library storytime with the boys, I tried sitting C up on the floor, and he sat for a good 2-4 minutes with no support! Yay! Hopefully I will be able to get pictures soon.

He seems much more orally fixated than either of his brothers were. Everything goes straight to the mouth. We've even caught him sucking his thumb several times.

I apologise for the date being wrong on a couple of the above pictures.