Sep 27, 2009

music and LDS sacrament meetings

A discussion on what is appropriate in LDS sacrament meetings.

As you can probably imagine, I have some passionate views on this topic. I found this discussion to be very interesting... and I know a lot of you who read this are interested in this topic as well, so I thought I'd put this link out there.

Sep 24, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: the difference is, no differences

OK this is a post that has been wanting to get out for a while. I have to say that, as a white adoptive mother of black children, the overarching truth is that black children and white children are not much different. They have the same stages of growth and development, the same personality vulnerabilites and strengths. They cry for the same reasons as my white children. They are as easily upset and as easily consoled. They don't have any kind of "natural propensities" for any one thing... they don't jungle gym any harder, run any faster (my little loli is a blur when she wants to be), they don't learn any quicker or slower.

And you're all reading this and going "duh. Well of course not. Skin color is just that... skin deep."

Let me just say that I was unaware of the lingering prejudices/preconceptions I still had (deeply ingrained, not because of how I was raised necessarily, or where I was raised... I blame my psych classes and the media more than those influences.) until I started raising my two African daughters. And now everything's completely blown wide apart, and I suddenly see things I didn't see before too. Those natural assumptions, those little lingering ideas of "difference" between race... they now look to me like prejudice, even though coming from the other end I know how that is never what is meant.

I also realize that I have become a mean, defensive, she-bear of a mom when I feel that race might be rearing its ugly head in any interaction with my kids. I have to tone it down in myself, because I know it's probably not the case in most circumstances. But sometimes I do things that surprise me. Case in point: the other day we were in Sam's. I was lingering, looking for sales on the cereal aisle. Several feet away was one of those little sample tables. Loli asked for some; I told her to run ahead and ask and I'd be there in a second. Bella went with her.

She came back almost immediately, with Bella, and her eyes were tear-filled. I was startled, asked her what was wrong, and she told me that the lady had said she had to wait for her mom. It wasn't what was said, that was a perfectly reasonable response to two kids asking for samples without their mother. I was the WAY she said it... Loli repeated the words in a tone that was scolding, short, snappish... and as I rounded the corner I saw the lady's grim expression.

I was sooooo mad. I don't know that it was because Bella was with Loli that the lady responded the way she did... probably not. Probably she was having a bad day. Probably she was just a crochety old lady. But because of my defensive mean-red rage, instead of just smiling placidly at her and moving along, I kind of chewed her out. I told her that if she wanted to sell things to people she needed to be more polite, that I understood there were policies but she didn't need to snap at my kids. She sputtered. I didn't raise my voice, I just gave her one of those looks I do best and in a few short sentences told her what I thought. And then I walked away.

Yeah. I don't know that I did anyone any favors. I think I embarrassed Loli.

Anyway, I'm writing right now to say there ARE differences between my black and white children. What I have noticed, different, about my African children, the older one especially, is that they seem to be constantly active, a notch up in activity level from my other kids. But this isn't necessarily because their black, it is mostly likely because they haven't had a lot of movies or TV in the past due to their circumstances, and so aren't in the habit of zonking out in front of the screen.

I've noticed that their skin feels rich and soft, almost like velvet, while my bio kids seem to have smoother, thinner skin. This is not neccessarily because of their race, in fact it is most likely because I'm a lot more conscious of taking care of their skin, because when it's dry it shows.

I've noticed that both of my African kids' voices, especially the younger, are richer, a pitch lower, and seem to come from a deeper place. If I have my way I'll have a gospel singer in May. :) I don't know if this is because they are black necessarily, or because they just come from a family that has that tendency.

I've realized that the way I was prejudiced wasn't that I was seeing other races as inferior. It was more a readiness to judge differences, whether I perceived them positive or negative, as due to race. For instance, my "Ethiopian kids can run" from a previous post. Of course Ethiopian kids can run. So can American kids. Kids run. Kids run fast. All kids run fast... some faster than others, and skin color has much less to do with it than how they are raised, and what talents and abilities are encouraged by caregivers and those that they love and admire.

IN short, even after caring for my children for several weeks, I can't pinpoint any differences between black and white. And it seems to be less and less of a worry as they settle in and become a seamless part of our family, and become more and more "My Kids" period, and not my Adopted Ethiopian Kids.

Sep 22, 2009

My Favorite Power Struggles

are the ones I let them resolve on their own. For instance, I had a kid this morning who didn't want to finish her letters. So she didn't have to... but it was enough mental torture for her, knowing that she hadn't finished and it STILL went in the file folder with all the other, finished ones...

Honestly, there's no need for punishments, I don't think, unless someone hurts someone or destroys something or takes something from someone else without giving it back and apologizing. Everything else has a natural consequence that actually requires very little intervention on my part, I've noticed. I've felt a lot better during and after the times I've allowed natural consequences occur, as opposed to allowing my own anger or annoyance make a situation completely artificial. It is tempting, for instance, when it's the fifth time you've had to carefully employ natural consequences to a particular child in a single morning, to do something you know will really "make them see reason."

ONe thing I have learned, especially working with kids who don't speak my language, is if you do let your temper get the better of you, that is what they focus on. The lesson they learn is, "mom was mad, so she put me in my room," and not, "I got put in my room because I colored on the table with crayons." I mean, really, who can blame them. It WAS because Mom was mad that they got put in their room, otherwise Mom would have been calm enough to remember that a very nice natural consequence (and also a removal of the source of annoyance to Mom) would be to make the kid clean the crayon off the table.

I am about 50 50 right now, and working on it. It depends on the day, honestly. There are days when I lose it and days when I somehow keep things going well until Dad comes home. But I'm getting better!!! Nothing like 5 kids under the age of 7 to give me loooots of pratice, haha. :)

Sep 20, 2009

Black and White

A quote from something I recently read online:

"Government intervention in the free market is called socialism. "

I actually snorted (in laughter). I mean, seriously? Is that what we've come to? Is our propaganda so bipartisan, so black-and-white now that either you're for an entirely free, laissez-faire economy or you're a socialist?

I have news for you, taagsmasher (old buddy, old pal). The founding fathers were socialists, then. Because any tariffs, taxes, any prohibitions on selling a substance or good, ANY taxes on businesses of any kind... all of these things are government intervention. We've had it from day one. It was our big grievance with England: no taxation without representation. But when we wrote the constitution, we did not get rid of taxation, we worked hard on fair representation. Taxation was always a given. And remember the added liquor tax that caused such a ruckus back in the 1700's... and remember the application of tariffs onto goods shipped from England... there are a hundred and one examples if you actually read your history books.

Sorry guys. I just had to rant a little. You see, the more I listen to people talk about politics (or religion, that other impolitic subject) the more I begin to think that sweeping generalizations are for those who want to see the world in black and white, who want to see politics as "good versus evil" or "smart versus stupid" or "kind versus greedy." But politics don't work that way. I will put out there this thing that I hold to be one of my own personal truths: there are no perfect political doctrines or systems, or even documents--no, not even the beloved constitution. Which to me, is beloved; it's a very brave, very idealistic document, and it's kept our country in fairly good shape. But it ain't perfect folks. Wanna know why? It was written by men. It's the philosophies of men. You can't trust in the arm of the flesh, or the philosophies of men, or the doctrines or laws or political or social theories of men to have any kind of absolute truth.

I will say that the only thing that can make me really annoyed, when discussing politics with someone, is the feeling that they feel they are righteous or even "right" because of their political beliefs.

There is a right and a wrong in the universe. There is truth. But it doesn't come from Man, it comes from God. And the only documents I'd categorize as absolute truth are the ones I carry around in my little leather case to Sunday School.

It bothers me when people characterize any politician as "evil" or "going to destroy America" or "Puppets of a Secret Combination" or "The One Who'll Keep the Constitution From Falling Off It's Last Thread." They're men. Just men. Doing a job. I don't think that Either George H. W. Bush or Barack H. Obama have horns hidden under their hair, or halos either.

Anyway. I had a good laugh today. Thanks, taagsmasher, whomever you are. I needed that.

Sep 18, 2009

feelin' (better)

I feel better today. Thanks for the sympathy, folks. I think it was good to have written that yesterday, it really let off a lot of steam to aknowledge the difficulties that contribute to my family's overall stress levels lately.

I was able to mop my kitchen floor and clean my toilet today, and Skywalker fixed the problem that was causing the tank to overflow.

I decided to forego homeschooling park day this morning and I'm soooo glad I did. I think having activities scattered throughout the week, having to load all the kids up in the car and go places almost every day, really adds to the stress. Anyway, feeling better, and thanks for all the thoughts of chocolate. And now, without further ado:

Sep 17, 2009

Bleah... (vent post)

I've had morningsickness for about (let's see... when was the day we left for Ethiopia?) I guess that would be 8 weeks now. I'm at week 14... it should be over, shouldn't it?

I think I got the swine flu. I've been attacking it with all kinds of poisonous herbs and so I was only bedridden for about three days but it's lINGERING... like, I'm just well enough that I have to do everything in the house but just sick enough that when I'm done I sit on the couch and GROAN.

My hips are hurting much sooner on this time... the first pregnancy it hit me at about 7 months. WIth the second, I started hobbling at around month 5.5. With Squirt I hurt at 4.5 months and literally COULD NOT WALK without shoving some major bone structures back in place by month 6. So I've been wearing a brace around my hips and it seems to be working but it is also DANG HOT in this weather and makes my butt look really, really big in my jeans.

I'm trying to sing classically now, and one thing I've realized is, you can belt when you're sick, you just have to be careful and you're not as flexible as usual. You can NOT sing opera when you're sick. It just doesn't work. IT sounds terrible... or perhaps those are my own insecurities coming out.

No foods sound OK to eat right now, but I'm HUNGRY ALL THE TIME. So I end up eating wierdness. For the last month or so I've eaten somethign greasy and protieny for breakfast, like a bratwurst. And along with it, I've had a healthy delicious pineapple kale green drink (which are soooo good. I don't THINK it's a wierd craving). Then I skip several hours because I don't feel hungry, I feel a little nauseated instead when I get that edge of hunger, and have to FORCE myself to eat something for dinner. It's a real pain. I feel like an ED patient, and my ED tech inner voice chides me often.

My bathroom is sooooo filthy. Honestly. It looks OK at first glance but it SMELLS YUCKY and the tub hasn't been cleaned in THREE WEEKS and the trash isn't emptied regularly and the toilet tank overflows every three flushes (Skywalker is working on it). All I've had time for lately, cleaning wise, are the traffic areas: living room, kitchen, and getting on my kids to clean their bedrooms. siiiiigh.

Bella is really testing me. Honeymoon is OVER (good) but it's constant. She really has a hard time when I say "no" to something. And she has a hard time sharing nicely with her sisters. Yesterday she purposefully hurt someone 3 times, and I had to put her in time out... that's right... 3 times. She's a stubborn girl, and it takes her a while to decide she's ready to come down and apologize. The guilt for me is really overwhelming... poor girl upstairs in the room almost HALF THE DAY. I do it "Love and Logic style", (sympathetic face: I'm so sorry you just hit your sister. Yes, it means you have to be up here for a few minutes. No you cannot bring your baby or barbie. It makes me so sad when this happens. Loving pat, kiss, shut the door.) Good practice, but man, my nerves are frayed.

May is really possesive and jealous of my time and affections. She will drape herself all over my lap so that nobody else can sit there, and place her baby there as a "placeholder" (chuckle) when she's gone. I've done my best not to get annoyed, to take it as part of the whole shebang and just be the good mom I am and give my kids the attention they need when they need it. Most of my kids are fairly indpenedent/don't need a WHOLE lot of lap and snuggle time, just every now and then, and so May does get a lot of time. But I feel like I'm shooing her away a lot of the time, too, when I have to do dishes or fold laundry or cook food. Guilt factor=high.

We're doing great. Homeschooling is going great, life is going great... I just needed to vent all of these frustrations out into the empty space of the universe or something like that, so thanks for listening.

Sep 14, 2009

A Favorite mOvie scene

I love this scene from my favorite movie. In real life it's R. I didn't know that when I first saw the edited version. I used to be against edited R movies, but then I couldn't help falling in love with this one, so we own it.

Sorry that you have to follow a link... embedding was disabled on this one.

This scene actually brings tears to my eyes because it's soooooo true. All you need is love.

Sep 9, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: Wise Giving

One thing that is difficult for some adoptive parents, particularly when they're adopting older children, is curbing the desire to heap presents on their previously deprived childrens' heads. The natural tendency is to buy goodies and treats and toys and books and clothes and everything you can see that might bring joy and fun into the life of your children, who have previously known scarcity and want, and perhaps had a barbie doll but it was likely 20 years old, chewed up with matted hair and a missing limb or two.

It says in all the adoption books not to give too many presents right up front, and if you do give them things, to be careful about not making a big deal out of it, overwhelming them with newness. The problem I have is, I already have kids. Who have toys. LOOOOTS of toys. Bringing home our two new girls without a few toys of their own felt just cruel and unusual to me, so I bought them each a pony and a barbie and a few barbie dresses, some crayons and some coloring books. And I had some long talks with Loli and Jaws about "my things" and "everybody's things." I told them they could choose five things they could put on a list of "mine." The rest of the toys in the house needed to be everybody's, and anybody could play with them on a first-come-first served basis.

I didn't anticipate that one of the toys on Jaw's list would become an issue. I naturally assumed that if I got the two new girls barbies and ponies all would be OK because my daughters generally play barbies and ponies. THey're not really big on baby dolls. Jaws has a little baby with pajamas and a few accoutrements that she received as a gift the Christmas that Squirt was born. It's kind of a tradition in the Nosurf family... youngest child gets a baby when Mom gets a baby, and they can take care of their babies together. Sort of cuts out a little bit of the displacement and sibling rivalry issues (though of course there's still a lot of that, too.)

Bella saw the baby and immediately it was her lodestar. Jaws was cheerful about sharing, but became less and less so. Bella became more and more secretive, hiding baby in spots she could find it, hoarding other "equipment" that went with various other siblings toys. I had to intervene a few times, one time had to put the toy in "time out."

OK, so one phenomenon I hadn't counted on with the new kids was the entitlement issue. I think it has something to do with going from having nothing, and absolutely no possible way of getting even some semi-basic needs met, and then coming to a place that obviously had EVERYTHING conveniently lined up on a shelf (and sometimes even right in the kitchen cupboards!) They take it really hard when I say "no." Bella especially. She'll wimper for hours. I've had to do some time-outs and those time-outs aren't fun. But they are neccessary.

But anyway I digressed. IN this case, it was getting to be too much for me. A constant daily battle over the doll. And as I saw it I had two choices: get rid of the doll forever (not really fair to Jaws, and honestly, not fair to Bella either) or get them all dolls.

So I did something completely unlike me and splurged on toys. I went to target and bought 4 baby dolls and 5 baby strollers... the kind that I would have drooled over at my kids' age. And after a family home evening about sharing and playing nice together and how to be good to each other when we play, I let them all choose a doll, starting with Loli and ending with Jaws. The old baby went to Squirt.

In all, even though I wince thinking what a crazy impulsive spoiling-my-kids sort of gesture it was, I think I made the right choice. They have looooved playing with their "babies" together. And I think it provides some good bonding and role play. Loli's got the "good mom" routine down, and Bella will watch and copy her. Quite often, children will enact their traumas through play. They are being good moms to their babies, washing and feeding them and not abandoning them. And I get the opportunity to praise them often throughout the day for their "good parenting".

Sometimes rules work, and sometimes you have to just roll with things. And these pictures are so hilarious and cute, it was almost worth it just for the photo op.

Sep 5, 2009

Summer Fun, Cute Kids

Spiritual Sustenance in times of Spiritual Scarcity

I think one of the first things that hit me hard when I became a mother, was my sudden lack of "me" time. I felt the loss most keenly in the area of Spirituality. As a single adult I loved to be able to go to those BYU devotionals, sometimes by myself, and take a notebook and just sit and soak in the spirit and write down the things that came to my heart. I loved to take my scriptures with me on a long walk, sit down in a quiet, beautiful place, and read and then write about what I read. These things made my life so peaceful, and I felt so spiritually fed.

When you become a mother, those long, drawn out away times suddenly dissappear. And the extra "hour in the middle of the day" you used to have for scripture study or to read that article in the Ensign that has been tugging at your mind all day, is now used (inevitably... you can try, but it always ends the same way) for napping.

I remember wondering, sometimes, why I even went to church at all, particularly when I have a child in that awkward "can run around and wreak havoc but still too small for nursery" age. I felt so spiritually bereft. I would try to catch a moment here and there to get some good scripture reading, but something more immediate (a spill, a bump, an insistent seven-year-old with a homework question) would inevitably interrupt.

I can usually get by on drowsy before-bed scripture reading and the snatches of spirit and lesson I end up being able to sit through on Sunday. But with these new changes, I have just felt so needy. I KNOW I need more than that. I need the Spirit in large doses right now, to help me through these changes and sustain me so that I can be a good mom, parenting with the Spirit. When I don't have the Spirit, I tend to get irritated more quickly, I tend to punish more readily instead of dealing with whatever complex issue underlies the conflict I am dealing with. I tend to shy away from clingy fingers and kids who nuzzle up to me every single time I sit down somewhere.

How do you get the spiritual sustenance you need when you have so many more, seemingly more immediate needs surrounding you? When you are the single most needed being in a household, and you've got six (including husband) who need a piece of your time and attention, how do you get that time to yourself?

A good question.

Lately, because of my need, I have been seeking creative solutions. I've been taking a little time in the morning to "sleep in" (I usually get up by 7:30, but my kids are up at 7 if not earlier). I tell the kids "mom is still sleeping." I get my scriptures and read as much as I want, until I feel like it is enough. Something about morning, as opposed to evening, scripture reading has really made me feel so much more sustained lately.

When I was going through another period of turmoil and upheaval, I would load Loli into the car and drive around with her, aimlessly, and pop LDS hymns tapes into my car's little tape player. That really helped me, then, but right now I can't feasibly load up all five kids, drive around for an hour for no reason, and let's face it. I wouldnt' be able to hear much of the hymns even if I could. I have too many kids now.

My solution, lately, has been to go to and download MP3 files of conference talks. I put them on my MP3 player, put the player in my apron pocket, snake the headphones up underneath the apron so they won't get wet, and listen to Jeffrey R Holland or Henry B Eyering or Deiter F. Uchtdorf or Margaret S Lifferth or Julie B Beck while I do my dishes, and I continue to listen (sometimes taking an earphone out to answer a question or deal with an "imminent crisis") as I do the rest of my morning cleaning routine. Yes, I get interrupted. But having those talks playing in my ear, in the background, for a good portion of the morning (and I can turn them UP if I have a whimpering child who I've already said "no" to... a lot less tempting that way to send them to the time-out bench) has really, really saved me lately.

Anyway, I thought I'd pass this along because I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this, and I thought these suggestions might help some of you. It really makes such a difference in my day. I'm grateful for the gospel and our church leaders. My testimony grows in leaps and bounds when I can see the difference the Spirit really makes in my life.

Sep 2, 2009

An interesting article: There is an End to Race

I recently discovered a very well-written, well-articulated article on the subject of race and LDS theology. I thought I'd share, as it does seem to describe a few of my drier, more logical feelings on the subject. Honestly, I believe there is no truth except for what the Spirit teaches you, so take the discussion with a grain of salt, but this article is a good overview of a lot of the reasons why I've always felt that "race doctrine" as relates to the church is a little silly. And of course, has been debunked... (the 1978 revelation). For the record, I'm an admirer of Elder McConkie's, not the least of my reasons being his humble, immediate remittance of some of the things he had preached on the subject.

There Is An End To Race.

Whitney and the Star Spangled Banner

My family's not big on the whole super bowl thing. My grandpa used to watch it (he might still, I don't know) and if we happened to be over that weekend, we'd get pieces of it. It is through sheer good luck (or perhaps providence) that I caught this particular moment. One of the greatest things I have ever listened to. Listening to this, I don't think I've ever heard anything that has moved me so much, made me feel so patriotic, made me ache with the beauty of the artistry of a performer. I know Whitney Houston is in some ways now, a cliche... but I came upon this today. God gives us instruments to preach His word... the message here is patriotism beyond anything I've felt before or since this particular moment that knocked my socks off and left me trembling. I was 11.

Whitney's coming out with a new album. I'm so excited for her. Her talent is so amazing, such a pure thing. If I could sound a one-hundredth as good as she does, belting it out like this, just once, I'd be satisfied.