Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Children are not accidents

A call to change our vocabulary, change our perspective. 

I'm the youngest of five children. There are thirteen years between the oldest and youngest and a six year gap between the closest sibling and myself. You might call me "the caboose" of the family. Growing up, and still today, my mother has told me about how I came to be that caboose - how strongly she felt that one more child needed to come to our family, despite being content and satisfied by the thought of being finished. Having grown up with the Mormon musical "Saturday's Warrior," my young girl heart could relate to this idea, even felt empowered by it. I was that special spirit wanting to come down to the family - "Jimmy! Don't forget your promise!" (Oh, the corniness!)

Ok, so while Saturday's Warrior isn't exactly how it is (although wouldn't it be cool if we really did spend our pre-mortal life clad in silky, pastel leotards, dancing around in white mist?), I now know exactly how it feels to have your heart tell you that a spirit child of our Heavenly Father is waiting to receive a mortal body, and that you have that power within you. That's what we believe of the Plan of Salvation. And that's why Justin and I are having another baby.

This baby girl growing inside me will be 22 months younger than our little Sophietje. And can you believe it, people actually ask me if this pregnancy was "planned or not?"

In our Mormon woman culture, I think we tend to talk loosely about "planning pregnancies" and "timing our children's ages" to fit in with our lifestyle. Of course I think it's natural for us women to want to plan everything, but let me give you an idea of how this mentality gets out of hand: 

I look very much like my two oldest sisters. Many think that we're just a year or two apart when they are actually 13 and 11 years older than I am. One time, after my sister introduced me to her friend and indicated that no, we have quite a few years between us, this woman replied in her best Utah Valley Girl: "Oh my gosh! Girl, were you an accident?!" 

I think she was trying to be funny.

I balked, just as I do every time somebody thoughtlessly asks this of me. Excuse me? Accident? "Was I an accident?" First of all, does ANYBODY want to be called an accident? To be considered unwanted? Second, what makes this woman feel entitled to comment on my parents' sex life and their decisions to bare children? 

This is where I think we could use a change in vocabulary, a change in perspective.

I love birth control (Pause. If you're a woman, you know how ridiculous that statement is. No woman loves birth control. We loathe it. But I've come to grips with the fact that I'm either going to be hormonal because I'm on birth control, hormonal because I'm pregnant, or hormonal just because I am woman). I love the freedom that it allows me to enjoy intimacy with my husband to the fullest, without worrying about becoming pregnant with each -ahem- encounter. Because, yes, as a woman, we worry about that. (We worry about everything).

Because birth control has empowered women the world over to be worry-free, a new way of thinking has come as a result - that we are in control. That we control when each child should enter our family. And while ideally, yes, I myself would prefer that my children come when I feel ready to do the "nine month pregnancy thing," that's not always the case. Because what I'm trying to intimate here (ha ha ha) is that birth control can not and will not allow us to thwart the plan of nature, the ultimate plan of our Heavenly Father "for the eternal destiny of His children." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World") Because birth control, unlike it sounds, is not in control. 

Being in the married and parenting community, I hear so many flippant comments about this or that child being an "accident" or a "whoops baby"- the parents were on birth control and/or had not planned on having kids for so many months/years. While it may be true that it wasn't expected, to remark that this child was an "accident" is saddening. (Take it from someone who gets asked constantly if she's in that category.)

Think, also, of the couple yearning for a child, but because of miscarriage or infertility, cannot even have an "accident." How would we stiffen to hear such a casual comment tossed around if faced with their challenge?

I completely understand that a pregnancy may not come at a "convenient" time in life - while attending school, excelling in a career, coming very soon after the last baby, etc. I get that, I do. However - once we get over the surprise (or even in some cases minor or gross disappointment), do we continue to feel inconvenienced because we aren't fully realizing that this is what we signed up for when we became married and sexually active? That these are not only the natural consequences, but the divine purpose of our very existence? If we profess to believe that He does indeed have a divine plan for each of His children, can we really believe that taking a pill (or whatever form you prefer) is going to trump that? To disturb it? 

Are we mistaken in thinking that we were fully in control?

I'm extremely lucky. Both of my pregnancies came as a result of a strong impression to have another baby and both occurred pretty immediately after getting that impression, so I confess that I do not know what it is like to be surprised by that little pink plus sign. But I feel deep inside me that if our perspective is such that we know that God is in control and that we are his partners in creating that little life inside of us, that we would know absolutely that in our Father's plan for us, there are no "accidents."

We promise and covenant to use this sacred power granted to us to "multiply and replenish the earth." Sexuality in marriage is an enormous blessing and strengthens the relationship in ways I can't ever describe, but what is the primary purpose? To perpetuate God's eternal plan by allowing each of his spirit children the mortal life and experience. This is our purpose. And we must have faith that His timing is better than ours. 

My friends, these are my thoughts, inspired by too many questions and conversations about "accident babies." I'm not suggesting that you change anything in your own "family planning," only suggesting that we step up and embrace the procreative powers that we as wives and mothers have and own up to having children, not accidents

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

why I'm a cloth diaper mom

I like to be green. In fact, I'm the kind of person who sorts my garbage because I love to recycle (it's one of my favorite pastimes). The cause? An eighth grade recycling project that has truly stuck with me. But mostly a mother who always lived by and spouted the old adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

My mother emulated this philosophy by raising her five children in cloth diapers. However, keep in mind that this was the 1970's and '80's, so picture the pre-fold diapers with plastic pants - the ones that had to be rinsed in the toilet bowl and a bucket of bleach before washing. Yes, my mom was not afraid to get her hands dirty to save on costs. Good woman.

When I learned that I was expecting, I did what any pregnant woman of the 21st century would do. I hopped on to the world of baby blogs and mom forums to inspire me: birthing techniques (yes, I did the epidural), benefits and how-to's of breastfeeding (I'm a believer!!!), nursery themes and decor (we inherited everything), baby names (she was named as we left the hospital), raising bilingual children (yes, we're going that route). And then I stumbled upon the cloth diaper aisle of the baby blogging world.....

I had heard rumors that cloth diapering was making a comeback with a new edge to it. I didn't really know what that meant until I saw it: the bumGenius cloth diaper. See model below:

Cloth diapers that look and work like disposables?!! And that come in the convenient colors of moonbeam, butternut and blossom? ;) An outer cover made of liquid-resistant material (PUL fabric) and absorbent inserts of cotton or microfiber. Amazing. I did more research and naturally (hahaha, get it?), became instantly sold on the idea of cloth diapering. And here are the reasons why:

Cloth diaper babies save their parents approximately $1,500+ per child (cheap).
Cloth diaper babies do not contribute tons of waste to landfills (green).
Cloth diaper babies tend to potty-train more quickly (convenient).
Cloth diaper babies get their nappies hung out on the line to dry in the sun (cute).

As I continued to search the internet for cloth diapering info, I learned that while investing in name brand cloth diapers is cheaper than disposables, making your own cloth diapers was even more cost-efficient.  I happen to know a woman who sews. I called my mom. With her can-do attitude and enthusiasm for undertaking projects of a good cause, she volunteered to make every single diaper for her unborn grandchild. When Justin came home that night, I told him of my desire to baby our baby with cloth diapers. Without hesitation, he fully supported my dream (granted, at that point he had no idea what to expect, but ask him today and you'll find that he's fully converted to the cloth diapering technique).

My pregnancy progressed and my belly became noticeable and my mom was at work making adorable diapers for my adorable baby. If you have ever been pregnant, you know that other parents (mothers especially) always take the opportunity to engage in discussion about parenting techniques. :) I wasn't a walking advertisement for cloth diapering or anything, but if the subject came up, you can be sure I excitedly shared my intention to do cloth diapers. Would you believe that only a handful of those listeners actually supported my ambition? The rest were pretty quick to raise their eyebrows and tell me that I would regret it once I was elbow-deep in poop.

Now, this post is in no way a stick-it-to-the-man to all those who doubted me. But I have to tell you, most people doubted me because they just don't understand what it means to be a modern cloth diaper parent. You may be one of them. Thus, I write this post as a follow-up to my great cloth diapering ambition. It's been six months. Here's what we've observed as cloth diaper parents:

*We really do save money with homemade cloth diapers. We spent about $400 on all the homemade cloth diapers and wipes (you didn't think we would be cloth diaper parents without also being cloth wipe parents too, did you??) for ALL the children will have. Compare to $2,000+ each.

*Cloth diapering is no more messy than disposable diapering. You place the soiled diapers (did I mention that you can use a cover for up to 2-3 diaper changes?) in a wet-bag and do a load of diapers every 2-3 days. The stink is no worse than having a pail full of dirty disposables in the nursery. As for touching anything...you still have to wipe that precious little bottom and wash your hands with disposables, don't you?

*Once your little one starts eating solids and producing solid...ahem...poops, you place a liner in the diaper (looks much like a dryer sheet) to catch the peanut-buttery stuff. You throw that in the toilet and don't have to worry about any scraping or soaking.

*Cloth diapers on the go aren't a hassle. You take a small wet-bag along for the dirties and plenty of covers and diapers to make it through the day. 

*It's gentle on baby's skin. We use special detergent and yes, we make our own wipe solution out of all-natural, tree-hugging products like coconut oil, lavender and tea tree oil. 

*There is absolutely no waste involved with cloth diapering (except any disposable wipes on-the-go). It's super green and it feels good. 

*When you dry them on the line, the sun bleaches out the stains.

*Sophie's bum is absolutely adorable with the cloth diapers her grandma made her. What an amazing gift.

There you have it. The reasons and benefits of being a modern cloth diaper parent. Justin and I love the choice we made and can I just say we couldn't have done it without my amazing mother - these diapers were a labor of love for a cause I am proud to support. Thank you, Mom! :)

The diaper pattern:

It must run in the family? 
My cousin Amanda is a great advocate of the cloth diaper alternative and even promotes a business for organic parenthood. Check it out! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

we named her Sophie

The last entry had us waiting impatiently to ride out the last two months of my pregnancy. I had no idea then what motherhood would be like or just how much I could love my little girl. Though I anticipated change, I had no way of understanding how deeply having a child does change your life. Sure, our routine is a bit different - diapers, interrupted sleep, carseats and strollers. Though maybe change isn't the best way to describe what happened. Maybe I should say that it enhanced our life, enriched our life, deepened our life, consecrated our life. Justin and I look at her multiple times throughout the day and just stand still with awe and wonder at what we've created. What God created. 
And we named her Sophie Lelah.

Allow me to introduce you to our sweet baby girl. 

Sophie is a content and happy baby. She cries only when necessary and is quickly comforted. She loves getting her diaper changed. She's getting more control of her neck and can sit up with help. She smacks her lips and squeaks while she eats. She ALWAYS has her head looking to the left. Her legs are stronger for standing and she prefers to be facing out now. She loves to suck on ANYTHING - her hands, blankets, clothes, and binkie She blows spit bubbles and drools. She sleeps A LOT! She's constantly cooing and getting more jabbery. She adores her swing. She kicks her legs until her blankets come off. She laughed for the first time last weekend. And she's smiling so much more - that shy smile. It's the most beautiful thing.

As for me and my house -

Justin is busy with school. He's taking a few childhood/adolescent development classes and comes home with theories to implement in our growing family :) He has a neurobiology class, which has him absolutely dumbfounded at the complexity of the human brain. He's ever more in awe of the Creator's resplendent masterpiece: the cognitive man. He's busy researching various graduate schools to study psychology next school year. Who knows where we'll be settled for next September?
He's still working as a Dutch teacher at the MTC and loves it (but he misses having me there, of course). He just sent off a group to the Netherlands/Belgium and Suriname. I had the chance to learn from them at the TRC. :)

I was a stay-at-home mom until the 2nd of October. I heard from a friend about a position speaking Dutch and working from home: you are now looking at THE Dutch Associate Support for ASEA, a MLM company that sells a water-like health supplement. Riveting. But actually, it's the biggest blessing being able to work from home with flexible hours and a language I love, with Justin on the couch next to me and Sophie on my lap as I answer emails or have a break between calls. The second income is also very much appreciated.

Sophie was blessed on August 19 by her daddy, grandpas and uncles. It was a lovely evening with our dear families. It happened to be the day before our first year anniversary - what an incredible year it's been! We're more in love now than ever and have a daughter to add to that joy :)


Sunday, June 10, 2012


Here we go. The last six weeks. That's only one transfer in missionary time, by the way. We can do that, piece of cake. :)

Pregnancy has been going swimmingly the past two months. Little meisje moves ceaselessly in the womb, with a particular fondness of kicking my rib cage. It's an endearing sort of discomfort. She's shy of audiences and will stop kicking once someone puts their hand on my belly. Most of her performance is while I'm lying down in bed, nights and mornings. Justin and I love those moments.

I spend much time wondering what she will look like. I imagine she'll have brown hair, just like her parents. Her eyes may be squinty, like mine. Maybe she'll have Justin's nose? She could be pretty chubby. What if she's an ugly baby? (I made my mom promise to tell me if she is). I'm assured that I'll be hopelessly in love with her, no matter what. And I believe that.

We got a new district of missionaries on the 30th of May. Three elders. I can't praise them enough - what a diligent group they've proven to be in language and in testimony. Justin and I love teaching together again. Our sweet little girl will come before they depart for Amsterdam July 31, and then I will be a full time mother. I am sad to think of leaving my job at the MTC, but am looking forward to spending all my time with her. 

Our vacation to the Netherlands and Belgium in April was indescribable. What an amazing trip - to visit our mission together and spend time with the people we love over in the low lands. It was a blessing to see so many members and investigators enduring to the end and finding joy in living the gospel. It was awesome to be with our missionaries - those we've taught in the MTC - and see how much they've grown. We spent two days attending the temple zone conferences with them and what a special experience that was. We also tagged along for joint teaches, baptismal services, church, p-days...seeing them in their element made us feel proud of their hard work and envious of the privilege they have to be currently serving full-time. We're looking forward to another mission in, say, 50 years? :) 
The missionaries that we've taught (above and below)

 Riding "achter op" in Amsterdam
Groenplaats in Antwerpen, Belgium

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hello spring/summer

The winter semester is over and Justin and I are looking forward to a lovely summer break with lots of working and playing together. And preparing for our daughter, whom we just call "meisje." (Dutch for "little girl") Though she remains nameless, we talk of her constantly and feel her kicking getting more forceful every day. As her strength grows, it seems mine is slackening and the third trimester is bringing me back to discomfort and less of an appetite. Justin says our baby is made of cereal. :)

Week 26 and still no name for our girly. No hurry.

We're thrilled to be heading out on a 2.5 week vacation to visit our mission cities in the Netherlands and Belgium! We can't wait to see the members and investigators that so much defined our mission experiences. We'll arrive just in time for a temple zone conference with President and Zuster Brubaker, so we'll also be able to see the missionaries we've taught in the MTC. It's so awesome to share this most incredible part of our lives together. We love being able to have common friends and experiences from our missions, as well as teaching the Dutch missionaries together at the MTC. It's been a uniting factor in our marriage and I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world to share so much of my life with my husband.

Holland and Vlaanderen, here we come! :D

Thursday, March 29, 2012

a record shall be kept among us

I have been admonished to be faithful in keeping a good record of my life with promises that my journals, my history, the mementos that I save will become a cherished treasure to my posterity down through the many ages of time. And yet I conclude that I am not falling into line. My journal goes for weeks untouched, deprived of so many sweet and humorous experiences that will never be remembered. I am sad when I realize this.

Thus I feel the need to write, to record our lives. We have such wonderful lives, Justin and I. And baby. It will soon be the three of us and I want to not forget this precious time. It's a time of conclusion with my impending graduation. A time of anticipation for summer months. And a time of preparation for her.

So that's it. We're blogging.


Included are some photographs that sum up favorite moments. We've had a lot.
Our little girl
Together we teach the Dutch missionaries at the MTC
Our honeymoon to Cancun, Mexico
Married 20 August in the Jordan River LDS temple
Hiking the Y the day before our engagement
Serving our missions together in Belgium/Netherlands