The Sisterhood of Motherhood

Years ago, I would have told you that I firmly believed men generally have stronger friendships with each other than women do. I spent too many years growing up having difficult and disappointing friendships with girls. By High School, I mostly hung out with boys because it was simpler than dealing with drama that came along with female friendships.
Lately though, I've realized that maybe it's not that girls are naturally bad at being friends... I think maybe, when it comes to having good relationships with each other, we just tend to be late bloomers. When we're young we might be more prone to gossip or be catty, to be competitive with each other about boys or our looks. I'm sure we've all been on the giving and receiving end of talking behind someone's back. Then we get older and something forces us to be more selfless, and to rely on each other way beyond the superficial things we cared about before... and that something is motherhood.

Nothing has bonded me quicker to other women than this business of motherhood. I've been so blessed to have a wonderful husband who always supports and loves me, but you learn quickly in motherhood that you need someone who you can turn to who can say: I get it. I've been there.
You need those friends who you immediately bond with because you have similar birth stories, or your kids are in the same phase right now, or who simply see you struggling with a cranky toddler on a bad day and don't for a second think that means you're a bad parent.
Those friends who can give you a book-length list of ideas to help your colicky baby when their pediatrician's only advice is to "burp her more".
Those friends who text you back at two am because they are awake too.
Those friends who you can complain to about your kids who you love so much, but who drive you so crazy, and they don't tell you to "enjoy it, because it goes by so fast." Some days, it feels like it can't go by fast enough.
Those friends who show up with a meal or a drink when they know you're struggling, but can't even come inside because they have a car full of kids too and those ten seconds at the door are the only time you see each other in months.
Those friends who ask how you're doing, and genuinely want to know. (Even when they realize that question might lead to an hour of tear-filled conversation.)
Those friends who don't question it when you tell them that yesterday, you cried for no reason over a cat food commercial.
Those friends who can mourn with you during a pregnancy loss that leaves you feeling gutted, and would never think to utter the words, "It doesn't matter, you can always try again."
Those friends who have dealt with their own infertility, and even though it looks completely different from yours, they understand the unique pain that is desiring motherhood and having those desires go unfulfilled.
Those friends who understand the anxiety and depression that can be crippling with a new baby, and even if they can empathize they never pretend it's normal or ok.
Those friends who understand that you can love your children and being a mom, and also feel completely lost and not know who you are anymore.
Those friends who help you choose a new haircut when you're having a postpartum identity crisis.
Those friends who check in and offer help even when they are at their wit's end themselves.
Those friends who love your children like their own not because of any blood relation, but simply because they love you.
The minute you enter the life of motherhood, whether that's when those two lines on the test appear or even before you ever have a child, you need friends like that. You realize there is no room in your life for talking bad about another woman, because we need each other. If you don't have those friends, call me. I'll be that friend. I'll share the wonderful group of women I've found, because I'm proud of the deeper connections and friendships I've made. I love when on a really bad day, a small voice in my head tells me to text a certain friend, and I know she'll understand.
We may not have had it all together when we were younger. We may have known or even been the mean girls at some point. But when we grow up and have those little people depending on us, it is amazing the sisterhood we can build.

Remlee's Birth Story

After Dayen and Arie's births,  I was really scared to be pregnant again because I didn't know what I wanted out of a birth anymore. I felt like I had a lot of trauma from my birth experiences, and I still had never gotten the natural birth I thought I wanted. This pregnancy came as a surprise, which made it even harder to wrap my head around trying once again to have a natural birth. I kept thinking I would come around to the idea and get excited and prepared like I had with both the boys, but I never did. The idea of birth just felt daunting and I didn't think that would go away before she was here.

I finally decided to take away the pressure of having a natural birth. I planned on getting the epidural this time, or at least doing a "wait and see" approach- if I felt like I was handling the contractions fine and maybe if my labor wasn't so long, I could do it. But if I got the epidural, I wasn't going to beat myself up over it or feel like I failed.

Then right about the time I hit the third trimester, my friend had her baby in the birth center. I was supposed to be her birth photographer, but for some reason my phone never went off during the many calls and texts I got that night. I ended up missing the birth by about 20 minutes. I felt (and still feel) awful, but I think it happened for a reason, because even seeing her in recovery brought back some bad memories for me. She was a rockstar and had her 10 lb 3 oz baby naturally, and I think it made me realize: this should have been me last time. If this is really what I wanted, I should have been able to do it with how easy Arie's birth was going, but instead some trauma from Dayen's birth led to a hospital transfer and a lot of pain. (I didn't realize until much later that although I was at a 9 at the birth center, I went down to an 8 when we got to the hospital. I felt so scared and was fighting the contractions so much that my cervix was closing during contractions- which is honestly the worst pain I've ever felt.)

I came home from my friend's birth and had a small birthing identity crisis. I texted my midwife and told her, "I need you to talk me down from a ledge. I am seriously considering an induction this time, please remind me why I don't want that." I was expecting a laundry list of reasons not to do it, but instead she replied, "I think you would be a great candidate for an induction." I burst into tears. I think, deep down, it was exactly what I wanted to hear. But I had also gone through 2 pregnancies believing I thought one thing, and now I was thinking about going against that. Not only that, but if I was going to get induced anyway, then I didn't want to wait the usual 2 weeks past my due date that my babies tend to come. My midwife said she would induce at 39 weeks. I cried some more about that.

In the end, I decided to set an induction date, and if the day came and I didn't feel good about it, I wouldn't do it. I did lots of research, which in all fairness, showed different outcomes than what many people believed when I was pregnant with Dayen. Inductions didn't actually lead to a 50% chance of a csection. Still, it was terrifying to choose when I had always let my babies come on their own. I didn't want to use pitocin, I didn't want to choose my baby's birthday, and I didn't want to end up with a csection because of something I chose.

In the days leading up to the induction date, I felt nothing but peace about it. We decided to go in the night before for cervidil. I had been at 2 cm for 3 weeks, and I thought even if I could dilate another centimeter in the night, that would be a little less time I would have to be on pitocin. We checked in at 6 pm and had the cervidil in by 7:30. We had a pretty restless night where I was having Braxton Hicks every few minutes, so I was hopeful that was a good sign that I was progressing. But at 6 the next morning, I was only at a 2.5. I had it in my head that there was a good chance the induction just wouldn't work, and even though it would have been really hard to go home without a baby, I made sure my midwife knew I would choose that over a csection for failure to progress. So we basically couldn't get an epidural or break my water, or I'd be on the clock and have to deliver.

We started the pitocin at 6 and the contractions picked up pretty quickly. I was eating breakfast at 8 when I suddenly had a really strong contraction that made me feel really sick. I told the nurse I was going to throw up, so she left to get some anti-nausea medicine while I threw up so violently my ears and throat hurt the rest of the day. I told Caleb not to look at me because that's basically the only mystery we had left in our marriage, but that's out the window now. Having babies has a way of making you as grossly vulnerable as you can possibly be.

Luckily the nausea medicine worked pretty quickly, but when they checked me again I was still only at a 3. My midwife said she wanted to break my water to get things moving, but I panicked because that felt like the final decision that would lead to a csection. So we decided to wait until I progressed a little more, but honestly, I still fully believed I wouldn't progress and we'd be going home still pregnant.

After that the contractions got a lot worse. I didn't do any kind of preparing for labor this time, thinking that my past preparations for a natural birth would all come back to me in labor. Although the pitocin contractions weren't quite as bad as back labor with my 9 lb baby Dayen, or 9 cm contractions with Arie, they were still really strong really fast. There was a definite difference between when your body goes into labor naturally and when it's being forced by pitocin. To make things worse, whenever I tried to sit on the yoga ball or squat on the ground to do any kind of pain management during a contraction, we would lose the baby's heartrate on the monitor. I basically had to sit perfectly still so we could make sure she was handling the contractions ok. As they got stronger, I started feeling really emotional and frustrated through them. I just wasn't prepared for labor, and I was feeling so frustrated with my body that my choices were a) go two weeks overdue or b) induce. Why couldn't I just have one magical, random 38 week baby?

Caleb saw how frustrated I was getting and suggested that I get the epidural and let them break my water. We had talked about how he had felt promptings during my previous labors and never felt like he could voice them because everyone else in the room seemed to know more about birth than him. So I told him if he felt that this time, I wanted him to speak up. He might not go through the physical part of labor with me, but I've always said I'd rather do it myself than have to watch my spouse go through it, and he has carried a lot of trauma from our birth experiences too. So I texted my midwife and told her, "I think I want the epidural, but I'm still really scared this is the decision that will lead to a csection." She said, "I think that's the right decision. If I'm wrong, I will make it up to you by making sure you don't end up with a csection." It was exactly what I needed to hear, so we called in the nurse and asked for the epidural.

By 11:00 I had the epidural and they came in to break my water. I was at a 4. Everyone kept saying she would come that afternoon, but as soon as we were alone Caleb and I agreed that we should plan on an all day labor and a middle of the night delivery, because that's just how things go for us. So we turned on Impractical Jokers and relaxed and took a nap and just settled in for a long day.

At 1:00 my midwife came back to check me again. I told her I wasn't feeling very good, just felt kind of "off", and she smirked like that was what she was expecting. I knew she thought I was in transition, but I didn't believe it. She checked me and smirked again, and I said, "What? Am I at 4.5 now?" She said, "Nope, you have 2 centimeters left. I'll be back in an hour and we'll have a baby!" I didn't even have a response. I think I sort of went into shock and a combination of that and being in transition made me start shaking really hard. I had never had a labor even close to this short, and honestly I had never really processed the fact that we were about to have another kid.

The nurse came back an hour later and I was fully dilated and ready to push. I couldn't stop shaking, and as soon as my midwife came in I just started crying. I looked at Caleb and said, "I'm not ready to have 3 kids!" and they all laughed because... too late. I pushed maybe 3 times and she was here! With my boys I had always pictured the emotional moment when they were finally born and I got to see them for the first time, but I had always been so exhausted by then that I couldn't really process it. With Dayen especially, I remember looking at him and thinking, "Huh. Look at that. A baby." This time, it was exactly what I always pictured. I was fully alert and crying when I saw our daughter for the first time. I always felt like I really had to work to get my babies here, but this time it was so easy and awesome and even 3 weeks earlier than I'm used to!

It looked nothing like what I thought my "ideal birth" would before I ever had kids, but it ended up being my favorite birth by far. I'm so grateful for a care provider who listened to me and helped me have the healing birth that I needed, even if it looked different than I ever expected.

And today, I get to say to my cute, 5 day old baby something that I never thought I'd get to say to my kids: Happy due date! Trust me when I say, I am so glad you're already here.

Remlee Ann Fonnesbeck
May 27, 2020
2:36 pm
6 lbs 14 oz
19 3/4 inches

It Takes a Village (with torches and pitchforks)

The other day, my mindless Facebook scrolling led to an article about how it's unexpectedly difficult to be a stay at home mom. Of course, that make the working moms lose their crap, which made the stay at home moms feel attacked, and it was basically the wonderful representation of humanity that you expect all comment sections to be.

Except for one thread, which was a group of women about my parent's generation. It started off with a post saying, "I don't know what girls these days are always complaining about. I was a stay at home mom for X number of years and I never felt this way! I loved every minute of it." The rest of the comments were women agreeing with her that they didn't understand it.

So, if you've ever thought this, I'm here to try to help you understand it.

The thing is, we are living in completely different times. I'd argue we've gone back to the dark ages, regressed back to a time when basic civility towards people was unheard of. People are tarred and feathered via social media these days, and honestly, I'm not sure it's much less painful.

Case in point: I saw a post on the Tremonton Classifieds yesterday (which I can't find now because the entire group has been shut down.) about a mom who found a 3 week old baby left alone in a car at the Kent's parking lot. She broke a window, got the baby out, and called the police. When the parents came out, they were apparently upset about the window. Oh, and then she went home and posted about it on Classifieds, and that's an important part of the story so stick with me.

I get that terrible things happen. I am an Enneagram 6, but I don't actually think I am. 6's are mostly known for their anxiety, and I truly don't believe I ever would have tested as a 6 before having children. Since having my first, I live in a constant state of anxiety. Every sketchy person at WalMart is trying to kidnap them. There's going to be a mass shooting in every crowd we're in. It's a terrible way to live! Tell me you would have enjoyed parenting back in the day if you felt this way all the time. And we tell new parents to ask for help, to sleep when the baby sleeps, to watch out for postpartum depression, to ask for help ask for help ASK FOR HELP. But guess what? The help is scarce. Sometimes it's impossible to find. And it's a fine line between asking for help before it's too late, and people shouting on Facebook that you should have your children taken away.

I mean, can we just be a little more careful with how we say someone should have their children taken away? Can we agree that's the extreme solution no one is actually rooting for? Facebook is not a place for a jury of your peers, but each post like this is calling someone out and putting them on trial and frankly it's not usually anyone's business.

When my second baby was about two weeks old, I took both my boys to the park. I was drowning in guilt over turning my three year old's life upside down, and how we weren't getting enough sunshine and therefore enough vitamin D, and trust me when I say a trip to the park is always about more than a trip to the park.

My three year old is naturally anxious (gee, I wonder where he's learning that from) but he decided to be brave and climb to the top of the highest slide. Once he got there, he froze. He screamed and screamed, unable to go forward or backward he just stood at the top, immobile. I was holding my new baby in my arms and watching nervously. I hadn't even brought the wrap for the baby. The carseat was in the car. I seriously considered just setting him down in the sand.

But the crazy thing is, there were people around, watching all this happening. No one offered to help, they just sort of watched.

So, I did what I had to do, or what I thought I had to do. I started climbing up after him. This slide, of course, was at the top of a completely vertical climb, which I was doing one-handed. When I was halfway up, my foot slipped. My heart completely dropped. I was going to fall with my baby.

I flung my arm out and managed to catch myself with my arm. I felt like it was broken. I had a giant bruise for weeks. But my baby was ok. And only then did a dad from across the park come running over and offer to help.

At the time, I was humiliated. What was I thinking, putting my baby in danger like that? What was I thinking letting my three year old climb up there? What was I thinking even leaving the house that day? But now, I just think... why did it take a dad, in a park full of moms, to see my need? To offer to help?

We are so quick to judge another parents situation. So many of the comments on that classifieds post were, of course, ripping the parents apart for leaving their baby in the car. But all I could think was: there are about a thousand reasons that could have happened, and we're only hearing one side of the story. All I could think was, I've done stupid things all the time, in the name of pregnancy hormones or sleep deprivation or just plain not knowing any better. But this is already the hardest job in the world, so why can't we ever just reach out and help each other?

It's supposed to take a village to raise a child, not to take one away from it's parents when they make a public mistake.

I'm so tired of worrying that other moms are judging me when my kid is screaming in the store. I'm tired of the playground and storytimes being a place we glare at each other instead of trying to make friends. I'm tired of hearing that if someone is going to make a mistake, they shouldn't have had kids in the first place.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, just maybe, those parents thought you know that baby we just spent nine months making and a very difficult and painful day delivering? Well he's been keeping us up all night, so we should go meander the aisles of Kent's and leave the baby in the car because we don't care about him.

I don't believe people are that black and white, that bad or good. I believe we're all trying our best. And frankly, I'm glad there are people in the world like the lady who saw that baby and cared. I love to think that there are other people looking out for my children, too.

But can we just suspend the judgment? Can we stop posting about it on Facebook for validation, or because we're angry? (Ok, I'm a little angry posting this, so go ahead and call me the pot or kettle, your choice.) Could we maybe instead try to see each other as fellow humans going through something really hard?

Because I love being a mom. I can't imagine my world without my boys in. But sometimes I wish I could just be a mom twenty years ago, instead of today.

We are making this Mom thing way too hard

Someone has to say it.
It's 2019... and we are making this mom thing way too hard.
I know I should probably try to be inclusive and not offend the fathers out there, but in this case I really am just talking to the moms. Because to be honest, I don't think I've ever seen a dad post that he has had serious dad guilt from being sick all weekend and not spending enough time with his kids.

So, some hard truths that we never talk about during play dates (mostly because we're being constantly interrupted by screaming children) but that I feel I need to share in the hopes that someone else will stand up and say they are feeling this way too.

We're supposed to get this right the first time. So we go crazy. We do endless crafts, we read countless parenting books, we entertain them every moment of every day. Pinterest has made us throw elaborate birthday parties for a one year old who takes his nap right when family shows up to party. Social media makes us think our four year olds need to be in four different kinds of sports and we are massively failing if they aren't on a third grade reading level before they start Kindergarten. It's just too much, and it's so much more than other generations expected of themselves.

You will never. clock. out. I didn't get that. Because I was a nanny for 8 years before I had kids, so I thought I knew all there was to know about parenting, and I thought I'd be a great one. That was when I got off at 5:00. I have been on the clock for 4+ years now, and the worst part is, no one is paying me anymore. And while we're going with the work metaphor here, anytime your kid remotely misbehaves in public, or for a babysitter, or acts like anything other than the angel you've been desperately trying to raise them to be, it feels like you got a bad performance review for a job you haven't even clocked out of for 4 years. 

We only see the places where we lack. We never celebrate the things that make us great moms. I love doing fun activities with my kids, but whenever I post one of them, I get a bunch of messages from fellow moms saying, "I wish I was as fun of a mom as you are" or "I never do stuff like that with my kids." Who cares? They'll be fine. You do a hundred things right that I'm getting wrong. Once in awhile, we have to give ourselves a pat on the back for even just keeping them alive this long.

Admit it: we're judging other moms. You can probably name several occasions where someone unfairly judged you as a mom, but if we're being honest, you can probably also name times you (at least in your own head) judged another mom. Internet trolls always immediately jump to the parents whenever a child is hurt- of course it's their fault. But we can't live in fear of what others are thinking of us, because finding your own path as a parent is hard enough without struggling blindly to follow someone elses.

Sometimes, kids are turds. Can we just admit that? I know, they're young and immature and there's a thousand psychological reasons and I was a turd as a kid too, but when I'm exhausted and starving and need a shower and my kid throws a tantrum because his graham cracker is broken, I just don't care about the rational reasons he's acting that way. I don't want to hear that I need to sit and hold his hand and show him how to be calm, or distract him with an elaborate art project. I want to hear someone admit that wow, living with kids is like living in an insane asylum. You're not the crazy one, they are. 

We are raising kids in a different environment than ever. Even our own parents didn't have to worry about screen time and the dangers of the internet the way we do- so where do we turn for knowledge and advice? The internet. And while we're looking up all the dangers facing our children and how to be a perfect parent, we're spending too much time staring at our phones which is apparently ruining our kids forever anyway.

We are the most important, but we don't matter. Even while telling us that moms are the most important piece of the puzzle to have a functioning society, we're being told in the same breath that we shouldn't put ALL our eggs in this basket because one day our kids will grow up and move out and never call us and we'll have nothing left. It's like an artist spending their life on an oil painting they know they will someday burn. I've said it before: this is enough. It's OK if this is the most important thing you ever do. But it's also OK to hide in your room with a book once in awhile, or work on something just for you. You still matter.

You're not supposed to be resentful of this. Because you've watched your friends and family suffer through miscarriages or infertility, or maybe you went through it yourself, and you told yourself no matter what, you would never for a second resent becoming a mom. But then... you do. And you can't say that. You can't even think it without feeling like the biggest scum on the earth. But how can we expect ourselves to look at every bad day, every single trial of parenting day after day and just smile through it? Some days are just hard. Heck, some months are hard. The first year of Arie's life I think I lost half my brain cells from lack of sleep. It doesn't mean you don't love them, or love being a parent, to admit that this is the hardest job out there, and that sometimes, you wish you could go back to the person you were before you had kids.

We're supposed to do it all without a village. Back in the day, it wasn't just a saying- it literally took a village to raise a child. Everyone lived in close quarters and helped each other. One person in the village could be great at entertaining kids, while another was great at teaching patience, and it didn't all fall on one persons shoulders all day, every day. There's a reason I get lonely and stir crazy all day at home with two kids, a reason I have to sit with my husband and just talk to an adult to decompress. We were never meant to do this alone, but that's the way society is these days. 

We go through this difficult challenge of parenting alone, while being judged by strangers everywhere we go, and watching everyone else's fake, perfect parenting wins online. We read the scary statistics about all the dangers and challenges facing our kids, and we go to bed every night with this enormous weight on our shoulders.

We have to cut ourselves some slack. We have to cut other moms some slack and not be so judgmental. We are all doing our very best, and look around: your kids are doing just fine, too. We are supposed to feel some joy as mothers, not just anxiety and guilt and fear. We are making this mom thing way too hard.

10 Years

On June 20th of this year I celebrated 10 years since my baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Other than my bangs, I made some pretty great decisions that day.

I had written this blog post months before, then never finished it and decided not to share it because I felt like I'm not saying anything new or unique, and I didn't want to come across all preachy.
Then today in church I was kind of suffering through the usual Sunday why-am-I-raising-my-kids-in-church-again? blues (you know- kids screaming, Cheerios flying in all directions, not hearing a word anyone at the pulpit is saying) I leaned over and asked Dayen if he wanted to go up and bear his testimony. To my surprise, he instantly said yes.
So of course, I had to kick myself for asking in the first place. But he did give a talk in Primary a few months ago and did a great job, so even though I knew there was a high chance that he would say something naughty into the microphone for the whole ward to hear, we went up there together.
Basically, he said a bunch of nonsense then whispered amen, after which I realized I probably had to bear my testimony too so I fumbled through something that probably made even less sense than his did. But as we were walking away, he grinned at me and said, "Can we try that again?"
Then I came home and saw this picture online:

And it just hit me how important this is. The decision I made to join the church ten years ago felt impossible then- I was facing so much opposition. I lost friends, I ripped apart my family relationships, and some days it feels like I did it all just so I can suffer through a sacrament meeting that I couldn't even listen to.
But that decision mattered. It causes a ripple effect through my family for all time. My decision will affect my posterity forever- and it especially affects my sweet little boys every day.

This is just still new for me.
Nursery, Primary, Young Womens, I never got to do any of it until I was an adult. And I think I've been waiting since my baptism to someday feel like less of a convert. But it's been ten years, and I'm starting to think I never will. 
Because when you join the church in Utah, you're always just a little bit different.
So, here's the post you almost didn't get to read, some bits of knowledge I've picked up over my last decade in the church.

#1- For Members: Converts (probably) don't get the "Culture" of the Church
Case in point: I spent the first few years after my baptism standing in silence while people around me said the Young Women's theme I never learned, or talked about Trek (which sounded terrible- was this church trying to torture its members?) or Linger Longers, Visiting Teaching, having a beard at BYU, and on and on and on. You don't realize when you're immersed in it your whole life just how much about the church isn't doctrinal stuff that missionaries teach converts. I was confused, but it also made me feel like there was a line in the sand: like because I wasn't raised in the church, I would never actually be the same as the other members who had gone to Primary and been baptized at 8 years old.
When you're around a new convert, try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what you take for granted that they might not know. Right after I met Caleb, we were at a fireside where the opening hymn was "Praise to the Man." We were in a stadium full of people who all knew the lyrics... except for me. I was embarrassed, that line in the sand glaring in my face, when Caleb noticed and pulled out his phone, pulled up the lyrics to the song, and quietly handed it to me so I could sing too. It was simple, but it made a huge difference for me. (Obviously. I married the guy.)

#2- For Members: Agency
For sure, the biggest question I get asked whenever someone hears I'm a convert is, "So did anyone in your family join too?" And I get it, because that would make a really great talk in sacrament meeting, or one of those videos in between conference. I found the church, so slowly every nonmember I know should join too because I made it look so awesome.
That does happen, but more often than not in my experience, it doesn't.
Growing up even as a nonmember in Utah, I knew (or thought I knew) a lot about the church. It's not like any of my family members didn't know about it and I was introducing them to something new. But I did feel a lot of pressure right away, like because I believed it, I should be the one to convince everyone I love of the truthfulness of the gospel, too.
But it doesn't work that way, and I firmly believe it isn't supposed to. Sure, God may use you as an instrument to bring others to him. Yes, we should be examples, and live in a way that makes others wonder what is different about your life. And ok, we should all be missionaries. But, and I can't say this loud enough: It is not our job to make anyone join the church. That's why agency is so important. So on that note....

#3- For Nonmembers: We aren't trying to trick you into joining the church
This is touchy for me. Because I think me and every member of my family could give you a mile long list of the people who tried to get us to join the church growing up. And a lot of the time, it wasn't done in the most loving or appropriate way. I know they had the best intentions, but it was always hard as a kid to have someone be friendly, and then stop talking to me when I couldn't come to mutual with them.
So don't get me wrong, if anyone I love wanted to join the church, I would be the first to throw a party and arrange the lessons and drive you to church every week if you want. But that is never my intent. I respect your agency and right to choose for yourself, so I will never drag you to church, try to trick you into listening to my beliefs, or assume I already know what you believe.

#4- For Members: It's not about "Good" and "Bad"
I remember in High School, a girl found out I wasn't a member of the church and in shock she asked me, "So if you're not a member, why don't you drink and party and stuff?"
There's that line in the sand again, and here I come to destroy it.
Because I joined the church at 18, I feel like I can say that my morals came from my character, not from my religion. I never had any desire to drink. I lived the word of wisdom before I knew it. And lots of other people do, too. What's more, is a lot of my friends who were members of the church were the ones sneaking out to party.
So let me say this loud for the people in the back: Being a member of the church doesn't automatically make you "good", and not being a member doesn't make you "bad."
I have had several, let's call them Come to Jesus moments, with fellow members of the church about this, because for some, it is ingrained deep. For example, when I was called to Young Womens, one Sunday one of the other teachers was teaching about dating, and she casually asked, "So should we date people who aren't Mormon?" and the girls, like robots, responded, "Nope." And I had to jump in and say WAIT. That is not what we believe!
The For the Strength of Youth says about dating, "Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards. " That doesn't mean that a nonmember won't share your standards, and it doesn't mean that a member will. Even after we were 16, there were boys who said they couldn't date me in High School because I wasn't a member. One told me on the way into his house to meet his parents for the first time, "Oh by the way, I told them you were a member so they wouldn't kick you out."
It would have made such a difference to me if I had just been treated the way I deserved based on my actions rather than my religious affiliations. Especially at that age, when I couldn't choose to be baptized even if I wanted to.
So please, please, don't be the parent telling your kid they can't play with nonmembers. Tell them to find good friends and be kind- that is all that matters.

#5- For Nonmembers: Members don't always know the "Truth"
Here's something I loved instantly about this church: we are encouraged to seek out truth, to ask questions, and we are told we can receive personal revelation when we come to God with our questions.
And guys, I had a lot of questions.
But I also had an instant trust of anyone who was already a member of the church, especially when a lot of my friends were recently returned missionaries. I loved (and still love) talking about the gospel, delving deep into doctrine with anyone who would listen, but there were several occasions where someone said something that I was shocked by, and I thought, Does this church really believe that? Some of the things I heard were enough to make me want to leave the church, and many people do.
But that's why it's so great that we are encouraged to ask questions. I angrily asked others, even prayed to God about the things I had heard, and I gained more understanding, and even learned that some of the things were outright lies. Ten years later, there has never been anything I've learned that I haven't been able to find an answer to, and that is part of what helps my testimony grow every day.

#6- For Members: Other Churches are More Friendly
Before my baptism, I went to a lot of different churches, and although I did end up joining the Church of Jesus Christ, I hate to admit that I didn't join because the members were friendly. In fact, in my experience, they were the least friendly of all the churches I went to.
Sure, in Utah, many of the other churches were much smaller and more likely to notice a strange face. But every other church I went to, almost every person before or after church would come up and talk to us. As soon as the sermon is over, everyone jumps up to shake everyone's hand, even the people they see every week. I love and miss that kind of fellowshipping. A friendly hello goes a long way in making people feel welcome.
And I promise, you don't have to sit on the same bench every week. The world will not implode if you venture to the other side of the chapel. :)

#7- For Both: Ignorance
It's OK not to believe the same things as someone else. What's not OK is being ignorant about what someone else believes, especially if you want them to hear what you believe. Though I've felt that line in the sand at times, it also means I've had a foot in both worlds, and I have to say: I've seen it a lot and on both sides.
Going to different churches opened my eyes so much to the fact that we all believe a lot of the same things. As my kids get older, I really want to bring them to other churches to teach them what others believe. I took a religious studies class in college that was one of my favorite classes, because I find it fascinating all the different religions and the common threads that tie us all together.
But I have had more encounters than I could count with people telling me what I believe is wrong, people who quit talking to me when I joined the church, or who suddenly think I've lost my mind for joining. And on the other side, I've seen many members turn up their nose to something that comes from another church.
It's not about getting people to believe what we do. We don't need to argue our point to be heard, we need to listen and hear someone else's point of view.
Don't tell me what I believe is wrong. ASK ME what I believe. You might be surprised.

#8- For Members: Are you a Convert?
At the end of the day, that line in the sand really doesn't exist because of one important thing: we should ALL be converts. It doesn't matter if your parents dragged you to church every week, or if a missionary showed up at your door one day and introduced you to a doctrine you'd never heard before. At some point, we all have to choose whether we believe it, whether we're going to live it, whether our testimony has been carried all these years by someone else, or if it's our own.

Mom Life

My house is a mess. I spent 3/4 of the day cleaning, but it's still a mess because of the tiny hurricanes who live here. I try not to care about the mess, but I'm me and I do, so it's an eternal struggle between me and my messy house and my crazy children.
But oh, these boys.

My days are on repeat, like groundhog day but with more diapers and a lot less Bill Murray. I used to have dreams and goals and aspirations, but they are on the backburner while I spend my days keeping two other humans alive. And it's hard not to feel like because I don't have a career, I don't do much. Let's face it, some days it's hard to think that changing diapers and making lunch is contributing. Sometimes I have to ignore that nagging feeling that I gave up being myself to be a mother, and then I see their cute faces and think...
But oh, these boys.

I am tired.
No, scratch that. I am a level of tired I didn't know was possible 5 years ago. Every breath I take is a yawn. Some days I feel like I am walking through jello.
But oh, these boys.

Some days feel like a waste of makeup. Most days, I would be excited if the UPS guy came to the door, because that would be the closest I got to another adult all day. Every day, I am grateful for sweat pants and chocolate chip cookies and Netflix. I don't know what fits anymore, and I definitely don't know what's in style these days.
But oh, these boys.

Even when I do see other adults, all I do is talk about my children. I see the glazed-over eyes when I tell one too many "listen to how funny my toddler is" stories, but I can't help it. They've made me socially weird. I don't see how the whole world doesn't see what me and their Dad and their Grandma's see.
Because oh, these boys.
Sometimes it feels like I am just a mom. But I am their mom. And oh, boy. I couldn't ask for more.

Weight Loss Rules

Breaking news: I have the hottest new diet program you have GOT to try.
All you do is follow a few simple rules.
Rule #1:
Go buy some clothes that fit.
No, seriously. Go get some pants that fit you comfortably. Don't punish yourself for the size you don't want to admit to yourself you are. The size doesn't matter: your comfort does. You, whatever size you are today, deserve clothes that fit. Stop punishing yourself for gaining weight. Stop telling yourself that those smaller pants will somehow be the motivation you need to lose weight. Sure, maybe someday they will fit again. But maybe not. In the mean time, you still need clothes that fit. If you don't, then when you are invited out you will find an excuse not to go because you don't have anything cute to wear. You will put off living your life because you are in a transition period- this isn't your goal weight, so life can't start yet. If you don't do anything else, get some clothes that fit. This is your permission to do so, guilt-free.
Rule #2:
Get rid of your bathroom scale.
Your scale doesn't know you. It can't tell when you are losing fat but gaining muscle. It doesn't know to be extra sensitive because you just had a baby in the last year. It can't tell if you just drank a lot of water today or ate your way through a box of Cheez-Its.
The scale leaves you feeling frustrated when you think you've been doing great but the number doesn't change. So instead, celebrate the non-scale victories. Did you go all day without a cookie, or a soda, or whatever your personal kryptonite is? Victory. Did you walk up the stairs without getting winded? Victory. Did you get a random burst of energy during the day and want to dance around your kitchen with your kids instead of sit around and be lazy? VICTORY. A victory that matters. A victory people can see. Your scale doesn't know anything.
Rule #3:
Love yourself. I know, could I make that one sound any more like a hippie? Probably not. But this is what it's all about. Eating healthy isn't supposed to be a punishment. Eating like crap isn't a reward. If you like yourself, you will take care of yourself. You will learn to go easy on yourself, to remember that sometimes, you are going to fail. You are going to have hard, stressful days that make you want to quit on yourself. You are going to wonder why you don't just fall back into the same old habits. But instead, you will look in the mirror and think, I am still enough. I am not at my goal weight, but I am enough. My life is enough. My weight isn't really what matters. I am what matters.

I saw a quote the other day that I can't stop thinking about. It said:

You are not alive to just pay bills and lose weight.

How many years of your life are you going to waste worrying about your weight? There is so much more. Let's find more in each other, and more in ourselves.