Saturday, March 29, 2008

7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2008

I am no longer unsure of my status. I am officially pregnant, with a due date of December 2, 2008. I think this test is much easier to read than the first one, don't you? Thanks to everyone for your kind comments!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is it just me, or does the symbol on top look like a plus sign?

I Made Dinner

I just made dinner! Great victory for a day like this. Now I think I'll take a nap.

Emotional Reasoning

Monday I started feeling kind of low. This morning I woke up feeling even worse. Today I feel so tired and blah. I just don't feel like I have the energy or drive or motivation to do anything. It feels like I am drugged or in slow motion or in a heavier gravity than usual. It feels like it requires superhuman strength to make dinner and make lunches and clean the living room, when just a week ago that didn't feel very hard at all. When I don't exert the strength it would take to do my work, I feel bad about myself and my "weak character". I know that if I could make myself do my work in spite of how I'm feeling, I would feel better. If I don't do my work because of how I'm feeling, I'll feel worse. One of the Cognitive Distortions that David Burns talks about it "emotional reasoning." I don't feel like doing the dishes, therefore I cannot do the dishes. If I can get myself to do them anyway, I will have a victory. The thing that needs to be done right now is the dinner preparation. I'm off to the kitchen! Writing this has helped.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dark Day For Potato Girl

Yesterday at church I found out that my dear soulmate LL is moving this Thursday to Wisconsin. I thought I had a few more weeks with her!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"I'm dreaming of a White..." Easter?

This past week our dear Ann Arbor friends, Jordan & Andrea, drove up from Dallas to see us. They arrived Wednesday afternoon and stayed through this morning. When they arrived, their children (Peter 9, Leah 6, Hannah 4 & Matthew 2) were so disappointed that it was freezing cold (for them; it felt warm and wonderful to us!) but there was no snow on the ground. I think that is why the heavens provided us with a beautiful snow storm Friday night! Our poor snow-starved guests from Texas were able to go sledding, build a snowman, do snow angels, throw snowballs, make a snow fort...everything! And we had a beautiful White Easter, just like we've always dreamed of.

Here is Adam sitting on the hood of our car, clearing off the windshield::

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eli's New Blog

I am bursting with pride that my little Eli, oldest child and leader of the younger part of the family, has started his own blog. But because I am a mama bear, I have protected it like crazy, and you must be invited to read it. So far, I have invited his aunts, uncles, grandparents, and teachers. If you would like to receive an invitation to view "The E.J. News", send me an email and your request shall be granted!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Journal Entry: 19 February 1997, Manila

I had a thought on the jeep this morning on our way to Uniwide [a store]. Usually when I’m feeling unhappy/ depressed/ down on myself/ discouraged I feel like God is mad at me or he doesn’t love me or I’m not good enough and that my discouragement is coming from him—Hey [Potato Girl], you’d better clean up this mess you call a life. Then it was as if the curtains were drawn this morning as I read verse 15 of Joseph Smith-History:

“I kneeled and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.” It caused him to nearly “sink into despair and abandon [himself] to destruction.”

That is Satan, not God. I’m trying to record something the Spirit taught me in a thought, and words aren’t working too well, but it was as if the pieces suddenly fit together in my mind and heart. Pres. Gerratt at dinner saying I need to slam the door on Satan when he tries to discourage me, tell me I’m bad or unworthy. This attack on Joseph Smith right as he was doing his most righteous, correct, important act so far. All of the struggles I’ve had as a missionary to feel good about myself and my efforts. Satan’s affect on Joseph was to bind his tongue, stop his prayer. What happens when I feel worthless and discouraged? I can hardly pray I hate myself so much. I just cry and want to lie on my bed and not get up. I can only think about how pathetic I am—in affect, my tongue is stopped—i.e. I am stopped in the good works I’m doing, I’m immobilized.

Could this come from God? No! It is Satan and I let him in, I encourage him, I tell myself that God is mad at me, that I’m not doing enough, that I’m being cursed. It’s not true, is it? Lately I’ve had a new idea open in my mind, an idea that here I am in the mission field, trying to serve God, trying to let go of the world—why would God be disappointed? I’m here! I’m not perfect—I count the months left, I daydream about home, I often go to bed at 10:40 and not 10:30, and we usually leave 10 minutes late because I always am the last to get ready. I’m not talking to 10 people a day on the jeep. Those are the things that haunt me, and yesterday morning I was crying with despair because somehow my whole mission was a waste and Heavenly Father couldn’t accept it and wouldn’t bless me because I let myself fall in love [with my husband, Dan] before I left and how could a really dedicated person have done that? That’s like being mad at yourself for eating before you start fasting, or something. Weird.

So this morning I realized that next time I feel like that (you know how I cry at most Zone Conferences, for instance) that I can know it is not coming from Heavenly Father, but some jerk-face trying to keep me from doing this good thing I’m doing and to minimize my joy and peace so I won’t be as effective as I could be.

I think of the love I have for these investigators, love I know comes from Heavenly Father, and I have great feelings of patience with their “failings” and take great joy in tiny little right things they do. I don’t ever feel mad at them, I just keep thinking “how can I help them better to figure this out.” Now if I feel like this, if I can look at every other missionary and take great joy in the miracle that they somehow survived in the church long enough to make it on a mission, of all things, that they are worthy to hold a temple recommend (amazing—what would I do if a couple of Bicutan members could get worthy for the temple!)—I don’t care how ineffective they are, I’m just thrilled to think they’ve come this far, especially if they’re trying to be obedient and improve.

So if I feel that for others, and I’m just some punk kid, doesn’t God feel that for me? But more love, more patience and understanding? He doesn’t want me to feel unhappy and failure-like. That would be like one of my investigators berating herself for “only” reading though Enos after the first discussion, while I’m all thrilled she read at all. Okay, but God doesn’t compare us, and I can’t compare myself and say I’m good because there are other people that aren’t even active [in the church]. But still, none of this “God is mad at me” business. (Potato Girl's mission journal 350-351)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mission Journal

I've been thinking a lot about an important depression-related realization I had while serving as a missionary in the Philippines 11 years ago. I've been wishing that I could find the place in my journal where I might have written something about it, but I have had no idea which of the 439 pages might contain the story. All I can remember is sitting on a bus in Manila looking out the window and having an important, life-altering thought come to me. I've been really hoping to find the passage before teaching my next depression lesson in April, so today during Esther's nap, I sat down with the second half of my old mission journal and started reading through every page. I began with the entry for December 19, 1996, looking for any signs of the depressed thinking that plagued me as a missionary. I found several good passages, but when I reached the entry for February 19, 1997, I found exactly what I'd been hoping to locate.

It is late tonight, so I'll ask you to stay tuned for my next post, when I'll start transcribing this important section of my journal.


A few days ago, Esther discovered a new word: "puddle". It has finally been warm enough this week to feel like spring, and we've been outside like crazy. On Wednesday night we were waiting for Dan to get home, so we decided to walk around the block. Esther was wearing her little red leather boots that I love. I let her walk for exercise instead of riding in the stroller. She discovered a puddle, and stepped in it. Oh boy. After that it was nothing but "puddle" "puddle" "puddle"! By the time we got back to the house her feet were soaking wet and dyed red from her little boots. So yesterday I pulled out the orange rain boots and tried them on her. A little big, but completely puddle-proof. So we took another walk trying out all the puddles in those boots. I think she could tell that her feet weren't getting wet and cold. She was very enthusiastic. Now she is very mad when I try to strap her into the stroller, as all she wants to do is walk multiple times through every puddle in the neighborhood. It does my mommy heart good to see her. Let's hear it for waterproof shoes.

Good Times at Happy Wok

Tonight after soccer, Adam was begging to go to Happy Wok for dinner. Dan was stressed out and Esther was melting down as her bed time came and went, so I ended up having a special date with Eli & Adam over beef with broccoli while Dan took Esther home and put her down. We had a fun meal together. When we eat Chinese food the boys love to write the name of each member of our family next to their appropriate Chinese Zodiac sign on the paper place mats. We start with Grandpa Joe and Grandma Linda, go down through me and Dan and all of our brothers and sisters, and finish with Eli, Adam and Esther. They were extra happy tonight because I let each of them order their own beef with broccoli instead of making them share. They pinky swore to each other that they would finish all of the food on their plates. And they both found out that they like the General's Chicken that I always order, and have decided to add that to their repertoire. We sat next to a nice older lady who talked to us throughout our meal. She showed the boys each kind of vegetable she had in her meal, talked to them about the merits of friend rice over white rice, and gave them her leftover wonton strips. She had a cane with pink daisies all over it.

The boys wanted to do something to cheer up Dan, so I suggested we bring him some ice cream. We walked down the strip mall together to Baskin Robbin and picked out a flavor we thought he'd like. The boys especially liked the fact that it was called "Love Potion #31" since that would let him know that we love him. We talked about how when we got home they should go right to bed and obey their sleep rules because that would help Dad to feel better. They came in the house and told Dan they loved him and that we had bought him some ice cream to help him feel better. He seemed to be in a better mood, and is now snuggling with them in their bed. My favorite part of the evening was while we were at Baskin Robbin and Adam kept saying that he was just so grateful to me for taking them out for dinner that he didn't know what to say.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Toxic Sandbox by Libby McDonald

I have to return this book to the library today because someone else has requested it. The Toxic Sandbox is about environmental toxins and how they affect our children's health. The author focuses her research on the following toxins: LEAD, MERCURY, certain chemicals in PLASTICS (phthalates, especially the three most potent ones, which are diethyl phthalate DEHP, dibutyl phthalate DBP, and benzylbutyl phthalate BBP, as well as bisphenol A), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), brominated FLAME RETARDANTS (PBDEs), AIR POLLUTION, and PESTICIDES.

Since February I have been trying to make small choices to protect my family and the environment, to live a more "green" lifestyle. It is overwhelming when I try to figure out everything at once. There is so much material in this book, for example, that I feel like giving up and burying my head in the "toxic" sand like an ostrich. But I must remember Baby Steps! So here is my assessment of what I'm doing in each of these areas.

LEAD. We live in a 1950s ranch, and I'm afraid it is completely contaminated with lead-based paint, dust, et cetera, but I don't know for sure. So far I have done nothing about this. McDonald suggests that I start by finding out exactly what I'm dealing with in terms of the lead in this house. I can find out by buying a home testing kit at the hardware store, or by hiring someone to come out and do a full assessment (look in the yellow pages under Environmental Products & Services). I think that needs to be my first step.

I feel less overwhelmed by the MERCURY thing. I've read the list of contaminated fish several times before today, and I at least know not to buy "albacore" canned tuna. After that I get confused about how much of each kind of fish is safe for each family member to eat. McDonald suggests a simple formula that I can remember: don't eat any of the high-mercury fish ever. Eat the moderate-mercury fish no more than once a month. Eat the low-mercury fish no more than once a week. There are a lot of fish on each of these lists, but the only ones we really eat are canned tuna, salmon, clams, shrimp, and fish sticks. Of those, canned albacore tuna is on the high-mercury list (don't eat ever). Canned light tuna is on the moderate-mercury/ once a month list. Clams, "Pacific" or "wild caught" salmon (NOT "Atlantic" or "farmed" salmon), shrimp, and fish sticks/ fish sandwiches are on the low-mercury list to be eaten no more than once a week. To keep track of when we're eating it, I'm thinking of instituting a Catholic fish Friday type of deal at my house. I've also switched from buying canned tuna to buying canned alaskan salmon (boneless skinless!) so that we can eat "tuna" salad sandwiches more than once a month.

As for the PLASTICS I've been thinking about this, but still feeling overwhelmed by it. I am trying to not buy anything new made of plastic. I'm turning my mind to glass, wood, and metal alternatives. This past Saturday I got rid of all of the plastic toys in the house that the children rarely use and took them to Salvation Army. I'm about to replace my dirty old vinyl shower curtain with a new one, and I'll make sure it is the safe kind. I've been thinking about storing leftovers in our glass containers instead of plastic ones, but I haven't done it yet. McDonald says that more harmful chemicals leach out of plastic when it is heated, so avoid putting hot things into plastic or microwaving plastic. It is probably time for me to just switch all hot foods or foods that I plan to heat up to glass, and use the plastic containers for cold things that will never be heated. I've been saving large glass jars from pickles, etc., instead of recycling them, to use for this purpose. Just FYI, before I move on to the next topic, the phthalates are in soft plastics, like vinyl. Bisphenol A is in polycarbonate, the hard, shiny plastic. Here are some helpful websites: For phthalate-free beauty products go to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics; for phthalate-free toys and home products try Clean Production Action or Greenpeace. For a quick reference on plastic products check out The Green Guide.

For now, I don't have the time or energy to do a thorough reading about PCBs and flame retardants (PBDEs), so here is just a bit of info if you're interested. PCBs were banned by the federal government in 1977, but they are still around. To keep away from them, avoid farmed salmon, which includes all "Atlantic" salmon. Avoid the fatty tissue of meat and dairy products, i.e. choose low or fat-free options (or be a vegan like Michelle!). Get rid of dust around your home.

AIR POLLUTION in one sentence or less: drive less, beware of smelly school bus emissions, don't idle your car.

PESTICIDES can be reduced by buying organic foods. For more on this, see my post on Potato Girl in Michigan about the Dirty Dozen.

Well, that concludes my review of The Toxic Sandbox by Libby McDonald. Good luck, and please write in with any tips you may have for me.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New 'Do

The other day Dan observed that the way I do Esther's hair (one whale spout on top of her head) leaves a lot of loose hair for her to wipe syrup and other goodies in.  He wondered if I knew how to do any other hairstyles that might keep more of her hair out of harm's way?  I'm not really a hair person (and that is an understatement), but I rose to the challenge and came up with this new 'do for Essie Lou:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mid-Winter Break and The Value of Quarters

The last time the boys had time off from school (2 weeks over Christmas), I did no exercise of any kind and gained about ten pounds.  Yes, I can gain weight that easily.  So as we approached their one week long mid-winter break, I started thinking to myself, "I've just finally re-lost the 10 pounds I gained from not exercising at Christmas.  Do I really want to gain it back again from another week of not exercising?"  I made a plan that I would take the three kiddos down to the YMCA first thing every morning so that I could swim while they played together in Child Watch.  The only problem with my plan is that the boys don't like to go to Child Watch, and I usually give in to them when they complain long and loud enough.  So I decided to bribe them.  I offered each boy one quarter for each day that he went to Child Watch with Esther so that I could swim.  And you know what?  For the low, low price of $1.50, I was able to swim three mornings in a row!  On the fourth morning, Thursday, I shoveled Janie's gigantic driveway for exercise instead.  And then, conveniently, it snowed AGAIN, so I got to shovel my own 12 mile long sidewalk for exercise on Friday.  And that concluded my week of exercise while the kids had a break from school.  A smashing success, especially compared to Christmas!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Winter Walk

There is a small forest that borders the boys' elementary school.  Each winter the children make lanterns in art class, and on one snowy night, the lanterns are set out all along the trail through the woods for a walk from 7 to 8 p.m.  Last year Aunt Leslie took the boys, and they had a wonderful time.  I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about until I went for the first time tonight.  It was magical.  There were over 400 lanterns, each lit with a candle, glowing in the snow along either side of a long winding trail.  I kept trying to take pictures of it, but the flash ruined the affect and without the flash you can hardly see anything at all.  I wish I could have captured it for you, but here's the best I could do. This is with the flash:

This is without the flash:

And did I mention that after the walk there was a smorgasborg of free cookies and hot chocolate in the multi-purpose room?  We were especially smitten by the chocolate chunk variety (don't tell Healthy Potato Girl that I said that).

Now I understand why Adam has been saying that he would like us to have one more baby so that we can keep going to the winter walk.  He is afraid that when our family runs out of elementary school students we won't be able to go any more.  Adam, if you're reading this, I want you to know that Dad and I are planning to do the winter walk every year from now on, as long as we live in Ann Arbor, whether we have another baby or not.