Born with the Light of Christ

Categories: Gospel

This morning over waffles Brett and I were wondering why it is exactly that it seems universal for toddlers to fling themselves on the ground when they throw a fit. Just what does that accomplish? As long as Iddo isn’t flinging herself on the tile floor (which she’s done a time or two and watching her head hit makes me sick so we stop that quick if we haven’t been able to prevent it in the first place), we tend to let her fling and she can come find us when she’s done.

Children are born with more than just a universal way to throw a tantrum though. They are born with a moral compass. A study done on babies as young as 3-months-old indicates they already know to reward good, helpful people and bad, unhelpful people are not nice. They have a conscience. They understand the basics of morality.

In other words, we are born with the Light of Christ. We are born with the ability to judge between right and wrong, an ability that is honed and developed as we grow, but which is there in embryo from the start. “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;” (see Moroni 7:16-18).

Iddo is already learning how to use that light, or spirit, to help her in this life. I’ve watched her be real excited to see people who are nice to her and I’ve watched her give the side-eye to people who, while they aren’t mean, don’t take her wants and desires seriously (like picking her up when she has in no way indicated she wants to be). Her side-eye is definitely different from her expression when she’s just not familiar with a person yet. And I didn’t have to teach her that. I’ve reinforced it, but she already came knowing good from evil.

Children are definitely not a blank slate. No tabula rasa here. No born evil and needing to beat it out of them. Children are born good. And they are born knowing the basics of what else is good in this life too.

Boringly healthy

Categories: Health

A few weeks ago they thought they heard some heart palpitations, an irregular irregularity, at my doctor’s office so they referred me to a heart center. I thought they were hearing things. But decided I’d get it checked for their peace of mind.

The heart center called after getting the referral and we set up the appointment. When I told the person on the phone the situation surrounding the supposed palpitations she agreed with me that pretty much everything is irregular for me right now and it was probably nothing.

I had the appointment yesterday afternoon. The only other person in the waiting room even close to my age was a health assistant there taking care of a very old person.

They did an electrocardiogram and you have never seen anything more regular in your life. Every single heart beat is exactly like the one before.

They listened to my lungs and told me I have great lungs. They listened to my heart and told me it sounded beautiful. They found out I’ve never smoked, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t use caffeine, and I don’t add salt to my food and told me I’m boringly healthy. The only thing they could say is my blood pressure is just a little low.

Given my past history of going to the doctor it was kind of nice to go to one and be told I am perfectly normal.

Learning in the womb

Categories: Science & Tech

There’s a lot of evidence that we humans start learning before we are born, even laying down memories two months or so before birth. Babies are born knowing what their mothers sound like and recognizing their mother’s scent. And if their dad spent a lot of time talking at them, they can recognize his voice too. They remember songs or stories they heard repeatedly in the womb. It’s amazing what we do before we even start breathing.

Turns out humans aren’t the only ones with this ability. Superb fairy wrens in Australia learn their mother’s voice and an apparent code word before they are even born that their mothers use to identify which chicks in the nest are theirs and need food and which chicks are intruders of a different species and are trying to steal their babies’ resources. The fact that they don’t need months in the womb/egg to start learning is irrelevant because their few weeks in the egg aren’t exactly the as the months in the womb.

It would be interesting to find out how many more babies learn before birth and just how many things we are learning clear from the get-go.

At the beginning

Categories: Education, Happy Things, Life

I still remember the day when I was tutoring one of my early morning math students and it finally clicked for him. Multiplication was not his thing. So I had a box of beans and for every problem he’d make his groups and count each bean individually. Gradually I made the groups bigger and made more groups for him. Then one morning he turned to me and asked if there wasn’t an easier way to solve those problems than to count all those darn beans.

Being a teacher is being present at the creation, when the clay begins to breathe. Nothing is more exciting than being nearby when breathing begins. I teach because being around people who are beginning to breathe, I occasionally find myself catching my breath with them.
- Ann Madsen
Being Present at the Beginning,” McKay Today News, 16 December 2013

I loved being their for those beginning moments with my elementary students. I even had those moments while I was teaching college. Those might have actually been bigger because the students would recognize them more for what they were too. It was a great blessing in my life to be a teacher in that way.

I consider it one of my greatest blessings that it works for our family for me to be home with Iddo all day long. To be there at the creation of her knowledge, when her mind takes a new breath. I don’t know how much I’m actually teaching her right now or if I’m just providing an environment for her to do more learning on her own. Either way, it’s a privilege to be there for those moments.

Lost memories

Categories: Gospel

Two weeks ago I blogged about what types of memories make up our earliest memories. Research has been done about why we can’t remember things that well before around 3 years old. It’s called childhood amnesia. And it really kicks in between the ages of 7 and 9 (see “The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade” and “Why Can’t You Remember Being a Baby“). One reason seems to be that as our brains mature, and the speed at which they do so increases, our ability to access those early memories disappears. And that makes sense as a scientific physical reason for forgetting.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I believe that we all lived as spirit children of God before we were born in a premortal existence (see “We Lived With God” and “Plan of Salvation. God’s Plan for Your Life and Happiness“). During this life we must live by faith and that requires us to not remember what our premortal life was like. This forgetting is referred to as the veil that separates our mortal world from the immortal one. When we reach 8 years of age we have reached the age of accountability, we are accountable for our actions and are old enough to make our first covenants with God and be baptized.

There is not doctrine on it, but I personally believe that our mortal minds are not covered with the veil directly at birth. In my mind it seems cruel to cut a newborn baby off from the premortal life when she has no way to communicate or understand the world she has found herself in. I feel like the veil is a gradual forgetting. As we become more interactive with this mortal world our connection to the immortal one fades. And around age 8 we are fully connected to this world. We are accountable for what we do.  And we must walk by faith on what we knew previously. Childhood amnesia, or a veil, covers our early memories.

I have no idea if my thoughts are right or not. But it seems interesting how childhood amnesia lines up with the age of accountability. It’s something to think about anyway. And if I am right, it makes me wish all the more I could understand the exciting stories that Iddo loves to babble at us. The wisdom she must have right now. Out of the mouths of babes.

Beauty Secrets

Categories: Health, Life

My biggest beauty secret is that I love who I am and what I look like. When I look at our wedding photos I see a nice dress. I see a relatively good hair day considering the weather. But the beauty I see is, well, because I love Brett and was super happy to be marrying him and also because I’m fully confident in who I am and what I look like.

I do have a few more tangible beauty secrets though. And while I still have a lot of things to figure out, like bobby pins, these are the things I’ve learned so far and the things I love.

Issue: Unwanted body hair
Solution: An epilator.

Yes. I rip all the hair out of my legs, and my underarms. I can’t remember the last time I used a razor. My hair does grow back but because it isn’t cut off I never have scratchy stubble. It’s finer and softer than it can ever be with a razor. I bought my epilator in 2002 and haven’t had to buy anything else since. It takes about an hour once a week (or every two weeks depending on how busy I think I am). I’ve tried waxing – had a bad reaction to that. I’ve tried Nair type stuff – ended up with chemical burns and the hair was almost all still there. Yes it hurt when I first started, but it doesn’t bother me at all any more. I’ll sit on the floor and take care of my legs while watching TV or reading a book. I don’t need to watch what I’m doing at all.

Issue: Menstruation
Solution: Fertility tracking & a menstrual cup.

First, I recommend the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” so that you can understand your body and know what is going on rather than just guessing. From the time I entered this lovely phase of life I’ve kept track of how long and at what interval my body does its thing. I’m lucky that I’m rather regular so I could guess within a few days what would happen, but I never knew for sure. Then I read this book and started paying attention to my body. Now I can pinpoint pretty much to the day what’s happening and I’m more than prepared for it with my second recommendation – a menstrual cup. I’ll pause while you think that’s gross for a second. But really, you should get over that gross thought because menstruation is not gross.

Feminine pads feel like you are wearing a diaper and there’s that whole odor thing as well as having to constantly buy them and keep them on hand wherever you go. Potty training was to get us to stop sitting in discharge, why do we go back for menstruation? Tampons avoid the diaper and odor thing, but they leak, can cause TSS, are full of chemicals used in making them, absorb all your natural fluids, you have to actually start before you can use them, and you have to constantly buy them and keep them on hand. I did recently see a better use for tampons than menstruation on The Art of Manliness: The Swiss Army Survival Tampon – 10 Survival Uses. Feminine pads are also great to keep in your first aid kit because of their absorbancy power that can be used as pressure dressings on wounds.

A menstrual cup has no odor because air does not interact with the fluid (which is what causes the odor). When it’s in correctly you can’t feel it at all. You can insert it when you know you are going to start and catch it from the very beginning. It does not dry you out because it collects fluid rather than absorbs it, which also means it won’t cause TSS. It does not contain any chemicals. I don’t have to carry anything extra with me when I go out. It actually lessens my cramps, which considering the level of cramps I have says a lot. And I bought mine (I use a DivaCup but there are a lot of types out there) once 5+ years ago and have not needed to buy another one since. There is a learning curve, it takes a cycle or two to really get the hang of it. But then you’ll never go back.

Issue: Long, Straight Hair
Solution: A comb in the shower and acceptance.

I love my long hair. I had a traumatizing pixie cut at 8 and it’s never been above my shoulders since, kind of, with the exception of another traumatizing cut at 21 that was about mid-way down my neck. Washing very long hair, especially if you are in a place with low water pressure like I was in Brasil, can be a problem. I discovered that combing shampoo and conditioner through my hair in the shower with a large toothed comb really helps clean it and rinse it and keep it smooth. To keep the ends from drying out when it’s long I only apply shampoo to my head and let it run through the ends and then I only apply conditioner to the ends and let the natural oils handle the scalp. I also only wash my hair every three days on average, brushing the natural oils through to the ends as much as possible in between.

The second aspect of my hair is that it is super straight, no matter how long it is. For the first two decades of my life I tried to deny that with perms. No more. I’ve decided my hair is what it is. It is straight. Humidity makes my hair even straighter. And when it’s long it’s also heavy and the curls on the left side of my head are already falling out by the time I’m curling the right half. And my beauty secret now – accepting my long straight hair is beautiful. It is what it is.

Issue: Uneven skin tone
Solution: Sunscreen!

For the longest time I’ve been self-conscious of the fact that there is a bit of a shadow on my upper lip. And it’s not from hair. So getting rid of that wouldn’t make any difference. Only 2nd graders notice the hair, and that’s only when they’re standing right in front of me and looking straight up. Or, at least, they’re the only ones who comment on it.

I’ve tried lots of different foundations and concealers to try and mask it but none of them worked to my satisfaction.

Earlier this summer though it finally dawned on me that it might actually be that my upper lip tans while the rest of my face doesn’t. Strange. But I thought I’d try an experiment. I’ve been putting oil-free, dry-touch, made-for-faces sunscreen on my face every morning now (something I should’ve started, oh, 30+ years ago). And my upper lip is no longer dark! I stopped using foundation in general a few years ago and I’m noticing that I wouldn’t even think I’d need it any more either. Not just the tone of my upper lip has evened out, but my whole face.

Yea sunscreen! Use it!!

What are your favorite beauty secrets?

She’s not a horror story

Categories: Family, Happy Things, Musings

Why is it that humans like to one-up each other? You tell me about something horrid that happened to you and I have to tell you my horrid story, with more gore than yours. Why is that? This is especially true of women and their birth stories.

Oh the pain! The anguish! The humanity!! You think you’re miserable when you’re pregnant? Just you wait. You’ll be doubly so in labor and be cursing the heavens and wanting to die during the actual delivery. And of course that’s nothing compared to the misery of having a newborn. No siree. With how awful it is to have children it’s a wonder we ever do it at all.

Part of me wonders if childbirth, and other horrible things (like reading Isaiah) are horrible simply because we expect them to be. We go in with certain expectations and then we find and focus on the details that meet those expectations.

I knew labor and delivery would not be the easiest thing I would ever do. But I also knew the odds of it actually killing me were very slim. There are certainly parts that were not fun which I could definitely build up to a horror story if I wanted to. But I don’t. I actually tend to tell them with a humorous twist.

The birth of our daughter was not a horror story. And I refuse to tell it as such.

When I tell the story I mention the really crappy parts, and I move on. I don’t focus on those parts because they aren’t the focus of the story, they aren’t the point of the story, they aren’t the climax of the plot.

The birth. Meeting a brand new human just arrived on this earth from heaven. The most spiritual experience I’ve ever had. That’s the point of the story. And that’s how I intended to always tell it.

A beautiful experience