Category Archives: Self reliance

Lessons from Eden: Allowing the Serpent

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Of late, I’ve been contemplating the Eden Myth and particularly the Serpent in that story.

My upbringing initially gave me a single understanding of the serpent symbol – that of Satan, the devil and deceiver. However, reading the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series in my teens (oh, yes, my Mormon is showing), introduced me to the Serpent-Messiah symbol, which adds complexity to the Garden narrative. In fact, it has left me wondering for many years if the “sin” Satan was punished for wasn’t beguiling Eve but stepping in where Christ should’ve been. This is especially true because God gave to Adam ALL the trees of the garden and Eve was never instructed not to eat of the one (having not been created yet when Adam was warned away).

The choice of a serpent is even more interesting to me when its symbolic meaning is evaluated against Jewish/Israelite and other cultures and beliefs. The snake represents rebirth, wisdom, fertility, intellect, and more.

But I digress. My thoughts of late have shifted specifically to wondering who let the snake in. Of course, this is assuming a literal version of events, but follow me anyway.

If God created Eden under any circumstances (as a haven, a place to allow Eve & Adam to learn and grown and “progress” to maturity once they were separated from Heaven, or a place for them to exist in the in-between as long as they chose not to progress further, of as a place for them to live in perpetuity) then God Themselves set the rules.

They could’ve kept the serpent out. They could’ve kept the serpent from beguiling Eve simply by keeping it out.

Think about that. The entire fall was completely preventable with a simple rule change.

The Serpent didn’t sneak past God. It didn’t get there without the knowledge and allowance of Heaven. God, all powerful and all knowing, could’ve prevented not only a fall, but the beguiling of Eve.

They didn’t. That tells me something.

I don’t believe in a God that sets us up to fail. I don’t believe that we are supposed to intuit the rules or receive them second hand.

Clearly, Eve was always intended to take the fruit. She was always intended to allow for our progression. Our Heavenly Parents have no desire to keep us from more light and knowledge. At some point, They let the Serpent in. They let the Serpent “get to” Eve.

To me, Eve’s fall was a carefully thought-out choice but that choice was available to her because God allowed it. To me, it’s a powerful message that we were always meant to progress (and transgress) beyond the boundaries of Eden.

God is not afraid of our rebirth. They are not afraid of our gaining light and truth, wisdom and knowledge, experience and understanding. They teach us line upon line and, in time, they allow the Serpent to appear in our lives. That’s not necessarily a sign that we should turn away (remember the Brazen Serpent and the Messiah-Serpent archetype).

Instead, it may be a sign that we are ready to grow again.

Independence and overparenting

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Independence and overparenting

As Miss M gets older, I’ve been thinking a lot about free range parenting. That’s definitely my style and I’m loving the independence it’s building in my toddler.

So far, we’ve been really lucky to not have people freak out when they see my two year old running around without mommy right there next to her. In fact, we were at Lagoon on Saturday and she wandered a little bit away and just stood by herself while lots of people came and went around her. Eventually, someone knelt down at eye level to ask if she was lost (I think; I couldn’t hear the conversation), and while a part of me is a little disturbed that it took as long as it did, part of me is glad that I didn’t have to be right there to ward off strangers and she explored a little on her own.

It was so different than an experience I had several months ago.

We took Monkey and two “cousins” to a playground for a couple of hours while our friends went to a concert. While it was a glimpse into what our life could look like if we had had another baby sooner after M, instead of “waiting” longer like we are, it was also an experiment in hands-off parenting. With three kiddos under six, it’s impossible to play “hands on” with each of them. Moreover, grownup-free play is important to child development, even at a young age.

In fact, this situation was the perfect kind of tribal play that evolutionary developmental psychologist Peter Gray champions.

The play area was full of kids. It didn’t occur to me to count, but Mack remarked that it was busy. There were kids that were toddlers, a few who were older (8 and 9ish, possibly older) and most in between. From time to time, I would lose sight of a child as others would get in my sight line or they would climb into a tunnel or behind a structure. For the most part, I could see them, but they couldn’t see me.

These kiddos knew where we were and that we were there if they needed us, but for the most part, they were free to play independently.

We sat outside the playground, instead of on the parent benches within the enclosure where most of the adults were. This wasn’t a problem until Monkey got up somewhere she couldn’t immediately get down from. After only a few moments another parent jumped right in and helped her down.

This “other mother” looked around and then at her friend and said something like “where is her mom?”

It struck me then (once again) how much I am not a helicopter mom. I definitely would’ve stepped in if M had been seriously stuck, but she hardly had a chance to try to work it out herself. It seems that we’re robbing our children of important opportunities to learn.

Free range parenting has come under a lot of scrutiny and even resulted in CPS and other “legal” action against parents who subscribe to it as it’s gained popularity. The crazy thing is, in many ways our lives are safer than they’ve ever been. We’re just extremely risk averse.

One of my many-greats aunts wrote in her journal about their trip across the plains to Utah. She and her friend would depart early, ahead of the handcart company, so they could play on the trail during the day and not get left behind the company. Agnes was nine at the time. It seems a little unbelievable to me that a nine year old could just be trusted like that. Even in my very free range parenting, I’m not sure I’d be ok with my child heading out on her own across the plains of the US unsupervised (and I’ve been out there; there’s still nothing there).

Sometimes I wonder what the cost is. Do we overparent our children into a perpetual childhood? Am I raising a child who will be unable to cope in a society of adults babied first by their parents and then by their government? Am I running a great risk of losing my child to a CPS worker because I admit on a public blog I let her wander even a little ways off at a crowded amusement park? I really worry about all these things.

No doubt we’re all doing our best. Even the other mom was just stepping in to make sure my child was ok. I want my kids to be empowered and independent (age appropriately so), not always looking to me for rescuing. I think a more free range attitude does that. As I’ve let go and let M explore, I’ve been amazed to find out how capable even a 2 year old can be. It’s exciting to see. I can’t wait for more to come!

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Photo from Fox13

 

Trying to keep track

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We have a terribly bad habit in my extended family: we don’t really keep personal records. I have an aunt who is a professional genealogist, but she “married in” and is not related by blood. Beyond that, I don’t think any of us are really good record keepers (I took an informal survey of my family on Facebook and most of us admitted to “trying” and doing it in stops and starts but not with real consistency).

In some ways, it’s not our “fault” as this bad habit has been passed down from our ancestors (and, yes, the irony in that strikes me), according to my mother. For example, Elizabeth Caldwell, a grandmother of mine, who came to Utah with the Willie Handcart Company, wrote little to nothing of her experience. Meanwhile, her sister, Agnes (who is an aunt), was much more prolific and her stories have been told repeatedly in LDS general conferences, the movie 17 Miracles and elsewhere. Elizabeth was one of many who passed down bad habits.

I come by this weakness doubly cursed. My father’s family kept very few records and most of the little I know about my ancestry on that side comes from government records and the occasional story from a long lost cousin (who could share about my ancestors because his ancestors mentioned them in journals). My grandfather saw so little point in family history, he threw away boxes of it (a thought that still makes me want to throw up).

This lack of family record keeping makes me sad, especially as I try to get to know my ancestor better. I want my own children to know more than I do about who they are and where they came from and I want to know the angels who surround me better. I’m also a writer and I feel like if anyone is going to do a decent job of keeping a written record, it “should” be me, the writer.

More than any of that, though, I want to remember my own life better and keep better records of my children as they grow. I want my children and grandchildren to know who I was and how I became who I am.

I recently purchased a “one line a day” journal in an attempt to help me along. I’m finding that it’s helpful to have, although it definitely doesn’t automatically make a habit. Rather than doing it daily, I’m finding time every week or two and while I remember “big” things, I’m left with a lot of holes.

In fact, that’s bee the most disturbing thing to me: there are many days I don’t remember a single thing that happened and that those days I’m forgetting are just a week or two prior. There are literally huge blocks of my life which I have completely forgotten.

It’s a horrifying thought to me.

It also leaves me sad as a mom because that means that there are blocks of my child’s life I’m forgetting. There are things I want to remember, but can’t because there’s not space in my brain and I’m not writing them down.

I even have a journal for Little Miss because I wanted to keep track of “things” and I wanted her to know who she was as tiny human person. I write in it rarely and while I’d rather spend time with Little Miss than write in her journal, I know when I have time, I’m choosing to make other choices. I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt on that one, but I’ll admit I sometimes feel like a bad mom because of it.

As I’ve been evaluating my own record keeping, I’m learning that I want to keep better records as much for me as for anyone else.

I’m trying to keep track of my life better. Photos, videos and journal writing – even one sentence journals – are some of the ways I’m trying to do that.

Maybe one day my great-grandkids won’t curse me the way I curse my great (great, great, great, great)-grandparents and perhaps I’ll be able to hold onto the fleeting moments a little better.

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Addressing Essential Oil Safety

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I’ve been contemplating how to write this post for a while. I feel somewhat unqualified to address it because I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic of essential oils. However, as essential oils gain popularity and more and more people I know start using them, I feel like I need to speak up.

I love essential oils. I grew up with them. My mom started using them over 20 years ago and using them are part of my mentality.

As I’ve changed from a passive user (meaning that someone else has told me how to use them and what to use) to an active user, I’ve spent a lot of time researching them. I’ve learned a lot about the oils I grew up with and added new favorites. They are wonderful, powerful tools.

However, essential oils are not inert. They are powerful tools and need to be used with respect.

Lavender oil can increase prepubescent breast tissue. Peppermint oil can cause laryngeal spasms which can close a child’s airway. Clary sage can induce labor and cause miscarriage. Tea tree oil can cause nerve damage.

My purpose in sharing these oil dangers is not to scare anyone away from using oils, but to illustrate a point. Like all powerful tools, there are benefits and there are potential risks. The important thing is to be informed of these risks and how to minimize them.

There are essential oil companies on the market whose recommendation for use is unsafe.

Most oils should not be used “neat” (undiluted), taken internally, used at “normal” strength on children or “diluted” with water (come on, people… oil can’t be diluted with water; this is basic chemistry). If you react to them, it’s not your body detoxing. It’s you having a reaction to them and if you do not discontinue use, you should only continue with extreme caution.

Many of the essential oil sales reps are my friends and neighbors. I don’t blame them for not having proper information. It’s a corporate issue and it’s at least a little bit profit-driven.

If you use one drop of oil diluted in a teaspoon of carrier oil, you will use your oil more slowly than if you need six to ten drops of neat essential oil to cover the same area. The company is going to sell less.

I’m not saying to never use oils neat, to ingest them, to use them in a bath or on a child. We do all of those things at our house. But we research them, consider the risks and the benefits and make a decision based on those things.

Even still, we aren’t immune from negative reactions. Little Miss Monkey has a lavender allergy (I have a sensitivity) which made it difficult for her to breathe when we used it on her. That was VERY scary as a mom. I also recently discovered I have a thyme allergy. Thyme was/is a new oil to me and I had a very painful reaction to it. In both cases, we were using best practices and following safety guidelines. If we weren’t, both of our reactions could’ve been much, much worse.

If you are new to essential oils (or even if you’re a veteran user), I love the web site Learning About EOs and the Facebook page Using Essential Oils Safely.

I’ll begin the way I started – I love essential oils. They are wonderful, powerful tools. They have risks and it’s important to be aware of them. By doing so, we can use them for their incredible benefits in a safe way.

 

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An Open Letter to the LDS Church on Breastfeeding

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This letter was written on behalf of an acquaintance who was facing challenges from church leadership to her decision breastfeed “in public” at church (meaning that she did not excuse herself to the Mother’s Room). I spoke at length with her about the situation before I wrote my letter. Out of respect for her request that this situation not become public, I have held this letter for many months. Now, I feel comfortable sharing it.

Given that today is the first day of World Breastfeeding Week and a breastfeeding in church situation just came up again, I feel like now is an especially appropriate time to share this.

While it is addressed to the members and leaders of my faith, the same principles apply to members and leaders of all religious congregations and to members and leaders of the community at large.

Our Little Miss is now 22 months old and still breastfeeding. I still nurse her in public if she needs to. My hope is to encourage people everywhere to support women who breastfeed so that they and their babies can have the benefits of  breastfeeding until the physiologically normal age of weaning.

Dear members and leaders of the church,

I am an LDS mother. I have a beautiful almost-5-month old girl. From long before she was born, my husband and I have been making decisions with her best interests at heart. We have had long, intense conversations about the choices we are making.

It is important to us to give Monkey everything she needs to grow up healthy and strong and smart, with a conversion to the gospel and reliance on Heavenly Father.

One of those keys for us is breastfeeding her.

My husband and I have had long conversations about breastfeeding “in public”, which means anywhere from an intimate dinner with friends to during a trip to the mall. Somewhere between these two is attending church.

After those conversations, we have decided that not only is it appropriate for me to breastfeed M in church – in the chapel, during Sunday School or Relief Society (or during Young Women’s if I got called to serve our young sisters) – it is valuable to more than just M and me.

When Little Miss was born, breastfeeding was not easy for me. Like many modern women, I had not been exposed to it the way my grandmothers were. I had to learn how and I nearly gave up. I wish I had known someone in my ward who could help as my family is all far away. I wish I had grown up more exposed to breastfeeding (and since I am the oldest of four and my mother breastfed all of us, I was exposed to it some and it was still not enough). I wish that it had not been so foreign to me.

Ultimately though, when I breastfeed Monkey in public, my goal is not to offend. It is not to make a statement. It is not to educate others. It is simply to feed or comfort my baby.

When I do not “excuse myself” to another room, I do it not to throw my beliefs in someone else’s face. I do not wish to make others uncomfortable. I simply want to be a part of whatever else is happening or be blessed through participation in church and still do what is best for my baby.

We live in a world that is increasingly sexualized and our exposure to human bodies increases while our comfort level with our own bodies decreases. This is especially new of women and new mothers.

Like me, few women instinctively know how to breastfeed and there are many, many barriers to doing it. Unfortunately, one of these for LDS women is a culture that discourages us from any sort of familiarity with our own bodies. In an effort to stay “morally pure” we are not given the skills we need to be good mothers. This is tragic.

It has long-reaching consequences for the young men in the church as well. They are taught (as girls are as well), that “sex is bad, until you get married”. At the same time, they see semi-nude images almost everywhere they go.

For many, the taboo nature of a woman’s body in the LDS faith coupled with the sexualization of her in modern culture leads our young men to be curious. Some of them turn to parents or church leaders for answers while others, sadly, turn to friends and peers and the internet. This natural curiosity leads some of them down dark paths of addiction to pornography that takes excruciating work to overcome.

When leaders of the church ask women to cover up while breastfeeding their babies at church (or worse, go to another room), they reinforce these world-created narratives of a woman’s body and add barriers to something that is already not easy. They create secrecy or shame where there is none and they alienate women who often need the church interaction the very most.

Church leaders and other members would do woman an incredible service to every member of the church if they actively supported breastfeeding moms who care for their children (sometimes despite personal discomfort or inconvenience and public, cultural and familial disapproval) in the way their children most need. Sometimes this means uncovered at an unclothed breast.

A woman’s body is sacred and should be honored and respected, especially when it is being used to do exactly what our Heavenly Father purposed it to do: provide bodies for His spirit children and nourish and rear them.

Thank you so much for your support of us as breastfeeding mothers.

Lacey

P.S. This little package – a nursing cover – was delivered to an acquaintance of mine this week. It came from the Young Women of her ward. I am beyond horrified that this lesson is being taught to the Young Women by their leaders. Breasts, like nearly every part of the body, have both a utilitarian and a sexual purpose. This attitude creates shame, fear and unfamiliarity with breastfeeding. It should never, ever happen. Let’s work together to normalize breastfeeding, end the modesty debate and support mothers and babies everywhere!

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In which I practice witch-doctory and make cough syrup (pictorial)

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We’ve had a little bit of illness in our house recently. Husband has had terrible allergies and Monkey had the sniffles (that I thought were teething related) which have now turned into a cough.

Unfortunately, when our little little ones are sick, there’s not much modern medicine can do for them. Cough medicine is not safe to give babies and frankly I would prefer to avoid it anyway.

If you know my extended family in real life, you know that we trend towards a bit alternative. This is especially true of my mom who I have lovingly called The Witch Doctor for years.

Well, on Sunday, I found myself following in her witch doctor footsteps, trying to concoct something to ease my little one year old’s cough (and help DH in the process).

So I got online and looked for recipes. To my disappointment, most of the recipes were pretty limited or pretty disgusting.

It’s great if you can fix a sore throat with honey and lemon or if as an adult you can gulp down an onion-and-garlic tonic, but that was not going to work for a toddler. I also wanted something that was going to really pack a punch. So using my limited but growing knowledge of alternative medicines and my extensive Google skills, I made something up.

The first ingredients I used were powered Mullein and Ginger. Mullein is an expectorant and ginger is an antitussive.

Ingredients 1

I added 1 tablespoon of ginger and 2 tablespoons of mullein to 1 1/2 cups of water. Next time, I’ll add less mullein as the mixture was quite thick and didn’t dissolve as well as I had hoped. I don’t know if mullein powder is water soluble anyway, but I’m convinced that I added too much powder. Next time I’ll probably do 1 tablespoon of mullein.

I headed the mixture on the stove and brought it to a low boil and simmered about 5 minutes to create an infusion.

In Process 1

Next, I strained the mixture. Again, I learned some things. The next time I do this, I’ll use cheesecloth instead of coffee filter, which didn’t handle the thickness of the mixture very well.

In Process 2

It was at this point Husband wandered into the kitchen and asked if he should call me the Witch Doctor or the Apothecary…

Once I squeezed as much liquid out as I could, I measured it and put it pack in the pan. I lost about half my liquid.

To the mullein-ginger infusion I added lemon and clove essential oils (10 drops of lemon, accidentally 11 of clove), which are both known for their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal qualities.

Ingredients 2

I also added 1/4 cup coconut oil (which may be beneficial for treating asthma, bronchitis, colds, cough, earache, fever and flu), and 1/8 cup lemon juice (mostly for flavor, since the mullein/ginger mix was quite awful, and to make up for the lost liquid). I brought this up to a low boil over medium heat and simmered 5 minutes. Then I took the pan off the heat and let it cool to just warm enough to dissolve the honey and added 1/4 cup raw honey.

Ingredients 3

And then I bottled the mixture up.

Final

As you can see, there’s already some separation happening, so the mixture has to be shaken before using. I’ll keep the bottles in the fridge for future use.

Also, next time I think I’ll skip the coconut oil as it solidifies in cool temperatures, which is kind of a pain to deal with right out of the fridge and I don’t think it really adds that much to the overall mixture.

It’s been interesting to taste it as it’s sat. When it was finished, it was very lemony-sickly-sweet. But by last night the flavors had developed a little more and the clove/mullein/ginger was more pronounced. It definitely tasted better in the evening.

It seemed to help the cough immediately, but I’m really anxious to see how it works long-term. Monkey was coughing again when she woke up this morning, so it wasn’t an instant cure. Stay tuned for an update!

— Please note that it is not safe to ingest essential oils “neat” or only mildly diluted. In this case, essential oils were a small part of the recipe. You should use EO carefully as they are powerful and can have long-term effects. —