Friday, October 4, 2013

Working Mom Update 2

I've been feeling a little discouraged this week. Cal has been sick, and it has been really hard to be away from home while I know he isn't feeling well. I think it is also partly because I have been in class all week instead of on the floor. I'm not sure how it is that an 8 hour day in the classroom can be completely exhausting and drip by second by second for hours, while a 12 hour day on the floor can be so energizing and is over before I know it. I'm definitely interested in what we're learning in the classroom, and I know that it is important information for me to have in order to take care of my patients, but I wish there was another way to get the information other than death by powerpoint. I'm pretty sure I could have read the last three days' worth of information in about six hours and spent the rest of the time on the floor. But hey, at least I get paid to be there. The paycheck continues to be the number one perk of being a working mom. I never knew how mercenary I could be until I started getting a legitimate salary.

The other thing that has been hard has just been the feeling of being stretched so thin. I've always had many interests, and in the last year or so I got used to being able to pursue those interests. I had time to read books, had time to write, had time to exercise, and had time to be a mom and take care of my house. Now I have 40-50 hour chunks missing from my week. Also, I feel guilty if I do anything other than be directly involved with Cal whenever he is awake (whereas in the past I would clean while he played with toys, exercise, etc). I don't spend as much time focusing on being a good nurse as my coworkers; I don't spend as much time one-on-one with my son as other moms who don't work or who work part time. I also sometimes feel like my spirituality is slipping out of control -- I used to spend about 30 minutes studying the scriptures, and now if I get in 10 it feels like a great day. And I know that Facebook is not the place to make comparisons, but I see posts about people going to the temple and doing family history and serving others -- or even just going to church activities -- and I feel guilty that none of those activities have even passed into my radar in the past few weeks. I'm scrambling just to fulfill my callings at church, which admittedly are not the most time-consuming of callings.

At times like these I sometimes wonder why I felt so prompted to work. I feel like there are so many things I am not doing well. However, I am fortunate enough to really enjoy my job (at least, the part where I'm on the floor). It is hard to have faith sometimes that this was the right decision when I am being pulled in a million different directions, but I am fortunate to have really great support and childcare (let me just throw out there that my grandma is AMAZING and has been such a help, and Cal's other babysitter has been wonderful as well), a husband who works amazingly hard, and the knowledge that this is the path the Lord wanted me to take -- even though I sometimes wonder what He was thinking.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Life as a Working Mom: Part 1

I have three weeks of work under my belt now... and my first consecutive days off since I started. Four, to be exact. Hooray! It's a good thing, too, because Scott has been home with our boog for these last three weeks, but he is about to go back to school. Adjustment time is only beginning.

Working 50 hours this week has left me pretty brain-dead and incapable of forming good paragraphs, but I can make bullet-points. So here's being a working mom in a nutshell, so far:

The Good:
* The paycheck. I know it's mercenary, but it is really gratifying to look at the clock and realize that my actions are filling my bank account. It won't always be my job to provide for my family, but it is nice to be able to participate now.
* Scott completely understands all the things that were frustrating to me as a stay-at-home mom. I think he'll be a lot more understanding in the future when I return to that role... and I'll be a lot more understanding of him as he gets home from work and doesn't want to do anything for a few minutes.
* I really, really love nursing. I am passionate about what I am doing, which helps.
* I love the kids I work with. I love making them laugh and trying to brighten up their days, because let's face it -- they spend a lot of time choking down medications that make them throw up and dealing with me messing with a tube that goes through their chest all the way to their heart. They have tough lives, and if I can make them happy for a few minutes, I can feel good about that day.

The Rough:
* I miss Cal so much. Fortunately things will get better once the residency is over, but right now it is hard to only have an hour some days, a few days off scattered about, and then days when I don't see him at all.
* It is stressful -- in general, adjusting to a new life, and also, being in a situation where my mistakes could seriously endanger someone's life. Not to mention the fact that seeing kids suffer is pretty difficult as well.
* I thought my time was limited as a stay at home mom -- I never felt like I had time to exercise, clean, cook, take care of Cal, be a good wife, and do some things for myself. Now I am trying to do all of that and work and commute, and there's always something that has to give way (usually cleaning).
* I feel out of place everywhere -- at work, no one else has kids. At church, no one else works. It isn't always comfortable being in an in-between place.

However, with both the good and the bad, I'm so grateful to have this job. I'll keep posting on this topic every so often. Hope everyone is having a good weekend, and GO COUGARS!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I've been doing a lot of re-prioritizing lately. Having a 40-50 hour chunk taken out of your week causes a lot of rearrangement. Of course my family gets the largest chunk of my remaining free time. Today I found myself frantically hovering over Cal when he was clearly happy to be playing on his own, because I felt like I had to give him every second of my non-working time.

I've always been someone who has a lot of hobbies and interests. I love to read, play the piano, work on photo books, write, blog, take free college courses on the internet, spend time with friends. And to me, especially in the last free-time filled year that I've had, those things have come to feel like necessities. I am such a planning oriented person that every little activity found a space on my to-do list and burrowed its way in until it no longer felt like fun, but like an obligation.

The last week, I've had to let several of those things go. It's actually been easier than I thought it would be -- I look at something on my list and realize, "That's not going to happen," and off it goes into the atmosphere like a balloon. Studying Italian daily. Writing in my book blog (although I haven't given that one up all the way). Exercising for 90 minutes a day. Making everything from scratch. Up, up, up and away.

I also thought that writing was going to have to go. Writing for me often seems like an unproductive activity. While I'd love to get published, I don't have the time to make the edits and revisions necessary to put it anywhere pretty. Also, I often feel stuck between the feeling that I should edit myself into a mold-fitting, perky blogger dishing out the Anthropologie-wearing, gourmet-dinner-cooking, perfect life that we all wish we had, and the desire to get it all out there, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so that I'm left feeling cleaned out and refreshed. I've never been good at happy mediums. I'm an intense, all-or-nothing person, which is usually to my detriment.

Here's the thing, though. I was reading the blog of a friend today, and she is so refreshingly open and honest. She has been through some brutal struggles, and she has turned them into something beautiful, and something that she shares. And I think about all the times that I have felt left out and alone, wishing I had a friend that would confide in me and trust me with who they are and what they've experienced. When I have a conversation like that, I feel so grateful to have a connection with someone else, to learn from them and share with them. Also, so many of my burdens have been lightened by sharing them with someone else, by knowing someone else walked that path. I'd so much rather be connected than invulnerable.

The problem is that sometimes I am paralyzed by others' judgments. To clarify, I am paralyzed by what I imagine others' judgments to be, which is probably much harsher than what they actually are.

But here's the thing. That drive to keep writing never goes away for me. That drive to tell my truth, to share my experiences, to open up and be real. And being a writer isn't about being comfortably cloistered away; it is about speaking uncomfortable truths. Even if I'm the only one reading them and I'm the only one who is uncomfortable.

This has gotten long-winded and I've veered from the point. The point is: I need to get real. (Cliche phrase, but there's a reason that cliches become cliches -- they express something succinctly and perfectly). There are private things that belong in my journal and stay there, of course, but I also think it is important to express and share, and because writing is a main way that I do that, it is going to be happening here. So, yeah. That.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mama Monday: Bringing Up Bebe

So, I love parenting books, and I love France. Bringing Up Bebe was a no-brainer read for me, but I thought it would just be an exploration of French parenting. I was surprised by how much I loved it and related to the concepts it presented. I'm going to quickly sum up the take-home messages I got from it in bullet points.

  • La pause. This means, essentially, wait a few minutes when your baby starts to cry. It means don't rush in to them immediately, but it also means don't let them cry for hours. Listen to the cry, try to figure out what it means, give your baby a chance to soothe herself, and then if your assistance is needed, head in.
  • Waiting. This goes with la pause. Teach your children to wait by not always having everything but the kitchen sink in the diaper bag, but instead teaching children to delay gratification.
  • Food. I agreed with this part so wholeheartedly. Abandon "kid food" like fruit roll-ups and pizza rolls and feed your children real food insofar as it is developmentally appropriate. No, Cal can't eat a steak, but he did a pretty good job picking up my cut up spinach gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce tonight. Also, if a kid doesn't like something, present it to them multiple times (a few days or weeks apart) to give them a chance to acquire the taste. 
  • Mom time. In my world at least, there is such a guilt complex for not giving your entire soul to your children. Even typing that out feels like a bad thing to say. However in France, parents believe they are entitled to adult time. I think this is healthy for marriages and mental health in general. Of course you want your children to be well-adjusted and loved, but it doesn't mean you have to be a helicopter parent.
  • The after-birth body. In some ways this might seem like more pressure, but I think it might be a good paradigm to set. In France, women are expected to lose the weight by the third month postpartum. Obviously this is a silent rule rather than something enforced, but societally people look askance at the mama that hasn't lost her baby weight. I am nine months postpartum and still have many pounds to go, but I wish I could have lost the weight earlier and think if I had had that expectation for myself I might have done better. 
Of course, there were also things I didn't agree with, such as the decreased breastfeeding time and the expectation that all moms work (not that I have anything against working -- I'm starting full time tomorrow. But I don't think it is the right thing for every family and doubt that it will always be the right thing for my family. Everyone is different). However, reading it was an interesting experience and definitely left me with many ideas to consider. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Andrew McMahon + BMT

I just found out that one of my favorite musicians, Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin, was diagnosed with ALL when he was 22. He has been cancer free for 8 years -- yay! I'm not usually one to follow celebrities' personal lives but the fact that he had a bone marrow transplant and is now doing well is definitely one of those pieces of information that I need to store up and pull out for some of my teenage patients.

I've been really stressed the last few days as it hits me that not only will I be stressed in rearranging how I manage my own life as I adjust to being a working mom, I will also be emotionally stressed by these kids I'm about to work with. When I was a student it was easy to not be fully invested, but I think it's going to be different now that I'm really working and am going to be so immersed in this life. Not to mention the fact that now I'm a mother and can fully comprehend the agony of seeing your child suffer. So positive stories like this can, I think, help both me and my patients. Hopefully I find a few teenagers who are interested in some retro pop punk and the inspiring story of a survivor.

This interview with McMahon was great and discusses briefly some of the aftermath of dealing with a disease like cancer. He also has a foundation, the Dear Jack Foundation, for young adults who want to go to college but whose parents funds are depleted from paying for cancer treatments. It's really nice to know that despite the presence in the world of a sucky thing like cancer, there are also oases of awesome.

Also, go listen to Andrew McMahon's solo EP, Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate because they rock. Seriously, SoCo was my favorite band in high school. Go.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

France Photo Book

Five years after the fact, I have finally made a scrapbook of my trip to France. You can view it below if you want. It was a blast reliving all the memories, and I'm looking forward to having the book to go through. :)

Shutterfly photo books offer a wide range of artful designs and embellishments to choose from.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Inspiring this month.

This is mostly a list for my own reference -- I read so many blog posts and I like to remember the ones that stood out to me. I hope you find something that is inspiring to you, too.


:: Take June: To Be Truly Seen -- Is the face we see in the mirror the complete story?

:: An Equivalent Centre of Self (Musings on Individual Worth) : Segullah -- How our different talents bless others in different ways.

:: The Intellectual LDS Mother | Aspiring Mormon Women -- How to keep love of learning alive, whether you are a professor or a stay at home mom or somewhere in between (also, a pat on the back for those of us who are better at intangible creativity rather than the crafts that fill many women's beautiful homes)

:: A Merrell's Life: Memories of a Miscarriage -- A beautiful tribute to a lost baby and thoughts on how to get through a miscarriage.

:: I am My Own Plan A | Aspiring Mormon Women -- A definition of feminism that empowers all women.

:: An Armchair By The Sea: The Weekly List #3: Mood Boosting Books! -- Books to make you feel happy inside (all books make me feel happy inside. But these ones are supposed to do that especially).

:: A CUP OF JO: The Royal Baby -- I cried when I heard about Prince George, and I think it is kind of exciting that he was born only a few months after my son. And of course Princess Kate's postpartum belly has been talked about ad nauseum, but still -- kudos to her for showing the world that the postpartum body isn't perfect right away but can still be beautiful.

:: The Invisible Mother | -- We may not be recognized for the individual acts of labor, but the end product of motherhood is beautiful.

:: A Time for Faith, Not Fear -- Despite the turmoil of the world, we can proceed forth with perspective and faith that all will be well, even if it isn't immediate. I was talking about this with a friend today and it was a great reminder to me -- we can't control everything, but we can have faith that life will come together, often in ways better than we could ever have predicted.

What inspired you this month?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Health Article Round-up: July 2013

:: Why Brazil is the best place for kids to have chemo -- because they learn it gives them SUPERPOWERS! (Watch this video, it's only two minutes!!)

:: Babies who have a respiratory infection during the first six months of life are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. (Sorry Cal). All the  more reason to breastfeed as much as you can, especially before six months, in order to protect your baby against infections.

:: Women who did not consume enough omega-3 and omega-6 oils during pregnancy have a higher likelihood of having a child with autism. This condition is largely mysterious to predict, so it is great to have some preventive guidelines.

:: Apparently induction of a woman in labor reduces the risk of a C-section. Whaaa...? This is news to me -- I thought it was the opposite (it was in my case).

:: Diet drinks do not reduce obesity. Researchers don't know why for sure, but think perhaps the body is confused when it tastes an artificial sweetener and responds with inappropriate insulin.

:: Irregular work schedules and night shifts can increase issues with fertility and miscarriages. Good to know.

:: There is constant debate about when to start feeding babies solids. According to a recent study, starting after 4 months and before 6 months is optimal to prevent Type 1 diabetes. (Also, there are lately a billion articles about what does/does not predict type 1 diabetes in children. Hooray for being closer to the cure).

:: Multivitamins do not reduce deaths in cancer patients. (AKA: Eat your veggies peeps, the vitamins are fakes that won't save you. To hear more of this rant, watch an episode of Doctor Oz while sitting next to me).

:: But you know what causes cancer? Air pollution. Especially if you live near a large roadway (*Looks out window to the busiest stretch of the 405, which is the busiest freeway in LA, which might have the worst roads in the world*). (Also, according to Scott, the cadavers in his anatomy lab that lived in LA all their lives and were nonsmokers had lungs that looked like those of smokers. *wince*).

:: Too much of a good thing is still too much. High omega-3 consumption is linked with increased prostate cancer risk in men. Keep that fish oil consumption in moderation -- recent Italian studies don't even show a protective effect against heart disease.

:: I've heard of cord blood banking, but had never thought about the benefits of letting babies receive more umbilical blood before cutting the cord. Apparently, delaying the cord cutting for a minute or longer results in higher iron stores in newborns, which could be very beneficial. It does also increase the risk of jaundice in newborns by 2%.

:: Americans are exercising more! Yay! But... we are also getting fatter. Apparently I'm not the only one who wishes that exercise would allow me to eat whatever I wanted.

:: More United States mothers are breastfeeding. :)

:: Vaccines do not cause mental problems. Repeat... VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM.

:: Childhood cancers tend to be unpredictable. BUT... adult cancers are often more preventable. Here are four steps you can take to help your child avoid cancer in adulthood.

:: Also, why my future workplace is the best ever (I just wish I could have been there)... Hello Kitty visits cancer patients at CHLA. :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest post at Segullah.

Segullah has been running several posts about LDS women in the workplace, and I wrote a guest post for them that was published today. Here's the link if you are interested.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Foodie Friday: LOVE Delivery Organic Vegetables

This week's Foodie Friday is a little different because it isn't about a restaurant but a service. A few months ago, I subscribed to L.O.V.E. Delivery (Los Angeles Organic Vegetable Express) in the hopes that it would motivate our family to eat more vegetables. Guess what? It is totally working.

There are several different vegetable delivery services out there, some of them cheaper than LOVE. I picked LOVE because A) They let you customize your order completely (as long as they have what you want) and B) Despite being more expensive than say, a CSA box (which runs at $17 in my neighborhood), I still consider the large box I receive (which the website calls a "small box"... they have an even larger option) to be a great deal at $28.50 a week.

Something to consider when choosing LOVE is whether or not local produce is important to you. LOVE provides local produce when it is available, but because they have the option of extensive customization, they do provide non-local organic produce as well. My family is picky and if we were receiving a box that had untouchables like bell peppers and cucumbers, we would be wasting our money. It is convenient to be able to decide exactly what we want. LOVE does denote which vegetables and fruits are local that week, so it is possible to stick to local as much as possible if that is important to you. In addition, one of their box options is an all-local box.

I have also been impressed with their service -- the box arrives in a timely manner and the delivery lady manages to get it to the door despite the gated entry (which, granted, may not speak much for our gated entry).

The produce has mostly been good. LOVE has the philosophy of delivering everything slightly unripe so that it won't go bad right away during the week. My only problem with this is that I can't always tell when something is ripe -- but I am learning. And honestly, the only thing I've gotten that I wasn't impressed with were the raspberries, and I am a raspberry snob.

The service isn't perfect -- for example, the fruits that Scott and I buy at a fruit stand called Loratelli are much better than the ones we receive in our weekly box -- but it definitely does its job of getting me to eat more fruits and vegetables. While I get to decide what we are getting each week, we still get a set amount that is probably more than I would just pick up in the produce section. I'm happy with the service and will continue with it while I remain in Los Angeles.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Inspiration for the Month of July

Here are some posts and articles that I found inspiring last month.


:: "How to Be Selfish" from Segullah -- is self-care the same as selfishness? A meditation on how to refill your tank. 

:: Let's teach our daughters to be healthy, not un-fat -- "When Your Mother Says She's Fat"

:: A real queen's message to real girls -- Have courage and overcome the odds.

:: Jessica Rey on modesty and the way bikinis undermine the beauty of the female body. Bonus: Awesome swimsuits. {I want this one}

:: Letter to a new mother on why there is no shame in postpartum depression

:: A feminist response to the "Ordain Women" movement. The author delineates why she believes "Ordain Women" is not actually a movement that would help women's rights -- and ways that the LDS church is becoming more inclusive to women in leadership and bettering the cultural treatment of women in general.

:: Working mothers are not evil role-shirkers or witches (cheer if you got that reference to Tina Fey's Bossypants). We all have different lives and different ways to fulfill our life missions, as long as we are following the guidance of our Heavenly Father.

What inspired you this month?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mama Monday: Sleep Training Part Two

I thought I had it all figured out. Cal was going down without a fight every time, and sometimes taking naps longer than 45 minutes (SCORE!). I got a little cocky, turning to Scott every time Cal had a good nap and saying, "See? All my hard work paid off."

Then Cal got a cold and couldn't go to sleep unless we rocked him because he had awful coughing fits. And then we traveled for two weeks. And now's he's teething. Basically, all bets are off.

While I'm glad that I used the pick-up/put-down method to start off, we have started letting Cal cry it out from time to time. At night he has pretty much figured it out and usually cries for about ten seconds before passing out into blissful slumber. Naptime is another beast entirely -- usually I hold him for five minutes in the rocking chair. If he falls asleep, great -- if not, I put him down in the crib and he usually cries for at least twenty minutes. :( However, now that he is teething, we're rocking him to sleep all the time -- he is just so miserable I can't stand to leave him to cry for more than a few minutes.

The lessons from all this?

1. No matter what the books say, it is impossible to 100% follow any one regimen.
2. Be flexible, because sometimes what usually works is not going to cut it.
3. There is no right way to do it.
4. The baby changes ALL THE TIME.

It makes me think of this post by one woman who was frustrating with trying to figure out sleep training. (Seriously, click over, I promise you'll be able to relate).

He's sleeping right now, and as long as he's happy, I'm happy. The end.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Health Article Round-up: June 2013

Lately I've been coming across many interesting articles about health and medicine. I've decided to share a few of them each month. Enjoy.

:: Deaths from diabetes have apparently doubled in New York over the last two decades. It is motivating me to eat better -- I don't usually think of eating too many desserts as a potential cause of death, just a cause of too tight jeans. It's a good reminder.

:: But good news -- Boston Children's Hospital has made some fantastic progress in determining the cause of type 1 diabetes.

:: 60-90% of women do not meet the minimum preventive recommendations of a healthy diet and activity level for preventing cancer. The American Cancer Society guidelines are summarized here.

:: This blogger believes that we should get rid of "kid food" (i.e. colored marshmallows, fruit roll-ups, and other "fake food") and teach kids to eat real food. I think I agree. He states that one of the leading causes of death in the United States is an inappropriate diet, and we should teach our kids to eat an appropriate one from an early age.

:: Molecular targeted therapies are replacing chemotherapy as the first drug of choice in treating cancer. Could chemo eventually be a thing of the past? That would be fabulous. My dad works for Seattle Genetics, a company that produces one of these molecular targeted therapies (brentuximab vedotin) for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Let's hope that things continue to get better for those who have cancer. 

Quote of the day

Cal: {flails arms and legs in excitement}
Scott: Wouldn't it be great if everyone got super uncoordinated when they were excited?
Lorren: {flails arms and legs}
Scott: No, that's too coordinated.
Lorren: No one has ever said that to me before.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mama Monday: Things That Have Changed Now that I'm a Mama.

:: Sleep is a rare and valuable commodity. 
:: I set goals for each of the baby's naps.
:: I've learned that I can't control everything. Flexibility has always been a challenge for this over-scheduled list-maker, but I've learned that Cal can override at will.
:: Mascara and lipstick are the only required cosmetics. Foundation and eyeshadow appear once or twice a month.
:: When I go shopping, I buy cute clothes for Cal and yoga pants for myself.
:: I have become an expert on babies' sleep cycles and can cite any number of experts' opinions.
:: I no longer gag at the sight of baby food.
:: In fact, sometimes I eat it. (Best ones are the apple/blueberry one and the pears/cinnamon/oatmeal one.)
:: I spend large segments of my day trying to convince Cal to giggle (and making a complete fool of myself in the process)
:: Our home is filled with bizarre colorful toys and gadgets, some of them useful and some of them not.
:: I know just about every cause of low milk production.
:: I have to run the dishwasher more than once a day because our top rack is always full of bottles.
:: I never use an alarm clock.
:: I spend more money on formula than groceries
:: Most of my conversations are a mixture of high-pitched questions, Baby Sign, and imitating Cal's babble noises. 
:: I was more excited to see Cal's first tooth than I was to be asked to my prom
:: Shirts that require layers to make them modest are too much work
:: I walk around the house narrating my day
:: Getting kisses solves every problem
:: Peekaboo takes up most of the day
:: The three hours between his bedtime and my bedtime are sacred
:: Playground time is adult interaction time
:: I sleep less
:: I pray more
:: I love more. :)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Best Scripture Mastery Tool EVER.

I am a LDS seminary graduate. I never skipped seminary to get an early lunch. I learned a lot and have great memories from seminary.


I never learned the scripture masteries.

Or, to be accurate, every year I learned the first 2 or 3, and then the rest fell by the wayside.

{For those of you who are unfamiliar... LDS seminary is a four year program for high school students to study scriptures and gospel principles each day. Classes are either held before school, or if you are lucky, like I was, you can get release periods to go. Each of the four years, there is a list of 25 scriptures to memorize. I was bad at it.}

I blame it on all the time I spent playing the piano -- I memorized hundreds of pages of music a year, and I just don't think there was room for anything else in my overworked brain.

However, as part of my 25 goals for the next 25 years, I want to memorize the scripture masteries. I think I can manage 100 scriptures in the next 25 years. And, fortunately, I have found the best resource ever to memorize them. has a seminary page with a fabulous memorize program. First, you can go through the words, blocking out phrases until you can do the entire thing from memory.

Then, you can have the verse presented with only the first letter of each word, and you can still block out phrases until it's memorized (I find this step the most effective). 

The next step is to fill in the blanks with missing words. This can be tougher than it looks, especially with myriad "thees" and "therefores."

Finally, you type the scripture and then fill in the text when you are done -- the perfect way to check. 

I've also been using the "Understand and Apply" feature in my scripture study. I think it is a great review of basic gospel doctrines, and I love the cross-references provided for each scripture. I initially thought these would be quick reviews, but I have been spending days on each scripture. 

The last activity is a finding exercise. I haven't used that one yet, but it looks like it will be great once I get around to it. :) 

I love the way the Church is using technology to spread the Gospel and help us learn. I think I would have done much better at the scripture masteries if this had been around when I was in high school (it's getting sad to think about how long ago that was). Do you memorize scripture? What works for you? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Foodie Friday: Blockheads Shavery


A month or so ago, a group of friends and I were waiting for a table for over an hour, and we started talking about fun places to get dessert. Blockheads Shavery came up. The girl who mentioned it said that there was no way to describe it, that it was unlike anything else she had ever had before, but that it was good. It didn't take anything more than that -- within a few days, Scott and I were headed to Blockheads to answer the question: what exactly is snow cream?

The location is perfect for us -- just a mile or so down Sawtelle Blvd. The surrounding few blocks are packed with delicious options, including Tsujita LA, Tatsu, Buttercup LA, Pinkberry, and Brian's Shave Ice. The only unfortunate thing is parking -- it is incredibly difficult to find. Case in point -- I once waited for 20 minutes in a red zone with the hazards on while my mom ran inside to get takeout.

The ambiance is minimal -- it's an in and out kind of place. I really liked the "owls" that are their mascot -- but recently I realized they are not owls at all, but penguins. Still, cute.

Pretty slow. Even with a short line, it tends to take a while. It's definitely worth a short wait, but try to go during off hours, both for the parking and the quicker service. In addition, they don't offer samples, although they do give good recommendations on flavor combinations.

So what is snow cream? 

According to their website, it is "fine texture of Hawaiian shave ice with the creamy goodness of ice cream." Sounds about right. Blockheads has a few different flavors per day, often including unique flavors like red bean and black sesame. I have tried the black sesame and the original, and while both were delicious, I like original best. You also have the option of choosing from a variety of toppings -- fruit, mochi, red bean, sprinkles, etc. I have tried fruit, mochi, and red bean -- all delicious. Finally, you choose a sauce (or two or three) to drizzle on top. I always opt for the sweetened condensed milk. 

I personally love the texture and the flavors that are available. Initially, Scott and I thought that it was just something novel that we would try once, but I have found myself craving the unique texture of Blockheads multiple times. For a unique dessert experience that just might convert you, Blockheads is a great choice.


Cost: $ It looks a little pricey at first glance, but you get a lot for the price. I could easily have split it 
Hours: Mon-Thu -- 12:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Fri-Sat -- 12:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Sun -- 12:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Address: 11311 Mississippi Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025 310.445.8725
Reservations: No

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Beginner's Guide to {Herbal} Tea

I became an herbal tea aficionado for three reasons:

{1} I worked in a cafe where coffee and tea were only 50 cents and everything else was expensive.
{2} I'm a bookish person, and bookish people like tea
{3} I'm a Mormon, and Mormons don't drink "real" tea.

Okay, number 2 is kind of a joke. But I have really come to love herbal tea, and I've found it a great way to get myself to drink water and avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice. People have asked me about different herbal teas, and I thought it would be fun to outline some of my favorites. 

First of all: How is herbal tea different from "regular" tea?

Herbal isn't actually tea, and that is why you will frequently see it referred to as an infusion rather than a tea. It doesn't contain any actual tea leaves. Instead, it is made by steeping fruit, plants, herbs, and/or spices in hot water.

Second of all: How do you make it?

Hot: Heat water, steep the tea bags. Usually you steep for about five minutes. I like my tea really strong, so I usually do it longer. I usually don't add sweetener to hot tea. 

Cold: Heat water and steep the tea bags. If you want to use a granulated sweetener or honey, stir it in before pouring the tea over ice or sticking it in the refrigerator. If you pour over ice, you should make your tea double strength so it isn't diluted by the melted ice. I prefer to use a liquid sweetener with iced tea because it dissolves better -- my favorite is liquid stevia. While I don't usually use sweetener with hot tea, I can't stand cold tea without sweetener. Sometimes if I am making a big pitcher I mix different kinds of tea. 

Tea latte: Can be hot or cold. Half tea, half milk. Again, I always use sweetener with cold. Sometimes I use it with hot if I am treating myself. 

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf -- They have the best herbal tea, hands down. You can also purchase it. It's on the pricey side -- $8.75 for 20 tea bags.

:: African Sunrise
What it is: Honeybush, which is similar to rooibos (more about that in a minute). It is sweet and mild.
How I like it: Hot, cold, and tea latte. This tea tastes good no matter what.

:: Chai Rooibos
What it is: Rooibos, which is sometimes called "red tea" (but has no caffeine or tea leaves). This is a South African plant related to the honeybush. It is flavorful and a little spicy. The chai are spices added to the tea.
How I like it: Hot and in a tea latte (the best thing EVER). 
Special uses: Rooibos is antioxidant rich

Starbucks/Tazo -- They carry Tazo brand, which you can usually buy anywhere. They are a little bit lame about making tea lattes or icing herbal tea, but if you teach them how they can usually figure it out. 

:: Vanilla Rooibos
What it is: Basic rooibos with vanilla
How I like it: Hot
Special properties: Antioxidant

:: Wild Sweet Orange
What it is: Orange infusion with licorice and some other spices
How I like it: Hot

:: Passion
What it is: tropical fruit infusion
How I like it: Iced, and always with sweetener. It is very strong and a little sour. 

:: Rooibos tea latte
What it is: Concentrated, sweetened rooibos tea that can be mixed with milk for a tea latte
How I like it: Hot or cold, in a half and half ratio
Where to get it: Target, Sprouts (I've never seen it in a cafe)

Celestial -- This inexpensive brand is everywhere

:: Rooibos -- Same drill with everything. They also have a Rooibos vanilla mix, which is good as well.

:: Mandarin Orange:
What it is: Orange infusion with spices
How I like it: Hot

:: Goodnight Grape Sleepytime Kids
What it is: Grape infusion with chamomile and stevia. BEST THING EVER.
How I like it: Hot
Special properties: Makes you sleepy, is sweet and yet calorie free

:: Peach
What it is: Peach infusion
How I like it: Cold with stevia

:: Holiday Teas -- They also have these delicious Christmas themed teas. I love Sugar Plum Fairy (super sweet and spicy), Ginger Snap (lemony and gingery), and Sugar Cookie (barley, very good for before bed). All of these are best hot. I don't know if they ever get discontinued. I hope not. 

Bigelow -- Another cheapy brand, probably the one you are most familiar with if you drink herbal tea. 

:: Peppermint
What it is: Straight-up peppermint leaves
How I like it: Hot, cold, or tea latte. Surprisingly refreshing when cold.
Special properties: Soothes nausea, suppresses lactation (I chugged about a gallon of it when I stopped breastfeeding)

:: Mint Medley
What it is: Similar to peppermint. Blend of peppermint and spearmint. It's a little milder than peppermint.
How I like it: Cold with stevia or hot with honey and whole raspberries. It sounds weird but it is amazing. My husband's friend told us about it. 
Special properties: Same as peppermint

:: Chamomile
What it is: Chamomile herb
How I like it: Hot
Special properties: Good for sleep. Sometimes I dilute it with water (3 parts water to 1 part tea) and put it in Cal's bottle when he is sick (but he thinks it is gross). I've heard it is also soothing on the skin -- haven't tried that. 

:: I Love Lemon
What it is: Lemon infusion with other spices
How I like it: Hot, but I'm intrigued to try it cold some time. I like to drink this when I am sick

Other random herbs

:: Barley -- Just infusing barley makes a sweet, nutty tea that I like to drink when I am sick. I drink it hot. 

:: Roses -- I infuse rose buds usually when I am working on a project and just want to drink tea all day. I drink it hot or cold, and I actually don't mind it without sweetener even when it is cold.

I'm sure I forgot a few favorites, but here is a basic summary of the teas I like. Do you have any favorites? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mama Monday: What's in your diaper bag?

Isn't it funny how that diaper bag becomes more than just a bag once you enter motherhood? It becomes essential to survival. After being caught without the necessities more than once, I have, I think, mastered the fine art of packing literally everything but the kitchen sink. Here's what I pack:

For baby:

  • 3 diapers
  • Wipes
  • A laminate cloth to change his diaper on (those darn changing tables never have the table liners refilled)
  • 2 burp cloths (one is actually usually a small swaddle blanket that never fit my bruiser of a baby)
  • A onesie
  • A hat
  • Sunglasses
  • A soft toy (usually the favorite, "Jenna-bear")
  • At least a couple of toys that can be chewed on
  • A board book
  • A bottle
  • back-up formula
  • A baby food pouch
  • A spoon
  • 3 pacifiers
  • Pacifier/teether wipes
  • Hand and face wipes
  • a bib
For mama:
  • Hand sanitizer
  • The normal purse essentials: Wallet, keys, cell phone
  • A book (for when the baby falls asleep in the car and I don't want to wake him up)
  • A snack
  • Chocolate (because you never know when a grocery store or rush hour meltdown is going to drive you to desperation)
  • Water bottle (whether for myself or refilling the bottle)
  • Lotion (to cover the smell of spit-up)
  • Kleenex
  • Lady supplies
  • Chapstick
  • Lipstick
  • Coupons for formula and diapers (the only ones I ever use... but put some of those in front of me and I'll snatch them right up).
This doesn't fit in the good old diaper bag, but I also tend to bring a blanket with me everywhere

What can't you live without? 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mama Monday: Maternal Depression Awareness Month

Did you know that May is Maternal Depression Awareness Month? There are so many different "awareness months" that they become a bit of a joke sometimes. However, in the case of maternal depression, I think an awareness month is truly needed. Los Angeles County currently has a movement to increase awareness and treatment of these conditions, and they have put together a public service announcement about it.

I was hesitant to add anything other than the video to this post. I haven't spoken much about my experience with postpartum depression, and I'm not completely comfortable talking about it now. However, this video reminded me of one of the most difficult aspects of my experience with PPD -- I felt like I was the only person going through it. I'd never known anyone to talk about dealing with postpartum depression, and I felt that it was something shameful and unnatural -- that I was a failure as a woman and a mother for feeling anything but incandescent bliss after having my baby. I loved him instantly, but my love for my baby was fraught with fear -- fear that I couldn't take care of him, fear that he would die, fear that he would never love me. All of this was compounded by the trauma of my lengthy labor, C-section, an incident where Caleb's heart rate dropped dangerously low, my inability to exclusively breastfeed him, and his hospitalization with RSV. I felt that I was a failure as a woman -- I couldn't have him the natural way, and I couldn't feed him the natural way. Every time he cried, I saw it as my failure to provide for his needs.

I didn't want to consider that I might be suffering from postpartum depression because I was blessed to have an amazing support network. My mom was able to stay with me for more than two weeks, my husband is an amazing, involved father, and my neighbors and fellow churchmembers brought meals, helped me clean my house, and offered emotional support. I felt that I didn't "deserve" to have PPD -- I had so much help, so why was I still struggling? I also felt ashamed. I didn't want to admit that I was struggling. I was worried people would think I didn't love my baby, which was never true. I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant, and I loved Cal so much that it frequently brought me to tears, but everything terrified me once he was born, and it seemed that everything was going wrong, and I blamed it all on myself.

I'm not going through all of this to give a sob story. Even now I am hesitant to press the "Publish" button, worried about what people will think of me. Because I am sure there are people out there who see PPD as a failure to be a good mother. However, I want to share this for two reasons -- first, so that if you are going through a similar experience, you will know that you are not alone, and second, to motivate anyone who is suffering to seek help. I was so hesitant to tell my doctor that I thought I might have postpartum depression, and even after taking that initial step it took me a few weeks to pursue treatment. However, once I found some help -- as well as applying a lot of meditation and prayer -- the clouds suddenly began to lift. I want to make it clear that there were always moments of joy with Cal. The first time I held him was an amazing, beautiful experience. But in those first weeks, those moments of joy were fleeting and surrounded by exhaustion, self-doubt, and a darkness I could not lift.

It was gradual, but after a few weeks of treatment, I remember a specific moment when I knew the worst was over. I was sitting in the rocking chair, holding my sweet boy and playing with him, and I felt an overwhelming sensation of joy and contentment. I thought to myself, "I love being a mother!" A moment later I realized what a blessing and what a change that realization was -- and I thought about how wonderful it would have been to have reached that point earlier, if I had been able to "speak up when you're down" earlier. I am so grateful for the encouragement I received to get help when I did, and for the way it helped me to recover from PPD.

So please, please, if you are struggling with this, take the burden from yourself. There is light at the end of that tunnel, and you are a good mother. You will get through this, and you will love being a mother. You have done nothing to deserve this, and you deserve to get better -- for you, your baby, and your partner. It will get better, and there are so many resources to help you if you only ask for them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Many people have asked me why my goal is to work with children who have cancer. They ask how I can handle it, especially having a son of my own now. I've never been able to put it into words. I have a few answers of course -- I've lost loved ones to cancer and it has inspired me to help others, I like working with patients long-term, I find working with cancer patients to be more challenging and rewarding than other forms of nursing -- but the real reason is this ineffable quality I've never been able to define.

Watch this video, and I think you'll understand. (It is long, but it is well worth twenty minutes of your day -- much more worth it than time spent on Facebook or watching a show. Trust me on this one).

I want to work with children who have cancer because I want to help people who are struggling with this vicious disease. But the truth is that they help me far more than I can ever help them. So far I have only worked with cancer patients and their families in school and volunteer capacities, and already so many of them have changed my life. I have seen teenage boys like the one in the video who are so willing to seize life despite the discomfort and fear their cancer brings them. I have seen a six-year-old girl confined in a hospital room for months at a time who still manages to smile every single day and live her life with a zest and passion I've rarely seen elsewhere. I have spent time with children bearing the burden of loss and disease as their parents suffer with cancer, and the way they still have so much joy and love in their souls.

People have asked me how I can leave my beautiful son and go to work. Part of me still wonders how I will do it. I would love to stay home with him always, and I am grateful that nursing doesn't take me from him every day. Part of the reason I am going to work is financial of course -- we need insurance and money to live in this expensive place. But another part of that reason is that multiple times I have felt the Spirit prompt me to do this work. I didn't want to be a nurse at first -- I had lofty career goals and prestigious degrees in mind. I resisted the prompting I felt to change my life, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Changing my carefully constructed plans made me available to marry my wonderful husband, gave me the freedom to have a child sooner than I had originally thought I would, allowed me to move to this city where I have already met so many wonderful people. At first I thought changing those plans was only to facilitate those results, but about a year ago, 7 months pregnant and wondering if I should continue in my plans to work, I felt it again -- the Spirit calling me to care for these children, better their lives in any way I can, and allow them to better me.

The courage of the young man in this video and his wonderful, supportive loved ones has moved me so much today. Death is a strange thing -- it is the thing people fear most, it is one of the only universal experiences, and yet it can also inspire us in such a beautiful way. I know that I will be less likely to complain when one of the many tiny things that inevitably go wrong falls upon me today. I will remember Zach and the other children who have touched my life and inspired me to live better.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mama Monday: The Wonder Weeks

Have you heard of the book The Wonder Weeks by Frans X. Plooij and Hetty van de Rijt? I think it has been the most helpful parenting book I've read (and I've read quite a few).

The general idea of The Wonder Weeks is that there are ten age-specific periods of intense mental development in the first twenty months of life. During these periods of development, babies are fussier and often show regressions before new skills emerge.

I first picked up The Wonder Weeks when Cal, who is normally a pretty easy baby, was acting completely out-of-control, not sleeping, fussing all the time, and refusing to eat. I'd read about the book in passing on the blog Chronicles of a BabyWise Mom, and knew the gist of it. I started wondering if maybe Cal's odd behavior was related to these so-called "Wonder Weeks." I looked at the table of contents on Amazon and sure enough, Cal was right in the middle of one of these fussy periods. I knew I had to get my hands on the book as soon as possible.

A grumpy Cal around five weeks old (another "Wonder Week"

Now Cal is in week 26, another fussy period (the second for which I've had the book). Some of his "symptoms" have been night-waking, early morning waking, random fussiness and crying, and lack of social interaction (if you know my son, you know that ordinarily he is very social). Supposedly by the end of this week, he will be aware of "the world of relationships," and will be well on his way to developing skills like crawling, putting items in boxes, and sitting up.

So how does this book help? Honestly, it is mostly informative, but just knowing that there is a reason for the madness helps so much, as well as the fact that the fussy periods do end (although the one I'm in can last up to five weeks -- it's been three so far and I'm hoping we're about done). In addition, it cites other mothers' experiences and lists games and toys that will help the baby develop their newfound skills.

While I've definitely been known around my house to refer to the fussy periods of the wonder weeks as "Hell weeks," knowing more about them is so helpful -- I can't imagine how crazy I would be feeling without them. (And Cal is a really good, happy baby, so for those of you with colicky babies, I salute and admire you (and will probably join your ranks with one of my children someday)). I can't recommend the book enough! Apparently there is also an iPhone app. I don't have a smart phone so I haven't tried it out, but it might be more accessible than a thick parenting book. Have any of you heard of these wonder weeks and had experiences with them?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Foodie Friday: Rock'N Fish

Scott and I love seafood, so being out of landlocked Utah and near the sea is definitely a culinary advantage. Scott scouted out Rock'N Fish on Manhattan Beach for one of our first seafood adventures.

Right off Manhattan Beach, it is the perfect place to go when you are spending your day at the shore. It is very close to the pier, which houses a free aquarium, the beach, and the walking paths along the beach. There are also several other restaurants and shops nearby.

We parked in a garage several blocks away, but didn't mind the walk as we were heading to the beach anyway. The parking was $2.00 hourly and very tight -- it took some maneuvering to get the car seat out. 

We never entered the actual restaurant -- in the front is a screen that pulls up during business hours, leaving tables out in the open air, which was perfect for this beach adventure. The atmosphere is on the nicer side of casual -- there were definitely people in swimsuits, but it had a classy air (and prices to match).

I will say that the restaurant is not particularly kid friendly -- there wasn't a good place to put our stroller so we folded it up and left it outside. We put Cal's car seat under the table, where he blissfully snoozed through our lunch (ahh, those newborn days where they sleep everywhere), but we got a few irritated looks from patrons and waiters nonetheless.

The food was incredible. I don't remember what Scott ordered -- something with scallops and sweet potato fries. I had jambalaya, which was fantastic and very spicy. However, the real star for us was the clam chowder. We were only sharing a cup because someone had mentioned to us that it was good, but I honestly wish that it was all I had ordered. It was fantastic. Scott had to leave and put more money in the meter and I was tempted to devour the entire cup before he returned -- fortunately, I have some human kindness left in my heart. The bread was also excellent.

Cost: $$$ a little pricey ($15 for my lunch-size portion of jambalaya)
Hours: 11:30 am - 10 pm, Sunday through Monday
11:30 am - 10:30 pm, Thursday
11:30 am - 11:00 pm, Friday through Saturday
Address: 120 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 (310) 379-9900
Reservations: Yes

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mama Monday: Breastfeeding

I have a confession to make. When I heard all the horror stories about breastfeeding and how challenging it was for so many people, I rolled my eyes. I thought to myself, "Women have been breastfeeding babies since humanity began. How could it possibly be that difficult?" My first experience feeding Cal seemed to validate my confidence -- he latched on and fed effortlessly. However, after that, everything seemed to go wrong.

First of all, everything became very painful. I won't go into too graphic details, but just think blisters. I spent hours asking every nurse I could find what I was doing wrong, but everyone seemed to have different answers. In addition, Cal was always hungry, up constantly demanding food (which was painful). The nurses kept assuring me that I had enough milk, that it just needed to come in, and that it was normal for my baby to want to eat so much in the beginning days. They tried to teach me the signs of Cal being satisfied, and ignored my comments that he never seemed satisfied. The pediatricians assured me that Cal's weight loss was not too much and that once my milk came in, he would be a happy baby.

However, the day after we left the hospital and took Cal to the pediatrician, he had lost too much weight -- he had gone from 9 lbs. 9 oz. to 8 lbs. 10 oz. The pediatrician recommended that I give Cal formula, but I so desperately wanted to breastfeed him that I refused. He acknowledged that perhaps my milk hadn't come in yet, and said to feed the baby every two hours and come back in two days to have him weighed again.

That night was horrible. Cal refused to nurse on one side but was screaming with hunger. I knew this wasn't just my milk coming in late from having a C-Section -- something was wrong. I called a lactation consultant the next day, who, after observing Cal attempting to nurse, solved the beginning of the puzzle -- I simply did not have enough milk-producing cells. Cal had lost more weight the second day and obviously needed to be fed a new way. He was refusing to nurse because he was frustrated with the low amount of milk he was getting, but I didn't want to give up breastfeeding him -- I knew it was the best food he could get, and I also loved the bonding time with him. So Elena introduced a bizarre contraption called the supplemental nursing system. Basically, it held formula that went through a tube that attached to my breast, so when Cal sucked he could receive breast milk and formula at the same time, thus motivating him to suck more.

It was a little complicated using the SNS at first, and for a while my plan was to use it until the risk of nipple confusion was over and then just nurse and give Cal a bottle afterward. However, as we used the SNS, I realized that he was not going to be happy nursing without it. He was too impatient and would just stop nursing if that extra formula wasn't there. So we kept using it, up until he was 4 and a half months old. At that point, he started refusing to nurse again. I tried for about two weeks, but he was now too impatient even for the SNS, and in addition he kept pulling off the tape. I now pump for him and give him the breastmilk in addition to the formula. I only get about 5 oz. a day from the pump, but I figure it is worth it. I am going to stop pumping once he is six months old -- it is so time intensive for such a small amount of milk -- but I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to nurse as long as I did and provide breastmilk for my baby.

I wanted to write this post because when I was having trouble, I felt incredibly alone. I felt like I was the only woman in the world who was incapable of providing for her baby. I was jealous when people would leave meetings at church to nurse their babies, and I worried that people were judging me when I bought formula in the store and mixed it up in public. I obsessed about my milk production -- I remember crying over the tiny amount of milk that I pumped one day. It took time to overcome the feelings of inadequacy and to not feel jealous of women who were able to nurse without having to think about it. One of the biggest comforts to me was stumbling across a blog post written by a college acquaintance who had experienced similar problems, as well as talking about the situation with people who had experienced similar problems.

I also wanted to list the problems we discovered that we had that led to my low milk supply and what I tried to improve the situation, in the off-chance that it could help someone else.  We discovered that not only did I have insufficient glandular tissue, but also several other factors that led to low milk production, including:

  • Induction
  • C-Section
  • Traumatic birth experience
  • PPD
  • Cleft soft palate
  • Tongue-tie
  • Thrush
Some of the things that we did to improve the situation were:
  • Use an SNS
  • Pump after feedings (I will say that this was incredibly difficult in the first few weeks. I could not put Cal down long enough to pump. However, it did help later.
  • Take a supplement -- the one that was most helpful for me was "More Milk Plus Special Blend," which contains goat's rue, fennel, fenugreek, blessed thistle, and nettle. (I used to make fun of people who took supplements like this, but it really did help).
  • I also read a very helpful book, The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West and Lisa Marasco. 
I was able to come to a point where I was at peace with myself for the decisions I made. I did the best I could, and while things didn't go the way I had envisioned them going while I was pregnant, they were fine. I'm grateful for the time that I was able to breastfeed, and the perspective that I now have for future children. I did so much research about this while I was trying to figure everything out that I've decided to certify as a lactation consultant in a few years. Despite the difficulties, I learned so much. So to those of you struggling -- don't worry! Do what is best for you and your baby, and don't worry about what other people think.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To all the mamas...

I have been lucky enough to be influenced by some amazing mothers. Today I was thinking about all the wonderful women who have blessed my life, and I felt like I needed to say something to them.

:: To my wonderful friends, thank you for the good examples, the good advice, the hugs, the meals, and the breaks. Being a mom is hard work, much harder than I ever could have fathomed, but all of you have helped me to weather the hard times so I can enjoy the good ones. Thank you for making motherhood navigable, for adoring Cal, and for sharing your lovely children with me.

:: To the mothers of my patients: Thank you for your sacrifice, your endurance, your faith, and your trust. I have only had a tiny taste of what it is like to have a sick child in the hospital, and you live it every day for years. The love you have for your children is written on your faces, and I hope I can learn to emulate your strength.

:: To my beautiful sisters-in-law: Thank you for your amazing examples. You all have beautiful, sweet children and Cal is lucky to have such good role models for his cousins. Thank you for helping me to have a sense of humor, for your advice and perspective, and for your friendship.

:: To my sweet sister: I know you're not a mama yet, but you already touch the lives of so many children as you teach, and honestly, I've never met a kid who doesn't love you. Cal can't get enough of his Auntie Jenna, and I know that once you are a mama you are going to be amazing and I look forward to learning from you.

:: To my lovely grandmas: I am so lucky to have known so many of you. I miss my great-grandmas that passed away last year, and I feel so blessed that I still have three lovely grandmas to spend time with now. Thank you for teaching me to cook, for being interested in what I am passionate about, and for loving me unconditionally.

:: To my mother-in-law: I haven't had the opportunity to meet you in this life, but the stories the people who love you tell makes me excited for when we finally do get to meet in the next life. Thank you for raising the wonderful man I married -- he says you are the woman who has had the greatest influence on his life, and I know that without you he wouldn't be the man he is today. You are one of my greatest role models and I can't wait to give you a hug someday.

And of course...

:: To my mommy: I love you so much! Thank you first of all for birthing me, because now I know firsthand how awful that experience can be. :) Thank you for putting up with my tantrums and for getting up with me in the middle of the night when I was a baby; thank you for putting up with my drama when I was a teenager (and maybe a little bit still now). Thank you for loving Cal and being the best grandma to him. Thank you for teaching me about the Gospel and sharing your testimony. Thank you for asking me about books and learning about classical music, and paying for thousands of dollars worth of piano lessons. I love you so much and I am glad you come to visit me so often, even though I've taken your grandson further away from you than you would like. You are the best example and I hope I can be as good of a mom as you are.

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