“You look good wearing my future”

I still remember the metaphor Donna Martin used in the TV show Beverly Hill, 90210 to convince the parents that sex education is a good thing. She says: what if there’s this swimming pool and you do everything you can to keep the kids out of it, you build a big fence and you keep it locked, but still you know that the kids are going to get in it, shouldn’t you teach them how to swim?

I don’t know which is worse, that I remember a scene I watched once in 1992 or that I’m still getting so many of my ideas from pop culture. I mean, I think I get most of my values from church, from the family dinners my parents conducted every night at 6 pm my whole childhood, but lately I’ve had sex on the brain, and movies and TV and the New York Times have had a lot of good things to say about it.

On Glee, there was a line about how it’s not who you’re attracted to, it’s who you fall in love with, and on the Op-Ed page of the Times there was a great piece on Why Monogamy Matters, where the conclusion from recent research is that “a high sexual ideal can shape how quickly and casually people pair off, even when they aren’t living up to its exacting demands. The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.”

Sometimes it’s hard for me to balance reality with idealism, especially when it comes to what I want my kids to know. And this is particularly important for my daughters, because that research shows that female promiscuity is strongly correlated to depression. This sounds sexist, but really it’s practical biology. (Not to mention backed up by my faith — which encourages chastity and fidelity for women and men.)

Last week Tom and I watched Easy A, and while it definitely earned it’s PG-13 rating (and then some, for language and theme, though nothing actually happens), it was a fantastic movie. I love high school movies in general, and one that pays homage to 80s John Hughes flicks and Nathaniel Hawthorne? Sign me up! The more I think about it, I’ll probably watch it with Avery in a couple of years, when I’m ready to take The Talk a little further.

A couple years ago I had to encourage someone who is more pure and innocent than most five-year-olds I know to get STD testing after her husband left her. Things happen. I don’t expect my daughters to be perfect. I wasn’t, and am not perfect, but there has to be a way to balance the high ideal we’re never going to give up and the reality that we’re human beings in a imperfect world. In Easy A, which is about truth and reputation/perception and gossip and friendship and family, the school counselor says something about this being a time in your life to make mistakes and explore but that she doesn’t want something to happen (unplanned pregnancy, STD) that will define you for the rest of your life.

That’s what I want to do for my girls — not by handing out condoms necessarily, as the school counselor does (though I have thought before that if I had a wild daughter, I’d take her in for a depo shot), but by teaching them and being available enough to them that while they’re free to discover who they really are, hopefully we can keep them safe from the type of decision that can’t be undone.


I am participating in the Let’s Talk about STDs Campaign for RapidSTDtesting.com. I memorized Some Kind of Wonderful and had four daughters I now have to teach about all this stuff all on my own. (Ok, Tom helped with the daughters — but NOT with SKOW.)


Kiss me, I’m a river in Ireland!

Callie has been saving this shirt she found at DI for five weeks.

This morning I told Callie that St. Patrick was the missionary who took Christianity to Ireland. I have no idea if that’s entirely true, and I didn’t have four hours to spend on Wikipedia, not that it would take that long to look up, but when you add in the seventeen other things I need to know, it would be dinner time and this was a breakfast conversation.

Callie: “So . . . St. Patrick was a leprechaun? and green was his favorite color?”

I put green food coloring in the whipped cream for our pancakes. Lucy: “So our food won’t get pinched?” And as a hint, mint is not the best flavor for whipped cream, no matter the temptation. It’s too toothpastey. Better stick with mapleine or almond if vanilla is getting old, not that we eat whipped cream every single day so we feel the need to branch out.

Tara served us corned beef and cabbage a few years ago and ever since then I’ve thought that that would be a great idea, usually at about 5 pm on March 17th. So it hasn’t happened. But today I’ve got this crockpot version cooking away, with apple juice instead of water — reviewers call for beer but I’m out, and real carrots instead of baby-cut. And I made Irish soda bread, with a handful of craisins.

I think I cut the x a little deep.

If this sounds like a lot, please note that it’s the first time I’ve done anything for St. Patrick’s Day ever, and my kids also have no idea I love them because I didn’t give them Valentines. If it seems like a little (where’s the pot of gold place cards and shamrock centerpieces?), well forget you, it’s not a competition. (is it?)

At least I’ve never been to Haiti (or Libya, I’ve never been to Libya, or Yemen or Bahrain . . . )

Flowers from my students.

I wasn’t going to say anything about the tragedy in Japan, because it’s annoying how people make it about themselves, from a mommy blogger telling you how she spent three months  in Hon-Atsugi to Diane Rehm talking about how the earthquake and tsumani will affect the American economy. Amid the horror and the sorrow for the people who’ve lost their lives or families or homes or livelihoods, there’s a good bit of survivor’s guilt and worry about what could be next, how could this affect us, what can we possibly do to make a difference in the wide world of hurt (besides committing at least 10 percent of our income permanently, as Peter Singer suggests).

It would be really easy to wonder what God’s plan is in all this, and why I’ve been so lucky even though I was in Manhattan on 9/11, and in Cairo in 2003 at the beginning of the current Iraq war and in Florida during the horrible hurricanes. Is there another shoe about to drop? The shoe that is already on the ground is devastating enough to the people immediately affected. Why them? Why not me? What should I do?

In some ways I’m grateful to be a full-time caregiver in these times of natural or man-made disaster. In times of peace and prosperity (which, granted, if I urgently cared about what’s going on in Darfur or Sierra Leone or a hundred other places at any given time, would be never, but) it’s tempting to daydream about what occupation or schooling I’d like to pursue outside of caring for these four girls and my husband.

When disaster strikes and you read about people losing children, it’s nice to be both physically occupied by the mundane emergencies children generate hourly and emotionally certain that what I am doing matters, that even if you reduce my current life’s work to a title like “nanny,” I am doing something real, something that has to be done, something that is laying the foundation for how four human beings will interact with that hurt, broken outside world for the rest of their lives.

So for them, and for what it’s worth, here is my Testimony on the Worthiness of the Japanese People and Prayer for Their Comfort.

Tom and I flew into Narita in June of 1999, after graduating from BYU in English. We had been married for a year, and this was our big break from the lovely shelter of Provo, Utah. I know, it’s sounding all about us so far, and it gets worse — we were there on the Imperialist Mission of Teaching Conversational English. But Japan was lovely, clean and orderly and safe. And the people were so helpful and friendly and determined to win the game of Reciprocation for the Slightest Courtesy. We watched the best fireworks over Yokohama Harbor and ate delicious sushi (at least they told me it was delicious) after an Aikido Exhibition and were glad the trains were so reliable after our British coworker spent all night on them sloshed.

Someone told us that the little police box in the park saw the most action when parents were teaching their kids honesty by having them return 100 yen notes found on the ground. And even though the doctor wouldn’t come within five feet of me when I had the mysterious elephant-woman disease (in his defense, my full-facial allergic reaction looked like leprosy), our interpreter Hiro bravely stayed by my side.

Tom at a Shinto Shrine

In the middle of one night we got a call saying Tom had been accepted to Columbia and we made plans for New York City in the fall. Later I would joke to my family that Harlem was much more of a culture shock than even Shinjuku.

The bottom line is, because I’ve been there, because an old friend from high school got to say on Facebook that his parents and family in Sendai are okay, I feel like maybe it could be true that for this instant We Are All Japanese, or that at least we can pray will full purpose of heart and concentration of mind in this moment that God would bless the people in Japan, comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and make tomorrow better.

Kanagawa Institute of Technology



Everybody’s doing it

She doesn't like the next new food (oatmeal in this case) as much as you might guess from this picture.

Last night I was reading a trashy novel on my iPod while Tom watched a TV show on his laptop. In my book, the heroine’s brother had been incarcerated for hacking into Twitter and bringing it down for 48 hours. Just then a character on Tom’s show talked her way into a trendy restaurant by telling the maitre’d how influential her foodie blog was. I realized a couple of things:

a) we might need to look into some loftier entertainment options


b) blogging (and Twitter and zumba and {insert latest trend}) was a lot funner when no one knew what a blog was.

Now I’ve got my grandma(!) defending Mormon Mommy Bloggers (I’m getting to that post; grandma wrote her grand defense on a computer with a 3 1/2 floppy drive and no internet access) and I can’t even read a fun romance without being reminded that I haven’t been on the Twitter much lately.

It’s not that I’m a pop culture snob (obviously), or that I have any trend-setter/early-adopter pretensions (I only started blogging after Tom nagged me for a year, same with Twitter), it’s more something like Groucho Marx’s thing about not wanting to be friends with anyone who would be friends with him. Or something.

Anyone have a fun new hobby?

I’m sorry, Donny, crooning “Puppy Love” to screaming teenage girls is not the same as knocking doors in Siberia

I probably should not say anything about this because to be perfectly honest, I think college sports are only slightly less-worthless to humanity than pro sports are. In other words, right up there with Muammar Qaddafi’s ego in the amount of good they have done the world.

But there seems to be some confusion. Jimmer Fredette is actually NOT the greatest Mormon missionary in the world, I don’t care how cute he was as a waterboy for his big brother. And the whole Brandon Davies thing? Look, kudos to him if he confessed having sex with his girlfriend if there’s no proof, and if she is pregnant, then, dude, what a difficult situation for her. It’s hard enough being pregnant, in the best of all possible circumstances, and these are not ideal circumstances. I hope they’re able to make the best of whatever the situation is.

It irks me when winning a game is the most important thing. Did you see the movie Secretariat? Probably not, because it was a pretty stinky movie about Diane Lane and a horse. Diane Lane’s character (it’s based on a true story) basically abandons her family and does all sorts of crazy things but in the end it’s okay, her family’s all kinds of proud of her and her husband thinks she’s fabulous because the horse Secretariat wins the Triple Crown. Which, horse racing? Come on. What if the horse hadn’t won? And how does some horse’s running ability translate into it being okay that she left her kids? But wait, she followed her dream, she believed in . . . a horse. Triumph of the human, er, equine spirit, blah blah blah.

The greatest Mormon missionaries in the world are the ones who get up when the missionary handbook says to get up, and go to bed when the missionary handbook says to go to bed. They look for ways to serve; they cut their preparation day in half when their mission president asks them to. They wear white shirts and ties and they listen to the music that’s allowed, and they read their scriptures because they’re supposed to. They preach when the Spirit moves them and they cry tears of joy when someone wants to be baptized.

There’s a missionary in Texas right now who red-shirted for football . . . at the University of Utah. But right now he’s an AP (fancy leadership position) in Texas. My entire family are BYU loyalists, and I mean, my entire family: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my four brothers and sisters, and around sixty of my first cousins and their spouses. I met my husband there and I want my children to have the same experience.

But I am pretty darn impressed by a missionary in Texas who’ll return to play for the Utes. I might even go see a game and cheer him on, if I can work up to sitting through some football.