Dec 4, 2017

When You Have Feelings and You Need to Feel Your Feelings--With Music

On our way home from Utah after Thanksgiving, I had lots of time in the car and not a lot to do so I started messing around with playlists on Spotify.

I'll confess, I'm very new to Spotify. Max has it and one day asked me for the name of a song he wanted to add to one of his playlists.
I promptly stole his phone and started making this super kick-butt 80's playlist for him. I may or may not have been a master of the mix tape back in the day. But that's neither here nor there. Over the next few days, I kept adding to "Max's Rad 80's".

And then he was like:
"Mom, give me my phone back and make your own Spotify account. Also, can you get us premium?"
And I was like:
"Whatevs. You are welcome for the best music you've ever heard!! Top 40 sucks and Hip Hop is for losers! Tell your friends! And NO, we're not getting premium."

Or something.

Anyway, I got cut off from my rad playlist and decided I would just go ahead and make my own Spotify account-- like he said-- even though I *mostly* almost always categorically disapprove of anything I...
a) hear about from a teenager first and/or
b) am told to do by a teenager

But then we're all stuck in the car and we have 10 billion more hours and Doug wants some music on and Max wants me to pick one of his Spotify playlists....
Which reminds me that his taste in music is questionable and mine is amazing......
So I play my Rad 80's mix and then start working on a NEW list. This time in my very own account.

Turns out I was in a mood and wanted some music to match my mood.
I wanted to feel some feelings. Not necessarily sad or mad or angry feelings. Just *deep* feelings. The feelings that make you cry a little on the inside.

I started creating a playlist titled--for lack of a more clever name:

I got a few songs on it and thought it would be fun to ask Facebook for suggestions. I even tagged a few people who I happen to know have strong feelings about music--and also similar taste to mine. was a really good decision.

I don't want to over-sell it or anything, buuuuuuuuuuuuuut...
this playlist may just be my gift to humanity.
My legacy. The best thing I've ever created.
(Except for, ya know, my kids and whatnot.)

So anyway, if you want you can "Follow" my "Angsty" playlist on Spotify.
If you need help, ask your kids to 'teen-splain' it to you. (FYI, Teensplaining--which I just coined--is 10,000 X more obnoxious than Mansplaining so prepare yourself for some serious condescendtion from your adorable child.)

(If you want to avoid all that you can listen from the link in the side bar over there in the right side bar.)

I've been listening to this play list for a few days and I have to say it's almost perfect. If I were currently taking Zoloft, I would be increasing my dose. But in a good way, ya know??


And let me know if you have any suggestions!

My Spotify User Name is: Emilydeon and the playlist is "Angsty".


Oct 9, 2017

Quick, Easy, and Cheap Emergency Preparedness

The multiple natural disasters happening near and far have me, as usual, thinking back to our time in Japan after the 3/11/11 Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Meltdown.
I still remember a week or two after it happened, I logged in to Facebook one day to send out an update and there was the rest of the world: blithely going about their lives. It was a very odd when we felt like we were living in a nightmare.

I remember in the weeks and months after the quake, we would be talking about our experiences, mention preparedness or 72 hour kits, and our friends and family would nonchalantly (or sheepishly) mention "Yeah, I guess I should get something just in case..."


(Sometimes I get a little vehement. Usually I keep said vehemence to myself. The rest of the time, I blog about it or yell it at bad drivers.)

I feel incredibly heart sick for those affected by natural disasters, (AND man-made disasters like Vegas). Heart sick and anxious and fearful and helpless. But those feelings don't help anyone. Talking about those feelings on-line probably won't help anyone. But maybe writing about preparedness WILL help someone. I don't really wanna be a preparedness blogger. But here we all are.

We can't prepare for everything. We can't prevent all bad things from happening. But we can take some basic steps to bring a little peace into our lives.

I know "Emergency Preparedness" can be daunting. To some it just seems like an overwhelming chore.
Some don't want to spend a lot of money and try to DIY it. 
After all, you might think, "I just need to print a list from Pinterest, take it to two or three stores, buy every supply on the list {times number of family members,} take items home, assemble in appropriate carrying aparatus, and then find a place to store it all!"
I'm here to tell you it does not need to be that hard.

Here's the deal though: It does cost a little money. But you can get a good start for around $40-$50.

Maybe you are completely broke. Maybe buying one or two emergency supplies is your only option. If that's the case, you can make it work. Get a list, and get a few things when you can afford them. (Start with a case of bottled water, next add emergency food bars, and go from there.) THAT IS BETTER THAN NOTHING!

(Also, tell your parents that you would LOVE a 72-hour kit for Christmas. They might just be THRILLED to hook you up!)

For the rest of you, please listen closely to my words:
Think about your budget. Think about the things you spend money on every single month. Think about some of the things you buy that are WANTS and not absolute needs.
 Most of us have SOMETHING in our budget that isn't strictly  necessary to keep us alive. Most of us have SOMETHING we can sacrifice for a good cause. THIS IS THAT CAUSE.

In case you're wondering, I speak from experience. We purchased our 2-Backpack-72-hour-kit-for-Four-People when we were broke and living on student loans during UCSF Dental School. Our expenses (living in San Francisco) were high, and our budget was tiny. But we were counseled by church leaders to be prepared. 
We immediately bought what we needed and started saving a little cash to keep on hand. I had those same emergency 72-hour kits a few years later on 3/11/11, and a tiny "can" safe full of $800/cash we had slowly saved over time.

{With the power out, and ATM's, cash registers and credit card machines not working, guess what I used to buy extra diapers with after the quake? Cash from my tiny safe.}

So here's my advice, once you've determined that you're going to skip dinner out for a few weeks, and turn off your cable for a month, or disconnect your ungrateful teens cell coverage for three months, (just to keep them humble), you can start the lengthy, tedious, difficult process to becoming prepared.

First, get on-line
Second, buy a pre-made 72-hour kit. 

That's it.

I just looked on Amazon. They have a 72-hour-kit for FOUR people on-sale for $139.95. That is actually pretty darn cheap. If that is still too rich for your blood, get a one person kit for around $50. (I picked one up at Home Depot once for around $35!)
A ONE person 72-hour kit could also be a THREE person 24-hour kit. In other words, it's better than nothing.
Look at Amazon,,, or any other site of your choice. Give yourself 30-40 minutes to shop around and find the best bargain, and THEN JUST BUY ONE!!!

(You just might be so proud of yourself that next month you go back and buy another one!)

It doesn't actually have to be a long painful process. I ain't got time for that. YOU ain't got time for that.

Even IF you want to DIY it, I STILL recommend buying your first fully assembled kit. Here's why: you will instantly have a whole bunch of emergency stuff.
All at once.
All in one place.
All packed neatly.
All well thought out.
You will immediately feel a little better at the thought that you are not COMPLETELY unprepared for a disaster.

After that, you can TOTALLY bargain shop and add to it until it meets the needs of your entire family.

If you do want to outfit your family all at once, don't buy individual one-person packs or a lot of the items will be needlessly duplicated. If you can afford it, buy a pack built for 2 or 4.
That way, you aren't paying for 4 emergency hand crank radios but you're still getting 4 emergency whistles and rain coats and the right amount of food and water.

It's been a few years since Doug and I have made any significant updates to our stock of survival gear, and it's been at least a year since we rotated the food and clothes in our 72-hour-kits. (The food bricks last a long time, the snack-y stuff needs to be rotated.)

But we are now to the point we have everything we need and plenty of luxury items.
Some of those "luxury" items aren't all that fancy, like:
Snack food and candy in addition to emergency protein bars.
Mountain Home just-add-water meals
*Card games and small toys and comfort items for kids
A spare set of clothes for each person
Plus a few high tech gadgets like a solar phone charger

If we have to shelter in place, we can survive with enough food and water for a loooong time. If we have to evacuate, we have enough food and shelter and water and warmth for 72 hours for all seven of us. We didn't buy everything all at once. But we started with a basic kit for the four (at the time) members of our family, and built from there.

I KNOW this is not what most people want to spend money on--something you will stick in a closet and may never need. But I am here to tell you that preparedness FEELS GOOD! It alleviates stress and anxiety! It is calming! It is proactive! And it is something we can all accomplish if we want to!!

Please search the archives if you want posts written by me and by my friends on what we had and what we wished we had had in our preparedness supplies in the aftermath of the Tohoku quake. (Search for Preparedness or Misawa Monday Preparedness Perspective.)
And please ask if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!

Haven't got a single thing yet except a full HydroFlask by the kitchen sink?? 
Let me know when you've successfully hit the "Buy Now" button on your first 72-hour kit. I'll be here cheering for you. 
Somewhere in the middle? 
What are you still missing?
If you are already completely prepared, tell me where you got your stuff and what you are super happy to have!

Remember: "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."



*From my friend Kellie in Houston:
We didn't need to evacuate but were stuck at home for multiple days in a row with 7 kids... separate from the 72 hour kits, have a rubbermaid filled with glow sticks, Play-doh, a few new games or craft items.  I thought about it and purchased a few days before the storm hit and I am soooo glad I did, seriously saved our week.  I am now thinking about setting aside a permanent "emergency fun kit"

SHE WAS PREPARED!!! It was a rotten situation but I can guarantee her preparedness made it easier! Great job Kellie!!

Why I'm passionate about preparedness: Surviving the Earthquake in Japan

We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. But … you can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen.
— Gordon B. Hinckley

Oct 5, 2017

Raising Children with Love, Limits, and the Gospel in the age of Smart Devices.

I was asked to speak in church a few weeks ago and told I could us “Raising a Sin Resistant Generation” as a reference if I wanted. This is my (slightly edited) talk geared towards a congregation of Latter-day Saints.

(We'll skip the witty intro.)

Today I would like to talk about something near and dear to my heart. 
Raising children with Love, Limits, 
and the Gospel in the age of Smart devices.

Jean M. Twenge an author and professor of psychology at San Diego State, has been studying and graphing generational differences for 25 years. She says “Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so.” She says that has been true since the 1930’s.
That is, until 2012.
In 2012 Twenge noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states.
2012 is the same year the number of American’s owning a smart phone surpassed 50%. (This is also around the time I got my first smartphone after living in Japan without a cell phone for three years.)
We know that correlation is not necessarily causation, but there is a LOT of compelling evidence to support a link between drastic behavior shifts in teens and smart phones.

Twenge goes on to say that “the arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background…” I should note that all of us are affected by new technologies. 95 % of Americans now own a cellphone, and 77% of Americans own a smartphone. (Pew Research)
The profound difference with children born after the year 2000 is that they don’t remember anything different. Their childhood experiences are drastically different from Millennials and even those just a few years older.

Obviously, these changes in technology come with positives and negatives. In some ways our children are growing up more sheltered and safe. Teens are less likely to get in a car accident, teen alcohol use has decreased, and teen pregnancy rates are currently down. For our part, we all have access to scriptures, conference talks, uplifting church media content and interactions with our friends and families, some scattered around the world, in the palm of our hands.

However, the downsides are many. Kids are spending more time “under the same roof as their parents, but...they don’t pay attention to their families”.  
Twenge says (paraphrasing here) a nationally representative and long term study started in 1975 asks 12th graders a series of questions about their activities and their happiness. In recent years, questions about technology use have been added. “ The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy...There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all non screen activities are linked to more happiness.”

Aside from the sheer number of hours wasted on social media which tends to have an incredibly negative effect on self esteem, our kids now have unprecedented access to an endless array of virtual filth and degradation at their fingertips, and hours of unsupervised time with which to consume it. Pornography usage, as we all know, has exploded, and “rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011.” (Twenge)

As we navigate the changing times and drastic societal shifts, I believe it will be the calling of all of us, young and old, to learn to harness technology to it’s greatest potential while at the same time, minimizing its risks.

In the talk “A Sin-Resistant Generation, Sister Joy D. Jones discusses how all of us, especially parents, can “fortify children to become sin resistant.” Being sin resistant, will help all of us in using technology correctly.

To raise a sin resistant generation (and I’m going to paraphrase Sister Jones) we need to teach our children to “know without question that they are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, (And I would add, Heavenly Mother), Wouldn’t it be awesome if our kids knew how divinely outstanding they are?
We need to help them understand repentance. Because being sin-resistant doesn’t mean being sin-free.
And we need to “Teach them to create consistent habits of prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and Sabbath worship to develop “spiritual integrity.”
In addition, we need to prepare our children to make and keep sacred covenants. To do this, they first need to learn to keep promises and commitments.

For my part, in our family, we are trying hard to follow Sister Jones advice and raise our sons to resist sin, to limit their technology use, and and to choose to be righteous young men. But it is no easy task and success is not guaranteed.

In our home, we do try, and usually manage, some semblance of scripture study and prayer every day. Sometimes we take turns reading out loud. Lately we’ve been broadcasting the scriptures from a speaker so loud that the neighbors are having scripture study along with us.

Family Home Evening occurs most Monday nights. The lessons are short, sweet and to the point because we all know the game and treat are the most import part. (At least when you have five boys.)

To further help inoculate our children from the harmful influences that surround them, especially those that are technology related, you will find that we are pretty strict about cell-phone and computer use with our kids. Just ask our long-suffering teens.

A few practical habits we’ve instituted --just relating to smartphones-- are these:
  1. Turn off notifications. It seems like almost every single app on my phone comes with a feature that wants to “Alert” me when something happens within the app. Phones can be made to beep or buzz a million times a day leading to endless distractions. However, these alerts can also all be turned off. The only time my phone beeps is when I’m getting a call or text, and even a lot of the group texts on my phone are muted.
  2. Read from actual scriptures. I actually love listening to the scriptures from my phone. I usually follow a chapter of the Book of Mormon with a Bible chapter or with a conference talk or BYU devotional. It is a great way to start my day. However, it’s also very easy to get distracted. If you find you can’t read the scriptures on your phone without looking at Instagram too--it’s time to switch back to physical scriptures.
  3. Set tech free times. If it’s too hard do this on your own, use an app to help. (For our family, we use an app called “OurPact” that limits what you can do and when. Max can tell you all about how terrible it is.)
  4. Write a family technology guide, and individual technology contracts and have everyone affected sign them. Post your technology guide in a public place and review and update it periodically. If you’ve ever been in our kitchen, you’ve seen ours taped up to a cupboard. 
    (Of course this is only the first step. The next is to follow through.)
  5. Talk to your kids about WHY it matters. Share articles and have discussions. Even family night lessons. If you ask my kids, they will tell you all I do is read articles about why smart phones, or video games, or iPads are dangerous. It’s true. I read a LOT of articles. And in full disclosure, I’m usually reading them on my phone. But I think it’s important to teach my kids the reasons behind WHY I’m such a mean mom.
  6. Leave phones and ipads at home on Sundays. Our kids are being allowed to completely tune out during Sacrament and other church meetings. When and how will they be taught to tune in to the Spirit? How will they ever have the spiritual discipline to tune in while performing sacred ordinances in the temple?

I don’t know if any of you will remember the LDS musical called “The Ark”. It was written by Michael Mclean in the 90’s and I still remember one funny line. Noah and his wife are having a heated discussion about their children when she says “I’m a mother! I know all about free-agency AND how to enforce it!!”

The truth of the matter is, I can make all the rules I want, but if my kids don’t decide for themselves that they were made for something greater than social media consumption, it won't matter how restrictive I make things.

Teens: You need to decide how you will use and how you will limit your technology use. Not because you feel controlled by your parents. Not out of guilt or fear.
But because you have made the conscious choice to love the Lord and put Him first in your life.
And because you know what a gift your life is and you don’t want to squander it on things of no worth. YOU ultimately get to choose what manner of young women and young men ye ought to be.
One of my favorite quotes is "You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you."

To all of you kids/teens/young adults: If you are finding that your apps or game systems or even an epic Netflix binge session is still leaving you feeling unsatisfied, try opening your scriptures and studying the life of Christ. Even for a short time. And see if you can find the feeling of joy and satisfaction you are missing.
When the games are gone and only the compass app is left.
(Waiting for "The Mousetrap" to start in London)
Adults: (not speaking to only parents but all adults) Our youth need spiritual guidance, and limits, and love. And they especially need to be taught to understand the love behind the limits. But if you can do only one thing to help the youth around you, let it be that you love them with Christ-like love.
Show them that you want them to succeed. We don’t need anyone else to be against our youth. Satan will try to tear them down, the world will try to tear them down, but hopefully, their church family (neighbors, teachers, friends, and extended family) will be there to buoy them up and strengthen them.

When we think about raising sin-resistant children, it is easy to get overwhelmed and think that technology is too overwhelming,  and that society is a lost cause. We hear a lot of talk in the news these days about “Millennials” and how many problems they have. How they are needy and dependant and addicted to their phones.

Elder Nelson responded to this trend in a talk titled “Becoming True Millennials” He said, A True Millennial is a man or woman whom God trusted enough to send to earth during the most compelling dispensation in the history of this world. A True Millennial is a man or woman who lives now to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His millennial reign.

This applies not just to those born within a limited span of years, but to all of us here now.

I believe this is a fight we can win. We can’t give up. I am frequently exhausted as a parent. As I think most parents are. I often think it would be much easier to give up and let my kids fend for themselves. But I will not abandon this cause. Because their salvation literally hangs in the balance. I will continue to try to teach them to use their agency correctly--out of love for God and for themselves-- and continue trying to raise them with light and truth. And I hope I can help and assist my friends and neighbors as they try to do the same and support these amazing young people as they learn and mature.


So what do you think? I'd love to hear your helpful thoughts on what I said, or on the research, or on what you are doing to help the youth in your life!

A Sin Resistant Generation” by Joy D. Jones
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation” by Jean M. Twenge (in The Atlantic)
Becoming True Millennials” by Russell M. Nelson
“Mormons React to Millennial Stereotypes” by LDS Living (This was a little video embedded in Facebook.)
A Plea To My Sisters” by Russell M. Nelson

Wait Until 8th Pledge” by Linda Sharkey

Found this great article after giving my talk: The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today's Children
Good stuff.
Protect Young Minds (formerly Porn Proof Kids) has resources for families like a template for a Family Technology Guide.
We used it to make our Dub Family Tech Rules

 Our Minds Can Be Hijacked

"Porn is Not the Worst Thing on" by Anastasia Basil

"Leave the Party" by LDS Youth

"The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers" by Anna Homayoun for New York Times

"Teacher Urges Parents to Wake Up When it Comes to Kids' Social Media Use" ABC news report about Skipper Coates

Jun 21, 2017

60ish Ideas For Screen-Free Summer Fun

60ish Ideas for Fun Summer Activities with ZERO screens and (hopefully) minimal parental supervision required. Customize to fit your needs!

It's summer time!!! And if you are anything like me, you feel an equal mixture of glee at "No more lunch packing or homework!!" and abject terror of "I'm BORED" and "I'm STARVING is it breakfast/lunch/dinner time yet?" on repeat

For me, my goal, every summer, is exactly the same. To get them to do a little work in the morning. (Usually work books from Costco--my boys will actually do the Star Wars ones--and a few chores like read scriptures, practice piano, make bed, unload dishes.)

When chores are done, I want them playing outside in the backyard as much as possible.
(Yes, we will have trips to the beach/pool/ice cream parlor--just not every day!!)

If they've spent hours keeping busy in the morning and afternoon, I have no problem letting them chill literally and figuratively with a show or Minecraft session in the late afternoon/early evening. I just can't handle being begged for devices

Sure, this seems like a pipe dream, but I know it's possible because when I was a kid
For hours and hours.
Coming in as little as possible and only when absolutely desperate to use the bathroom or eat.

So last year I made this list and hung it on the wall, but it had one fatal flaw.
One of the items was...
"Make a Lego stop-motion video."

This was the ONLY item on the list that in any way involved electronics, so naturally, it was the only thing anyone ever wanted to do on the list. "Mom, can you un-lock the iPad so I can make a Lego stop-motion video??" That only worked like the first 23 times, and then I cottoned on.

This year, it has been dashed from the list.

Also, I thought I would add a few more specific details to my list to make it easier for my children to actually visualize the activity.
For example
"Go on a bike ride" became
"Go on a bike ride to the Meeting House."

I don't want them to get on their bikes and over-tax their poor, tired little brains by having to come up with a destination. (Lest they give up and come inside.) So I got more specific.

Naturally, if you don't have a turn-of-the-century German Meeting House within biking distance, you might want to amend the list to your specifications.

I recommend copying and pasting the list into a new document and customizing it to fit your kids--and the play structures you have available. ;)

(If someone wants to tell me how to make this into a printable and customizable PDF, I'm all ears.)

Here's to hoping this helps! Good luck to all of us!!!

Time for SUMMER FUN !

Take a walk to the look-out
Ride a bike to the meeting house
Ride a scooter up the hill and back down
Go for a nature walk and collect sticks, leaves and cool rocks (but leave them outside.)
Climb a tree
Play hide and seek
Play Sardines
Play Kick-the-can
Play Kick Ball
Play Red-Rover
Put on a Puppet Show
Write a play and act it out with siblings (Jane Austen style)
Play Basketball
How many free throws can you make? (100=$1 from Mom
Knock out
Jump on the Trampoline
Dead Man
Practice your flips
Freeze Tag!
Read a book
In your room
Outside on a blanket
In a blanket fort!
Play in the Playroom
Board games
Stuffed animals
Play a board game or card game with a younger sibling
Play with Play-Doh (outside with permission and you have to clean up after.)
Draw a picture
Jump rope (set a new record for consecutive jumps!)
Cut shapes for a picture and glue together Leo Lionni style
Make a collage with pics cut from a magazine
Play Kickball
Play Wiffle Ball
Play Badminton
Play Frisbee
Keep an Art or Nature journal of your summer
Make mud pies
Build with Legos
Make a Lego village outside
Make a Lego zip-line
Make a Lego universe
Make a Fairy House or Fairy Garden in the corner of the yard
Build a fort (EVERYTHING needs to be put away after)
Eat lunch outside on a blanket
Press summer flowers for an art project later
Run through the sprinklers
Blow bubbles
Draw pictures with chalk outside
Use chalk to make a Hopscotch game
Memorize a scripture and earn $1
Read 10 stories to little sibling and earn $1
Do 10 extra chores to earn Special Time (art/cooking/clay) with Mom
Do a secret service for someone
Write someone an anonymous love note!
Paint (with permission)
Paint beach rocks (with permission)
Make a panorama in a shoe box-but only if you can find your own shoe box. (Do not ask Mom to find you a shoe-box.)
Write a and illustrate a story. Bind with yarn.
Write in your journal
Write to the missionaries
Open and use one of the many How To {craft/draw/experiment} Books Mom has bought for you!
Draw an imaginary creature and write a story about it
Make dinner for your family with Mom's approval.
Brush your teeth and don’t forget to floss (--Your Dentist)
Go to bed and stay in your bed until 7 am tomorrow ;)
Get extra practice on your instrument so you’ll be extra AMAZING
Don’t veg away your summer! Fill it with FUN ACTIVITIES!!!

Have a FABULOUS and FUN DAY!!!

P.S. It occurs to me that I should have an alternative list of "Mom's Choice" activities for the times they refuse to pick something from the first list.  THIS list will have things like...

  • Move the Wood Pile from where it is, to three feet to the left of where it is.
  • Wash all the lower level windows on the inside and outside.
  • Pull 200 weeds and lay them out in stacks of ten so I know you actually did it. And...
  • White wash the fence...
I'll get right to work on that one...

P.S. What did I miss? Do you have any brilliant summer time activities your kids love? Let me know in the comments!!