Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Santa's Not Real - And I'm Telling My Kids!

RJ and I do not encourage belief in Santa Claus. Let me explain exactly what that means before you tell me I am ruining my children’s fun, or that I’m a bad parent.

Santa does not exist. He is not real. I want my children to think critically. Encouraging them to believe in a fat man who delivers presents to all the good children in the world, on one night, does not teach critical thinking (or a good understanding of physics).

This does not mean we do not talk about Santa. We got family photos taken with Santa for our holiday cards this year. Rose knows who Santa is and that he brings presents. But she will know her presents on Christmas actually come from me and RJ.

Pictures with Santa at Hollywood Studios at Disney World
this past November. 
Santa is not real, Rose thinks about him the same way she thinks about Elsa, Tinkerbell, Cinderella, or Shrek. They are all imaginary characters and they all have a part in her imagination. I encourage her to use her imagination. The other day her blanket was laid out on the floor in the shape of a triangle. She sat down on it and asked me to come ride on the “dragon” with her. I did and pretended to fly around with her for a little. It was a lot of fun I love seeing her little imagination hard at work.

Letting children think of Santa like they think of their favorite Disney character will prolong the fun. There will not be a day when Rose no longer “believes” in Santa. There will not be a day she feels hurt and let down because she discovers Santa isn’t real. He never was real, and never will be, just like any other imaginary character.

Santa is fun, it is how we celebrate Christmas as atheists. We celebrate a time of selflessness, empathy, and love for everyone no matter their color, sexual orientation, or religion. Everyone deserves to feel loved and cared for around this time of year no matter what you celebrate or don’t celebrate.

I do not rely on Santa to get good behavior out of my children. I want my children to be good people because it’s the right thing to do. I do not want them to be good just so they don’t get coal in their stockings.

I don’t remember believing in Santa Claus. My Grandpa on my Dad’s side dressed up as Santa every year, from what I can remember he was the only Santa we saw and got photos with when we were kids. Young children are really good at seeing/feeling/smelling people they know. I don’t think my parents actively lied to me and told me that, that was “Santa” and not Grandpa. I am glad my parents did not insist on convincing us Santa was real.

I do not want to lie to my children. I do not want them to lie to me. I think creating a false reality by lying to them daily during the holiday’s is not going to make the best relationship.  I want my children to trust me and lying to them from day one, trying to convince them Santa is real will not create a trusting relationship. I think trust is much more important, rather than them believing a silly children's story is real.

I hope this got you thinking. I think the holiday season might be a lot better if it wasn’t about anything except loving and accepting each other.

I hope this makes sense, and it didn’t sound like my inner dialogue running away with itself to much. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Legging Army Review

My cousin Sue has started selling leggings through Legging Army. She recently asked if I would would write a review about them on my blog in exchange for a free pair. I have been in the market for a good pair of leggings. So I said yes! I picked out a pair online, and they showed up in the mail on Thursday. I thought would give them a few days before jumping in and reviewing them. So far they are pretty amazing.

There are a few things I look for when buying a pair of leggings.

  1. They must be Opaque
My leggings, and a basic v-neck from
Wet Seal. 
I typically wear leggings as pants, I do have a few tunics but mostly I just wear them with slightly longer t-shirts. So leggings I buy must not be see through.

Legging Army leggings are very Opaque. RJ could not see my underwear through them at all. I was pleasantly surprised by this because the material felt somewhat thin.

  1. Comfort
If they are too tight anywhere, I hate them. I have bought far too many leggings that are tight around the waist and it ruins the idea of being comfy and wearing some thing cozy and stretchy all day.

These leggings are very comfortable. I wore them all evening Thursday, and all day Friday. Not once did they pinch or get uncomfortable. We are a no pants house. And by that I mean usually the second anyone gets home the jeans/sweats come off. But I didn’t want to take my leggings off.

I do feel the need to add, I got the “plus size” I am typically a size 14 or 16 which did put me in the “one size fits all plus size” according to their size chart. I wish the world wouldn’t use labels like “plus size” because I do not feel plus size, but there is no way the smaller size would have fit me.

  1. Flattering
It is very hard for me to find leggings that are flattering. They are either too tight around the waist showing off too much mommy tummy, give me camel toe, or look like a second skin, and if I chose the right color I would look naked and could double as a manikin. Or leggings can be too loose and don’t hold enough in.

Their leggings were perfectly flattering. They come up high and make my mommy tummy just a bit smaller without making me feel claustrophobic. They make my legs and butt look great too, but are not so tight it looks like they are painted on. They are perfect.
  1. Soft
I love soft leggings. Most leggings are soft.

The material that these leggings are made out of is so soft it’s unreal. I find myself rubbing my hands across my thighs all day because the fabric is sooo nice to touch.

  1. Durability
In the past when I have purchased leggings around the 20 dollar range, they did not last long. They got holes, or snags very quickly. It’s difficult to get great leggings that cost less than 40 dollars.

Legging Army fabric quality feels great. The wedding ring I have easily snags things, and I have not snagged these yet and I don’t think I will (at least not with my ring). I think they will wear well and I will do an update about durability later on.

I know it is hard to see, it was impossible to get a good
picture. The annoying crooked seam, and one of the few
loose threads. 
I only have a few negative notes, but really I’m just being picky. There were a few loose threads which drove me nuts till I trimmed them. There is one seam that is quite crooked. It doesn’t affect the functionality of the leggings. But it is right inside the front of the waistband so every time I have to pee it stares me in the eye.

My only other complaint is, they do not have very many colors/patterns in my size. I am not a huge fan of the bright crazy patterns. I have only seen solid black in stock, in my size, once. I would have already bought a pair in black if they had been in stock…. It drives me nuts how many colors are in stock in the smaller size compared to the “plus size” it’s just a little unfair.

Overall I really like Legging Army and will be buying more from them. I still cannot get over how soft they are. I love them.

The leggings at Legging Army cost around 16-26 dollars based on size, color, fleece lined or not etc. Shipping is free.

If you are interested in getting some of these awesome leggings make sure you contact my cousin Sue. Here is a link to her Legging Army Facebook page Sue's Sassy Pants

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Walt Disney World November 2016 Family Trip

We recently spent an entire week at Walt Disney World. It was my first trip, and the girls first trip as well. RJ had been many times before, but it had been at least five years since his last visit. It was really fun to explore and experience such a awesome place with RJ and our daughters.

Heather being adorable on Main Street in Disney, in front
of Cinderella's Castle.
The drive took us seven to eight hours. The girls did amazingly well, and we only had to stop once. We had lunch and got gas right after we entered Florida. After that we made it pretty quickly to our condo in Orlando.

Disney has a big shopping area called Disney Springs. After we dumped all our stuff at the condo, we made our way over there to visit guest services so we could get our tickets, magicbands, and have some dinner.

As a cast member (Disney employee) finished up sorting out our tickets, Rose, in the sweetest voice, very politely asked, “Sticker please?” The cast member seemed quite impressed Rose asked for a sticker so nicely. The thought that they would have stickers didn’t even cross my mind, but Rose knew. The lady helping us went and got both Rose and Heather multiple stickers, and brought them both pins. It was awesome.

Little things like that happened the entire trip. There was always a cast member somewhere with a pocket full of stickers or something cool. Rose loved it.

Heather and RJ being more adorable. 
I have a few friends who knew very little about Disney World so I will give you a quick run down. Disney World has four main parks. The Magic Kingdom, which has the Cinderella castle. Epcot which has the large geodisic sphere which contains the ride Spaceship Earth. Epcot’s World Showcase (the back half of the park) has shops, food, and rides from countries all of the world, including the new Frozen ride (it’s my favorite park). Disney’s Hollywood Studios has the Hollywood Tower of Terror, Star Wars rides, a awesome Toy Story ride and lots others. Last is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is pretty self explanatory. Lots of animals, a fun safari ride, Bugs Life and Lion King attractions, and a good roller coaster. It’s a really fun park, and it’s very different from the others in the best way.

I could write a chapter book about our week at Disney but I won’t (at least not right now) so here are the highlights. We took it pretty easy most days, we did not want to overstimulate Rose and Heather too much.

Heather's cheesy grin is too cute.
Our first day was Sunday, we went to The Magic Kingdom. We got some absolutely adorable pictures of Heather in front of Cinderella's castle. Rose tripped just as we were starting to take the photos so she was a little grumpy during that photo session. We rode Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin that morning, it was Rose’s first ride ever. She was a little nervous but by the end she was having a good time. Heather was a tiny bit nervous at the beginning but then she wanted to see everything and I swear her eyeballs almost fell out (this became a regular occurrence throughout the trip). We went home relatively early that day.

The following day, Monday, we went to Epcot. We rode a few rides near the front of the park then made our way to the back of the park where our lunch reservation was. We had lunch in Germany at a restaurant called Biergarten. The food was great, and so was the entertainment. There was an oompah band playing. It was so much fun. Rose and Heather loved the music, and the cookies. Epcot was by far my favorite park we went there 3 other times throughout the week.

The big dinosaur dig in Animal Kingdom. Both the girls
had so much fun. 
Tuesday we had plans to go back to The Magic Kingdom. We abandoned those ideas and decided to go to The Animal Kingdom. We had a really good time there. Animal Kingdom is my second favorite park. Epcot is very adult and Animal Kingdom has a lot for kids. There is a GIANT playground with a big dinosaur dig that the girls spent an hour in. The best part of the whole day was the safari ride. We saw a ton of animals, and Heather loved it. Heather squealed and pointed at every animal. I do not think she has ever been so excited in her life!

That evening RJ and I had tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party. It was a lot of fun and we got to ride some fun rides we wouldn’t have if we had been there with the girls.

Wednesday plans got completely ruined. That day my miscarriage symptoms was the worst and I didn’t feel up to going to a park (I wrote all about my miscarriage in my previous post). We ended up just getting some lunch. Heather, our family friend and I all stayed at the condo. RJ took Rose to Epcot alone. Rose had an absolute blast. She kept saying things like, “Daddy, Rose go Disney World again, no Mommy, no Heather… no Mommy, no Heather, no Heather!” Apparently Rose really liked the flexibility of going to the park alone with Daddy. I ended up going to the Epcot with our family friend that evening. I was slightly disappointed we missed out on your plans that day but I am glad I didn’t push it because the rest of the week I felt fine because I took a day off.

Rose's face our first day at Disney the first time she saw
Cinderella's Castle 
Thursday morning we had breakfast at Hollywood Vine, which is located just inside Hollywood studios. It is geared for children. Characters walk around while you are eating. Heather got really excited by them and could not contain herself. Rose was a little more skeptical but still hugged everyone. Doc McStuffins, Jake from the Neverland Pirates, Handy Manny, and Sophia the First were there. It was great food, and so entertaining for the girls. I highly recommend having breakfast there if you bring little ones to Disney.  

We had fast passes for Hollywood’s Tower of Terror which we had a lot of fun riding. RJ and I rode together twice. We also had a fastpass for The Toy Story Ride. While we waited for our fastpass time to come around we got pictures with Santa. A Disney World employed Santa is not your normal Santa. Their training includes extensive research and knowledge of The United States. Santa asked where we lived, and he knew exactly where Canton is. I was quite impressed. The pictures turned out great and we used them for our holiday cards.

Hollywood Studios is the smallest park, and it shows. After just those two rides we were all overstimulated because of the crowds we decided to go home.

Rose and RJ, the afternoon they went
to Epcot alone together. 
That evening RJ and I had a date night planned. We had a reservation at Marrakesh in Epcot. We caught an Uber there and the driver was awful. It was the scariest ride we went on the entire trip! It was like being in a horrible cab. It smelled funny. The driver took the longest slowest route possible. He drove very erratically and scared the shit out of us. Luckily Uber refunded us for the ride and we made it to our dinner reservation in time. The food was really good. After dinner we rode a few rides then caught Disney transportation to Disney Springs. We walked around and did a bit of shopping. Then we settled at a bar and had a few drinks then headed home. It was a great evening. It was so much fun.

Friday was Rose and Mickey’s birthdays. At the gates of the parks they were handing out “Happy Birthday Mickey” pins. We also got a happy birthday pin for Rose. We started the day at The Magic Kingdom. We rode a few rides, got lunch at Cosmic Rays then made our way over to Epcot on the monorail to ride a few rides we missed out on. We also waited to see Minnie, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. I really wanted to get pictures of Rose with Mickey on their birthdays. I am so glad we were able to do it. The wait was minimal and the pictures turned out great. Heather literally ran around Rose and hugged the characters. Apparently that’s pretty uncommon for one year olds. It was adorable.

Rose holding the "Happy Birthday Mickey" pins, she
thought of that pose all by herself. It was so fun to be
there on his birthday, and so cool that Rose shares it. 
That evening we opened a few presents with Rose and had cupcakes. It was so fun to celebrate Rose’s third birthday at Disney world. I hope we can do it again in the near future.

Saturday morning we checked out of our condo. We had a breakfast reservation with the princesses at Akershus in Epcot. Breakfast with the them was a lot of fun. They parade around the room with all the little girls every half hour or so. Cinderella tried to get Rose to walk around with her but Rose didn’t want to. Rose reached for my hand, let go of Cinderella’s and waved goodbye, it was pretty funny. The food at Akershus was Norwegian themed, it was delicious. It was one of RJ’s favorite meals on the trip.

Friday night RJ got really lucky and found fastpasses for the new Frozen ride (the wait is always at least 60 minutes usually over 75). If you go to Disney make sure you use all your fast passes. I will be writing a how to get the most out of disney with little ones post in the near future. The Frozen ride was a lot of fun. It is a short boat ride. The animation/puppetry is amazing. At the end of the ride Heather attempted to climb out of the boat to see/hug Olaf. On the way out of the park I ended up buying her a stuffed Olaf, it made great entertainment on the way home.
Our last day at Disney, just before we had breakfast. It was
an amazing trip!

We had a wonderful trip. We made so many awesome memories. I highly recommend going. It was a lot of fun. We made sure we didn’t do so much we killed ourselves. And by the end I only sortof felt like I needed a vacation from our vacation.   

I know I haven’t been the best at posting frequently but I promise to do better! Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Early Miscarriage

This past week while on our family vacation at Disney World I had an early miscarriage. The Wednesday before we left for Florida, I went to see my Midwife to confirm my pregnancy. At my appointment I thought I would be about eight weeks. My last period was September 8th. I got a positive pregnancy test quite early (three-four weeks after my last period). Everything looked normal and I was definitely pregnant until we looked on a ultrasound, and tried to find a heartbeat.

My midwife brought a small portable ultrasound into the room and lead with, “I’m not a trained sonographer, with that in mind let’s see what we can find.” She couldn’t see anything. She told me she would get a ultrasound room and tech ready, and be right back. We made our way to the ultrasound room. The tech took a good look. All we could see was a small black shadow, that measured around five weeks. My midwife took me aside and said either I was only five weeks pregnant and I had my dates wrong, or it was an empty sac with no baby inside and I would probably miscarry soon. My midwife wanted to take blood to see what my pregnancy hormone levels were and test a few days later to see how they changed. If my numbers had not doubled I was not pregnant and I would likely miscarry.

I had blood drawn and came back on Friday and had it drawn again. It was Sunday or Monday I started spotting a little bit. I was unsure if it was because I was beginning to miscarry or if it was just a little spotting. Monday I got results back from the blood test. My hormone levels had gone down which does not happen in early pregnancy unless a miscarriage is on its way. My bleeding got heavier the evening before and I knew I was miscarrying.  

The day I got my test results back, it was a good day with
our cheesy matching sunglasses regardless of the news.
When I first got a positive pregnancy test I was worried I might miscarry. I had not had a normal early miscarriage yet, and they are very common. My mom had a few. This being my fourth pregnancy I knew I would have one eventually and was beginning to wonder when.

The biggest challenge I had was finding a Rhogam shot. My blood type is A negative, RJ’s blood type is AB positive. Basically, if the baby were to have a different blood type than me, and it mixed with mine, my body would attack the baby, and any future babies. Rhogam shots are not required for everyone, I just know I need one. I have received 3 times before, a preventative one around 24 weeks during my pregnancy with Rose, and Heather (you are given one after birth if the baby has a blood type different than yours, Rose and Heather are both A negative), I also got one after my abortion. Being out of town made finding a Rhogam shot much more difficult.

We resorted to the ER after calling an urgent care who didn’t carry the shot. I also called around to a few Planned Parenthood clinics, they were either closed, or never returned my message. RJ and I went to the ER Monday evening (we left the girls with a family friend we brought on vacation with us). The ER drew some blood. The results took a very long time to get back but as soon as they did, I got my lovely shot in the ass. RJ and I went back to the condo we were renting, it was very late and I slept well. The following day we had a full day at The Animal Kingdom, then RJ and I had tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party. I was feeling fine and we had a great time.

Second to last day at Disney, Heather refused to nap till RJ
wore her in the carrier. He is a great father. 
The following morning I definitely paid for overdoing it, and pushing myself a little too hard. I was bleeding pretty heavily, and was quite crampy. I braided my hair, and was having some pretty severe cramps, then felt a gush of something. I sat down on the toilet, and a weird three inch long clump of blood, and tissue fell into the toilet. I oddly felt much better after that but it took a lot out of me. I was pretty exhausted so we took it easy that day. We went to lunch, then RJ took Rose to Epcot, just the two of them. They had a really fun time, and there are a few great pics of the two of them. Heather got a nice long uninterrupted nap without Rose bouncing around, and I got some down time.

The rest of the trip went well, and aside from being incredibly tired and emotional, I felt alright. My bleeding is now pretty minimal, and I will be headed to my Midwife this week to confirm it was a complete miscarriage. I have a much better appreciation for other mothers who have had early miscarriages now. I never understood quite how awful they are. I am not too sad because I was pretty sure it would happen to me at some point, and it was likely just a sac and not a baby. My hormones have been all over the place, I have been very emotional, and irritable. It was incredibly exhausting, not to mention trying to push through on vacation. Miscarriages suck.

This past Tuesday (November 15th) was the second anniversary of my 20 week abortion. Last year I remember it being difficult but this year I didn’t even think about it till after it had passed. I don’t think it was because we were busy at Disney either. I think I am over the loss of our little boy, and ready to frame his ultrasound and little foot prints. It has been an eventful couple of years but every time life happens RJ is right by my side. I am so glad I have him. He genuinely carries me through the rough days.

Our date night later in the week after I was on the upswing
of things.
To all the other moms out there who have had miscarriages, all of us who have had a miscarriage are here for you. There is an inner club inside, “the mom club”, for mothers who have had losses. I am here for you. I may not understand exactly how you are feeling but I have been there in one way or another, and want you to know there is someone who you can talk to. Even if you don’t know me please reach out. I am lucky to have a very understanding partner who understands my crazy hormones during these times. I know some other partners aren’t quite as understanding, and can unknowingly make things worse. Please know there are moms out there who understand.

Thanks for reading! Get ready for a big post (or posts) all about our trip to Walt Disney World. I cannot wait to share about it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Parenting Is The Best and The Worst

I’m sorry it has been a while since I blogged. Between Heather’s birthday, planning our trip to Disney, and Halloween we have been quite busy and it’s been difficult to find time to write.

This Saturday Heather turned one. This past year has seriously flown by. I know people say it all the time, but it really does feel like I gave birth to Heather yesterday. She is walking. She still chooses to crawl sometimes because it’s a bit faster. She has two teeth. Her beautiful blue eyes came from someone, either RJ’s Mom or my Dad (RJ has greenish bluish, hazelish eyes, and mine are brown). She can say, “Daddy”, “Momma”, “nana” (banana), “Hi”, and “ok”. She loves to take stuff out of containers and put it back in. She really wanted to help hand out Halloween candy, but that just consisted of Heather picking up candy and throwing it out the front door! When we are outside Heather waves to every passing car. She loves Rose (most the time) and will not take a nap unless Rose gives her a kiss goodnight. Heather has grown so fast I still cannot believe she is one.

Heather got quite a few presents, between what RJ and I got her and what relatives sent she had 5 pretty big gifts. She got a touch and feel book (her favorite), and some clothes from her grandparents on the RJ’s side in England (she didn’t get anything from her grandparents on my side). RJ’s aunt (Heather’s great aunt) from England sent a cute dolly, and some clothes. She also got some Minnie Mouse LEGO DUPLO from a family friend. RJ and I got her a classic fisher price telephone, and a vtech train with track. The train was definitely for both Heather and Rose. Heather just keeps destroying the track and RJ has nicknamed her “Heatherzilla”. It annoys Rose but they still have fun. I’m glad Heather loves all the things she got.

The cute dolly Heather got from RJ's aunt in England. She
hugged it instantly, and has slept with it since she opened it. 
I baked Heather’s cake, and made the frosting the day before so all I had to do was put it together. I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. I also made a chocolate Minnie Mouse cake topper with the number one on it. I was very proud of my amature baking and cake decorating, and I was so glad Heather actually dug into her cake. Rose knew what being messy was on her first birthday. She touched her cake with one finger, then cried because she was “messy”. Heather made a decent mess! It was fun!

This past year has been amazing but not easy. Heather is not an easy baby. There are occasions parenting her that make me question if I even want more kids. She sleeps pretty well but when she has a sleep regression it is awful. She is very clingy, and a huge drama queen. By the time Rose had turned one, parenting her was a piece of cake. We even drove between Atlanta and Nashville, staying in hotels for weeks at a time, for RJ’s work. Rose handled this really well, it was never very stressful or difficult. I cannot imagine traveling like that with Heather, it would be hell!

Heather's cake that I baked and decorated.
Parenting is not easy! I am so lucky I have someone who loves kids, and loves being a dad. Heather has been going through a serious sleep regression the past few weeks. She hates going to sleep, and she wakes up at odd times. On Monday, Heather woke up around 5 in the morning for the third day in a row. It was exhausting, she was fussy and tired, but refused to go back to sleep. After such a long morning when bed time on Monday night rolled around I was exhausted. Heather was clearly over tired, when I put her down in her crib for bed she began screaming bloody murder, and refused to go to sleep. It was at this point I lost it! I couldn't bare the thought of dealing with Heather crying and fussing for absolutely no reason, for the hundredth time in the past week. When RJ saw me break down, he stepped in. He gave me a hug and said he would handle Heather.  She screamed at him for the next hour while he tried everything possible. Meanwhile I put Rose to bed, did the dishes and picked up. Finally after watching the most annoying YouTubes on repeat for a very long time, Heather calmed down and finally passed out in her crib.

I am so glad I get to parent with someone who knows exactly when to step in, and help me. I know a lot of people who are not so lucky. RJ always knows what I need, and clues into things immediately. He’s incredibly understanding when he comes home, the house is a mess, and I asked him to pick up dinner on the way home because the girls were being terrors that day. He is incredibly appreciative when he comes home to an immaculate house, and dinner on the stove or in the oven, because the girls actually napped together for once. He is always understanding and helpful in every way he can. Parenting with him is a million times easier than I imagine it would be with anyone else.

Hopefully Heather will be a chill toddler. Rose was an easy baby but she can be a pretty difficult toddler at times. Rose is very strong willed, which at times can be exhausting. Heather is now officially a toddler. I hoping we make a turn for the best and not the worst.

I LOVE being a mother. It is just as rewarding as it is challenging. I would have given up a long time ago if it was not as rewarding as it is. I cannot wait to have more children! Parenting is hard. It literally takes a village, I am so happy for the little village I do have.

Thanks for reading!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Walt Disney World - Planning Our First Family Vacation

This November we will be traveling to Walt Disney World! I have never been, and obviously neither have the girls. RJ has been a number of times but it has been years since his last visit. We are so excited we cannot contain ourselves. I thought I would share a bit about our trip and the amount of planning a trip to Disney requires.

Disney does A LOT online these days. It’s really cool. The app and website are all integrated. There is now something called “magic bands”. Magic bands are electronic bracelets, they can be linked to your tickets, photopasses, fast passes, dining plans, and hotel room keys (if staying on Disney property) etc. They can be personalized, and special edition bands are available at special events, it’s really cool!

Rose about six months old receiving her first stuffed Mickey.
We chose to stay at a Airbnb instead of a Disney resort for a few reasons. Space, and cost being the biggest. Our Airbnb is a three bedroom condo about a 15 minute drive to Disney. It is only costing us 79 dollars a night. A three bedroom suite at disney would cost upward of 500 dollars a night. Going to Disney as a family we will probably never stay onsite. We like our space, but we do not enjoy paying an arm and a leg for it. There is something about being able to go back to a house like place with space to relax and wind down, rather than being cramped into a hotel room (especially with two toddlers).  

We are bringing our babysitter with us. We wanted an extra set of hands. We met her through but at this point she is a really good family friend. She watched Rose part of the time when I gave birth to Heather. She babysits for us regularly and Rose loves her. Heather is still warming up. Heather doesn’t like to be left with anyone at this point, but I’m sure after an entire week with us, Heather will love our sitter too. RJ and I can get a small vacation from the kids thanks to our sitter. We have a nice dinner reserved, and purchased late night party tickets for the two of us. We are really excited. Not to mention we will be able to ride big rides together and not have to ride alone while one of us sits with the children.

We are long time Hertz members and I had a ton of points. We are renting a minivan for two full weeks for a fraction of the price and I only used half my points. I recommend always renting a car. The money spent  will be worth the money you save avoiding extra wear and tear on your personal vehicle. Also, if it breaks down someone will find you a replacement vehicle. You will not have to worry about being ripped off by a dodgy mechanic because you have out of state plates. Trust me, rent a car.

I have learned a few little tidbits about Disney as we have been planing. You can bring outside food into the park. You do NOT have to buy expensive park food. We plan on packing lots of snacks and maybe even lunches on a few days. We bought a small/medium soft sided cooler that we plan on stowing under the stroller. You can get a cup of water anywhere that serves food/drinks at Disney for free.

At guest services you can get special pins. We will be there on Rose’s birthday so we will be getting her a pin that day. It also happens to be Mickey’s birthday so we are hoping it’s extra special.

Heather snuggling with Minnie, watching Toy Story 3
We already have a Disney addict!
After doing a ton of math we decided to buy one of us an annual pass. Annual pass holders get free parking, and free photopass services. That alone is 300 dollars. You get discounts on event/party tickets, food, and merchandise at the parks, as well as a number of other discounts. We will very quickly save the extra money we spent on an annual pass, and more. Only one person in your party needs to have an annual pass to get most the discounts.

Buy tickets for as many days as you will be there. We will be in Florida for 7-8ish days. I’m not really counting the day we check in because after a 8 hour drive including stops, we will not want to go to the parks that evening. However we are going to go to Disney springs to pick up magic bands, and activate our tickets. We will be in Florida for the next 7 days. After reading lots of blogs and planning we debated how many days of tickets we should buy, 5,6, or 7. A few bloggers mentioned if planning a week at Disney you should plan rest days. Not go to the parks at all one or two days. With two little ones this sounded like a really good idea, but the longer we looked at ticket prices the thought of not buying 7 days of tickets was getting more and more silly. One adult 5 day park hopper ticket costs (on average) $409. One adult 7 day park hopper ticket costs $439. That’s right only 30 dollars for an extra TWO days at Disney. Even if we do stay home one or two days, or if we have a few half days, I will not feel like we wasted any money. Buy tickets for every day you can.  

It’s impossible to do everything at Disney unless you have unlimited time. I know this will not be the last time we go. We will not be disappointed if we miss something. Taking it easy and planning a few things but not having our schedule jam packed will be much more fun and less stressful. We will do what we can and ride Roses favorite ride 10 times in a row if that’s what she wants to do. The goal is to enjoy ourselves and our vacation, not plan ourselves to death.

We cannot contain our excitement! This will be our first official family vacation and I am soaked. Thanks for reading! I cannot wait to share about our trip in a month or so.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Endowment - What Happens Inside The Mormon Temple - Part 2

I have gotten a lot of complaints for posting about the “sacred” things that happen in The Mormon Temple. They are actually just secret things, and you need to be living a “perfect” life to see and do all these things, so people have been a bit butt hurt that I’m sharing them. I wanted to warn everyone this time. This is probably the most secretive and important thing that happens in The Mormon Temple. I’m not going to share every detail, mostly my feelings and a few tidbits here and there. If you want a play by play, a script of exactly what is said, or see a video, there are many out there. (My favorite place for all temple videos Newnamenoah's Youtube)

The biggest, most secret and time consuming thing that happens inside The Mormon Temple is something called “The Endowment”.

To go through the endowment you must be baptized, get a temple recommend (read my post on how to get one), you must also have already done washing and anointings and received garments or mormon underwear (all described in part 1).

Before the endowment session starts you are given a “new name”. The new name you receive is the name you will be called in heaven (this sounded so normal when I was attending the temple, it sounds so silly now). My name was Ruth. You’re told to never tell anyone your new name but I’m pretty sure I won’t get struck by lightning. Plus the name is the same for every woman who goes through the temple that day, it’s nothing special. There is a different name for men. The name is changed daily.

You also need temple clothes. Women wear a completely white dress with long sleeves, a white slip, white knee high stockings, white slippers, as well as your white garments. Men wear a white shirt, white pants, a white tie, a white jacket (optional), white socks, white shoes, and their garments. I always felt hot in all the layers.

You also need an “envelope” (white fabric shaped like an envelope), it will be full of additional clothing items for the endowment. Inside the envelope is, a green apron (a square piece of green fabric with leaves sewn on it, secured at the waist with ribbons), a white sash, a veil for women, a hat for men (the men’s hat looks like a really silly baker's hat), and a robe (which is a pleated rectangular piece of fabric that drapes over one shoulder, then secured at the waist). These will all be put on during the endowment at different times.  

Before the endowment starts you are told if you are not ready to make the promises you are about to make you can get up and leave now. They do NOT tell you what promises they are going to ask you to make! I do not know anyone who has walked out when they heard what some of the promises were, but I’m a little surprised.

During the endowment you will learn the sayings, and secret handshakes to get into heaven. You watch a video about “The Plan of Salvation”, which is basically a plan the Mormons believe God and Jesus came up with to save mankind. Supposedly we used to live as spirits with God in Heaven, but we wanted bodies so we had to come to earth. The story of how Mormons claim God created the earth is told. During the creation of the earth part of the movie, the word “shrubbery” is used twice. If you’re a big fan of Monty Python like my husband you may not be able to contain your laughter. If you can disguise it as coughing fit well enough, you might be handed a small bottle of water.

The story of “Adam and Eve” is also told. After Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit Satan points out their nakedness he tells them to cover themselves with fig leaves. The movie is paused and you are instructed to put on your green leafy apron.

Then Adam and Eve are cast out of The Garden of Eden and need clothes. God found a “coat of skins to cover their nakedness”. Mormon garments represent the same “coat of skins” Adam and Eve were given.

The video continues in parts, with things happening in between, like promises, and putting on the temple clothing. One promise in particular always left a bad taste in my mouth. Women are told to “Harken to the counsel of her husband as your husband harkens to the counsel of the Lord (God)”. (Pre 1990 it only said “Obey your husband”) The women are told to stand raise their right arm, bow their heads and say, “yes” if they promise to “harken to the counsel of your husband”. This is a promise no one tells you will be expected to make, I also don’t know how you would avoid it this far into the endowment.

Men then promise to “Harken to the counsel of the Lord”. They also stand, raise their right arm, bow their heads, and say, “yes”.

Raising your arm, bowing your head, and saying, “yes” with everyone in unison always felt really weird to me. It felt cultish, and kind of robotic. I didn’t and still don’t understand why we need to “obey” like that. The Mormon religion talks a lot about “free agency” and the “right” to choose but really you’re told you can either choose to follow all these rules or you can go to hell. This is what they tell children. I think this is why I grew up with a lot of fear about doing something wrong. As a child you are told from day one, follow the church or you will go to hell.   

Next everyone promises to obey “The Law of Sacrifice.” Adam was supposed to sacrifice the first of his flock in the name of Christ. Once Jesus came and “suffered for our sins” the law of sacrifice was no longer necessary. But you still promise to obey the law like Adam did during the endowment. I was always confused by that. Why did I need to promise to do something that I didn’t need to do? To promise this, you raise your right arm, bow your head and say, “yes” all in unison.

Next you will begin to learn the secret handshakes you need to get into heaven. These would take way too long to explain and get quite confusing. There are plenty of videos and blogs out there that explain the handshakes very well. I will do a quick explanation though.

This photo and the other were taken after
stake temple day, hours before we
conceived Rosalie.
Each handshake is called a “token” they all have accompanying “names, signs, and covenants” A covenant is a promise between you and God. Before 1990 there wasn’t a “covenant” it was a “penalty”. The penalties were death by slicing of the throat, cutting your chest open, and disembowelment, if you ever told anyone.   

Before you learn the second hand shake, you take off your green apron and put on the rest of the clothes in your envelope on, as well as removing your shoes and putting them back on. Then you are taught the second handshake.

Next you remove an article of clothing (the robe) and flip it around for the third handshake. The first time you put it on it was draped over your left shoulder, you move it to your right shoulder.

But first you are asked to “obey The Law of Chastity” which means you will only have “sexual relations” with someone who you are married to. You all raise your right arm, bow your head, and say, “yes”. The Mormon Church talks a lot about sex, but doesn’t explain sex leads to children, or explain the risks of STD’s. You would think they would want to scare you into not having sex but they don’t use any good scare tactics. They teach you if you have sex before marriage your “virtue” is gone, as one of my friends put it, “You’re a piece of chewed spat out gum.” Teens will be teens. They will explore their own bodies and each others. I plan on teaching my children how to safely have sex, because they will get curious, there is NOTHING you can do to stop it.

Next you’re given the third handshake.

Then you promise to “obey The Law of Consecration”. This means you are supposed to give the church ALL your time, talents, “everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you.” All your money, all your things, all your everything. Again you are asked to bow your head, raise your right arm, and say, “yes”.

As children we were taught the law of consecration was a celestial/holy law. We do not live it today because “we are not worthy enough”. This “law” was lived when the church was very small/young from about 1831-1834. Eventually the church stopped practicing this because not everyone was leaving it fully. (stealing things, keeping more than they should etc). Again why are you asked to promise to do something but then not do it?

Then you’re given the fourth and final handshake.

Next is “The prayer circle”, or “The order of prayer”. A number of couples stand and form a circle around the altar. Alternating male, female, male, female. Someone says, if you have any negative feelings about anyone else in the circle you’re supposed to step out so, “the Spirit of the Lord may be unrestrained.” I always had visions of someone decking someone else mid prayer, I mean they wouldn’t say it unless something had happened before, right? The women cover their faces with their vail. The men in the circle are instructed to hold the right hand of the woman on their left (using one of the silly handshakes I mentioned earlier). Then you raise your left arm and rest it on the shoulder of the person to your left. A bag “filled” with the names of those who are sick or struggling is placed on the altar, and they are mentioned during the prayer. A temple worker kneels at the altar and says a prayer. He pauses between each sentence, and everyone in the room repeats the prayer sentence by sentence. Again another part of the temple that felt very cultish. Once the very lengthy prayer is over the women unveil their faces and everyone sits down.

The entire purpose of the endowment is to learn how to get back into heaven. The next part, or the end of the endowment you are coached how to do this. There is a veil (tall white curtains with special holes in it). The holes in the veil correspond with markings in your garments to help you “remember the covenants you made in the temple”. You do the different handshakes through the different holes in the veil. The person on the other side of the veil pretends to be the Lord. There are also a lot of answers you need to remember all associated with the handshakes. It gets quite complicated and a temple worker stands next to you and helps you with all the answers (I went so many times, when briefly reminded, I can still recite all the answers. If Mormon heaven exists this heathen is getting in!). After you have done all the handshakes and repeated the appropriate sayings you are “allowed to enter the Lord’s presence.” You are pulled through the veil lead around the corner to the Celestial room.

The Celestial room is a almost completely white and has comfy couches it’s very quiet and peaceful. The feelings inside the celestial room are wonderful, but they are not special. You get the same feelings in spaces that have the four pillars of luxury (light, space, silence, and comfort). I wrote a post all about why The Mormon Temple is not special.

Going through the temple did not strengthen my faith. I went again and again hoping it would. I went to fit in. I went because it was what I “should do” to be a “good” mormon. I didn’t want to do anything “wrong” and I thought going to the temple a lot would help. It didn’t. Rose was conceived the evening after we had done three endowment sessions at stake temple day.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I really enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading!