Family Ties

Developing a family narrative (#yearofbeautiful idea)


Part of my #yearofbeautiful is to strengthen my connection with others. I’ve been thinking today about my connections within my own family and came across this article from The New York Times: “The Stories that Bind Us”.

Here’s the bathroom break version of the article: If you want to create strong, lasting family relationships, develop a strong, lasting family narrative.

That was a short bathroom break.

You are faster than my husband and my four-year old son in the bathroom. *Grin*

Teasing aside…

What IS a family narrative and how do you create it?

Family strain could create dark narratives: money, arguments, name calling, loss, etc. Maybe your family strain is because you made jokes about how long it takes somebody to poop and you posted it for all of the internet to read. Seriously. That’s rude. Don’t do that. Keep poop time-frames personal, people.

I read something in a Reader’s Digest years ago. I was sitting in the bathroom but I won’t tell you WHAT I was doing or for HOW long. Let’s just say that what I read was a simple, short paragraph about how kids are more resilient when they know the story of their family. My memory instantly took me to the basement of my Grumma Campbell’s house where the walls were brown and wood, the carpet was dark, the couches lining the walls also dark, and we were crowded down there with cousins, aunts, and uncles, listening to Grumma tell the history of one of our ancestors. I hope it was either Aquila Nebeker or Christopher Columbus Kearl. They have such great names.

Is that part of my family narrative? Where I come from? Men like Aquila and Christopher? And does it matter that I don’t know the stories of my husband’s ancestors? Or even their names, really?

From the NYTimes article, here are some of the questions that might make up part of your family narrative (none of them are about pooping so take note):

  1. Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  2. Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?
  3. Do you know where your parents met?
  4. Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  5. Do you know the story of your birth?

I wonder: can my four-year old answer any of these questions? I asked him.

Do you know where Grandma Alicia grew up? “No. Where’d she grow up? In Texas, mom?”

Do you know where Grandmere grew up? “In Salt Lake?”

Do you know where Dad and I went to high school? “In Salt Lake? And then did Dad go in Texas? So did I guess it?”

Do you know where Dad and I met? “Um, at the temple? At Dad’s house?”

Do you know about an illness that happened in our family? “What’s an illness? No. I don’t. Did Grumma Campbell get sick? Her heart stopped pumping.”

Do you know what happened when you were born? “I came out of your tummy.”

According to the article, if kids know these types of things about their families, it’s the “best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

How do you teach your kid to have a strong “intergenerational self”?

Have you done any of the following (which are suggestions from the article):

  1. Create a family mission statement identifying core values
  2. Build up identity through communal activities
  3. Create hokey family traditions
  4. Tell positive stories about your family
  5. Create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones

And if you’ve done #3, I want to know what it is!

Two minutes that mattered for me today.


I’ve restarted this post today more than once. For some reason, though, I’ve kept at it. And this time, it’s going in an entirely different direction. I finally figured out what I want to say so brace yourselves:

Sometimes, people just want to help out.

I know. It’s not poetic. It’s not quotable. You might not even remember it tomorrow, but hear me out.

Today, I was going to try and take my kids to Wheeler Farm with friends and cousins, but one sick little cousin canceled plans. At about the same time as the text about that, a neighbor texted me, offering to watch my kids. She offered so I could go and visit my Grumma in the hospital. I took her up on it.

It’s hard to ask for help.

It’s hard to accept help.

At least for me.

I relate it to the story of Naomi and Ruth.

After Naomi was widowed and her sons had also died, she pushed her daughters-in-law away. She tried to send them back to be with their own mothers. She pushed them away, in a time of loneliness and a time of great need as it was during a drought and famine. But Ruth pushed back and told her she wouldn’t leave her.

I am Naomi. I push away people willing to help.

I am not entirely sure why I do this. Any suggestions? Perhaps I don’t want to feel obligated. Perhaps I feel like I owe them money or something. Perhaps I want to do everything on my own.

This morning, I accepted the help.

This same friend made a comment, months and months ago, about how sometimes, the only thing a person helping out needs is a thank you. Her point was that when we try to “make things even”, we cheapen the service.

Do you agree?

Sometimes, people just want to help out.

Do you often help or serve because you want to provide the support? Maybe you don’t even want the recognition because that puts a spotlight on you.

You just want to help. Without repayment. Without recognition. Without fanfare. A simple “thank you” would suffice.

Today, I accepted the help. It was a lot of help. She watched both kids all morning. I spent time visiting briefly (two minutes) with Grumma before she had a second surgery on her heart after suffering a massive attack this week. I was there minutes before she was taken out of her room and into surgery. I couldn’t have visited with my kids as they don’t allow them in the cardiac ICU. My neighbor also kept Dom for much of the afternoon so I could spend Gabbi’s nap getting writing done for an upcoming content deadline. And then do you know what else she did? She tossed a few pantry items my way so I didn’t have to go to the store today to come up with a complete dinner.

I said thank you. I said it a few times. And then we walked home in the spring sunshine.

RBG’s 7 tips for raising a trail-blazing daughter


rbgI read a lot of things about raising children: books, blogs, articles, forums, scriptures, and on and on. Like I’ve previously mentioned, being a parent is daunting and pretty much impossible. We are all doing our very best and all imperfect.

Recently, I’ve been reading the book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Have you read it? What did you think? I’m still in the process.

Today, I read this article: Want to Raise a Trail-Blazing Daughter? ‘The Notorious RBG’ Says Do These 7 Things. I thought I’d check it out and see what the list was like, whether it applied to my daughter (and my son, too), and whether I wanted it to apply.

Here’s here list, followed by my thoughts:

  1. Foster a love of reading. Absolutely. We know this. We know about the huge impact of early childhood development and how much that sets your kids (sons or daughters) up for success. I loved reading. I know not all of my siblings did and I remember hiding in my closet to read because I thought my brothers might tease me about it. I want my kids to love reading, too. So far, they do. But having a love for your favorite book about trains is different than sneaking away to read The Screwtape Letters.
  2. Teach them to be independent. My four-year old can dress himself, make his own snack of melted-cheese Ritz crackers, and manage himself in the bathroom. (Is that the most polite way to put that? I’m always so polite. Especially on the internet.) My one-year old can walk. So she’s got that going for her. This took me years and years to learn. I wanted so bad to be in the popular group of friends in high school. I look back now and wonder, who really was the popular group? The football players? The cheerleaders? The school president? The choir president? Why did I care? Eventually, I learned that it matters more how you treat others than it does how many party invitations you get. And I think this is something that parents have to kind of get out of the way and let kids figure out, eventually.
  3. Encourage them to seek out great teachers. When I would tell people I was getting an English degree, 92.6% then asked me if I was doing that to be a teacher. No. Certainly not. Why? Because I knew I couldn’t be the kind of teacher that my great teachers had been for me. I had great teachers, both in school, in sports, in church, at work, and in friends. I wrote previously about how I hope that my children find great teachers as well.
  4. Encourage them to turn a deaf ear when needed. To quote Ginsburg here, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” One of my great teachers, my Grandma DeeDee, is the first example I can think of that lived her life like this. Here’s one I can definitely work on myself! And maybe if I tell my kiddos about how I am working on it and when I succeed or fail, they will learn from my example.
  5. Encourage them to set aside their worriesand simply achieve. I remember sitting down in the office of an English professor when I was on academic probation. She found out that the both of us were taking the same meds to treat depression. I was STUNNED. Why? Because successful moms with loving husbands, four grown boys, a successful career as a professor, and award-winning books, didn’t have depression. You can’t be depressed and succeed. She helped teach me not to listen to THAT voice in my head. What a lesson to learn. Now, if only I can think of a way to pass this lesson on!
  6. Teach them that they can make their own luck. My dad has told me before that I have more confidence than competence. I take it as a compliment. And in my previous career working in software, I needed that to track down the bug, database issue, what have you. As a parent, I am constantly incompetent so I’m glad that my confidence is not based on my success but precedes my successes (and my failures, from which I try so hard to learn). So hey, kids of mine: be confident in yourselves. You can figure it out. I say that to Dom often: “Wow, good figuring!” Seriously. I do. That phrase. Well, to be more exact, I say it like this: “Dom, good figgerrin’!”
  7. Pray that they marry the right person. This was the most surprising item on her list. Did it surprise you? Did you know that Ginsburg’s husband did all of the cooking? Excellent! I hope that my kids learn this simply by watching me and Nathan. We are two very different people and, yes, that causes conflict. But I hope that it complements more often and I hope that they see that. I hope that they think of their mom and dad as a team loving and supporting each other. Nathan supports me in a ton of ways, most importantly in helping me to continue to take care of me so I can be a whole person and the mom that my kids need and deserve.

What’s your favorite item on the list?

Dear 4YO son: be happy. Love, mom.


4yo-birthdayDear Son:

You recently celebrated your fourth birthday in which you told your friends at school a list of your favorite things:

  • Food: bacon
  • Color: ALL the colors!
  • Snack: applesauce and fruit snacks
  • Movie: Cars
  • Toy: cars
  • Place to visit: Discovery Gateway
  • Animal: tiger
  • Book: Put Me In The Zoo
  • Game: Robot Turtles

Good list, my boy.

I have a list for you:

  • Be happy

This is my biggest wish for you. I want you to be a happy person who brings happiness to others as well. When your dad blessed you as a baby, he blessed you to be happy. He didn’t know that this was what was constantly on my mind.

No one can force you to be happy. I can’t make you happy, either. You have to learn for yourself. Learn to smile and laugh often. Learn to joke with others. Learn to make friends. Learn to be kind. Learn to love your sister. Learn to serve others. Learn to hug (when it’s okay with you, of course!). Learn what makes you happy then go and do it.

Love, Mom.

Angry mommy needs a reset


I was buckling my three-year old into his car seat when he asked, “Are you angry, mommy?”

My body language, expression, and silence all told him I was mad.

I paused. I didn’t realize I was so easy to read.

Being patient and calm is beyond hard. I failed miserably this morning when breast milk spilled across the counter. It’s liquid gold, you know. Don’t spill that stuff.

But my three-year old should still be more important than a few ounces.

I really do think that I have improved my temper now that I’m nearing the one year mark of becoming a SAHM. But I still have a long way to go.

On the flip side, Dom is a very thoughtful kid, quick to give a hug, say sorry, tells me how much he loves me, dotes on his baby sister, adores his dad, talks on and on about cousins and grandparents, and when he feels grateful, that kid is full of thank yous.

“Oh mom! Thank you! Thank you for making the water sooooo warm in the bath. Thank you!”

This kid.

Quick note about family


In about a week, I imagine that Dom will ask me what we’re going to do that day and when I tell him we don’t have plans, he will be quite bummed. He’ll probably inform me that I am not interesting, Gabbi doesn’t talk, and Pogi is a one trick pony/cat. And it’s true because we simply cannot compare to all of his cousins.

He must be on the biggest cousin high he’s experienced so far in his life, what with trips to the Aviary, birthday parties, swimming, hotel bed jumping, hotel bed falling and bumping of heads, and the giant table of trains.

Gabbi on the other hand is not on a cousin high. One day, she will realize the life long friendships of all of her cousins. Today is not that day.

To be so surrounded by family is a mighty blessing. Gabbi prefers to enjoy this blessing in her momma’s arms. And she is Miss Fussbucket so she gets her way!

Tonight, I hope they are having pleasant dreams of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Sleep children. Sleep well. I could use it.

Today’s healing


Dom required bandages today for some owies. He then wanted to check and see if I had owies, too, rolling up my pant legs. He found my scratches.

Don’t slide on a dirt patch in the soccer field. Dirt, scratches, pebbles, stinging in the shower… How silly of me.

He put five bandages on my legs, covering the scratches and smiling up at me because he had made it all better.

Later in the day, he came to find me nursing baby girl and informed me, “there’s another owie so I’m going to the living room to heal it.”

Dom, the healer.