Wednesday, April 22

Jake's independence

He often wants to be a big kid but doesn't quite like the effort required. Examples- potty training and opening the door to go outside. Today he suited up for an outdoor adventure and I had him bring over his stool from the bathroom for a door opening tutorial. Not the first one, probably not the last. That's parenting! And look at his happy face! 

I love his imaginative playing!!! He's seriously easy because he's so content playing on his own in his own world! 

We were stuck at vehicle registration yesterday for over 2 hours with no toys and no snacks. He was perfectly content almost the entire time as he'd play with Aliza and then practice sliding on the filthy, but smooth floor. One man couldn't contain himself and said a few times, not to anyone in particular, "The floor is dirty!" I just looked him in the eye and said, "But he's happy." Just matter of fact, no anger.

There weren't enough chairs for those waiting and I had plenty of wipes, sanitizer and a bathroom nearby which made for good hand washing breaks when we needed a distraction. I don't have it in me to force my 3 yr old to act older than he is and endure making us all miserable when I could give him freedom and joy to be himself which lent itself to some very sweet, entertaining antics. Further, we were only going to be outside for the rest of the day so him getting dirty was only a matter of time and location. All his clothes are play clothes except for church ones. There are definite times when I would have had to enforce proper behavior but this wasn't one of them.

And there was another thing on my mind. There was a young pregnant woman sitting near us. This would be her first child. She was enjoying watching Jake and especially how he played with Aliza. She has a stepson Jake's age and she's anxious how he'll get along with the baby. You bet she paid attention to how I responded to the disgruntled man. I hope she'll remember that she can have confidence in her parenting - to do what's best for her child even when others are vocally disagreeing. I hope I can remember to keep this confidence too!

Monday, January 5

Digging in to the New Year!

Ryan sent me on a Mom Escape last weekend as my Christmas/birthday present. Nothing could top that in this season of my life! It was just the break I needed to have quiet time to think, write, sleep, and love on Aliza. We were recently surprised to find out we've accrued gold membership status on our Marriott card so I had three free days at the hotel with meals included. Awesome!!! And when I got home on Sunday morning, Ryan had packed up most of Christmas and my chores had been done while I was away - even the laundry! HALLELUJAH!!! He wins best husband prize! Seriously, this is the gift I want every year! We'd been trying to make my retreat happen since September, but life has been too full.

I spent the first day of my escape reading, working on Primary tasks, and then did a little shopping at the packed mall. I have a specific list of things I am in need of so of course I didn't find any of them! That evening I met a couple lovely friends for dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant. The next day I holed up in the hotel reading and writing, thinking about what I wanted from/for myself in 2015 in conjunction with three goals I'd written down on New Year's Eve.

My bishop is starting a leadership/inspiration business and I took the time to browse some of his website's posts. He and his wife are very goal-oriented and I never have been good with follow through so it was timely reading. One post mentioned a mission statement generator so I gave it a whirl and loved it. Here's the link - Franklin Covey Mission Statement Builder. I liked it so much, I emailed the link to Ryan and set up a dinner date for us that evening so we could hopefully have time to chat about our mission statement. Reading Ryan's mission statement had me in tears. I married a great guy and it captured parts of his heart that I hadn't seen in a while because we've been too busy keeping up with life. He inspires me!

Ryan dropped the kids at our friend's house and met me at a new restaurant, Joe Peñas, which is a Mexican food chain apparently. Ambiance was pretty good but the music was a little on the loud side for the conversations I wanted to have. We had high hopes for the food but it didn't pan out so well. I think if we'd ordered items we didn't have expectations for (chimichungas and enchiladas), we could have been pleasantly surprised. The drinks were delicious, at least! We brainstormed some of the places still on our travel bucket list and when they could be calendared. Travel feeds both of our souls and it is fun to see the kids getting excited about new adventures. Ryan has had his eye on Cypress and the ferry to Cairo, Thailand again and Cambodia (?!), and we'd both like to get up to Hamburg and Copenhagen. This year is filling up fast, however, with me and the kids heading to my folks' for the summer. YEEHAW!

After our date, I went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening finishing some computer tasks while starting to watch episodes of "Person of Interest" on Netflix. I must say I'm surprised to find a show I think Ryan and I will like together! And it's pretty clean too, so far - Hurray! 

On Sunday morning, I enjoyed breakfast before packing up and heading home. Loved seeing the kids again and how hard everyone had worked in my absence. It's so nice to go to the 1pm church schedule this year! After getting the kids' clothes ready, I headed off to ward council and the snowball began rolling. Had to make sure I fed Aliza during sacrament meeting so I could do Primary. It was showtime with a new row of Sunbeams! Jake and his cohorts did surprisingly well! By the time we got home, we were all starving and exhausted. So much so, in fact, that I don't recall much of last night other than that we were all in bed at 8:30!

As the kids aren't back in school for another week, I took my time today reading and planning healthier eating for my family by making a cheat sheet master list of nonstarchy vegetables, low sugar fruits, nutrient dense proteins, whole food fats, serving sizes, and number of servings recommended per day. I planned "Next Actions" for myself and emailed a few health conscious friends to get their input on the SANE eating/exercise methodology. One friend shared the OhSheGlows recipe website with me so I'm excited to start trying some of her favorites. When Ryan got home, I was so happy to see that my "Calorie Myth" book arrived today along with some shirts I ordered quite some time ago to accommodate my shape shifting body until it sizes down from my healthier eating. YAHOO! We had green smoothies and popcorn for dinner while watching a couple episodes of Dr. Who. 

For Family Home Evening, we took turns reading our Mission Statement answers aloud. This afternoon I had taken the three older kids aside and walked through the mission statement builder. It was fun hearing their answers and helping them shape them into what they truly desire out of life, what their natural strengths and weaknesses are, and how they can work on themselves this year. I loved the chance to chat with each of them one on one about how awesome they each are! I should do that more often! As we shared our mission statements tonight, Jake snuggled up next to me and eventually dozed off by the closing song. Man, he's dang cute! Aliza has been napping since dinner time when Ryan was able to coax a few giggles out of her with Easton's coaching. 

Aliza is such a joy and pretty predictable. At a week shy of 4 months, every once in a while she sleeps through the night but not with any pattern I can discern yet. I just zipped through "Happiest Baby on the Block" to glean a few refresher tips. Aliza is developing a bit of stranger anxiety already, especially of those who wear glasses! Her range of vision has recently expanded and she's beginning to grab at things now that she's discovered her hands. She actually likes tummy time which I've just started in the past week. The kids each daily take time to check in with her and it's just adorable. Jake oo's and ah's over her while sometimes showing off his super hero poses and costumes. Morgan bounces in and can't contain her energy as she babbles on with her sister to get good coos and smiles. McKay likes to snuggle Aliza and get her to smile. Easton is excited to coax laughs out of her and he just has to hold her at least once each time she's awake.

Ahhh, life is so good and we are feeling very blessed right now with health and our lil' crew of Carters.

Thursday, December 18

Sick Day = Christmas Break Preview

Anyone else wondering what they'll do with the kids home through the break? Our kids' break is three weeks long so I've started thinking of what we can do to not drive each other crazy in our close quarters. Christmas brings out my claustrophobia in this apartment because of all the decor and winter gear that must find homes in our already-maxed-out floor plan.

Last night McKay was up all night with a stomach bug so I kept him home from school today. And I didn't bother schlepping Morgan to/from school because she was so worn out yesterday from getting back to school this week after a bad cold she missed school for last week. That meant everyone but Ryan was home today. Good thing it wasn't errand running day and I'd had them do a good job on their chores yesterday!

By 9am, the kids were bored and begging for electronics. Noooooooo! That's my survival tool when I need it for them! We did some school worksheets I printed online and then they needed some projects. McKay loves to build stuff so we pulled out our recycle bin and he and Morgan went to town building castles while Easton did more school work.


Jake is loving having more playmates for the day!
Morgan and Jake planned and set a picnic lunch for everyone in their room.

All this buzzing around wore lil' Aliza out!

After lunch and castles got old, it was Perler beads and Pinterest to the rescue!

Morgan and Jake have this funny running thing of playing cat/dog and owner. Morgan made this "collar and leash" a couple months ago and it's survived quite well. Her school teacher said she has an uncanny knack for mimicking the mannerisms and sounds of animals and I heartily agree!

After perler beads, they migrated to the white boards and dry erase markers. I must confess this is not a typical day at our house by any means. We're not nearly this project oriented but as the kids get older, their toy bins inspire less of their attention. I have to up my game! I'm easily intimidated and overwhelmed and hands down outnumbered! I'm guessing by next Wednesday I'll be in countdown mode for when school begins again!

Because I'm actually blogging, I have to show this next one. Morgan likes to stage all her stuffed animals and other collections every single night before going to bed. I was a bit freaked out when I checked on her the other night before I headed to bed! Poor animals!

It was rather traumatic for me because one of my hamsters as a kid escaped from its cage and died this way. He'd gotten himself stuck under a dresser on the slide rail for a drawer which essentially looked like this. Sorry to give you that mental picture. Here's a fun one to counter it of our baby! Much better, eh?! I love her smiley twinkling eyes!

Aliza - 3 months
In spurts between keeping up with these rascals, I finished up teacher gifts (origami Christmas tree money bill on a card the kids wrote) while browsing . . .
  • The author of "The Calorie Myth" and his SANE Solutions podcast. Heard of it first on PowerofMoms podcast. Makes sense, just wished I liked eating more veggies!
  • 2015 planners - I bought the PassionPlanner after having printed and used its pages for the past three weeks. I prefer a Mon-Sun week view but I like the other spaces and priority prompts.
It's only 2pm and I'm plum worn out! I'm trying to hold out until 4:30 when I'll let them watch a movie while I get dinner going. We were supposed to go see the Hobbit tonight, Rats!

Wednesday, November 26

Aliza's name

Since Aliza was born in Germany, we wanted a name that reflected her German heritage. But a lot of them are doozies! I had a short list of names but hadn't settled on anything yet. I really liked the name Anna but really felt Johanna was to be her middle name because of its importance in our family history searching and finding here these past two years. Anna Johanna seemed redundant and weirdly rhymed with Hannah Montana. No thanks! Ryan really liked the name Taylor but it just didn't fit for me, mostly because it wasn't German.

As it happens, there are quite a few Elizas in our Eppelsheimer, Carter and Reid lines. In fact, I found another one this week! The most recent one, however, is Ryan's Prussian maternal great-grandmother, Elise. I can't help but think that she has been invested in our search for her family these past couple years.

The night before Aliza was born, I was watching a live broadcast from Frankfurt of a Europe Sisters meeting for our church. There was a wonderful quote shared about Eliza R. Snow, an important leader in our church from the latter 1800s. The quote was:

"She walked not in the borrowed light of others, but faced the morning unafraid and invincible."

When Aliza was born the next morning, this quote was fresh in my memory. She did indeed arrive in the morning, unafraid and seeming invincible. She was very content and curious about her new world. I felt her sweet little light of a spirit light up my life. This quote is one I plan to make her aware of her entire life to strengthen and inspire her to become all that she can become. 

With each of my babies, there's a song that plants itself in my head right away. For Easton it was "Teach me to walk in the Light." For McKay it was "I've been working on the railroad" and Morgan's was "I'm a little teapot." Jake's song was the simple Primary Song, "I love mommy, she loves me; We love daddy, yes-sir-ee. He loves us and so you see, we are a happy family." With Aliza, for whatever reason, the song that stuck in my head the day she was born, before a name was decided, was the children's song "Lil' Liza Jane" - the version about having friends in different cities around the US and world. I can't help but wonder what that portends for her life as it begins abroad.

So that's it then - a name from our families, the beautiful quote, and the silly song helped me choose her name. The other names just didn't fit after a couple days but Aliza seemed to so I stopped fighting it. Ryan had a hard time accepting this name, it didn't roll off his tongue. He couldn't figure out how we'd say it and spell it. Lucky for me, he had so much on his plate with the new contract that he left if up to me and my intuitions. 

Birth Story - Aliza Johanna

This was written the day after Aliza's birth. It's long and I haven't had time to give it a good edit, but I hate to wait for a good time to get it done because our life is just so very full these days!

About an hour after her birth. The Klinik uses these hand-knitted caps on babies, very German! 
Our much anticipated second daughter and fifth child arrived on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, at 8:43am at the FilderKlinik in Filderstadt, Germany. We are still considering names.

I was given the birth I had hoped, prepared and prayed for - relatively quick, all natural, and well supported by the clinic, trusting my own instincts to guide me in labor positions and how to employ Ryan to help me. I feel so thankful for my healthy shape-shifting body and the gift of a healthy precious baby to add to our family.

Baby girl was due September 12. I had made it known among friends and family that I was hoping she would come on a day numbered 5 or 0 in keeping with most of our family’s birthdays (McKay 4/10, Morgan 10/15, Easton 12/20, Ryan 9/25). Jake and I are 8/14 and 12/28, so kind of a pattern still. August 30th and September 5th came and went, lots going on in our house right now with the unknowns of Ryan’s delayed work contract approval, the current contract ending on the 15th, an interview for a job in Hawaii, school starting for McKay and Morgan, first time homeschooling Easton, my Primary President calling managing the routine summer turnover of 1/3 of the ward in children and staffing, and Ryan’s early morning Seminary calling starting up again. Our life is very full at this time!

On Tuesday night, September 9th, there was a Europe Area Sisters Meeting and I watched it via live broadcast from Frankfurt in my bed that evening. Technology ROCKS! I sat up propped by pillows hoping gravity would encourage labor in addition to a full day’s activity and wearing a pendant with clary sage and Whisper blend essential oils that my friend Stacey had shared with me. The meeting was really wonderful and reflective of many subtle changes and considerations recently being seen by the Church in regards to women. Apostles Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife Barbara and Elder Bednar and his wife Susan were the key speakers for the night, joined by Elder Hallstrom (of the Presidency of the 70) and his wife Diane, and the Area President Elder José Teixeira and his wife. The Apostles held this broadcast while in Europe I believe to reorganize a stake or two among other things, but they both reiterated that they were holding this special meeting simply to say thank you on behalf of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to the women for “standing strong” and their “simple steady goodness” among the secular influences of our day. Really great messages shared by the sisters and elders!

Afterward, I went to clean up dinner, a little miffed that it hadn’t been done by the kids and Ryan. But I just couldn’t leave it for tomorrow and wake up to feeling behind again. While I was finishing up, Ryan came in and said that he’d gotten the final offer from SRA and it hadn’t budged from the initial contingency offer. He was completely frustrated. SRA had been awarded the new contract Ryan has been on for almost 6 years now with US European Command here in Stuttgart, Germany. I was too tired to be supportive as his wheels were turning. He felt deflated, wondering how it was that they were doing nothing to honor the expertise and cultivated network he brought to the table. All project managers were offered the same salary regardless of how long they’d worked there. I was simply relieved the offer came and that we knew we could live on it. Was it less than we make now and mean that we couldn’t “build wealth and travel” like we’ve been able to before? Undoubtedly! But on the eve of having our fifth child and all that we have going on right now, Ryan’s job security is premium piece of mind for me since job hunting is an uncertain and lengthy process. At this time, I do not have the earning potential he does, nor ability to jump into the workforce. I tried to smooth things over with him as we went to bed but he was too keyed up as I drifted off to sleep around 11:30 or so.

At 3:45 I was awoken with an image of my baby descending through the birth canal and realized the pain I was feeling was probably a contraction. Five minutes later I had another contraction - the kind of pressure and pain of opening up. This continued for 30 minutes of regular contractions before I got up and started assembling my go bag. Good thing I’d written up a list although I was very distracted and the list was incomplete. (I’d forgotten to list my “Mutterpass” and we showed up at the Klinik without it. It’s the German version of a woman’s health record through her reproductive years.) At almost 5am, contractions were still regular so I woke Ryan up and let him know. By 5:30 he’d gotten the kids up to get dressed so we could take them to Josie and John Pitkin’s home on the way to the Klinik.

The kids were abuzz with excitement to go to Josie’s house and that the baby was coming! Ryan told the kids to let me be during contractions and they were really sweet. Through one contraction, McKay (8) came up and softly rubbed my back as I leaned on the piano. The contractions at this point really did require me to stop and breath through them. Ryan helped me finish packing up a bag of food for the kids and I had a bag with changes of clothes for the kids and diapers for Jake. Then there was my suitcase. I knew I was forgetting one or more important thing as we turned off the lights and left.

On Sunday night, Ryan and I had realized this week could be rather complicated if I had the baby because of his potential in-processing for the new contract and seeing to coverage of the kids. I emailed a few friends to see what their week looked like, made a schedule and list of everyone’s phone numbers and addresses. My Primary Secretary, Josie, wanted to help and kept her week open. She's such a godsend! My visiting teacher, Ashley Andersen, said she could provide rides or watch kids. My homeschool co-op friends, Anna Palfreyman and Emily Eskelsen would pitch in where they could. It wasn’t a detailed, perfect plan but it was a starting point. I'm so grateful for being able to rely on good friends while so far away from family back home!

We dropped off the kids at 6 to Josie’s and it was another 10 minutes to the FilderKlinik. As we got out of the van, Ryan opened the trunk and we realized he’d given my suitcase to Josie rather than the duffel with their things. Classic! We got into the building and he called the Pitkins to see if John could come swap the bags. The stuff we needed immediately was in my regular bag I carry - the camera, my ID, phone, camera charger and such. We’d be okay. As we got to registration, I started a contraction and the woman just told us to make our way to labor and delivery “Entribung” or something. Essentially, we just had to following these guiding dots on the floor. As we made our way there Ryan and I got separated because he had to finish his call to Pitkins before he lost his signal. He quickly caught up to me for I’d sat down for a couple contractions in front of the elevator.

I chose this FrauenKlinik because I liked the feel of the rooms and staff when I visited in late June. Böblingen Krankenhaus was essentially like giving birth in the US in it’s medical interventionist approach while being a midwife-assisted birth. This time around I really hoped I could be brave and try a natural birth with the assistance of Ryan and supportive like-minded midwives. I’d watched “The Business of Being Born” series this past year, read Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” twice, followed a few blogs on this topic, and sought out the wisdom and experience of a handful of friends and family members. All together, they confirmed previous birth experiences and feelings I've had so I felt led to pursue a natural birth if the pregnancy remained healthy and normal. I am so grateful for the medical world and the options available to women giving birth these days. I begrudge no one what they choose for their births because only they know what they are willing and able to handle for each of their births and there are unforeseen circumstances that require all that modern medicine can offer.

This time around, however, I felt my body could give birth naturally if I could get over my fears and work through it. I knew that Ryan is and would be a great birth partner because he is intuitively calm and supportive - he just needed to know from me what was helpful and not helpful. I wanted to see if I could do this, surrender to it and own it. In labor now, I was scared but hopeful I wouldn’t lose my nerve. No narcotics and epidurals are offered at this Klinik and it was go time!

A midwife, Isabelle, greeted us, fresh on her shift for the day. She spoke near perfect English and was just the perfect temperament for us. She put us in a labor room and soon had me hooked up to a fetal monitor to get the initial 30 minute baseline readings. I laid on the bed for the first 15 minutes or so and then decided to stand through contractions again like I had at home.

After my recent second read through and highlighting of Gaskin’s book about a month ago, I’d written up a quick page and a half cheat sheet for Ryan. As we got into our room at the Klinik I told him to pull it out and review. The key was for him to see how I labored and help me relax through contractions so that I would work with them, not against them. For me, this meant I needed to focus on relaxing my brow, my jaw, my shoulders, allow my birth canal sphincter to open up, and to relax my calves and feet. Ryan was to help me do this and remind me to breath/moan low and deeply and not panic and tense up. As a contraction begins to build, I always find some fixed point to stare at and focus on. We figured out quickly that I don’t like a lot of talking while I’m in labor. Of the mantras I’d gleaned through the book, I only wanted to hear short words or phrases like “open” and “relax.” I felt a lot of pressure on my tailbone so I told Ryan to apply pressure there. We figured out rubbing with the palm was not my favorite, but that firm pressure of a few fingers on that area like one was slowly playing a few notes on a piano felt better.

Because I’d forgotten my Mutterpass, they had no information on me and my history which was troubling but not insurmountable because I was calm, laboring well, and “experienced.” We were trying to figure out who to call and bring it to us while Isabelle did my internal exam. She found my cervix very pliable and I was dilated 6-7 centimeters!!! YAY!!! I was so happy and relieved! I knew I was doing something right by really letting standing/gravity help me work with contractions. She continued her exam through a contraction to see how well they were working and said they were nice and strong. I would be moving to a delivery room soon she said!

Isabelle then manipulated my belly to feel the position of the baby’s back, legs and head asked me to stay on the monitor, laying on my left side on the bed so that the baby could turn just a bit to a more optimal birth position. Meanwhile, Ryan was needed down at registration. Isabelle stayed with me, but she was busy getting everything situated to transfer me to a delivery room around the corner. Soon she wheeled me and our stuff there, finishing room preparations as I had a few more contractions. Not fun on my side in the bed in a hallway!

At this point I had begun low moaning the word “open” over and over through contractions and trying to focus on head to toe relaxing and not fighting each contraction as it swept over me. During the very short breaks between contractions I felt exhausted and would almost doze off before the next one would start. Each contraction also raised my temperature so that I felt hot and sweaty during it but then normal temperature during the reprieves. I remember thinking that during prior labors I would have never moaned aloud in a hallway! I had been to inhibited to make a sound until during Jake’s labor last time when I let out some grand hollers and screams during pushing which terrified Ryan!

Finally Isabelle brought me into the delivery room which had a birthing bed, tub, birth stool, all the amenities — it was the room I’d hoped to get because it was so large and well lit from big windows. For a fleeting minute I’d wondered if I should try for a water birth, it sounded nice. But there was no time to really consider it because another contraction was upon me. I told her I wanted to stand and lean on the bed. Actually, I believe I only said the word “Stand” in a caveman grunt and she could tell what I was going to do by watching me labor in the other room. She raised the end of the bed to about elbow height for me to lean on. (This was a miracle because the bed was completely temperamental any time she tried to work the controls later.) Soon Ryan was there again and it’s all pretty much a blur from there because contractions were progressively stronger and closer together.

Ryan was helping to apply pressure on my tailbone or maybe he and Isabelle both were. A staff doctor was also in the room but I still don’t remember her name. She had a kind, experienced face so I felt in good hands should she be needed. My water broke during the peak of a hard contraction and I said I wanted to push. Ryan attests that everyone kicked into serious action. This baby was coming fast!

Each contraction now threatened my sanity and had the burning sensation I knew was the head crowning. It is at this point when you want someone to tell you one more contraction and baby’s out because you literally don’t know if you will survive being torn in two from within! I was still standing and Ryan had grabbed my hands from across the bed and was trying to tell me to keep calm and to focus on something but I don’t remember what. At one point of intensity in a contraction, I actually bit his hand I was gripping! He squawked and I released, but man - don’t mess with a woman in labor, we can’t be held accountable for what we’ll do! (The kids love to share this detail now!)

Isabelle told me she was applying heated oil cloths which I understand is to help prevent tearing during crowning. That did provide some relief but next thing I knew she and the doctor and Ryan were demanding that I sit on the birthing stool for better stability. They gently but firmly lowered me against my instincts onto the stool. My legs were shaking and she was coming so quickly that they didn't want Aliza to slip out too fast for them to safely catch! Ryan was now behind me on a chair higher than mine and I was resting against him between his legs. I must have only pushed a couple more times and our baby girl was born! I don’t remember being able to focus on anything during those last insane pushes until my eyes settled on her on my chest. We hadn’t even had time to take off my skirt, bra, or shirt! It had all gone so quickly! (I’m so grateful for this because I’m a rather modest person and had feared the midwives would demand I labor naked as a friend had experienced here.)

What an incredible comfort it was to be cradled against Ryan as we welcomed this new baby girl to the world! I was so relieved she was here and that the hardest part of labor was now done! And I was so relieved that she and I were healthy to my knowledge at the moment! I had tears in my eyes, she was here!!! I’d been given the birth I’d hoped, prepared, and prayed for. So many things can and do go awry during a birth and I was just so grateful for a smooth delivery! We were so blessed!!! I had Ryan, this wonderful man I love - who somehow puts up with me - to enjoy this beautiful, wide-eyed little lady with. Ryan was so shocked at how fast it all went! He was incredulous and so very proud of me! It was one of the best, most fulfilling moments of my life!

The Stories That Bind Us

Bob & Lorry Reid, 1944
my maternal grandparents

A few months ago, a friend shared a NYTimes article with me by this title "The stories that bind." The author asked, "What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?"

The article goes on to share what a psychologist who studies this question at Emory University has discovered, “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” The article's author refers to this as having a strong family narrative, especially one where the ups and downs are known.

I love stories about my family and learning new ones as I've begun to research my family. It's become a passion of mine in the past couple years so teaching about it in Sharing Time today was a great opportunity!

The Primary theme this year is "Families are Forever" and the scripture is Malachi 4:6 "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." I have thought a lot about this scripture this year. In my faith, we speak of and read in the scriptures a lot about the condition of our hearts. Are they soft and humble, teachable - or are they hard and prideful, leaning to their own understanding? I love the imagery of generations of hearts being "turned" to one another! How comforting it is to me to think that the love I have for my parents, grandparents, husband, and children extends generations before me and will extend beyond me into the future. 

I have been blessed with a couple of experiences where I have felt the presence of a deceased loved one. I have listened to others relate their experiences and love feeling it is a reality. I feel my ancestors want to be known and remembered and that they are assisting the family history work to find them and other loved ones. In short, I feel connected to them by working with them to connect our family through the generations.

Mormons are big on family history research and doing proxy ordinance work (baptisms, endowments, eternal marriages) for the dead in the temple. We believe that through restored priesthood keys given by particular holy men of Biblical times to the prophet Joseph Smith and his counselors, families can be bound together as eternal family units. It fulfills a promise given by Jesus Christ that "whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). We believe those who are deceased go to heaven and continue learning and progressing if they so choose and that one of the great works in heaven is that of missionary work to share God's plan for our eternal happiness and progression. Of course, each person dead or alive has the choice accept or reject that message and these ordinances, but the act of us searching them out and doing that work in the temple knits our heart to theirs. What brings more joy than feeling love for another person and being able to do something for them? Doing temple work for the deceased also causes us to return to the temple where we can retreat from the pace of life and stand in holy places to be taught of God's plan and feel His love for us and our families.

I love how I feel when I am in the temple. I feel great peace and a renewed desire to become the best version of my self. Sometimes I have received answers to questions I'd been praying about. Who wouldn't want to spend time reflecting and pondering in a room like this?!

Celestial room of the Vancouver Temple

Going back to the lesson I shared today with the children, the theme of this month is "Priesthood ordinances and temple work bless my family" and the theme this week is "Family history work connects me to my ancestors." How grateful I am for these annual outlines the church provides!

The outline shared a story about how one family has felt connected through the generations by a shared love of music. It got me thinking about what connected me to my ancestors? For some who know a lot about their ancestors, this might be easy, but I don't know a lot about my ancestors. 

My maternal grandmother, Lucretia Lorene Agee Reid, was the first one in our family to really begin collecting stories and information about our ancestors. When Lorry was a young mother, she began looking for a church to join and raise her young family in. She was introduced to the LDS church and joined but her husband never has joined. He has always been very supportive of her and their kids' participation and the lifestyle that brought. At some point, she learned about family history work and began working on hers.

Back row: Karen, Kim, Gigi (my mom), and Judy
Front row: Jeff (mom's twin), Lorry, Sue, Bob

My Grandpa Bob, however, caught the family history bug from his wife. As my mom is currently compiling his life story for his 90th birthday, I took the chance to ask him why he started doing family history work. It was all Lorry in the beginning until he'd retired and had more time to explore it on his own. The two of them began doing family history research before the ease of today's personal computers and the explosion of the information age. Over the decades, they have provided our family with an impressive start on our family tree. I believe some lines they've researched go back to the 1500s! With four to six generations per 100 years, that's over 25 generations now linked together. Add the four generations of their descendants continuing to grow and the number of people my grandparents have connected me to are in the thousands! 

While one family's shared heritage may be a love of music, one of mine from "Grandma Honey" is a love of family history work. She inspired my mom who began audio recording the life histories of the older generations, collecting pictures, and doing more research. When I was a little girl in the 1980s, I remember summer visits to my great grandparents' home in Grande Ronde, Oregon. Us kids would be sent outside, sometimes to pick berries or beans, while Mom interviewed and recorded those life histories. 

Dad, Mom, me, Chad
Ben, Brooks, Chris - ca.1984

My mom introduced my dad to the church as they were dating. She has helped his family begin finding and recording the names, details and stories of their family tree. While my dad isn't a big researcher yet, he and his dad created one of my prized possessions - a large Bare family tree which I got framed. 

Family history work requires the talents and inspiration of many kinds of people. Some are researchers, some are artists, some are story tellers, photographers, scrapbookers - it takes all kinds to bind us together! My mom's and Grandma Honey's enthusiasm for family history has rubbed off on me and my siblings in different ways with our various talents and circumstances. I am so blessed to have them all in my life! 

As I've been helping with my grandpa's life story, I have loved learning about his life and what made him into the good man he has become. I am so happy to have these stories to share with my children about growing up during the Great Depression, working hard as a youth to pay for his own clothes and entertainment, his desire to get an education to increase his opportunities, was a meticulous family budgeter, and what it looks like to be a good husband, father, employee, and involved citizen. He saw challenges and hardships along the way and was resilient and compassionate. He lost one daughter to leukemia at age 11 and was a devoted caregiver to Grandma Honey in her declining years. 

I truly feel that these are indeed stories that will bind us, knit our hearts together.