I grew up without a lot of family around. We didn’t live near any extended family and I didn’t have a sense of aunts and uncles, or cousins. I knew what they were and the genetic ties but they had little meaning to me. I had grandparents but I didn’t see them often. They lived far away and were not very involved in our lives. There had also been several marriages and divorces, and the new husbands were my “grandpa.” I remember being about 17 when one day I did some thinking about it and figured out who my real grandpa was.
Since I have married I have a better understanding of extended family relationships and their importance. When we were actually planning our wedding, my husband wanted to have his aunts and uncles at the ceremony. He grew up with them very involved in his life. He knew all of his cousins and there were dozens of them. His extended family gathered often and they even had family reunions. I knew about family reunions but had never been to one before.
Since space was limited at our wedding, and I didn’t have a good understanding of family connections, aunts and uncles were unimportant to me. So, we didn’t have them come to the ceremony. Now that I am an aunt I see it differently. I love my nieces and nephews and feel a connection to them. I love going to their weddings and family gatherings. I rejoice with them at the births of their children and other life events.
If I had it to do over again I would have found a way to have my husband’s aunts and uncles at our ceremony. I see the importance of family and family connections now. I see the value of having aunts and uncles involved in our lives.
I also like the titles of aunt and uncle, or grandma and grandpa, and I like these titles to be included with the person’s name. Titles tell us how we are connected to each other. They recognize that we are family. Titles give us a sense of belonging. They help you to know that your relationship is special and that love is there.
Recently one of my daughters referred to me by my first name with her child. I told her to include Grandma with my name. I explained to her why I think titles are important. It’s because I want my grandchildren to know I am not just another person in their lives. I want my grandchildren to know how we are connected, that we are family, that we belong together. I want my grandchildren to know that our relationship is special and that I love them.
On The Nose
In my last post I wrote about how much work there was with a family and the importance of taking time for fun. I regret not spending more time just playing with my kids and enjoying them. I do remember some fun things we did together though. It’s funny that most of these things were spontaneous and unplanned yet they are some of the sweetest things I remember doing with my children. I’m not even sure how this one started but my children loved it. They would lie on the couch with their head on their dad’s lap and he would stack cheerios on their nose. My children would line up waiting for their turn in delightful anticipation. It was a contest between the children to see who could lay the most still and could get the most cheerios stacked. Each would carefully angle his or her head to figure out the best position. It was serious business! I was the one who supplied and counted the cheerios, and took pictures. A really simple thing yet when I talk with my children about it they remember it vividly and talk about how much fun it was. I still have the photographs and when I look at them sweet memories flood my mind. One picture shows my toddler lying there with someone holding her hands so she wouldn’t push the cheerios away. She had watched everyone else doing it and she wanted to do it too but didn’t actually want to have something on her nose. Her brothers and sisters were gathered around counting the cheerios as they went on her nose and cheering that she sat still. It is a priceless memory!
A Sweet Memory
Another sweet memory is when I had a daughter sitting on my lap and we made up different kinds of kisses. I had a couple of other children sitting next to me and each of them got involved and we were all laughing and doing the kisses on each other. One was the race care kiss where you zoomed your lips across the cheek of the other person, and of course you had to make a race car sound. There was the butterfly kiss in which you fluttered your eyelashes against the cheek of the other person. That one mostly tickled. An energetic one involved bouncing kisses off the cheek of your partner and we called that one the Pogo stick kiss. The most popular one was the ice cream kiss which involved licking the cheek of the unsuspecting person sitting next to you. Yes, I know it’s disgusting, yet somehow it was fun when done with my kids. The ice cream kiss turned out to be the most fun because everyone was chasing each other to “kiss” them. It’s been many years and I don’t remember all of the kisses we came up with but I do remember just enjoying my children. I remember being present with them and just having fun together.
Singing and Dancing
Something else I remember doing is singing and dancing with my kids. We’d put on a Raffi CD and hold hands and dance around while singing along with the silly songs. A couple of my daughters have really good memories of doing that so I found some Raffi CDs on Amazon and sent them to them so they could do the same with their children. Most people today don’t remember Raffi or know who he is, which is kind of sad because of the good memories I have of his music. I have always liked singing and sang a lot with my children. Using familiar tunes we’d make up new words to songs as we were driving somewhere or working together. We also sang a lot of Primary songs driving places and the added advantage to that was it cut down on the fighting and arguing in the car.
One last thing want to share is how we made up funny sayings along the lines of See You Later Alligator. Every morning as my kids left for school I would say In a While Crocodile, and See You Later Alligator. One morning, on the spur of the moment, I added a new one. Hit The Road You Silly Toad which spurred others, Remember To Laugh You Funny Giraffe and then That’s Preposterous You Crazy Rhinoceros! Some of my kids thought of other ones too. We had fun most mornings adding to the sayings. I still say these to my only daughter at home as she heads out the door to catch the bus.
No Expensive Gadgets
When I look at these fun things what stands out to me most is that none of these cost any money, we didn’t go anywhere fancy and it didn’t involve any expensive gadgets. It was just me taking the time to focus on my children in fun ways, and being relaxed and really present with them. I wasn’t worried about what needed to be done, teaching them something important, or working. Maybe because it didn’t happen too often these things stand out in my mind and the minds of my kids. Whatever the reason, to me it emphasizes the importance of enjoying my children. It also shows me the value of just having fun together and the love and strength that results. I’m glad to have these sweet memories.
When my children were young there was always so much to do. I would wake up early to get kids ready for school or church, often after having been up several times during the night feeding a baby. I would work hard all day and late into the evening. There were always meals to fix, laundry to do and a house to clean. There was homework to supervise, children to bathe, as well as shopping to be done and music lessons to get kids to. During the spring and summer there was yard work and gardens to tend. During the fall there was canning and dehydrating fruit. I volunteered in the schools and there was church work to be done. I was always busy, busy, busy. Somehow I was self driven to try to do everything in my mind I thought I was supposed to do. Even when I was really tired it didn’t really occur to me that I didn’t have to do so much. I was a worker and work was what I did.
One day a few years ago I was talking with one of my daughters who told me she wasn’t sure she wanted to have children. She said it just seemed like a lot of work without any fun. She had watched me during the years and had seen all the work I did without really taking a lot of time for fun, and it seemed like drudgery to her. After talking with her for a while, I reassured her that she could make motherhood as fun as she wanted. This conversation left me feeling a little sad though. I felt sad that I had subtly conveyed the message that motherhood was all work and very little fun. I also started wondering about how much work is really needed to make a home run smoothly and how much is too much. Did I really need to do so much? I did do a lot of fun things with my kids. We had craft time, went to the pool and park several times a week during the summer and went to the movies often. We had halloween parties and celebrated birthdays with family parties and played board games. I read books with my children and we went to petting zoos and aviaries. But, even theses fun things were a lot of work because we often had not only my kids but half the neighborhood joining in. There were so many little fingers into the projects we did and getting anywhere with my crew took so much energy and work. I viewed having fun as work! And I was usually thinking ahead what needed to be done instead of being present and enjoying my family.
Now that my children are grown and gone I look at things a little differently. Perhaps I have learned to relax a little over the years. Maybe I see how fast the time has gone. Perhaps I have come to realize that work is important but that relationships need to be nurtured by doing enjoyable things together. Families do take a lot of work, even to have fun. But, having fun together is just as important as working together. Being together just for the pleasure of it without thinking about what still needs to be done. The kind of together that says I love you and I want to spend time with you. The kind of fun that says you are important to me. So, if I had another magic wand…
In my husband’s family there are some funny expressions, some of which I have never heard before. His family is from a small town in central Utah and I don’t know if these expression are common in that town or if they are unique to his family. Some of these expression defy logic because they just don’t make sense. My favorite one of these is “How come your eye’s out without a scratch on your face.” Loosely translated it means “Why did you do that?” He has tried to explain the expression to me many times and it’s inference. Usually he gives this example, “You’re eating some watermelon and you leave the room for a few minutes and come back to find that someone has eaten the heart of the melon. You then say, ‘how come your eye’s out without a scratch on your face?'” I know, it makes no sense. Because it makes no sense I can’t remember the phrase exactly and he had to repeat it to me again to write this. Another phrase his family says is “it physics me” meaning it gives the person diarrhea. That one I sort of get, or at least I can see the connection. They would usually say something like, “I can’t eat that because it physics me.” I don’t know anyone else who says that but older people in his family. I think the expression is dying out with the younger crew, which in some ways is kind of sad. Unique sayings give a family a distinctive personality.
An expression unique to my husband is something he’d always say to console one of our children after they’d get hurt. He’d be patting the child on the back and saying in a soothing tone of voice, “It’ll feel better when it stops hurting.” Somehow that always worked, or at least it did until they got old enough to really figure out what he was saying. Now our kids laugh about it and say it with their own kids. Another funny expression comes from a friend of my husband. Her grandmother always said, “I have a bone in my leg” when she didn’t want to do something that required her to move. Well, yes that one makes sense too because we all have a bone in our legs. Why she’d say that in those circumstances I don’t have a clue.
I’ve been trying to figure out if I grew up with any weird sayings in my family and I couldn’t think of any. I asked my husband if I use any weird or unusual expressions and he couldn’t think of any either. Probably I just grew up in a boring family. But, I think most of us grow up with these funny expressions and don’t give them much thought because we’ve heard them all of our lives. But when you stop and think about it, there are some very peculiar sayings out there that are only understood by the family who uses them. There might be some funny, unusual, or weird expressions in your family. If so, I’d love to hear them. If you feel like it, just tell me some of them in the comment section of this post.
Many years ago I struggled to figure out most nights what I was going to fix for dinner. When I waited to think about it until 5:00 not only was I tired but my children were also tired and usually wanting my attention. Crying, crabby children didn’t make it easy to think clearly about planning dinner. In this situation I could usually think of about 3 or 4 things to fix which night after night didn’t go over so well. Often I wouldn’t have all of the ingredients I needed to make the dinner, which added to the stress. It was then hurry to the store or find something else to fix. Life is stressful enough without increasing it with this nightly dance. So I decided I was going to be really organized and plan menus for each week. That way I wouldn’t be trying to figure out dinner in a stressful situation, and I would always have the food available I needed to make dinner. The first time I sat down to write the menu all I could think of was the same 3 or 4 things. That obviously didn’t work so I came up with a plan. I decided to look through cook books that I often used and made a list of main courses, side dishes, salads and desserts. I put the meal option list in a page protector and on a clip board. This gave me a quick reference list for menu planning. I then photocopied all the recipes on the list and put them in a binder so I would have quick access to them when making dinner. I didn’t want to have to take time to find the recipes because sometimes I only had a short time to pull off the nightly feat of meal prep. I also made a shopping list with categories like produce, can goods, breads, meats, dairy and other similar things. That also went on the clip board along with the menu page. When I plan menus I look over the list, figure out the meals for each night, make out the shopping list and then I’m ready to go to the grocery store. Having everything on a clip board made crossing things off while shopping easier.
All of this took some time to organize but when it was done it was well worth it. Not only did it stop the 5:00 scramble to figure out dinner but it saved money by being organized in shopping and reducing wasted food. It also made it easier when cleaning out the fridge to know how long a particular food item had been in it. Some times if I was running late I would call my husband and have him look on the menu to see what was planned and get it started. There were also times when things didn’t work out for what I had planned for a particular night so I would switch nights around. Being flexible with it helped a lot. My kids also liked being to see the menu and know what was for dinner that night. Of course there were still tired, crying kids and one really tired mom on some nights but having what to fix for dinner already figured out really did help relieve a lot of the stress. There are many different ways to do menu planning and maybe some these ideas will spur your own ideas. For me this was a tool that helped life go a little smoother and reduce some stress in our lives.
When my oldest daughter was a toddler she was a hand full at church. To help keep her quiet and entertained, my husband would take his silk handkerchief that matched his tie (an 80’s thing) and roll and fold it in such a way that it looked like a canoe with “babies” in it. He would rock it between his hands and she would sit quietly and play with it. One time at church he forgot to wear his handkerchief and as we were listening to the speaker my daughter started looking through his pockets, moving his tie around and getting in his face. Since she was being quiet we didn’t think too much about it until she loudly shouted, “Where’s that little thing you use to make babies with daddy.” That quickly got our attention, especially as the people in the pews around us started laughing. We immediately put our heads down in deep embarrassment and explained that daddy forgot to bring it. Of course we laugh about it now! When she was a little older, she and her sister opened a 20 lb bag of flour and had a “snow” fight. When I found them, all I could see were two white faces with big eyes looking at me. That was a huge mess to clean up! Another time she and this same sister blocked off the bottom of the door of the bathroom with towels and filled the floor full of water to make an indoor slip and slide. I was downstairs doing laundry when I saw water pouring down from the ceiling. I ran up stairs and found 2 girls having great fun. I was amazed at their creativity but not amused with the damaged ceiling. One time I found my electric skillet in her bath tub with dried up food in it. It turns out that she and her partner in crime (this same sister) would take my electric skillet into their bedroom and cook things when they were supposed to be asleep. All of these things were basically harmless but they kept me really busy because what one daughter didn’t think to do the other one did. Of course there were a few things that weren’t so harmless like when she let her 14 year sister take her car and drive around with some friends. We were really lucky no one was hurt with that escapade. The years have passed and now this same daughter just celebrated her 33rd birthday. She has grown into a compassionate, thoughtful person who champions the underdog (humans and animals alike!). She has this knack for reaching out to others and becoming friends with them, and still keeps in contact with high school friends. When she is your friend you will have a friend for life. She will always have your back and she tries harder than anyone else I know to improve herself. She cares about her family and reaches out to build relationships. She is an amazing person who brightens our lives. In spite of all of her antics, I am glad she’s my daughter. Happy Birthday!
Another Christmas has come and gone and the years seem to be flying by. It wasn’t that long ago that I had little children who brought the wonder and excitement of Christmas into our home. Most of my children are adults now and I recently asked them what some of their favorite Christmas memories are. Most of them said that they loved doing Angel Tree or Sub for Santa projects, and they talked about the different projects our family did through the years. They even said it still brings them joy in thinking about the projects, and the happiness they brought to others. It’s interesting that they don’t really remember most of their gifts but they remember the service that we did. This is one of my favorite things about Christmas. It seems that so many reach out in service to others that it brings a joyful feeling into life, something almost tangible in the air. One of the reasons I like Christmas is because it gives people an opportunity to think of others, to reach out and serve. I like reading about the kind and wonderful things that people do for others. Recently I read a magazine article in Reader’s Digest that asked people how they find meaning or purpose in their lives. One of the replies that really stood out to me was from a man who said that he and his wife were having arguments about fair division of labor at home. He heard a sermon at church that talked about the benefits of serving others and he challenged himself to serve his wife every day for a month. He wrote about all of the little things he did around the house without thinking about who’s turn it was or who made the mess. He stated, “At the end of the month, I found that our life was happier, more contented, more intimate. I kept it up and more than won the lottery. We have been married for 30 years and look forward to many more” (Daniel Townsend, December 2018/January 2019, p. 31). This man found the key to happiness that many philosophers and church leaders have written about. When we serve others we are happier and often our own problems are put into perspective or diminish. Many people are searching for happiness and there are so many people who need help in this world. So this Christmas, give yourself a gift. Decide and follow through to volunteer at a school, at a hospital. Visit people in nursing homes or who are home bound. Help refugees, stock selves at food pantries or contact your local community service organization. Write a letter, make a phone call, send a text. There are so many ways to serve, and not only will you bless the lives of others, but you will be happier yourself. You will discover the key to happiness.
I grew up in California and we had early morning church classes called seminary to attend. I am not an early morning person and rarely attended the classes. Since I didn’t go very often I didn’t graduate from seminary. Not only that but I was so busy with classes and life while in college, I didn’t make reading my scriptures and studying the gospel the priority it should have been. I did have religion classes and did the course work but it wasn’t a whole-hearted effort. Then of course I found out what busy really was as a mother with lots of children. I rarely found time to read and study the scriptures unless I had a class to teach at church. Unfortunately I didn’t really start studying the scriptures and the gospel until I was in my early 40’s. I still had lots of children to care for and migraines to deal with so what made the difference? I had a dear friend who loved the scriptures. She loved to study the words of the prophets and ponder on the meanings of them. She thoroughly enjoyed exploring the scriptures and the doctrines of the gospel, and she took great joy in them! She demonstrated a zest and love for the gospel and I wanted to have the same love and feelings for the scriptures that she did. I wanted to be able to apply the teaching of the scriptures to my life too. I wanted to have the scriptural knowledge that she had. She inspired me and so I began a journey into gospel learning that has greatly blessed and influenced my life for good. In the last 20 years, as I have studied the scriptures and the words of the prophets, my knowledge and gospel confidence has increased greatly. As I have applied the teachings of the gospel in my life I have been greatly enriched. Her example influenced me and created a yearning in my heart to truly love the scriptures.
Recently there have been changes in church procedures announced. We now have before us in the church a refocus on home centered gospel teaching, supported by teaching in classes at church. Lately during church classes I have listened to many women express their concerns about being able to adequately teach their children the gospel in their homes. They feel pressure to help their children learn the scriptures and gospel doctrines, and help them acquire testimonies. Even though I no longer have young children in my home I remember the same feelings and the urgency I felt at helping my children to know the scriptures. Because of that we made sure we did family scriptures and prayer nightly, and Family Home Evening weekly. We always had the mechanics of it in place but sometimes I treated it as an ordeal to get through rather than a joyful thing. I spent too much time trying to endure the process of reading the scriptures with my children rather than just enjoying the time learning together. Now I can see that if I had transmitted my love for the scriptures and gospel learning as a joyful blessing instead of an ordeal that perhaps my children would have sensed my love for the scriptures and wanted that same love for them in their lives. Treating scripture time as an opportunity and joyful thing would have taught just as much as the actual reading of them. It would have taught that scriptures are a thing to be treasured and that reading them brings joy into your lives. If I had any advice for parents who are concerned about the refocus on home centered learning it would be to love the scriptures yourself and just enjoy the learning and teaching time with your family. Your children will see the blessings in your life from scripture study and gospel learning and want the same blessings in their lives, even though it may not be until they are a little older.
I think of my friend and her influence on me and how I wanted the same experiences she had, I wanted to love the scriptures like she did. Her example changed my life forever.
Many years ago my husband was driving down a street in our community in his pickup truck towing a heavy load. As he was driving along he had the words come strongly to him “Stop Now!” and so he slammed on his brakes. Just then 2 little girls on bikes came racing out into the road, rounded the corner and obliviously pedaled away. He told me that if he had not listened there was no way he could have stopped in time with the heavy load he was towing, and he was sure he would have run over those little girls. He was very emotional and upset while telling me of this incident. The little girls on the bikes however were totally unaware that their lives had been in danger. They rode off having fun together and went home to parents who were also unaware that their daughters had been in grave danger. I have thought about this a lot over the years. Those girls probably had parents who prayed for their children’s safety each day and didn’t know that on this particular day their prayers had been amazingly answered. I also pray for my children every day. I pray for the blessings they need, for their safety, for their happiness. Because of this situation I have wondered how many times my prayers have been answered without me being aware of it. I have wondered how many times my children have been watched over and cared for without my knowledge. And from this I can suppose that there are other ways my prayers are answered too that I am oblivious about. Perhaps part of having faith is trusting that God will answer my prayers whether I know it or not, and knowing that my prayers are not always answered the way I want. My faith is strengthened through prayer and receiving my Father Heaven’s help, not always in the way or time I expect it. As I have gotten older I have come to depend more on prayer and realize more of it’s importance. This Thanksgiving Season I am particularly grateful for the opportunity I have to pray to a loving Heavenly Father and to know He hears and answers my prayers, even when I am unaware of it. I am grateful to feel the power of prayer in my life and to have the source of strength and comfort it offers. I am thankful for prayer.
I have decided to do just one posting a week instead of two. Sometimes I scramble to find something I think people will be interested in reading. Obviously I don’t know as much as I thought I did! This will also free me up to work more on my family history which has taken a backseat to the blog since I started writing it a little over a year ago. When I was younger family history seemed a mystery to me, and expensive. I didn’t understand the process of finding information and knowing for sure it was the right information. It was also expensive to send away for records and there was a lot of wait time. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, places a lot of value and emphasis on family, both living and dead. We believe that all need to hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ and that those who have died without the opportunity to hear about the gospel are taught it in the next world after they die. Since they weren’t able to receive saving ordinances while they were alive we perform the ordinances for them as proxies. They have the choice to accept the teachings or not, but we do family history to find family members who need to have their work done giving them the opportunity. While in the past it was difficult to do family history, now it’s very easy. Almost everything is available online and I have yet to need to send away for a record. Since my family is second generation members of my church there’s a lot to be found and I have found many people in which I can have their ordinance work done. I can spend hours and hours doing it, which is interesting to me because I never thought I would like doing it. Sometimes I find so much information that I have to force myself to pull away and go to bed or eat or do necessary tasks of life. One of the things I like about it is finding personal information about a relative. The person becomes real to me and I feel connected to them, and it’s interesting to see patterns in families that are carried out in subsequent generations. I have had many spiritual experiences with family history, sometimes feeling like I have been guided to find certain information which had been so elusive. Recently I have been blessed to find information about my great-grandfather who came to this country from Bulgaria in 1913. Bulgarian records are hard to come by and we now have information that dates back to 1730, but it’s all in Bulgarian which is Cyrillic writing! Studying this information and trying to translate it will take a lot of time. Somehow I feel driven to do it and so now I will have more time by only posting once a week. So, change is good and so is family history.