My mother-in-law passed away the year before my son was born.
Even though neither of my kids ever met their Grandma Louise, she’s part of their lives. We talk about her a lot. We have photos of her around the house and tell stories about her. About her adventurous spirit. Her quirky personality. Her love of travel, exploration, and people. We talk about what traits they share with her.
I grew up surrounded by most of my extended family, which seems rare now in our mobile world. I think a lot about how to connect my kids to their grandparents and relatives who live in other states, but also how to connect them to stories about family and ancestors they’ll never know.
One of the most prominent family narratives I grew up hearing was the story of my great-grandma, Gyda. As the story goes, her mom had saved up money to send one of her six kids to America to live the American dream. And she chose Gyda. So at the tender age of 17, Gyda left her small fishing town in Norway and made the long ocean voyage on her own to build a new life in America. She worked various jobs, taking care of people’s homes and children, and eventually made her way up to Alaska where she was a cook in a mining camp. She went on to marry, have four girls (one died in the flu epidemic of 1918), lose her husband to cancer when he was only in his 40s, and then remarry. All the while, Gyda supported her family through working and taking in boarders (she even helped fund a son-in-law’s medical school tuition). She lived until the ripe age of 94.
I have childhood memories of her as a tough old woman with a Norwegian accent who played the harmonica and was hard of hearing. I know some of the colorful anecdotes and stories about her, but I was always captivated by her life story. Until quite recently, this narrative of her life was about determination, sacrifice and fierce love for kids and family. I even wrote a college paper exploring it. But now I see another message that wasn’t apparent to me before. I see that in telling this tale about her life, Gyda was the hero(ine) of her own story. She both suffered hardships and was blessed by good fortune, but throughout, she was the hero.
I want my kids to know their family and to feel connected to their family and ancestors through these stories. And most important, I want them to see that they are the heroes of their own story.
This weekend, in an attempt to get some fresh air and tag team on exercise, our family trekked over to Sawyer Camp Trail, one of our favorites these days.
I took a run while my husband and kids walked, scootered and inspected bugs. As I turned the corner of the trail at the end of my run, I saw my kids perched on a big rock. They bounced and cheered me on as I finished. The only feeling better than that is cheering them on.
I run but often hesitate to call myself a runner. I don’t necessarily log a lot of miles , run to cross finish lines or set PRs, but running is a form of meditation for me. I was reminded of that this week.
Here’s why I run:
-I run to quiet the chatter and listen to the stillness of my mind.
-I run to keep up with my kids. And I can’t wait for the day when they can run with me (and blaze by me!)
-I run to show my kids that I’m strong and that fitness is important and worth making time for.
-I run to push myself to do something I think I can’t do.
-I run when I’m stuck — figuring out a problem or searching for inspiration.
-I run after I’m called in after my first mammogram for some “follow-up” images. (update: no news = good news!)
-I run to celebrate life, to celebrate moving.
-I run now because one day I won’t be able to.
-I run for my kids.
-I run for those who can’t.
-I run for me.
Warning: If you have no interest in or need for baby stuff, please do yourself a favor and stop reading now. You have been warned.
Maybe it’s the blossoms on the trees, the smell of spring in the air, or simply wishful thinking that my youngest will be out of diapers soon, but I’ve been on a cleaning-out-baby-gear tear.
And though it’s with mixed feelings I’ve been giving away the boxes of tiny onesies, bouncey chairs and mountains of baby-related stuff, I think I’ve gained enough perspective to see what items withstood the test of time and wear of two kids.
It’s not Oprah’s, but here’s my humble list of favorite baby gear that I would buy again if I was somehow transported back in a time machine:
Bob “Revolution” Stroller – Simply known as “The Bob”. I bought another umbrella stroller, too, but we only used it once or twice. Between a baby carrier, the “snap and go” thing for the baby car seat, a kid carrier and Bob, we’ve hiked, run, shopped, traveled with two kids from infancy until pre-K. Bob is the only stroller for me. And though ‘ol Bob looks like he’s been through a war with mud and goldfish crackers, he still performs like a champ.
Aden and Anais swaddling blankets – A friend gave these to us and they were the only swaddling cloths we really used, both for a summer and winter baby. Easy to throw in a diaper bag for an extra blanket, too. I’ve given so many of these as baby gifts, I should be an honorary member of their sales team.
BabyBjorn travel crib – More than I originally wanted to spend on a travel crib, but this was so worth the money. It’s super light and easy to set up. My daughter used it as a permanent bed for several months and as a big two year-old can still use it.
Sophie La Girafe – I remember getting Sophie at our baby shower and wondering, what is this strange, French, rubbery thing? But then I had a teething baby and I GOT IT! There’s a reason why you see Sophie everywhere. And why we went through three Sophies. Sophie rocks.
Sound machine – I’m still not sure if this more for my peace of mind, or actually helps my kids sleep, but we still use it. Especially living in small houses and with kids who share a room, having a little ambient noise seems to help everyone sleep better.
Cloth diapers as burp rags – My kids spit up a lot as babies. Not just frequently, but copiously. I remember reading stuff that said babies may spit up a “teaspoon or two” after feeding. A teaspoon?! With my babies, it was more like pints. Quarts. And the old school cloth diapers were the only that absorbed the projected liquid. I swear I had one of these hanging on my shoulder at any moment for about a year. I felt like Craig Robinson in This Is the End.
Handmade items – Blankets crocheted by my sister. Quilts made by my mom. Favorite books and cds given to us by friends. These are the keepers and will be with us long past babyhood.