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Week Three: Writing Your Baby’s Story

We’ve been busy the last few weeks with family in town and celebrating birthdays. I had fun adding more information to each of my “baby’s” stories. They certainly aren’t babies anymore! Our youngest just turned six years old. If you are starting when your baby is only a few weeks old, congratulations! My details are getting foggier the older I get. Here are the questions to add to your child’s story this week.

  1. Who drove the mother and the baby home?When did the mother and baby arrive home
  2. Where did the mother and baby live? Who did they live with?
  3. Describe the baby’s home and room.
  4. Did the baby sleep in their own room or share a room with the mother or someone else?
  5. What were the siblings’ and/or other family members’ reactions the baby’s arrival home?
  6. What visitors did the baby and mother have in the first few days home?
  7. Did anyone come or help the mother and the new baby? Who? How long did that person stay? What other help did the family receive?
  8. Did the mother and/or baby receive any special gifts?
  9. Describe the feelings the mother and father had during the first few days home.  Did they have any special impressions or thoughts?

A few of the highlights from my answers to these questions comes from that the last one. Describe the feelings the mother and father had during the first few days home. When we had our first beautiful baby boy, I was twenty-four.  We were students in college and working hard to make ends meet.  I remember when we first brought our baby home to our little apartment, I was so excited, but also very nervous. We had a lot of support. My mother came every day to help us out a little and my mother in law came for a few days as well. Our church family helped us with dinners and always checked on me.

It was hard the first time I was left alone with our son. I had taken care of children, even little babies, but not for hours at a time. I was trying to nurse him because all my birthing classes had stressed that “breast is best.” However, our sweet little guy would not latch on in a comfortable way and it hurt terribly every time I tried to feed him. I was frustrated and exhausted. However, I would not, could not supplement with formula. I was certain in my foggy postpartum mind that if I fed him from a bottle, he would die and I would forever hold the title of “worst mother in the world.”

I remember praying,”Please Heavenly Father, please help me, please bless him to be able to eat.” Well, I tried to do everything the lactation specialist had shown me and it wasn’t working. The baby was hungry and tired. My delivery was rough and I was still recovering. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I cried and cried, the baby cried. It was so overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do anymore when exactly at the moment by my sweet husband walked in the door. He had come home from work earlier than I expected. He looked at me and the baby and he took the sweet infant in his arms and snuggled him and sent me to bed. I remember saying the baby was upset because he was hungry, but I couldn’t get him to eat. My level-headed husband said, “We still have samples of formula from the hospital, right?”

He said, ‘formula’ but I am sure I heard  ‘arsenic.’  I glared at him. “We are not feeding our baby formula!”

He looked at me kindly and put his arm on my shoulder. “Karen, scientists created infant formula for this reason: so that their dads could help feed their babies. Our baby won’t die if he drinks formula. I promise you. He is going to be fine.”

I tried to protest, but I was so exhausted and somehow he got me to go lay down. I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke an hour or two later and came out to my husband watching television in the living room. Our baby’s belly was full and he was happily dosing in the crook of his father’s arms.

I realize then my prayer was answered. It wasn’t in the way I thought it would be, but it was an answer. My husband coming home when he did was a tender mercy.  I never thought I would go to feeding our baby formula, but after seeing how my husband could help me. Later I realized how much easier it was for me and the baby and we never went back.

If you are wondering if feeding our baby formula hurt him,  well he is in the eighth grade, 6’1″, sings, plays piano, and has great grades.

michael

 

 

Week Two: Writing Your Personal History

I enjoyed answering the questions from last week. It was fun to try to remember about when I was a baby. I learned I don’t really remember much! However, here are some highlights of the answers to questions last week:

 

karen-baby2

Me, two months old

 

Where did you get your name from? My mother liked the names Catherine and Cordelia. Cordelia is my great grandmother’s middle name. My mom decided on Karen because it was a shorter form of Catherine. My name in Greek means “purity.” I am glad I wasn’t called Cordelia, even though I know Anne of Green Gables dreamed of being called that.

My mother liked to call me “Kare-Bear” after the popular cartoon on television when I was growing up in the 1980s. She said it was because I was always so sweet. The only people who call me “Kare-Bear” now are my older sister and my mother and two of my best friends growing up.

carebears_puzzle

I am excited to write more this week. Here are the questions:

5. What clothing did you wear as a baby? What did your parents tell you about your growing out of your shoes and other clothing? Buying new clothes?

6.  Tell about learning to walk, to talk, losing your first tooth, learning to count, say the alphabet, learn nursery rhymes and songs, favorite bedtime stories, times with your mother and father, brothers and sisters, discipline (getting spankings, time out etc), favorite foods, getting into trouble and learning, pets, games, toys, etc.

7. Tell about birthdays and parties, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, costumes and gifts, parades, Santa Claus, Eater Bunny, picnics etc.

8.  Tell about who your friends were at this early age, times with your cousins, etc.

Good luck! I know these questions will keep me busy this week.

Bringing Family History to Life

I think it is important when you have kids to do things that can bring your family history to life for them. It can all be so confusing with the names and dates. I remember growing up my mother would start a story and I would not know who she was referring to. I could not see the connections like she could and our conversations went like this.

“Who are you talking about again?”

“Phebe, you know, your grandfather’s sister. She is Matthew and Libby’s grandmother.”

There were too many names and I never heard the story only trying to figure out the names.

I have learned when I teach a story to my boys about one of their ancestors I have to keep it simple. I show a photo if I have one and then tell the story in a minute or two.

If my teenager wants to know more when I have finished then I can give him the name of the ancestor where he can go on to Familysearch.org to look more about his ancestor for himself.

One of the ways I have tried to bring family history to life for my children is to visit places where there is a story in connection with our ancestors. My favorite place to take them is to the Bluff Fort Historic Site and Visitors Center in Bluff, Utah. I have great grandparents who were a part of the San Juan Mission who carved a road out of the Utah desert to Bluff. They were the only pioneer expedition to travel east!

Bluff Fort is a lot of fun because they have interactive displays in each of the replica cabins built around the fort. There are artifacts you can see and learn more about. There is a movie made specifically about the Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition and you can climb into a covered wagon. We got to see our ancestors’ names on the memorial they have in the middle of the fort, the Stevens Family. If you are interested in going to the Bluff Fort yourself it is open all year round and is completely free.  Their website is http://www.hirf.org.

Trapper Keepers and American Girl Dolls

Back in the early nineties, my family moved from our log home to run a bed and breakfast across town.  I am the youngest of six children. I have an older sister, then four brothers. We moved while my third brother was on a two-year proselytizing mission for our church in Bolivia. The only two children left at home were myself and my brother who was two years older.

When we unpacked our belongings into our new rooms, my brother found a Beauty and the Beast Trapper Keeper in a box of his. It was not his and so he put it on my bed thinking it was mine. I saw it and knew it was not mine so I put it on his bed. This went on for days until finally I got upset and said,”Quick putting this thing in my room. It isn’t mine.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t mine!” he said.

We figured out it must have belonged to our brother who was on a mission. My brother put in a box in his closet and I thought it was the end of it until the next day when I got home from high school. My brother sat in the living room, not watching television, reading, or doing anything. He never just sat. I knew he was up to something. He nodded at me when I came in. Then he smiled. It was an eerie, mischievous sort of smile. “Aren’t you going to take your stuff up to your room?” he asked.

“No!” I yelled and ran to my room. “Where is it?” I searched my room for the offending Trapper Keeper. I looked in my pillowcases, in my dresser drawers, in my closet. He followed me and casually leaned against my door watching my erratic behavior. He had an amused look on his face.

“Where did you put it?” I asked ready to tear my hair out.

He laughed and looked at the ceiling.I looked and he had taped the Trapper Keeper to the ceiling above my bed.

“I wanted you to have a good dreams,” he said.

I immediately stood on my bed and tore the offending item from my ceiling.

The next day, I put it in the cupboard under his television where he kept his video games so his friends would see it as they got the games out.

The next day, he taped it to my shower.

The Trapper Keeper would never disappear. The game went on for the rest of the year until my brother graduated and moved away. I put in my closet and laughed when I saw it.

It felt weird to be the only kid at home with my parents that fall. When the spring came around my brother decided to go out and serve a mission for our church as well and was sent to England. The following Christmas, I got the Trapper Keeper out, wrote him a bunch of letters, filled it with candy and mailed it to him. It was the best!

Our family talked to him on Christmas and he had not received my package yet. Then a few weeks later, I got a letter saying he had received my package, but he wasn’t very happy about it. I believe he threw it away in a bin in Manchester, England. trapper-keeper

It is a funny thing to remember. Then similarly, a few years after my husband and I had our first son, we were expecting another baby and we bought some curtains from Pottery Barn Kids.  My husband got on a mailing list somehow and they sent him an American Girl doll catalog. We laughed about it and I would call him at work to tell him it had come in the mail so it would have something to look forward to when he returned home.

As our boys have grown, we still get the American Girl Catalog. My husband started putting it in our oldest’s sons room and then I would help him come up with a place to hide it in my husband’s things. Then our two younger boys have got involved and they hide in each other’s bedrooms. We moved three years ago and made sure that we changed our address so they would continue to come, however, we put the catalog in our oldest’s sons’ name.  We wanted him to feel special. With so much technology these days, who doesn’t like getting special items in the mail?

We continue to get them to this day and find funny places to hide them.  The best hiding spot was when I put it in a part of my son’s backpack he doesn’t use very often and he carried it back and forth to junior high for a week. Good times! It is the little, silly things we do that our kids remember. Just as I always think of my brother whe I see Beauty and the Beast, I know in the future, I will never see an American Girl catalog without thinking of the funny times we had with our boys when they were young.

american-girl

 

 

Stepping back to 1860s: Holden, Utah

For many years, I have wanted to explore Holden, Utah a small town located just north of Fillmore, Utah along Interstate I-15. There just has never seemed to me any time, until now. I was always curious, but I recently learned Holden was the place where my great-great grandparents Joshua and Lizzie Stevens (Walter Joshua Stevens and Elizabeth Kenney Stevens) met and fell in love one hundred and fifty years ago.  Now, I had to go.

My family and I drove into the quiet town in the morning after it had snowed although it was early spring. The fields were green and still damp from the melted snow. The sun was out and the lone mountain peak to the west glowed in the morning sun.

Holden is a quiet farming town with around 250 residents. Quaint homes line the small main street with a modern town hall sandwiched in between.  It was neat to explore the streets, but I was on a mission.

Ages ago, I came across old photos of some of the homes in Holden at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. These photos belonged to Joshua’s younger sister, Abigail Stevens who was married to Brigham Young Jr. These photos were taken of homes belonging to the Stevens family:. the father, William Stevens, Walter Stevens, Sr., Edward Stevens and David Riley Stevens.   I wondered if the homes would still be standing as they were built in the last 1850s, early 1860s.

I wandered around town trying to locate these homes or the lot on which they once stood. I found one and was so excited and then I saw a man standing outside the home across the street and I talked to him.

He said his name was Edward Thomas and that he didn’t know much about the homes, but his brother, Frank who lived in the home would. I knocked on the door and was pleasantly surprised to that Frank was an artist and he knew exactly what homes I was looking for.

Frank is currently working on a painting picturing Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum as they ride away from Nauvoo to go to Carthage Jail.  Mr. Thomas is also a former army colonel and served in Vietnam and Desert Storm.

His website is  wildgoosecreekstudio.com/…/artist-s-biography. Here are some photos of the paintings in his home.

He helped me locate the Stevens’ homes and I will forever be grateful.

walter stevens home

Walter Stevens, Sr. home, photo undated

Walter Stevens, Sr. home today

This is the home where Joshua Stevens grew up. They’ve added a porch and some of the landscaping has changed, but who thought a home built in the late 1850s would still be in such great shape? Especially with the bricks coming from local brick-kiln way back then.

david riley stevens home

David Riley Stevens home

David Riley Stevens’ home today

david riley stevens home now

Front view of David Riley Steven’s home

edward stevens home

Edward Stevens home

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Edward Stevens’ home

 

Edward Steven’s home today

 

This home is the William Stevens home. Walter, Sr., Edward, and David Riley Stevens’ father.


 

stevens family siblings

William Stevens’ children.  Back row: David Riley Stevens, Edward Stevens, William Stevens, Jr., front row: Albert Stevens, Rachel Stevens, and Walter Stevens, Sr.

Motherhood is a Great Achievement

Today my twelve-year-old son needed help finding old photos for a class assignment. The photos celebrated certain milestones in his life from his first step and losing his first tooth to his first day fo school and his last day of elementary. As we journeyed into each photo instantly I was there again. Tears formed in my eyes. I couldn’t help it. How could twelve years have gone by so quickly? I’ve heard other mother’s say ‘enjoy them, they grow up so quickly’ and I am finally getting it. I used to think I needed to do ‘great’ things like finally finishing my novel or having a successful career in order to be ‘important, but honestly,and  I am finally realizing motherhood is and always will be my greatest achievement.

michael

My oldest at age 4

Where has the time gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was holding my first baby in my arms? I looked up to my son (literally he is 5 inches taller than me now) and thought he is no longer a boy, he is becoming a man. He is a kind, respectful, smart, and talented person and I couldn’t be prouder. They always say it goes by too fast and I realized tonight it does. Too many times I have wondered over the years about my own worth because I am “just a mom” but I am my son’s mom and I have been able to enjoy each and every stage of his life.

mom

Me and the two oldest six years ago

 

If I could get in a time machine now and go back to the stressed out me when he was a brand new baby I would say, “hold him a little longer for me.” Oh, how I miss his chubby cheeks and cute voice as a toddler. How he thought he was saying his name when he said, “Bobo,” but he was way off. How he loved taking baths so much he jumped into the tub with all his clothes on. How he said, “Peedow Parwkee” as really “the guy” who was Spiderman. How he would cry because he didn’t want to grow up and he wanted to always “stay little.” How he wondered why “Dount Cuckoo” (AKA Count Dooku) was so mean and could choose the dark side of the force.

michael3

“Do or do not, there is no try” -Yoda

Even as I write this, tears are falling. They are a combination of happy and sad.  I always thought I had to be making some kind of money to be “worth” something, but I can say for the first time with all the power that is in me that I am worth everything to the three boys who call me “Mom” each day.  Sometimes the endless loads of laundry and dishes get seem more important because I like things tidy, but they will always be there–always, but my “little” kids won’t be.  Each day I need to remember this and enjoy my boys with all of my heart because they are and always will be my greatest achievement. 

kids

The Three Amigoes

 

Billy Dean

Let Them Be Little

I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand
Felt so good in it, no bigger than a minute
How it amazes me, you’re changing with every blink
Faster than a flower blooms they grow up all too soon

So, let them be little ’cause they’re only that way for awhile
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh, but let them be little

I’ve never felt so much in one little tender touch
I live for those kisses, your prayers and your wishes
And now that you’re teaching me how only a child can see
Tonight while we’re on our knees all I ask is please

Let them be little ’cause they’re only that way for awhile
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh, but let them be little

So innocent, a precious soul, you turn around and
It’s time to let them go

So, let them be little ’cause they’re only that way for awhile
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh, just let them be little

Tender Moments

Today we celebrated the life of my great aunt Norma May Gutke Ellis. She was born in 1921 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Carl Frederick and Laura May Jones Gutke. She was the youngest child of eight. Norma was a cheerful, bright, and lovely woman. She joined her family after her mother had already lost two daughters: one was murdered by a jealous boyfriend at 17 and the other was a golden haired, adorable four year old taken by a combination of whooping cough/pneumonia. Norma was a blessing sent to Laura Gutke from a caring and loving Heavenly Father.

Norma was adored by her five older brothers one of them nick-named her Nooksie. Whenever he went out, he always brought a present home with him for his little sister. One day he was on a date, he told his date he needed to stop and buy a little something for “dear little Nooskie.” She was a bit confused!

Norma was so beautiful, so tender, so gracious, and so kind. I loved meeting her a few years ago when I went with my sister. She became so precious to me as my sister and I took on the project of interviewing her about her life and her experiences.

I learned more from her about the Gutke name and heritage than I had  known before. Although she was telling me stories, I learned so much from her. One of my favorite stories was about how she was going with a young man she met when she went to a dance with the local soldiers at the military base in Kearns, Utah. She really liked him and they would talk on the phone and write letters and they were getting quite serious. She knew he was going to propose, but she knew that he could not give her the life that she wanted. She wanted to be married in the temple and this young man, although he was good man could not give her what she wanted. He was not a member of the Church. She called him and broke it off. It was a very hard, but such a brave thing to do, to stand up for what was really important to her. Later she met Uncle Dan Ellis and they became the most lovely couple and were married for 67 years! They raised three boys and a lovely girl they named Laura.

I always had a great time hearing their banter when I was at their home. I would ask Aunt Norma a question and hear her answer, and Uncle Dan would call out from the other room and tell her she got the story all wrong.

I love this woman! Her funeral was just a celebration of her life, of her goodness, of her love for others. I want mine to be like that. The Bishop closed by saying, “She had received His (Jesus Christ’s) image in her contenance.” Then he challenged us to become like her.” I accept the challenge.

I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” Alma 5:19

I know my Aunt Norma was not perfect, but she tried every day to be loving, kind, and be the best woman she would be. She did have a pure heart and clean hands. I want to be like her when I am 91.

I will miss you Aunt Norma!