Your Father’s Story

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Through blogging, I’ve been introduced to some fabulous brands and companies that have become family favorites and places we turn to for holidays and gifts. I’m excited to have discovered a new one that brings together three things I hold dear–family, heritage and stories–and I’m thrilled to share them with you today. This Father’s Day post is sponsored by StoryWorth. If you’re still looking for that perfect something to give your dad this weekend, there’s an offer for the most meaningful gift at the end of this post. 

Last Father’s Day, I asked my dad if he’d be interested in writing a guest post for Father’s Day. “Tell a story about your dad,” was the simple prompt I offered, but in no way was I prepared for the story he’d tell, the mystery of a complicated love story between father and son I had never fully understood as his daughter. I remember the night he e-mailed it to me–how he called to tell me he had sent it, said he was going to bed and offered to fix anything I wanted edited in the morning. And late that night, I read it–and cried, hearing for the first time so many stories I had never known. How my grandpa hugged my dad when he helped him with his neck ties, how he didn’t come to my dad’s theater shows, how my dad pretended it didn’t bother him that he wasn’t there. And I finally learned something I had always wondered–something we could never quite get to in face-to-face conversations. I learned that his father’s love, like so many others, was complicated but deeply understood–rooted in story after story, from tucking money in kitchen cupboards when he knew my dad was barely scrimping by, to loudly cheering from the cross country field even when he was the last to finish.

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It is these stories that keep my grandpa alive and near to me–and the telling of these stories that connect him to my children, their future children and the heritage of who we are as a family. The older I get, the more I yearn for these stories for more intimate relationships with those I love most. It’s why I keep a box of table topics in our kitchen and make everyone go around and answer story-telling questions for holiday dinners. Who impacted you most growing up? Tell us a time you failed and learned something from it. And you know what I’m learning? More about our family than I could have ever learned in day to day conversation.

I’ve especially loved how these stories have made me learn about and love Brett’s side of the family lately as I find myself collecting more stories my father-in-law shares, better appreciating my husband’s heritage and the family name I now carry. One of my favorite stories emerged this past Christmas when I asked everyone to go around and share their most favorite holiday memory from when they were a child. Had the story prompt not been given, I don’t know I would have ever learned about the magical night Brett’s dad remembers from years ago when he stayed with his Grandpa Omar for an evening in the middle of winter. He recalls long after the moon had risen and the grand kids were headed for bed, his strong quiet grandpa peeked out the window and called to his wife–“Lucille, get them ready,” before slipping out the door. The night was cold and black and silent, and he didn’t know what was going on, but he bundled up as his grandma instructed.

“When we headed outside, we saw it had been snowing for hours,” Brett’s dad remembers. “He had hitched a sleigh to the horse was waiting for us. We all climbed in and huddled together, and he took us on the most beautiful moonlit sleigh ride through the snow.” Brett’s dad is a great storyteller, and he recalls every detail as if it happened yesterday–how dark the sky was, how bright the stars twinkled, how cold the night felt, and how his grandpa–like always–didn’t say much but loved through action.

“And the snow–” he recalls. “There was so much snow, I’ll never forget it.”

I got a little teary as he retold the story. All these years, all this time, and he still remembers it like it was yesterday. The story is part of him, passed down to us, and coincidentally about the man whose name my son now carries.

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Our stories make us known to those we love, and when we know our people well, we can love them better. Not only that, research shows the more you know about your family’s history, the more sense of control you have over your life. From a favorite article about family stories I read a few years ago in the New York Times: “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

So here comes the treasure hunt. How do we uncover these stories? How do we find out all the things we never knew we wanted to know about our parents and grandparents, and preserve and pass these stories on?

I love StoryWorth’s answer to these questions: make it easy for them.

What is StoryWorth? StoryWorth is a service that provides a selection of questions you can choose from–questions such as”What simple pleasures of life do you truly enjoy?”, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?” or “Who are your role models and heroes?”–questions that beg for hidden stories. Each week StoryWorth emails the questions to your dad (or grandpa or whomever you choose as a recipient), and when your loved one replies (written or recorded), his answers are shared with you. After a year, all of his stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book. And you get to know your father better. 

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StoryWorth is a perfect meaningful gift for Father’s Day, one you can purchase last minute and still have it be personal and special. And this Father’s Day, StoryWorth is offering one year of service of collecting your dad’s stories along with a hardcover book for $59 ($20 off original $79). Customize your gift invite today and StoryWorth will email your dad on Father’s Day explaining how to get started with your meaningful gift.

And let’s face it–everyone loves a gift that benefits the giver too. Your father or grandfather will love the invitation to tell his stories, but you get the gift of hearing them. And that’s a gift that lasts forever.

The UItimate Summer Family Movie List

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Three days into summer break and I’m all, “Wait, why was this cool again?”

Can we swim? Can you make me a sandwich? I’m thirsty. Can you tie this? Can you fix this? I’m hungry. Sophie peed. I need a towel. I need a cup. I need a napkin. I’m bored. 

I forgot how quickly it escalates.

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I’m happy to report summer enthusiasm still measures in the upper quartile though. I figured we simply could not move forward with summer festivities though without a good list of summer family movies, and Friday’s a perfectly good day to get it done. One of my favorite summer rituals is watching movies when we’re trapped in the cabin on a rainy day up north, and up there we do it old school style–not pulled from Netflix or streamed from Amazon, but…wait for it…we insert a DVD into a player. Gasp. And half the fun is rifling through the stack of DVDS–summer favorites that have been collected for rainy days and quiet nights.

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With no further ado…

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And why yes, I do have a thing for old Lindsay Lohan movies.

Wanna make your summer movie night even better? Try these:

1. Move all the furniture in the family room and throw pillows, couch cushions and sleeping bags on the floor. Make a movie fort.
2. Lead up to movie night. Make “Movie Night” flyers and hang them around the house before the event and pass out homemade tickets (kids love these jobs!)
3. Make individual popcorn bags (cute little red and white stripe bags seen in above photo, perfectly sized for toddler portions, available in the dollar section at Target currently)
4. Pajama prerequisite.
5. Make S’mores sundaes. Chocolate ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce, sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs and those freeze-dried marshmallows (you can buy them in the hot cocoa aisle).

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6. Drag movie setup outside, hang twinkle lights, invite neighbors and throw a big outdoor movie party. This one’s a lot, I know. So, also okay if you think about it, pretend you did it and then don’t.

Did I miss an amazing summer movie on my list? Have a summer movie ritual that we just have to try? Tell me, tell me!

Rest and Refuel: 6 Tips for Recharging Your Batteries

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Tracking PixelThis post is sponsored by SLEEP NUMBER® as part of an ongoing partnership with them to discuss Family & Rest in our home…helping our family be the best they can be.

If you type in “Parenting Advice” in Google, 63,600,000 results pop up, ranging from how to get your kids to stop flushing Happy Meal toys down the toilet to the more important things like how to raise confident, grateful, motivated little people. Over the years, I’ve stashed away some tried and true advice that has served my family well, but I always come back to the foundation of good parenting: If you want to help your family be the best they can be, focus first on being the best you can be. It is not a noble sacrifice to deprive yourself of rest and care and fun to make sure your kids have it because what they need more than rest and care and fun is you. The best you. The you who follows her passions and makes time for friendships. The you who is fully-rested and wakes up ready for the day. The you who listens to her feelings and responds to them–who’s kind and forgiving to herself, who values her body and mind and heart. That’s the mom who’s trained before her marathon–who’s most equipped and ready for little people who need her.

After my third kid, I had no choice but to give up the whole I-can-survive-on-a-few-hours-of-sleep thing. Occasionally, under abnormal circumstances, I’ll pull a late nighter, but for the most part, I now go to bed shortly after my kids go to bed. And it makes me such a happier person. When I’m short on fuel, I’m short on patience and compassion which leads to lots of guilt. And guilt drains the compassion and patience tank even more–a vicious cycle of not enough. So, how do I help my family be the best they can be? By keeping my tank as full as possible.

My favorite fuel tips? When I’m feeling low on anything, I can always return to this list to fill my tank.

1. Body Love.
Do something good for your body. A good meal. A run. A healthy smoothie. Remove junk from my diet. Increase water intake.

2. Mind Love.
Mind love looks exactly like body love–remove the bad, ingest the good. I know what works to fill up my brain–poetry books, good quotes, a moving memoir, writing in my journal. Putting my phone away. 5 minutes of meditation. Draw in a sketchbook.

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3. Do Something For Someone Else
Make a collage and mail it to a friend. Call someone and tell them 3 nice things you’ve noticed about them lately. Leave a nice comment in someone’s social media feed. Take a friend you’ve been missing out to coffee–and tell them you love having them in your life. Make a small donation to a cause you love.

4. Pare Down
Do a 20-minute sweep of your home with 2 bags–one to donate, one to throw away.

5. Touch
Snuggle your kids. Hug your husband when he walks in the door. Spoon your kids in bed while tickling their hand. Kiss cheeks.

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6. SLEEP. SLEEP. SLEEP.
Climbing into bed and calling TOD on the thoughts, the stresses, the to-do list, the daily routine is equivalent to plugging your body into a power source and recharging. You will wake up with so much more to give. My bed is my sanctuary, and I love it even more now that we have a SLEEPNUMBER i8–my side is customized just for me, and it’s the comfiest piece of heaven.

Mama’s charge-up list works for the entire family. My kids function best with a consistent rest schedule (we alter schedules for Dash’s naps!), and their grumps can always be cheered up with some affection.

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(Their favorite pre-bed ritual? Books about themselves.)

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Thank you Sleep Number  for encouraging the important discussion of family rest and recharge. We’ve fallen in love with our Sleep Number bed which features DualAir™ technology that allows Brett to adjust his side to what his body needs and lets me get my side perfect for me.

Rested, happy mama means I can take care of my family and, er, fish those toys out of the toilet without losing my cool. Click here to find a Sleep Number store near you.

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