Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Vacation with Baby: Expectation vs. Reality

Monday, May 18, 2015
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We recently went on our first real vacation with AJ. At the first sign of summer weather we packed our bags and headed to our favorite beach with my parents. We had a blast, but I was unprepared for how un-relaxing our trip would be! Here’s a little insight on vacation with a baby:

Travel

Expectation – Baby sleeps the entire time.

Reality – Baby does sleep most of the time, but then wakes up at 2 a.m. that night ready to party. The same thing happens on the way home.

Day on the Beach

Expectation – AJ gets up at her usual time of around 6 a.m. and we head out to the beach as soon as possible, getting there around 8 a.m. We easily set up our brand new beach tent. Baby wears her swimsuit, sunglasses, sun hat and plenty of sunscreen (which I reapply every hour). She happily plays with her toys in the tent while Chris and I sit in our beach chairs, reading our books and enjoying the scenery. AJ takes her morning nap in the beach tent, which allows us to doze off as well. We go in for lunch around noon, and come back out for the afternoon. We grudgingly leave the beach when it’s time to get ready for dinner.

Reality – AJ decides to get up at 5 a.m., even though we are not in a different time zone. Despite this, we do not make it out to the beach until around 10 a.m. It takes us about 25 minutes to get our beach tent set up, and requires three of four adults. We sit AJ in the tent, only to have her immediately crawl out. We repeat this activity until we finally give up. AJ refuses to wear her hat or sunglasses, and I finally give in and lather her head with sunscreen. We get our work out in by walking AJ down and back from our chairs to the water, over and over again. About an hour after we get on the beach, AJ gets fussy; it’s time for her nap. She refuses to take a nap on the beach, so we head inside for lunch. Because it’s so windy outside, we decide we have to take down the tent we spent half our time trying to put up. After two hours inside, we make out in the afternoon for about 45 minutes, until AJ gets fussy again and is ready for her afternoon nap. All in all, we see about two and half hours of beach time, and I barely sit, much less open a page of my book.

Out to Eat

Expectation – We arrive at our chosen restaurant around 6 p.m. and get immediately seated. After we order, we feed AJ, who eats all of her food quickly and happily. AJ plays with her toys while the adults eat. We make it out of the restaurant by 7 p.m., perfect timing for AJ to get ready for bed once we get home.

Reality – We arrive at our chosen restaurant and there is an hour wait. We try to feed AJ while waiting for our table. There is too much going on for her to focus; she swats the baby food out of my hand and it flies everywhere. After we get seated, AJ plays a game of wanting out of her high chair and wanting back in. Every time the waiter places something on our table, he places it in front of AJ. She screams when we take away a fork that she somehow got her hands on. As we eat, AJ switches between trying to use my arm to pull herself out of the high chair and making other guests uncomfortable as she locks her unblinking gaze on them. We don’t make it out of the restaurant until after 8 p.m., way past AJ’s bedtime.

Evening

Expectation – AJ sleeps. Mommy and daddy enjoy a nice cocktail while sitting on the balcony and listening to the waves.

Reality – AJ does not sleep. Mommy and daddy spend most of the evening trying to put her to bed, and most of the night trying to get her to go back to sleep. When she falls asleep at a reasonable hour, mommy and daddy have one drink, inside because we can’t hear the baby if we are on the balcony. After one drink, decide to go to bed because we are exhausted and it has to be after midnight. Look at the clock; it’s 9:30 p.m.

Although going to the beach with a baby was not what I expected, it was an experience I will never forget! Our vacation was much more eventful and much more fun.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

Mom’s Performance Evaluation

Thursday, May 14, 2015
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I don’t need warm weather and blooming flowers to remind me that spring has arrived.

I’ve got our human resources department to do that.

Each May, everyone where I work experiences the slightly painful but absolutely essential requirement of enduring multple-personalitiesthe annual performance evaluation.

This past week, as I sat through mine, I kept thinking “If my husband and kids were here, they’d be convinced that my supervisor was completely delusional.”

In fact, they would be rolling on the floor in fits of convulsive laughter as they listened to comments about my ability to go with the flow, communicate effectively and maintain an easy-going demeanor.

The woman they know wants life to go as planned, talks too much, asks too many questions and is wound way too tightly.

And yet, I am both women.

When I told a friend I’m afraid I suffer from multiple personality disorder, she said that every mom suffers the same phenomena.

“We are just different with our families,” she said. “They see a side of us that we don’t show the rest of the world”

I understood what she was saying, but I also wanted to disagree. I take pride in being completely authentic in every aspect of my life, and her words made me question whether I’m being truthful with myself.

And then, I realized we were both correct.

My friend wasn’t saying I’m not authentic. She was saying that mothers are simply programmed to be on high alert when it comes to their families.

No matter how driven and motivated I am to be successful in my professional career, no matter how much I try to make a difference in my community and the people my organization serves, and no matter how much I want to be respected in my field, being a mom takes everything to a different level.

That’s when my primal instincts kick in.

Even though rational, professional me knows that people need to adapt when things don’t go their way, I don’t want my kids to face as many bumps in the road as I did. While the social worker in me realizes that I shouldn’t react when someone behaves in a way I don’t approve, I can’t remain quiet when my kids do something with which I disagree. And despite the fact that I don’t freak out when my co-workers make mistakes, I obsess over my children’s missteps.

Because of that, I know that my children will never give me a stellar performance evaluation. I’m o.k. with that. because what they do give me is absolutely priceless.

First Mother’s Day

Monday, May 11, 2015
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As many West Virginians know, Mother’s Day was founded by West Virginian Anna Jarvis. The first Mother’s Day celebration occurred in May 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it an official national holiday.

Anna Jarvis came up with the idea of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She also believed there were not enough holidays honoring women, arguing that most American holidays recognized male contributions. Her vision of the day was one where families would spend time together and thank their mothers. Sadly, later in life she actively campaigned against the holiday she had created, because she was disgusted with the way the day had become commercialized.

Despite her despair about the commercialization of the day, I believe Ms. Jarvis’s original vision for Mother’s Day remains in tact. It still is a day where we recognize the sacrifices our mothers, our mothers’ mothers, and those who are like our mothers make for us. It’s a day we say thank you for the little things; the things that we often take for granted. Mother’s Day is a chance for us to recognize the small acts that make up motherhood – waiting to eat last at family meals, getting up early to pack lunches, booking doctor appointments, sewing costumes, kissing boo-boos, and working behind the scenes to make sure the family gears stay in motion.

This year was my first true Mother’s Day. Now that I have a teensy bit of clarity around the sacrifices my own mother made (and makes) for me, I am even more in awe of her and all the other amazing women I know who have raised such wonderful people. Motherhood is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done, and my baby is not even a year old! But, here’s another thing I’ve learned – all those little sacrifices our mothers make are not sacrifices to them. I would do anything for my baby and do it gladly. It’s not a sacrifice; it’s the purpose of my life. Becoming a mother has made me who I am meant to be.

May we all remember the sacrifices our mothers and caregivers make for us not only on Mother’s Day, but every day. And may we as mothers let our children know that we don’t consider what we do a sacrifice, but a blessing.

(Although I knew the history of Mother’s Day, I referenced this page to make sure I got the details right.)

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

Ten Clues That You’re Not a Royal Mum

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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I won’t say my life has become completely chaotic lately, but it has been incredibly busy.

Take, for example, the fact that I had no idea that Kate Middleton had given birth ttiara1o her second child, much the less a princess, until that princess had a name.

My mother-in-law, a compulsive Anglophile, would be completely disappointed if she knew that I knew nothing about Princess Charlotte until she was, well, Princess Charlotte.

For the record, and to appease my mother-in-law, once I actually learned about Charlotte’s arrival, I did read a couple of online articles. Both featured pictures of Kate Middleton holding Charlotte in front of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

Apparently, the photo was taken only ten hours after Kate had given birth.

Ten hours – and Kate was wearing a designer dress and heels. Not only that, but she was  wearing makeup.  Seriously. Makeup.

Ten hours after I gave birth, I was still wearing a hospital gown and wasn’t even thinking about mascara.

That’s when I realized that I was never intended to be a royal mother.

The fact that I’m American is irrelevant. My genetics and family tree all lead back to England.

I’m simply not cut out to be a royal mum.

The signs are all there.

#10: Photos holding a newborn don’t require a makeup artist.

#9: Photos holding a newborn don’t require a standing position. Lying in a hospital bed (to indicate that the baby didn’t magically appear) is quite an appropriate pose for a first photo with baby;

#8: Photos holding a newborn don’t even require streetwear, much the less an extremely feminine dress. Giving birth is all the proof you need to demonstrate you are female.

#7: Your baby has a name before you leave the hospital. When my son was born, my roommate was held hostage until she finally decided on a name for her son. (She had four daughters whose names all began with A, and she had made the unfortunate decision to let them help name their brother. I honesty can’t remember if they decided upon Andrew or Austin.)

#6: No one places bets as to what you will name your child. When I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I made a decision not to let anyone know what we had chosen to name him. We wanted the choice and the opinion to be ours and ours alone. We told everyone that we were naming him Deuteronomy and would call him Deut for short.

Before our daughter arrived, we  never even pretended to reveal her name.

#5 The names that you do choose for your baby have absolutely no historical meaning and are far too modern.

#4: Your baby doesn’t have multiple middle names.

#3: The first time the grandparents (or great- grandparents) meet the baby does not require a press release.

#2: The baby’s first home is not an estate, and the concept of a nanny is laughable.

And the number one reason that you know you were never intended to be a royal mum is that your children would never thrive under the public scrutiny.

Or, even worse, you would realize, like I do, that your children would be entirely different people if they had been required to do so.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

 

The Mom, the Video and the Riots

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
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By now, I imagine most people have seen the video of the mother yanking her son out of the Baltimore riots.

Dressed in a bright yellow top, she apparently saw her teenager on television and tracked him down. The footage shows her smacking, grabbing and yelling at her son.

In my house, about 90 miles from downtown Baltimore, my own teenage son sits in his basement room surrounded by electronics while I sit upstairs trying to understand the crisis that prompted the mom’s angry response.

My first reaction after seeing the video online was, “What does a mom who hits and screams at her teenage son expect? Our kids model the behavior they see, and this teenagers’ mom obviously gets violent when she gets angry.”

I expected to hear the same concerns from others.

I didn’t.

When I saw the same footage on the national news the next morning, I was completely surprised that the mother’s behavior was praised – by television personalities, politicians and, most of all, other parents. I understood that she marched onto the scene with every intent of removing and reprimanding her son. What I didn’t understand was how no one else was concerned about how quickly she, like so many others in our society, too quickly resorted to violence to solve a problem.

I mentioned this to a colleague who remarked, “I would have done the same thing she did. If my son was in the middle of those riots, everyone would be calling me the angry mom who tried to smack some sense into her son.”

My co-worker was right to knock me off my judgmental high horse. I have no idea how I would have handled such a situation. I simply can’t imagine.

I am a white, middle-class woman living in the suburbs. I’ve never worried that my mild-mannered son would participate in an inner-city riot any more than I’ve worried that people will fear him based on the color of his skin and how he dresses.

I certainly don’t have the right to judge the decision of a scared mother in an extremely public and volatile situation.

But I do have the right to my opinion, and my opinion is that violence is NEVER the best way to resolve conflict no matter who you are or what position you hold.

Sometimes violence is an emotional reaction, sometimes it’s an expression of power and sometimes, in very, very rare situations, it is the only feasible response. But when there is violence, there is always pain, there is often loss, but there is never any peace.

And, as the brilliant Albert Einstein, who fled Germany in 1931 when Adolf Hitler took power, once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

I can only hope we can learn from his wisdom. soon. No mom should have to watch her son riot on television just as no mom should have to attend the funeral of a son who died in police custody. There’s no easy answer, but there is  a place to start.

To me, that place is home.

 Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

For the soon-to-be mothers

Monday, April 27, 2015
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I could write a novella on the first few months after having your first baby. Instead, I mostly settle on gabbing to friends and family for long after their eyes glaze over with boredom. Maybe I love sharing stories and comparing notes so much because it was truly an experience for which I could have in no way prepared myself and it was the most amazing and challenging thing I have ever done.

I have several friends who are expecting, so I’m jumping at my chance to share my take on the experience of becoming a new mom. Since, having an 8-month-old, I’m a resident expert. (HA! Complete sarcasm.) As I mentioned, I could go on about this for days, but for the time being, I’ll stick to a few random thoughts and snippets of unsolicited advice.

Although I knew having a child came with a recovery period, I was completely unprepared for the difficulty of recovery. After being on bed rest for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I wanted to be up on my feet and moving, but I was in pain. It’s something no one talks about, maybe because no one wants to scare the soon-to-be mom. I was in pain for much longer than I expected. But I eventually recovered and got back to feeling like my normal self.

Don’t worry about dressing nicely or putting on makeup. For some crazy reason, while I was on maternity leave, and not leaving the house at all, I would put on uncomfortable clothes and makeup. Waste of time. Waste of makeup. You will miss those days where you could be in your pajamas with your hair in a knot all day. Yes, I know I did it to feel more like the normal “me” again, but looking back, I wonder why I wasted my time (and added to my laundry).

Invest in the nursing bras. Yes they are ugly. Yes you will need them. Don’t make your husband navigate the maternity store by himself after you’ve had your baby because you didn’t buy any beforehand…

Another investing tip – if you think you need it, and you can afford it, just buy it. If you end up not using it, you can return it. It’s frustrating, especially for a frugal gal like myself, but in my experience, life is easier when I just bite the bullet and buy four different types of bottles to find which one the baby likes, rather than trying to force her to drink from the one you bought but she hates.

You will get frustrated. You will cry. You will think, “What were we thinking? How on earth did we think we were ready for this?” Or maybe you are a much stronger person than me and taking care of a newborn will be a breeze. But, if not, just know you are not alone. You will have times when you know you should be “enjoying every minute” because “it goes by too fast” but you haven’t slept in 24 hours, you can’t remember when or what you ate last, and the baby has been crying nonstop for two hours because she has acid reflux. It’s okay to not enjoy that time. Just know, it will pass. It will pass! And likely, later than evening (or morning), when your baby finally goes to sleep, you will rock her for a few extra minutes because you don’t want to let her go.

That said, it really does go by too fast! Enjoy every minute (that you can)! I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tearing up writing this post and remembering all the things that were so difficult at the time, but now are fond memories. Having a newborn was nothing like what I expected; it was so much better.

Last but not least, follow a few mommy blogs :) They will lift your spirits, connect you to moms facing the same challenges and experiences, and are great for late-night feedings.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

On Memories and Possibilities

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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Memories are such strange possessions.

Of the thousands of daily conversations and brief encounters we experience, we only manage to carry a limited number with us into the future.

Even the most meaningful events tend to hide in the background of the new experiences that consume us during the simple act of daily living.

Some memories are sewn tightly into the fabric of everyday life while others only emerge decades later to be taken out, reexamined, and recognized for their significance.

And so it was for me last week.

My daughter, who will be starting high school in only a few months, is on a mission to identify her future career.

time machineI don’t like to brag, but I can’t deny the fact that she is extremely smart and excels academically.

And yet, like her mother, she isn’t drawn to a career that has much potential to be  financially lucrative.

She wants to write for a living.

If she can’t do that, she wants a career that somehow embraces the arts. Money isn’t important to her. Expressing herself is.

I could tell her “Been there. Done that. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” but I know my words would have as much influence as, well, those of the mother of any 13-year-old girl.

But my daughter isn’t any 13-year-old girl. She’s my daughter, and I want her life to be easier and even more meaningful than mine has been.

Yet all I can do is provide expectations for her current life, emotional support for her life’s journey and a bit of advice based on my memories.

And sometimes those memories aren’t all that wonderful, because pursuing your passion instead of a paycheck often requires sacrifice.

At the same time, another memory has surfaced – one that has been hidden for decades.

I was about the same age that my daughter is now when my dad made a tough decision about his own career. He had just accepted a job that would require his family to move across the country.

I was sitting at our round, wooden table while my mom fixed dinner, and Dad stood in the middle of the kitchen contemplating the enormity of his decision.

“I’m not just making this decision for me,” he said. “I’m making it for everyone whose life I touch. The people whom our kids marry could be affected by my taking a job in West Virginia.”

I’ve been reminded of those words during my recent conversations with my daughter – not because I’m worried about her future marriage possibilities but because I’m reminded of the enormity of decisions my children are currently facing. Where they go to college and what they choose to study will set each of them on their own life path. That path will not be a straight line. There will be plenty of curves and detours and bumps. But that path currently has multiple potential starting points. The starting point they each select will influence the people they meet, the values they develop, and the passions they pursue.

When I close my eyes and remember the concern in my father’s voice as he talked about his decision to change jobs and move, I also remember the child I was who listened to those words. I couldn’t believe my dad was even thinking about his children getting married. To me, marriage was a vague concept that resided in the very distant future.

Now, as a parent, I realize how quickly the years can rush by, and I understand my father’s concerns. I also know that our move to West Virginia did affect whom I married. What I can never know is how different my life may have been if we had stayed in Oregon or moved to another state. Just like our memories, possibilities that never happened are a part of life and a part of whom we become.

As a mom, I’m responsible for helping my children understand that making tough decisions is all about choosing robert frostwhich possibilities they are willing to give up in order to embrace the possibilities on which they will build a life.

It’s my toughest job and the pay, like so  many others I’ve held, is lousy.

But the memories I’m making along the way are very, very rich indeed.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

A trip to the zoo

Monday, April 20, 2015
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Normally, taking AJ out in public involves a bit of anxiety on my part. It’s not that it is all that difficult, or that she doesn’t behave well, it’s just that I’m still getting used to doing it. I’m still learning how to balance enjoying myself and tending to AJ’s needs. Usually when we get home I breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why I even bothered dragging us out at all.

This weekend, we took AJ to the Columbus Zoo. It wasn’t until after we left that it hit me – I actually had a good time.

In typical parent fashion, we got to the zoo an hour and a half later than we originally planned. The day was sunny and beautiful and it was obvious the place was already packed. We parked our car and unloaded our bags, packed with enough supplies to survive approximately 56 hours should we have to shelter in place…because you never know what will happen and heaven forbid you end up in a pubic place without a baby wipe.

At the entrance gates, we watched as a sea of strollers poured over each other. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many strollers in one place. Umbrella strollers, all-terrain strollers, jogging strollers, double strollers, even a triple stroller (with the cutest triplet babies taking their naps). And then we noticed the wagons. Wagons galore. Wagons with children, wagons with coolers, wagons with toys. So many wagons I convinced myself we must need a wagon.

Despite the crowd, we got in with ease. We wandered past bears, elephants, penguins and more. If you asked AJ about the trip, she would probably say (if she could talk) that she saw a lot of crazy creatures running around and chasing after their young. Since she was confined to the stroller most of time her main viewing attraction was the people. And there were people everywhere. Parents and families of all shapes and sizes moved past us in waves, all looking at maps and yelling back at a wandering child to stay with mommy.

All this controlled chaos might seem like it would make for a stressful trip, but I think I was the most relaxed I have ever been taking AJ out in public. I didn’t need to worry about if the stroller would fit where we wanted to go. I didn’t feel self-conscious when we spread out our baby supplies at lunch, filling an entire six-seat table. When I went to the bathroom to change AJ, the changing table was in a logical spot (for once). And the last thing I was worried about was her crying.

When I took a close look around me, I noticed many moms nursing, changing diapers and otherwise taking care of their children while those who passed didn’t even blink. I wasn’t the only one who took advantage of the crowd as a bit of privacy and was able to simply take care of her child and enjoy the day.

Although AJ is too young to really know what was happening, I think she had a good time. She made her happy screeching sounds many a time and took a nice long nap for the better part of the afternoon.

And last but not least (although now that I look back, I’m embarrassed about this one), I completely embraced my mom status and busted out the selfie stick for a few family photos.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

Motherhood is…

Monday, April 13, 2015
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Motherhood is…

Not changing after your baby wipes snot on your shoulder right before you leave the house for work.

Discussing mundane topics like baby food for hours on end with your fellow moms and not running out of things to say.

Cleaning your bathrooms on a Saturday night and enjoying the feeling of finally having some time to get the house in order.

A constant backache from bending over, lifting, and carrying.

Never having enough room on your phone for all the photos and videos.

Always stressing out over something to do with your child, consciously or subconsciously.

Wondering what on earth you ever did with your time before you had kids.

Spending an evening doing what you did before you had kids and realizing it’s as not fun or fulfilling anymore.

Feeling like you’ve won the lottery when you get five hours of solid sleep.

Buying clothes that are comfortable enough to be slept in yet acceptable enough to wear to the grocery store.

Crying when you find out you have to go out of town for work, because you hate every moment you have to be away.

Enjoying the time you do get to yourself, but in the back of your mind you are counting the minutes until you see your family again.

Googling phrases such as, “Why won’t my 8-month-old sleep all night?” and finding thousands of hits.

Showering a bit less than you used to.

Your heart melting every time your baby gives you one of her perfect smiles.

Motherhood is…exhausting, joyous, challenging, wonderful.

Where I Come From

Friday, April 10, 2015
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past-present-futureAt some point during my formative years, I began asking “where did I come from?”

I wasn’t curious about biology and human reproduction. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was curious about biology and human reproduction, but I was even more curious about my family history.

Perhaps my interest was piqued by peers who proclaimed they were descendants of famous historical figures. I was convinced that my family tree was a common Elm while everyone else’s was a Giant Sequoia.

All these years later, I’m inclined to think my classmates had active imaginations and an innate ability to stretch the truth. But at the at the time, I just wanted to be related to someone famous.

“Your great-grandmother was a Houston, and you’re related to Sam Houston,” my mother told me. That wasn’t a lie. I am related to Sam Houston. I’m just not related to THE Sam Houston. My pedigree, or lack of it, had been confirmed. I was a mutt.

Decades later, before the birth of my son, my interest in family history was renewed.

There is something about babies that binds us to our past. We realize that our existence is completely dependent on previous generations and that we will forever be connected to people we never met.

As I began to pursue my family’s history, so did my husband, although he had an unfair advantage.

His uncle Jack was so passionate about genealogy that he actually wrote a book about the family patriarch who moved from Bavaria, Germany to the small village of Shepherdstown, West Virginia only to be thrust into battle during the Civil War. It was a good story, and my husband took pride in his Bavarian roots. So much so that he was excited when he submitted his DNA to his surname family group in Bavaria. He knew he would discover even more about his family.

He did find out more – just not in the way he expected.

“Your DNA doesn’t match anyone in this group,” he was told. “Do you want us to expand the search outside of the surname and the region?”

He agreed while still insisting that he was German. When the results came back indicating he had roots in Denmark, he blamed the Vikings.

“They pillaged German villages all the time,” he said. “Denmark borders Germany. I’m sure the Vikings  invaded a Bavarian village and that’s why I’m showing Danish and not German blood.”

I tried to politely suggest that one of his grandfathers had been adopted or that maybe, just maybe, one of his great grandmothers had fooled around a bit.

He wouldn’t hear of it. The paternal side of his family was German, and no one would convince him otherwise.

Even when his mother bought him a Viking hat for his birthday, he refused to see any humor in the discrepancy between what the family tree said and what his DNA indicated. He may have Danish blood, but he will always be German.

He has a valid point.

DNA may provide the genetic code for the color of our eyes, our skin tone, and even our predisposition for medical conditions, but the core of who we are is so much bigger than that.

Just as none of us would be whom we are without our DNA or ancestral heritage, neither would we be whom we are without people who gave a piece of themselves to us.

I am a compilation of all the people who believed in me, challenged me and, most importantly, loved me.

The person I am today came from the elderly neighbors who provided a refuge when I ran away from home on a regular basis as a child. The person I am today came from the teachers who chose to see beyond my academic performance and also wanted to nurture my creative and empathetic tendencies. The person I am today came from all the people who hurt, betrayed and abandoned me and from the people who encouraged, supported, and loved me during those same times.

The person I am today could never give a simple answer to the question “where did I come from?” No biology lesson or family tree can even begin to describe where I came from. Only my relationships and the stories I pass on to my children can do that.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.