Their Buns…My Oven


Their Buns...My Oven

Motherhood. It’s a journey, and just like every journey, there is always a beginning. My journey started a little rougher than most. Belle’s father and I had been trying for quite some time. (Oh yeah, y’all, I named her Belle. Originally, I was going to name her Marilyn because his last name is Monroe, but he fought me on that. So I demanded a Disney name, HA!) Two years. Two years of trying, waiting, thinking you’re pregnant, only to take a test and welp…there go all your hopes and dreams in two words: NOT PREGNANT. I never thought I could be triggered by such a small phrase, yet here I am.

Fast-forward and my little sister gets pregnant, I pitch a fit and go a little psycho only to find out three days later that I’m pregnant too. It was such a blessing to be pregnant at the same time as my sister. We were due five days apart, had cravings together, shared fears and baby showers, and did late-night Krispy Kreme and Krystals runs together. I remember holding my niece, still pregnant with Belle and my little Bee kicking at the weight of Mariah on my big ole belly…

I remember the moment Belle was placed in my arms. I sobbed openly and as the adrenaline wore off and I calmed down, I remember staring at my little girl and thinking, “There are some people who dream of this moment and will never get it…”

Even through the rough nights, this thought weighed heavily on my heart, so I looked into egg donation. I remembered thinking, “Holy sugar honey iced tea…what if one day I’m at the mall or in England and I see someone IDENTICAL to Belle!?” So I couldn’t, but as I was poking around on the website, I came across surrogacy and thought: I had a picture-perfect textbook pregnancy up until the very end, so why not? I spoke with the agency for an hour and decided to start the process.

I was matched almost immediately with the most perfect gay couple from Germany. We had our first Skype date, fell in love, agreed on the hot button topics of surrogacy (abortion, what to do after the babies were born, and my involvement), and decided to move forward.

People always ask, “How could you have done such a thing? You were giving up your baby!” Uhmmm, actually Janet, NO. They were not my babies. The couple had an egg donor and their own sperm. I was simply an oven for their bun. I was also extremely fortunate that the fathers and I were able to bond so deeply before implantation of embryos. I felt like their fairy godmother and I was honored to help them on their journey to parenthood.

In surrogacy, the woman’s body is synced up with the egg donor’s body, so that the cycles align. In my case, while the egg donor’s follicles were being checked for eggs, my uterine lining was being checked for thickness and fluffiness (aka the best bed for babies). My end included consistent checks at the fertility clinic, while I was being pumped full of hormones such as Lupron, estrogen, progesterone, female Viagra — woo, hormone central!

Just one of the many hormones I took during this journey. At the end of it all, we counted over 1200 syringes!

Once everything was synced up and good to go, my happy little uterus was implanted with embryos! I received two, hopeful for twins. Meeting the dads in person was like a dream come true. We just CLICKED. We laughed. We talked about life and love and joked about the language differences. We ate amazing food together and toured an Ivy League college and went to movies. They held my hands as the embryos were put in me and we cried together, hopeful for their journey.

Implantation day!
Me completely nervous for what was to come!

As I look back on our years together, I’m so grateful for the journey. I learned about selfless love. I learned about sacrifice and friendship. And I learned way too much about fertility and how it all goes down and the scientific methods used to manipulate a body to do just what it needs to do. It was fascinating.

This was my tenth pregnancy test in two days. HAHA!

During my journey as a surrogate, I learned that at the end, I would no longer be able to have children of my own. I knew it was a possibility from the beginning, but it actually happening hit me like a ton of bricks. I was devastated and wondered how it would affect Belle. But, four years later, I’m good. We’re good. Belle’s good. And those dads are doing perfectly with their little family. But honestly, even knowing the fate of my fertility, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

There is no better feeling than helping others become parents. As always, I’m here for you. And I almost always bring coffee and biscuits.

Webb School of Knoxville Spartan Showcase Open House

Spartan Showcase Open House Event Offers Unique Glimpse into Webb School Programs

Webb School of Knoxville emphasizes a world-class college preparatory curriculum that is continually evolving in light of advances in technology, new areas of inquiry and opportunities for extracurricular engagement. Ours is a story that magnifies the potential of every student by infusing our rich curriculum with creativity, innovation and experimentation with a focus on personalization and tailoring each student’s experience – all in a dynamic environment with caring people. At Webb School, we don’t just know your child, we know their heart.

Spartan ShowcaseWe strongly believe that an excellent education includes rich experiences, strong connections, and the inspiration to imagine your future. The experiences that our students are exposed to support the values that we instill in all students: honor, integrity, character, grace, self-confidence, and a love of learning. The connections we foster set us apart from all other schools. From our Lower School “FAMILIES” program to the Middle School advisories or our Upper School clubs, students connect with peers, teachers, coaches, alumni, and the greater community. In addition, Webb students are encouraged to imagine a lot – to imagine what their future may look like; to use their imaginations to dream great things; to envision new discoveries; and to nurture their creative and innovative minds. Our students don’t just imagine it, they make it happen!

At our Sunday, February 9 Spartan Showcase, a Pre-K through 12 grade Open House event, we invite interested families to experience, firsthand, the opportunities for their child to connect, imagine and grow at Webb School.

Beginning at 2pm in our Bishop Center and continuing across campus, the free event will highlight Webb’s unique offerings and programs through interactive presentations, classroom tours and more. From sampling French cuisine in Webb’s International Center kitchen to learning what “passion projects” students are working on for the Lower School’s Creative Genius Initiative to trying their hand at driving a 100-pound robot used at past FIRST Robotics competitions, guests will explore our signature programs, connect with our faculty and administration, and chat with current students.

“Our Spartan Showcase is an opportunity for us to share with the greater community not just our impressive academic, arts and athletic programs, but also the breadth and depth of the Webb experience, says Webb School President Michael McBrien. “It provides a glimpse into how we are reimagining what an extraordinary educational experience looks like, and how we are making a positive difference in the lives and futures of our students.”

To register for Webb’s Spartan Showcase, go to For more information, call 865.291.3781

We Chose Private School


We Chose Private SchoolWe had no plans of sending our daughter to private school. We moved into a good part of town with people singing the praises of the local public school. It seemed to be a no-brainer as both my husband and I attended public schools.

The time came for us to grab a school supply list and a backpack and send our oldest into the world. We walked into a school with sixteen Kindergarten classes. Sixteen. Parking was a nightmare, with car line being even more of a nightmare.

I picked up my daughter from the first day of school and we ended up walking back to the car with a dad and his daughter. This dad and I discussed the first day and how in the world the teachers could keep track of all these little people…and that’s when he pointed out the piece of tape across his daughter’s chest with her name on it.

A piece of masking tape was the only way the school could identify his daughter.

At the end of the first nine weeks, I reached out to the teacher after very little communication to see where my daughter was. I reached out to the teacher to get an update on my daughter’s letter recognition, letter sounds, her successes and her shortcomings. I tried not to hover, but here I was nine weeks into the school year with a report card full of DEs and LEs. I had no idea she was struggling, or was she where most five-year-olds were during the first nine weeks?

Fourth nine weeks interim report at the public school. Notice the “DE” in reading/language and the constructive smiley face in the teacher comment section.

This is where I started my search for something else. Something tight knit. Something smaller, where my shy kid wasn’t going to get lost in the middle of the road shuffle. I stressed trying to figure out what our next step was. Did we need to take a next step? Is this as good as it gets in a city? Do we need to pay for tuition, when so many praise the local school? Maybe we just got a bad teacher? I had so many questions.

We are very lucky to live in an area with a variety of private schools. They range in size, price, Christian-based or not. After researching our options, we narrowed it down. We filled out all the applications, paid the application fees and made it through the interviews. And I was still lost.

It was spring and I was struggling. I could see my daughter progressing, but I already had the mindset for a change. I just didn’t feel comfortable and a gut feeling left me reeling for a change.

I needed a sign, a reason to make the switch.

A few days later, I received a call from the assistant principal at the private school and she discussed my daughter’s evaluation with me. She explained that she had plenty areas in which she excelled in, however there was an area in which she wasn’t as strong. She explained their classes and how my daughter would benefit.

And finally there it was. Someone was seeing my daughter.

She wasn’t just a name scribbled on a piece of masking tape. She wasn’t just another kid in the middle of the road that was doing “fine.” She was a kid that someone finally took the time to see her strengths and weaknesses, and was offered a solution to help her succeed. That was the day I completed the enrollment process for the private school.

It was in that moment that I realized this public school wasn’t what my daughter needed.

She is very meek and mild, sweet and kind, shy and passive. What we found in the private school was a smaller class size, smaller school size, and a wonderful teacher that I will never be able to fully thank for all she has done for my sweet girl. We found a place for her to fit in and feel comfortable.

This teacher has given her confidence, shown her love and patience, and has provided a safe place for my girl to bloom. This teacher memorized every student’s name and face based on an application photo prior to meet the teacher night. When we left, my daughter was in awe that she already knew her name and that meant so much to her (and me!). She sent us an email during the first day of school to let us know that she was adjusting well and fitting right in, as she was the only new-to-the-school student. She gives detailed reports of academic progress as well as social progress. I know that this teacher will be one that she remembers for the rest of her life.

We found a school that values every student for more than a test score and highlights their character over their academic successes. We found a school that makes you feel welcome every time you walk into the building. We found a school that provides special programs for parents and the whole family that are well thought-out and genuinely welcoming. We found a school with a sweet staff and a principal that truly knows every student’s name.

I am so thankful for that gut feeling, the one that told me we weren’t where we needed to be. I am so thankful that we have great options from which to choose. If you are on the fence when it comes to choosing a school, be sure to tour schools and talk to current students and teachers. I can assure you that the money we have paid has been without a doubt worth every penny. Our teacher is worth every penny. While we have only been at this school for six months, the experience has been worth every single penny.

What better way to spend your money than on your child’s education?

(Author’s note: This change was exactly what my daughter needed. Our decision may not be the decision that is right for every family. Public schools are not inferior; it just didn’t work for my daughter. As a former public school teacher, I have so much respect for every administrator, teacher and staff member.)

I Went Back to Work and It’s Everything I Thought it Would Be


I Went Back to Work and It's Everything I Thought it Would BeUntil a few years ago, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t work. I babysat when I was a teenager then worked through high school, undergrad, and grad school. I always had at least one job, if not two. I continued working for a while after having kids, but decided to stay home when it was no longer feasible to work. By the time our second child was born, my husband was working a lot of hours — insane hours. He often worked nights and weekends and traveled a lot. We decided together that it was best for our family for me to stay home. And it was best at the time. So, I stopped working. I filled my time with volunteer work and did my best to embrace that season. I did plan to go back to work eventually, but the busier things got with our schedules, the less likely it seemed that there would be a good time to return.

Then, a few months ago, it was time.

I started applying for jobs, and I found a great one. So, I went from a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. And it’s everything I thought it would be.

I thought I would enjoy working again, and I do. I have a great boss and coworkers, enjoy the work I do, and I am challenged every day. After so much volunteering, it’s also nice to get paid. I was very fortunate to find a job with flexibility that allows me to work and still participate in activities with my family. I know that isn’t always the case, but I hope it’s becoming more common.

I thought I would have to cut back on some things, and I do. While I do have flexibility, I still can’t fill up my time with all the volunteering and activities I used to do. I still love to volunteer, and I can do some, but I can’t do it all. I have to choose selectively.

I thought I would need to be intentional with my time, and I do. I have to be very purposeful and careful with how I spend my time if I will have any hope to get things done. Routines are more vital now than ever, and I have to seriously prioritize my commitments. I also have to accept that some things just aren’t going to get done. I need to keep my to-do list realistic and manage my expectations.

I thought exercising would be a challenge, and it is. I love working out, and I used to joke that it was the only hobby I made time for. For me, exercise is a matter of sanity, not vanity. It is one of the top ways I clear my mind and de-stress. I used to spend five or six days a week at the gym, and now I am doing well to go twice a week. Again, this is an area I have had to really prioritize. Instead of long workouts at the gym, I may just squeeze in a quick 30-minute workout at home. But I will take it. A little bit is still better than nothing.

I thought it would be hard to find balance, and it is. Again, I am thankful that I have flexibility and work in a culture that encourages work-life balance, but I struggle with balancing everything I want to do. I want to do all the things, but I just can’t do everything at the same time. I want to work hard, be a good wife and mom, cook nutritious food, keep my home spotless, read all the books, have plenty of time with friends, and have my children in every activity, but I just can’t do all of that all the time. I can only do some of that some of the time. To be honest, I had the same struggle as a stay-at-home mom. Everyone is busy and everyone is trying to find balance. This hasn’t changed.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. Being a working mom is hard. (Being a mom is hard, and it’s also amazing.) I’m so thankful that I have had the chance to do both. Mostly, I’m thankful for each season that has brought me to where I am now. In this season, I am back at work and that’s what’s best for my family (and me) now.

Becoming a Mom vs. Becoming an Aunt


Becoming a Mom vs. Becoming an AuntAlmost two years ago, I became a mom. And almost two weeks ago, I became an aunt. Both beautiful occurrences that have filled my heart to overflowing. It’s been interesting to reflect on things and think about the differences. So many instances in my younger sister’s pregnancy/labor/new mamahood made me remember how I was feeling less than twenty-four months ago. This time, I was the (slightly) older, (slightly) wiser woman with experiences of my own to share. In fact, something I had to be careful of was to not overshare! I know as women we love to share our pregnancy and labor stories with each other, and it’s amazing how vibrantly we remember some of the details — well, amazing and terrifying! I guess pushing a tiny human out of your body is just something that really sticks with you! Anyways, I had to remind myself pretty often to not overshadow my sister’s experiences with my own. It can be easy to do when you’re the oldest sibling and the first to go through everything, but I also knew that her experience wouldn’t be exactly like mine, and I wanted to give her the chance to soak it all in — the good and the difficult.

Probably the biggest difference in becoming a mom and becoming an aunt was that I didn’t get to make all the decisions or even any of the decisions! So much of impending motherhood involves making choices from the very beginning: will I find out the gender or do I want to be surprised? Will I drink caffeine or die a slow, uncaffeinated death? Will I eat lunchmeat? Should I give birth at home? Should I have a doula? Do I want an epidural? Am I going back to work or stay home when the baby comes? And the thing about being the aunt and not getting to make any of these decisions is…it’s great! It’s very freeing. You get to be along for the ride and listen to all of your sister’s stories and worries and joys, but you don’t have the burden of making decisions. All you have to do is lend an ear and a smile, and advice if they want it. If this is what being an aunt means, then I’m all for it.

Another difference, in my case, was the shopping. I’m pretty sure I’ve already bought more for my niece than I’ve ever bought for my son. I had the first grandchild on both sides, and we were blessed to receive so, so many things for him. But for my niece, it has been so much fun to spend time browsing the baby section for all things pink, gold, glittery, cheetah print, bows, you name it! Little girl clothes and accessories are SO CUTE. For myself, I wanted a boy and was overjoyed to get one. But I have loved getting to buy all the sweet little girly things for my sister’s baby girl. It’s a whole different world from boy clothes!

One thing that felt familiar was my excitement. I had no idea that I could ever get as excited for a child to be born as I was for my own. But somehow, I was! It must be a little taste of what our parents get to feel when they become grandparents. It’s a sweet, precious, baby coming from someone you love so much and have spent so much of your life cherishing, and you get to love that new little part of them. The circle of life, am I right? Not to mention how exciting it is for my son to have a cousin. 

So when it comes to becoming a mom, I would say I definitely recommend it. And when it comes to becoming an aunt? Ditto.

Hot Chicken Club Roll-Ups Recipe


Hot Chicken Club Roll-Ups RecipeAs this new year started, I told myself I would be more committed to making dinners every night for my family and to better planning. With a few tools and grocery pick up, I’ve made this change a reality.

Here is one of our favorite quick and easy dinner meals, one which the whole family loves! This makes 4 rolls and you could easily have two per person if you were really hungry, so feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed with extra rolls.

Hot Chicken Club Roll-Ups


1 (12 oz.) can refrigerated big and flaky crescent rolls

¾ c. ranch dressing

4 slices sliced colby-jack cheese

4 slices of bacon, cut in half (can use fully cooked bacon too!)

½ package frozen grilled and ready chicken breast strips, thawed

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Separate the rolls into 4 rectangles and seal the perforations. Spread a bit of ranch over each rectangle. Place cheese slice, 2 strips of bacon, and 2-3 strips of chicken in the center of the rectangle.

Fold the edges over and enclose the filling; press the sides to seal.

Place the rolls seam side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ranch for dipping and with a side salad!

I would love to see if you make this dinner and what your family thinks!

Do-Nothing Potty Training

Do-Nothing Potty TrainingMy three-year-old son is NOT potty trained. Some of you are probably raising your eyebrows and silently judging me. Others probably have suggestions, helpful tips and even a potty-training book recommendation. I’m not worried about the judgment. I’ll pass on all that advice, too. I have my own strategy. It’s to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Am I worried? Nope. Not a bit. My husband and I didn’t naively reach this do-nothing strategy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Our experience potty training our daughter completely changed our outlook.

That’s how we reached this organic approach.

When we were expecting our son Bennett, we decided our number one priority was potty training our two-year-old daughter Madeline before little brother arrived. I read endless articles, talked with mom friends and we landed on our strategy. A long weekend in nothing but a diaper. M&M’s as incentive. My iPhone timer to make sure Madeline was sitting on the potty in regular intervals. There was great success! Then we switched to underwear. While there was an occasional accident, we felt good about the outcome of our potty training. We did it! I look back with mixed feelings about that moment. I know now what followed.

Potty training Madeline is still a struggle YEARS later.

The first round of regression was in the days and months following Bennett’s birth. That’s not unusual. All those changes at home can be tough for a big brother or big sister. When we weathered that storm, I thought it would be smooth sailing. Once again, I was so wrong. Every few months we were dealing with another round of regression. We tried sticker charts and other incentives which worked for a time. Then more regression. Against all those online articles we briefly tried punishments. That only added to the feelings of frustration on both sides. What were we doing wrong? We were out of ideas. Perhaps it was the emotional and mental fatigue. We were just too tired to do anything. In a way, that’s how our “do-nothing potty training” was born. We cleaned up any messes and moved on. Miraculously, the time between accidents became longer and longer until there were none at all.

Instead of rejoicing we were cautiously optimistic.

The start of kindergarten arrived and it was an exciting and nerve-racking time. I cried those first-day mom tears and Madeline loved school! Her teacher gave us regular reports and all was good. Or so we thought. I picked her up from school one day and when I saw her something didn’t seem quite right. I quickly realized she had a potty accident at some point during the school day and didn’t tell anyone. I felt a range of emotions. I was so sad for her and brokenhearted. Then the feelings of total failure as a parent set in. Later I cried in private. My husband and I considered the possibility we were dealing with a medical issue. We consulted Madeline’s teacher who offered an apology along with wonderful advice and guidance. It turns out potty accidents are completely common in kindergarten especially in those first few weeks. We gathered more information and realized Madeline was only trying to follow the rules. She thought you weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom if you were on the playground. Once we clarified, we thought we were in the clear. However, a second and third potty accident followed. That was soul crushing. Madeline’s encouraging teacher said she wasn’t the only kindergartener having accidents. Finally, it was a sweet and special one-on-one talk with Madeline and her teacher that was the real turning point.

I’d like to tell you that’s the end of her potty-training story, but it’s not. The first week of school after the Christmas holiday was tough. Madeline had several potty accidents, not at school, but at home. I lamented to a friend with older children. She told me her eight-year-old went through a tough potty time. Her eight-year-old. Her pediatrician said that’s normal as children start to become more aware of bodily functions and public bathrooms. When I told my friend how we’re taking a very different approach with Bennett she reminded me of what I’ve been telling myself. My children will go to college potty trained.

As it turns out, we’re starting to see the results of our “do-nothing potty training.” Bennett has been going on the potty. A lot. Number one and number two. Even at preschool. He gets a little reward at home and at school for his efforts, but that’s it. Bennett’s teacher suggested we get pull-ups which are controversial in the potty-training world. He picked out Mickey Mouse. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I’m not writing this to give you a full-proof potty-training method for your child. Every kid is different. Comparing them isn’t fair to them or to you. You’ll figure it out. They’ll figure it out. Just know, you’re not alone!

       Has your family struggled with potty training? Please share your story!

A Detour From My Dreams

A Detour From My Dreams“The unexpected detour has the best view. You never know what’s around the corner.” — Unknown

While I was in college, I was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Promise. I went straight to law school and graduated in 2.5 years instead of the normal three years. I passed the Bar on my first try and immediately got a promising job. I was on my way to be a success! I was going to be someone who was going to make a big difference in the world before I was 35. That was the plan and everybody that knew me was positive it would happen.

Except, it didn’t.

I turn 36 next month and I no longer practice law. I do not plan on going back. I HATED it. Now, I am a stay at home mom, despite the earlier hard work for my education and success. But I’ll take it one step further — I’m a HOMESCHOOLING stay at home mom. I have three children under the age of ten (8, 4, and 1.5), so I have very little time for myself. And I would not change a thing. I love it.  

BUT I’m not going to lie. When I realized that for my entire family’s happiness and health (including my own) I needed to step away from my career, I GRIEVED. I mean really grieved. I felt like a failure. I was not yet thirty when I decided to stay home for my family, but I knew I had failed in my career. If I didn’t keep it going, I just knew that I was not going to succeed ever! I was done.

As the years went by, I came to accept that I needed to be home. My family was lucky. I could stay home, and while I saw mothers that have been able to have babies at home and still follow their dreams, I was not one of them. I could not healthily balance it all. It was too much for me, so I took a step back and saw the benefits for my family. But I still had moments of shame. I was sure that others thought I stepped back because I had failed at law. 

But that wasn’t the case. While I loved learning law and analyzing it, I hated the practice of it. Stepping away from practicing law helped me realize that it is not my dream. I didn’t waste my law degree. On the contrary, I use the things I learned. Law school made a positive impact on me and it will never leave me. I was not a failure. Leaving a career to be a healthier and happier me for my family was probably the scariest and bravest decision I made. Yet, I was still scared. Will I ever make my mark on the world? I have cried countless tears to my husband about all that I had to give up for motherhood. I didn’t have anything FOR ME. Everything I do is for my kids. I still wanted to shine. Have a time to really REALLY succeed in something that I put my mind to. Not just do it, but excel in it! Did I lose my chance because I am getting into my mid-thirties?  

You see, we are taught that in order to succeed we must push for it from college (or earlier) and never cease working for that success even when we finally reach it. We celebrate the “thirty under thirty,” the people who seem to become a success almost overnight. We don’t celebrate that woman in her fifties that has just become a best-selling author. We don’t celebrate the empty nester that has finally received her PhD.

It wasn’t until this year that I realized that I’m not giving up my dreams. I’m putting them on hold. I am waiting for my time. I have chosen something else. I have chosen to be there for my children. I am not saying that every woman must do this — absolutely not! I know several amazing mothers who are successful in achieving their dreams. But if you are like me and decide that it is not the time to pursue your dreams because you already have so much on your plate as a mother, that’s ok. Before you know it, your children will be older and a little more independent. You will be able to open that business, write that book, go for that PhD.

Just because you don’t do it so early in life it doesn’t mean you have lost your chance. It just means you are waiting for that perfect time. You can have it all, but you don’t need to have it all at once.  

Parenting Through Grief

Parenting Through GriefIt’s been eight years since my dad suddenly died, and seven since my firstborn made his arrival into this world. I never expected to raise my children without my dad being a part of their lives, never anticipated his calloused hands wouldn’t get a chance to hold any grandbabies, never thought I wouldn’t get to see my little ones look up into his eyes and poke at his mustache. But the lack of these everyday occurrences is my reality.

The thing about grief that no one ever mentions is that it’s a constant part of your daily life. Though it changes shape and size, and may hide in the shadows from time to time, it is always there waiting. From a song on the radio to a handwritten recipe on a post-it falling out of an old cookbook, grief can resurface at any moment.

So how do you move through life if such tiny things can set off your broken heart all over again?

You own it. You can’t outrun grief, but you can lean in.

As it so often does, Disney has helped tremendously with grief. There’s a line from The Lion King that the Broadway musical turned into a song entitled He Lives in You. Here’s an excerpt that is particularly applicable:

“He lives in you

He lives in me

He watches over

Everything we see

Into the water

Into the truth

In your reflection

He lives in you…”

The truth is, the fact that my kids don’t get to be a part of my dad’s life doesn’t mean my dad doesn’t get to be a part of my kids’ lives. He lives in me, and in them.

These are pretty words and a nice sentiment, but how do we apply the sentiment to everyday life? How can we integrate our beloved family members who are no longer here with us into our daily lives? Especially when our children never met them?

We have a stuffed animal called Grandpa Bear that we can hug whenever we miss him (we even dress him like my dad!).

His photos hang on the wall.

We tell his stories.

We talk about him.

We celebrate his birthday.

We choose to remember. We look through photo albums full of photos of our family members, living and deceased.

These steps don’t stop the blindsiding effects of grief, but it helps cushion the blow by making their absence a little more bearable. It can be alarming to hear a little voice pipe up from the backseat, saying, “I miss Grandpa Mike,” or “Mommy, I’m sorry your dad died. Does it make you sad?” But it also opens up the door for important conversations, increases emotional intelligence, and the fact that I’ve taught them enough about him for them to miss him is a sign I’m doing the right thing.

Do I worry my kids will be anxious about other people they know dying? Of course. Does it bring on uncomfortable conversations about death I’m not always prepared for? Yep. This Life Kit from NPR has given me wonderful tools to use in these conversations. But I can’t let my fear or discomfort eclipse the present importance of sharing my beloved family members with them.

My dad may not have gotten to meet my kids. But my kids know my dad.

How do you keep the memory of deceased family members alive?

A Mom’s Ode to Leggings


A Mom’s Ode to Leggings I’ll admit it; I was a skeptic in the beginning. I swore I would never give in. I thought I was perfectly fine in my jeans. Besides, wearing you instead of “real pants” would mean conforming to the stay-at-home mom stereotype I tried so hard to avoid. Some call you leggings or yoga pants, but I thought of you as the first step down the pathway toward a lifetime of wearing athleisure. Then one day it happened. My curiosity got the better of me and I succumbed to your stretchy comfort.

I wore you and my life was forever changed.

In those very first days of motherhood, you were my constant companion. You were the only option that fit and felt comfy in those early postpartum months when my jeans still wouldn’t zip. I could throw you on with a t-shirt and feel like I had accomplished getting ready for the day. Some days I would wear you all day and all night because you could easily double as pajamas when I was too exhausted to change clothes.

Obviously, you make great workout wear. After all, you were literally made for the gym. I get it and I love that about you. But, what I love even more is wearing you for the daily workout I get just being a mom. I wear you to chase my toddlers, run errands, and put away the groceries. With you on my legs, I can climb the tallest slides and leap piles of LEGOs in a single bound. I can sit cross-legged on the floor and read stories and go for walks around the neighborhood with ease.

No matter the weather or season, you fulfill my wardrobe needs. You are fleece-lined for the cold days of winter and sweat-wicking for the hot days of summer. Thus, you are my year-round friend. You’re ideal for those early autumn and spring days when the weather goes from arctic to tropical in just a few hours. And, let’s not forget how my pale, post-winter legs can hide behind you during the first days of spring, so no one knows how translucent they really are.

You give me the freedom to be one of the “cool” moms without sacrificing comfort. Pants become obsolete when you come in so many varieties. With cheetah, jegging, and even leather, the possibilities are truly endless. I can turn to you for help when a dress is maybe just a tad too short or when I don’t have time (or forgot) to shave my legs. You can even be bought pre-ripped, which allows me to pretend the holes in my regular leggings are there on purpose.

Wearing you gives me an air of mystery that other clothing just cannot provide. I can pair you with an athletic-looking top and keep everyone I meet guessing. Maybe I just came from the gym, maybe I am going to run five miles later, or maybe I just didn’t want to put on real pants — no one will ever know for sure.

Leggings, I’m sorry I ever doubted your greatness and worth. I can’t imagine a world without you.

The Middle Aged Mean Girls

{The ultimate mean girl from “The Devil Wear’s Prada.” Image from LA Times.}

When college ended, I was relieved to be done with mean girls. You know, the ones at parties who made sure they weren’t going to talk to you and flat out ignored you in class because they were so “cool.” I thought this behavior was something people grew out of.

At the age of 40 though, I have found this to be untrue.

The Middle Aged Mean Girls

It’s amazing to watch women in a professional group become a pack of piranhas when jealousy and uncertainty are involved. Recently, I shared an achievement with a professional group that I was so excited about, that truthfully, I have wanted to achieve my whole life. A big milestone for me. The group as a whole was very excited and had kind words, but of course there was one person who wanted to know how I worked that deal. Instead of sharing congratulations on my achievement — one which I had worked so hard on — she was questioning how on earth I could have landed the deal without some special in. In this same profession, I have seen other women try to put others out of business, outright steal ideas and make them cry. And for what? None of that makes advances in one’s career.

At the practice field, I see moms who don’t welcome new moms that weren’t a part of the original team. Exclusion at school functions because they aren’t involved as they want to be because their job won’t let them. The worst mean girl behavior is when kids are involved and they get excluded from birthday parties and special events. Being exclusive doesn’t make you cool at any age and it doesn’t set an example for children either.

Being kind is free and we should spread kindness everywhere like confetti. Bullies at any age are unacceptable. So let’s make a promise to talk to those who are sitting alone in the stands at practice and school, encourage those in our professional circle and to lead by example.

I want to see women come together and be the best allies. Who is with me?

10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues (with kids!)


Those pesky winter blues can set in for us the moment the Christmas tree hits the inside of its storage box, so long ago, we decided to be proactive in how we handled those not so fun feelings!

10 Ways to Beat the Winter BluesHere are ten tips to help keep you busy and excited while the cold weather looms:

1. Plan your next vacation as a family. In the cold winter months, we love to look forward to our next great adventure. A fun way to pass some time while trapped indoors, as well as promoting some planning and research skills in your young travelers, is to enlist them to pitch in on the warm weather vacation dreaming! Our kids will help us research destinations, hotels, even modes of transport – it’s quite the project!

2. Make a holiday memory book. This is something we’ve started doing recently (in the name of homeschool) for our vacations, but it also applies to holidays and other big experiences! We have our kids spend a few days collecting memories and even some scrapbook type items and compiling them into a journal! It’s a great way to reflect on the time spent together, encourage gratitude and presence, and to keep little hands and minds busy for a hot second.

3. Donations, Thank You cards, and acts of service. It’s fairly easy to find opportunities to serve as a family across the winter holiday season, but once that ‘good will to all men’ vibe dies down a little, it can be easy to forget why we encourage our kids to reach out and help others. Life gets busy, routines kick back in — we all know how it goes. Post holidays is a great time to continue serving others as a family (and solidify it as a habit). Whether it’s donating your unneeded items together, volunteering with an organization, or simply sending out thoughtful thank you cards to loved ones, it’s important to keep that giving spirit alive with or without the jingle bells.

4. Lots of fresh air. If you’re anything like me, you tend to hide curled up in a blanket draped ball from anything that even looks like cold weather. I like snow and ice just fine, as long as I’m staring at it through a fogged-up window and am not outside in its midst. However, it can be so beneficial for us and our littles to wrap up tight and make sure we’re still getting vitamin D and fresh air to prevent cabin fever!

5. Cuddle party. So we’re going in the opposite direction with this one, but in the words of the great Olaf, “Winter’s a great time to stay in and cuddle.” Our lot likes to make a big deal out of our cozy indoor time by having spontaneous movie days/nights, game nights, or simply building things like make believe forts and rides etc. without distractions!

6. Set some goals together. We all know about those pesky new year’s resolutions, but in our clan it’s more about new year’s goals, and we like to talk to our kids about what those should look like. Each of us comes up with something we’d like to have done by the end of this new year, big or small, and then we all know we have the support and encouragement of our family as we pursue that one special thing. Honestly, it can be really fun to find out exactly where your child’s heart lies at this particular point in their life.

7. Pick out a summer camp. A great way to beat those winter blues is by fantasizing about the summer fun to come! Our kids are finally approaching the age where a day camp is a possibility, and so we like to have them browse the themes and options local to us to see what they fancy!

8. Encourage creative projects. Cold weather coziness is such a great time to pursue some indoor projects such a learning to draw, creative writing, building (think Lego, STEM, or simply with a few old cardboard boxes!), learning to bake, etc. Find out what your littles fancy trying and then start learning a new skill together!

9. Call in on family members. Just like with the post-holiday season service dip, some family members (especially those who have more of a challenge getting out and about in colder weather), may also be hit with a touch of the blues. A great way to encourage compassion and consideration in your family unit (as well as to get out of the house for a stint!) is to pay a visit to those who might enjoy hosting some madness for a few hours! One small caveat is, of course, to be mindful about winter bugs and viruses, especially for those with compromised immune systems.

10. Design a garden or redecorate a room. This seems like a bit of a big one I know, but our lot often has a good time simply moving furniture around for a fresher look, building a new book nook or reading corner, or starting a little indoor fairy garden that can be moved outside as soon as the frost clears!

Happy shivering and summertime dreaming to all!

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