Growing in life and love

Admittedly I was never the best at listening to adults, I always thought that I knew better. Then I became an adult, and have a teenage daughter … I should have listened more. Over the past several years I have followed and listened to God over anyone else. I have spent time in prayer, more so than ever before. In 2006 I met my daughter and fell in love instantly, God gave me that moment… and the patience to wait over a year for her to be placed in our home. 9 years later, I fell in love again… this time with a little red headed boy. His perfect little 6 1/2 year old self walked through our door, shook our hands and stole our hearts.

The transition from one to two wasn’t easy, nor was K & C’s becoming siblings… that was a disaster for almost a year BUT here we are 3 years later and while they fight with each other often, they would also fight FOR each other any day.

Here we are … another monumentous moment in our family. We are growing again! This time it has been completely different. This time it’s private. This time there are faces to our birth families. This time we aren’t dealing with DCS. This time isn’t about visitations and TPR, therapists and social workers. This time, it’s a positive situation that is full of love and hope. This time, we are hopeful in a different way. This time we are entering into this together… all 4 of us! Here we go!

Girl Mom


Our kids have now been in school almost 2 weeks.  I know that I am like so many other moms that countdown to summer vacation but then a little over half way through it start counting down when the kids will be headed back to school.  This year was no different, honestly.  By the middle of the summer the kids and I were antsy.  This summer was different for us in many ways however I have always been so grateful for the opportunity to spend the time with my kids.  It is exactly why we picked up and moved cross country, I wanted to be able to mom more and work less.

As I get up at 5:30 every morning to help my daughter get ready for school I often become extremely nostalgic.  What happened to my little girl that was ready to go off to kindergarten, the one that loved her nicknames, the one that loved to run and play, the one that loved when daddy bumped her head on the ceiling when he held her up hight.  Now we are curling hair and teaching how to use makeup.  I have sat and watched in awe that she is now a freshman in HIGH SCHOOL.  My heart broke for a moment realizing that we have just four years left before she goes off to college and into the real world.  I wonder if she's prepared, if we are doing enough to get her ready.  I wonder what the next four years will hold, will they be ones that she will look back on fondly or ones that we will simply pray to be over.  

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Being the mom of a teenager is no joke and not a job for the faint of heart.  If I am not told daily that I am the "worst mom ever", I often feel like I am not doing my job.  The first time it crushed me, the first time I cried ... the first time she told me that I wasn't her 'real mom' I curled up and cried for hours and the first time she told me that she hated me because I made her (brush hair, teeth or shower, I'm sure) I just didn't know what to do.  Since then I have realized that I am not here to be her friend, I am here to be her parent so she isn't going to like me all the time.  I am here to guide her, teach her and pray for her & with her.  I am always going to be here to catch her when she falls but gone are the days that I can fix her problems for her, gone are the days that I will reach out to her teachers if she has issues.  She is 14 years old and needs to learn how to have adult conversations, she needs to learn how to properly communicate and initiate hard conversations with others.  She also needs to learn to take responsibility for her actions, both good and bad, because with every action there is a consequence.  Mom will always be there with a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and the keys needed to drive her all over the country.  

But from what I see in a lot of the current generation is that there are no consequences and often little follow through.  There is an entitled mentality that the world OWES them a 6-figure job upon graduation instead of the concept of working your way up... learning from those before you.  Personal interaction is difficult because everything is through technology instead of the good, ole fashion conversation.  I want my kids, like we all do, to be amazing adults and productive members of society.  We want them to be happy, healthy and successful... I want her to be more successful than me and have more opportunities but I also want her to work for and earn them.

At the end of every day I ask how her day was ... "fine" is the answer more often than not.  I know that this year will fly by like every one before it.  I know that next August I will be sitting there wondering where her Freshman year went and how on earth I will only have 3 more years.  I feel lucky and blessed that I get to be her mom, that I am able to help them grow and go out into our world.  I am sure that once I hit her senior year that its going to take more to get through the first day of school than cookies and wine.

Moments that change YOU


There are defining moments in ones life.  The moments that you look back on and realize that you are no longer who you were before, you may not even remember that person.  I have been blessed enough to have a few defining moments ... ones that I am surprised that I lived through but grateful for what it helped me become.  

12 years ago I made the ultimate and final decision to become a foster mom.  I had known that I was going to adopt and foster, probably since I was a teenager.  I had grand daydreams of huge family dinners with all the foster littles that I had, birth families and their children.  I knew that was my calling, there was no question about it.  The day I received the letter in the mail approving me to be a foster mom, was one such defining moment.  I was wide eyed and ready, not really knowing what was in store for me but knowing it was in my heart.  Pulling the letter out that said I was approved and ready is a moment that I hope to never forget.  When the days get hard, I try to look back on and remember that wide eyed girl that was ready to take on the foster care world ... not the jaded one that I have become in moments.  

I’ve held children crying because they don't understand what's going on.  I have rocked, swaddled, walked with and bounced babies suffering from drug withdrawal.  I've picked up, or accepted the drop off, of children on a moments notice because they needed a safe home for the evening, the weekend or longer. I’ve sat in court and listen to reasons that children are in the foster care system. I've sat with women birth moms praying that the judge will see their hard work, I have mentored and loved on families that simply can do no better.   

Listening to the sounds of a crying 2 year old begging me not to leave her after a pre-placement visit.  Knowing that this little girl would be MY daughter but not knowing how to navigate this system.  Seeing a toddler not know who her mom is or where she fits.  Watching that same girl grow into a teenager that still isn’t quite sure.  Being her mom for the past 11 years has shown us growth and change but also shown us the pain in trauma … especially the trauma they don’t remember or understand.

A bouncing, energetic and loving 6 year old walking through the door.  He shook our hands, smiled with his bowl cut and ill fitting clothes.  He walked around our house and ran around outside.  He wanted to be part of a family desperately... he was the perfect fit.  Until that point his life included 23 moves with everything in trash bags, starting six different elementary schools by first grade.   Not sure whats next or where he would wake up tomorrow, or lay his sweet head.  A few years have passed and that little quiet, unsure boy has turned into a pretty self assured and fun loving 9 year old.  He has grown into such a great young man, one that dreams of going to MIT not of having a forever family.  He is the boy that loves to help with our littles, loves the idea of us continuing to foster because it's in his heart too.  

I've held my babies as we talked about life, I've explained the foster care system and how it's not their fault. I am a foster mother, I am an adoptive mother… I'm a wife and I'm a mom. Whether I'm a mom to my two or to the bonus children that we have in our home, I'm still on mom.  My heart breaks for all of our babies, their families, their situation.  None of this is their fault but its all become their detriment.  I pray for them, I cry for them and I hurt both for and with them.

One of my goals and visions in my life is to help the others discover the foster care system and find their place in it, we all have a place somehow.  I will continue to help guide adoptive parents through the process while also guiding foster parents through the journey and their new normal.

Mom Guilt


How many of you have mom guilt?  That feeling that we are failing our kids somehow.  Social media doesn't help, when there is a constant barrage of moms taking Pinterest perfect pictures on the first day of school with the impeccably crafted signs, or the custom done birthday cakes and elaborate family vacations.  It's easy to get bogged down and start to question whether or not you are parenting enough for your kids to feel loved.  It's easy to question your decisions to stay home or work, organic or not, breastfeed or bottle... the list goes on.

my house could always be cleaner, I could do better with dishes and laundry. I could yell less, I could play more... there are a million things that I know I could improve on.   Some days I feel like the biggest failure. I feel like I have failed my children and myself in this whole momming thing.  

I've always thought that giving my kids a 'better life' was the most important thing.  We sacrificed time with our daughter when she was younger to live in the nicest areas, the better schools, the bigger home ... she never seemed satisfied.  I thought that it was because she was just being bratty.  I truly worried that we were raising a spoiled child but we thought it was providing the best for her.  The super expensive doll house, because I had wanted it as a child and my parents couldn't afford it, or the new clothes multiple times a year because we shopped at Kmart and had to just deal with what we got.  When she was in 4th grade I asked her why she never invited her friends over and her response broke my heart, "our house is too small and so-and-so has a huge house and yard".  We owned our townhouse because it was what we could comfortably afford, it was almost 2000 SF and larger than any place I lived as a child but it was embarrassing to her.   We lived in Orange County, Ca and lets be honest, nothing is cheap there.  Even bringing in 6 figures a year didn't seem like enough.

My husband and I worked full time, she was in daycare from 7 am to 6pm daily.  All to provide for her but she didn't appreciate it in my eyes.  This caused a lot of struggle between us.  By the time I picked her up from daycare and got home to do homework and dinner, she was over it and we fought nightly.  Those few hours every night were spent fussing and arguing, I hated it.  I disliked every aspect of parenting at that point, it was a mad dash from daycare pickup to bed time.  I didn't get to have those sweet moments of reading to her nightly, snuggling in bed or breakfast together.  It was argue through homework, timeout for a quickly thrown together dinner and then more arguing over homework and then sheer, frustrated exhaustion getting into bed.  I knew something had to give or I would go crazy.

When my husband deployed in 2013, I quit my job and spent the next 18 months as a stay at home mom.  This was not sustainable long term living in California, this was a short term plan and I knew it.  But I also knew something had to change... in 2014 we made the decision to leave California and move to Tennessee with the plan that I would stay home with her.  I would be the mom that made fresh juice, homemade cookies and volunteer at her school.  I was going to get rid of my mom guilt once and for all.


Well... upon moving and her starting school I realized that stay at home wasn't an option for my heart or brain so I sought out a part time job, one that allowed me to be home when she was.  I had realized that she and I got along a lot better when I saw that giving her stuff was not what her little heart craved, it was my attention.  Homework became less contentious and I enjoyed being a mom again... I enjoyed being around her.

Fast forward to 2016 when we adopted our son and I stayed home for the summer with the kids.  Being their mom was what we both needed.  We live in a beautiful home in an amazing area but we sacrifice to be able to keep this schedule with me working part time.  My husband has to work hard, he has long hours and often travels for work but we see the benefits.  I have had the benefit of having the last 2 summers off with them, yes, money is tight in the summers without my income but we make it work.  I will never get the time back that I lost with her nor can I make up for it in other ways however I hope that they can see that we try as parents every day.    

Mom guilt is no joke.  We never know what the best option is for our kids or our family.  There is no manual that gives us a trouble shooting guideline for parenting.  I understand the sacrifices that my parents made for us ... we didn't have the best toys, live in the biggest houses or go on elaborate family trips to the Caribbean for spring break but what we did have was each other.  This summer while driving cross country I realized that these are years I will never get back, these are the moments that will hopefully come to my children as they grow into adulthood as happy moments.  Going forward I will make more mistakes, probably feel the pain of mom guilt more than I care to admit but I will hopefully hold onto this frame of reference, knowing that I am doing the best for them that I can.  Knowing that our family is our priority and hopefully impressing this on our kids will help but I can only imagine they will be no different than we were as kids ... not seeing the full picture until they are adults.  So if you’re working mom, I stay at home mom, have chosen to school lunches over packed lunches, don’t let anyone  allow you to question how much you love your children and how you’re doing the best for them.

Laundry Room

When we built our new home I thought that I would LOVE our laundry room based on the model.  It was right off the garage/mudroom so I wouldn't have dirt tracked through the house, it had a large counter for organizing and folding, and it was a nice sized room, bigger than our last for sure.  Turns out the builder (or the person that designed this laundry room is clearly a man!  I can't close the door if the washer is even with the dryer, and yes that small thing annoys me to no end, the metal shelf has grates so things fall through all the time.  Due to the size and location of the dryer versus my amazing counter its rendered virtually useless because the room is so miserably small.  Its just not a functional room in my opinion.  I decided to take this non functional room and add some life into it.  Again, my husband was gone for 2 weeks so I did this as a surprise to him.

First of all... I went through ALL of the partial gallons of paint that we have to pick a color.  I didn't see a reason to buy new paint if it was unnecessary.  I chose the same blue from my daughters room, we did add a little white to it and was able to lighten it just enough you wouldn't notice.  Then I had to take down the metal shelf that was in there.  That in itself was a nightmare.  The shelf was held with something that wasn't a normal screw that I am used to so I basically had to pull 7 drywall anchors out of the wall ... and deal with the damage left behind.  After a bit of spackle and a whole lot of sanding the wall was ready to be painted.

I fell in love with the blue as it really did brighten up the small space quite well.  One big issue I faced was again, the size of the room.  I needed to move the washer & dryer in order to paint behind them... that was NO easy task and I wore a lot of paint in the process.  Then off to Lowes to purchase shelving.  I knew the idea I was working with and the approximate weight of laundry detergent, fabric softener and decor so I needed to ensure whatever I got would withstand the weight.  I chose to do shelves that sit ON TOP of L brackets.  The L brackets have an approximate weight held of 80lbs so I knew that would work.  

I got the shelves up (after an additional trip to Lowes because the 1st guy sold me the wrong size L brackets), then off to Kirklands to use my discounts and coupons. I picked up this cute laundry basket and 2 cotton balls for the top shelf, then I purchased the glass jars for my laundry products.  Lastly I ordered 3 images off of Etsy to have printed and hung.  I haven't gotten the last items hung... hand surgery has made this impossible until next weekend.

What I obtained/purchased:

  • Paint - already had it!
  • Shelves - 2 8' shelves $7.10 each
  • 6 L Brackets - $37 total
  • Basket - Kirklands $15
  • Cotton Balls - $18
  • Glass Jars - with Spigots $22.99  Without $10
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Kids Rooms

My kids are both as different as they can be.  Its a joy of parenting and one I am overly blessed to have to handle daily.

Over the past 12 years, our daughter has had 4 bedroom sets ranging from Ikea to Pottery Barn, all purchased on Craigslist or similar.  She is now 14, pretty simple in her decorating style but is obsessed with the color blue.  This luckily includes all hues of blues and includes turquoise/teals.  Her room was a joint effort and turned out perfectly suited for her.  Also, we were able to utilize art and decor we already had.  We moved things around to give them a different look, and removed things that were more "Childish".  She was given a new comforter that incorporated all her shades of blue.

I obtained/purchased:

  • Headboard for her bed. (FREE!) Painted with white paint we already had.
  • Dresser (BST, already painted $25)
  • Paint (2 gallons, 2 separate colors of blue $37.76)
  • Wings (BST $15)

Total: $77.76

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Now my sons room was a bit different.  He is 9, still loves Spiderman and the color green.  So with him, we wanted to give him a whole new BIG BOY feel to his room without doing TOO much change because he does not respond well to it.  I chose to do this while he was at camp.  Mainly so I was able to downsize and organize without him getting overwhelmed.  
With his room I made very few purchases but rather did a lot of repurposing from items we already had and were not using. Additionally, his room took a lot of spackle!  He is one that loves to hang things up.. he will use whatever he finds to make this possible therefore I probably covered about 200 holes in his room.  With this information we decided to use a galvanized metal (matched his monogram letters) and allow him the opportunity to use MAGNETS to hang whatever he wants!  When my husband gets home he will make a frame to go around it, just to add some additional color to that wall.   I was able to provide him with the big boy room he always wanted.  

I obtained /purchased: 

  • Full size bed (from our guest room but had been in storage)
  • Galvanized Metal (2x4 piece from Lowes $24.98)
  • Curtains (Amazon $39.99)
  • Sheets (Target $19.99)
  • Paint (1 gallon white & 1 Gallon Green after discount and rebate $28.56 total)

Total: $132.52

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Master Bedroom Update

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I love the instant gratification of painting or decorating however I do not enjoy the price tag with total room overhauls.  I follow some amazing and inspirational people on IG but when I see the price tag of the items they are suggesting I simply cringe.  A $300 sitting chair for a kids bedroom, $150 for a comforter, etc. don't seem like they would be realistic price tags for most people.  

The average person changes up a room in their house ever 2-3 years.  If your spending hundreds of dollars per piece every time, that is almost impossible for the average person.  I would rather repurpose things in a different room, paint them or look for a deal (thrift stores, Craigslist, Buy Sell Trade Pages) before I spend hundreds of dollars on any one room in our house... especially our kids rooms.   

Recently I redid 4 rooms in our house for less than $100 a piece!  That included 2 kids rooms, our master bedroom and the laundry room.  The next few posts will be about each of my recent room refresh/redecorations.


Master Bedroom - Total $132.55

This room has been the same since we moved in to our house 3 years ago.  It's never been my favorite but was somewhat functional.  We always wanted a room that was relaxed, more of a sanctuary than the place that collected everything in cleaning moments.  

I replaced

  • The curtains (Amazon Deal of the Day, $29.99)
  • Comforter (Amazon, $39.99)
  • Copper Baskets (60% off at Michaels, $8 each)
  • Terrariums (10% off at Home Depot & free succulents, total $35.57)

I moved existing pictures to one wall.  I liked the stacked appearance of them better.  I then took the rose gold baskets and turned them sideways (think more like shelves) and tied the terrariums inside to let them hang.  Put up the new BLACK OUT curtains and comforter... voila.  I will say the curtains were amazing for their price however the comforter is pretty cheaply made, definitely will not keep us warm in the winter but serves the purpose of looking nice in the room.

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Dog friendly traveling tips

My dog is spoiled... I will simply admit this to get it out of the way.  She is a 13 lb Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  We left her home for a trip ONE TIME and she was miserable.  She wouldn't eat properly, didn't want to socialize and most importantly was VERY angry with me when I got home.  This also increased her separation anxiety so I do my best NOT to leave her any more.

So with this all being said she came with us on our recent road trip.  This was a first for her so we learned a lot along the way.  My last dog, an 18lb Shih Tzu was a registered therapy dog so I didn't have any issues with flights, hotels, etc.  I have a huge temptation to do the same training with this one just to alleviate issues in the future but for now this is what we have learned.

1.  Check out Bring Fido's website for information on pet friendly hotels, excursions and reviews.  We found this site to be extremely helpful along the way because websites for each location weren't always helpful however Bring Fido was amazing.

2.  ALWAYS bring more food than you think you need.  We feed our dogs Fromm exclusively and have since they were puppies.  Introducing new foods in an already stressful environment (traveling can be very stressful for animals) is not going to be a good idea.  We had an incident with a squirrel eating our dogs food, there were no stores that offered her type of food nearby... this did not end well for us.

3.  Be honest with a hotel when you are checking in about having a pet.  Some hotels will kick you out or even charge you in excess of $100 cleaning fee IF you choose to be dishonest and they find out.  

4.  Ask hotels UP FRONT what their pet fee is.  Marriott hotels were charging $75 per pet for their fee whereas Choice Hotels & Best Westerns were $15.

5.  Bring a portable water bowl and poop bags.  Every stop we made for gas was a great opportunity for our dog to have some water and use the restroom.  Don't be THAT pet owner that doesn't clean up after their dogs.

6.  Be mindful of the weather and terrain.  We live in Tennessee so there is always grass under her feet... Arizona offered zero grass and much hotter temperatures on the ground so we were careful not to let her burn the pads of her feet in the 100 degree + weather.  

7.  Bring a bed.  Whether it's your pets normal bed or one you purchase for the trip it is always nice for them to have a space.  We brought her normal bed and unfortunately had to throw it away after camping due to the amount of nonsense that was embedded in it (sticks, leaves, dirt, stickers, etc.).  However in every hotel and out camping it was her place to retreat to.  If you purchase one for the trip, put it out in the house a week or so before so that they can get the smell of themselves and home on it for their own comfort.

8.  Check websites of locations you are going to stop at along your trip.  Many are pet friendly and if they are not you would hate to find out as you pull into the parking lot.  Please don't ever leave your pet in the car ... a hot car can cause death in minutes.

9.  Pack any of your dogs medications that you may need.  We bought flea & tick spray for camping as well as ear care.  We knew that she would be swimming and that her breed is notorious for ear infections so we wanted to be covered.  Additionally, you would hate to have to contact your vet and double pay for a prescription at another vets office if you don't have to.

10.  ENJOY YOUR TRIP!  Bringing along you pet should not cause stress instead should enhance life.  They are a part of your family therefore should be enjoyed as much.  Take pictures!  We loved including her in all of our pictures and taking some of just her.  We were lucky that she indulged our whims.  I'm so glad that she came with us.  In the long run it was less stress on both of us to be together ... even in 4500 miles across 15 days.

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Just like that ...

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The first 12 days of our trip went by too quick.  Once my husband arrived, we celebrated Fathers Day, and then it was Monday and we were headed home.  Again, I had a loose plan in mind but as always I left room for flexibility.  We had a full week to get home so that helped.  With my husband joining the drive we had to move the kids around and I was worried that I would spend the next 3-5 days hearing the standard "she touched me, he's on my side, etc".  THANK GOODNESS that didn't happen.  Future idea will be to get a luggage rack for the top of my car to give the kids more room inside. 

We left my moms headed to the Grand Canyon!  My husband and I hadn't been there since we were little so it was a MUST.   As excited as I was to show the kids one of the 7 Wonders of the World... I forget that it is just a GIGANTIC hole in the ground to a child.  So after 2 hours of driving around and taking pictures we headed towards Albuquerque, NM.

** Sidenote - when traveling with dogs please make sure you have MORE than enough dog food to last you during the trip.  Unfortunately my poor dogs food got eaten by squirrels while camping.  My husband went out to get food for her the night before we headed home and unfortunately was unable to find the brand of food she eats.  This resulted in a full blowout (EEW) during the drive to Grand Canyon ... ON MY DAUGHTER.  

We got to Albuquerque and again had to make sure the hotel was pet friendly.  By the time arrived everyone was just hungry and ready for bed.  We stayed at a great Comfort Suites ... which had a pull out couch for our son.  (YAY!!)

The next morning we headed towards Oklahoma City and were looking forward to seeing the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Wednesday morning since we had missed it on the way there.  Luckily the dog was feeling better (and craving grass under her feet I'm sure).  My husband and I chatted and passed the time while the kids slept and snacked and slept.  We stayed in another Best Western in OKC and it was fine, the breakfast was good, the kids shared a bed ... 

If you have not been to the OKC bombing Memorial, it's a must.  The grounds are amazing, I cried at the little chairs but the museum is set up in such a way that you feel like you were there.  You feel the emotion of the survivors then they get into the legal proceedings of Timothy McVey which is fascinating... they caught him because of a missing taillight.  We spent 2 hours at the memorial, even the kids were engaged.  

Then ... headed to Arkansas.  We were hoping to visit the diamond crater state park however a storm was coming through and there was no way I was searching for diamonds in the rain/mud so another audible was called.  Thank goodness for the Arkansas Visitor Center on I-40.  I ran in and went through ROWS AND ROWS of brochures that would give us something to do.  We settled on the Cosmic Caverns in Berryville, AR.  4 hours north of where we were ... so I found a place to stay as we drove.  OMG!  What a gorgeous drive north.  The kids laughed.  We pointed out animals, we played car games and just had fun.  We ended up staying in the sweetest town, Eureka Springs, AR.  I would go back and visit this town again ... it was just the best little town.  

Cosmic Caverns was actually very cool.  I wasn't sure what to think when we pulled up to this small shack/gift shop.  We started to wonder if this was going to be a waste of a 1/2 day drive BUT once it started we were quickly surprised.  Our guide was VERY knowledgable about the cavern and it's history.  At one point she even turned ALL the lights off when we were 350 feet below the surface just so the kids could see how truly dark it was for the miners.  This was phenomenal and I would recommend it to anyone.  I do wish we could have stayed longer as there was so much to do in this area.

Thursday was the last leg of our trip and we were ALL feeling it.  I was looking forward to being in my own bed after 15 days.  Once we got home and unpacked I had some time to reflect on the trip as a whole and came up with these top 5:

1.  Spending this time with my kids was invaluable.  They grow up too fast and I don't want to miss it.

2.  Pack my own pillow for hotels & family because I am super picky.

3.  4 days of driving with my husband made me realize how much I love him, how annoying some of his little idiocincracies are and that I don't think we could do a road trip much longer together without me being able to drive. 

4.  I really love camping!

5.  We must do this a few more times before the kids move out.  I LOVED this time.

Enjoying the Grand Canyon as a family.  It was hot, the car ride was made interesting by a dog with some intestinal drama but overall everyone liked the experience.

Enjoying the Grand Canyon as a family.  It was hot, the car ride was made interesting by a dog with some intestinal drama but overall everyone liked the experience.

The grounds of the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial.  I can't believe how much history we all learned, the tears that were shed by all of us and the memory that will  be carried forward.  

The grounds of the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial.  I can't believe how much history we all learned, the tears that were shed by all of us and the memory that will  be carried forward.  

The Cosmic Caverns in Berryville, AR were definitely a crowd favorite.l  We were the only people on the tour that morning.  It was really cool to go more than 300 feet below the surface to explore caves and what it was like to mine in the hills of Arkansas.  

The Cosmic Caverns in Berryville, AR were definitely a crowd favorite.l  We were the only people on the tour that morning.  It was really cool to go more than 300 feet below the surface to explore caves and what it was like to mine in the hills of Arkansas.  

A HUGE camping trip and tips for camping with kids

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.          Leonardo da Vinci

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.      

Leonardo da Vinci

The past few months have been very difficult for me.  My heart has been broken, my stress levels have been high... I've questioned everything from our journey in foster care to my parenting and my career and myself.  I think that this trip was just as much, if not more, for me than anyone else.  I needed a change of scenery, I needed a break from reality ... I needed my mom without realizing it.

Part of the reason for our trip was to see my family in Arizona... yes, my entire family (except my dad) live within an hour of each other.  This makes a family trip easier because I just have to go to one place to see everyone.  This would be the first time that our son met the majority of my family and the first time I've been there in about 3 years.  We planned for my husband to fly in about a week later to do the return trip with us to really make it our first full family trip since our son came.

We arrived at my moms pretty late Friday night and we were all just happy to be out of the car for a few days and excited about the things we were planning on doing.  The kids shared a room at my moms, but not a bed... I learned my lesson people!  They were OUT almost as soon as we got there, both sleeping in the next day which was such a blessing.  

Throughout the week it was family, family and MORE family.  We got to see my 97 year old grandmother and were given some of the greatest life lessons.  Please video your grandparents.  I asked her advice, life questions and just general stuff.  I LOVE that we will have these forever and she was more than willing to chat.  I did the same with my grandfather before he passed a few years ago.  I wish I had done it with my other grandmother.  We were incredibly close so it never crossed my mind but now, she passed in 2013, I really regret it.  My grandmother is blind now, she hadn't met my son before nor been able to see a photo of him so we explained his looks as Opie... she laughed and hugged him.  He just LOVED meeting his GG (great grandma).  

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Then came camping.  So lets set the stage for a moment shall we.  I grew up tent camping... like middle of no where, at the lake, no facilities, tent camping.  I loved it and it holds some of my favorite family memories.  My mom picked this campsite due to the proximity of water.  Lets remember we were in the AZ desert and it was 105 the day we set up camp... water is important, especially for the kids.  So we drove, then more and then found the dirt road and parked.  This was the first time in my life I camped in a campground.. and it had a BATHROOM!  We set up all the tents, the pop ups and then found the nearest water hole and just hung out.  I was in heaven.  No devices, no drama, just family and the heat.  The next night the rest of my family showed up and a day later my husband did.  We ended up with about 18 people, including kids, camping in the desert.  My kids were in heaven, as were the rest.  They hunted crawdads, built dams, played kickball.... they just simply got to be KIDS.  I got the chance to rejuvenate a little.  I sat, reflected, laughed and talked.  I watched my kids create memories together and with their cousins.  For 5 whole days, we camped without social media, without FaceTime, without technology.  THIS was what my heart needed.

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Tips for camping, in the middle of nowhere, with kids.  

1.  We bought nets and buckets at the dollar store.  These provided 4 days of entertainment for under $10 for ALL the kids.  

2.  LOTS of water and ensure they actually drink it, not open the bottle, take one sip and "lose" it.

3.  Sunscreen!  My son is a redhead, he gets tanned but I didn't want to chance it.  All of the kids, including my daughter (with her hispanic olive completion) were doused with sunscreen multiple times a day.  I've been the one friend like a lobster on day one and remained miserable for the duration of a trip.

4.  Have an ice chest JUST for kids drinks.  They tend to not close the lid entirely and you don't want them to ruin the meat.

5.  Dollar store flashlights!  These created hours of entertainment from tag to bathroom runs... and spooky tent stories.  

6.  An extra bathing suit and a clothesline.  Our kids spent ALL day in a bathing suit.  Honestly I packed them 2 bathing suits, 4 shirts and pajamas... no need for anything else.  At the end of the day I would wash the suit, hang it to dry and the next day they could wear another suit and alternate.

7.  Fruit for snacks.  Apples, watermelon and grapes have a high water content which also helps with keeping kids hydrated while they are in that type of heat.


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Camping like this warmed my heart for more reasons that the Arizona heat.  Sharing one of my favorite childhood experiences with my kids was amazing.  They got to understand my love of camping and it actually enticed them to want to camp more.  Living in Tennessee there are A TON of amazing places we could camp so this just opens up a world of memories with my family.  

What is your favorite childhood memories to share with your kids?

Mountain Goats are a fun thing to see.  They look so majestic just standing there.

Mountain Goats are a fun thing to see.  They look so majestic just standing there.

RATTLESNAKES!  We saw this beautiful 4 ft rattlesnake just outside of our campground... yes, I hate seeing these but love the beauty at the same time.  

RATTLESNAKES!  We saw this beautiful 4 ft rattlesnake just outside of our campground... yes, I hate seeing these but love the beauty at the same time.  

Day 2 & Day 3 - being flexible!

As we left Oklahoma City we were pretty irritable.  I had 11 bug bites on my skin from something in my clothes on the drive, the kids thoughts of being in the car knowing that we had 2 days left to drive was not their favorite idea at that moment.  They had to share a bed which resulted in meltdowns and annoyance... lesson learned by mom!  We had planned on going to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial - they both staged a mutiny.  I wanted to yell, cry, drive home ... none of which I did.  Instead I took a small breather, called my husband and changed the plans which made him happy because he was bummed to be missing the Memorial.

As we began driving, I realized that we hadn't seen anything in Oklahoma City outside of the freeway so I stopped at one little (super touristy) place to see some buffalo and take a few pictures then headed west.  I called my mom, informed her of our time changes and that we were headed to Albuquerque NM.  I've driven through Albuquerque before, my husband just did a few weeks ago on his cross country drive, and I wasn't overly thrilled about this.  I was still frustrated over the morning attitudes and decided that something needed to change, this trip needed a small shake up ... after all I am mom and in control.  I texted one of my best friends and virtual road trip buddy for some help and we hatched a plan.

On a road trip, especially one with kids, it's important to stop and see things... stretch your legs and break up the drive.  We found Cadillac Ranch in Texas and decided to stop there as well as the state visitor center just outside of Amarillo.  This is when my plan really kicked into action.  I didn't tell the kids that there were any changes, I just drove.  I was getting more excited as we drove.  


I am a total NASA space geek.  I wanted to be an astronaut SO badly when I was younger.  I followed every space mission and begged to go to FL to see a shuttle take off but it never happened.  I would LOVE the space program to come back so I could see this someday.  I have seen 1 shuttle land at Edwards AFB , when I was younger but honestly I don't remember it.  I wanted to go to White Sands NM to see where the Columbia had an emergency landing in March of 1982 (and where they based the movie Space Camp) so we made a sharp left just outside of Albuquerque and headed on a 300+ mile trek to White Sands.  Other than the fact we were totally unsure of where we were going, we knew it was about 4 hours away.  Again, we had no hotel but on top of that we had to locate the nearest city.  As a military spouse I started calling the local military bases to get a room, unfortunately neither had a room available that night.  I started to question this idea but was now about 200 miles in a pretty committed - I even almost headed to Roswell to do alien stuff instead... Luckily, thanks to the wonderful gentleman at White Sands Missile Range, we found that the nearest city is Alamogordo NM.  Again, jumped on BringFido and  started looking at rooms.  We found the Magnuson Hotel was the only pet friendly one in the city with availability so we made a reservation and headed that way.  I will admit it was a nice hotel BUT one of the worst nights sleep we got the entire trip.  Between horrible hotel room neighbors and an LED light that stayed on ALL night just outside the window (with blinds/drapes that didn't close properly) I was miserable.  The breakfast was good, C enjoyed the pool and the city was sweet so I guess all in all it was fine BUT it was the first negative trip advisor review Ive ever left.  

We loaded up and headed to White Sands National Park for a morning of fun.  Honestly, I knew that the shuttle landed at the nearby missile range but who can resist seeing WHITE SAND!  The short drive was very deceiving as it's pretty brown and yucky along the way.  The park is pet friendly so our little dog got to experience it all with us!

Their visitor center staff is very knowledgable and friendly.  The kids were so excited but honestly I don't think any of us truly knew what to expect.  As we drove into the park ($5 per car for ALL DAY even if you exit) we started to see some white sand covered in native plants... not that impressed until we stopped at the first lookout point and trail... it was MAGNIFICENT.  

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After a few hours of driving around and hiking around in awe we were set to leave and head to our final destination... thats when we saw it.  SAND SLEDDING.  We drove through the rest of the park, went to the visitor center/gift shop and bought sleds.  I would say, buy them before at the local Walmart or bring them from home.  They are $18.99 for a new sled, which they will buy back for $5, or $10 for a used sled which they never really have according to several people we met.  It was worth the $40 (we also bought sled wax).   We went sand sledding, walked around, took a ton of pictures and spent about 2 hours longer than planned because we had so much fun.  


Then we headed towards our final destination in Arizona.  As we drove down the highway I saw a sign... White Sands Missile Range MUSEUM!  Yes, a museum that should give me all I needed to satisfy my NASA geek because the shuttle landed on post.  As a military family I have an ID to get me on post so I thought I would give it a shot and it worked!  While the 2 MP's at the gate had NO CLUE what I was talking about, reminding me that they were born in 1988 and 1990 respectively, they were very helpful in pointing me to the right direction.  I geeked out at the museum, walked through their outdoor rockets and such before getting gas and heading out.  Grateful that my kids indulged me this much, neither of them could have cared less about this monumental moment in my adult life.  haha.


As we headed north through NM and into Arizona my kids got super excited... we were in Pinal County, AZ where they film LIVEPD.  They each began begging me to get pulled over in hopes of meeting their favorite Pinal County Sheriffs Officer McElwain.  It took me more than an hour to convince my 9 & 14 year old that I was not going to do something illegal to get pulled over in hopes of meeting one officer so I did what any good mom would... I tweeted him, he responded and they were happy.  He was a great sport about and I was grateful that satisfied them because I couldn't have gone another 4 hours listening to that.  

After driving through some of my favorite spots in Arizona, places we camped as kids and where we would be camping the following week we finally made it to my moms house at almost 9 Friday night.   The dog did amazing on the trip.  She was actually so tired from running through sand dunes that she slept about 9 hours, I had to wake her up to go potty every time we stopped for gas.  

Getting to my moms was not the end of our road trip fun... thats for sure! 

Day 1 and some travel tips with kids

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There is a lot of preparation that goes into road tripping... especially once you have children.  You have to have a little bit more of a plan, I worry more about my car, the drive, etc than I did before I was responsible for the lives of these two humans.  We made a plan together knowing that the fist 1/2 of the trip would be the kids and I. *Sidenote* This was C's first time meeting the majority of my family, and I have a big one, so coming into this trip he was already very nervous.  The trauma part of his brain was engaging a bit so I saw some tough behaviors in the days leading up to the trip.  K has road tripped with me before, knows the family but was having some of her own reservations as well.

A few days before we left I went by ToysRUs, its going out of business so I planned on getting some car games and things for the kids to do while driving.  We got 5 games, coloring books and creative games for all 3 of us.  We also hit up the grocery store and got lunchables, drinks and snacks for the drive.  The kids each agreed on snacks, both healthy and a few fun ones.  When I drive I hate eating out all the meals between the lack of healthy options as well as the cost it works much better.  Besides, the kids always get hungry in the most random places.  I also purchased dog bowls and treats for my dog to keep her quiet and entertained in the hotels.

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As we set off on day 1 I knew the kids would want to eat ALL the snacks and play every game we had which would set us up for failure for the rest of the drive.  We had a long conversation about the snacks, lunch and games to set proper expectations however I knew that as soon as we left those would go right out the window.  I had K up front and C in the back so I kept the snacks on the opposite side, not as readily available for sneaky hands and the games were easily monitored by me even while driving.   Plus each child had their device (iPhone & iPod in addition to a DVD player) that were only allowed to be charged once per day (in the hotel) and no more as to not LIVE on them the entire drive.  I know... RULES RULES!

Day 1 we drove all the way to Oklahoma City which is a little over 10 hours from home.  I didn't have a real hotel plan but remembered the one we stayed at 4 years ago when we moved here.  As I pulled in I called, they were NOT pet friendly nor did they look very clean/safe when we arrived so we started calling other hotels.  I used the website Bring Fido A LOT on this trip between finding hotels and ensuring that Quinn would be able to join us on our excursions.   PLUS in looking for a hotel there were 3 very important must haves: pet friendly, free breakfast and a pool for the kids to burn off energy.  In Oklahoma City we stayed at the Quality Inn off of I40.  This hotel was only $68 including the pet fee and was super clean and very comfortable.  The staff was very nice and the breakfast was pretty much as expected.  Nothing over the top but it was tasty and served the purpose for the kids.  I would recommend it to anyone.  *I would also recommend a roll out bed or staying in a room with a pull out couch.  My kids are both horrible sleeping partners (apologies to their future spouses) so they cannot sleep in a bed together, nor will I sleep with either of them.  We did not make this observation until AFTER we woke up the next morning and both kids were incredibly sleep deprived and grumpy.  

The second day is where our trip started taking random turns that led to almost 1200 extra miles.



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I grew up taking road trips with my family every summer.  Sometimes it was just a state over to visit family while others it was weeks long visiting places we had never been.  In 1986 my grandparents took me from Yucca Valley (southern California) all the way to Seattle, WA for a Kiwanis convention.  That trip holds some of my favorite memories, the three of us in the front seat of a Datson pickup truck for days... we visited every train museum along the way plus went into Canada to visit the miniatures museum in Victoria.  I want the same memories for our kids.  For the next few days I will be sharing our road trip memories along with how to do it on a budget AND keep your kids entertained in a world of devices.  We actually went device free for 5 days camping PLUS a full day of driving.  

This trip came about before the kids got out of school and we planned to be gone about 2 weeks.  Our original plan was to drive I40 from Tennessee to my moms in Arizona.  About 2 weeks before we left, my daughter sat down and made a list of the things they wanted to see along the way.  The only requirement was that they were within an hour drive of the freeway.  Her list was long but I love that they worked together to come up with places they wanted to see.  The last time I took this drive it was simply to move to TN from CA so we didn't stop to see much of the country.  This time I wanted it to be fun AND memorable.  Her main memories of the last trip is losing the cat in Oklahoma City - yep, we moved with a cat and dog but on one morning as we were leaving the hotel for our final leg of the drive the cat went missing.  At the time, my husband was in Afghanistan and it's his cat.  We searched so long that I was contemplating the length of time we must look before we could call it a loss and leave.  Luckily we found the cat after a 2 hour exhaustive search of the area including 3 hotel grounds and the area in between the hotel and the highway... in the HOTEL room.  This trip was GOING to be different, I was sure of it.

On June 6 we set off for Arizona with a few goals in mind.  One of mine being to see my 97 year old grandmother that has been ailing.  I felt that it was urgent to see her quickly based on recent conversations with her.  My son was looking forward to meeting his cousins as many he hadn't met.  His adoption was 2 years ago and it would be the first time in Arizona - most of my family is there but don't travel this way.  My daughter was looking forward to seeing her favorite cousins, camping and just being away from home.  So armed with a car full of clothes, 2 kids, the dog and our list we set out on an adventure that would take us over 1200 miles out of our way and 15 days instead of the 13 I had planned for.

Day 1 plan was to make it to Oklahoma City ...

Schools OUT!

We are officially on summer vacation... the kids are over the moon that they have 3 months off.  Mommy, well lets just say I may be a tiny bit LESS enthusiastic.  We have made some decisions on things to do over the summer, 1 being a road trip cross country.  YES.. 3 kids and a dog for thousands of miles.  I wanted to make memories with my kids this summer... I don't want another 

The past several years have brought a desire to write a book.  I started one in 2010 when my husband was deployed, I was so proud of all of my work however never completed it out of fear that it wouldn't be received well or that it wasn't good.  I put it on a thumb drive and didn't look back.  My own insecurities over took my work.  Since then I have thought of going back to finish what I started however I consistently get in my own way.  I have intimate knowledge of domestic violence, sexual assault, infertility, foster care, adoption, mental illness and military life... I'm blessed to have been dealt such an interesting hand.  It's my opportunity to hit blackjack or lose to the house.  I chose to hit 21 every time.

This summer I have a few goals... 

1.  Keep my house clean (this is worth the goal)

2. Finish a project furniture piece

3.  Finish my book

Surviving Middle School


I've been a mom for 20+ years.  My little brother was born when I was 16 and I mom'd him (just ask him).  I took him to and from daycare, I held him at night when he cried... I witness his first 2 years of life before I moved out and began my own life.  We have a very complicated relationship as a result - I love him as a son more than as a brother in most ways. 

When my daughter came home I learned more about being a parent.  When she hurt, I hurt.  When Ashley M made her cry in kindergarten by saying she was stupid, I hurt.  When the girls in second grade pushed her, I hurt.  When Marco (or was it Paulo) pushed her into a wall trying to kiss her, I was infuriated. 
Then came middle school, I was not prepared for middle school.  I was not prepared for the hurt, pain and simple nastiness that comes in this age.  Yes I remember being in middle school but without the joys of social media, I don't remember it being that bad.  She has been called every name, she has been bullied, humiliated and had her spirit crushed.   I'd like to sit back and say that she is stronger for all of it and that I've successfully taught her that sticks and stones is the right mentality... the truth though, it all hurts and nope, I haven't taught her all the best coping skills.

I grew up in the world of "sticks & stones", walk away and ignore... ect.  I was not prepared for middle school as it is now.  I was not preparing my daughter for what middle school would and could do to her.  It will eat you up and spit you out if your not careful.  So my dear daughter, here are 5 things to remember in middle school.

1.  Social media & cell phones makes it easier than ever to ruin relationships and reputations.  Remember that everything you say is subject to interpretation and repeat, sometimes without your best interest in mind.

2.  Your friend group ... those who are around you, defines how others see you and how you will get through the hard times.  Keep good people around you... by good, I mean good at heart.

3.  OWN YOU!  Be you, your own unique and amazing self.  If your life is planned out, amazing... and if it's not AMAZING.  Just own your truth, don't be defined by your circumstances and be authentic.

4.  Ask for help.  Whether it's homework, friends or just a life question ask someone.  It doesn't have to be your parents, but find someone you trust and know will have your best interest at heart.

5.  When in doubt, don't!  If something you are doing, thinking of doing or may do just doesn't feel right... it probably is not.  If you are wondering if posting something on social media is ok, it probably is not.  If you think something MAY hurt someone else's feelings, think about whether or not it would hurt yours... most likely it's not a good idea.

I'm sure there are many more but these top 5 things will help your child get through middle school... as for you.  A glass of wine, or a bottle will help you.

Being a mother is hard work - Guest Post

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Not quantum physics “hard”, because motherhood isn’t rocket science. In fact, raising children is something that the average woman was born capable of doing. Yet, that doesn’t make it any less of a feat, and maybe we should all be nominated for a few Nobel prizes.


Motherhood is hard in the sense that it takes all of you, drains you emotionally, and leaves you feeling raw and vulnerable. It changes who you are. Being a mother requires us to put aside ourselves to love and care for another human, in a way that no other relationship could. When my son was born, I had this instant desire to do everything in my power to take care of him. There was (and is) no question to the lengths that I would go to protect him; God forbid anyone get in my way. I remember sitting in our hospital room on Brayden’s second day of life with one group after another of family and friends coming to visit. We were so happy to introduce our little man to our loved ones, but as soon as the last group left I felt so much relief. Ahhhh. Once again holding my new little one made me feel whole again; after all, I had carried him for 9 months so being close to was a necessity. All of sudden, “knock knock knock” on the door and comes someone else. When the practitioner asked to do his hearing screen I nearly lost my marbles. I needed to touch him. I couldn’t give him up so soon after just getting him back in my arms. Realizing how close I was to a breakdown, my husband asked the practitioner to come back later so that I could have baby snuggles for just a bit longer.

There have been so many moments when I’ve been away just a little too long at work or running errands, and I begin to feel this desperate need to get back to my baby. I am no longer just “me”, I am Brayden’s mom. My new role has consumed me and changed my identity. My son is the first thing I think of when I wake up, and the last one I pray for as I go to sleep. For months I battled nightmares that someone was going to take him away from me and would wake up sobbing. My job as his mother is non-stop and this role weighs heavy on me at times, even in my dreams. It is hard to love someone so much that your own happiness depends on his or her well-being.

I adore my husband and our relationship makes me a better person, but I was whole before I met him. We have grown together and our love has deepened through the ups and the downs of parenting. If something happened to him my heart would be in shambles, but his survival is not based on my actions. He can live without me and if I failed in him in some way, he would most likely live to tell the tale. The responsibility involved in raising a tiny human is so tremendous, as you realize that you have to keep them alive, and try your best to prevent the need for an abundance of therapy as adults.


While the pressures of motherhood build up, it is so important to give ourselves grace. We must forgive ourselves for our shortcomings, and learn from our mistakes because yes, we will make plenty of them. We are all doing our best to be great mothers and to rediscover who we are now that our lives revolve around tiny little humans. Let’s all just be honest and admit that being a mommy is the greatest! You created a tiny human, and you get to pour your life into them. That seems worth all of the ups and downs, if you ask me. So to all of you mothers out there, you are doing a wonderful job. God created you for this role and your baby(ies) are so lucky to have you. Your children won’t remember how tired or stressed out you were. They don’t remember that you haven’t showered in days and that you ate PB & J, again. They won’t remember the hardships that you do, but they will remember how much you loved them. They will remember how you rocked them to sleep and kissed their boo boos. All your children want is their mama, as you are, so keep on doing your best and showing up just like you do, each and every day!



Tara Marchok is an Atlanta based motherhood, lifestyle, and home decor blogger; whose goal is to be transparent about the ups and downs of motherhood and to encourage other mom’s in the process. Her heart belongs to a very bearded man, an energetic little boy, and two furry golden retrievers. Tara is obsessed with leggings, nap time and beautiful photos. Follow her journey on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.


A version of this article first appeared on Tara’s Sass Mouthed Mama Blog.

By definition ...

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Identity: condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing:

I am pretty put together.  I dress appropriately for situations.  I am a pageant girl.  I work in a business professional environment, always dressing the part.  I speak publicly, I can carry my own in a room.  My husband is higher ranking in the military and I've never questioned my place next to him.  I show up and volunteer at my children's school and am a fixture that they could be proud of.  I am college educated and articulate.  I post the most put together photos I can... most of the time.  To some, they have chosen to judge me or assume these things define me or that I find my identity in them..


What people don't know is that underneath the clothes, the makeup and the perfectly placed hair is me.  Over the years I have lost my identity as a person and have replaced it by 'mom' and 'wife'.  I would MUCH rather wear my sweatpants and flip flops that my beautiful Badgley Mischka heels.  I am painfully shy and awkward, definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert.  I struggle with group settings as I never feel like I fit.  I am not the same person in the comfort of my safe home as I am in the public eye.  Prying eyes make me feel that I have to be 'on' instead of being myself.  Very few have been privy to my life behind closed doors.  The less than perfect persona, the woman that appreciates sweet tea over wine, that feels like pajamas should be considered socially acceptable, that would rather attend a dessert party that a wine night.  w, as a mother, I am not alone.  The day my daughter came home, my world changed along with my identity.  That is ok.  I don't feel bad or regret that moment, or the moment I became a wife, the moment my son came home... or the moment that each of our fosters has moved in/out further changing me.  With each just came a shift, I let myself slide down the list of priorities.  I'm not saying this as a bad thing, it simply was my thing

I say all of these things because I know, as a mother, I am not alone.  The day my daughter came home, my world changed along with my identity.  That is ok.  I don't feel bad or regret that moment, or the moment I became a wife, the moment my son came home... or the moment that each of our fosters has moved in/out further changing me.  With each just came a shift, I let myself slide down the list of priorities.  I'm not saying this as a bad thing, it simply was my thing.  

It's what we do with the internal information that we should really pay attention to.  I have suffered from levels of depression over the years, moments that getting out of bed, dressed or showered seemed like a task far to great.  Then other days that I am up at 5:30, giggling and drinking my coffee with the sunrise.  I love my children with every ounce of my heart.  I love being their mom, I love being a wife.  I love running in the streets, dancing in the aisle at Kroger just to make them laugh or snuggle up on the couch with a child on either side, a dog and a cat on us and my husband sitting on the other end watching a movie.  Yes, that is what I love in life.  I love my friends, I am loyal to a fault but there is something comforting in that.  What else though?  What else helps me be ME, what defines me.

I have found a love in educating others.  I love to stand in front of people and tell them about something that I am passionate about.  There is a realness in it.  I can be vulnerable and authentic, I can put myself out there (good and bad) as it pertains to the subject matter.  I don't have to be social in that setting, I still get to talk about my family but with my own identity.  I think it's important not to lose yourself in your family, nothing defines you but you.  There is no job, no family dynamic and no circumstance that defines you.  I am Shana, foster care educator, mom, wife, etc.  I need to remember to introduce by my NAME first before the other things...  

How do you define you?!

Guest Post: Why resistance training? By: Tara /  The Mama H

Lifting weights or using resistance bands, works your muscles, boosts your metabolism and helps you burn fat faster! It tones your body and believe it or not, helps you sleep and gives you more energy! This is so important if you have little ones running around and it feels like you have a million things to do.

In the past, I've heard numerous women say, "I don't want to lift weights because I'm afraid I'll look like a guy." The women who are afraid to get bulky go running instead, in hopes to lose weight and get toned.  Sure they may loose a few pounds, but they will not have that tiny waist and nice perky butt they were hoping for.

Just to ease your fear, the insanely muscular women that make up a tiny population, are extreme bodybuilders, and are most likely professional. To get those bigger muscles, you have to lift super heavy for years on end! Not only that, but you also have to eat A LOT, not to mention a lot of carbs!

More benefits

In a recent article, those with sarcopenia (the loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of the aging process) were at a higher risk for cancer. "Sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) was identified in 1,086 patients, or some 34 percent of the group. The rate of low muscle radiodensity was even greater, with 1,199 patients (37 percent) presenting those traits. The median follow-up time was six years. Over that time, 619 of the patients died. The patients who had sarcopenia showed a 41 percent greater mortality rate, according to the stats analysis by the scientists. Patients with the greatest amount of total adipose tissue (body fat) showed a higher death rate, at a 35 percent higher rate. Taken together, those with the muscle loss and high-fat composition fared the worst, with an 89 percent higher mortality. (BMI calculations did not significantly relate to overall mortality, however). Those with greater muscle mass had a lower risk of cancer. Those with higher fat content had a higher 35% rate and those with lower muscle."

My story

I started lifting weights in college about 15 years ago, when I decided to play a sport. Although I hated it at the time, it sparked a passion and created a new and healthy habit for me. It was nothing crazy, but it was something that I was happy to add into my daily routine. I had continuously lifted weights and ate healthy, but I had reached a plateau and wanted to challenge myself even more. So in 2014, I decided to do my first fitness competition. I wanted to do it the right way so I hired a coach who sent me custom weekly workout and nutrition plans. These would change based on my progression. I followed my personalized plan and did everything my coach told me. My workouts didn't change too much, but I was working out about 30 minutes longer and I was eating more, but more of the healthy foods.  I wasn't going out and eating pizza, ice cream or drinking alcohol. What I did was quite extreme, but there are ways to incorporate healthy eating and working out into your life. And no, you will not look bulky.

What to do

So if you decide to start lifting weights and want to lose weight, here are a few things to remember:

  • Start slow at 2-3 days a week, 30 minutes a day. Then either add a day or 30 minutes.
  • Start with light weights, resistance bands or even body weight (like air squats) if you're timid, then work your way up. Remember, this is a lifestyle change so don't try and rush it.
  • Fat is your friend, in small amounts. If you completely cut out fat, your body will literally think its starving and hold on to fat. Some healthy fats are avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and nuts.
  • Natural sugar, like fruit is OK, also in smaller amounts. I personally try not to eat fruit after lunch.
  • The right carbs are good and are definitely needed when lifting weights! You can't build that nice round booty without the right carbs. Chips and bread don't count. Eat sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa.
  • Try to stay away from processed foods, which is basically anything that comes in a package. If you're craving chips, trying making crunchy sweet potato fries.
  • After a few weeks of lifting weights, you will start to feel bloated or puffy. Stay calm. This is normal!  Your body is still learning to boost your metabolism to burn that extra fat while building muscle at the same time. Trust the process and continue on.

For the Moms

It is not easy to get to the gym. Let's face it, if you have little ones running around, you're probably too tired to do anything. And if you have the energy to do something, you may feel like you should do chores instead. I totally get it because I am right there. I am in it. I am deep in the vicious cycle. I've been too tired to go to the gym, which means I'm too tired to cook and prep my  meals, which means I eat like crap. Then after eating that sugary crap, I crash and get tired again. It's an ongoing cycle. And when you're not working out or eating the right foods, you won't be sleeping well. The good thing is that you can stop all of that. Yes, only you and yes that is a good thing. You have control. You have the power to make the right choices. Sit down with your husband, babysitter or caregiver and work out a schedule so you can either go prep your healthy foods or workout and stick to it! The accountability is key and will aid in your success long run. Not only will you have more energy to keep up with your little ones, but you will also look Ah-Mazing! It's so possible.

I would love to answer any of your questions about how to make this work for you. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email!


The Mama H was created as an outlet to share different ideas than those generally shared through mainstream. I am a wife and a mama, living in Southern California. I am currently working a full time job in the corporate world, but my real passion is to educate others on traditional nourishment, safe products free of harmful ingredients, staying fit and taking care of ourselves from the inside out.


The Mama H

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Over the past several years, living in the moment has made the plan harder to see.  When you are living it, how can you possible understand that there is a plan for your pain.  I am a big picture person, I don't just look at the specific moment but rather every single thing that moment can create through a ripple effect.  My brain is always overwhelmed at seeing every angle, that sometimes I forget the 'now' part.  

I know that living our life forward is what we are supposed to do and we shouldn't be looking backwards but it's in the looking backwards that we often see the pieces of His plan fitting together.  It's amazing when you look back at your life and see some of the WHY's you were so sure were a mistake but yet how they've been woven into some of the most wonderful moments yet there are still others you haven't quiet seen a reason for yet.  Right now we are in the midst of a great challenge, I cannot see the other side nor am I able to see the why in our pain.  I know that some day I may understand better, I may never learn the why but hopefully I can gain some understanding of the lesson in our pain.


Have you looked back to see the beauty from your pain?  Can you possibly understand your current struggles now?