Why Sometimes It’s Okay to Not Like Your Kids

Whoahh okay, before you all jump down my throat about the title let me be clear about something: I DO NOT hate my children. Far from it! I LOVE them more than I could describe in words. Any mom would agree with me that the love for our children is unmatched. BUT, sometimes those precious little humans we birthed can be little you-know-whats, (starts with an “s” to clue you in a little). Also, every mom on the planet can agree with me on that one!

The thing is, kids have no filter whatsoever, and can be so cruel without even trying. So, most of the time when they want to say something it just comes out with little to no thought behind it. Like my four-year-old son who, no matter where we are, will declare for whoever is within earshot that he’s farted. Or my eight-year-old daughter who when she saw my newly chopped hair immediately said “I HATE it Mom.” Sure makes a girl feel good about herself am I right?

When I was a new mom I remember holding my son and trying to imagine ever putting him in time-out or actually yelling at him. Oh boy was I naive! Of course when they’re tiny and can’t really talk yet it’s impossible to see what little monsters they can become as a toddler. Yes, the terrible 2’s are real my friend. As are the terrible 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, and so on. Every age has begun a new phase of parenting, and they’ve all had positives and negatives to them.

No matter what stage of parenthood you’re in though, it’s all just plain hard. Being a parent is THE hardest job in the world, but on the flip side also the most rewarding. When my husband Jess and I decided we were ready to start a family we had no clue how hard it really would be, I mean no one does, but we knew we were ready to try our best and to do it together.

Today was just a hard day for me as a mom. It happens to everyone. It got so spectacularly emotional for me that I needed to leave the house tonight by myself and just have some alone time. I went and sat by my mom’s graveside and had myself a good ugly cry. My husband gracefully finished dinner with the kids, cleaned up, and they all were ready with hugs and “sorry’s” when I came back. What happened you ask?

Well, first off, I was exhausted from a terrible night of sleep. The aforementioned flatulent four-year-old has a terrible habit of coming into our bed at night that we just cannot break. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he HAS to be on top of me, usually on my face. I have nicknamed him the “face hugger” which is a nod to the movie ‘Alien’ for those of you who don’t get the reference. So, starting off my Monday tired was not good.

We also are currently packing for our move to Nashville which has been no small feat. I am already stressed up to my eyeballs about that, and our house looks like a literal bomb went off because of it. Clutter and disorder in my living space really throws me off mentally too, so add that to the list. Also, my husband is leaving for Nashville this Friday with our first moving truck. He will be gone for several weeks and when he’s gone I tend to be extra emotional and vulnerable.

Then, when the big kids got home from school the mom-shaming began. And no, it’s not the same as mom-to-mom shaming. This is straight from the mouths of the babes you gave birth to telling you how crappy of a job you’re doing. Oh, they’re so sweet when they can’t talk yet, but once they can form sentences they also form little opinions, grudges, picket lines, committees, and okay I’m exaggerating juuuuust a bit. Once they can, your kids will judge you for everything! Your clothes, hair, makeup, how you drive, what you watch, your music, your cooking, how you talk, I mean this list is endless. Basically nothing is safe from them, and you are forced to take a good, hard look at yourself from the perspective of a ruthless child.

So, I actually got dressed today! Woo! What’s the big deal, right? Well, on a normal day I usually am never in anything but workout clothes or comfy T-shirt’s and sweats at home. But today, despite being tired I actually got up and went to the gym in the morning! I usually do go, but never until the afternoon because I’m too tired and unmotivated. So, since I was done early I went home and showered and got dressed in a decent shirt and jeans. My oldest son, when he saw me said:

“Where are you going?”

To which I replied:

“Nowhere, why?”

To which he replied:

“Oh, you are just usually never dressed up.”

Dressed up?! You’re joking, right? This ain’t dressed up honey, but this momma is allowed to actually put some effort into herself even if she isn’t going to go anywhere!

Granted, my son didn’t mean for his words to shame me, but I really was offended by it! So silly right? But it’s not! We as moms should not feel like just because we may spend a majority of our time at home, that we have to dress accordingly. There really is no “mom uniform”! Yes, most days gym clothes are what’s best for me, and that is GREAT. But today I felt like putting on makeup and doing my hair on a weekday and that’s okay too!

From there, it all just went downhill.The two oldest could not agree on anything it seemed. A game they were playing ended in tears because one wasn’t “playing fair”. Then building of forts turned into a battle of who was getting the most blankets which also ended in tears.

I was making spaghetti for dinner which should be easy right? WRONG. One kid doesn’t like spaghetti but she loves sauce, another one loves the noodles but no sauce, and the third? Well, he ate everything without complaint (bless him!). But the two who were complaining just wouldn’t let it go. So as I’m making a meal all I’m hearing is whining whining and more whining. THEN the same two children started fighting in the other room as I’m cooking. I listened for a few moments hoping they would work it out, but is soon escalated to hitting and crying so I intervened. I sent them both to their respective rooms and maybe raised my voice a little more than was necessary. My oldest son on his way out stopped, looked me in the eyes and said:

“I always knew you hated me.”

Whoah. Okay first of all, not even a little true! But no, you know what, it’s a little true right now. I love you so much son, but right now I don’t really like you and how you’re choosing to act…… is what I SHOULD have said to him. Instead, I stayed silent and kept making dinner, praying for bedtime to come quickly.

Dinner was no better with the bad behavior. By the end of it, I slammed my plates in the sink, grabbed my car keys and purse and headed for the garage. My husband knew what was happening and told me he would handle it.

My kids love me, but sometimes they have a crappy way of showing it! Kids tend to not realize how hurtful they are, until it’s too late. But that’s what we need to make sure to teach them so they are aware of what’s okay and not okay to say and do.

Sometimes I feel so beat up as a mom like I’m some sort of mommy punching bag. That’s where I was last night. When these times come and I feel myself spiraling down it’s okay to step back and take a few moments for myself. We mom’s are doing the hardest job in the world: raising little humans to be loving and good adults! It’s not an easy business and sometimes I just DO NOT like my clients, and you know what, it’s okay!



The Raw Brunette

New Year, Who Dis?

Okay, so it’s now March, but this is my first post in the new year so bear with me. I’m not gonna lie, 2019 so far has not been my favorite. Our family has been perpetually sick since the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. We have had stomach bugs, diarrhea, pink eye, Influenza, sinus infections, Croup, ear infections, and chest colds!

Sounds like a party am I right? 2019’s really not winning me over.

On top of the revolving door of sickness, this new year has presented a lot of changes for our family. All of them are good ones, but involve a lot of time and work. To be honest, I haven’t even felt like writing, like AT ALL. So, that’s why there has been a pretty big gap between my last post until now. Life has just felt a bit overwhelming because of all that’s been going on, so writing wasn’t really a priority to me. But now that I’m sitting down and putting these feelings into words I can tell you that I have missed it! I’m going to make sure I start writing more often again. So here is an update on all that has been going on:

First, Jess and I have been working our butts off fixing up the first home we owned, (which we have been renting out),and with the aforementioned sicknesses we have all been having this has been a HARD. Jess and I would often have to split up, and one stay home with the sickies, while the other went to go put a few hours in, and then we would switch. It was a long few months but I am happy to announce we officially listed it yesterday! I am so relieved it’s done because even though it didn’t initially seem like a lot of work, it WAS! We would think it would be done, and then another little project would appear. I’m a little sad to see this home go. We have so many memories attached to it, and being inside it so much recently made me nostalgic. But, we moved on to bigger and better!

The second big announcement is that I have chosen to go back to school! I got my Associate’s degree in 2010, and would like to now get my Bachelor’s degree. I have chosen to go into Social Work, with an emphasis on Human Rights. My dream is to work for the UN, but I know I need to start small and work my way up. I was so inspired by my trip to Rwanda and I have a very strong desire to help people. I would love to work abroad, but can do plenty of amazing things locally as well. So, for this momma, school is gonna be back in session! I’m a little nervous to be going back to school in my mid-thirties but I know I’ve got this!

The third announcement is that we are moving out of Utah to Tennessee!


I know, guys, this is huge news! I will do an entire post about our move soon, but for now all I can really say is that Jess and I have felt for a while now that we needed to get out of Utah and let our kids experience other parts of the country, and the world for that matter! But, we aren’t made of money so picking up and moving to say Switzerland isn’t exactly realistic. A girl can dream though! So Tennessee it is!

The hardest part, is that we will be far from family. It has been such a blessing to be close to everyone, but for now our own little family needs this adventure. Jess and I have discussed it, prayed about it, and slept on it, and we know it’s the right decision. My twin sister Aly has no choice though, and is coming with us whether she wants to or not!

So, with a move looming over us (like in four months!) across the country, the packing up of our home has got to happen, and fast! Now that our other home is done being fixed up, I can concentrate solely on packing up our belongings and figuring out what’s not going with us. Marie Kondo could not have come on Netflix at a better time! I am gonna have one heck of an amazing garage sale in a few months, so keep your eyes peeled local Utahns!

So, there you have it. That’s pretty much what’s been going on with us lately. Life has been very busy, and doesn’t have any indication of slowing down. But here’s hoping that the sicknesses at least can be done in our family so we don’t end up having 2019 being the year of illnesses!



The Raw Brunette

Lucky #13

December 30, 2005 was a snowy day in Salt Lake City, Utah. So snowy that it was pretty miserable weather for a wedding. But, it was my wedding day and it was going to take place no matter how yucky the weather was.

Despite the unfortunate weather, it was an incredible day for Jess and I. Not everything went according to plan, but it didn’t ruin my day because when it all came down to it I was still marrying the man I loved.

Those who know me well, know that I am an incredibly emotional person, and I can pretty much cry at the drop of a hat. When Jess and I were in our wedding ceremony, I found myself so overwhelmingly happy that I could not cry, but my sweet Jess (who rarely cries), was a sobbing mess. The love I felt for him seeing his raw emotion further solidified for me our bond was true.

So here we were, two kids getting hitched after a year and a half of meeting. A lot of people thought we were crazy, but the love we felt for one another was undeniable and we thought “Why wait?”. Thirteen years later, and he is still my very best friend and our love is stronger than ever.

Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Don’t get me wrong: marriage is HARD. I was not naive thinking that it would just be a happily ever after for us once we said “I do”. I went into our marriage knowing that it would be work, and that we would need to figure out a good balance and way of life so that we wouldn’t go nuts.

Take our honeymoon for example: I got sick on the plane to St. Maarten and was sick the first day and a half of our trip. And by sick I mean diarrhea and vomiting at the same time and pretty much sleeping on our hotel bathroom floor. Jess and I waited until we were married to make love so, pretty much the mystery and romance I had been imagining was horribly sabotaged. I was a hot mess!

Thankfully, Jess handled it like a champ and took excellent care of me, and when I was feeling better our honeymoon was amazing the rest of the time! So was this some huge disaster? Of course not: this was real life! You never know what’s going to happen, but as long as you are solid with your partner and really hold true to your vows you’ve made, then when these unexpected bumps in the road happen you deal with it and move on.

Communication Is Key

I have had several friends comment to me that they admire Jess and I and feel like we have things “figured out” with marriage. I really take that as a compliment but I have to let you in on a little secret: we don’t have ANYTHING figured out!

When we were first married, I rarely told Jess what I was feeling when something pissed me off. I’m not sure if I was just afraid to speak up, or felt like I needed to pick my battles. But whatever the reason, it was not good for us. I would hold on to things and stew and then eventually break down and we would have a huge fight. It wasn’t until a few years into our marriage that I finally figured out that the issue was ME not speaking up. Now, when I am upset I tell him and we talk it out and then figure out a solution. No, this still may not be an easy process, but the key is that I am communicating how I feel instead of holding back.

While we are on the subject of anger, that old quote “Don’t go to bed angry”, is not something I live by. Go to bed angry! Sometimes, hashing out your issues when you are angry makes things worse! When you speak in anger it only ends up with you saying things you don’t mean and will regret later. I suggest instead, to wait until you cool off a little, take a step back and assess the situation, and then go into the conversation. No, it doesn’t have to be the next morning, but WAIT until the anger subsided because a lot of the times it blinds us and makes us say hurtful things. I promise you, your issues will be easier to solve once anger is removed.

You really cannot have a good relationship with someone if there is no communication. Jess and I have now gotten to a point where we are so comfortable with one another that we can talk about anything- even the painful stuff. But we love each other enough to talk about it and then work through it. We only got to this point because of the mistakes we have made and what we learned from them.

Growing Pains

Like I said, marriage is hard, but it’s also pretty amazing. You really have to suffer through the bad moments to truly appreciate the good ones. Jess and I have had our fair share of bad moments, and things we wish we could take back, but at the same time it has made us who we are today and solidified our love.

One of the things I am most grateful for that we got married young, is that we essentially got to grow up together. I was 20, and he was 24 on our wedding day, and even though I felt pretty grown up, let’s be honest I was a baby!

Jess and I have been able to go on this journey into adulthood together, and have had some crazy adventures along the way. He has helped me become the woman I am today, and I know the same is true for him about me. Then, when we became parents, an entirely new spectrum of adulthood was thrown at us and we had to rely on one another and teach each other in ways we hadn’t before. We now have three beautiful kids who enrich and bring so much joy to our lives, but who are constantly testing us with new issues as they get older. It hasn’t all been easy, and won’t be in the future I am sure, but having him by my side helps ease the anxiety for me just knowing he’s there with me.

So here are some of my “words of wisdom” with marriage that I have learned:

  • Say sorry- even if it takes a day or two. Do it.
  • Call just to say “I love you”. Texting is good too, but letting them hear it is better
  • Say thank you and let them know you appreciate them
  • If you like or don’t like something SPEAK UP
  • Try new things, change it up, spice it up!
    Don’t become complacent- put in the work! Let them know they are worth it and that you are too
    Help each other.
    Don’t go one day without telling them how much you love them. Even if it’s just a short phone call like listed above. It makes a difference

I am not a specialist, (obviously), but these are my two cents from my experience these past 13 years. All I know is, that despite all we have been through, I still feel that same love, (only stronger), as I did the day we got married. I feel extremely fortunate that I would not hesitate to say “I do” to him today if we were to get married. He is still my best friend and the one I want to be with forever thirteen years later and 70 years from now too.

I love you baby! Happy lucky number 13!

Photo by Ashley Dehart Photography



The Raw Brunette


Pretty much the day after Halloween ends, the Christmas season begins. Or at least in every store it does! I feel like the Christmas decor starts sneaking out earlier and earlier, and it makes me a little mad. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet- can we just Ho-Ho-Hold on please?

The holidays seem to go by fast enough on their own, so why do we feel like we need to rush on to the ones that haven’t even happened yet? Slow down people! Let’s savor each holiday and actually enjoy them for once!

Buy! Buy! Buy!

I’m gonna be honest, I have found myself relating so much to Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey version of ‘The Grinch’ so much in the past few years. At the beginning of the film, (which my kids have been watching on Netflix since like May), she is with her Father Christmas shopping and holding an enormous stack of presents. She is watching the chaos around them as people are hurrying to buy as much as they can in the rush before Christmas. Cindy turns to her father and says:

Everybody seems to kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?

I agree. 100%. The stuff, all the stuff really isn’t so important. It is, in fact, superfluous. What IS important is making valuable memories with your families, and remembering the real spirit of Christmas which is giving and love. I loved my presents of course as a kid, but the magic of the holidays and our family traditions were what I looked forward to and remember most fondly. Some of my most favorite memories as a kid? Going to cut down our tree, baking cookies with my mom, decorating our tree, having our holiday celebrations with our adopted family the Quinns, Mannheim Steamroller on repeat, and going to see the Wanamaker’s Christmas Light show in downtown Philly. The stuff? Although of course meaningful at the time, is all but forgotten now.

My husband and I have been trying to be more conscious of giving our children more useful gifts. We get them at least one of their “wants” from their lists, (come on we are not monsters!), but then try to give them something educational. The past two years we have gotten various Smithsonian encyclopedia books which have been a huge hit, and last year we got a huge box of geodes that they could smash open themselves. We also make it a point that Santa brings us new board games and card games we can play as a family. Game nights are big in our house, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together and connect in a fun way. He also always brings the kids each a new book- reading is big with us too!

This year, we have also been trying to do more “experience” gifts like classes or tickets to events or performances. Getting out and experiencing something to me is far more meaningful than a toy. I am in no way parent shaming anyone. We still get our kids plenty of toys, but we are really trying to focus on what would be the most beneficial for our kids too.

Blue Christmas

Unfortunately this season of joy can also trigger really strong emotions. Depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness can be exacerbated tremendously. There always seems to be more and more pressure to have the best Christmas ever. We are constantly bombarded by movies, ads, signs, and social media telling us: our holiday decor needs an upgrade, reminding you how you’re still single, that your life isn’t where you want it to be, that you need to lose weight for the new year, how much your cooking sucks, and that you have to buy presents to show everyone you love them. I mean, I could go on and on.

This evening as my husband and I were putting up our house lights outside, he asked me a question that has been floating around my mind ever since. He said:

“What’s the point of all this? Don’t you think in a way that we have all taken the holidays to this extreme and we have lost sight of what it’s really about?”

I think this is true, but that you also need a good balance. For instance, I think the decorations and lights help make this season so magical for my kids! I love pulling out my boxes every year and watching the kids eyes light up as they re-discover favorite ornaments or nativity scenes we have. The magic needs to remain, but don’t go overboard and become Clark Griswald or anything.

For the second year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has installed giving machines in some major cities around the US and the world. They sort of work like vending machines, but you are paying to give to people in need. It can be as small as glasses or socks, and as big as a cow! Your money will go towards buying what you choose and someone here or abroad will be given that special thing. I think this is such an amazing idea and gives people an opportunity to spread love.

Photo by R Scott Lloyd from Lds.org

Let’s just remember to be extra kind to those who need it this season too. Reach out to people who are single and maybe bring them some homemade Christmas cookies or invite them for dinner. If you have someone you know that struggles with their mental health, make sure they know they are loved this time of year too. A little love goes a long way.

Keeping the Memories Alive

For me, Christmas is especially hard without my mom. Everything reminds me of her, including most of the decorations I now have in my home that were hers. I have found myself this past week particularly missing her, and getting an ache in my chest as I wished she was still here.

The best thing we have done and will continue to do, is keep her memory alive by keeping traditions going.

Mom started these candy sleigh races when we were in high school when she was a seminary teacher. It was a fun game to keep her students motivated early in the morning, but it also became a favorite family Christmas time activity. The object is to create a sleigh out of candy- a large bar is the base and two candy canes are the runners. You can add as much or little candy as you want to try and make your sled faster. The names of the sleighs are always fun too. Then we turn a table on its side so it slopes down and we have heats and race them until there is a winner. My kids and my brothers kids look forward to it every year!

My stepmom has been really sweet and continued this tradition with our family, and has even started doing it with her own kids!

When I find my heart feeling heavy this season because I feel like I am not doing enough, or that the pain of missing my mom is too much, I will really try to spread some love instead. I have always found that helping others gives me so much joy. I want my kids too to understand how privileged they are and to remember to give back because they can. The reason for the season is not the stuff, it’s love. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the presents under the tree. We need to remember to spend time and make memories with our loved ones, or give back to those who are less fortunate.

So, thanks to Cindy Lou Who and her inspiration – I won’t find myself kerbabbled this year!



The Raw Brunette

What If?

‘What’ and ‘if’ are generally very non-threatening words when on their own. But, when put side by side they suddenly become a very loaded question.

“What if?”

Suffering from anxiety, I fall victim to the constant “what if?” battle. It has gotten so much more controllable for me to handle since I started therapy and medication which has made a world of difference for my quality of life. But let’s rewind to just over a year ago when I was at my worst. Back then, the struggle of the “well what if this happens, and then this happens because of that?”, would send me snowballing into panic oblivion.

Now, if I find myself slipping back into the “what if” cycle I can talk my way out of it thanks to the things I have learned from my therapist. But, that’s not to say that I still don’t give in to it now and again. We all do, because we are human.

A Bumpy Journey

In general, the what ifs of our lives tend to hold us back from opportunities and adventures. I know that I have on many occasions been held back by them.

My entire life I felt held back by my fears of what other people thought of me, or the fear of failure. My anxiety and OCD which i have talked about before did not help this. I truly cared what people’s opinions were of me, and after being the subject of some pretty cruel bullying in my delicate middle school years, it was, “What if they make fun of me?” that I feared most. All I wanted was to fit in; standing out to me was bad.

By the time I graduated high school I had more confidence in myself, but it would be short lived as during my freshman semester at Utah State University I would be a victim of sexual assault mere weeks after starting school. The trauma of that incident, coupled with the persecution and threats I received afterwards by people who I thought were my friends made me feel like I was to blame. This spiraled me down a very dark path for a while. I once again had no self confidence and zero drive to take any risks. I wanted no chance of standing out. What ifs once again ruled my life.

Marriage, Motherhood, and Medication

One of the reasons I loved Jess so much from the start is that I never once felt judged by him for anything I had done in my life. When he and I met, I was still quite a mess from my freshman year at Utah State. He made it easy to be myself, and not be fearful of what he thought of me. Pretty early on in our relationship I felt my walls come down, and for the first time in a long time, I felt safe with someone.

He was just what I needed to “get my groove back” that summer, but I never dreamed we would end up getting married a year and a half later. It was a decision though, I have never questioned or regretted. There were zero of those pesky “what ifs” with him.

Three years later, our first child was born and I was plunged into motherhood. I love being a mom, despite how hard it has been for my mental health. My anxiety came back with a vengeance when I was pregnant, and I suffered postpartum anxiety like nobody’s business. It got increasingly worse with each pregnancy, and by the time my youngest was born, and he was rushed to the NICU because he was turning blue I suffered a nervous- breakdown in the maternity wing. It’s not my best moment, I’ll admit. I had come unhinged to a spectacular degree. My body physically shook for 8 hours afterwards.

That night taught me a lot about how connected moms are to their children- even just hours after birth. My doctor came and checked me over and heavily sedated me so I could calm down. He then advised that I be discharged and would recover easier at home. I joke with Jess to this day that they didn’t want to handle my crazy anymore so they sent me home!

I love my children and have been very blessed that I have not had to work and can stay home with them. Being a mom though, is not easy and it’s natural to compare yourself to other moms. I found myself doing this, and those little “what ifs” crept their way in. “What if I’m not doing a good job?”, “What if my kids aren’t learning enough?”, and “What if they grow up to resent me?” were all questions I would ask myself. These what ifs did nothing but make me feel inadequate which of course was not the case.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. I have come to realize though is that we as moms do what we can for our kids. Our best, even though it may not feel like it, is enough and our kids love us no matter what.

What If It Was a Good Thing?

The what ifs of life are inevitable. A valuable change of perspective that I have learned is that what ifs can be positive! Here’s an example:

“What if I try and fail?” (Negative)

“What if you try and learn something new about yourself?” (Positive)

Like in the example, it’s easy to fear failure. Putting yourself out there is so scary. If you choose to switch the focus from on how it didn’t work out this time, to what went right or what you learned, it will be a much different experience.

I have always loved this quote:

“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

It’s such a great reminder that the failures will be inevitable, but we should focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Changing your paradigm to a positive one no matter what will be a life changer. I know it has been for me.

Being a blogger and an influencer has been scary for me. Like I’ve said, putting yourself out there for the world to judge is scary. There are plenty of what ifs that have tried to hold me back. “What if no one reads my blogs?”, “What if I’m just not as popular as other influencers?”, and “What if people think I’m a joke?” are just a few. There also have been, and will be trolls who live to tear others down. I’ve experienced my share of them already, and it’s extremely hurtful if you allow it to hurt you.

I chose to be brave and put myself out there despite all these doubts and fears. It’s still scary for me, but I have learned so much about myself from pushing through and doing what I really want to do. My what ifs have started to turn positive. “What if my blog helps someone who’s struggling?”, “What if I inspire others?”, and “What if I actually succeed?”.

Honestly, you’ll never know the answer to any of those what ifs unless you take that leap of faith and try. Go ahead, you may just surprise yourself.



The Raw Brunette

The Open Road Part 1

This past Saturday morning I took my minivan through the car wash and then proceeded to vacuum and clean the inside. 45 minutes later, I was still cleaning. I must have filled an entire 60 gallon trash can with garbage too. The amount of smashed and ground-up food on the carpet was beyond gross, and there were some particularly nauseating items that I could not even identify that were swiftly thrown out as well.

It’s amazing what three small humans ranging in ages from 9 to 4 can accumulate in a car when you’re on a road trip.

Even as I was what felt like elbow deep in crushed up goldfish crackers, I could not help but smile as I went over the 16- day epic road trip our family had just gotten home from the night before. The mashed up crackers were worth it for the amazing memories we had just made driving to Tennessee and back.

The Pup

About a week before our road trip I was stressed about where our beloved Riley was going to be during our trip. We would have just brought him along, but we were going to be staying in some hotels that weren’t dog friendly along the way, and our cabin does not allow animals in Tennessee.

Thankfully, my Aunt Debbie and her husband Brian in Denver told us to bring him to them. They have a 13-year-old Shih Tzu named Poky, and are dog lovers so we knew Riley would be well loved with them.

So, we packed up the van and made our first 8 hour day drive to Arvada, Colorado. Our first day went pretty well, although we ran into pretty heavy snow in Vail which seemed so surreal! Other than that slow down, the kids all did great so we were hopeful the trip would go without a hitch.

Since we were only spending the night, we stayed up and talked late with Debbie and Brian and let the kids stay up late too so they could get some wiggles out. It was so nice to catch up, and Poky and Riley hit it off immediately so I was relieved about that. Riley is like my fourth child, so knowing he was in good hands helped me feel a ton better to go on our trip.

Nature Sucks!

Our first major stop after Denver was to be Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see my birth mom Sherri. She is currently a Creative Writing Professor at Marquette University, and we worked out our trip schedule so that we could arrive on a Saturday and spend the weekend with her when she was not teaching. It would take us two days to get there from Denver, so we decided to stop halfway in Omaha, Nebraska.

I found us a cheap hotel on Booking.com and unfortunately we got what we paid for! It wasn’t the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in, (I need to write about the Miami hotel that had a horrifying pool of blood on one of the beds!That’s a whole other story) ,BUT this hotel had an indoor pool! So we were able to take the kids swimming that night to help wear them out. We all showered after and went to bed after feasting on some amazing tacos from a local place right next to our hotel that I CANNOT remember for the life of me. The kids thought eating in bed was the best thing ever, but let’s just say I didn’t have to sleep in their bed afterwards!

Like I said, the hotel was not the best. It was also not in the greatest neighborhood, and we arrived on a Friday. So, there was quite a rowdy gang of people who decided it was okay to party in the hallways until 4 AM. They were so rowdy that I got up to double and triple check the sturdiness of our door locks!

The next morning it was no surprise that we slept right through our alarms and missed the free breakfast (but I’m gonna be honest and guess it was probably a blessing in disguise!)

We instead packed up the van and stopped by a local grocery store for some muffins, bananas, and yogurt and filled up on that. Then even though we had another 7.5 hour drive ahead of us to Milwaukee, we decided to check out downtown Omaha since neither of us have ever been. I have driven through Nebraska plenty of times, but we always stayed in Lincoln.

We were impressed with Pioneer Park, which is a park right in the center of downtown which was dedicated to the Pioneers who trekked across the plains. There are many large bronze statues of different groups of pioneers. The kids may or may not have climbed all over them, but we figured it was okay.

It was a good little place to explore before we hit to road to Milwaukee.

This third straight day of being in the car was really starting to wear on the kiddos. We decided they needed to not watch the movie player the entire day so we turned it off and urged them to draw, color, read, or play with some of the things we brought along to keep them entertained. Jess even gave them the suggestion:

“Just look out the windows and enjoy nature!”

Memphis was completely enraged by this idea and yelled out in reply:

“Nature sucks!”

He did not appreciate us getting a good laugh about it either.

Unfortunately this drive also involved me getting pulled over somewhere in Eastern Nebraska. Thankfully the officer lowered my speeding ticket by $100 so it was only $87.

Let’s just say we were all relieved to pull into Milwaukee proper around 8 PM and go up to Sherri’s apartment knowing we would be staying put for two nights.

Don’t Be Curt About the Curds

It was so nice to see Sherri again. I haven’t seen her since early August when she, along with all of my sisters and my grandparents met up in Blackfoot, Idaho to attend a funeral for my Papa’s brother, Lin.

It was nice to be able to see her for a day and a half in Milwaukee. I flew out to see her two years ago, but Jess and the kids had never been.

Sherri’s husband Rick sadly was not there. He is currently in Albuquerque for a construction job that he started in September. So we were bummed to not see him, but grateful for the time with Sherri.

She was ready for the littles- and even had cute fish cupcakes already made (she’s an amazing baker), and cute little Halloween sticky window decals that were perfect for her apartment full of windows overlooking downtown.

I have zero doubts that her entire building knew we spent the weekend. Let’s just say my children don’t know how to be courteously quiet in apartments.

That first night we caught up, ate some pizza, and talked until we were exhausted. We slept in her front room where she had a full size Purple mattress for guests, and the kids were surprisingly super stoked to sleep on the couch or a nest on the floor so we were happy they were content.

The next morning once we all got up and readied ourselves, we drove out to the lakeside to explore. Lake Michigan is a marvel to see in person! You don’t realize just how huge it is. A ferry takes about 4 hours to cross it! We walked along the shore where there’s a cool kite shop, and a really unique looking art museum. We discussed whether it was a whale or a sting ray, and decided any answer is right.

The cafeteria was on the bottom level, and there was a cool art display made by locals of interlocking cardboard blocks that had all be drawn, painted, or decorated in some way. They formed various archways, forts, and shapes. The kids had fun running through them and picking out which ones they liked best.

We made our way back to the van, and headed to get some lunch because the children were displaying symptoms of extreme hangriness.

After lunch, we made our way to the central downtown area in the hopes of showing Jess the Bronze Fonz statue. If you didn’t know, the show Happy Days was based in Milwaukee, so what better way to commemorate it then to make a bronze statue of Fonzi am I right?

Well, due to some unforeseen construction and road/sidewalk closures we were unable to reach him! Jess assured Sherri it was alright, and we enjoyed walking along the Milwaukee River which runs through the city. As we made our way back to the van, Jess wanted to go into a cheese store. We all sampled various yummy cheeses, and Jess was overjoyed to get himself a bag of cheese curds that weren’t fried. Apparently, Milwaukee’s “thing” is to deep-fry everything, including cheese curds.

The kids had fun trying on various “Cheese Head” hats in the store too.

That evening we made some dinner and watched Sunday Night Football and pretty much talked until Sherri needed to go to bed. She had to work in the morning and needed to be up early. So we said our goodbyes that night, although she did wake me up in the morning for one more hug which I was so grateful for.

We slept in a little bit, and took our time getting ready because our next stop was Chicago and the drive was only an hour and a half from Milwaukee. So we hit the road again, thankful to not be in the car for 7-8 hours bound for the Windy City. More on that in my next post!



The Raw Brunette

Golden Girl

Colours are the smiles of nature – James Henry Leigh Hunt

One of the things I love most about the change from Summer to Fall is the changing of the leaves. Here in Utah, the changes start up on the mountains around late August. By the end of September, the mountains and surrounding canyons are an explosion of red, yellow, and orange.

The vivid colors never cease to not impress me, and I always find myself saying “Oooh!” And “WOW!” like a cliche tourist. But I’m not ashamed to say that these beautiful colors ignite my soul, because they do. We all ought to enjoy the beauty of nature and her canvas of color in Fall.

Mellow Yellow

A popular drive this time of year in Utah is called the Alpine Loop. It’s a 20 mile loop from Sundance to the American Fork Canyon that takes you through gorgeous Aspen trees, views of the Wasatch mountains, and Mt. Timpanogos. I had the opportunity to drive up there three times this past weekend and enjoyed every minute of it!

One of my favorite things in the loop is the groves of Aspen trees. The impressive white trees are just as dreamy in real life as they are in photos. They were definitely my favorites this weekend, and their leaves right now are a gorgeous yellow.

I felt myself very drawn to the yellow leaves more than the red and orange ones. I found it interesting that yellow would be so prominent with me this weekend when it is not a favorite color of mine. I have talked before about colors and their meanings in reference to chakras. The Solar Plexus Chakra is located in your diaphragm and is associated with the color yellow. The meanings associated with this chakra are:

  • Will power
  • Taking Control
  • Independence
  • Identity
  • Making Decisions
  • Confidence

What’s interesting to me about this is that lately I have been making some huge decisions with what I want to do with my life. I have been setting goals and making dreams and taking certain steps recently that will hopefully make them become a reality. It was scary to take these steps, because when isn’t it scary to venture out of your little comfort bubble? But I have felt more free and confident in myself than I have in a long time now that these things have been set into motion. Even though things are a bit chaotic and unknown at this point, I feel settled and peaceful with where life is headed.

That Sunny Warm Feeling

My mom has been visiting me in my dreams every night for almost three weeks now. I go through periods where she doesn’t appear to me at all, and then like now, she will come to me every night. I revel in my time with her in dreams, and I have found myself waking up feeling comforted and given a little boost. I know she has been visiting me because I have been making these big decisions that have been hard to do.

On top of that, being a mom lately has been very hard. Some incidents have come up with my children and I have felt lately that my hold on the reigns of mothering my children has not been the firmest. Specific things have happened that I was in no way prepared for so it threw me off, and have caused a lot of heartache and crying myself to sleep. There have been so many times lately I have ached for my mom, and she knows it, so coming to me in dreams is the only way she can.

Also, the yellow leaves. Yellow was her favorite color, and will always remind me of her. She painted two kitchens in two of her different homes yellow. At her funeral we ordered her casket spray in a beautiful yellow display which was absolutely stunning in the middle of bleak February.

As my husband and our kids hiked around yesterday amongst the aspens with their yellow leaves, my heart felt very full, and my mind was drawn suddenly to my mom. I knew she was communicating to me that she was there and loved me.

Hiking in the crisp mountain air, hearing my children laughing while hand in hand with Jess I felt a sense of calm. Being in nature in general always settles the anxiety storms inside of me, but this weekend I felt like the difficult life choices and work I have put in lately are not for nothing.

Also, this unmistakable warm feeling came over me and helped me to see that I am not failing quite as bad at this mom stuff as I think I am.

Going into this next week, I will try not to doubt myself like I have been. I need to give myself a little more credit than I do. We tend to be our own worst critics am I right? So here’s a word of advice to all of you:

Cut yourself some slack!

I need to take my own advice here too. We are all doing the best we can with the best we have been given in this life. That’s not to say we cannot improve ourselves, of COURSE we can. But when you’re giving it your absolute best, there really is no shame in the outcome.

So, go out there this week and lift your head a little higher. You have so much to offer, and are valuable and can contribute so much. Use that Solar Plexus chakra and think happy, positive thoughts.

Better yet, make them sunny yellow ones.



The Raw Brunette

Photo by Jeremy Robert Photo

Teeth Whitening With No Pain?

Hey guys! This is my first ever blog post where I am collaborating with a company. What is this company you ask? None other than Smile Brilliant!

I may or may not be a little obsessed with having white teeth. I have tried many whitening strips, and although they may give good results over time there is always one common problem: sensitivity!

I have naturally sensitive teeth to begin with so whitening is always super painful for me to go through.

When I came across Smile Brilliant, the thing about their whitening system that peaked my interest was the sensitivity gel you put on BEFORE you whiten. They claimed that there would be ZERO sensitivity or pain. I was in!

They sent me a kit in the mail to make a mold of my upper and lower teeth. I sent them back in (at no cost) and about a week later my personalized whitening trays arrived!

The system itself is easy peasy to use. You fill a thin ribbon of the whitening gel onto your trays and then insert them onto your teeth. Then you can leave them on anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on how white you are wanting your teeth and how sensitive. But, if you use the desensitizing gel beforehand you will have NO pain! I’m not lying when I say I had absolute no sensitivity and pain! It was the best!

Now that my teeth are the shade I desired, I only have to use my trays maybe once every week or even every other week!

If you are looking for a great whitening system, look no further than Smile Brilliant- and that’s the honest tooth! 🙂





The Raw Brunette

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Fists of Fury

“5 Activities to Help You Be A Good Mom”

That was the caption under a pin on Pinterest I scrolled across a few days ago. No sooner had I read those words, an intense rage boiled up inside of me. Not just normal rage- “Momma Bear” rage. My husband likes to joke that I am sweet until someone brings out the “Philly Fire” in me and then people better watch out! And nothing stokes that Philly Fire more than my momma bear instincts. Why was this stupid Pinterest pin making me so angry? I wanted to punch the fake smiling mom in the photo in her face. Okay, that’s a tad violent, but who is she to tell me I’m not a good mom? And why would her activities ensure I was a good one? She doesn’t know me or my life!

I truly believe this is why so many women feel like they aren’t good enough. There’s this constant flow of ads on tv, magazines, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram making us feel like we are falling short. Social media in general can make one feel extremely bad about themselves if they are not careful.

Mantras For Mommas

Repeat after me ladies: I am NOT a bad mom!

Whew! Doesn’t that feel good to say out loud? Take it from my own experience: I hear at least once a day from one (or all) of my darling children that I’m “stupid” or that “I’m ruining their life” or that I am the “worst”, etc. etc. – you get the point. Normally these just bounce off of me because I know they don’t mean those words, but on those occasional bad days when their words do cut me down, actually saying I am NOT a bad mom out loud to myself helps! I’m serious! Next time you are feeling pretty low about your ability to parent, just repeat those words to yourself (or any personal variation) and you will feel better.

Some other popular mantras I like to repeat to myself are:

It’s Almost Bedtime

Mommy Is Not A Maid

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Mommys Need Time-outs Too

They’re All Alive So I’m Calling It A Win

I mean, this list is pretty much endless, and yes most of these are supposed to be funny! I would not get through most days without a little humor (and caffeine!)

If you’re day is going south fast, just take a few minutes to yourself. Take a breather, take your caffeine source of choice, sneak one of those treats you hide from the kiddos, repeat a good mantra to yourself and head back in there! It will all be okay.

The Year of No

By May of this past year I was feeling extremely burnt out. Between my kids sporting events, art classes, my sporting events, our church callings, Scouts, traveling, Jess needing to leave for Boise in April until September, my work with the American Cancer Society and with the Rape Recovery Center I was feeling at the end of my rope. We were just TOO busy! I felt like we weren’t spending enough time as a family unit, and it was starting to show. Not in any huge obvious way, but as a momma I could tell my kids were struggling with it.

In June after the Hope and Healing Gala I helped with for the Rape Recovery Center, and my epic trip to Rwanda with my Grandpa, the kids and I made our way to Boise to spend the rest of the summer with Jess while we worked. After the first week of pure summer fun and no plans whatsoever I felt so recharged, happy, and steady. I decided I needed more of that in my life; this coming school year, we would start saying NO!

This means that other than the things we have to do, we will not add more to our load. If we don’t need to commit our precious time we could be spending together, then we won’t. Our kids actually WANT to be with us, and who knows how much longer we can enjoy that? I really felt like we as a family needed some time without extra responsibilities and stress. We are going to focus this time on spending it together and strengthening our family unit while the kids are still little. I stepped down from helping with this year’s event for the American Cancer Society because frankly I was feeling so burnt out, and I needed to spend that quality time with Jess in Boise. Coming home only after a week or two would have not been a good decision.

Without any prompting, our kids have started saying no as well. Calvin after much debate decided he didn’t want to play football. I was proud of him for making that decision on his own, because I knew it was hard for him. Jess and I did not put any pressure on him to play or not, and he felt like it was not something he wanted to pursue this year. He has many years ahead of him left for sports, so I am not worried at all about him “falling behind” or any of that mumbo jumbo. Him not playing  has been a huge change for us from last fall in a positive way. He had practices every day and games every Saturday and by the end of the season he, and us were exhausted! It was fun, but a lot of time commitment. It was also a time commitment that Memphis and Shay had no say in.

So far this school year has been easy peasy. Our days aren’t as hectic and full as they were last fall, and it’s just what we needed right now.  I’m sure next year we will pick right back up and be busy with activities, but I am glad I listened to my gut and decided to start saying no.

Put Up Your Dukes!

As a mom it’s extremely easy to get offended and defensive when it comes to our kids and our ability to raise them. A prime example is me and that pin that made me so angry. I mean really, I have no reason to get so riled up by 9 words, I already know I am an amazing mom to my kids. The word that sticks out in that sentence is MY. These children are mine, and I am the only one who knows them intimately, and know how to cater to their individual needs. No one else would be able to do that! Each child is different, and each family is different.

All I know is, that I love my children fiercely, and I try my darndest to do my very best to raise them right. I make sure they go to bed every single night with kisses and knowing that they are loved. My husband and I parent together with what we feel is right for our family, and what’s right for us isn’t right for the next family- and that’s okay! Every family has unique challenges and beliefs and that’s what makes this world so diverse and beautiful. Our differences and acceptance of those differences is what makes a community better.

So keep doing you moms of the world, cuz you’re doing great!



The Raw Brunette


Remember to Never Forget

“No, my Mom is dead.”

I had to flat out say that to someone a few weeks ago, someone who KNEW she had passed away, but forgot for some reason. It made me cringe to say those words and watch the realization and horror cross their face. They apologized profusely and really, it was fine. It’s not like it was news to me or anything.

Unlike them, I haven’t forgotten and never will.  Even coming up on four years of her being gone, I still think of her daily. It seems impossible for such a huge loss in my life to be forgotten.

You would think the same would apply for huge world events to never be forgotten, but every year when September 11 rolls around it seems like on Facebook and other social media that everyone has to let the world know they haven’t forgotten what happened. Obviously any of us who in some form witnessed that horrible day will never forget any of it. But we have all forgotten in a way, haven’t we? What I mean by that is on September 12, 2001 American pride was booming. Flags were flying off the shelves and were literally everywhere outside. Whether you agreed with your neighbor or not it didn’t matter anymore. Your sexual preference, race, religion, social or economical status, what kind of car you drove, and how big your house was no longer mattered. We were all Americans and proud of it. The coming together of the people was so inspiring to witness, but the news these days shows a much different America.

17 years later, and America seems to be filled with so much hatred, violence, and death.  I think the Black Eyed Peas said it best:

“Where is the love?”

Well, I could go into what I think happened, but honestly, that’s not the point of this post. The point, is what I think we should do to be proactive in mending this broken country in our own little way. Obviously, I’m a stay at home mom in Utah who doesn’t have a huge impact on the world, so starting small seems logical to me! Small and simple things can make big changes too.

Today, for instance I sat down and hand wrote out five cards to people that I haven’t seen in a while that I love dearly. Writing out these personal notes became very emotional, and as I sealed and addressed them all I felt accomplished. Maybe it’s not much, but for me, receiving snail mail is so thrilling because in the days of email, a hand written note seems like a relic. It’s also more intimate and heartfelt. I hope those 5 people get the same amount of love and joy I felt writing them.

We get sort of deceived by social media that we are in touch with the people we love and care about, but it’s all kind of a counterfeit relationship. Social media is sort of  smoke and mirrors effect of the good, which I mentioned in my post here. As we scroll through our feeds we feel like we are in touch with people, but really it’s just a small portion of their life. It’s scary sometimes to think of the impact social media and smart phones has had on people and relationships.What should we do then? If they live close, go see them! Not close? Call them! Really catch up with people and keep your relationships strong.

Speaking of smartphones, put it down! Our phones seem to have become another appendage on our bodies. My four year old the other day called me out and said:

“Momma put down your phone and look at me!”

I listened and put my phone down and focused solely on him and we had a great afternoon together of play-doh and transformers.  So maybe once a day, or at a certain time of day, put down the phones! It’s amazing how much fun you can have when phones aren’t involved. Good, old fashioned fun.

Another thing I suggest is to get to know your neighbors, all of them! One thing I love about the city we live in is that every September 11 we have an emergency drill. Each neighborhood has a “block captain” and when the drill happens we all have to check in with them. If we don’t show up, they need to call us. This drill is to ensure if there was a real emergency that we would know where everyone was in our block, as well as have a record of specific tools and supplies we all have on hand. I love it because we are all taking care of one another, and isn’t that how it should be? I know all of my neighbors in our cul-de-sac and can rely on one or all of them if I’m in a jam to help watch kids or anything else. We have had help shoveling snow without being asked many times, had food brought when tragedies have occurred, and treats for the holidays. I feel very blessed for the great neighbors we have.

Its hard sometimes to see the good when watching the news and hearing story after story of injustice, racial profiling, murders, hate crimes, and the chaos that is Washington D.C.. Sometimes we have to be the light when there is none to be found. Spread a little love, do something kind for someone else, be that good example that people need to see. I have always loved this quote:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” -Dumbledore

If you can’t see any light around you, be that light. Others will notice- believe me. So on this September 12 let’s all try a little harder to be that light we need right now, so people can be reminded to never forget.



The Raw Brunette


Photo by Christine Todd Photography