Are You My Mother?

It’s Mother’s Day again, and I find myself relating so much to that little bird who is searching for his mom in the classic children’s book  Are You My Mother? There are still so many times I find myself needing and aching for her and waking up on this day really regurgitates a lot of emotions for me; none of them good. Mother’s day was always such a lovely day to celebrate the woman who raised and loved me, but now I wake up and instantly feel unsettled because I know she’s no longer here. With an ache in my heart I am bombarded all day by thoughts of her that are so bittersweet.

Oh dear, I’m being a total buzzkill aren’t I? Well the good news, (yes there’s good news I promise), is that I am incredibly blessed to have many other mothers in my life. So, obviously on this day I will always honor my own mother who raised me, but today I will be celebrating the many other mothers who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today.

A Mighty Woman

When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1996, all of our worlds were rocked. Even though this tragic thing was sprung on our family, life still needed to proceed as “normal”. What I mean by that is that Aly and I still needed to go to school, we still had music lessons, activities to attend, meals to eat, and not to mention the house work and laundry that still needed to be done. My dad was still working a full time job and traveling a lot, and my older brother Rob was serving a religious mission in France for two years. This left Aly and I on our own a lot. This is where Judi came in.

In my opinion, everyone needs a Judi Quinn in their life. She was my mom’s best friend, and growing up it became tradition that our two families would celebrate holidays together since neither of our families had family super close by. I consider them family, and know to them the feeling is mutual.

There were other guardian angels too, who helped us during this time, many in fact. I have such a strong testimony of the love we can have for one another in times of tragedy because of the great kindness neighbors and friends showed us. Judi, however, is the most prominent to me. Our fridge and freezer were always full of meals, and if we ever needed a ride we would be taken care of. Even though life was incredibly chaotic, I always felt comforted knowing that she would be there for us in heartbeat.

Even when my parents moved away from Philadephia in 2004 my mom and Judi were in constant touch. Distance doesn’t end real friendships. They saw each other as often as possible, but talked on the phone all the time. Judi flew out to Utah and spoke and my mom’s funeral, and did a lovely job, but I did not expect any less. She still to this day is always a text or call away should I need her.

The Quinn’s family motto has always been “The Mighty Quinns”, and it honestly could not suit them more, especially Judi. It takes one mighty woman to not only care for her own children, but her best friends children when they were in need. My love for Judi can also be described as mighty.

An Education

When I was to get married in 2005, I was nervous because Jess is the baby of his family and I know how protective moms can be of their youngest children. From the beginning, I always felt loved and welcomed by Kathryn, my mother-in-law. I feel extremely blessed to say that I genuinely love her, because I have many friends who do not feel the same way towards theirs. She is a sweet, kind, and loving woman who herself has been through years of health struggles. She raised five rambunctious boys, (seriously some of the stories I’ve heard are unreal), and lived to tell the tale. I admire her for her strength and enduring faith through her trials of health, and truly love having her as another motherly figure in my life. Over the years she has been there to watch my children when I needed help, to give me advice on many subjects, and to be a tremendous support to me when I lost my own mom.

Not only am I blessed with my mother-in-law, but my sister-in-laws are pretty spectacular as well. Not just from my husband’s family, but my brother’s wife as well. I am surrounded by some incredible women who are there should I need them. When I found out I was (surprise!) pregnant in the summer of 2015, the first person I called was my sister-in-law Jacie. I wasn’t planning on the pregnancy to begin with, and still had my IUD in so I was feeling extremely panicked. Jacie is a nurse, and just all-around knowledgeable, and she was the person I was compelled to call. She was there for me in my full panic mode and I was extremely grateful. I feel so blessed to have these amazing women who are now my family that have taught me so much about motherhood. Becoming a mother has been so much easier because of their influence on me.

My dad remarried after my mom passed away. It was difficult to hear at first when he told me over the phone that he was engaged, but when they flew out to Denver and I met Christy for the first time, I could see what he saw in her. She is a very kind, sweet woman, and she has taken such great care of my dad. Seeing him so happy again has been so good to see. She also loves not only my children but my brother’s kids as well, and has done her best to make sure they each know it. Christmas of 2017 as we were packing up the kids in the car to head back to our house after having a dinner at my dad and Christy’s home, I felt strongly that I needed to run back inside where she was washing dishes. I tearfully told her that I needed to tell her that I loved her and appreciate her and we both hugged and cried. I do love her, and she is a part of our family now, and another great motherly figure for me to turn to.

The Branches of My Tree

In August of 2013 I finally came face to face with Sherri, my birth mother. We had been in contact since 2007, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I knew I was ready to meet her. Since that wonderful day, my family tree has expanded immensely. Not only did it expand, but it strengthened the roots, because I now have some incredibly strong and amazing women who are examples to me of motherhood. Suddenly I had three half sisters, a step-dad, grandparents again, (both sets of my grandparents passed away before I was in high school), aunts and uncles, and so many new cousins! I met pretty much all of them in one weekend, and you would think it would be overwhelming but it never was. To be honest, I felt like I had always belonged, and instantly felt welcomed and loved by everyone.

I have always felt connected to Sherri even before I knew who she was. Even still, figuring out our similarities cracks me up, and have connected the dots on so many things in my life. and why I am the way that I am. She had such an influence on the woman that I have become even before we met each other. But now that she is in my life, she’s someone I turn to constantly for help and advice.

The night that my mom passed away as I left the hospital to head home Sherri was the person I needed to call. I’m sure she could barely understand what I was saying because I was hysterical, but in that moment of absolute heartbreak I needed to hear her voice.

Her presence in my life means so much to me, and in these three years since my mom passed away I have had the opportunity to not only continue to strengthen our relationship, but to have another mother figure in my life. I’m extremely blessed to have two mothers in this crazy, beautiful life.


Obviously, my twin sister Aly is without a doubt a huge part of my life, so why wouldn’t she be just as big a part of my children’s lives? My oldest son Calvin when he went into kindergarten told his teacher that he had two mommies, and she looked quite surprised when at the first parent-teacher conference I showed up with my husband Jess. I thought it was so sweet that Calvin considered Aly his other mommy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All three of my kids as newborns would happily transfer to my sister. A lot of people would ask me if I thought the babies could tell the difference. Clearly, a baby knows its mother’s smell, but I honestly believe my babies instantly loved their Aunt Aly from day one and imprinted on her because she is my twin sister. They all love her very much too.

Even though she did not give birth to those three babies, she is a mom to them. She teaches me about motherhood without even knowing it. I complain and vent to her all the time about things that frustrate me with being a mom, and she always has answers I hadn’t even considered or helps me to look at things in a different way.

I have zero doubts that when she is a mom one day, that she will be an amazing one. She has helped me raise my three kiddos in more ways than she will ever know.

A Storybook Ending

Sadly, I won’t be like the little bird finding it’s mother at the end of the book. I know my mom is gone from this earthly life, and even though it makes my heart ache and me feel all the feels today it’s going to be alright. Just thinking of just how many other mothers I have in my life makes this bitter pill a little easier to swallow. To be honest this has been an extremely emotional post to write, and I have cried (a lot) typing out my feelings.

Life isn’t like a storybook at all, in fact not even a little bit. But the way that story of my life has played out is that when a tragic chapter comes up, an amazingly beautiful chapter immediately follows it. Losing my mom was definitely a long, painful chapter, but the beautiful chapters that came right after it have been life-altering for me. Sometimes we need to experience a huge loss in order to grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers who enrich my life. I love you all very much and treasure your presence in my life.



The Raw Brunette



Photo by Mckenzie Mcdonald Photography




|Lisbon, Barcelona, and Home Again|

Lisbon! This was our final stop on our trip before we flew back to Barcelona and from there to the States. It was bittersweet leaving Lagos, which was literally a paradise for the last five days, but we were excited to have a day in Lisbon and do something different. We had to leave our Airbnb at 6:30 AM to catch the train back north and had a good three hour sleep which helped give us some energy since we only had one full day in Lisbon and needed to catch a plane the next morning for Barcelona.

We arrived and quickly figured out how to get to our Airbnb in Lisbon. It was in the historic old part of the city, and was in the cutest neighborhood filled with rows of colorful buildings with the Castello de St. Jorge towering on the hill above. We walked through the tiny streets until we found our apartment building, and then climbed three flights of wooden steps to the apartment which then had another staircase once you entered. This apartment was definitely not for someone who had trouble climbing stairs! It was well worth the climb though, because it was an immaculate, darling, eclectic little apartment. on Airbnb’s website it was called the “Rose Apartment”, and it was rightly named because everything was pink. Jess and I took the more pink of the two pink bedrooms and our window had a perfect view of the castle.


I loved the cute little streets



The view from our bedroom window!

We dropped off our bags and headed into Lisbon to see as much as we could.  We didn’t really have a plan, so we just sort of wandered, but it was perfect. Along the way we were suddenly starving, and as we rounded a corner there it was: Burger King. Let me just make a little side note here: I NEVER eat fast food, but for whatever reason American greasy fries and burgers sounded like heaven. We shamelessly gorged ourselves until we were full and then walked down to the waterfront. It was so warm and sunny that day, but super windy by the water so we didn’t stick around long.


We headed back into the city and made our way to the Castello de St. Jorge. It was a maze of tiny streets to find the entrance, and an extremely uphill climb. We purchased tickets to go inside and then explored the grounds for a good hour or so. Not much of the interior of the gigantic Moorish castle remains, but it dates back to the 11th century. There were a few peacocks roaming the grounds, but it was amusing to us that there were also quite a few cats who lived there. Apparently castle cats are a thing in Lisbon? Either way, they were pretty cute. The views from the top of the castle were worth the 8 or so Euros it cost to enter.


When we left the castle grounds we wanted to go see a few more sights, but first needed to get gelato because, gelato. Then we made our way to the Church of Sao Vincente of Fora, but were very sad that it had just closed. We saw what we could of the exterior, and enjoyed some lovely fountains. Then we tried to go and see the National Pantheon which much to our dismay was also closed.


The Church of Sao Vincente de Fora



The National Pantheon


At this point it was getting dark, and since we had such an early flight the next day we decided to go grab some dinner by the waterfront where there were lots of restaurants and shops and then go home. Once back at the Pink Apartment, we showered, packed, and hit the hay. I had to sneak one last view of the castle which was lit up at night outside our window. It was such a dreamy view that I didn’t want to forget!

The next morning we hopped on the subway to the airport in Lisbon which only took us about 20-30 minutes. Once there, however, we were told our flight was delayed at least an hour for the heavy fog. We now got to hang out at the airport for a few hours, but thankfully there was some good food for breakfast. After what felt like a lifetime we finally boarded our plane and made the flight back to Barcelona. The only problem was that when we had been in Barcelona the first time, we had made reservations to see La Sagrada Familia, but since our flight was so late, there was no way we would make it in time to our reservation. I can’t describe to you just how upset I was. The interior of La Sagrada Familia is on my bucket list and we were so close to seeing it!  but now we just need to make another trip back there one day so I can see it!

So, since we were now stuck in the airport for about 3.5 hours we decided to change into some comfy traveling clothes, explore the mall that was inside the airport, and charge our phones. I got some more cute trinkets for the kids, and we loaded up on snacks for the 7 hour plane ride to New York. Our plan on the way back was to stay up the entire flight watching movies, which Jess and I did on the way back from Europe a few years ago. It really helped us adjust to the jet lag easier, because by the time we landed, went through customs which took (FOREVER), and got to our hotel we were exhausted and passed out. Aly and I had a flight the next morning at 7 AM and were up and ready quite early. Jess had to wait until 7 PM that night. So we said goodbye to him and headed out. Not only did he get more sleep than we did, but he was on a non-stop flight to Salt Lake, while Aly and I had to go through Seattle.

It seemed like a terribly long day, but we were finally home! I was so happy to grab all my kids from the sitters and be with them. Our trip was an incredible two weeks, but coming back home is always the best part!



The Raw Brunette