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!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Total Solar Eclipse 2017| Rexburg, Idaho

We just got back from one of the most amazing weekends EVER. The total solar eclipse occurred on Monday August 21, 2017. My in laws just so happen to live in Rexburg, Idaho which was in the zone of totality, but also close to Idaho Falls which is one of the places that NASA declared as the best to view the eclipse.

Despite the news for months saying that there would be horrendous crowds of people migrating to Idaho Falls and Rexburg Idaho for the eclipse, our family headed up there too. I questioned my sanity a few times while preparing for our trip because of said stories on the news, and the preparations in case crowds got too rowdy or some catastrophic event like a wild fire was to happen. So, in order to avoid the crowds in, I drove up on Thursday the 17 and headed to my in-laws who just so happen to live in Rexburg, and in the zone of totality.

With a few extra days to spare, my kids enjoyed every moment of time spent with their grandparents on the farm. This included four-wheeler rides to help water the cow, running through the neighbors yard that was flooded for watering, four-wheeler rides just because, throwing rocks and racing sticks in the canal, feeding the goats, harvesting and shucking corn, pulling vegetables from the garden to have fresh for dinner, petting and feeding the neighbors horses, playing in the sprinklers and the ditch, having rides in Grandpa’s bucket of the tractor, roasting weenies and desserts in the fire pit, playing board games, and reading books with Grandma.

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It’s pretty safe to say that every time we visit Rexburg, it’s like Disneyland for my kids! They would all pass out at night from pure exhaustion (which is what this Momma loves!). I am so grateful for my good relationship with my in-laws that I can go visit without my husband and still have such a wonderful time.

On Saturday, everyone else showed up for the eclipse! Sherri and Rick joined us from Vancouver, WA, and my Grandparents came from Midway, Utah. My Uncle Brad and my cousin Matthew also came but not until late Sunday night from Park City. It was such a special weekend too, because my in-laws were able to meet my birth mom Sherri and some of her family!

It was incredible for me to sit back and watch as two families I loved came together. Sunday Rick and Sherri scoped out the perfect spot for us to watch the eclipse the next day. Jess and I made a big dinner for everyone that night which we ate outside, and the day was ended playing some rowdy card games very late into the night.

The next morning we were all up early; anxious for the coming event. After breakfast those of us who wanted to go watch from the spot Rick found caravanned over. It took us about 15 minutes, and we were up on the eastern hills above Rexburg. We had a perfect view of the Menan Butte to the West from where we were, and we were nestled right at the edge of a golden wheat field.

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It really was the perfect spot. We could eventually see the shadow of the moon coming from the West. It was INSANE.

Once the eclipse began around 10:15 AM we had our various glasses and other viewing devices at the ready. The kids were pretty worried about going blind so we also brought a strainer which we projected the various stages of the eclipse onto a brown paper bag. It was actually really pretty!

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Around 11:30 is when the full totality was upon us. We all watched with anticipation as the shadow was bearing down on us from the west. It was moving 2000 MPH! That is SO fast! When the last sliver of light from the sun was covered, we were suddenly in nighttime darkness! We could see stars around us, and even venus! The temperature also dramatically dropped within minutes and we were all shivering.

I wish I could accurately describe how gorgeous the total eclipse was. There was light emanating around the moon in a blueish hue, and I commented that I felt like we were watching a planet be created. It was such a breathtaking sight, and me and several others in our group were moved to tears. It was definitely a life changing event, and I am so grateful I got to witness it with my husband and children. All three of my littles kept commenting after how beautiful it was. Even little Memphis proclaimed: “Mommy that was bootiful!”

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Papa making sure his glasses worked

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Memphis got the hang of them pretty quick!

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My cousin Matthew and my Uncle Brad watching on with Papa

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My Grandma, Sherri, Rick, Papa, Brad, and Matthew

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pretty stylin!

 

If any of you have plans to go and see the next total eclipse in 2024, GO! We are already planning our trip. See ya there!

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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The Light Inside My Darkness

I’ll be the first to admit that I hate asking for help. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and defeated. I’m pretty stubborn, so the thought of even asking for help is usually out of the question for me. A few weeks ago I came to a crossroads where I was desperately needing help, and was scared to give in to it. I was determined to figure out how to help myself on my own, but I kept slipping into a deeper into darkness and it was terrifying. I was cognizant of the fact that outside help was necessary for me.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Much like Alice, I too went down a hole. Instead of going on an adventure with rabbits and the Queen of Hearts, however, mine led me to nothing but darkness and demons I couldn’t make go away. I have always struggled with anxiety, and have had bouts of depression throughout my life. Over the past 6 months or so, my sanity seemed to be slowly ebbing from me one panic attack at a time. It got so bad about two weeks ago, that I literally felt detached from my own body. I was living in a full on panic zone 24/7. If you have seen the show ‘Stranger Things’ (who else is so excited for the new season in October?!) it felt sort of like the “Upside Down”. I felt fuzzy, and just completely disconnected from everyone and everything around me. My sweet oldest son Calvin became very aware that something was happening to me. He would recognize the symptoms of my panic attacks happening, and would run to me and put his arms around me. He would actually comfort me until the panic subsided. He’s so sweet, and I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such a tender-hearted boy.

I tried everything to help ease my anxiety. Essential oils did nothing, meditation- nothing, breathing- nada, grounding excercises- nope. All these things that usually work for my occasional panic attacks were completely useless. I basically had to drug myself to even sleep at night because for some reason that’s when the panic would be the worst. I was exhausted, and finally could admit I needed to seek outside help.

Doctors Orders

I sat in the examination room of my general doctor, who I have known for almost ten years. He was asking me questions about my general anxiety and where I thought it could be coming from. All the while, my three children, (whom I had no choice but to bring with me), were fighting and being horrendously obnoxious. My eyes were filling with tears and I desperately wanted to scream at my kids to just let Mommy talk to the damn doctor for five minutes in peace. When my doctor asked me if I found myself yelling at my kids a lot, I actually started laughing despite wanting to sob! Uh, yeah. I yell at them, kind of want to RIGHT freaking now.  He actually informed me that a short fuse is a sign of depression and anxiety! Something that I didn’t even think of, but when I told Jess that later, he said “Yeah, I have noticed the past few months that you will blow up pretty easily. More so than usual.” Oops! At least I have a reason for it, and I’m really not just the meanest mom on the planet.

After checking my thyroid, and determining it was normal, he prescribed an antidepressant for me to take daily to prevent the feelings of anxiety, as well as Xanax to take if I happened to have a sudden panic attack. He used asthmatics as an example to explain it to me. They take a daily inhaler which prevents the attacks, but have an emergency inhaler as well in case there’s a sudden asthma attack. It made total sense to me. I have never been super excited to be medicated; I have tried antidepressants for small amounts of time when I had postpartum depression, but I hated how I felt on them. He assured me that the one he prescribed was a different type, and wouldn’t make me tired or feel loopy. At this point, I was willing to try anything to feel normal again.

Since that day, I have slowly gotten back to myself. I am no longer fuzzy, or disconnected, and am happy to report I have only had two attacks, which is SO much better than 10-12 a day!

Crawling Back Out of the Hole

Medication is not my end game. I have nothing against it, and anyone who needs it shouldn’t feel bad in the slightest. It’s a personal choice, and I want to be able to one day not have to rely on it. For now, it’s working for me, and that’s great. Ultimately, I need to determine the underlying causes of what is creating this incredible anxiety and stress for me.

My doctor suggested seeing a therapist. The thought hadn’t occurred to me that therapy would be an option, but he told me it’s one the most successful treatments for people with panic disorders like me. To be fair, the past five years or so have been an incredible roller coaster ride.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom passed away in 2015, which in itself was, and still is traumatic. When you lose someone you love, your entire life changes. You have to learn how to live without that person, and you yourself become a different person because of it. My whole world felt blown to bits, and I know I have changed. Two years later, it’s still a struggle for me to live without my mom. I miss her, and I know the pain of her loss is something I will have for the rest of my life.

The week my mom was diagnosed as terminal and literally given weeks to months to live, three of my closest friends all turned their backs on me. That hurtful loss of three women who I thought I would be friends with for life, coupled with the devastating news about my mom was unbearably painful. At a time when I needed them the most, they decided I was “out” of their group. It might sound silly to some people to be so upset about the loss of friends, but I am such an openly loving person. I feel things very deeply, even pain. My husband often tells me one of the things he loves most about me is how deeply rooted I get with the people I love. I’m fully committed to my loved ones, friends and family, so the loss of three at once was pretty devastating. Those friendships have not been mended, and probably never will be at this point, but I still have love for them in my heart. I also believe that things happen as they should, so I’m content at this point to accept that.

My miscarriage came six months after my mom passed away. I have an entire post about it here if you’d like to read about it.

I also had to watch as my twin sister suffered through a volatile marriage for almost 4 years. Her husband was a closeted alcoholic who decided to show his true self after they were wed. He was incredibly abusive and a very toxic person to be around. It killed me inside to not be able to help my sister, but she needed to leave because she was ready, not because I was. I was constantly in fear of her safety, and would stay up many nights crying myself to sleep with worry for her. They are now divorced and she is living the life she should have been all these years. I am so grateful that she is safe now.

And if all that wasn’t enough, for almost three years, my husband was involved in a legal battle with his former partners in a business. It got ugly. REALLY ugly. It was long and drawn out, and the true colors of people who we thought were kind and honest came out. It was disappointing to see how ugly and selfish these people really are. If anyone has been in any kind of legal battle, then you know it is exhausting. Thankfully its over now, but boy was it stressful.

So, it’s pretty obvious my mental state has been drastically affected by all this stress! I think any normal person would crack from it all. I actually am sort of excited at the thought of being able to just unload everything on a neutral party. A loved one said it to me perfectly: “I think moms with small children really know the value of having one person really listen to you.” AMEN!

There was a time where I was pretty hopeless and feeling like I would never be able to pull myself out of the dark place I was in. But the good news is that I’m going to be okay. I still have a way to go in terms of fully getting better, and I know I will still have hard days. Thankfully I have a great support system and lots of people who love me so I am no longer afraid of the dark.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Am I broken? No. Human, yes, but not broken. Mental disorders, and mental illnesses are something that not a lot of people like to talk about. It’s uncomfortable for some, and others are too embarrassed to talk about what’s going on. I was just afraid to admit I needed help. I literally felt like I was going insane, and I would ask Jess at least once a day “Am I crazy?” to which he would always reply “No.” People with mental illnesses and disorders are NOT crazy. It’s like any other illness. You wouldn’t ask a person with cancer to just “snap out of it” or just “don’t have cancer” much to the way you wouldn’t say similar things to someone with depression.

I like to keep the dialogue open about mental health, because so many people feel like they’re alone in the struggles they have. You are most definitely NOT alone. Please, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. I am so glad I did.

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Photo Credit: Alejandro Araos

 

 

 

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Whoa, Easy Girl

Is it weird to associate our inner selves with animals? Well I do. A spirit animal, if you will. Or a patronus for any other Harry Potter friends out there. Mine has always undeniably been a horse. When I was a girl I used to draw horses obsessively. I have always been compelled to them; drawn in by their muscled frames, long beautiful manes, and large intelligent eyes. I read books about them, and Black Beauty was one of my most favorite movies as a girl. Now, the really sad part is that I have only actually ridden a horse maybe twice in my life. So the fact that I have always felt this deep love for horses, and have barely any experience riding them is a bit odd. That’s something I would like to change- who wants to help a girl out??

Partly, I think I have always felt this pull towards horses was because they are such wild spirits. Sure, horses can be tamed but it would still run free if it had the choice. Many times in my life I have come to crossroads wanting to follow the unpaved path, and have to reign myself in. I am more of a free spirit and have such a laid back attitude with life that I know drives my husband crazy sometimes. He is very disciplined and always has a plan. I never have a plan and often just wing it, or just want to completely do away with any plan and run away. It’s a struggle sometimes for me to balance it all out.

As a girl, I always wondered, and often fantasized about who my biological family was. Sometimes I would dream of setting off on an adventure to find them. I loved (and love) my adopted family but sometimes it was obvious that my sister and I were adopted. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but there are definitely traits that we inherited from our biological families that we had even without knowing those people. Now that I know my biological mother’s family, there have been so many “aha!” moments when we realize the similarities. I now know that so much of the free spirit in me is from my birth mom Sherri. She too, loves horses and even had one of her own when she was a young girl.

It’s crazy to think about how woven together we all have been- even though it took us almost 30 years to meet. Life is so funny.

Running Wild

I found my birth mom Sherri in 2007. My twin sister Aly and I had joined a reunion website (Adoption.com) on a whim once we had decided to start looking for her in 2005. After a while, we stopped checking it because we were pretty sure we would never be able to find her. We had no information – none. All we knew was the city and hospital we were born in. It was definitely frustrating. At one point we even thought about hiring a private investigator but even if we had paid one they would have had an extremely hard time as well with the limited information we had in a closed adoption.

By chance in April of 2007 Aly called me in a panic. She could barely speak over the phone and all the words were spilling out at such a fast pace I had to get her to calm down. She was finally able to inform me that we had a response to our profile on Adoption.com! I told her to not get excited yet- it may not be her. I didn’t want to get my hopes up even though my insides were all screaming and wanting to jump through my skin.

Miraculously, when we asked her to send some photos, she emailed pictures of us at birth that we had copies of too as well as some of us with her the day we were born. It was a very unreal experience. My brain was having a hard time handling the fact that we had indeed achieved the impossible and found her. When I got home from work that evening in Ellicott City, Maryland, my entire body was buzzing with this energy I could not make stop, so I put on my running clothes and I ran. I ran until my lungs hurt and  I threw up. Running seemed to be the only thing to keep my heart up to speed with my brain which was going a mile a minute. I flung myself in a grassy field near my apartment complex drenched in sweat until my head stopped spinning.

We had done the impossible. We had found her.

Putting on the Blinders

When I called Mom to tell her the incredible news, she tried her best to pretend that she was excited. She could not, however, hide the fact that she was very upset. She actually started to sob over the phone and it made me so confused and sad. When I asked her what was wrong she told me

“I am happy you two have found her, but I am afraid you will leave me and Dad behind.”

My excitement was quelled by this. Of course I would never do that to my family, the thought had never occurred to me at all. No one was being replaced or being left behind; this was such an incredible moment that I thought would bring people together not apart.  Looking back and understanding more than I did at 22, especially now that I too am a mom, I can see where my Mother’s fears were coming from. It’s very normal for any adoptive parent, (I know my Dad had similar fears), to feel this way about their child searching for their birth family. But in that moment I just felt pain. I was confused why she wasn’t more excited for me and Aly. I knew we had a right to do this and it didn’t feel wrong. But seeing how upset she was and because I loved my mom so much, I decided to stop telling her information about our birth mom. It was not an easy decision to make, but I have never been one who enjoys or tries to harm people, especially those I love, so I felt it was the right thing to do. I would continue my journey to discover my birth family alone.

In 2013, I finally met Sherri in person along with her husband Rick. It was such an extraordinary evening that is impossible to describe with words. Seeing her and actually putting my arms around her fulfilled this sense of purpose I had been searching for. I felt a missing piece of my heart that I never knew to be missing was now replaced. It all felt so right and was such a monumental, emotional event that I felt I could not share with my family. It broke my heart to not tell them, but because I loved them so deeply, I didn’t want to cause anyone harm. Over the next three years as my mother’s health declined, it only further solidified my choice to not tell. The last thing I wanted was for her to feel like she was being replaced as her life on Earth was quickly coming to an end. There were many times that I wanted to tell her, and even started to, but would quickly decide not to. My fears of hurting my already sick mother who had been through so much always stopped my lips from moving.

Two Worlds Coming Together

My in-laws lived in Dayton, Nevada for about five years. In November of 2007, Jess and I drove out there from Utah to celebrate Thanksgiving. The day after the holiday, we packed lunches, bundled up, and drove on four wheelers into the mountains to find some petroglyphs and enjoy the beautiful scenery. On the trip back down from exploring we saw a herd of wild mustangs from the top of a ridge we were on. I was able to snap a few photos of them, and was so excited to see some in the wild because it’s pretty rare to do so nowadays.

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I was feeling on top of the world after that! The little girl inside me was screaming because I had actually seen wild mustangs in person! A few more miles out we stopped for a few minutes for a break, and to our surprise, a different group of mustangs appeared out of nowhere not 10 feet from where we stood! I audibly gasped when a dark brown one came within 5 feet of us, ears up and forward, curiously looking us over, and then wandering back to the herd. He apparently had determined that we weren’t a threat, because they stayed right where they were, completely unbothered by our presence. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I quickly snapped a photo before we moved on, but even the photo does not do the beautiful moment justice. Wild mustangs are usually quite shy, so the fact that this family of mustangs came close to our family group was exciting. It was a beautiful moment where our two worlds came together.

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My mother did not live to see my birth mom like I had dreamed. She passed away in February of 2015 – finally succumbing to 18 years of hell that cancer wreaked on her body. A few months after she was gone, I decided to tell Dad about Sherri. I was nervous, but Aly and I decided he needed to know since we never got to tell Mom.  Understandably, he took a while to digest the information, but he handled it very well. I was so excited and so relieved. In January of 2017 a dinner was set up in which my dad and his new wife, my stepmom Christy would be meeting Sherri and Rick as well as my biological grandparents DeVon and Dianne. The night was wonderful; it was another beautiful moment of two families coming together. It made my heart so happy, despite the dull pain that my mother was not able to be there too.

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Left to Right: Devon, Dianne, Me, Rick, Sherri, Aly, Christy, and Dad (Doug)

 The Movie that Broke Me

When I finally watched the film “Lion” about two months ago, it wrecked me to such a spectacular degree that I felt physically sick. In fact, I had to quickly turn off the movie when the credits started to roll, and rush upstairs to my bedroom where I continued to cry. I did not want to disturb my basement renters whose bedroom is directly below our tv room. I had previously read the book the film is based on “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierly, which was emotional in itself to read, but something about seeing it playing out really hit home for me.

Although Saroo and I have very different stories, his much more tragic than my own, the root of what he was needing to do was the same as mine: a need to find where he came from. He needed to find his family in India whom he had gotten lost from by getting on a train that took him across the country. Saroo was never educated enough to know the different dialects so he could not tell anyone where he was from, and eventually got put into the system after living on the streets in Calcutta for months. A kind couple from Tasmania adopted him, and he was flown across the world to live and grow up. Once he was grown, he had all but forgotten where he came from, until in his late twenties, he was suddenly bombarded by memories, and was then determined to find his family.

When he starts to search, he decides to not tell his parents what he’s up to. He doesn’t want them to think he is ungrateful for his life and the love that they have given him. While we were watching the movie, Jess turned to me and said:

“This is how you felt, isn’t it?” and all I could do was nod my head. The lump in my throat was preventing me from speaking. That was EXACTLY how I felt. Exactly. Saroo’s feelings resonated so strongly in me, and I am sure with many adoptees who are searching for their biological families.

I hope not to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but he does eventually track down his family with the help of Google Earth. He then finally tells his mom and dad what he has been up to. His mom is overjoyed for him, and supports him as he leaves for India. Once there, he tracks down his old family home, and with the help of strangers is able to find his mother. Their meeting again was so emotional for me, because my meeting with Sherri was no different. There was lots of hugging and crying and catching up.

Saroo calls his mother that night back in Tasmania and leaves her a message that says he found his mother and that she understands that they are his parents now, and she is so thankful to them for raising him and giving him a good life. He also tells his mom and dad in the message that this changed nothing for him about them as his parents and that he loves them. Nicole Kidman, who plays Sue Brierly in the film, has two adopted children in real life, and has said that she made this movie for them. In an interview she said this:

‘The movie is a love letter to my children who are adopted and it’s not about anything other than, “I wanted you whatever your journey is, I’m here to love and support you.” That’s what I connected to. I wanted to make the film for them,’ she explains.

‘When you are an adoptive mother, of course you think about the birth mother  and the birth parents and what it all means and how our lives are intertwined in some way, whether the child choose to find the birth parents or not.’  – Source : Daily Mail

Read More Here

At the very end of the film, they show real footage of Saroo bringing Sue to India and meeting his mother, Kamala. This was the part that really ripped me apart. Seeing these two mothers who were a part of each others lives even though they had never met, embracing and shedding tears of such happiness was a moment I suddenly wished that Mom and Sherri could have had. They should have had it. I felt responsible that this never happened for them. Choosing to not tell my parents about this journey I was on, inevitably lead to this point, where they were both denied the chance to meet and embrace and cry because Mom passed away before I could better navigate my new relationship with Sherri and introduce them to each other. I just felt sick after the movie was done, and that feeling lasted a few days. My inner horse was already spooked and  running far away, and I felt past the point of being able to reign myself in.
This feeling of guilt and sadness is something I will carry heavily in my heart probably for the rest of my life. After a few weeks, I finally brought the subject up to Sherri via email. When she responded, she said this to me and as per usual, she set my soul at ease:
“What was lost to me in not meeting your mother is restored to me every time you tell me a story about your mother. Those few hours in my car on your mother’s birthday when you told me stories of her and your childhood were so precious and beautiful. A gift to me on your mother’s birthday. It also reflects in the way you walk in this world. In the same way that we are often amazed at those genetic similarities, I am amazed at the differences that I attribute to your mother. And I remain grateful for the ways in which we are different just as much as the ways we are alike. You are gifted with a wholeness that comes from being part of two women.”
I will forever be grateful for the two women who I can call mother in this life.
XoXo,
Heather
The Raw Brunette

Oregon Round 2

Life has gotten so busy and I am really behind on keeping up with our adventures this summer! Here is day two of our amazing trip to Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago.

We spent the entire day on Saturday at the coast. I have seen the beaches in California but never up in the PNW. It was breathtaking! The drive itself was beautiful, and windy, (thankfully my very carsick prone children did not throw up!).

Once we arrived at our first stop of the day, Oswald West State Park, we hiked down to the beach. The hike down was yet another iconic greenest green forest. I could have just sat in that little patch of forest all day and been just fine. But, the beach was calling! The pathway was filled with natural tree houses and little caves which the kids, particularly Memphis, loved exploring. The beach we hiked to is called Smugglers Cove.

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So, in an epically bad move on my part, I left our swimsuits at Sherri and Rick’s home back in Vancouver. Oops! We ended up lucking out and coming on a super warm day too, so it was even worse. Thankfully, I had on a tank top so I was okay, and the kiddos are still small enough to not be embarrassed so they stripped down to their undies and had fun regardless!

Jess, my sister Missy, and her boyfriend Nate surfed for about 3 hours. It was fun to watch them out there. The water was extremely cold so they needed wetsuits, but all three of them had a great time. It has been quite a few years since Jess has surfed, but he seemed to just pick it right back up.

Meanwhile,  Sherri, Rick, and I braved the high winds and watched the kiddos play endlessly in the sand and water. Rick even found a whole dead crab which Memphis played with non-stop for an hour. He kept sadly saying “Mommy when will it wake up?”. I finally could no longer handle the awful rotting smell of the crab meat and we threw it in the ocean.

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After we were done with that beach, we went and ate dinner at a lovely little seaside cafe in Manzanita called the Big Wave Cafe . It was delicious, and everything is fresh. The Chef, Brian Williams, even came and chatted with us for a moment and when we commented how delicious the crab was, he said they had been crawling around the kitchen just a few hours before! If you’re ever in the area, check this place out!

Sherri and Rick headed home after dinner, but the rest of us wanted to see Cannon Beach, so we headed back up north to see the iconic rocks. As soon as I saw them, I couldn’t help myself and had to let out a “Hey you guyyyysssss!”. Please tell me you all have seen ‘The Goonies’??

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Driving home that night Memphis fell asleep and barely even noticed when we removed him from the car, got him changed and put him to bed. It was such a good, long, and fun day for everyone.

The pacific northwest coast is something I will dream about until I see it again.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

My Tribe, My Pride

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say, it takes a pride. A pride of powerful lionesses.

Why a pride you ask? Sure, there are male lions in prides, but let’s be honest, the female lions run the show. Lionesses are strong and fast hunters, and are relentless until the kill is had. But, they are also very loving. In fact, lions are the most social of the big cats, and really take care of their families. Lions themselves are one of the most recognized symbols in human history.

It all started on Marco Polo. If you non- tech savvy people don’t know what it is, Marco Polo is an app where you can video chat, but not in real-time. So, you can record a message, send it, and your friends or loved ones can watch it, and reply at their leisure. It’s like video texting. Go download it! My sisters and our birth mom have a chat thread that is added to daily, and it’s a great way for us all to keep in touch. One of my sisters today mentioned  in our Marco Polo thread how each of us individually are so strong, but when we are all together, that we are like a lion pride, and an unstoppable force.

I have been thinking about it since then, and it really made me consider all the women who were and are in my life. They all have unique strengths and talents, and all have inspired me in my own life.

Obviously, I must start with my Mom. She gave my older brother, and my twin sister and I such a wonderful childhood. She adopted my sister and I, and loved us as unconditionally as if we were her own biological children. Our home was filled with so much love, opportunities,creativity, and freedom to be ourselves. She cooked amazing home cooked meals, and tried to be as involved with our lives as we would let her. Let me put it this way, I can literally count two hands the number of sports games, concerts, graduations, awards ceremonies, and any other events that she did not attend. Even when she was sick she tried her best to go. Besides her ability to be a mother, she was probably one of if not the smartest person I have ever met. I always told her to go on Jeopardy, because she would have won hands down. She read like two books a week, sometimes more, and always tried new hobbies and succeeded at them. She was truly an incredible, loving, selfless woman. Her example helped me so much in my journey into motherhood, even beyond the grave. My heart aches for her still everyday. Her friendship is a loss that is hard to fill. I literally called my Mom every day, and after she died, and even still today, I instinctively will want to call her with random questions or stories I have to tell her.

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My twin sister naturally, is a given member of my pride. She is my soul mate, and if that’s a weird thing to refer to your twin sister as, I don’t care. She and I have been through more together than I could ever write down. We have an unbreakable bond, and twin connection. Yes, for anyone who has ever wondered if twins really have a connection, WE DO.  She’s my person. (For any Grey’s Anatomy fans, you know what I’m talking about). I like to think that she and I loved each other so much in Heaven before we came down, that we begged to not be separated. So, we were sent down together. I honestly don’t think I could have survived this life without her with me. She has also been a second mom to my three children, and I know one day when she becomes a mother, her children will be as loved by me as my own are.

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To remind any readers who have forgotten, my twin sister and I are adopted. We recently found our birth mother a few years back, and also got to meet our three half sisters. My birth mom is an amazing woman, who has been through a tremendous journey in her life. She inspires me, as well as makes me so proud to have her blood in my veins. She and I met each other in person in the summer of 2013. It still amazes me the similarities we have, and that I also have with my sisters even though we were not raised together. Genes are a funny, funny thing.

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It was a marvelously emotional day when we met. So much, that I may need to write an entire post just on that. She is such a rock in my life now, and I am grateful that for the rest of our lives we can continue to strengthen our bond, and get to know one another. She is one of my best friends.

It was as if these missing pieces of my heart were now put back into place – that being my birth mom, my sisters.

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Since then, we have formed what I now like to refer to as our Lion Pride, thanks to my sister. Each member of our pride is different in our unique talents and abilities, but we have so much in common too that it’s pretty funny sometimes. None of us ever has to feel like we are alone in any situation. If one of us is in trouble, or just needs a good cry session, we never have to be afraid to be vulnerable and open up, because we are all there for one another. It’s the type of support system that everyone should have, and when I talk to them, and by chance get to be in the presence of all of them at once I am in awe. It just makes me so damn grateful and proud to be a woman.

When I found out my second child was a girl, I was beyond ecstatic. She is an irreplaceable addition to our family. Although she has shown her fiery personality quite early, it makes me so happy to have her in my life. If anything, her stubbornness and very strong opinions give me zero doubts that my daughter will ever grow up and be afraid to be herself. I also have zero doubts that she will be without female support throughout her life.  She is so lucky, because she has these five intelligent, capable, talented, and tough women to look up to. They will and have helped me raise her (even if they aren’t aware of their influence), and I would be proud if she turned out like any one of them. Just like I said, it doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes a pride.

 

xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette