“Wore Holler”

Spoiler alert: It’s not a place. More of a “state of mind,” if you will.

I shall explain.

We parents put too much pressure on ourselves for so many things. This isn’t me lecturing or judging; I’m just as bad as the next person. I wind myself into a total tizzy preparing for the smallest – yet still significant – events in life, and the perfect example of this is our children’s birthday parties.

First, let’s all silently agree that these birthday parties sometimes get a tad out of hand. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: Celebrating your offspring is a big deal! I myself am guilty of tearing up as family and friends sing “Happy Birthday” to a sheepish little grin basking in the glow of a number shaped candle’s flicker. I reflect on all it took for that beautiful baby we are serenading to get to that point and all the love they are surrounded by and ohhhhhh I just get all up in my own feels about the kids who don’t get to experience that love and then I get emotional and all the gratitude and wonder of the miracles in life come pouring out my eyeballs. (I’m such a sap.) It IS cause for celebration!

Gonna pause from being weepy for a minute and switch gears to admit that I dug the COVID caravan drive-by parties. One of my kids had one and we attended many and damn they were cool! And simple. I could kind of get on board with that tradition continuing… except for ohhhhh these babies deserve to know just how much they are loved, and therefore simply must have a themed party thrown in their honor annually at a unique and interesting venue with coordinating party favors. Again, no judgment. I have 100% done it (several times!). Fun to plan; stressful as hell to pull off.


That brings us to our first COVID-era in-person birthday party in our family. It was March 2021. COVID had taken a wee bit of a break, and indoor capacity and gathering limits had been loosened a tad. Still, as the ever cautious parents, we opted for a small, private gathering for our about-to-be-6-year-old at a new place in the area that looked right up his alley.

The location is irrelevant, and I won’t divulge where specifically because much of these circumstances were completely out of their control and they were very nice people. It was right after a flood and we had been warned things weren’t in tip top shape, but that didn’t matter to us because we were “New People.” After all, the pandemic had taught us that the frills of the birthdays of yore didn’t matter; what matters is that the kids have fun. I was now a Chill Mom, ready to go with the flow.

That was a short-lived label. It’s been eight months since this happened, and I’m finally ready to share this story. Zero chill here, and I’m owning it.

It was immediately obvious that certain circumstances of this party location were just not going to work. The first red flag of the day was when we pulled in and the truck parked out front had a detailed decal of a woman on the back window. She was perhaps preparing for her annual Pap smear, judging by her position. My 8-year old daughter, an avid reader, began to sound out the new letter combination on the decal: “Woooooore? Holllller? What’s a Wore Holler?”

Whore Hauler. Which made sense ‘cause it was strip club adjacent.

It came unraveled from there and we knew we had to punt, so some quick panic-stricken calls were made and we headed up the road to another party destination. Sadly, everyone in the state had the same damn idea. Rattled by the sudden change of venue and having to completely switch gears from my original vision of how this (specifically themed, dammit!) party would go, I knew my first priority was to just pile game tokens on the kids. I distractedly inserted my debit card and instead of 50 tokens, I hit $50 in tokens, and they came flying out like a jackpot in Vegas, except I was definitely not #winning at that moment. I looked forward to the opportunity to leverage that expenditure for the World’s Most Expensive scented eraser and kazoo.

I managed to get all the invitees rounded up and we found a table and ordered food. I thanked their parents for their flexibility, and the kids played and played. I wished to myself that this stinking place served beer (the venue of the same brand where I grew up did so, but I guess we’re in the south so whatever). Luckily God is in control and the millions of aforementioned tokens kept the kids busy because our food order got missed and when it finally came out it was completely wrong.

We gather round… we sing (no tears; I’m too tense) … my baby boy smiles… I start to relax. Time for cake!

Not so fast, Chill Mom, because that cake is still frozen solid. It actually took that mofo a whole other day to thaw, and I’m pretty sure I stress/shame ate it in handfuls out of the fridge the next morning. Seriously, we could barely get a knife through it.

Presents, clean up, etc. etc. As we finally make our exit – juggling all our stuff and an ice block of a cake – with my nerves still on edge, I turn around to an awful sound and see my mother-in-law on the ground. Mamaw had tripped, face-planted on the pavement, and we later found out she actually broke her ankle! 😱

At that very moment, a single balloon slipped away from the bunch I was trying to corral into the car. I watched it ascend into the sky thinking, “There it goes, my last bit of sanity. Goodbye Chill Mom! Say hello to the heavens. Please don’t choke a bird.” I shove (throw) everything into the trunk, scream at my fighting kids to shut it down NOW (clenched teeth Batman voice for sure).

In other words, I snapped. I was completely frazzled by all the mishaps; a woman tortured by the fact that I had totally screwed up my youngest child’s birthday. I had failed. We left the parking lot in tense silence.

As parents, we spend so much time planning these events and want them to be perfect so our babies have the perfect day! Turns out, our vision of “perfect” is much different from theirs. As we pulled out onto the highway (still in tense silence), a sweet voice from the back seat proclaimed, “THAT WAS THE BEST PARTY EVER!” I turn to see his toothless smile ear to ear, and that’s when the tears finally came. I let out a little whimper of relief and realized that for better or worse, we would never forget this day – or the Whore Hauler – and that I need to cut myself a little slack. Once I stopped twitching from the whole event, I began to see the glimmers of humor in it all (with the exception of poor Mamaw’s fall. She’s doing much better now by the way!)

So, my gift to you all is this: Anytime you are panicking over an event that is not going as well as you’d hoped and planned (and planned), just remind yourself that I booked a birthday venue for my six year old next door to a strip club. Take a deep breath in, and then breathe out, “Wooooooore Hollerrrrrr.” Namaste. 🙏🏻

The Corner of his Room

“Will you snuggle with me, Mommy?” His sweet six-year-old voice asks. Yes, of course I will. I’m tired; he’s tired, but I can’t resist that beautiful face and soul. For a brief moment, at the end of an exhausting day/week/year, it feels tedious to delay my own bedtime, but I concede knowing snuggles heal.

I lie down next to him in his bed and see a familiar view of the glowing hall light from the corner of his room. The corner where, though a twin bed is now positioned, I have spent many a moments in the rocker when he couldn’t sleep. Patting his squishy bum when he couldn’t sleep. Nursing him when he was hungry, and also couldn’t sleep. Giving him breathing treatments when, again, he couldn’t sleep. Rock, nurse, pat. Rock, nurse, pat.

And the occasional hum of a nebulizer for my baby boy.

So many restless moments in the corner of his room as he grew stronger and stronger. He is a healthy boy, but prone to the occasional – at times quite serious – respiratory virus. And yet we are some of the lucky ones. As we drift off, I can’t help but worry. About him, for sure, but also all the others in my life who may not have the same kind of luck…

His Godmother, going through chemotherapy for what seems like the millionth time on her third bout with cancer at the age of 37. A friend’s nephew who is one of less than a dozen kids in the world with his affliction and has worn a mask since, well, forever (spoiler alert: the mask has worked). Another friend with a compromised immune system. Another friend who gave birth to a little gal who seems to be the world’s strongest preemie, but needs us all to work together to give her a fair chance. Another friend who will be welcoming her second child soon. Another friend and another friend and another friend going through chemo.

And I’ll be damned if COVID-19 gets to them. At the end of this, should a moment come and some “magical wormhole” open up and reveal that all the precautions were fruitless and stupid, I shall still place my head on the pillow at night knowing that I did what I knew to be best.

That magical moment won’t come, of course. Science is real. History is watching. Both are harshly judging.

Do the things. Take the precautions. A mere inconvenience for you could mean the world to another. 🙏🏼❤️

The Disney Christmas Village of ‘88

Tonight, while the children are nestled all snug in their beds, some of us will be swearing and sweating as we assemble the various plastic pieces of the things our kids just HAD to have. It’s basically a tradition and is probably why most parents of young kids are zombies on Christmas Day. Hey kid, you like that tower heap of battery powered crap that will never biodegrade? I can tell. You played with it for all of 10 minutes. Great ROI on that time spent in the wee hours of the night.

But, I digress, as this is not an airing of my grievances, but rather a tale of a 1980’s West Virginia family, whose parents gifted their two young kids with a magical small scale model of Disney World’s Main Street. Projected assembly time? Two hours.

Actual assembly time? Eight hours. I called my mom because this village springs to mind every now and then, and I wanted to reminisce.

“Where did you guys get that Disney Village?”

“Hell.” – My Dad

“I’m not sure whatever happened to it, but I think your dad took it out back and burned it in effigy.” – My Mom

Looks sweet, right?

The buildings themselves were heavy duty pressed cardboard of some sort, and while they had seams, you still had to bend them into the shapes of the buildings. Then, using these little tiny rubbery plugs, you anchored the sides of the pieces together so they held their shape.

It was 4×4…. feet. Yes, you read that right. Sixteen heavenly square feet of Disney’s charming Main Street at Christmas time. At one point, my mom and brother and I left the house to run and errand (and give my dad some space) and when we got home, I remember thinking he really hadn’t made that much progress. Hahaha! Poor Dad.

It escalated quickly. We got a large piece of plywood to use for the base due to its size. The actual “streets” and layout of the scene were on a mat that you had to lay on top of said plywood. This little holiday joy was quickly morphing into a family nightmare. Where are we going to keep it? How are we going to move it? “You kids better play with this damn thing!”

So we got the mat down and kept plugging away (literally) at the buildings. Well, Dad did. I don’t remember my brother and I being all that helpful. In fact, I remember waffling between impatient and bored. They said it wouldn’t take long to assemble! They lied. We were 6 hours into a 2-hour project. Wtf, Sears?! (Because it was the 80’s and of course it came from Sears, right?)

Then, the coup de grace: The lighting. It came with a bunch of little street lamps all linked together by wiring, and apparently they should have gone on the base BEFORE the mat so that the wiring was hidden. No way in hell was that happening. Half the damn buildings were already down and I’d learned some new swear words from my dad.

The little plugs left marks on our thumbs, and they kind of hurt! Some went in better than others; some required serious force. Dad required many beers.

This was 30 years ago, and to this day at the mere mention of “The Disney Village,” my dad groans and we all laugh at his expense. But the funny thing is, I have such a vivid memory of this event, and now that I’m a parent, I truly get it. My brother and I had a magical childhood, complete with a massive replica of Disney’s Main Street at Christmastime. My mom bought it for us, and my dad spent an entire day assembling it for us.

We played with it for a while, if memory serves me right. As it started to fall apart, we would take pieces from it and use them elsewhere. In the clutter of our toys, you’d stumble across one of the wayward street lamps or a tiny park bench.

So over the next couple days as we parents sit and grumble as we assemble and put God knows how many stickers on things, please keep this one thing in mind: They are lying about the assembly time. Triple it, at least.

*In honor of my parents, who would have given my brother and I the moon when we were kids. Thanks for a Magical childhood. ❤️

Less focus on words; More focus on meanings

I think I’m a pretty traditional person in the sense of my parenting. I believe in strict bedtimes, hug them whenever I can, and sometimes feed them fast food. I also believe in, and encourage, hard work; nothing is guaranteed in life and there is no substitute for hard work. In our house, we value education and experiences, but occasionally have mismatched socks and forget to brush the back of our hair (looking at you, 6-year-old girl). It’s a delicate balance, this game of parenting.

Where I think I probably diverge a little is my reaction to what comes out of my kids’ mouths. First of all, I have an incredibly weak laugh reflex to little kids swearing. Lord forgive me, but when my daughter said “dammit boys!” at her daycare at the age of 3, I snickered uncontrollably and had to compose myself before we talked about appropriate language. #momfail

What I do NOT laugh at, however, is when the words that come out of them are disrespectful to another human being or perpetuate any kind of hate. In fact, “hate” is a bad word in our house, as are “stupid” and “shut up” (those are the real S-Words to me).

I honestly don’t care if one of them drops something on their toe and says “shit.” Of course I don’t let them know it’s OK, and I admonish the language and tell them it’s a “bad word,” but 1) I’m usually trying to stifle laughter and 2) they usually nailed the usage. Who doesn’t say that word when they stub their toe or smash their finger?

Name-calling, disrespect, and any kind of hatred or intolerance of any kind are NOT welcome, however. No, you don’t HATE carrots, you dislike them. No, you don’t HATE going to the dentist, you strongly dislike it (P.S. Wait until you’re older and stuff starts malfunctioning and falling apart and aching for no reason. Dentist trips with your baby teeth = a walk in the park).

The goal is to eliminate hateful words from their language at a young age, even when referring to something as silly as carrots, because I don’t want these ugly words to come easy to them as they get older.

YCDTOTVI was raised similarly I think. I remember not being allowed to watch Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That on Television because the characters were routinely obnoxious and rude and disrespectful to each other.  And, as they usually say one will utter later in life, my parents were right! (Yes, Mom & Dad… it is now in print for the world to see: You were right.) That show was a No-Go in the House of Smith, and I really don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Fun fact: I have literally met ONE other person whose parents also did not allow this show. He is married to a great college friend of mine, and he is a solid dude.

I can’t help but wonder: What are we teaching our kids when we tell them a gross word for “poop” is on par with or worse than saying “I hate that person?”

Wondering poop emoticon. PNG - JPG and vector EPS file formats (

Hmmmmm… ???

Please don’t interpret this as my house being a pirate ship full of drunken sailors (I definitely do not encourage or condone swearing), but rather as a step back to look at the meanings of the words we use.

We sometimes talk about the meaning of “hate” and “intolerance” in our house, and that conversation came up again recently during a movie night. We chose the modern-day version of Horton Hears a Who, and amidst the fast-paced humor and fun characters there are lessons buried about humanity, love for one another (no matter who you are), and maybe even some hints of faith and bullying. In light of recent world events, the movie really struck a chord and my mind started churning, so I horton.PNGdecided to do a little research on the movie.

Turns out, Dr. Seuss actually wrote Horton after a realization and complete turnaround he had about his own beliefs. Dr. Seuss had a history of putting out some pretty racist and inappropriate stuff back in the day, but after the US bombed Japan during WWII (and he had published a pretty nasty cartoon about the Japanese), he took a visit to the country as part of some research he was doing and talked to school children there. These interactions and experiences lead to a pretty drastic change of heart regarding his intolerant views of others. This is actually when he came up with Horton’s most profound line,

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

I have always loved the movie, but now I love it even more because of the valuable lessons and teachable moments it provided for my kids. [You can read more fun facts about Horton Hears a Who here from Mental Floss.]

My thoughts and beliefs on parenting are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m sure that somewhere while reading this, pearls were clutched over the fact that I don’t immediately shove a bar of soap in my kids’ mouths for uttering a curse word, but I’m more focused on the meaning behind the words and making sure they understand how those words can be damagingWhy aren’t they as kids allowed to say the “Bad Words of Society?” Well, because those words are gross and/or rude and inappropriate, and they are reserved for adults in special situations (i.e. I burned the Mac & Cheese. Again.) Why aren’t we as a family allowed to say “I hate _____” (or “Stupid” or “Shut-up”)? Because they are devaluing to another person and perpetuate intolerance. We don’t have to sit around hugging everyone, but we do have to listen to opinions, have conversations, and learn to appreciate what every person on this planet has to offer.

Smash your finger/toes and say “shit”? Can’t blame ya.

Decide you “hate” someone? No.


RIP, Mr. Chipmunk

One of the hardest things about parenting for me is coming up with good explanations and “Momisms” on the spot. It doesn’t help that I am living with a 6-year-old Lawyer in Training either. She does NOT take my first answer as solid. She continues to question and reason and inquire and investigate and OMG . . . . it can be just exhausting sometimes. I love her curiosity, but geez kid.

I like to think I’m a pretty smooth operator and think quickly on my feet, but when it comes to the hard-hitting issues of parenthood, I sometimes fall short and find myself stammering through what feels like an interrogation by a smaller version of myself.

Case in point:  A poor unfortunate forest creature on a recent weekend trip. We had hopped on some golf carts and were taking a wonderfully serene tour through a resort golf course in the mountain lake region here in our beautiful state of West Virginia, and Little Princess and I were sharing a cart. We were having so much fun! Singing, chit-chatting, and just enjoying our surroundings.

We continued this little journey as the golf course path wove through the hills and into the forest. The lush greenery of it all nearly took my breath away. It really felt like a little enchanted forest.

Until it wasn’t.

I slowed our cart as we realized that something seemed to be scurrying across our path. Upon further investigation, I quickly (but not soon enough to dodge the bullet I’m about to share with you) realized it was a chipmunk in the THROES of death. I am not even exaggerating. It looked like a dramatic western death scene acted out by forest rodentia. I couldn’t swerve around him (her?) because he was convulsing all over the path and I was afraid I would squash  him, further scarring my daughter for life as “The Mommy Who Smashed a Chipmunk.”

I had no other course of action than to wait for him to finally stop seizing and go around cautiously. After what felt like hours of the two of us watching in horror (it was seconds), I was able to slowly navigate the cart around his lifeless body. He was on my side of the cart, but 6-year-olds are curious and we are all crippled by our inability to look away from a train crash, so we both got a clear visual of the blood that was coming out of his little mouth profusely.

I have no clue how this happened. We didn’t run over him; I was pretty sure the cart in front of us was too far ahead of us to have hit him.

Can chipmunks fall out of trees to their death?!?

No, seriously, I’m asking because that is the exact explanation I gave my daughter.

She was quiet for a little while and I said to her, “I’m sorry we had to see that. It was sad. Do you have any questions?” (Silently applauding myself for such an amazing reaction to the situation and rethinking writing a book on stellar parenting.)

Not so fast, Holls.

Cue 6-year-old rage and dramatics.



I held her as she cried and I tried to navigate a golf cart on a narrow path and attempted to explain to her that there wasn’t a Chipmunk Vet (“YES THERE IS!”), and that there wasn’t anything that could be done to save him due to the severe head trauma sustained from his fall. “WE SHOULD HAVE PICKED HIM UP AND HELPED HIM!” More tears.

Look, I get it. I’m a sympathetic soul, too, and it hurt my heart to watch the poor little guy die. But I want to really emphasize to anyone who is reading this and thinks my daughter has a point and that I should have done something that this thing was undeniably and reliably D-E-A-D. Watching it flop all over the trail was terrible.


She continued to cry. I continued to silently curse the heavens above for making us witness something so yucky, thereby also forcing me to have this somber discussion on what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend vacation. I started to feel emotional because I couldn’t take away my baby’s sadness and it hurt my heart to see her so upset. I empathized with her hopelessness toward the chipmunk, as I felt helpless as to what to say to comfort her. I also couldn’t stop picturing all the Chipmunk Greats:  Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Chip, and Dale.

I had exhausted all the right things to say, which wasn’t much. That parenting book of mine will probably be more of a pamphlet than anything, really, so I whipped out the last trick up my sleeve:  Chipmunk Prayer Vigil. I pulled the golf cart over and turned it off, and we said a prayer for the little fella.

We bowed our heads and asked Jesus to open up his pearly gates and welcome Mr. Chipmunk in with an abundance of nuts and other chipmunk friends.*

*Seriously. I said all those things. I was grasping for straws here, people.

We eventually made it back to the clubhouse and I shared with the other adults in our golf cart caravan the traumatic events of the last 15 minutes or so. (Actually, what I think I said was, “ok, which one of you ***********ers hit the **** chipmunk?!?”) None of them did; after all they really were too far ahead of us. But I really have no idea what happened to that thing! I’m sticking with it lost its footing and fell from high branch.

As children tend to do, Little Princess rebounded nicely and soon forgot about the critter and his untimely demise.  I think I’m more scarred over the whole debacle, partially because I wonder if I handled it correctly. Death is a difficult topic with kids, and it is hard to explain a situation that is truly hopeless. Mr. Chipmunk went to heaven. There was nothing we could do. And we got to watch (UGH!).

Later that evening at dinner, we were all enjoying dining al fresca, and the whole chipmunk fiasco of 2018 seemed to have passed us. We had moved on to the acceptance stage of grief and were at peace. #amen


And then, I sh!t you not, at that very moment a freaking bird flew across the terrace and smacked RIGHT INTO the glass window next to our table and dropped like a rock to the ground in front of God and everyone (including the kids).


*orders glass of wine*

“You got this, Mom!”

Last weekend we made a family trip to the Columbus Zoo, on what will forever be known as one of the hottest zoo trips EVER. Adding to that fun, 3-year-old little man is potty training, so we made multiple pit stops in the various “continents.” (I know for sure he peed in North America, pooped in Africa, and did a little bit of both along the “Shores” region, among others.)

Potty training sucks. Taking young kids to the bathroom also sucks. Taking both of them at the same time in 90+ degree heat in a large stall in a public bathroom…. “Off the charts” on the Suck-O-Meter.


So there I was, sitting on the pot myself (moms pee too; who knew?!) and trying to wrangle both kids to just hold still for one friggin’ minute and do not touch the door latch while I did my business.

I ask for so little.

It’s almost like, in their brains, they heard me say “definitely unlock the door and let it swing wide open for me to bare my mom-butt to the public.” 

Not only am I sweating from the heat, I’m also sweating in fear of what is inevitably going to happen:  One kid (can’t remember which, but does it really matter? They were both being hellions) undid the latch as the other leaned back against the door, forcing the outward-swinging partition to open to the bathroom crowd.


WITHOUT. MISSING. A. BEAT. Some other mom – henceforth known as Super Hero Ninja Mom – turned with one swooping motion from her hand-washing position at the sink and pushed the door shut so I could latch it. #legendary #teamwork

Cherry on top:  On her way out the door, Super Hero Ninja Mom yelled,

“You got this, Mom!”

I think she was wearing a cape. Yeah, I definitely saw a cape. (Might have been hallucinating from the combo of heat & panic though.)

My daughter heard Super Hero Ninja Mom’s supportive solidarity and said, “Who was what?” That, my dear girl, is a legend.

Super Hero Ninja Mom, if you’re out there (and if you were in the bathroom adjacent to the food court in the Congo region this past weekend and caught a glimpse of something you’d rather not have), thanks for being you. Next drink is on me.

ninja mom

The Mothership

My Mom. Family matriarch and Mother of Dragons. She is the yin to my dad’s yang (though that sounds kinda icky), and gave birth to a daughter so amazing, you would have thought she would stop there, but nooooooo. They went on to have that stinky little brother of mine who wanted to take all my toys and doesn’t need sunscreen like his sister, Powder. (Kidding, Bro. Love ya.)

As promised, I am embracing my basic and looking around at all the amazing people who helped shaped me over these 30+ trips around the sun. First up, my amazing mother. Like me, she too had what would be considered a pretty traditional life, although, being born in the 50’s, having a working mom wasn’t quite the norm it is today. She was born in Pennsylvania to my grandparents, Lou & Grace. She was the middle child between two boys and is a self-described “Daddy’s Girl.” Everything they needed and much of what they wanted in life was provided to them by their two hard-working parents.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but we always had what we needed and never went hungry.”

From a young age, my mom knew she wanted to be a teacher. She can recall a time when her great Aunt Beanie would let her pretend to be her teacher. (Fun fact:  My Great-Great Aunt Beanie lived to be 106 years old! At her funeral, the priest got choked up on something, and my pristine-mannered mother AND grandmother proceeded to laugh so hard about it that the entire pew shook during the service.) At one point, she had a college professor deign to tell her she wouldn’t make it through college, but that just lit her fire more to prove him wrong. [The women in our family are known for their stubbornness. My daughter can make you shudder in your shoes. The force is strong.] I can speak from years of being exposed to students of my mother that she was an amazing educator. She is one of the ones that you want your child to have every year of their schooling. She was dedicated to the profession, passionate about her kids, and truly put 100% into every day. I am always amazed at how teachers function and the heavy responsibility that falls on them each day. It has to be exhausting. And yet she still came home every day to me, my brother, and my dad and put 100% into us as well. My dad, also a fantastic educator, did the same. My brother and I were fortunate growing up that we had both parents home during the summer and during holidays since they were both teachers. If school was closed, we were all together. Almost always a blessing, except during the blizzard of 1993, when school was closed for a month and we were all snowed in together. Yikes. We could have been our own reality show that month.

As I’m raising my kids, I often beat myself up over the “am I doing enough” thing. Are they learning enough? Are they learning about different cultures and to be interested in other people who are different than them? Are they respectful and kind about differences and eager to gain knowledge about the world around them? Are they maintaining curiosity about this amazing and beautiful planet we inhabit? Momming is exhausting. I recently watched a video wherein these parents of 7 kids ended a video full of a chaotic recap of their daily routine with these words,

“Did they feel loved today? Because that’s all kids care about.”

As I recall my mom’s interview, I asked her about fond memories from her childhood, and what is awesome to hear from her is that she really does remember the little things as being special. She recalls family reunions where kids had to dig change out of a pile of sawdust. They did egg and balloon tosses and had races. She also had (and still has, I believe) a fascination with dry ice, which they would use at these reunions to keep the Popsicles cold. Brilliant! (Probably my Pap-Pap’s idea because he was a genius.)

My mom had two brothers; one older and one younger. They are no longer with us in this life, and that is sad because they were pretty amazing and talented men and I hate that my kids never knew them. My Uncle Bob, her older brother, was blinded at birth as a preemie (before it was known by medicine that too much oxygen could be damaging to preemies), and was a musical savant. He could play things by ear and just had a knack for anything musical. Mom recalled that at one particular family reunion, a young Bob was swinging pretty high on an old metal swing set and thought he could spit out his chewing gum on one swing forward, and then on the next swing forward tried to jump off the swing and catch it in his mouth. As you can imagine, the laws of physics prevented that, and he got the wind knocked out of him. Her younger brother, David, was the joker of the family. I obviously only knew him in his adult years, but I imagine he was an ornery kid. He also had musical talents and smarts. I remember as a kid that he took a trip to Florida with us once and he made it fun for us with his jokes and teasing; he had a fun soul.

Looking back, mom recalls some pretty cool and special events. She got to go to the Pittsburgh airport to watch The Beatles land! As a little girl, her aunt would take just her into the city to window shop and have a meal out “like ladies.” She remembers yummy pancakes her grandma made, cozy sleepovers in beds with way too many blankets, and family camping trips around the fire. One day, she found a doll hidden away and cried and cried because she thought that maybe her daddy had another little girl that he loved who lived somewhere else. “Oh, how I cried!” she said. Turns out, her father had bought that doll and put it away for the next time she was sick to cheer her up. Certain diseases were more common back then than today thanks to vaccinations. (Takeaway: VACCINATE your kids, people. That’s me talking now. It’s one of my soapboxes. I’ll step down now.)

Mom is most proud of her 40-year marriage to my dad, and my brother and I and the successes we have had in life. As her daughter, I hope she realizes that our successes are a direct result of her and dad’s stellar parenting. She is the proud grandma of four grandkids (2 boys; 2 girls), and they are the apple of her eye. She says that she hopes they know how much she loves them, and that they have fun making  memories with and learning from her. (I can assure you, they absolutely are. Mom gives 100% to her grandkids, too. Those kids are straight-up #blessed.) She has a volunteer’s heart; always willing to help and give the shirt off her back.  Family is her priority and making sure everyone feels and knows they are loved (sound familiar?).

Regrets in her life? Not really many. She wishes she had cared less about her weight through the years and says if she knew then what she knows now, she wouldn’t have obsessed about it so much. That’s a good takeaway for women my age, I think. In a time where images and perfection are everywhere, don’t sweat it so much.  Her final advice in this interview is poignant, and it’s something I strive to be more conscious about:

“I would like to tell all mothers (fathers, too) to pay attention to your children. Put your electronics down, look your children in their eyes and talk to them. Use complete sentences, carry on a conversation, ask them about their day, read to them, be interested in who their friends are, know where they are going and with whom. They are only young once and you don’t get a do-over!”

Mom, you are at the center of everything that is wonderful about our family.

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Embracing the “Basic”

Basic, adj.: Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.

Writing is harder than I thought.  I was chatting with a friend the other day and we were discussing writing. I told him that I think he should write a book because I think he is one of the most interesting people I know and has a great story to tell. He told me I needed to write one, too, but my response was “about what?” My writing is basic. This blog experience has been humbling because I felt like I had so much to say, but then the well went dry nearly immediately. I often feel like I have no original view or angle, and that aside from some humor and wit and quick comebacks, I don’t really have anything interesting or new to talk about that’s not already out there in the Webiverse. After all, the self-depreciating, tired, working mom angle is a little played out, amiright? My friend admonished me, as any good friend would, and told me that all those things about the basic-ness of my life were what made me, in his words, relatable. I guess the takeaway is to embrace the basic and run with it.

Relatable, sure, but people want to be entertained and inspired. You know that saying “Normal is boring?” Well, if that is the case, I am SOOOO boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. I love the general predictability of it all. I like the traditions and the family and the hectic routine that kids and a growing family can bring. I look at people who opted not to have this same kind of life with curiosity and awe as they travel the world and do crazy and amazing things (and I sometimes admittedly look at them with jealousy during a Threenager Rage-a-thon). I wouldn’t have my life any other way, but these differences among us are what make the world go around and keep it interesting. I cannot imagine if everyone was like me. The world would be quite dull (but sarcastic and endearing with great legs). I LOVE learning about different people and hearing their stories. I love to travel and experience different cultures. I am so excited for the day that I can take my kids on faraway adventures and teach them things to shape their lives.

That’s what has inspired me to continue this blog down a different path for a little while, because I think to look forward, I want to also look backward and around.

The way I was raised makes me relatable I think. Heck, the way we are all raised is what shapes us into who we are and what we do in life. I was raised traditionally, which probably made me lean toward that style of life. But I was also raised surrounded by strong women. Women who worked and raised and cared for children all their lives. Women who helped pave the way for me to be so “traditional and relatable” in today’s society. I am a full-time working mother of two young kids. Anytime anyone says those same words to me, or some permutation of them, I want to throw up the Hunger Games sign and scream May the odds be ever in your favor!” I’m a believer that there needs to be a kind of gang hand-sign that we can make at each other in Target when our kids are acting a-fool as a symbol of solidarity as though to say, “I understand. I was in your position yesterday. Go home and drink a bottle of wine. You deserve it. They won’t always be like this.” #solidarity


All of this – the way I was raised, why I am so relatable, where my humor comes from – made me look back at the people I have been surrounded and influenced by these past 37 years. I was born in the 80’s and had my formidable years in the 90’s; went to college before iPhones and social media existed (can I get a Hallelujah on that one?!?) and am now raising kids in this fast-paced world in years that start with “20–” where everything and everyone is constantly in your face. It’s exhausting, but I love it because I feel as though throughout my life I have been influenced by strong people and intelligent people who have helped prepare me for anything that life can throw at me.

To wrap up all this rambling (bless you if you are still here at this point), I am going to start featuring some of these people in my life and tell their story. I have interviewed some of them already, and I have been around them most (if not all) of my life. I’m hoping it will kind of be a gentle mix of “Humans of New York” meets “Scary Mommy,” so let’s all bow our heads and pray that I can accomplish that. Amen.

Stay tuned! Interesting people and stories coming your way soon!

Raising Ferdinand

Remember Ferdinand? No, not the new version that just came out. Kids might not realize, but we adults know, that story has a wayyyyyyy longer history than that. I’m not even talking about the book. If you were raised on The Disney Channel like my brother and I were, you may remember a little short film called “Ferdinand the Bull,” which actually was released in 1938!? Anyways, it took a few decades and a viewing of the “new” Ferdinand to 1) Make me question eating a burger again (this resolution lasted all of 12 hours) and 2) I might be raising a Ferdinand. ❤️🐂

We often joke about the very chill and laid back nature of our 3-year-old son. In fact, based on vacation experiences with the little man, he has earned himself the moniker of “Island L.” The kid fell asleep in a wagon, for crying out loud. Vacations and disruptions in routine can totally slaughter (no pun intended) a kid’s day. It’s one of the reasons that parents with little kids will laugh after vacation when someone asks if they feel rested and rejuvenated. That’s a big HELL-TO-THE-NO, people. Vacationing with kids is fun and adventuresome, and it is the opposite of resting or rejuvenating (or any of those fun words associated with relaxation).

But not Island L. He can meld right into any situation. His older sister has the characteristics and tenacity to become a great leader (or evil genius; jury’s still out) some day, but don’t dare mess with her shut-eye. L is….. content. I admire him for it, and I envy it immensely. After all, I have a blog with the word “worrier” in the title. Definitely no sense of “chill” in this soul too often. Motherhood definitely didn’t help me unclench, so there’s that. He definitely gets this from his dad. Just like his sister, L could do anything he wants, including be a great leader, but if he is he will probably teach surfing on the side just to maintain some balance and Zen. 🏄

We have the kids in soccer right now (an American requirement for anyone whose mom drives a fly minivan), and while I really thought he would love it and be all about it, turns out he is not at this point in time. I thought perhaps he just didn’t enjoy the first practice, because to be honest I didn’t either. (It was cold and our feet got wet. Yuck!) But then the first game came and he was just not having it. My son is clutch at exercising his right to peaceably protest. His favorite method? The Sit-in. At one point, he professed his love for the clouds (“I wuv clouds”) and literally stopped to look at some flowers.

My sweet Island L is like Ferdinand. He doesn’t have time for conflict or stress (or the bureaucracy of organized sports, apparently) . He just wants to sit and smell the flowers. He wants to watch the clouds go by. He wants to smile and laugh and sleep in a wagon if the mood hits him. He is …. content. Oh, that sweet, sweet boy. Make no mistake, the child is every bit the definition of a Threenager right now, but in comparing this stage of life between the two kids, he is different. He’s enjoying the Island Life everywhere he goes. What a lucky guy!

It can be difficult as a parent to allow your little ones the proverbial time to “stop and smell the flowers.” Lord knows I’ve let out my share of exasperated sighs and hurried him along. But now I realize that this characteristic is something I want him to hold onto. Sure, there are times when we have to hustle for some reason for another, but I am making the conscious effort to be mindful of this beautiful trait he possesses as this fast-paced world will surely try to beat it out of him as he grows. So for now, just like Ferdinand’s mother, I’m going to embrace it. Maybe I’ll even manifest my own inner Island Holly and go with the Island L flow.

Beating “The Blahs” – Cincy Style

As a family, one of our favorite places to visit is Cincinnati. It’s a quick trip for us and there are so many things to do for both family/kid and adult entertainment. We have been there so many times that I cannot possibly describe in detail all that we have done or recommend there, but I will give some highlights for anyone wanting to check it out!

But, first and foremost, I have to give a HUGE shout-out to my husband, Jeremy, for his stellar driving in the treacherous winter conditions we encountered. He handled our F-150 like a boss, and also managed to put up with my incessant paranoid backseat driving and squealing. Well done, Babe. Well done.  The kids were in the backseat with their iPads and awesome new headphones, therefore making them ideal travel buddies (translation: occupied and quiet!).

Last weekend, our itinerary included the Newport Aquarium and Great Wolf Lodge. It was my first time at Great Wolf Lodge, but I love that aquarium and was so excited to see they have added to it.

During the winter months, the Newport Aquarium runs a great ticket special where you get a free kid ticket with any adult ticket purchase. That was almost a $40 savings for us! (Which I promptly spent on a private penguin encounter for Jeremy and C.) Jeremy and C both love penguins (who doesn’t, though?), and C had just finished a study on these adorable creatures at school the previous week, so it was well-timed. C’s favorite fact:  Penguins poop every 10 minutes! Hence, we will never own a penguin as a pet.


They have a coat check for winter time, and adjusted hours. I always recommend buying tickets in advance (coupons at the bottom of them!), but that’s because I’m a worrier and worry it will sell out on our day of arrival. Plus, I hate waiting in lines. At first glance, I think the ticket price can seem steep, but there are so many interactive and hands-on activities that I truly feel we all got an “experience” out of it. Our favorite part was Sting Ray Bay. I think these creatures are fascinating. Years ago (before kids), Jeremy and I went swimming with sting rays in Grand Cayman and it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Jeremy even got a hickey from one of them; a fact that he will NEVER live down. LOL! (Sorry, Babe.) We spent the bulk of our time with the sting rays, partially because there is a very tropical vibe in that area – reggae music, sunlight, and a warmer temp than other areas. The only thing I was missing was a margarita.

There is a little cafe’ in the aquarium. Overpriced as hell, of course, but we were able to score a little snack there to keep the kids’ Hangry Instinct from taking over. I just love aquariums, and Newport is impressive. In fact, if I ever hit a MAJOR lottery, mark my words that Huntington, WV, will have its own aquarium. I HEART FISHES (and other aquatic creatures)! Last tip:  Take a dry shirt for the kiddos. Between the touch tank and the sting rays (yes you can touch them!!), my kids were soaked, and since it was 5 degrees outside, we ended up buying crappy clearance sweatshirts.


Lodging:  If you are planning to do just the Aquarium/Newport area, there is a brand new Hampton Inn right across the street. It is very walkable, and the hotel has a little pool and clean, spacious rooms. Great property!

After a day at the aquarium and a night in at the Hampton Inn, we ventured up to Mason, OH, to Great Wolf Lodge. (It is literally right next to King’s Island.) All I can say is WOW! I wish we would have had more days there, because I honestly don’t even feel like I can give very good info about it after just one night. I’m sure there are other experts on that place, but I can tell you it is overwhelmingly fun. We sprung for the room upgrade so the kids could stay in a little tent with bunk beds, which I think added to the experience and it also gave a little separation. The water park is clean (thank God), and the lifeguards there mean business. As a perpetual worrier who really goes psycho around water, I appreciated their diligence and commitment to water safety. Oh, and I was able to use my (Super Hip & Cool Mom) Sunny Tag waterproof pouch!


Life jackets and (crappy) towels are provided, and there dozens of ways to spend hundreds of your hard-earned dollars at the various games in the arcade, mini golf, shops, etc. They have restaurants on-property too, but we only had pizza during a swim break. Parents:  There is a well-stocked bar! Hallelujah.  And they carried one of my favorite beers, Kona. Due to my recent surgery, I really couldn’t do much, so I spent a lot of time in the “little kid” area with L. I loved this area because he could splash and climb the stairs to the mini-slides while I kept an eye on him. It was nice not feeling like I had to hover. I’m excited to go back another time when I can be more active with the kids because I love water parks and water slides, but just could not do that stuff this time. Check Groupon for specials, and also check with your workplace to see if any discounts are offered. Most important:  The kids had a blast! And the smiles on their faces are all I wanted. (Oh, and have I mentioned that penguins poop every 10 minutes?)

There is SO much to do in the Cincinnati area. We go several times a year and do something different every time. I am trying not to be too lengthy, but I want to highlight some fun stuff we have done in the past in the Queen City, therefore I will fail at that attempt. Bear with me.

Duke Energy Children’s Museum:  Wow! Worth the small entry fee and definitely a great way for kids to run off steam. It’s clean, and things work. There are several different play areas, and a special gated area for little kids with stroller parking. It is well-staffed, and a quick little drive from downtown. Last time we were there, the kids’ claimed their favorite part was riding in the golf cart (shuttle) from the back of the parking lot to the entrance, but I know they also enjoyed the water tables, tree-house, and little village. NOTE: Right now their website has notice that they are closed through Spring 2018 due to construction, so check before you go! I’m excited to see what this new construction brings, because it was pretty awesome to begin with.

EnterTRAINment Junction:  Now this place is just a little gem of an experience! Located north of the city, it is the WORLD’S Largest Indoor Train display. Basically, it is a huge model train that is laid out chronologically by period and historically accurate. One nice little touch they offer:  Small step stools as you enter so our little shorties can see the display and carry with them throughout. There is also a little indoor play area and a funhouse. They do have a little concession area and a gift shop. When the weather is nice, they also offer some outdoor train rides/activities, but we have not been there when those were available. L absolutely flips out over trains, so we were bummed to miss out on that, but both kids just absolutely loved this place. Tickets are very reasonable, and kids 2 and under are free. If you’re looking for something to fill a few hours in the Cincy area, check this place out!! You’ll be impressed, I promise. Like I said, it’s a little gem!

Cincinnati Reds Game:  Just like Great Wolf Lodge, I’m hardly an expert on this place, but what I love about this experience is Great American Ballpark itself. First of all, I love baseball:  Any sport that allows day drinking in broad daylight without judgement is A-OK in my book. Plus, the whole atmosphere of a baseball game just feels so American and hearkens back to a simpler time. This stadium though: Breastfeeding suite; clean bathrooms; lots of activities for the kids including an awesome roped off playgound…. Yes! Plus, it is very walkable from the downtown hotels and across the street from a brewery (Yay!). You can get tickets for a reasonable price, and if it is your little one’s first time, the customer service desk will make you a little certificate to commemorate the event. It is definitely a very family-friendly environment and a great spring/summer activity in Cincy.


Cincinnati Zoo: I admit, I was on Fiona-Watch because nothing can be cuter than this baby hippo! While I didn’t get to see her, I did see her parents Bibi and Henry (RIP!), and this zoo was just awesome. Easy to navigate and lots of great exhibits. It was hot when we were there last summer, but the animals were still out and about. We paid the extra few bucks to feed the giraffes and it was absolutely worth the money (and waiting in a little line). The kids just squealed and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Fun fact: Giraffes have black tongues! We rode the train and watched a great bird show (a parrot flew right over our heads!), and we were able to beat the heat in a couple indoor exhibits along the way. We rented a 2-kiddo stroller, which I think was a smart move because it kept me from having to pack ours and drag it around.

OMG this is getting way too long and I’m sorry, but one other thing I want to mention is Rhinegeist Brewery. Again, I’m not an expert on this place, but I know someone who is (my bestie!) and I want to encourage you to check our her blog, Wild and Wonderful Me, to learn more about this cool beer-drinkers destination. While you’re at her blog, check out the other awesome stuff she gets into. She’s one cool cat! (Love you, Michele!)