Love Where You Live!

Love Where You Live!

Summers at the Jersey Shore

Best Staycation ever!

I love where I live. My childhood memories consist of summers building sand castles and boogie boarding at Ortley Beach. My dad was a lifeguard for countless years, therefore I became a junior lifeguard, and eventually a badge checker. Now I bring my kids to Ortley Beach and I can honestly say, there is nothing better than living at the Jersey Shore. Love where you live!

Summers at the Jersey Shore are the place to be. We know that for sure because of the long lines on the GSP and in the grocery stores. The winter’s seem longer and longer and we crave the lazy summer days of iced tea, fireworks, hotdogs, and Kohr’s ice cream.  At this point, after a virtually non-spring, we are grateful that summer weather has finally decided to show up. The best part of living here is we don’t have to travel very far for sand, surf, tans, and summer-living.

Truly, for those of us who live here, summers are awesome.  Locals, take a step back and look around — the ocean and the bay area are a quick ride away and we can always find places for summer fun, summer activities, and summer staycations.  

Jersey Shore summers have so much to offer. The beach, Great Adventure, the Seaside Heights Boardwalk, Point Pleasant Boardwalk, and the Blue Claws Stadium are just a few options for families looking for activities. There is kite night, fireworks, outdoor dining, and every night you can take a drive and simply walk on the beach.

So what if there is traffic? On Fridays, stay off certain roads and time your travel — especially around the never-ending construction and traffic on Route 37 and Route 9. It’s not anything new, so work around it.

For every negative there is a positive. We. live. By. the. Beach!  Most of us have lived here long enough to figure a way to work and live around the crowds and many people count on tourism for their livelihood. Embrace the crowds! They are happy vacationers. Who is more fun than people on vacation?

Jersey shore locals are known to  complain about the “bennies”— look at it from a different perspective —tourists love it here!  And, let’s be honest, we do too!

As a mom of three young girls, I am always looking for fun activities to do in the summer. Summer is family time, catching up with friends, meeting up with old friends, sandy toes, and PB&J in beach coolers.

Here are my top summer activities for those in the Ocean and Monmouth County areas:

6: The BlueClaws: Who doesn’t love baseball? Even as a mom of three little princesses, a night at the ballpark is so fun. The vibe of the stadium and the proximity to home make this a fun summer night out. Check out:

5: Stand up Paddling Boarding & Yoga on the Beach: Paddle boarding with the Jersey Shore Mermaids

or yoga on the beach are some of my favorite outdoor activities. Challenge yourself to try different things this summer. There is something so peaceful and serene about being on the water with your paddle board (Rentals are available through Jersey Shore Mermaids). Don’t be discouraged by paddling, as it looks harder than it actually is. If you’re nervous to try stand up paddling (SUP), follow “The Jersey Shore Mermaids” and join us for a meet up. All levels are welcome. And yes, mermaids are real!

4: Farmer’s Markets: Toms River, Seaside Park, and Island Heights all host Farmer’s Markets. I love strolling through the markets and selecting fresh produce to put together a delicious summer salad.

3: Kite Night & Movie Nights on the  Beach: Seaside Park and Lavalette host “Kite Night”and movies on the beach. This is fun for both kids and adults, whether you actually fly a kite or not. Dinner on the beach and tiring your kids out, sounds like a win-win to me. Mom recommendation: Head over to the dollar store and stock up on  glow sticks. After the sun sets, the beach gets dark fast—glow sticks help you keep an eye on your kiddos, while also making you the coolest parent ever when you whip out those glow sticks from the beach bag!

2: Point Pleasant Boardwalk: Whether you hit up the rides, head to the aquarium, or just enjoy a stroll down the boardwalk, Point Pleasant is a nice family-friendly boardwalk. It can get crowded — anticipate crowds, especially on wristband nights. The best time to head over to the Pt. Pleasant boardwalk is local’s summer in September.

1: Ortley Beach: Ortley beach is a hidden gem of the Jersey Shore. The childhood memories I have of Ortley Beach are endless.  Ortley holds a very special place in my heart. A small and family friendly beach, many of the lifeguards have been working at this beach for years and know beach-goers by first name. Bathrooms and restaurants are in walking distance of all streets in Ortley, which is essential with little ones. Although Ortley is a smaller beach, it’s clean, it’s safe, and it’s our favorite beach in the whole world. Daily, Weekly, Half Season, and Seasonal badges are available for purchase. Information on badges here:

For more on Casey Daniel: Check out or follow her on Instagram at my_3peasinapod

Life is Better in Tutus

Photo by Pixabay on

Life is better in tutus

What Dance Has Taught My Daughters and My Journey to Becoming a Dance Mom!

Everyone has memories of their childhood — some good, some not so good. When I was 5-years old, I was completely traumatized by my dance class — Okay, so maybe traumatized is a bit of an exaggeration.

Regardless, I remember the experience vividly and with enough intensity that I vowed to never step foot on stage. I was also adamant that I would never ever become a dance mom if I had daughters.  

Never say Never…

Continue reading “Life is Better in Tutus”

Why I Won’t Force Potty Training

Piper and “Bob the Broccoli”

Potty training

Is there really a right way or a right time to do it?

Let me answer that for you…NO!

Don’t bother reading all the books and pamphlets and listening to those who tell you how and when to do it.

For real, if one more person asks me when I am going to potty train my youngest daughter — I am going to lose it. I mean, am I missing something? Is there some amazing mom award ceremony at the end of potty training?

I have successfully potty trained my two older daughters. My oldest embraced potty training and was easily duped by stickers, sticker charts, and rousing cheers.  I was a mom star. I had the “Elmo Goes on the Potty” DVD, I read articles online about potty training, sang ridiculous songs, and had countless books about going “pee pee on the potty”.  She was trained by 18 months. Oh crap — sorry, I didn’t mean to be one of those bragging moms…

Looking back, I realize four things.

  1. It was definitely a fluke.

  2. She is a people-pleaser and has been since day one.

  3. I was in the, “I’m a new mom, and I need to do everything just right phase.”

  4. I’m so freaking over that now.

Continue reading “Why I Won’t Force Potty Training”

This is Real Life


Ain’t No Hood Like Motherhood!

I’m a social media person — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (even though I’m still learning how to “tweet”), and my favorite is Pinterest.

I love sharing a little piece of my family and my life, but at the same time, social media can be deceiving. It’s not real life. It’s little snippets of life and most times we don’t get to see the whole picture. 


Recently, I posted pictures of a “mommy and me” photo shoot. A friend is starting a photography business and asked if we would be a “practice” family — I’m always up for taking pictures and happily agreed.

The pictures are beautiful — but the hour leading up to the photo shoot was madness. 

What you didn’t see behind the perfectly posted Instagram pictures was…

My youngest, Piper, refusing to wear anything I picked out for her — she’s in the midst of the terrible twos and has a certain “style”, which consists of mismatched t-shirts and tutus —my head-strong child grabbed her favorite faded Snoopy shirt and a tutu out the hamper insisting, “Mommy, I wear dis…k?”  After bribing her with munchkins and pink lollipops, Piper changed into a dress with the promise of Snoopy shirts and tutus when we got home. 

Real Life Parenting Tip: Don’t ever judge a desperate mom bribing her child. We have all been there. Sometimes bribery is how I survive the week.

Meanwhile, in the other room, my older daughters were bickering over the same dress and who would wear it.

But that one twirls…No fair…

But… I’m the oldest!”


I secretly listened, hoping the girls would work out the disagreement — my oldest, a master manipulator, attempted to work her magic on her equally manipulative younger sister — My middle daughter, Parker, is even better at bribing. I could hear her enticing Peyton… “You can borrow my American Girl Doll gymnastic outfit, like for the whole month, if I can wear the dress that twirls!”

Not quite sure who the winner was here… Parker got to wear the twirly dress, but Peyton got something she’s had her eye on for weeks.

Regardless, situation diffused. Mom wins!

Real Life Parenting Tip: Sometimes you need to let your kids figure it out on their own (as long as they are not injuring each other) while you eavesdrop and quietly laugh at the adorable and innocent conversation. 

Beyond the outfit dilemma, one daughter wanted her hair curled and the other wanted wavy hair — I’m a girl mom…This is my life and this is what happens. Meanwhile, I was still in my robe, trying to remember if I had anything other than coffee so far that day. I wish I had somebody to bribe ME with munchkins and pink lollipops.

These are the real moments…the moments that aren’t captured for Instagram or Facebook. Social-media-free moments, where moms are losing their minds, praying their neighbors can’t hear them yelling at their kids!

Real Life Parenting Tip: Find neighbors who sometimes yell at their kids — this way they won’t judge you when it’s your turn to yell at your kids. Make them your friends…create a mom tribe…hold them tight…plan mom nights out. 

Somehow, we made it out the door and in a shocking twist, we were only five minutes late, not an hour late for the pictures —  In another, not so shocking twist, by the time we arrived, curled hair was flat and wavy hair was crazy hair… 

I warned my friend that this experience could be disastrous.

To my amazement, the girls were complete angels…I mean…seriously? How do they do that?img_4299

I wasn’t sure whether I was proud…or pissed…what smart little sassy divas!

Despite the sass, stubbornness, and high-spirited personalities of our girls, when my husband feels outnumbered, I remind him that these challenging personality traits will be advantageous. Our girls will grow into determined, passionate, and strong young women.

Real Life Parenting Tip: Karma is a bitch — accept it.  Everything we ever did to our parents is coming back tenfold.



My point is this: Real life isn’t a series of perfect pictures posted on Instagram…

Real life is messy and chaotic.  

Real life is days filled with school projects, dance classes, lacrosse practices, skinned knees, occasional tears, and at least six trips to the grocery store in a four-day time period. I mean who actually remembers their grocery list?

Real life is wondering how you’re going to make it to the end-of-the-year picnic or Mother’s Day Tea when you have job responsibilities and already used your days to attend the Holiday Party, Spring Party, or to be Mystery Reader.

Real life is trying to remember which kid has to wear a superhero shirt one day of the week, while the other has to bring in a show-and-tell item and completing forgetting to do all of it.

Real life is the intense mom guilt after yelling at your kids for leaving their socks next to the laundry basket, but then— stopping… putting it into perspective (usually when you are watching them sleep peacefully) and realizing that it doesn’t really matter.

Real life is embracing the messy, embracing the crazy, and living in the real.

Post the perfect Instagram pictures, but don’t forget to post the “not so perfect” pictures too — because these are the crazy moments that we are going to miss one day.

Parenting is hard — like really hard — but we got this…

Treasure these moments, support other moms, and remember…

The days may be long…but the years are short.

Here are some “real” not so perfect Instagram moments — or as my parents say…”poor parental supervision.”

Hey…it happens.  We can’t be “perfect” moms all the time!

(Disclaimer: This is my blog. My story. My “real life” experiences and my parenting tips. I am not an expert and I am not a perfect mom. I am just like most moms trying to balance it all and trying to raise good people. Take it or leave it…Don’t like it…don’t read it)


Continue reading “This is Real Life”

Thank you M.O.M.

Becoming a mother is really a terrifying experience. You worry about everything, and even create worries because there is such a pressure to do it all just right. Most humbling is that it makes you recognize with shattering clarity all that your parents have sacrificed for you.

This is after the birth of my third daughter. Complete opposite of my first delivery.

With my first baby, I had a difficult labor with an unexpected complication immediately after the delivery. No one really prepares you for the pain –  and I really wasn’t prepared for an emergency procedure moments after giving birth. My husband was in tears. He was torn between staying with his wife or staying with his newborn daughter.

After the chaos of the procedure, I thought the worst was over, but when the nurses had me stand up for the first time, I hit the floor in a very inelegant faint!  

At this point, I was sobbing for my mom. In those early moments of motherhood, I just wanted to be comforted and reassured that everything would be okay. I was a mom, but I needed my mom.

Kevin seamlessly stepping into fatherhood

During the first two days, my husband and mom changed every diaper and onesie.  My husband stepped into the role of fatherhood seamlessly — me, not so much. He mastered the swaddle and was a natural with our daughter. My heart was exploding with love when he held Peyton, but I was frustrated —I wanted to care for our daughter. But I could barely walk, let alone, get in and out of the hospital bed — I can only imagine the pain c-section moms feel.


This was not how I envisioned my first hours of motherhood.

Peyton’s first birthday

I had daydreams of putting on my new cute maternity pajamas and throwing on some makeup. Friends and family would come visit, and I would be holding my new bundle of joy gushing about how wonderful everything was. I was going for that, “I just had a baby, but I still look good” look. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I think I watched too many Hallmark made for TV movies.

Dad of girls!


Instead, I looked and felt like death. I couldn’t move from my hospital bed without help, without tears, and without intense pain. I questioned how anyone had more than one baby.  I was a mess of emotions, struggling with nursing, and completely exhausted from labor. I relied heavily on my mom and wanted her with me constantly those first few days of motherhood.

Our first night home, I was even worse— I was crying and immediately called my mom.

No way was I ever going to sleep again. I was determined to stay awake and watch Peyton’s tiny stomach move up and down – I remember asking my husband if we could take turns sleeping. He agreed, he was just as nervous. We were responsible for keeping this tiny little human alive. It was no longer just us. What were we thinking?

Is this how our parents felt?

In those early days, beyond the normal fears and worries of being a new parent, I adored my daughter and loved being a mother. I also had a newfound respect and appreciation for all that my mother had sacrificed for me and my siblings.

Peyton — one week old.

Three weeks later, I was blindsided by unexpected news.

My sister-in-law Nikki called me and broke the news that my mother accepted a job in Milan, Italy and was leaving in a matter of days.

Wait…did she just say “days”??? My mother? Leaving? The country?

I tried to justify my feelings. Did I have a right to feel what I was feeling? Or was I just experiencing postpartum blues and emotions, which are completely normal? Granted, many significant events occurred in just a few short years: I got married, became an aunt, tragically lost my brother, and became a mom. Big life changes!

Selfishly, I felt like my mom was abandoning me. I was a brand new mom trying to navigate motherhood… yet in my heart, I knew why my mom needed to go.

As much as I was trying to figure out motherhood, this extraordinary woman was trying to figure out how to live life without her son. She was grieving the loss of her only son, her first born… my older brother Steven. She was living with constant reminders of Steven and she was in pain, despite the happiness and joy of her granddaughters.

I tried to be rational. There were people that didn’t have their mom or a parent to call on the phone or on Skype — I desperately tried to put my new feelings into perspective – but it was still easier said than done.

Peyton’s Baptism days before my mom left for Europe

Before my mom left for Europe, we had Peyton baptized – It was bittersweet — Peyton wore my dress, which my mom had made for me. My sister-in-law Nikki was Peyton’s godmother, but I was sad my brother wasn’t alive to be her godfather — and even more so, my mom was leaving in a few short days for another country.

My life was a complete haze of sleepless nights, tears, and confusion. As if this wasn’t difficult enough, people had the audacity to ask me…

“How could your mother do this to you?”

“Are your parents getting divorced?”

“Is your mom running away?”

Mom Mom with Peyton at Uncle Steven’s Memorial Race.

The situation was emotional and difficult enough, yet I had to deal with the cold unfounded opinions and unnecessary gossip of others.

Despite my inner turmoil, I defended my mom and her decision to leave. I cried to my husband and my sister-in-law. I missed her terribly, texted her constantly, and questioned every choice I made as a mom. This just wasn’t how I pictured motherhood. I always pictured motherhood with my mom by my side every step of the way and not through a computer screen.

Parker’s first birthday  party!


Life changed, but as with most things in life, after some time, we adjusted. My mom comes home as often as possible. Holidays, long weekends, special occasions, and summers. We Skype, email, and Facetime. She is always there for me, it is just in a different way than I imagined.


Easter Sunday — Parker was one week old.

After I gave birth to my second daughter in 2012, the experience was much easier. Thankfully, I did not experience complications during labor (Other than Parker coming three weeks early). At this point we were well-adjusted to Mom Mom living in Italy and my husband and I were somewhat more relaxed as parents.


Piper’s Baptism — my dad is the master of selfies!

With each daughter and as I transitioned further into motherhood — I truly understood why my mom needed to go — I look at my children, three daughters now, and can’t imagine the pain, the heartache, and the grief my mom feels.  I would lose my mind if I lost one of my children — yet amazingly, my mother held it all together.

A quick weekend home for Abby’s First Holy Communion

She knew she needed change and had the strength and determination to do so. In Italy, there aren’t constant reminders of Steven, instead, beautiful signs that she’s right where she should be. I thought to myself, in this new environment, maybe she can begin to heal?

I realized, my mom had her own inner turmoil. It wasn’t easy for her to leave me, my sister, her granddaughters, or her mom, but she knew she needed to go — so that she could continue to be a mother.

In many ways, she has taught me more in her absence. I’ve learned to cherish my time with loved ones, I relish every moment on Skype or Facetime. The quick weekends home for birthdays and communions are always special and filled with family and love.

Surprisingly, I don’t cry anymore when she leaves after an extended visit, but I do remember sobbing buckets the first few times she left, particularly after the birth of each grandchild.

Movie time with Mom Mom and her girls!

We talk every single day — Sometimes two, three, four times a day. I track her flights when she and my dad travel — I worry about my parents being in another country — and I miss her (and my dad) every day — Yet, in many ways, my relationship with my mother is closer than ever — despite the distance.

Seven, almost eight years later, my mom moving to Italy has changed me…and her…for the best. Over the years, I’ve become stronger…I’ve become more independent and confident. I am not so bothered by the questions, some genuine, some not — and I don’t care what people think so much anymore.

More so, my appreciation for my mother has grown.

Would I have appreciated her this much if she didn’t move to Italy?

As for my mother…This opportunity came at the perfect time — and it was no coincidence — for that I am sure — If she had passed up on this opportunity, she would have struggled to be a mother and a Mom Mom. She would have drifted into depression and sadness — but she didn’t. She was smarter than all of us, and knew that she needed to do this.

Mom Mom’s birthday gift — picture of her girls! 

There are new challenges and emotions since having my third daughter and  now that the girls are getting older. They are involved in dance recitals, swim meets, and school plays. I know my mom longs to be here, but at the same time she has built a life in Italy. My parents have amazing friends, a love for the beautiful city of Milan, and my mom has a rock-star career. She has shown me that women/moms can truly do it all.

Of course, there are days I wish my mom was just around the corner to drop the kids off so I can grocery shop in peace with a Starbucks in hand. Or times I wish I could call her to vent over a frustrating day at work, only to remember the six-hour time difference.

But…In so many ways, my mom moving to Italy was a blessing.

She never stopped being my mom.

She never stopped being an extraordinary Mom Mom to my daughters and Abigail.

She never stopped being a wife, daughter, and sister.

A quick weekend trip — I was three months pregnant with Parker

Her career has given her and our family many opportunities. My niece, Abby, spent three weeks in Milan this past December. What ten-year old can say that they gallivanted around Europe with their own personal tour guides?

My relationship with my husband’s family grew stronger over the years, particularly my relationship with my mother-in-law and my sister-in-laws.

My daughters know and appreciate the special time they have with their grandparents and my two-year-old knows how to Skype!

Piper’s first Disney trip! Mom Mom and Pop Pop flew in to join!

My mom did something scary…really scary. She moved to another country and took on an extremely challenging career. She held her head high despite the critique and unnecessary comments from people who have never walked in her shoes. She found a way to heal (although one can never completely heal from a loss as significant as that of a child) but she has lived, more than she ever could have here.

A quick weekend home to celebrate March birthdays and to be the mystery reader for Parker’s class

We long for the day she comes “home” for good – But we cherish all the special and quality time that we have together.

Thank you Mom for showing me that you can persevere after tragedy, maintain a career, and still be a simply incredible mom. You are an extraordinary role model to me and to your Granddaughters who adore you.


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