If anyone knows me, they know how much I adore my niece, Abby. My sweet Abby turns TEN today! Double digits. She is so special to me, and this blog post is so special to me too – We love you Abby. Have the best birthday ever!
A Letter to my Niece on her 10th birthday
To my brilliant and fearless niece on your 10th birthday,
On the day you were born, I had no way of knowing just how much your sassy and strong presence would impact our lives. It felt like eternity waiting for your arrival. But in true Abby fashion, you were born when you were good and ready, and on your own terms. I couldn’t wait to see you…to hold you. Jokingly, I kept asking your mommy and daddy when I could paint your nails. Now, ten years later, it’s one of our favorite things to do together. This is ten.
You were complete perfection wrapped in a blanket with an adorable pink hat on – I wanted to hold you- Like. All. The. Time. – I even took off work after your mommy got home from the hospital. I sat on the couch holding you and staring at you for hours. Mommy and Daddy said I could lay you in the pack n play, but I wasn’t giving you up. This was my day to snuggle you. All your aunts took off a day of work to help out mommy and daddy. Daddy was probably so sick of us being there all the time, but we wanted as much time with you as possible.
I had no idea I could love anything so much. I may have my own girls now, but you will always be a very special fourth daughter -and I know your other aunts feel the exact same way.
My Abby girl, you have been a gift to everyone since the day you were born, but we had no idea just how much of a gift you were until 7-months later. You became the core of this family. You became the light that kept us going. You made us smile and you made us laugh on our hardest days. I would have loved you with my whole being, even if your daddy didn’t go to Heaven, but now I get to love you extra for your daddy too.
Your life has been a series of beautiful, BLUE, dragonfly signs. When you were a baby, the wallpaper and decor in your room were dragonflies, the hooks for your dogs’ leashes were dragonflies, and at Mom Mom and Pop Pop’s house, you would stare at a fan with dragonfly lights and giggle and smile. It confirmed what we knew all along, that your daddy is always with you.
At the age of ten, you are the oldest of ten cousins and your brothers who look up to you. You are a role model for the younger girls, Peyton, Parker, Piper, Kami, Lexi, and Jordyn. And you are a leader among the boys in the family, PJ, Brayden, Zach, and Jaxon.
In honor of your milestone 10th birthday. Here are just a few of the reasons why I love you so incredibly much.
Disclaimer: My wife made me sound like an actual writer in this article. I want to thank her for her talent, patience, and laughter while we wrote this together. And a very special thank you to my brother-in-law, Chad, for the inspiration behind this post.
I’m not like a regular dad…I’m a Disney Dad.
Before my wife and I started writing this blog post, we did a quick search to see how many articles have been published from a Disney Dad’s perspective. Instead of finding articles about Walt Disney World, we found the real definition of a Disney Dad.
Disney Dad (paraphrased in our words): A subpar dad that showers his kids with gifts and toys to compensate for poor parenting and guilt over divorce – Also, dad who attempts to look like the better parent by purchasing excessive and expensive gifts.
Uhhh yeah — Not exactly the direction we were going…and a little sad too!
My blog is a little over a year old, but only in the past month have I actually “published” my writing. When I hit the blue publish button, I cringe, hold my breath, and say a few expletives — I am not a shy or introverted person, but writing exposes you in different ways.
Ironically, my first “successful” post was about my brother’s death and how I managed life, marriage, and motherhood after a tremendous tragedy.
Friends and family responded by sharing personal stories of Steven. I received messages from people I didn’t know, thanking me for my courage in sharing. I even received a private message asking if I needed a therapist. Don’t we all?
I was “new” to blogging at that point. This particular topic made me vulnerable. It is raw, it is real, and it is my life.
Criticism is scary. When publishing anything publicly, there is always the risk of negative comments and negative exposure, but there are also compliments and encouragement There are people that don’t understand what blogging actually is and think it’s a cute “hobby”— there are people that don’t understand the purpose of writing — and the importance of giving voice to your thoughts.
Even more so, there are people that can’t publicly compliment because they privately criticize. But, since venturing into the blogging world, I have learned —
I. Just. Don’t. Care. I care about what I write —not what people think.
You write for YOU. Write because you have a passion for the topics you write about. Write because you want to tell your story —share your story.
Fortunately, there’s been more compliments than criticism, for which I am grateful, but there’s still plenty of people that don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m sharing—and YES, you can SHARE my posts. In this absolutely insane world of social media, anything shared publicly is fair game.
Simply scroll through Facebook and you will see friends sharing articles all over social media. Some from Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and NY Times…Those articles and posts are blogs, videos, and websites that have gone viral.
Why I love blogging…
It’s My Story: I can share experiences, likes, and dislikes — and the beauty is… it’s my story. Not everyone cares about Disney and there are readers who don’t care about parenting and motherhood posts —but there are people that do. It’s simple, don’t like it, don’t read it. Small disclaimer: there’s plenty I write that I don’t actually publish. I’ll wait for retirement for those stories and I promise, they will be good—Real good.
I’ve developed an eye for meaningful things: I don’t have time to read articles that don’t matter or don’t have meaning — my eyes search for credible and interesting topics and writers. Anyone can post, publish, and deem themselves a “writer.” It’s an important lesson and one I teach my students. Find things that matter and have credibility. Connect that to real-life, it’s a good motto to follow — find genuine people and steer clear of the opportunistic ones —find purpose and find meaning.
I want to write to inspire and entertain: I am inspired by other writers and I am entertained by some super funny people like The Truth Bomb Mom and Cat and Nat. I vicariously live through their humor and inappropriateness. I follow Disney bloggers to learn and stay up-to-date on Disney News. I also follow some serious and not so serious motherhood blogs for tips and tricks on surviving motherhood — I swear, I’m just winging this motherhood gig and hoping I don’t screw my kids up too much. Mostly, I want my readers to laugh, to cry, and to feel as though they are living my story and can connect to my story.
Writing Creates Opportunities:Writing is freaking hard.Sometimes I spend upwards of 10 hours getting a post “just right” and I still hate it —Currently, I have 28 articles in my drafts. I don’t sleep, my laundry is always at least two weeks behind, and my two-year old has been known to raise havoc with markers – mostly on herself while I am writing. I just “don’t know” how that happens! Writer’s block strikes more often then I care to admit…and when it hits, it’s like the flu, hard to shake. I’m learning new things every day: SEO, Google Analytics, Tailwind — I didn’t know what any of those were a few weeks ago and I haven’t mastered them yet, but I will. I also don’t know what opportunities writing will bring, but I’m hopeful and excited.
I am eager to write and to tell more stories — to show my daughters that they can do anything and everything, like run half marathons or stand up paddle board in the ocean. That they can survive tragedy and come out stronger. To show them to stand up for themselves, and to respectfully speak up when it matters. To show them that life is a lot like writing…
We don’t always get it right, it’s definitely not perfect, it can be frustrating, but we learn…we improve…and we keep looking up… that’s the secret to life.
I’ve been married to my Prince Charming for almost 11 years — (He made me write that). I didn’t think I would survive my first year of marriage, but I am so happy we fought for our happily ever after.
I have three daughters and their names all start with the letter P. We didn’t do it on purpose. We named our first born, Peyton, and really liked the name, Parker, for our second born, so when we found out a third girl was on the way, we didn’t want her to feel slighted, therefore, we have Piper. I’m barely surviving motherhood with their eye rolls and sass (I have no idea where they learned this). My three peas in a pod certainly keep us on our toes, but we love it and wouldn’t change it for the world.
My sister lives in Napa, California. She is the head chef of an awesome restaurant, living the wine life out in Napa. I am the only member of my immediate family currently residing in the “beautiful” Garden state.
My parents live in Europe. My mom is the director of a school and is the epitome of a bad ass girl boss. She is my role model and I hope to follow in her footsteps.
I double majored in English and Journalism at Rutgers University and graduated with high honors having made Dean’s list every semester. If you saw my antics in college, you would really wonder how I pulled this off.
I teach high school English & Journalism. I love teaching and I love my students. I’m invested in our country’s future – and those students sitting in those desks are our future.
I was a bartender for over 10 years during the summer months at the Jersey Shore!
I love to run and didn’t start running until I was 25-years old. I also said I would never run a half marathon and yet, I’m currently training for my 4th. I run mostly to keep the crazy away – but also – I really like food and wine – running helps me maintain a healthy balance in life.
I have two dogs — Reese and Ruby — we rescued both dogs and we clearly have a thing for alliteration — Kevin & Casey, Peyton, Parker & Piper, Reese & Ruby.
I have an obsession with Hallmark movies. I actually upgrade my television package during the holiday season to get all the special Hallmark and Lifetime channels. I go into a week-long mourning after the holidays, until I can find a new series to binge watch.
I really want to be a morning person, but I am SO not — I hit snooze at least three times every single morning. I am that person that has to set at least three to four alarms to wake up. It’s a horrible habit, and one I am not proud of, but I love sleep. I would also take a nap every day if I could. I wish my daughters would appreciate sleep and naps as much as their mother…because I’m tired as a mother.
My sister and I have matching dragonfly tattoos. Dragonflies are symbolic to our family. She designed them and I love this tattoo – unlike the not so thought out one I got when I was 19 and was rebelling against my parents (middle-child syndrome).
I’m Disney obsessed — I wish I could go to Disney once a month. I’m in Disney withdrawal —and I am counting the days. See previous Disney posts – I’m also a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations.
I was a cheerleader my entire life, like from the time I was 5-years old until I was a senior in high school. I won National Championships and was an All-American, but had no desire to continue with cheerleading after high school. I also have no desire for my daughters to get involved in cheerleading. As much as I enjoyed it and accomplished much during my years as a rah rah, I want my daughters to try various sports and not commit to just one activity at such a young age. But if you asked me to whip out a heel stretch or spirit fingers, you better watch out!
I enjoy stand up paddle boarding— It gives me a sense of peace to do sunrise paddles and sunset paddles. Irony – I can’t swim. Luckily, I paddle with my friends who are like actual mermaids and will save me when I fall in and I am attacked by baby sharks.
My favorite movies are Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama— I adore Reese Witherspoon – I have been told I resemble her, and I take it as a huge compliment. The bend and snap is a staple in our house and I’ve been known to say the line, “You have a baby…in a bar” from time to time.
I secretly wish I was Joanna Gaines. I love home decor and decorating. I have an eye for remodeling — We just finished our own “Fixer Upper” and I am secretly sad that it’s done. My husband is my Chip and can build, fix, and design pretty much anything. (There’s before and after pictures of our house in the slide show below).
I was in a sorority in college — Alpha Chi Omega— but I also played rugby for a semester. The semester I was being initiated into my sorority and also the rugby program was probably one of the most enjoyable few months of my college experience. I met so many different people and traveled to other colleges and campuses for Rugby games, while Greek life was where I met many of my life-long friends.
I love coffee — if I don’t start my day with at least two cups, you may want to avoid me until the caffeine has been consumed and I’ve had a chance to be a functioning human being. Another reason that I love coffee is that I have three princesses that climb into our bed each evening claiming monsters and aliens are living in their rooms. Coffee equals a happy mommy. No coffee equals scary mommy.
My favorite quote is — “She believed she could, so she did” — I truly believe that if you have the mental strength, passion, and determination to get something done, you can and you will – (this blog is a result of me believing in myself).
For days, I’ve tried to put together a post on the recent school shooting. I started to write…then deleted my post…started again…only to delete – My emotions, mostly sadness and frustration, have prevented me from doing what I love most – writing –
As a teacher and a mom of two school-aged children, I’ve been at a loss for words. I can’t believe school shootings are still happening. Even more frustrating, I don’t have the solution. The issue is, there is no “one” solution. There are so many variables – it’s complicated – guns, mental illness, anger issues, lack of school security – I don’t know – honestly – I just don’t.
In the aftermath of Parkland, I have read numerous articles, blog posts, Instagram posts, and watched many news segments. I have read the cruel and insensitive comments on social media from the keyboard warriors. I have read the heart breaking stories from families of the victims – I have also read some really interesting, intelligent, and well-written pieces.
I’ve struggled to write this -mostly due to the backlash – but mostly, I’ve struggled to write because my post won’t be any different from what has already been said. And a lot has been said.
I am writing mostly to be a voice – a voice for parents and teachers – a voice for the students and teachers that are anxious to go to school – and a voice to say – we CAN’T forget about this in a week, a month, a year – we can’t sit back and add this shooting to the list –
I am writing because, sitting behind a computer screen clicking “share” is much different than actually sitting at a teacher desk looking around your classroom wondering…
“Where would I hide my 28 kids?” “Could I protect my students?” “What would I actually do?”
I’ve thought about it…I know the drills – I know “what to do” – but will it be enough?
Instead of writing – I read – I read articles suggesting teachers can, “simply arrange” classrooms differently. Another article talked about a teacher who has students write notes on Fridays about who they would like to sit with the following week or a classmate they would want to get to know better. The teacher studies the notes over the weekend to identify struggling students or “loners” – It’s a sweet idea – and it may work for some grade levels – but aren’t teachers already aware of their struggling students or loners – isn’t that already in their instinctual teacher super powers? It seems teachers should add therapist, psychologist, and mind reader to their already extensive list of responsibilities and unrealistic expectations.
I don’t have the answers — it seems nobody has answers — and since Columbine, the only thing that has changed is an increase in the amount and type of drills conducted on a monthly basis, and an alarming increase in the amount of school shootings.
I am just like every other frustrated teacher and I’m just like every other worried parent — praying Parkland doesn’t happen in our community.
How cliche? Hoping and praying doesn’t prevent school shootings. Hoping and praying doesn’t stop tragedy, but change could. I just don’t know what that change is.
I’m just like every other teacher, hoping I never have to make the split second decision to take a bullet for my students; I’m just like every parent, praying that there is a teacher that would take a bullet for my children.