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What’s in a Name?


Ann Dee Ellis has been hosting an 8-minute memoir challenge for the past little while. She gives a topic, and, as the title of the challenge indicates, you write about the topic for eight minutes. (The editing takes me longer than 8 minutes though!)

Day 4: Write about a time you had an adventure. When you did or said something unexpected. Maybe you lost some peoples’ respect, but did you gain anything?


It was time for a change.

I spent my freshman year of college in a long-distance relationship. This was before everyone and their dog had a cell phone, so this basically meant I spent my entire freshman year in my dorm… on the phone — a phone with a cord.

To say my social life was stunted would be an understatement.

The next two years were spent off campus in an apartment complex physically removed from BYU and all its Mormon “rowdiness.” The complex was huge, and it had its own culture, but being far from the social campus was kind of like living on the outskirts of town. I made friends, and I had a good time, but I never felt like I found my “scene.”

Truthfully, I didn’t really know what my “scene” was.

For my senior year, I decided to move into the neighborhoods to the south of BYU’s campus. This is where the “action” lived. Mormon action is different from other college campus action, you know. There’s no drinking or partying, but I tend to think people act just as ridiculous, if not more so. It’s fun, flirty, and fantastic all the time.

This neighborhood was adorable, and within walking distance of everything. I lived in a German-style house on a tree-lined street. Every house on the quaint street was full of single people my age, and everyone walked everywhere. It was social and fun all the time.

Since it was a new place, I decided to try something new.

Up until this point, I found I had a hard time being myself. Tall, quiet, and one who sits up straight, I think I gave off an air of “don’t talk to me.” I didn’t like this about myself, but I had a hard time breaking through the perception I presented.

I wanted to change the first perception people had of me, so I decided to go by a different name.

I’ve always been Rebecca — never Becky, Becca, or anything else. But I decided the formal ‘Rebecca,’ combined with my height, stiff posture, and lack of flirty socializing confidence was really cramping my style.

So I became Becca, a lighter, more go-with-the-flow version of myself. It doesn’t seem like much, but until this point, my brothers and cousins were the only ones who ever called me Becca.

When I first introduced myself as Becca, I felt like an imposter. My mouth stumbled on the word, and I was sure the person would see through my ruse.

But everyone bought it! And why wouldn’t they? Who questions someone’s name? It was silly to feel silly, but I couldn’t help but feel… silly.

Soon, however, Becca was just me.

And I found that people liked me better as Becca. They warmed up to me on the spot, and I had a group of new friends in no time. I never could figure out why. Did I become more relaxed as Becca? Did people perceive me as a less-stiff person as Becca?

Who knows, but hearing people call me Becca always took me by surprise, and actually made me feel closer to people. Since my family members had previously been the only people to call me Becca, it seemed that all these people calling me Becca were family. So maybe I warmed up to them and let my guard down quicker.

When my mom found out I was calling myself Becca, she was none too pleased.

“I named you Rebecca!” she insisted.

“Well, I’m having fun as Becca,” I snottily insisted back. And I was.

It was at this time that I met my husband. Having just lived through my happiest college summer full of friends (as Becca), I was freer than I’d ever felt. I behaved as myself, and people liked it. After a few silly misunderstandings, I warmed up to Ryan quickly and let myself be… myself. It wasn’t long before we were engaged.

I didn’t intend to have an adventure, but becoming Becca for a year changed me. I now knew how to be outgoing and confident about myself — on the first go-round of meeting someone. I think it helped me be ready to meet my husband.


I eventually didn’t need Becca anymore because I was confident as myself. So I went back to Rebecca. But since my husband met me during the year of Becca, that’s who I still am to him.

And I like it.

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8-Minute Memoir: I Have a Confession to Make

Ann Dee Ellis has been hosting an 8-minute memoir challenge for the past little while, and I’ve wanted to join in. She gives a topic, and, as the title of the challenge indicates, you write about the topic for eight minutes. (The editing takes longer than 8 minutes though!)

Day 3: Billboards

I have a hidden talent.

Actually, I don’t think it’s a talent at all. But my husband and in-laws insist it is, so for the sake of labeling, let’s just call it a talent. (But it’s not.)

Here goes. Ahem… I can say words backwards. (sdrawkcab)

Table is ‘elbat‘ (I like that one)

Window is ‘wodniw.’ (That’s trickier than you might think.)

I know what you’re thinking: I’m writing this out, so I can easily just look at the word and write it backwards. But it’s not like that. Those words I just wrote backwards are like actual words to me. In my mind, I see ‘window,’ and then immediately see its reverse as ‘wodniw.’ In my mind, ‘wodniw’ is part of ‘window.’

I developed this “talent” on the road as a child. With six children in our family, we rarely flew for any vacation. Our traveling typically consisted of long, long, long hours across uninteresting landscapes. The license plate game could only take me so far. Eventually, I began reading billboards backwards as a challenge. It turned out to be a fun game, and so I graduated to reading shampoo bottles backwards in the shower and soup can labels backwards in the kitchen.

But I kept my budding “talent” to myself.

And then one day, I could hold the backwards thoughts in my brain no more. I told someone about the weird inner workings of my mind. I don’t remember who was originally “lucky” enough to learn about my quirk. But whoever it was immediately began shooting words like a cannon in my direction, and I surprised myself at my ability to reverse them in a flash.

It was amusing to the person, but I felt awkward right away and regretted my decision to reveal this part of myself. I mean, say the word ‘processing’ backwards: Gnissecorp. No really. Say it out loud right now.

You feel a little bit like a fool, don’t you? It’s weird.

I bashfully revealed this “skill” to my husband early in our marriage. He acted like I had just found a cure for bigotry, laughing and applauding and shouting about how impressed he was.

As he clapped, I put my head in a pillow.

But here’s the thing. I really, really like my billboard-trained ability — even though it embarrasses me. He shouted out another word: “Elephant,” and I replied from the pillow with a muffled voice, “Tnahpele.”

It wasn’t long before he told his family, and I was put on display.

The thing about a weird “talent” like this is that everyone wants to trip you up. They start with easy words — the things they see around them: Kitchen (nehctik), wall (llaw – come on, really?), ceiling (gniliec — say that one out loud — guaranteed smile!). It’s all funny and silly. And then they stop and think. Hippopotamus! Refrigerator! And someone always throws out: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Of course.)

And that’s when I let people down. There’s a limitation (noitatimil) to my abilities, people. 4-syllable (and more) words take time. If I haven’t already reversed the word at some point in my past, it makes it difficult to reverse a challenging word on the spot. Quite frankly, I’m just not going to knock anybody’s socks off when the words get too tough.

So I rarely share my quirk with others. But my children know. And every now and then, they’ll let the games begin — always at the dinner table.  They can’t resist sending silly words my way: Toot (toot)! Poodle (eldoop)! Bum (mub)! Booger (regoob)!

This “skill” will never earn me any money, but I suppose I’m grateful for the boring, billboard-dotted road trips that produced this “talent.” After all, nothing else draws our family closer than a strange and awkward quirk to belly laugh about.


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8-Minute Memoir: I Don’t Remember

{Remember to enter to win one of two free facials from Stewart Palmer Salon Spa!}

Ann Dee Ellis has been hosting an 8-minute memoir challenge for the past little while, and I’ve wanted to join in. She gives a topic, and, as the title of the challenge indicates, you write about the topic for eight minutes.

Day 2: I don’t Remember

I don’t remember names. I don’t remember things you told me yesterday. I don’t remember if I already knew they were engaged, or if I’m reading about it for the first time on Facebook today. I don’t remember the name of my friend’s pregnancy complication. I don’t remember the name of that actor, and I don’t remember to send birthday cards.

I don’t remember facts. This is ridiculous because I majored in art history. Yet I can’t tell you dates of anything, and I’ll often forget a famous artist’s name if it isn’t one of my favorite artists. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up the year that World War II started. In fact, I would need to look it up again right now if you asked me.

Instead, my memories are all tied to emotions. I can tell you how it felt to see my first Vermeer painting. I can describe the way the light was pouring into the room; the way the yellow of the woman’s dress captured my eye and wouldn’t let go.

Mistress and Maid (detail), Johannes Vermeer

I can tell you exactly where I was the first time I saw the sky open up and cast down a sunbeam: elementary school, running out to recess. I thought Jesus was coming, and I panicked because I had been so rude to my family that day.

I can tell you all about the afternoon I spent taking videos of my firstborn’s first laughs. We were sitting on her floor, and when I said, “Hiiiiiii” in a high-pitched voice, she simply couldn’t handle it. Laughter explosion. I had never been so in love with a tiny human being. I can tell you about another afternoon when I took at least 500 pictures, and how I thought every one was absolute perfection.


I can tell you about the moment of regret when I didn’t return my husband’s handhold on our first date. I wanted to hold his hand, but I was embarrassed to let others in our group see us show affection on a first date — probably as a result of a memory of another first date with another person in another group, when I held hands around the skating rink while the engaged couple accompanying us laughed and joked about our “puppy love.” (There was no puppy love. For the record, and all that. I can’t even remember his name.)

I can tell you about the time I fell at my birthday party, and ran to my mom with tears. Her friend paused their conversation to look down at me and say, “Birthday girls don’t cry.” I felt humiliated and wondered what was wrong with me. I can tell you about the time I told the dentist I was “four and a half,” and he laughed. I was so embarrassed and wondered why that was funny. I was sure he was making fun of me.

The details though? I don’t know how much my children weigh, and I can’t tell you the times they were born. I don’t remember how old they were when they took their first steps, and I can’t tell you what date I started my last job.

I can tell you this: my children are healthy, which after experiencing an unhealthy child for a year, brings me so much joy and happiness I nearly cry every night when I thank God for their health. My children were born during the day, and they were born quickly. Their births were terrifying and exhilarating and full of so much happiness. They all took first steps, and those steps all ended in my arms in a sloppy hug, full of laughter and cheering. My last job began with fear at the unknown, but hope for the future.

I am not the friend who will remember your mom’s name or the names of the two conditions your pediatrician is testing your child for. But I’ll remember how anxious I felt waiting for the results with you.

The history books hold the facts, the details, and the dates of the world. Medical records hold the details of my children’s health and milestones. School records hold their grades. I can find them if I really need them.

In my life, however, my brain only holds the emotions behind the memories. And with a glance of the mind, I can find the tears, laughs, smiles, pain, and sweet, sweet happiness any time I need.

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8-Minute Memoir: Remember When

{Remember to enter to win one of two free facials from Stewart Palmer Salon Spa!}

Ann Dee Ellis has been hosting an 8-minute memoir challenge for the past little while, and I’ve wanted to join in. She gives a topic, and, as the title of the challenge indicates, you write about the topic for eight minutes.

Day 1: I Remember When

I remember when I first saw my oldest daughter’s face as she entered the world. “She’s so pretty!” I thought. And then, an overwhelming instant-mother fear I’d never felt before: “Is she OK?” (She was. But I haven’t stopped worrying and asking the same question — every day for almost 9 years.)

I remember when my mother held her for the first time. I walked into the room, and said something. “She knows your voice!” my mom excitedly said as my days-old daughter searched for me. “She knows her mama.”

I remember when I couldn’t believe a child recognized me as Mama.

I remember when I held my second daughter only minutes after she was born, and she began to cry. All eyes turned to me and watched. I held her close to my chest, bounced her up and down, and patted her diapered, swaddled bum. She calmed.

I remember when she fussed in another’s arms and I took her into my own, only to see her quickly return to peace.

I remember when I couldn’t believe I knew how to soothe a soul I just barely met.

I remember when my husband shouted, “It’s a… it’s a boy!?” after my third child exited my body. I remember I had waited impatiently, my body tense for the news after the whirlwind experience of birth. Then, finally knowing who had been born, I collapsed into a heap on the bed.

I remember when I wasn’t sure I was ready for a boy. I remember when he became sick, and sicker, and sicker. And I held him and cried. And I prayed for him and cried. And I researched and cried.

I remember when I couldn’t believe I knew how to finally make him whole again. 

I remember long ago when I thought motherhood wasn’t for me.

And I now finally remember — I was made for this.


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8-Minute Memoir — Moving Through Pain

{Remember to enter to win one of two free facials from Stewart Palmer Salon Spa! Click that sentence ^^}

Ann Dee Ellis has been hosting an 8-minute memoir challenge for the past little while, and I’ve wanted to join in. She gives a topic, and, as the title of the challenge indicates, you write about the topic for eight minutes. I hope to do every one, but I started at Day 23.

Day 23: Write about a time when you knew you were going to go through pain, you knew you’d suffer, but you went ahead anyway.

I’d given birth before — twice, in fact.

But this time was going to be different.

This time, I was going to bring a baby out of my body and into a sterile hospital room without drugs.

But I wasn’t nervous. Not really, anyway.

Almost exactly three years earlier, I had been hunched over a bed in the same hospital as an anesthesiologist inserted a needle into my spine. “Hold as still as you can,” had been his words. I cringed and tried not to imagine the size of the needle (which I never have seen — that may be the wisest thing anesthesiologists do… keep the sight of the needle away from their patients).

Previous to this moment, my doctor had initiated labor by breaking my water. He knew I was hoping to have a natural birth, but was vocally opposed to it. While he did whatever doctors do to break water, my body tensed and my eyes filled with tears as I tried to get through the pain. My husband held one hand, and my dear nurse held the other. I could see them both hurting for me.

The doctor was unnecessarily rough, and I felt I was being violated, beat up, and abused as he manhandled me. He finished the process after what seemed like forever, snapped off his gloves, threw them in the trash and turned his back on me as he walked out while he said, “Bet you’re rethinking that natural birth now, aren’t you?”

I knew what he had done to me. He had intentionally hurt me. My nurse confirmed it when she said, “You don’t listen to him. He was out of line. You do what you feel is right.”

But the pain had been so horrible. As the contractions increased, I did exactly what my doctor intended me to do — I remembered how bad it had hurt when he had broken my water. I remembered his lack of confidence in me. My fears intensified, and so I requested the epidural.

As that anesthesiologist inserted the needle, I heard a voice from within say, “Don’t do this next time.”

And I knew I wouldn’t.

Next time, three years later, I chose a different doctor. I took classes. I read books. I practiced meditating, calming my body, and relaxing. I envisioned the birth I wanted.

And as I hugged my husband through every contraction in that delivery room, I felt no fear. I knew the experience would not be without pain, but I also knew my body could — and would — do it.

And it did.

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Who doesn’t love a trip to the spa? And better yet — who doesn’t love a FREE visit to the spa? Keep reading to see how you can win one of two free facials to Stewart Palmer Salon Spa in Provo.

The Salon Experience


{I was lucky enough to receive a free facial from DeLynn McAdams (Dee) at Stewart Palmer Salon Spa a couple weeks ago.}

When I walked into Stewart Palmer, I was greeted by the soothing salon smells that make all of us weak in the knees. This is expected from a salon, no? But I was also greeted with something that isn’t always a given — cheerful friendliness! I don’t know about you, but I get a little tense right before going to any salon I haven’t been in before. Are they going to be snooty? Are they going to ignore me? You’d think a customer-service business like a salon would always be friendly, but many salons somehow don’t abide by that belief.

Stewart Palmer, however, does. Not only did the receptionist greet me warmly, my aesthetician, Dee, was out to greet me in no time. My husband and I were doing a switcheroo with the kiddos, so our three monkeys were climbing up, down, and all around the stylish waiting room while we waited for Dad to whisk them away. I was sure I’d receive a few glares.

Stewart Palmer Salon Spa in Provo
But no! The receptionist gave each of my bouncing kids a bottle of water, and when Dee came out, she went straight to the adorable monsters, wanting to know each child’s name and age. She had something cute to say to all of them. Once they were safely in my husband’s care, I was escorted back to an inviting room where Dee asked the necessary medical and skincare questions.

The Facial Experience

Moments later, I was drifting into that sweet dreamy space that isn’t quite sleep, but isn’t quite awake, as Dee worked her facial magic. The products she used were soothing, and her touch was relaxing. Even when she got to the extracting portion of the facial, I remained relaxed. It didn’t hurt — not even a little bit (I’ve had a few facials that leave me feeling more like I’ve been beat up).

But she wasn’t just good at relaxing me. She also really knows (and loves) her stuff. She was excited to look at my skin under the lighted magnifying glass, and she was able to find my problem areas and give me solid advice. She educated me on preventing wrinkles, what collagen does, and all of that stuff I’m now old enough to pay attention to (probably should have been paying attention all along…).

When I walked out to swap kids with my husband again, he told me, “You’re glowing!”

I really was.

What’s more — My skin retained that glow for several days after the facial.

The Philosophy

Stewart Palmer aims to make every person leave better than when they came in. They truly believe in empowering their clients.

“I can floof anyone up,” Dee told me. “But changing lives is different.”

After going through a divorce four years ago, a friend gave Dee a coupon for a facial. She had never had one before then, and didn’t know what to expect. But lying on the table, she found that she was actually healing. “It allowed my soul to finally relax,” she said.

Mid-facial, she told her aesthetician: “You have the best job in the world.”

And as they say, the rest is history. Dee went to school, became an aesthetician, and looked for a salon that fit her healing philosophies. “The people here are happy, good, upbeat people,” she said. “They believe in empowering women and healing the inside. They want you to leave better than when you came in. That’s why I partnered with them.”


Stewart Palmer (1959 N State St) is a full-service salon owned by Becky Haughey, Andrea Christiansen, and Delynn McAdams. They provide hair care (cuts, colors, extensions, and more), permanent makeup, waxing, lashes, manicures/pedicures, skin treatment, and more. They’ll soon be adding massage, yoga, nutrition, and hypnotherapy to round out their empowering services.


The Giveaway

And now, the giveaway. You can enter to win one of two free facials from Dee. Trust me. You’re going to love her, and you’re going to love the experience. And did you catch that there are TWO free facials? That means TWO winners. That means you have an even better chance at winning a free facial!

How to Enter


You’ll receive one entry per item (two are mandatory):

  1. Visit Thrilled by the Thought on Facebook (This is mandatory — Feel free to ‘like’ the page while you’re there!)
  2. Visit Stewart Palmer Salon Spa on Facebook(This is mandatory)
  3. Like Stewart Palmer Salon Spa on Instagram
  4. Share about this giveaway

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Thank a Kindergarten Teacher

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My kindergartner is a fairly easygoing little munchkin. She thrives on warm hugs and approving smiles. Sure, her emotions can get the better of her and ruin an afternoon or three, but for the most part, she’s agreeable and good-natured.

Attentive, however, she is not.


Like all kindergartners, she daydreams, tunes in and out, bounces around when she should be still, and really misses the point. It’s no big deal around here — unless she bounces onto a unsuspecting sibling, or if she doesn’t get a punchline and bursts into tears at being left out.

But really, kindergarten is the dream age. Rapidly developing brains, new skills almost every day, and the sweetest smiles you ever did see.

Yes, kindergarten is the dream age… if you are not a kindergarten teacher with 30 kindergartners, that is.

I spent some time in Emma’s kindergarten class today, helping with rotations. Her very organized teacher sent kids to me in groups of five. My job was to review a book they had heard many times, and then to coach them in drawing the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Piece of cake, right?

The first group arrived, and two boys lined up to give me huge bear hugs. I’ve never volunteered in Emma’s class before, so it surprised me to receive affection on the spot, but I decided this was a good sign. I later learned the affection was definitely not a foreshadowing of easy times to come.

The five children sat down at my table, and excitedly told me they knew all about the story we were to review. And, indeed, they did. They filled in the blanks as we quickly moved through the book.

“OK, great!” I said as I handed each child a paper and a box of crayons. “Now, it’s time to draw the beginning, middle, and end of the story.”

Blank stares.

Too much information at once, I realized.

“Remind me again what happened at the beginning of the story,” I said.

“Who’s mom are you?” asked one child.

I answered, and then asked them to tell me about the beginning of the story again.

“This is too hard,” said one kid.

“OK, take a crayon and draw the platypus,” I suggested, showing them a picture of the platypus at the beginning of the book.

Three kids held crayons in their hands. Another held a fistful of crayons while giving me a death glare, and the last stared at the wall.

Three out of five was progress, so I focused my attention on helping them understand what to draw. They began to draw. What they drew, however, I couldn’t tell you.

The death glare child picked up a black crayon and scribbled across the whole page.

“OK, great,” I said to death glare child. “Now what happened in the middle of the story?”

He dumped his crayons all over the table and floor.

I turned to the wall starer, and asked him to tell me about the beginning of the story. He responded by very carefully selecting a brown, purple, blue, and white crayon. Then he counted the four crayons. “One, two, three, four, five!” he shouted. “There are five crayons.”

I decided not to correct his math, and instead took all crayons away except the brown one. “OK, use that brown crayon to draw an oval,” I said.

He smiled and told me he would.

I turned my attention to the three who were doing something close to what they’d been asked, and asked them to tell me about the middle of the story.

“My mom is the one with curly hair,” said a girl.

I looked at the two other adults in the room. There were no women with curly hair.

“She just had surgery. She’s going to swim soon!” she continued.

“That’s great,” I told her. “Let’s look at the pictures in the middle of the story. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

I glanced back at the boy who was supposed to be drawing a brown oval, and found he had somehow swapped his brown crayon for a white crayon (even though I had removed all other crayons). He was staring at his empty paper.

I swapped out the crayon, and encouraged him to draw something — anything — on his blank piece of paper. Meanwhile, death glare boy was telling me he was done. Indeed, his page was covered in black scribbles. Well done.

One minute left. No beginning, middle, and end drawn. I realized they would need their names on their papers of scribbles.

“OK, everyone,” I said. “Time to write your names on your papers.”

“Where?” {Anywhere}
“On the front or the back?” {Anywhere}
“I need a pencil.” {You can use the crayon in your hand.}
“I don’t know how to write my name.”

A bell chimed, and I hurried to write their names on their papers before a whole new group arrived at my desk.

This time, I knew what I was doing.

After reviewing the book, I handed each child a paper (with a pencil).

“Write your name on the paper,” I began.

“Where?” was the response from every child.


After five groups, I was really a pro at anticipating objections and distractions, but — holy cow — my brain was tired!

The kids went out to recess, and after a big hug from my own kindergartner, I lagged behind to tell the teacher, “I already was impressed by what you do, but now? It’s a whole new level of respect.”

She thanked me, and didn’t need any further explanation. She knew exactly what I was talking about.

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Taking the Power Back From the Haters

As most writers, I used to hope that one day I could write something that would “go viral.” The exposure would help me gain readers, as well as establish me as someone worth listening to. Oh, the possibilities!

But I don’t dream of that anymore.

The internet has always been a place where people bully, but I’ve noticed that it’s gotten significantly worse in the last few months — at least when there’s a large audience.

Positive comments seem to be fewer and farther between, while negative reactions reign supreme. It seems as if it’s a competition to have the rudest response. Simply enjoying a piece is no longer acceptable. The piece must be picked apart — ruthlessly.



People don’t seem to understand that when they rush to find fault, they miss the point. I see it happen on social media every day. Someone publishes a humorous piece on motherhood that’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but people take it seriously and rush back to make punishing comments about the author’s writing style, life, mannerisms, children, and choice of dinner. Someone publishes a piece about a hardship, and readers hurry to comment on why that particular hardship isn’t worth writing about. Someone writes about a mistake, and people berate the person for making the mistake — even though she’s admitting the mistake to share what she learned from it.

People expect every article to be every single thing all at once. If you write just about the problem, they want the solution. If you write about the solution, they criticize why it was ever a problem in the first place. If you write something tongue-in-cheek, they don’t get it and attack you for being insensitive (or they call it a “fluff” piece, not even worth anyone’s time). If you write something deep, they think you should lighten up.

And if a writer complains publicly about their mistreatment (or if a reader tells the meanies to back off), they’re told they should have thought about that before they put their life out there.

Really? I know it’s true — anyone who chooses to be in the public is risking being torn to shreds, but why do we accept that that’s just the way it is?

I’m definitely preaching to the choir here, because my little audience on this blog has never ripped me apart. And I appreciate it more than you know.

I wrote an article for ADDitude almost a year ago, in which I detailed an “Aha!” moment about why my daughter couldn’t seem to stop fighting with me, even with a very clear punishment waiting in the wings. The realization helped me to parent more calmly, and helped her to understand what was going on in her brain.

When the article was first shared on Facebook eight or nine months ago, it performed very well. It was shared again and again, and every comment I read was positive. People were having their own “Aha!” moments, and taking the time to express gratitude or share further insights.

When it was shared again six months later, the comments were negative. I don’t recall them word for word, but they went something like this:

“I really liked what the author had to say, up until the end when she said she still punishes her daughter. That’s bad parenting.”

“It was fine, but I was hoping for a solution. Why is there no solution?” (There is. Read it again.)


(There was one reader who responded to every comment, and told them they had misunderstood the piece. I wish now that I had thanked that reader.)

These reactions surprised me because the readers admitted they liked the piece, yet they still felt compelled to say something negative about it. In just a 6-month time period the reactions to the same piece were drastically different.

To be honest, it defeated me for a bit. It didn’t hurt my feelings or cause me to question my stance. It just made me wonder if writing is even worth it anymore. If people are going to nitpick every little thing, why participate? It’s ugly, and I don’t like it.

This time coincided with an uptick in my copywriting business, and I conveniently decided I was just too busy to do my own writing. So I stopped.

But I wanted to write. It’s what I do. I wanted to write about our family’s prayer time that always includes at least one hearty, off-topic exclamation from the 2-year-old and often is filled with more laughter than reverence — and how I’ve decided God must be getting a good chuckle from our family twice a day. I wanted to write about the daily heartbreak I still feel when I send my kindergartner to school. I wanted to fill these empty screens with words that describe how I’ve finally realized how much I love to work and how I feel it makes me a better mother.

But I didn’t. Instead, I read similar stories from other mothers, and I sat back and watched these really good writers get torn to shreds. I internalized the hateful comments, and decided my topics were fluff; they weren’t meaningful; they were unimportant.

But that makes me a hypocrite because I tell my kids that we’re each here to use our own talents and gifts to make the world better. If I see something wrong, I need to do what I can to fix it.

And, wowzas, I definitely see something wrong. I could try to fix it by commenting to the haters on Facebook, but that’s really not my strength. Instead, I’ll work on fixing it by adding positivity to my little corner of the world.

I’ll stop reading the hateful words out there so they can stop having power over me.

And I’ll write my deep thoughts.

Interspersed with fluff.


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Emma’s 5th Birthday

Every year, our kids dream up fantastical cakes they want to have for their birthdays. Cake decorating makes me break out in hives, so I’m really grateful I married a man with a gung-ho attitude towards birthday baked goods. Emma wanted a dog birthday cake, and Ryan delivered.


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I have lots of feels about this fifth birthday of hers.

This is what I posted to Facebook: “The terrible twos are a myth, and threenagers are a cute joke. It’s 4-year-olds you need to watch out for… The FOURmidable fours… A FOURmula for fiasco… FOURtunately, those 365 days are over. Happy birthday to my now-favorite five-year-old who promises to have a fantastic, fabulous fifth year.”

The fourth year is SO HARD. It’s when that thirsty need for independence combines with a terrifying new ability for sophisticated arguing… and it’s all mixed in with a complete misunderstanding of how the world works.


Oh, but there’s that cuteness too!


Five seems to be a year when things level out. They’ve argued their best arguments, gained a bit of worldy knowledge of how things work, and… they start school!


I have big hopes for the fifth year, and so far, those hopes have not been misplaced. This is the first picture shoot Emma participated in that didn’t involve slouching, crying, frowning, and incoherent growling since she turned 4.



5-year-old Emma is passionate about leopards, hyenas, porcupines, doggies, and kitties. She loves to collect them, talk about them, and pretend to be them.


She is brave. She had a real fear of dogs for a while, and would avoid going to friends’ houses because of the fear. Then one day, she decided enough was enough, and told me she’s not afraid of dogs anymore! She will now pet dogs without too much hesitation. I wish I knew what motivated her, but I think she just had to get there on her own.


She is so loving. She can often be found snuggling and comforting her siblings, and she’ll even give me extra hugs when I’m sad. She likes to ask questions about how we’re feeling, and she remembers the answers. When she was 2, a friend of mine named Rose passed away, and Emma was there when I got the news. She was the one who hugged me as I cried, and for days and weeks after, she would ask me: “You sad about Rose, Mama?” She later received a stuffed puppy and named it Rose. As she gets older, that ability to see hurt and know just the right thing to say or do keeps getting stronger.


She is generous. Whenever she receives a treat, she gives part of it to her family members or best friend — even when it’s only one piece of candy, she’ll somehow break it into three pieces so she can share it with her siblings. If she and I are eating the last of the Oreos, she always insists we save one for family members who aren’t present. (She doesn’t seem to notice my grumbling as I put the last Oreo back to comply with her request.)


She’s a good reader, but likes to pretend she’s not. Often, she’ll tell me she can’t read something, but when I walk away I hear her sounding out the words with ease. I haven’t figured out what that means yet, but I think it has something to do with her version of that fierce fourth year.


She’s FUN. So much fun! She loves to play, and she loves to be around friends all the time. She has a hilarious sense of humor, and an awesome deep laugh that comes out of nowhere.


She is a delightful middle child, sometimes lost in the sandwich of her older and younger siblings, but always persevering to be the happy girl she wants to be (That is, when she’s not acting like a frightening 4-year-old).

4-year-old Emma:


3-year-old Emma:


2-year-old Emma:


1-year-old Emma:


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