Tuesday, October 30, 2018

In the trenches...featuring Kelly

Today I am featuring my good friend Kelly.  She has an incredible story to motherhood and is an incredible woman and mother.  She has several special needs kids and had a difficult childhood herself.  In spite of all her challenges she has risen above it and is so strong.  She is constantly gathering clothing for the homeless and others less fortunate, she and her kids go to the teen shelter and feed the kids there on a regular basis. She has taught me much about advocating for my kids and letting mama bear come out when needed.  I wish you could have been sitting in the same room when we were chatting, I only captured a portion of our conversation, I hope you get a glimpse of how amazing Kelly is.

Tell me about your journey to Motherhood:

I always wanted to be a mom, it was all I ever wanted to be.  It happened much sooner than planned however...lol.  I got pregnant at 16, and then again at 17.  I had two kids before I graduated high school and 3 kids by the age of 21.   It was definitely a challenge, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I found the love of my life when I had three children and told him, "My kids will always come before you."  He replied, "I wouldn't date you if you didn't put them first."  That's how I knew he was a keeper.  He has loved my three oldest as my own from the beginning.

I always knew I wanted to adopt special needs kids, I've always felt drawn to kids with special needs.  Then my 5th child Corey was born.  I could tell something was different about him from infancy.   He didn't talk, didn't make eye contact and didn't display typical behaviors.  He was diagnosed as classically autistic at 22 months.  We were told he would never talk or be able to function in normal society.  I am so proud of him, he will graduate from high school this spring and has a job at a movie theater and is functioning quite well thank you.

My 6th daughter was born at 32 weeks, she was 2 lb 6 oz and  was born blue and had to be resuscitated.  She is considered medically fragile and we have had many scares with her over the years.  She has epilepsy and hypertonia.

Our family didn't feel complete after Paige was born (yah we're crazy after 6 kids we felt like we needed more!).   Ten years ago I got a call from my grandma who lives in the south asking if I would be willing to be a temporary guardian for my cousin's three children.  Naively I said yes and brought three more children home.  Due to trauma during her infancy and early childhood one of those children had to be removed from our home because she was dangerous to all of us.  However the other two have been with us ever since that phone call and are such an important part of our family.  They also both have some trauma and effects from their childhood, my son Bradley has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and many other special needs.

What advice do you have for other moms?
Trust your instincts!  If you feel something is off, trust it!  Nobody knows your child better than you do no matter the letters behind their name or how much college they have had.  Be their advocates, speak up for them and learn how to access services for them if needed.
Being a mom is amazing and awesome, but they do grow up and leave home.  If you don't nurture your relationship with your spouse, you will be left with a dying relationship when the kids leave.  Nurture your marriage!

How do you take care of yourself with all of these challenges you have in motherhood?

I love the subject of self care, it's something I'm super passionate about.  You can't take care of anyone else if you don't care for yourself.  Don't be a martyr, that doesn't benefit anyone.  Be the heroine of your own life and make the choice not to be a victim.  Take time to yourself when you need it. The simple things really do add up to be so important.   Communicate with you spouse what you need.  Get up in the morning, get ready and wear real clothes!

What brings you joy?

Seeing my kids succeed and be happy.  Watching them be kind, good human beings and standing up for what is right.  Editors note:  Kelly does a phenomenal job teaching her kids to be kind, service oriented human....she does this through her actions and involving them in regular service.

Friday, October 19, 2018


It's fall break at our house and we always like to do fall activities during this time.  We had the opportunity to go to Cornbelly's yesterday.  I took my two youngest as my teenagers decided they had more important things to do like lay on the couch and watch football.  

I hadn't ever been to Cornbellys before and it is such a fun place!  So many fun family friend activities to do (my teens would have had fun too!).   We will definitely go back because we only had a couple of hours and you could spend all day there!  The food smelled and was delicious, we need to go back again just to try more of the food!   

My kids favorite activities were the big slide, mini golf, pumpkin bowling, these swings that are sort of like a zip line (there is an actual zip line, but we didn't do that, it does cost a bit extra), the homemade chocolate chip cookies and chocolate milk!

If you need a great family activity, go check out Cornbellys at Thanksgiving Point!

Monday, October 1, 2018

In the trenches...featuring Emily

I am very excited for this weeks spotlight.  I am featuring my niece Emily Dunnigan.  Emily is just ten years younger than I and she is more like a younger sister than a niece.  She is extremely talented and creative.  She was a teacher before she had children and is very gifted with kids.  She has a beautiful family and someone I look up to very much, she is such an awesome mom!  She and her husband Jason have been married for 6 years.

Tell us about your journey to motherhood:

I didn't marry until I was almost 31 years old.  I was afraid that might keep me from having the large family I had always wanted.  Fortunately we were blessed to get pregnant quite easily and had our first baby boy 10 months after we were married.  We now have three children.  Nixon is 5, Olive is 3 and Will is 1.  We've had them quickly, but are so grateful for all of them!

What has surprised you about motherhood?

I was surprised at how hard and exhausting it is!  I thought after being a school teacher and being around kids all of my life I knew what it would be like.  But it's much more tiring than I expected.

I would also go to the zoo, the grocery store, a restaurant and look around and wonder why it was that all these moms had it all together, but I was dying at how hard it was!  I wish we talked more about the reality of how hard it is, we all like to put on the happy face.  I obviously love my kids so much and I'm so grateful for them, but this is the hardest thing I've ever done.

What advice would you give other moms?

I would encourage them to find one or two people they can be real with and talk about how hard it is. Someone who won't judge them for saying their kids are driving them crazy or for their messy house.

Also know that you are enough. You don't have to be perfect in any way to be enough of a mom for your kids.  I know my kids came to me because I'm the best mom for them, nobody else could love them like I do.  I believe that for every mom.

What brings you joy in motherhood?

Watching them learn things and knowing I taught them that.  The other day my son Nixon made a mistake and we were talking through it and he said, "Mom I just want to be like Jesus!"  It made me feel so happy that what we are teaching really is sinking in and he's getting it!

How do you take care of yourself so you have more to give your family?

I teach sewing lessons in my home, and help put on an annual musical at the elementary school I taught at before kids.   I love being creative and doing things that help me keep up my talents really fills me.

Also a few months ago my sister in law invited me to start going to the gym with her every morning. I haven't ever been a gym person before, but I decided to try it.  We go at 5:30 every morning and I have come to love that time to myself and talking with other adults.  It helps me get my day started right.

How do you nurture your marriage with so many little kids?

A few months ago my husband had to travel to NYC for work.  He encouraged me to come with him and even though I didn't know that I wanted to leave my kids, I went.  It was SO fun and so good for us to be just the two of us.  I knew my kids were in good hands and having so much fun and it allowed me to relax and just enjoy being the two of us.  I think we need to do that regularly.

We also try to go on dates, but it's hard to find babysitters etc.  Sometimes we buckle the kids in the car and go on a long drive so we can just talk.  Usually they fall asleep and we can have some good time just being the two of us.

Thank you Emily, you are awesome!