How to Be A Better Mother


I just got back from a long weekend away with my girlfriends. Four glorious days with six of my friends: talking, laughing, eating, taking in the sun and walking the beach. It was glorious.

A girlfriend getaway is something I highly recommend. I know there are many mamas who don’t like or don’t want to leave their families, and I respect their choice. But for me, time away with my girlfriends makes me a better mom.

So in honor of Mother’s Day I’ve written a list of reasons a girlfriend getaway is worth your while.

7 Reasons You Should  Leave Your Family (for a few days!)

1-Your family will appreciate you more when you return. Sometimes it takes being gone for your family to notice what all you do for them. Trust me they will miss the lady who cooks, cleans, picks up constantly, closes the blinds every night and replaces the toilet paper roll.


2-You will appreciate your family more when you return.  A break from our normal responsibilities reminds us just why we do what we do: we love these cute, messy, funny people we live with.  A few days without them reminds us just how much better life is with them in it.


3-We have so much to learn about life from our friends.  When we get away, my girlfriends and I talk with abandon about our kids, our husbands, our dreams for the future. I get all sorts of ideas and advice for ways to handle preteen attitudes, unruly pets, homework, grass-stained soccer jerseys and the constant balancing act of life and work.


4-Our friends help us get through life’s difficulties.  Life can be hard, we need to get away and gain some perspective.  With friends we can laugh at life’s ironies and suddenly they don’t seem so bad.  We take turns listening to each others struggles and sort out the things in life that need sorting.  It’s like free (group) therapy.


5-Time away gives you freedom without guilt. As mothers, we are constantly beckoned by the needs of our kids, husbands, house and for some of us, work responsibilites.  A sink full of dirty dishes, loads of laundry and helping with the latest school project or work deadline keep us from relaxing.  When we get away, we only have our own needs to consider.  We can do whatever we want: stay up late, sleep in, read a magazine, lay in a beach chair and do absolutely nothing or eat at a restaurant that doesn’t offer a kids menu.  What a respite this is!  On a girlfriend getaway, we can enjoy life without the guilt.


6-It’s just plain fun.  Laughter matters so much, and my friends make me laugh. It doesn’t really matter where we go or what we do, just that we do it together.  Whether we are on a beach in FL (like this year) or tucked away in someone’s basement, time spent away with my girlfriends is a time of laughter and a renewal of friendship.  In the grand scheme, these moments we each manage to steal away from our very busy lives are nothing less than sacred.


7-Getting away allows you to remember who you once were. It’s been said that mothers forever see their hearts walking outside of their bodies.  Yes, we love our kids so much that they are an extension of us.  The downside of this is that we can often forget who we once were, before children.  Remember that girl who once loved to play tennis?  Wrote poetry?  Enjoyed live music?  Got lost in a novel?   She’s still there, deep inside of you, holding on to those long lost dreams and hobbies: find her, honor her, celebrate her.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.  And an especially happy Mother’s Day to all my friends.  I love you all and thank you for making me a better mother, simply by being my friend. 




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How to Squash Your Inner Britt McHenry

The last couple weeks have been busy at our house, so while I’d heard about the Britt McHenry story, I didn’t have a chance to watch the video of her tirade until this weekend.

To say I was horrified is to put it lightly. Her initial words are bad enough, but then she just goes on and on, insulting the tow shop employee in every way she can. It’s shameful.

I’d like to judge her, but I really can’t.Why? Because I know we are all guilty of such behavior.

In one way or another, we’ve all pulled a Britt McHenry.

Girl Looking Angry And Annoyed

If you know me in the flesh, you know I’m a pretty gentle character. I’m not one to argue or yell and I can’t even recall the last time I’ve put on my mean girl hat.  But I’ve certainly said things I regret. I’ve been nasty to my family, to strangers, to the lady at the bank when she wouldn’t help me get my father’s accounts settled.

In other words, I’ve taken out on my bad day on others. And admit it: so have you.

It’s easy to do, to lose control of our emotions and let anger win.  And while none among us is perfect, what bothers me most about this story is that it isn’t such an isolated event.

Public insults and cruel behavior have somehow become acceptable in our world. People are rude to other people all the time, and sometimes insults are thrown just because one person doesn’t agree with another.

What is happening? Why are we getting so mean?

What has changed that made a television viewer think it was okay for him to tell a news reporter she needs to alter her appearance?

When did an individual became so thoughtless as to post a video of a large man dancing and make fun of him just because he was enjoying himself?  (Props to the many people who responded positively to this situation!).

When did we decide we know more than experts, we have the right to weigh in on the looks of every famous person, and we can complain about every decision we don’t agree with? 

In other words, when did we decide our individual opinions are of such importance, of more importance than the feelings of others?

I don’t have the answers.  I know email, Twitter, Facebook, and the like allow us to talk behind a screen. It’s as if we aren’t saying the words, they just come from an icon of our face or a cartoon character. It’s so much easier to type mean words than to say them to one’s face.  To say things our mothers taught us never to say.  Social media allows us to disengage our hearts from our words and this is not a good thing.

It’s important to remember our words and actions matter. Positive words build others up (I’ve written before about this before here) and negative words tear them down. Why would we ever want to be a person who brings others down, instead of building them up?

Today readers, I’m asking you to take a stance. In this world where cruel words and behavior are tossed around so easily, I’m asking you to think before you speak.

Consider your words. Consider how they affect those around you. Ask yourself, are my words and actions are helpful or hurtful?

Will flipping off the driver next to you do any good beyond making you feel vindicated? Does chewing out the cable representative really do anything to improve the service you are getting? Is arguing politics with your Facebook friend doing any good?

Somehow in this day of instant everything, we’ve forgotten how to reason, how to compromise, how to treat one another as they deserve to be treated.

We’ve become great big meanies, real life and cyber bullies, and it makes me sad. 

But we can all do something about it.  We can each choose to say positive words whenever possible. We can keep our negative comments to a minimum.  We can refrain from gossip.  And when we are angry, we can pause (and/or pray) before we speak.  And together we can make a difference.  (Where’s my torch? Oh, there it is!).


Margaret Mead said this about change, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

Mahatma Gandhi said this, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

I say this: Let’s start today.  Let’s start with our words. 














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How to Live in the Present: Put Your Smartphone Down

“You said you’d wake me up!”

I startled, then looked at the clock, the red numbers of 6:17 (am of course), glared back at me.

“I know, I know,” I said to my daughter, “but later I read that the best viewing would be at 6:50; I was going to wake you up then.”

“Well,” she said, “I’m going back to bed, wake me up when it’s time.”

In Florida for spring break, my youngest daughter and I were getting up early to view a solar eclipse. We’d read that it would be a beautiful blood red moon and we didn’t want to miss seeing it.

Once awake, I’m up for the day. So while my daughter retreated to the warmth of her covers, I got up, made a cup of tea and settled myself out on the balcony of our condo. I had about thirty minutes to kill.

It was…beautiful. Quiet. Peaceful. The entire beach was empty, the sky black, except for the full moon and it’s reflection dancing on the wavy water. I tried to capture it…



Then, 6:50 came and just as the paper had predicted, you could see the eclipse. I woke my daughter up and together we went back outside to watch the moon slowly slip behind the earth’s shadow.

I’d like to tell you it was breathtaking. But it wasn’t.

It was pretty but I wouldn’t call it the stunning blood red moon the news had predicted it to be.  Regardless, my daughter and I persisted in taking photos with our iphones.  But it was too dark out and our cameras couldn’t capture the beauty of the night sky. Here’s a lame shot of it:


And then-the sun began to rise. The dawning of the day meant we could no longer see the eclipse. But that’s when we saw something even more spectacular.

Dolphins. An entire pod of dolphins swimming for breakfast along the shoreline.

“Abby, look!” I grabbed the binoculars, “Look how close they are!”

We’ve seen plenty of dolphins but these were so close, just a few feet from the shore.

I handed my daughter the binoculars and that’s when she said, “Let’s go down there, down to the beach right now!”

Seconds later, I was sprinting, in my pajamas, my daughter racing ahead of me. The split second decision, the running in anticipation-I felt like I was ten again. We were both so excited, we just couldn’t get to the beach fast enough. We wanted to see those dolphins up close.

We were so afraid of missing the moment.

Scurrying out the door of our condominium building, we raced past the pool and through the gate and ran, literally ran, to the water’s edge. And there they were. Dolphins, tons of dolphins.

It was quite a sight. My daughter and I sat next to one another, cameras held high trying to get a photo of these beautiful creatures.

Have you ever tried to take a shot of a dolphin as they swim? It’s not easy. You have to be camera ready.

You have to be waiting for the moment and react quickly. I took 3 maybe 4 photos, but I couldn’t get the shot. The dolphins were spread out and I couldn’t capture the beauty of the scene within my camera lens.  Here’s one of the better photos:




It wasn’t until I looked up from the camera that I realized a profound truth: the real beauty was in the moment. 

Being up early with my daughter, witnessing the dolphins feed in the early morning light, hearing the sounds of the birds and the ocean in the background-this was what made the moment so special.  It was not something I could capture in a picture.

In my desire to capture the moment, I was instead missing the moment.

Until that realization, all my attention had been focused on looking through the tiny lens of my camera. I was so intent on snapping a shot of those dolphins rising up out of the water.

But in looking through the 4-inch lens, I was missing the rest of the scene. 

I was missing the beautiful stripes of orange, pink and yellow floating in the morning sky.  I was missing the sounds of the water splashing as the dolphins swam.   I was missing the beauty of experiencing my daughter’s excitement as she watched the dolphins.


I was missing out on the present moment in order to record it for the future.  It’s a dumb move I’ve made time and time again.

Smart phones are amazing.  Photos are a great way to record our memories. But living in the moment, soaking it up and piling it into the memory bank, this is the best.

I put my camera down. I looked out at the blue water, stared at the sun’s reflection of pink and gold on it. I watched my daughter as she searched for the perfect shell to take home for a souvenir.  I looked down the lonely stretch of beach and inhaled the wonder of it. And inside I felt: giddy. Grateful.



Life goes all too fast.  In this day and age of technology we are so persistent in wanting to capture all the good moments of life in our photos.  But we must be careful not to miss out on life while doing so. 

May we all remember that some moments in life are meant to be lived, not recorded.

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To Forgive, or Not: That is the Question

If you know anything about Jesus, you know he tells us to forgive.  In fact the words forgive, forgiven and forgiveness appear in the bible 134 times.  His message is plain as day.  But I’m having trouble.  

I’m struggling to forgive a certain someone in my life and I’m not sure what to do.  I just don’t know if I can get over what he’s done.

Here’s the guy I’m talking about:


Guilty as charged!

Why am I having trouble?  Because last night this 80-lb Lab mix ate over 2 dozen oatmeal cookies.  Likely closer to 3 dozen.  It’s not the first time.

From the day we met him Mason he has been sneaky.   We adopted him 4 years ago from a pet fair at our local mall.  I wasn’t even looking for a dog.  But there he was, all cute, all calm, all smiles.

Back Camera

Mason at the pet fair, before we adopted him.

And of course he had this wonderfully sad background story;  he was a stray, likely abused.  The pound picked him up and then he got really sick and almost died. But a local  veterinarian donated her services and performed surgery on him to save his life. Now he was up for adoption.  My daughters and I couldn’t let this sweet little fellow go.  And he got along so well with our sweet Sadie dog.

Back Camera

Abby with Mason and Sadie the day we brought him home.

So we brought him home and he was a complete angel for about three days.  Then the next night, at about 2:00 am, he ran upstairs and jumped in our bed, scaring the daylights out of Steve and me.  Then he began jumping up on the counters and eating our butter.  Then he began eating anything we left out: bread, pizza, brownies, Easter candy, cookies, hedgehog food, anything he could find.

Next he ate the couch.  Lucky for him it was a couch that already needed replacing, otherwise we’d have been finding him a new home.

At first we chalked it up to his background.  When we got him he was a mere 40 lbs, about 25 pounds underweight.  And despite his voracious appetite, he had some redeeming qualities.  He and our other dog got along quite well.  He was a great playmate for our kids.  Best of all he was already house trained.  So we made sure to put the food away and enjoyed our new pooch.

Back Camera IMG_2247

Mason’s first camping trip.                    Mason’s first pedicure.


 Sadie & Mason; his first Christmas with us


Mason and Abby at the playground.             Tuckered out after a day of play.

And he got better.  He eventually quit getting into everything.  And we got complacent about putting things up.  Occasionally he would get into the butter, but for the most part he was good.

But now.  Now Sadie has passed away and for whatever reason, ever since then Mason has turned into well, a total pest. 

When we’re home he’s a complete angel, follows me around the house, quietly resting at my feet wherever I go.  But when we leave he scavenges.  He gets into the trash, eats any food he can find, chews on the furniture.  When he wet the carpet (a first), I’d had enough.

We got a crate and whenever we leave the house, he’s in it.  It was good for us as he couldn’t destroy anything. It’s good for him as it’s allowed him to remain in his happy home.

But then…

Last night, my daughter, the last one to leave the house, fed Mason and then locked him in the crate.  Except she only locked the top latch of the crate, accidentally leaving the bottom one unhooked.  And that’s when sneaky Mason pushed his way out of his crate and feasted on our cookies.

Foiled again. 

So now I’m left mad and sad and frustrated.

How could he do this to me? After all we’ve done for him?  How could he take for us granted like that?  Will this never end?

Frankly I can hardly look at him. Apparently he feels badly; as he can’t look at me either. 


Don’t tell me dogs don’t have emotions.

So this morning, we are at a standstill.  Should I forgive again or am I just setting myself up for future agony?  As I write this, Mason lies snoring my feet.

Who am I kidding? It’s useless.  No matter how hard I try to stay mad, my heart weakens. I know the good in Mason.  I know it’s likely the things he has gone through in his life that make him imperfect, cause him to screw up again and again and again.

Who am I to cast the first stone?  I too, am a sinner and I too, have been forgiven.  Many, many times.

All I can say it’s a good thing for Mason that I am a woman of faith, and, that I’m a sucker for a sweet face with a sad background story. 

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Undone; Worth the Read


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy; my heart shouted yes before I’d even finished reading the blog post. Yes, sign me up to be on the launch team for the book: Undone, A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life. 

I’ve been following Michele Cushatt’s blog for about two years. She had me at hello because I love her writing style. Reading her blog is like meeting a friend you haven’t seen for a while and catching up on life. Michele writes straight from the heart; no pretense, no preaching, no fluff.

When I first began following her blog, she did a giveaway for a cookbook (We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook). I ended up winning and she sent me not only the book, but also batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, made from her grandmother’s secret recipe. Homemade chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t get over it; who does that?  Despite having never met her, that sealed the deal for me: we were (Internet) friends for life.

Lucky for me I was chosen to participate on the launch team and it’s been such fun so far.  In doing so I received an advanced copy of her book Undone. I’m an avid reader and knew I’d like it. What I didn’t know what just how much.

Undone tells the story of Michele’s life and how she has navigated through it with her faith. With wit and wisdom Michele recounts stories of divorce, remarriage, parenting, cancer and the adoption of three little ones later in life. I can’t write like she does, so no matter what I say here, I wouldn’t be able to convey how well written and entertaining the book is. What I can tell you is that I found myself reading it nonstop.

I read it in the carpool line, at the orthodontist’s office, while stirring the soup I was making for dinner. I read it until I was done, and now I’m hoping she’ll write a sequel.  I have to know:

Will the cancer return again, or is it finally gone for good?

How are the littles doing?  Are they finally getting settled in school?  Are the walls now marker-free?

How about the older set, what are the boys up to now?

Like I said, I feel like we are friends. I want to catch up.

As mentioned I can’t write as well as Michele, but I can share a few lines I loved from her book.

On Family: 

“Preschoolers are cute and precious and cheek-pinching adorable when they belong to someone else. They’re life-suckers when you have one foot in middle age and live with three of them.”

(on blending families):  “Some days I thought it would kill me.  Other days I’d hoped it would.”

(on being a mother):  “It’s choosing to love when you’d rather run away.  Being a mother is becoming an expert at saying, “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” and “I love you,” as many times as necessary.” 

On Faith and Hardship:

“And flimsy belief gives birth to fear, not courage…I could either hang on to fear or hold on to my faith. But I could not hang on to both.” 

“Faith is choosing the anchor of your focus.” 

“Cancer, as heinous and evil as it was, had delivered an unexpected gift. It taught us how to live…Cancer–in both its presence and absence–had taught me the immeasurable value of today.”

On Life:

“The idealistic side of me wanted to be a hero.  The realistic side of me wanted to take a nap.”

“But sometimes messy is the necessary beginning to the makings of extraordinary.” 

To think only of heaven is to miss out on the gift of life. And to dwell on this life is to miss out on the granduer-and anticipation-of what is yet to come.” 

“Just as a writer must embrace a rough draft as the necessary means to a book’s successful end, I had to learn how to embrace my life’s process.” 

“Life, in all its shocking unpredictability is to be lived up close, personal…But…it’s value can’t be measured from the same proximity…Instead, to make peace with a life, to see it as art, requires a stepping back.” 

For me, the biggest takeaway from this book is the message that life doesn’t always turn out as we expect, but we should embrace the (messy) journey. God isn’t done with us yet.  If we allow him to, if we invite him in, God can take the messy, regrettable, beautiful and  heart-wrenching moments of our lives and write a story much more delightful than we could ever imagine. Wow, just wow.

Undone is set to release on March 10th.  Get a free, beautiful print download when you order @michelecushatt ‘s book #UNDONE here








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Romance: It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Cookies, Love

“4 out of 9?” said my husband, “And you posted my score on Facebook?”

I giggled sheepishly, “yes, but I also said you were a good husband…”

Okay, perhaps I hadn’t thought through my comment. I’d taken one of those quizzes on Facebook, it had something to do with how romantic or considerate your mate is. In truth, his score surprised me, because in fact he can be very romantic (and I said as much in my comment). I didn’t really consider how posting his score might make him look bad. Oops!

Our world is in love with the idea of love. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we are now being inundated with visions of romance. Hearts and flowers and chocolate, oh my! But (sorry, Forrest), life is more than a box of chocolates.  So how do we define love and romance?

Beauty, Heart, Lipstick, Love

The quiz I took focused on things like opening your car door, helping you with your jacket, and kissing your forehead. These are all very nice gestures in my opinion. But they aren’t the only things.  I believe romance is in the eye of the beholder. And for me, it changes with time.

When I was a young teen, romance meant receiving a card from the boy whom I had my eye on.

When I was an older teen, romance was found in gifts of flowers and chocolate from my boyfriend.

When I was in college and dateless, romance was found in Danielle Steele novels.

As a young bride, romance meant relishing the fact that I was a newlywed and well, let’s just say that for me that was a very fun time.

Later, love meant a nice dinner out with my husband (I still like this one!).

After kids, chocolate was still appreciated (and dinner out if we could find a decent sitter) but real romance came in the form of help: helping me with the dishes, and kids and sick duty.

As my little ones became older, love was (is) watching my husband care for and interact with his daughters.  His love for them makes me love him even more.  And the years he has given them each their own flowers for Valentine’s Day-well that about melts my mama heart.  

This leaves the present. What is romantic now? I could answer this question in so many ways, but let’s just stick with…hanging out together.

With one daughter in college, one in high school and one just coming into her own in middle school, I now know time is precious. I love when my husband and I sit down and reconnect after a long day, love taking the dog for a walk together, find joy in sitting by the fire pit on a cool crisp evening.  Romantic to me is just knowing how much I still enjoy hanging out with my husband.  I’m beyond grateful for this.

Beach, Champagne, Cheers, Clink Glasses

So what is love to you?

I urge you not to get caught up in capitalist America’s vision of romance.  Your husband/significant other may not be a flowers and chocolate kind of guy, but I’ll bet he’s a good guy.  He may not be perfect but I’ll bet he’s been there for you when you needed him.  Bet he’s even put up with you when you weren’t so fun to be around.

Most of all I hope you like hanging out with him. If so, consider yourself lucky, even if he’s never, ever kissed your forehead.


Posted in Faith, In the Beginning, inspiration, kids, life lessons, love, marriage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

21 Things Learned in 21 Years of Motherhood

photo courtesy of:

22 years ago, the doctor looked me in the eye and said, “Are we happy about this?”

I could feel the heat rise to my cheeks, “Oh yes!” I answered, “It’s just a lot to take in. I mean it’s just that having a baby…it means everything will change.”

It was the understatement of the year.

This week marks my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday.  And that means I am celebrating my 21st year of motherhood.

21 years of having my heart extended beyond my own body.

21 years of love, laughter, guilt, worry, and utter amazement.

In honor of this monumental occasion, today I’m posting 21 things I have learned along the way of motherhood.   As they say, experience is the best teacher.

1-People say the darnedest (read: rudest) things to pregnant women. I once had a person rub my belly and tell me I was so tiny, only to hear minutes later from a different person that I was huge. Who ever wants to be told they are huge?

2-Having a child is an instant icebreaker.  Go anywhere with a baby and people just start talking to you or your child. It’s kind of nice.

3-There is nothing that compares to the love a mother has for a child. Nothing. Period.

4-Motherhood requires endurance. You’ll be amazed at what you can withstand when you have to, caffeine helps.

5-Happy toddlers like messes.   They like to dump and destroy; it’s best to give in to it and not worry so much about the house. Up until the time they leave for college.

6-As your child gets older, you discover you cannot always fix the pain and hurt, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes you just need to leave it be, allowing your child to learn that this too shall pass. It’s a lesson we all need to learn.

7-No amount of excrement, vomit or mucus hurtled upon you can keep you from loving your tiny bundle.  I don’t how this is, it just is.

8-Watching your baby grow is like witnessing a miracle in action.  All those tiny little parts developing and growing. Wow, it’s just incredible, isn’t it?

9-Motherhood helps you comprehend violent crime. Watch the news and you almost feel as if you truly could commit murder against anyone who hurts an innocent child.

10-Every mother has bad days. Hard days. Days that will later become war stories. Go ahead and share them, proudly, you’ve earned the right.  Share about the good days too.

11-The days are long but the years are short. I always hated when people told me this but it is true.  Try to live in the present and enjoy what is front of you.  It will soon be gone.

12-Sometimes you just need to settle for clean, happy and fed. Or even just fed.

13-Teen rebellion, be it slight or strong, is a part of growing up and becoming independent. These years are much like the terrible twos; not always fun.

14-The rebellion does end though, and then you are left with a pretty cool, smart, funny more reasonable teenager.  Good job.

15-Character matters so much more than being a good student, a star soccer player or popular at school. Instill good values and the rest will take care of itself.

16-Kids are expensive in terms of time and money. The more you put into your investment, the better the return. And really, I’m talking time here; parents have very little money anyway.

17-It’s better not to put your kids first all the time. Take care of your and your spouse’s needs first. It’s the same concept as with the oxygen masks on the plane…

18-My kids won’t tell me everything, and that’s okay.  I probably don’t need to know everything about what’s going on in their world. My parents didn’t know the half of it!

 19-The world will not fall apart if you forget about the fall fundraiser, miss turning in that permission slip, or space a dental appointment.
God is good like that; if you are at least trying, usually things work out.

20-Everyone feels like a terrible mother at least once, if not 20 billion times throughout her life.  It doesn’t mean you are; forgive yourself.

21-Parenting is much harder than you could ever imagine. It’s also so much more rewarding. And- you never, ever, feel like you know what you’re doing, or maybe that’s just me…


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