Orlando Moms who Rock: Sheila Kramer & Samantha Taylor

Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Sheila Kramer and her daughter Samantha Taylor! These Orlando moms (And grandma!) run a local publishing company that has had a major impact in Central Florida.

I’m not sure that everyone would describe working in a spare bedroom with your husband and daughter as a dream job.  But Sheila Kramer would.  She continually says what a joy Lake Mary Life Magazine has been to build and counts working so closely with her family as one of the best parts.  

Before we talk about growing a magazine empire from your guest room, let’s back up to how Sheila and Michael Kramer made their way from New York City to Seminole County, FL and even a little before that.   Sheila and Michael met in 1974 on Thanksgiving day.  Sheila’s first cousin was married to Michael’s first cousin.  They hit it off instantly.  They went out on a date a day or two after the holiday and were married in January 1975.  And they’ll remind you that they only waited so long because that’s the first day the Rabbi was available.  

Fast forward a few years, Michael is commuting from a house they had purchased in New Jersey into New York City where he worked as an accountant.  The Kramers now had two young children, Samantha and Ben.  Having both lost their fathers very young, Sheila and Michael understood how precious life could be and the effects his commute and stressful career could have.  They realized if they sold their home and moved to a different area Michael could have a shot at being a full-time musician and live the life he truly dreamed of.  So they took to researching areas around the country that had good education and a thriving entertainment industry.  They wound up with two options, Orlando or Las Vegas.  The two had a little too much of an affection for gambling to think Vegas was a good idea.  So, the Kramers headed to Central Florida.

Michael gave himself six months to find a job as a pianist that would provide full-time income.  He got status at Disney and then began work at the piano bar at the Sheraton in Maitland.  To this day, Michael continues to be a successful musician playing all over the community.  Sheila began settling into life in Orlando and began looking for classes and activities for the kids.  She noticed there wasn’t a family newspaper like she was used to back home.  She took that spark of an idea and turned it into the Family Journal a local publication which she wound up selling to The Orlando Sentinel.  It would still be years before she began Lake Mary Life Magazine.  As the kids grew older, she was a freelance graphic designer and copywriter for clients throughout the country but the schedule was getting stressful.

 

On a schedule that wasn’t working for her family:

Sheila: “I had all these different deadlines for all these different clients.  When the kids were home over the summer it was always super busy.  So it was like camp daddy (Michael worked nights as a pianist at the time).  I had to work during the day and I was working 12 to 14 hours a day.”

On starting Lake Mary Life Magazine:

Sheila: “Starting it was something I had been thinking about doing for a long time.  I got more and more frustrated with what I was doing which was just very simple design work and writing.  Michael finally said to me, Stop talking about starting a magazine and just do it.

On its meager beginnings:

Sheila: “I invested a ridiculously small amount of money to open a checking account.  The first issue paid for itself.  And every issue grew.  It was a remarkable growth.”

By the end of the first year Lake Mary Life was in the green.  But back then, Sheila and Michael did it all.  For years, they ran the magazine out of spare bedrooms in the house.  Sheila understood what a big chance they were taking by opening a small business.  

On the right place, the right time, and all the right skills:

Sheila: “Every part of it except for the sales part, was something Michael or I could do.  So the fact that I had a husband who could edit, write, and do all the business part because he was an accountant was fantastic.  I knew the graphic design and could write.  It was the right place at the right time.  There was nothing like it around town.  It was a joy, it has always been a joy.”

Samantha (Sam) had come back from college at UF and she and her now husband John (JT) moved home to Seminole County to start a family.   As the magazine grew, they were able to hire her on.

On moving back to Seminole County:

Sam: “I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.  We got married so young and were in the get married and have family mode.  I grew up here.  I loved being a Seminole County girl, the public schools here, going to the grocery store and running into people you know. I knew I wanted to raise my family in that environment.”

On joining the family business:

Sam: “I always say, how lucky am I that my parents had a business that I could work in that wasn’t the plumbing business or something.  It’s something really interesting to me.  I was working at March of Dimes when it started and they didn’t need me at first.”

Sheila: “We couldn’t afford to pay you!”  

Sam: “After I had Joey, I was itching to go back and do something.  He was about 18 months old  and there was now a place I could work part-time.  It was ideal.  And to have the flexibility that working for your family business provides, it’s fantastic.”  

On working so closely with family:

Sheila: “My favorite days are the days she’s in the office.”

Sam: “We have a really great relationship and I adore working with her.  Just like any mother and daughter we can get on each other’s nerves. I have to be careful not to be too sarcastic or familiar. At home you can talk to your mom one way and in an office you can’t. Also, she will ask me if I have enough protein in my salad at lunch- something previous bosses of mine haven’t done for some reason.”

On putting employees first:

Sam: “We have a staff that is like family.  Everyone in the office is an incredible gift. My mom and dad value our staff so much they are incredibly generous and it keeps the staff happy. It’s such a lesson for me to see one day when I have employees, how you treat them.”

Sheila: “But as a small business, we’ve also been in situations when the economy is good we’re rolling in cash and when you go through a dry period it’s not.  One year for example, we were not able to give raises.  But then by the middle of the year we were doing really well so I just stood in the middle of the office with a bunch of envelopes and said here’s another paycheck.  

We don’t look at it as that’s our money we look at it as that’s the money that they earned.  I feel blessed we have enough.  We don’t need to take more than we need.  It’s a joy to go to work and to show these people who work so hard that they are valued.”

On the lessons of being the boss:

Sheila: “Michael had said, never hire anybody you can’t fire. And that has been an important lesson to learn.  The real bottom line is that even though everyone does treat the business well, the buck stops here.  And when something is wrong it’s my fault.  It doesn’t matter what happened.”

Lake Mary Life Publishing has a remarkable reputation in the community and people look forward to each and every issue.  More than 65,000 copies are distributed every other month and the company has grown to a staff of 18 people. The company now includes three additional publications, Oviedo-Winter Springs Life, Altamonte-Wekiva Springs Life, and the most recent addition, J Life.

On starting J Life Magazine:

Sam: “Everyone should be able to start a business with someone who has done it for 15 years right next to them! Mom really let me make this my project. I can go to her to check in whenever needed.  But the buck stops with me on this one.  And it’s so fun for me.  While I have always loved Lake Mary Life Magazine and been so proud, I never felt the way that she felt about it.  That is her baby and every page is so important and every issue she feels like she gave birth.  I am feeling that way with J Life and now I can relate.”  

On the joy of motherhood:

Sheila: “I loved being a mom and I was always and still am so proud of their accomplishments.  I’m so lucky they both went away to college and came back here which says a lot I think too.”  

On the even greater joy of being a grandparent:

Sheila: “I hope that the love that is in my heart that they understand it. We want to be a support that’s our goal is to just be there emotionally and whatever gifts we have to share.  But there are no words for how I feel about those munchkins.”  

On support from family:

Sam: “When she says they want to be supportive that’s like the understatement of the century because with all of the issues we’ve had, I’ve been a mom for 13 years and we’ve had a lot of unexpected things to deal with.  I cannot imagine having gone through that and continuing to go through all of it without their support emotionally and financially.  It has been a journey and I’ll forever be grateful for all of the support that they have given to us.  Especially that relationship with my mom, nobody feels the pain of your kid hurting the way that a mom does.  And that extends to grandma.”  

Sheila: “I can take anything people dish out to me.  But if somebody comes after my kids or grandchildren I’m a deadly weapon. My greatest joy is that we’ve been successful and Samantha and John do well, he has a phenomenal job and they are successful.  But my greatest joy that this magazine has given us is that we’ve been able to support so that the other two children don’t have to go without anything because of all of the special therapies and such that Joey needs.  So whatever we can do to that is my gift.  That’s what makes us happy.”

Samantha and her husband JT have three children, Joey (13), Aaron (11), and Billie (4).  From very early on Samantha could tell Joey wasn’t developing according to standard milestones.  She was adamant that her family would face challenges head on, whatever they might be.  Starting at just 16 months old he began different therapies to assist in his development.  

On realizing something wasn’t quite right:

Sam: “When Joey was a baby it was apparent that he wasn’t doing the things typical one year olds should do. He wasn’t clapping or talking.  He got upset in loud places and was easily overwhelmed.  He also exhibited extraordinary talents (See Joey on the Today Show here).  I’ve never been one to shy away from, if something is wrong with my kid, tell me so I can help get him the help he needs.”

Sheila: “We’ve had so many mixed messages about what it actually is.  It was so frustrating.”

Sam: “I’m a college educated person and I know the things he’s exhibiting sound like autism and they look like autism.  But I cannot tell you how many experts we have seen from the time he was one until he finally got diagnosed at 11.  We went to developmental pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, countless therapists – speech therapists, occupational therapists, mental health therapists, you name it.  I can’t even tell you the number of places we’ve gone.”  

On accepting hard truths:

Sam: “I did not have my head in the sand like many parents.  Because I’ve seen it.  I see parents whose kids are running around with clear issues and it’s so hard to accept.  It is still to this day hard to accept that something is wrong with your kids.  You can either stick your head in the sand and ignore it and pretend like everything’s okay or you can swallow your pride and do what is best for your kids.  And that has been something that we have been vigilant about.   I can’t imagine not giving him every single possibility so that he has the best life and to be happy.”

Sam made the decision to move him from public elementary school to a special needs school.  In 4th grade, the staff at school noticed he was exhibiting signs of anxiety.  Sam, not an anxious person herself, didn’t know much about it.  But she was aware that Joey was often worried about all sorts of things.  Based on the school’s recommendations they took him to a pediatric psychiatrist for a full evaluation.  Joey was diagnosed with high functioning autism, general anxiety disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

On accepting a diagnosis:

Sam: “When you hear it, it is devastating even though you know it already.  You go through the stages of grief.”

Sheila: “Because he’s not going to have the life we thought he was going to have when he was the super brain kid that did all these amazing things.  It’s a whole different thing.  Is he ever going to get married or have relationships?  Is he going to live on his own? We don’t know any of those things.”

Sam: “What we do know, and JT and I say all the time is, never say never with Joey. I thought he would never speak and now he doesn’t stop.  I could give you 50 examples of things I never thought would happen.”

Just last year, their middle child, Aaron, was diagnosed with dysgraphia and anxiety.  As a vocal parent who had been through a lot, other moms started confiding in her or asking her to speak to a friend going through similar struggles. Realizing how many people were out there that needed support but were hesitant to open up, she created a private Facebook group for moms of children with special needs.  The response was tremendous.  Almost 1,000 people joined the group and it has become an active support group for moms near and far.

In addition, Samantha writes for Kveller and Grok Nation about their journey which compelled her to start The Special Moms Blog.  It’s an extension of her voice and of the Facebook group she started.  Samantha has invited moms and professionals to write for the site.  

On sharing her children’s struggles on a public platform:

Sam: “I have talked to Joey and Aaron and I’ve said do you know what blogging is?  I’ll say, would it be okay with you if I wrote blogs about some of the things we’ve learned and don’t use your name in the blog I want to do?  They both said yes.  Now, I don’t know if they know exactly what they’re agreeing to. I hope they know it’s written with love and not to embarrass them. I hope they know my intention which is to help other moms and take away some of the stigma of their diagnoses.”

On her passion for writing:

Sam: “I love to write and get it out. It’s sort of my outlet.  I’m awake 18 hours a day and I spend 17.5 doing something for somebody else.  Whether I’m at work or taking a kid to therapy or at the grocery store or cooking dinner, and while I love my role in everything, it is exhausting.  For me, I have found in the last few years that getting that out is therapeutic for me.”

All throughout the interview, one theme kept ringing true over and over again.  Each time someone had an idea they wanted to pursue or a challenge they were facing they were met with unwavering support from the rest of the family.  And it seems to have made all the difference for their success. Who knows what Sheila or Samantha will start next.  Whatever it is, I’m sure they’ll do it with love, passion, and devotion to their family and for the betterment of our community.

Want to read about other Orlando moms who rock? Meet all of our Orlando Moms who Rock!

25 ideas for Holiday fun in Orlando

25 ideas for holiday fun in orlando

Looking for local family fun in Orlando this December?  We’ve got you covered.  Check out our list of 25 ideas for holiday fun in Orlando!

December 6:  Check out Christmas at the Casa at Casa Feliz in Winter Park.  Walk through the historic home, get your photo with Santa, and entertain the kids with a variety of holiday crafts, carolers, and treats.

December 7: 39th Annual Christmas in the Park, on Park Avenue (Winter Park) includes century-old Tiffany windows and a free outdoor concert of holiday favorites by the Bach Festival Choir.

December 8:  Once upon a December will be music to your ears as the CFCArts Community Choir and Symphony Orchestra serenade you with songs of the season.  (multiple dates available)

December 9: Visit Winter Spark in Baldwin Park.  There will be food, music, vendors, kids zone, Mr. & Mrs. Claus, and a parade!

December 10: Letters to Santa featuring The Polar Express will get you in the holiday spirit at the Enzian Theater in Maitland.

December 11: Check out a brand new holiday experience, Daytona International Speedway is among seven cities that will host the all-new 1.5-mile long Magic of Lights holiday experience. (Multiple dates available)

December 12:  Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at Santa Tuesday in Uptown Altamonte and take a walk around Cranes Roost to see the magnificent holiday lights display.

Happy Hannukah!  (December 12-20)

December 13: Take in a basketball game at Jewish Heritage Night with the Orlando Magic!

December 14:  What could be better than Santa Claus and ice cream?  Take your family to Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream Holiday Party!

December 15: Grab a blanket, chairs, and snacks and head downtown to Lake Eola for Holiday Movies in the Park: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

December 16: Sanford’s hosting a Jingle Jam full of holiday vendors, carnival games, magic show, pictures with Santa, music and so much more.

December 17: Build a gingerbread house at the Orlando Science Center’s young makers workshop at Gingerbread Lane.  (Multiple dates available)

December 18: Teach your littles how to cook at Little Chef: Teddy Bear Toast at the downtown Orlando Public Library.

December 19: Take a ride on the Polar Express! Your magical train ride will take you to the North Pole with all the characters from The Polar Express movie.  (Multiple dates available)

December 20: Visit the live nativity, arts and crafts, and Christmas carols at the San Pedro Center’s Family Night.

December 21: Take your littles toToddler Thursdays at the Mennello Museum for story time and holiday themed art activities.

December 22:  Full of nostalgia and holiday cheer, you’ll become part of the live studio audience of a 1940’s radio show at It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Orlando Shakes.  (Multiple dates available)

December 23: Take in the The Nutcracker, a timeless holiday classic, with the Orlando Ballet. (Multiple dates available – this date is billed as the family show)

December 24: Celebrate the Season in Florida style by heading to the beach for Surfing Santas.  Watch surfers of all ages dressed as Santa!

December 25:  Merry Christmas!

December 26: Don’t forget a jacket when you head to Christmas at Gaylord Palms, featuring ICE! It’s only 9 degrees in there and the snow tubing and snowball tossing will make you feel like you’re really in a winter wonderland! (multiple dates available)

December 27: Head downtown to the Orlando Public Library’s for sweet treats and arts and crafts at Peppermint Pals.

December 28: It’s snowing in Celebration’s winter wonderland(multiple dates available)

December 29: Joyful noise and lots of laughs are high on the list of the Orlando Rep’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical.  Get your tickets for this holiday hit.  (Multiple dates available)

December 30: Visit the Florida Citrus Parade for a truly unique Central Florida tradition.  Floats made of citrus and marching bands abound!

December 31: Ring in the New Year long before bed time at the Baby Boogie Bash at Amaya Papaya in Casselberry.

Have holiday fun in Orlando all December long all over Central Florida!  And tell us what your family plans to explore and do!

Dadlando weighs in: Bedtime is always a struggle.

Bedtime is always a struggle, and sadly last night, I was outsmarted again.  Our three-year-old’s bedtime routine, while difficult, has always had a rough outline to it: bed, potty, one more hug, ice pack from the freezer, ripped out hair bow back in hair, sip of water, and re-tucking in blankets.  

Last night though, I was caught off guard.  Instead of getting out of bed she called me into her room to hit me with a series of questions. 

What happens if you don’t ever sleep?
Well, eventually you just fall over and pass out.
Can you show me?
::So I fall on the ground for her::
Hahaha, do it again.

What happens if you don’t go potty?
If you don’t ever go potty you’ll have an accident.
Can you show me?
No.

What happens if you don’t have a pillow?
Then you just have to go to sleep without one.
And it wouldn’t be soft?
Exactly.  Go to sleep.

What happens if you never drink water?
Are you just asking me questions so you don’t have to go to sleep?
Yes.

Well, at least she is honest.  It got me thinking though, how much should I let her break the rules to encourage her critical thinking? I could see the wheels turning in her head, trying to find a way to stay up later.  I love seeing her think she is being clever, too.

Questions are much better than her getting out of bed multiple times and the inevitable tantrum.   I hope this is a sign of things to come.  I might not get her to go to bed any earlier, but now I feel like maybe she is learning important things about bladder control, insomnia, and how to rule the world with just a question.

What’s the strangest question your kid has ever asked you?  What tricks do your kids have for stalling bed time?  Who taught these children how to be world champion manipulators?

Orlando Moms who Rock: Kristina Brownell

Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Kristina Brownell an Orlando mom, marketing manager, and jewelry maker.

Kristina Brownell headed to Orlando in 2003 to finish up school at UCF.  And as many an Orlandoan will tell you, she didn’t ever picture staying here.  In her senior year she did a marketing internship at a construction company.  They offered her a job to stay on after graduation, about the best news a college senior could receive.  As a graduation gift, her mother took her on a trip to Hawaii to visit family and learn more about her heritage.  And as many a Hawaiian visitor will tell you, she immediately pictured staying there.  As soon as she got back to Orlando she started planning her move.  She quit her new marketing job, started applying to jobs in Hawaii, and made plans for a very big adventure.   

Just before she headed out west, her two best friends came for a weekend visit.  They begged her not to leave and promised to move to Orlando.  Excited about the opportunity to live with her besties and have the time of her life, she agreed to postpone her move for six months.  She asked her her job back and her boss agreed.  And then, as fate would have it, a couple months later at work she met her future husband, Randy.  Randy and Kristina have twin girls, Audrey and Parker, turning three this January.  Kristina is a marketing & graphics manager for a commercial architecture firm and also the creative force behind Rockhaus Metals, a minimalist jewelry line.  When we met, I was blown away by Kristina’s energy, creativity, and confidence.  But she spoke honestly about the huge adjustment of becoming a mom.  I found myself nodding along to so much of what she was saying. The new mom struggle always feels lonely, until I hear a fellow mama saying so many of the thing I’ve felt too.

 

On finding out she was pregnant with twins:

“It was totally unexpected.  And it was our very first ultrasound at 8 weeks.  And of course you don’t know what you’re looking at on the screen.  And the doctor turns to my husband and just smiles and says ‘There’s two in there.’  My husband didn’t say anything and I started crying and laughing at the same time.  It was just so absurd.  It was a shock but probably one of the most exciting days of my life.”

On her desire to have a natural birth:

“Several weeks into the pregnancy, I started watching documentaries on pregnancy and childbirth and what to expect.  My doctor made me feel like there was a huge chance I’d have a c-section.  I didn’t have a great feeling on that and didn’t understand why [it had to be that way].  I decided I wanted to have a natural birth.  And I ended up by chance meeting another OB and ended up switching over to her because she said she would deliver drug-free if that’s what I wanted.

So that was my goal the whole time.  But of course anything can happen during childbirth especially with twins (they are high-risk.)  I went to a chiropractor and acupuncturist all through my pregnancy.  I was told I’d be induced at 38 weeks because with twins they don’t want you to carry them much longer than that.  My water broke at 37 weeks and they were born the next day.  I was able to have the natural delivery I wanted.”

On delivering twins without an epidural:

“It was one of those things, I kind of equate it to a marathon.  A lot of it, it is obviously physical and painful , but a lot of it’s mental too. We hired a doula and she was fantastic.   Unfortunately, I  had a lot of people who said I was crazy for having a natural childbirth, but it lit a fire in me even more.  I’m very fortunate there weren’t any complications during delivery.”

On having the confidence in herself to switch doctors:

“It was right about 12 weeks.  I really didn’t know a lot about childbirth before that so I didn’t have an opinion either way about how I wanted my delivery to go.  But after I started learning more about it and how I had choices about what happens that day, I just didn’t feel right anymore with my first doctor.  She was so sweet and I hated leaving her but I wanted someone who was 100% behind me and my choice.  It just felt right.”

On raising twins:

“We don’t know any other way.  As any new mom, having a newborn is difficult.  Your whole life gets turned upside down and it’s brand new and you’re trying to get to know this new human in your life.  But yeah, having two it was extremely difficult.  We were very lucky my mom came to live with us for three months.  There’s no way we could’ve done it without her.”  

On surviving the first year of motherhood:

“I was terrified of being left alone with them because it’s so hard.  You’re trying to adjust to this new life.  You’d have two screaming crying infants at the same time, but you can’t pick them both up at the same time to console them.  There would be days I’d be alone with them and one would start crying then the other would start crying then I would start crying.  The first year was survival mode.  Once they turned about nine months it started getting a little easier and by a year I felt like, ‘Ok, we got through this’ and from then on it’s been getting easier and easier.”  

On having a partner 100% of the way:

“My husband is amazing. Having two infants at once he was 100% there all hands on deck.  Every time we had to get up in the middle of the night he got up with me.  I was breastfeeding and he got them out of the crib so I could tandem feed them.  He had to go back to work but was still getting up multiple times a night to feed them with me.  I knew he would be a great dad and it’s not that it surprised me but it just makes you love that person even more.  He’s been the best partner.”

On raising toddlers:

“The girls are almost three.  They are  now just starting to play with each other and have little conversations.  Their imaginations are going wild and we love  to sit back and watch them play.  We laugh all the time because they say the most hilarious silly things.  Then we find ourselves saying something later and realize, oh I guess they got  that from us.”

“We’re at a turning point where it’s easier to take the kids out.  They’re little people now and it’s so much fun to introducing them to new things.  Just a trip to the park is the greatest thing in the entire world to them.”

On recognizing she needed a change:

“Over the summer I reached this point where I wasn’t happy with who I was at home.  I was losing my temper easily and  I wasn’t handling situations very well.  It wasn’t me.  So I decided I needed to go get some help.  I ended up going to therapy and it was really helpful being able to have somebody remind me that it’s okay and you don’t have to be perfect and to really take some time for yourself.  That was a big thing for me this summer.”

In support of therapy:

“I hate that there’s a stigma about therapy .  But it is hard work being a mom!  This is my advice: if you are struggling and you don’t feel like you can handle it, or you’re not your true self or who you used to be, you’re totally not alone.  Anyone who says they’re not struggling is lying.  There’s help out there and you can go talk to somebody.  You’ve got to heal yourself and be your best self if you’re gonna be the best mom.”

On deciding to learn to metalsmith:

“About a year and a half in as a mom, I still felt like I didn’t know who I was.  I had a great job, and of course my most important job as a mom.  But then I also just felt lost.  My husband was like, ‘You don’t do anything for yourself anymore.  You don’t have hobbies.  When you go out without the girls it’s for errands or you have dinner with friends it’s not just for you.  You need your creative outlet again.’  So somehow that led me down this road of metalsmithing.”  

Kristina had painted in the past and always had some sort of a creative outlet.  So she searched for classes online to learn to metalsmith.  And she found a woman who taught out of her home.  It was ideal, she was extremely flexible so it didn’t take time away from raising her girls.  This was a year and a half ago, and she immediately fell in love. After friends saw what she had made they pushed her to sell them.  Since the tools and equipment were expensive, she thought the sales could fund her new hobby.  Rockhaus Metals was born.  

On her first sale from a stranger:

“That was crazy.  I thought for sure I have to know this person.  It was like I’ve made it! Somebody who doesn’t know me thinks my stuff is cool.  It’s such an amazing feeling.”

On finding community in an unexpected way:

“I think the most surprising thing is the local small business, creative, and maker community that I’ve met, via other jewelers or through instagram, and the overwhelming support and friendships that I’ve made  as a result.  I never would’ve thought finding this new hobby would turn into a business and feeling so connected to people in Orlando.  That’s certainly the most fulfilling part of this.”

On when a hobby adds to the stress instead of releasing it:

“This was a whirlwind and I went really hard and put as much into it as I could.  But then it became too much. I’m a mom and wife and I have a full-time job.  At some point this summer, I started to feel overwhelmed.  I was doing too much that I couldn’t focus on and handle.  So the past few months I haven’t been working on Rockhaus quite as much.  It sucks because I love just sitting and making jewelry.  But the only time I have to do it is when the girls are sleeping, and most days by that time I’m exhausted.”

On not comparing yourself to others:   

“I stepped back a little bit.  I stopped looking at social media all the time. I didn’t realize it but it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough.  I was comparing myself to other people and feeling like I’m not out there enough.  I had to step back and tell myself that I don’t do Rockhaus  full-time.  I need to be kinder to myself and enjoy this.  So I’ve recently started spending more time at my jewelry bench and I feel ready to get back into it.  But at a different pace.  You have to remind yourself that you can’t do everything and it’s okay.”  

It’s true we can’t do everything, but Kristina knows that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything.  She’s an amazing mama who puts her family first and is finding time to follow her creative dreams as well.  Without a doubt, she’s a Mom who Rocks the Haus.  (Yes, cheesy but I had to take it.)

Want to read about other moms who rock?  Check out our interview with Laura Diaz!

KNOW A ‘MOM WHO ROCKS’ WHO SHOULD BE FEATURED?  LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.

Support Orlando Moms this Small Business Saturday

Orlando is full of amazing small businesses to support this Small Business Saturday.  And quite a few of my favorites are run by amazing mamas.  While you’re out supporting local shops this weekend, make sure you check these out: Eat Buttermilk Bakery Winter Park A mother-daughter-son (Lana, Taissa, and Phillip) trio run the adorable and […]

Been there, done that. But not that, that, or that.

You might have noticed I love Orlando.  I shout it from the rooftops!  I make blog posts.  I have the shirts.  But I have a dirty little secret…I’ve never had some truly iconic Orlando experiences.

  1. I’ve never eaten at the Beefy King.  
  2. I’ve never been to Gatorland.
  3. I never went to fight night or made out with a member of *N’SYNC in the VIP of Roxy Night Club (much to my chagrin).
  4. I’ve never had a drink at Will’s Pub or Wally’s Liquor.
  5. I’ve never done a swan boat ride in Lake Eola (have drunkenly sat in them though.  Does that count?)
  6. I’ve never gotten my car towed downtown.
  7. I’ve never been to the Florida Citrus Parade.
  8. I might be the only person who has never been to an Orlando City Soccer Club game.
  9. I haven’t done several classic Winter Park traditions like ice skating, dinner on the avenue, or Howl-o-ween.
  10. I’ve never made pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in Deleon Springs.  

Woah.  Feels good to get that off my chest.  Your turn, what’s on your list that you’ve never quite gotten to in the City Beautiful?

 

 

 

Dadlando weighs in: Eavesdropping on date night.

Date night car selfie

Momlando and I were fortunate enough to get a night out last week – not a go to the movies or just dinner out night – but a super official downtown Orlando get dressed up date. Our littlest one is finally getting to an age where he is a bit easier to take care of, making it easier to leave for a long night out (even if he cried his head off as we were walking out the door).

  Walking through downtown made me realize, as many things do, how old we now are.  So much has changed since the time I was familiar with the different watering holes or restaurants.  Nonetheless, it was fun to explore as we strolled around heading to dinner.  It felt great!  Like a whole new world was opening up to us!  We are still hip! We are still fun loving!

  Things were going great, we ordered drinks and appetizers.  And then, from about 10 feet away, we heard it.  A table of seven or so was enjoying the restaurant’s happy hour were loud enough to overhear.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about other people having a good time.  It was what one of the women sitting at the table was going on and on about…  

“I just love not having to take care of anyone but myself!”

“I can go out whenever I want, and when I come home, I can just crash, watch whatever I want on TV, eat whatever and whenever.”

“I don’t want to make anyone dinner.  Sometimes I just want to eat cereal and not care.”

  She was bragging about not having any obligations because she didn’t have kids.  She went on and on about how nice it is to go home and not have to worry about doing anything she doesn’t want to do, or take care of anyone else.  Her life was entirely her own.

  I swear she was saying it just to mock us. Maybe not, but we had a good laugh. Here we are moving mountains to go out once a month, and the first thing we hear is someone bragging about her freedom. True, she was probably so adamant because she was trying to convince herself as much as her friends that she was really living her best life.  But it got me thinking.  Would I ever want to go back to a no-obligation lifestyle?

  Even when they are driving me crazy, our kids are the best thing ever. When we are out on date night, we end up talking about all the little things they do or say that week.  Nothing compares to the joy they bring me.  Sorry, nights out drinking and binge watching seasons of shows and nice dinners out, you’re second place.

  Yes, raising children is a lot of work.  But I don’t think any parent would make a different choice given the option. I know nothing about the woman we overheard.  But for me, this was always the goal. I would feel like I was missing out if I hadn’t moved on to this stage of my life.  So much so that I might even try to drunkenly convince myself otherwise at happy hour on a random Saturday night out.

Orlando Moms who Rock: Laura Diaz

Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Laura Diaz an Orlando mom, radio host, and proud feminist.

 

What if one night you were bored and tweeted the biggest morning radio host in town to see if he had a job open for you?  And what if he actually replied?  Seven years ago when I heard that local news anchor Laura Diaz had made the switch from TV to radio I assumed there must be more to it than that.  But as she tells the story there really wasn’t. After several years as a morning news anchor, she wanted out.  She didn’t know Johnny personally, and tweeted him out of the blue. Turns out, he knew exactly who she was and the rest, as they say, is history.  Laura got a job as a co-host on Johnny’s House and is now a staple of morning radio.  Laura and her husband Mike are parents to Norah (4) and Nash (2) living a modern family life in Central Florida.  Laura is more focused than ever on using her voice as a feminist, and making a difference for women in the community.  We sat down last week to talk about how she balances all of it, and I can tell you without a doubt that she is a bad ass mom who rocks.

Laura Diaz studied journalism in college. After graduating, she spent two tough years in a small town on the morning news. She made the move back to her hometown, Orlando and quickly made her way to an anchor position.  But it wasn’t quite what she had hoped.

On coming to her breaking point in television:

“The deadlines are very strenuous. It’s a very high stress job because you’re on multiple deadlines in a day.  The subject matter you’re reporting on is extremely depressing.  Occasionally you get your bear in a tree or something and that’s like a mental vacation for a journalist.  I was drinking way too much, taking pills to go to sleep, pills to wake up.  And I’d be drunk every day by noon it was becoming a real problem.  There was a point where my [now] husband was like ‘You need to get this under control or else I can’t marry you.’

And so she made a career switch to radio where there was a bit more lightheartedness and freedom.  Away from a scripted life at the news station she found she could be herself on and off the clock.  

The positives of being on the radio:

“By far the best part is it’s so carefree.  There’s no script.  I’m silly and carefree on the radio.  I’m me.  We talked on the show recently about who are you at work versus who are you at home?  I was like for once in my life I’m the same person at work and at home.”

This past year Laura launched Face of a Feminist, a nonprofit to empower women and girls.  I was eager to learn more on what pushed her to start it. She explained the desire to build her brand and voice outside of Johnny’s House. Laura has launched the nonprofit using all of her media and storytelling skills the best she knows how.

On starting Face of a Feminist:

“Feminism to me is so important.  It’s been an underlying theme of my life since I was a child.  It was almost not even appropriate to try and bring that on-air because it would never have gotten the time it deserves- or even the response it deserves.  I can’t just throw out two lines and expect it to make a difference.”

On raising kids as a feminist:

“It’s such a big thing and it’s a daily struggle.  I was raised in a way that feminism wasn’t supported or nurtured.  My dad was extremely conservative, very religious, and very traditional.  And so it’s hard being a mom to not just do what I saw. I’m having to everyday check myself for micro things I do whether it’s ‘Norah that’s not what a lady does’ if she burps but yet I’m not saying the same thing to my son.”

On being a feminist parenting team:

“My husband is a big feminist too.  He certainly wasn’t when I met him.  But he also has always been very open minded.  Now he’s quite possibly a bigger feminist than I am.  He’s always teaching Norah how to throw a baseball or has her out in the dirt playing and I’m the one going ‘Oh my gosh you’re getting her dirty!’  If my son is playing in the dirt it doesn’t bother me the way it does when my beautiful little girl is covered in dirt head to toe.  My husband and I are good at checking ourselves all the time on what we’re saying or doing.”

As Laura talks about her family it’s extremely clear how important they are to her and how much she values her husband.  She and Mike are an amazing team and she very much respects and praises him as an individual and a positive force in her life.  

On finding balance as co-parents:

“Mike will be like ‘Okay, Laura everything doesn’t have to be a cause.’  He’ll tell me when maybe I’m going overboard.  And maybe it’s not overboard but of course you have to make compromises for a marriage.  I’ll also tell him if maybe he’s saying or doing something that could be construed differently and he’s always receptive to it.  He’s just an amazing husband.  We also have a completely different dynamic.  I’m the breadwinner.  I work full time. I pay the bills.  I make the money.  I’m in charge of the household per se.  He is the child caretaker.  He’s on top of their immunization schedules.  He takes them to the dentist, takes them to and from school.  He takes them to extracurriculars, ice skating and piano.  The man is very much in the traditional female role and that sort of automatically keeps things where I would love them to be.  I’m showing my daughter what a woman can be.”

On chatter regarding their traditional role reversals:

“Mike is probably the only guy at school dropping and picking up.  All the moms want to know what happened.  He’ll hear whisperings ‘Oh is he a single dad?’ We just make all these assumptions in society.  ‘What’s wrong with the mom?’ I’ve even heard ‘Is she a drug addict? Is she part of the opioid crisis and now he’s left with these two kids?’ We immediately sympathize with a man who is alone with their children we never sympathize with a woman. We expect the woman to be doing all the caretaking of the children and when they’re not, something’s wrong.”  

On her favorite part of being a mom:

“I think the greatest thing of being a mom is that kids just check you so hard.  They’re like our mirror.  There’s something where if there’s a character flaw in you, you’re going to see it because they’re going to project it onto you. I love seeing their innocence. I love seeing them learn new things. I love seeing them be so loyal to me and Mike it’s the craziest thing.  I’ve so enjoyed having children even in those very dark times.  It’s all just life and I don’t see what’s the point without them.”

On the most surprising thing of being a mom:

“Probably the most surprising thing is how non-stop it is.  I mean you know a little bit but you truly have no idea just how much work it is until you’re in it.  You see movies and you talk to your friends but you see just these snippets of what it’s like. You cannot talk to me unless you have a kid about kids.  I won’t even listen to you.  You have no idea what you’re talking about.  You’re not allowed to have an opinion about raising kids unless you’ve raised a kid.”

On the hardest thing of raising kids:

“What worked with my first doesn’t work with my second. All of the tricks i learned about potty training, bedtime, mealtime…all down the tubes with my second.They’re such different kids with different likes and dislikes so that’s the hardest part for me. Starting all over again and having to learn a totally different way to parent and having to switch styles between kids. Even something as simple as my son liking characters in costume at a theme park and my daughter being mortified of them. It’s a constant balancing act with these two rugrats.”

On mom guilt:

“There’s a theory called the good enough mom from the book Freakanomics.  The theory is there’s like x amount of minutes that you spend with your child, they found over the years that they turn out just as well as the kid that has the stay at home mom. I want to say it’s like 11 minutes or something, outrageously low.  I think about that and the minutes required and how much more than that I do.  And I’m like they’re fine.  You know when your kid is suffering for your attention and you give it to them.  And anything in between that you have to do the best you can. I’m at a point where I work so much I have so many other things going on in life I physically, mentally, and emotionally I cannot handle mom guilt.  I just don’t have the capacity for it.  And so I just don’t.”

Laura has been open about having postpartum depression with both of her children.

On her mental health after Nash’s birth:

“With my first, I was able to keep a grasp with reality with my second one I completely had a mental break.  So that was totally different.  It’s all under that umbrella they call maternal mental illness now because postpartum depression is limited.  With my second I had postpartum psychosis which is extremely rare version of postpartum depression where you lose touch with reality you have a complete mental breakdown.

That was a much more severe situation where I had to be separated from my child when he was maybe three or four weeks old.  It’s weird, it has almost made me closer to my son than my daughter because I look at him now like oh my gosh there was a time I wanted to harm you.  You look at him and would cut a bitch for him…is this the same kid I didn’t even want?  I was at the point I would have adopted him out.  I was ready to give him to my sister to raise as her own.  Medicine works.  Therapy works.”

On her history of mental illness:

“I’ve been suffering from depression since I was young. It’s very much a genetic factor for me. So I should have known getting pregnant that this is something that would more likely would trigger that but you just don’t think about it and you go on with your life.  And no one wants to worry about that anyway.  But when it came with the second one I was able to recognize it right away.”

On the importance of talking about postpartum depression:

“A lot of women are just so embarrassed by it.  You don’t have to birth the baby and it’s love at first sight.  And that’s how people describe it.  It was never that way with either of my kids for me.  It was almost to be honest, disgust at first. It was like you put me through the worst pain of my life and now you’re screaming at me and now I’m exhausted and I can’t sleep because of you.  There’s a lot of resentment.  And no one talks about that.”

This year Laura has been very open about her struggle with alcohol abuse.  Laura says the responses have run the gamut from incredible support to outrageous judgement and skepticism.  But she says the majority of the responses have been positive and people that have been able to identify their own issues because of her.  

On her struggle with alcohol abuse:

“I’ve been dealing with alcohol and drug abuse since I was 14. So I have had quite the run with alcohol and drugs and I’ve done it all and abused it all.  I will never say I’m an alcoholic because I don’t think that I am. I am a binge drinker and I think I have alcohol abuse problems.  I have a problem with drinking as a way to calm emotions and things I don’t want to deal with.  And I think I just finally recognized this year when for the hundredth time I drove drunk.  And it just clicked that I have these two gorgeous children, I have this amazing husband and I have so much to live for and I need to stop acting like it’s ok if I don’t live.  And that’s how I’ve been acting for a long time.  Life to me until recently was just kind of disposable, something I had to get through every day.”

On challenging herself to stop drinking:

“I said to myself I just need to prove that I can go three months without drinking.  And then when I did that and things just so drastically improved in my life I knew I could never go back to the way it was. I’ve had plenty of drinks since but never more than two or three in one sitting.”

On why she addressed it in public:

“I decided to come out with it.  You know they say if you’re going on a diet you should tell people so they hold you accountable…same with alcohol.  You’re going to have haters that say ‘Oh you’re doing it for attention’ and I get that all the time.  To me it’s just all completely selfish here’s my problem I’m saying it out loud because I want to be called out.  And sure enough someone sees me with a drink, they say something.”  

How do you embrace life to the fullest?  When have you made a change in career or at home that affected you in a big way?

KNOW A ‘MOM WHO ROCKS’ WHO SHOULD BE FEATURED?  LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

Want to read about other moms who rock?  Check out our interview with Stephanie Forshee!

Momlibs – it’s the encouragement for moms that we all need.

Don’t we all just want to know we are seen?  And heard?  We’re here to remind you that you are seen.  And important.  And doing a great job!  Do you know someone else who needs to hear that too?  I bet you know a mom who could use some encouragement.  Momlibs is here for you!  It’s the encouragement for moms that we all need.  So print this out, fill it out, and remind a mama she is amazing.

momlibs - encouragement for new moms

(Right click and save to your desktop.)

Momlibs is our fun way of reminding ourselves and others that saying nice things can go along way.  We’re all working way too hard for everyone in our lives.  If you know a mom that could use some encouragement, don’t just ask her how she juggles it all…print her out a momlibs and give her a smile.  Maybe tape a piece of chocolate to it.  Or a whole bar.

Looking for more encouragement?  Check out our previous #momlibs here and here!

#momlando hack: Birthday Party Presents

If your life is anywhere like mine, you’re going to a lot of birthday parties.  And if you’re anything like me, you’re stressed about juggling them.  Not just the parties and RSVPs but the gifts too!  I love gift giving but I keep running out of time and buying things last minute.  I mean really last minute.  More than once on the way to the party.

I finally decided I needed to step my game up.  I ordered a ton of craft supplies off of amazon to make custom arts & crafts kits.  My supplies split out into four kits.  Here’s a list of my supplies and how they turned out!

Supplies:
I will use my Sillhouette Cameo to personalize them to make them extra special.  I’m all set for our next four birthday parties and I know future Dana will thank me for my planning!
How do you make your life a little easier?  Tell us your mama hacks in the comments.