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!

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.

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.

How to make date night happen when you have babies, jobs, and no time.

Before Buzzfeed quizzes were the days of MASH.  My friends and I would spend a bunch of time writing out how many kids you’d have, what kind of car, and usually dates with our future dream guy (also to be determined by MASH).  And what did I always have on there?  Blockbuster.  To me, there was no more romantic date than cruising the aisles of Blockbuster to pick out a video.  Witty banter, slow walking, and every movie you could possibly want to watch.  Swoon.  Unfortunately by the time I met my husband Blockbuster was pretty much obsolete.  Dreams crushed.  

Look, advances in technology aren’t the only thing we’re up against.  I just had to get up from writing this blog post to go wipe a toddler butt.  Forget dream dates, we barely make time for dates at all.  In the summer, I interviewed Orlando Date Night Guide’s Kristen Manieri and it really hit home how important it is to make this a priority.  As a working mom with an infant and a toddler at home, I’m not quite ready to commit one night a week out (even if some may argue that’s what makes it even more important!) But I’m ready to take some baby steps.  Here are the ways we sneak in dates.

I’ve instituted a monthly lunch date on our family calendar.  Dadlando and I can visit some of our favorite places we wouldn’t dare venture to with our kiddos in tow.  And we usually save money by not needing a babysitter, not drinking on the clock, and the overall cheaper price point of lunch time.  It’s a great break in the day and I get excited when I see it coming up on the calendar.  

A couple years ago, a day lined up that both our offices we’re closed, but daycare was open.  Unbelievable I know, but it’s true!  We sent our sweet girl to school and went for breakfast, out to the movies, home for a nap, and she didn’t even know what she had missed!  Now every few months we’ll take a day off together to have a day date.  

Friday nights we get home from work, prepare dinner, and light shabbat candles.  We welcome the weekend as a family and get some quality time in with the kids.  Once the kids are in bed, we use this time for a check-in on how things are going for us in our marriage.  It’s a great time to make sure that we are having real conversation and connection.  As we’ve navigated how to make the time productive, we came up with a few questions that help foster honest conversation.

I’m betting on movie rental stores becoming retro one day so that I can live out my teenage dreams.  Until then, we’ll just have to keep working on ways to make ‘date night’ possible during a very hectic time in our lives.

How do you make date night work for you?  And what places should we add to our list?

Orlando Moms who Rock: Stephanie Forshee

Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Stephanie Forshee an Orlando mom, hair stylist, and floral designing queen.

 

What’s one of your favorite instagrams to look at that’s just plain pretty?  For me, it’s Little Wild Bloom.  I first saw the flowers at Buttermilk Bakery and P is For Pie.  Cute little mason jars on the tables that added the perfect pop of color and whimsy to some of my favorite spaces.  And then one day a little red haired toddler started popping up in the instagram feed and I thought, well of course she’s a mom who rocks! I got to meet Owen and his mama and talk all about Little Wild Bloom, Orlando, and the mom life.

Stephanie Forshee, the brains behind Little Wild Bloom came to Orlando for the Disney College program and from there went on to hair school.  She works at Alchemy in College Park and you can hit her up there for a rad haircut.  Little Owen was born two years ago and after maternity leave she drastically cut back her time at the salon so she could be home to raise Owen. With more time on her hands she was looking for a new hobby and creative outlet.  She read about a flower farmer in Washington and everything clicked.  She already had an interest in gardening, a love of flowers, and a firm belief that she could learn anything she needed to on the internet (I agree!)  Things evolved naturally from there, Little Wild Bloom was born.

On the realization that she already knew some of the basics:

“I started playing around with flowers at home.  It seemed like a lot of the same concepts as hair, you know color, line, shape, and form.  So it was fun to see something I already knew transition to another medium.”

Once she was ready to launch her business, she reached out to P is for Pie and Buttermilk Bakery two local places she loved and asked if they’d be interested in bringing flowers into their space. Things grew organically from there.  Customers started noticing her flowers and she  booked her first wedding from someone who had seen her flowers at Buttermilk Bakery.  

On styling arrangements for her first client’s wedding:

“I got really lucky with my very first wedding it was a friend of a friend and she was very laid back. I was terrified.  But she was a gem so sweet and laid back.  We clicked and our styles clicked.  It was beautiful.”

On feeling the nerves:

“I get a littler nervous before every wedding because it’s someone’s biggest day. So I put a lot of pressure on that.”

She humbly notes that things have become much bigger than she expected.  But I’m not surprised!  Stephanie has a perfect lock on her aesthetic and she captures that all on her instagram.  Stephanie says most of her business comes from social media and word of mouth.  She’s excited to be expanding to doing even more weddings and putting her focus there.

On fitting things into the day:

“I’m in a really good stride.  The flowers are great because they can work around the schedule of the day.  So if it needs to be done during nap time or early morning or late night it’s pretty flexible in that regard.”

On farming flowers locally:

“You can actually grow flowers here in a garden to cut and they have a purpose.  I’m networking with other people who are growing to try and incorporate some locally grown something in every arrangement.  There has been a movement nationwide towards American grown flowers so you can see that trickling down here which is really exciting.  I definitely feel like even in the last six months there are more people interested in growing flowers here.”

On her favorite flowers:

“I  like texture and elements things you don’t necessarily see all the time.  I always incorporate greenery.  I like dahlias, they have lots of tones and colors.  Also, anemones – bright white with the black center. They are striking to look at.  I like things that are a little random and unexpected.

On the most surprising thing of starting this business:

“The support of people I don’t know and the community.  Getting recognized… ten years into Orlando and I didn’t feel community at first.  You meet a few people and then you realize everyone is so interconnected.  It’s a much smaller town than what it seems like at first.  There has been a surprising amount of support and excitement for something I’m excited about that you wouldn’t think everyone is excited about.”

As her business grows, so does little Owen.  Stephanie tells me about how they go everywhere together.  She delivers flowers wearing him on her back.  Owen goes to the flower shop and runs around.  She loves the perspective on life it gives him.  When we met, Owen was so sweet and well behaved.  But he did look longingly out the window the entire time.  Who could blame him?  Sit at a table and talk or head outside on a sunny day?  I’m not fooled on what sounds like more fun!

On Owen’s notoriety:

“People know Owen more than they know me.  He’s the little face of the flowers.”

On motherhood:

“It’s the best hardest thing.  He is an incredible little human.  So fun and expressive but big personality.  So it has been learning how to handle that and direct it rather than be overwhelmed by it.”

On their favorite things to do as a family:

“We like to be outside.  Anything outdoors whether that’s hiking or just digging in the dirt.  Being outside is where he is happiest.”

“When we need to recalibrate we take a step outside and get fresh air for both of us.”

On kids getting their hands dirty:

“It’s amazing how they thrive outside and in the dirt.  I love to think about how that will translate to them as they grow.”

On the challenges of making it all work:

“It’s (motherhood) all encompassing.  It’s hard to steal those moments for yourself and it’s been hard especially with running my own business and learning how to grow a business.  There have been moments where I feel like I’m doing well at one thing and not great at the other thing.  It’s hard to try to do both with equal fervor.”

On when other people weigh in:

“It’s surprising how many people have opinions about being a mom and what you should be doing and what the best thing to do is.  And no matter what you do someone else has a different strategy.  I just smile and nod at this point.  I try to warn every new mom ‘everyone’s going to tell you, you’re doing it wrong.’ Nobody can tell you the right answer.  Going with your gut is the biggest thing I’ve learned.  You can take in everyone’s advice but at the end of the day whatever works for your family is what works.”

On what works for their family:

“We’re very attachment parenting, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, all that stuff.  So we’re very attached all the time.  A couple hours here and there with Papa (daddy) is great to give me a break.”

On finding her parenting style:

“I read things and it all kept coming back to this is what feels the best for me.  It has worked out really well.  I’m sure there are moments where a different approach may have been more helpful but all in all we’ve done well with this style of parenting.”

As a wife, mother, and business owner it can be hard to find a moment to herself.  Stephanie says she steals minutes wherever she can to answer emails and let clients know she’s thinking of them and will follow up as soon as possible.  

On finding the drive to do more:

“Instagram is such an amazing place for inspiration.  So many amazing florists doing beautiful things.  To steal a few minutes and scroll through see such beautiful images and feel like okay I can do this.”

Stephanie and I commiserated on how much of a struggle the summer heat is with little ones who crave the outdoors.  She remarked that they try to get outside every morning and evening and make it through the day in between.  They love the Orlando Science Center for an indoor option that has enough space to run around.  Fingers crossed for an early Fall for all of us toddler moms.

On local favorite places:

“P is For Pie, Buttermilk Buttermilk Bakery, those are my spots around town.  And East End Market too. I feel like anywhere where they don’t give me the stink eye if my baby’s running around I’m into it.  We like Foxtail and there grassy area.  We love Owl’s Attic and Market on South too. Really like where Orlando’s heading right now there’s good stuff going on.” 

On why Orlando rocks:

“I feel like the community is strong right now and so into supporting local business and growing its identity aside from the theme parks.  And I am excited about it.  I love to talk about it now.  It’s funny to be a transplant somewhere and feel really passionate about it.  But this is my home and I’ve built a life here and I love that there’s a secret Orlando you can show people when they visit and show there’s really rad things here.” 

On how far she’s come as an Orlandoan:

“10 years ago I never would’ve expected that I would be immersed in the Orlando culture.  And now I’m lucky enough to know some of these small business owners and amazing people who are completely embedded in the community.  I never would’ve guessed that’s where I’d be.”

Have you found yourself branching out on a new path that just clicked?  Where do you go for inspiration on the internet?  Tell us your favorite spots!

Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know in the comments below!

Beat the Heat: Keeping a toddler entertained and mommy sane in a Florida Summer.

It’s that time of year again, the long end of a Florida summer.  It’s hot, sticky, and sweaty.  Except for the portion of the day it’s torrentially downpouring.  Before kids, I could just hide out on my couch binge watching shows.  But toddlers don’t like that.  Something I’ve learned as a mom of littles is that I cannot just sit all day in the house with them.  I get stir crazy by the late afternoon.  I like a plan, an outing, an adventure.  That’s not always possible.  But we’re making it work.  Here’s what we’re up to right now to keep us entertained and out of the heat.

At Home

Painting

I have found that I can keep little V at the table painting for up to an hour.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I purchased a few colors of washable tempera paints as well as a cheap set of watercolors.  She likes both but you have a better shot at ‘pretty’ with the tempera paints.  The watercolors are a more difficult medium.
  • I have a giant roll of Kraft Paper  in my guest room.  I cut off a big piece and cover the table.  I could give my Kraft Paper roll its own blog post – the uses are endless. Buy one for $20 and elevate your life.  And I always have a pack of baby wipes on hand to catch messes that can’t wait until the end.  
  • I’ve learned along the way that you can waste a lot of paper during paint time.  I bought a multi-media paper sketchbook and explained that we have to stay on the same page until it dries.  This has helped to cut down on her needing a new paper after painting just three lines.  
  • If you want to make art projects that you can hang up, you’ll need to be ready to guide your kiddo through it.  Here are a few ideas from Pinterest that I like:
  • Now before you get started, repeat these words in your head:  This will be messy.  My child is not Van Gogh.  We are going to have lots of fun.

Making necklaces

This is another fun one that’s relatively cheap.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I bought a few bags of big pony beads and put them in a giant ziploc bag.  You can buy whatever kinds of beads you want.  But the younger your child is the bigger you want the hole to be in the beads.  
  • For string I brought bright neon elastic cord. Obviously the string needs to be thinner than the width of the holes in the beads.  But stick to big string and big beads for little hands.  
  • Pour the beads into a big plastic chip and dip.  I had a bunch on hand from a previous craft workshop.  You probably have one in your kitchen!  I also think a big gladware that you can reseal at the end would be good.  Anything that allows them to search and pick through the beads without things spilling out and over is what you’re going for.
  • Have at it, make necklaces.  And bracelets! And anklets!  
  • After we make the necklaces if my daughter isn’t in love and wearing it around the house for days, I’ll unstring what we made and put back with the supplies.  Keeps us from running through things too quickly.

Forts

I give all credit to Dadlando on this one.  But they’ve spent tons of time this summer turning the playroom trampoline and slide into a fort.  Grab some extra sheets and blankets and you’re all set!

Baking

I found this very easy banana bread recipe that we’ve been making all summer.  It doesn’t require electric mixing so we mash it all by hand.  Baking with kiddos requires extra patience that things will be messier but it’s so worth it.  She is so excited to help and to eat the things she made.

 

Out and About

Here’s where we’ve been venturing out that keeps us entertained and in the cool a/c.

  • Crayola Experience Orlando:  Built in the Florida Mall, we’ve had a great time there.  It can be very busy but there is always enough room for everyone.  There are lots of activities for toddlers and young kids.  It’s also right next to Buca di Beppo which has great lunch specials.  If you get to Crayola in the morning and then head to Buca for lunch you’ve really made a day of it!
  • Orlando Science Center:  Located in Loch Haven Park, the Science Center has activities and exhibits for all ages.  They’ve recently expanded their KidsTown (geared towards kids seven and under) and it has been a huge upgrade!  My kiddos love playing in the orange grove and digging for dinosaurs.  
  • Mall Indoor Playgrounds: A few of the malls have indoor playgrounds and that has been a godsend for our toddler to run around and get her energy out.  That said, depending on when you go they will be incredibly crowded.  So venture at your own risk.  A few we’ve been to:
    • Altamonte Mall Playground (451 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL 32701 by Shoe Carnival & Sears)
      • Be careful this is right next to those ride-on animals.  So your kid will probably beg to do that too.
    • Oviedo Marketplace Playground (1700 Oviedo Mall Boulevard, Oviedo, FL 32765 in the food court)
      • This is for really little ones, like 2 and under. Don’t bother if you only have bigger kids.
    • Florida Mall at Crayola Experience (8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809)
      • Another stop  in the Crayola adventure, they’ve got an indoor play space in the mall.  It’s just outside the Crayola Store.

Tell me what you’re doing to keep things fun and cool this summer!

Fashion Weak: Letting go of my ideas for my daughter’s style

Photo Header (3)As a self proclaimed fashionista I was sure there was one upside to having a daughter that I didn’t picture with a son, the clothes.  I envisioned matching outfits, playing dress up, and a little girl who loved style just as much as me.   Cut to real life.  The moment she could voice them, my daughter started having very strong opinions about her clothes.  In fact, she spent a year of her life in only Minnie Mouse t-shirts.  Up until very recently, she’s been all about dresses and ‘princess’ skirts.  

On the day to day it can be a little frustrating.  More often than not it’s humorous.  The things she favors get repeatedly worn and stained while others sit in drawers crisp and clean.  I started noticing a rhythm in what she liked and bought new items to fit the bill.  Minnie t-shirts would always get a thumbs up as would shorts with pockets.  Pockets would hold the rocks and acorns she picked up at the park so this move was purely functional.  

When it came time for holidays and important photo opps, I was stubborn.  And it wound up teaching me a huge lesson.  Early November last year I went to Carter’s and picked out two perfect outfits for Violet.  One for Thanksgiving, a long sleeve floral top and cream sparkle skirt and another other to wear for family holiday card photos, a gingham long sleeve top and magenta sparkle leggings.  I also found adorable magenta fringed boots that would match both outfits.  I thought I had worked within the guidelines of what she liked enough to appease her.  Pink, good.  Sparkle, good. ‘Princess’ skirt, good.  No.  Nope.  Nope.  Noppity.  Nope.

Thanksgiving rolled around and it was time to get dressed for lunch.  Lunch was planned for smack in the middle of nap time so she hadn’t slept.  That should have been reason enough for me to take a step back.  But it wasn’t.  Violet said she did not want to wear the outfit I picked out.  I said she had to.  She cried.  I yelled.  I put her in time out.  She wouldn’t budge.  I told her no treats at Thanksgiving.  I yelled more.  And she cried.  And she stood her ground.  Oh did she stand her ground.  I cancelled Thanksgiving and yelled some more. Eventually my husband stepped in.  I left the room to cool down and gain an ounce of composure.  Violet picked a different dress and asked to wear her new pink boots.  We were late to lunch and I was rattled the whole time.  In a more rational head space, I quickly realized how off the rails I’d gone.  

I was embarrassed that I had treated my daughter so poorly over something so trivial.  I now look back on that day and think of it as the day I learned the biggest lesson of my mama life.  I hate how I acted and that for even a moment my daughter was scared of me.  I don’t remember anything from that day except yelling at her.  Those are not the memories I want to keep in my heart.  And certainly not ones I want her to keep in hers.

It also dawned on me that I actually have raised a little fashionista. And with that comes her own opinions of what she wants to wear.  I resolved not to fight her on clothing anymore.  My daughter is fiercely assertive and that is something I should nurture every day because there will be 10,000 times in her life that other people quiet her.  I preach to her that her body is her own.  And that has to mean that I let her choose what she puts on to cover her body.      

Later that weekend, I shared my embarrassment and failure with my closest mom friend.  She reminded me that it’s okay for our kids to see us lose it every once in awhile but that it’s important to apologize afterwards.  It shows them even mommies aren’t perfect and that what matters is how we respond when we do something we regret.  (Thank you mom bff who is working on her psych Ph.D.!)  This helped ease my guilt and reassured me that I didn’t ruin my kid’s life.  At least not yet.  I’m sure I’ll have lots more opportunities for that down the road.

I’m no expert.  But here’s what I’ve learned in dealing with a tiny fashionista:

  1. Include them when you can in buying their own clothes.  Violet was very happy to find a very pretty Minnie Mouse party dress that she wore for Easter and now wears at least once a week to preschool.
  2. If you really want them to wear something, you gotta sell it.  Recently, Violet’s grandma bought her an adorable dress and sandals for a family party.  When I showed them to her I remarked how much they looked like something Moana would wear (sort of, kind of, maybe?)  She loved it and asked if it was time to wear the Moana dress every day leading up to the party.
  3. Understand there is a rationale to their thinking.  V did love the Moana dress and sandals but also thought she might get cold at the party so she wanted to wear tribal print leggings underneath.  Who was I to disagree with that logic?  
  4. Be like Elsa and Let it Go.  It does not matter which dress my daughter wears to Thanksgiving.  She’s adorable in anything and I’d much rather look back on happy memories of time spent together than think of tears shed in my quest for a perfect photo. Let. It. Go. 
  5. Remember that crazy outfits will make the best photos.  I look forward to showing teenage Violet photos that we can laugh at together.

The other day as I got Violet dressed for school, she pointed to her ‘princess’ dress and to my work dress and said, “We match!”  I guess there’s still hope after all.