Shannon & David will live on forever.


I’m not sure exactly when i met my friend Marley via Instagram due to our sharing similar tragic stories/experiences, but I am SO glad I did. After learning about me, she reached out to tell me a bit about her. And then she told me about this AMAZING organization called Family Lives On.

Family Lives On is a Foundation that supports the lifelong emotional well-being of children whose mother or father (or, like for us, both) has/have died. Their Tradition Program provides opportunities for intentional remembering, creating a safe haven for grief, communication and celebration. How beautiful is that? I NEVER want Shannon OR David to be forgotten. ESPECIALLY by the two people on this earth they loved most, and who loved them most.

Back in the fall, (after I communicated with our coordinator ahead of time to schedule it) the boys did a Skype session with 2 amazing women at Family Lives On (FLO). They had an amazing conversation with these two strangers about their mom and their dad and the things they loved doing with them. They each talked about three or four things that they considered to be Traditions; things that made them think of their parents.

Soon after the Skype session I got an email outlining the things that stood out to them, and the things that were achievable thanks to AMAZING people like Donna, who donate to make the Traditions a reality! The boys will be gifted YEARLY, until they are 18! I KNOW, right!?
On the FLO website it says: Healthy grieving isn’t about forgetting, it’s about remembering. Traditions help kids maintain a healthy connection with the parent who died. Families get a chance to connect and talk about their loved one helping them deal with grief and move forward.

I couldn’t agree more. I talk about my sister every single day. I talk about David, too. It hasn’t gotten easier, but I’ve gotten better. SO have the boys. It was SO emotional to see them open their presents. The smiles on their faces put there because of the tragedy that took their mom and their dad from their lives. The irony isn’t lost on me. I can’t think of a sweeter silver lining. My eyes were filled with happy tears.
I have SO many thoughts and feelings about all of this, but for now I just want to say THANK YOU to all of the people at Family Lives On for doing what you do. You are making such a difference. You are filling holes in hearts, even if it’s temporary, and you are giving many, many people HOPE.

Below are a few pics I got of the boys’ gifts! Connor said he loved his mom watching him play basketball. So he got a jersey, shorts and a ball. We will do something to honor Shannon when we shoot the ball sometime this weekend! Danny loved his dad’s love for Rugby, specifically the New Zealand All Blacks. He got a jersey, a rugby ball, a framed photo and Sunflower seeds (DAVID brand) 🙂

If you want to learn more about this amazing organization. If you want to get involved! Here is a link to their website. Thanks for reading, as usual! I LOVE YOU!

Family Lives On Website

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An open(ish) letter to parents + kids


So. It turns out that my mom REALLY loved me, even when I thought there wasn’t a chance in hell she could even LIKE me (how could she when all she was ever doing was nagging me, grounding me, and disciplining me), when I was growing up.

She used to say: “It is harder for me to punish you than it is for you to be punished.” To which I would say in my head behind the eye rolls: “YEAH. RIGHT!”

She would comment: “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing.” And I would be thinking: “NO! You are just a total jerk and you want me to be miserable and never have a life and you totally ENJOY dumping out all of my drawers after asking me a mere 9 times to clean my room. Don’t talk to me about what is HARD! It is going to take me HOURS to put all these clothes away. And it won’t be good enough for you anyway”

She would remind me, constantly: “I am not your friend. I am your MOTHER. Someday we can be friends, but not until I feel I have done the best job I can do raising you.” So naturally, I believed that we would NEVER be friends and that I wouldn’t want to be friends with her anyway because why wouldn’t she want to be friends with me? I was AWESOME. Total. Rubbish!

So fast forward to present day. My mom is my very best friend. She is also my therapist, my confidant, my partner in crime, my “go to”, my everything. Being that I went from having 2 to 5 kids virtually overnight, I have learned a few things rather quickly. The most important thing being…. OMG. My mother was right. About ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

So. Kids. Take it from a young(ish) mom who is learning as she goes. When someone tells you that is is harder for them to punish you than it is for you to be punished, they are telling the truth. It would be SO MUCH EASIER to just “let it go.” To “sweep it under the rug.” To ignore bad judgement, disobedient behavior and back talk. But is it going to make you the absolute best version of yourself if we let you get away with anything and everything you do wrong? NO. Do you think I really WANT to scream your name and nag you to put your shoes in your bin and pick up your jacket and hang up your bag and throw away your trash? No. I annoy MYSELF when I am forced to do this. And yes, I said forced. I am forced by this crazy power that takes over my whole being and turns me into Super(Insane)Mom. I am trying to help my future daughter-in-laws by teaching my boys how to be tidy and clean up after themselves and not be complete slobs. I am doing my job being your MOM!

To put it into kiddie terms, you = play-dough. Your potential = the most amazing thing anybody has ever made with play-dough. Your parents or guardians or teachers or WHOMEVER is punishing you is trying to mold you. They are trying to shape you and TEACH you and help you learn. Do we (adults) know EVERYTHING? Absolutely not. Far from it. We are learning more and more every single day from YOU. BUT… we know more than you do about life. AND WE LOVE YOU TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.

When someone claims that the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing, they are not exaggerating. It is NOT easy to ground your kid. It pains me as a parent when I have to tell another parent something that my kid and their kid did wrong together. It pains me even more to talk to my kids about said thing. It literally hurts my heart when my son gets an invitation for an overnight and I have to tell him, “No. I hope now you will think twice about doing X. Because I sure would hate for you to have to miss out on the next one.” But. I know that if I said “Yes” I would basically be saying “Don’t WORRY about that terribly naughty thing you did! Drink all the soda you want and heck let’s go buy some fun dip and PLEASE stay up as late as your little heart desires!” Sorry, guys. That is teaching you absolutely NOTHING. Except that you can get away with whatever you want and I’m sorry. But. It’s just not happening. Why? Because it’s not the RIGHT thing. And… because I LOVE YOU.

Can you guys believe me about one thing? The harder we are ON you. The meaner (is that a word?) we are TO you. The crazier YOU MAKE US. The MORE we must LOVE you. Because WE KNOW WHAT IS BEST. TRUST! This is NOT “Let’s Make a Deal!” This is us, knowing what is best for you. And for me, it boils down to this (and I tell this to my kids every day). Be kind. The rest will fall into place. You are going to mess up. You are going to make mistakes (a lot of the same ones I made).  And that’s OKAY, as long as you LEARN from them. You are going to take the fall for a friend. You are going to have your feelings hurt. But. JUST. BE. KIND Be NICE!. To EVERYONE. Even to your super hard, mean, crazy parents. And I PROMISE. You’re gonna turn out pretty amazing AND do amazing things while you’re at it.

Now. Parents. Just one thing. You’re doing a really fantastic job. Be hard. Be mean. Be crazy! And LOVE. Unconditionally. You are making the world a better place.


PS. Dad. Don’t want your feelings hurt about this post. But let’s face it. Unless it was about my grades (LOOK OUT!) or sports, you let mom have ALL the fun 😉 And I will never forget you always telling me: Just be nice to everybody.


Mama Rita Pita & Me 🙂

All I want for Mother’s Day.

Most of you know Colleen B and I’s story (for those of you who don’t… stalk us! We are “the little engine that could” mom & pop shop whose merchandise is intended to spread kindness and whose hearts desire to change the world.

When the song “My Wish” came out, by Rascal Flatts, the lyrics really resonated with me. I remember thinking… I want to dance to this song with my son at his wedding someday. Now, when I think about dancing with Connor at his wedding, I tear up. I am already fearful that nomatter how much I love him and try to be a mother to him, he will wish it was his mom holding him, dancing with him, sending him off to be with the love of his life. It makes my heart ache. I wish that for him, too. But “My Wish” will still be appropriate. Because he is my son now, and I have hopes and dreams and my love for him knows NO bounds. We may be a “blended” family, but I love to tell my kids that the BEST recipes call for a blend of different ingredients. We are a family. We are our own normal.

All ANY of us want for our children is for them to be happy. But for some, being happy isn’t easy. It is hard to accept that we cannot control our children’s emotions, they way they perceive things, the way they are affected by anything and everything, and sadly, the way they are treated. BUT… LUCKY for us, we have the tools to teach them how to treat OTHERS. It’s something you don’t think about the moment they are born, but as parents, we MUST teach them more than how to eat, crawl, walk, talk, say their ABC’s… and on and on. It is up to US, #parentsunited, to look them in the eyes and say: “It is not ok what you just did. What you said was very hurtful. If you don’t have anything nice to say, please… please say nothing. Always try your best. Your best is good enough. I am proud of you. I am disappointed in your actions. Treat others the way you want to be treated. You AMAZE ME. I’m so glad God gave me you. In a world where you can be ANYONE or ANYTHING, be kind. Everybody is different. Different is normal.”

I don’t expect to unwrap presents today. I will be satisfied with the beautiful time I spent with my mom this morning, the games of my sons I am blessed to attend all day, and tucking all 5 of my children into bed tonight. With each sunset, comes the promise of a new day. A fresh start. An opportunity to face the world with a compassionate heart. A chance to see the good in others, and include those who are being excluded. An occasion to stand up for what is right, no matter what your friends will do or say. God has chosen me to me a mother, and I accept the challenge to raise my children to the very BEST of my ability.

Colleen B posted earlier on facebook: Something I’ve learned in life is that everything is relative to every individual person. Busy is relative. Stress is relative. Success is relative. Hardships are relative. Happy is relative. Just because it doesn’t look like your version of busy, stressful, successful, devastating or happy doesn’t mean it isn’t equally as busy, stressful, successful, devastating or happy to someone else! And motherhood, in my mind, is relative. Whether you have a furry child, a child in heaven, a child you’ve given up for adoption, a child you’ve adopted, a child that makes you want to pull you hair out, a child that never took his or her first breath, a step child, a child you carried for someone else, a child that now has their own children, a child you no longer speak to, or a child growing in your belly … motherhood is relative and today…Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there regardless of what your version of motherhood is!

Amen, CB. Amen. (Insert dancing twin black leotard wearing emoji). All I want for Mother’s Day is to spread our message to make our children’s’ futures brighter and inspire others. That might sound cheesy, but it’s true. And I don’t think it’s asking too much. Together, we can change the world. But… it’s up to US. Parents as teachers. No matter if you stay at home with them, or if you see them for 30 minutes before school, and an hour before they go to bed. There are a million combinations I could work into the equation, but none of them are an excuse not to sit down with your kids and watch this video. Make them WANT to be better. It takes one heart set on fire to ignite the hearts of others. A WILDFIRE of kindness. It starts with just ONE. For a better today, and a better tomorrow. If you want what I want, please share. Let’s redefine normal.


A mom who wants to change the world for the sake of her children (and yours)